Friday, December 31, 2010

Green Chile and Canadian Bacon Quiche with Hash Brown Crust

I know that quiche has a luscious, buttery crust usually, but I loved the idea of shredding potatoes as an alternative. In fact, I think it's a glorious idea--better than the original. It's like the ultimate diner combination gone homemade, and I don't think I'll ever go back.

If you haven't checked out For the Love of Cooking, by the way, you should. Lots of great dinner ideas, and many of the recipes can feed an army (or a very, very hungry husband).

Green Chile and Canadian Bacon Quiche with Hash Brown Crust (Recipe from For the Love of Cooking, slightly adapted)

1 1/2 - 2 russet potatoes, peeled and grated
Olive oil or olive oil cooking spray
1/2 cup of Canadian Bacon, chopped
1-4.5 oz can of green chiles, diced
2 plum tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
7-8 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup of skim milk
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a pie dish with cooking spray. Peel then shred the two potatoes onto 2 paper towels; add another two paper towels to the top and press all the liquid out of the potatoes. Smash the shredded potatoes all over the bottom and sides of the pie pan, making sure to press them firmly. Spray with cooking spray and season with sea salt, freshly cracked pepper, and garlic powder, to taste. Bake in the oven for 13-15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
2. Sprinkle some of the diced tomato, ham, green chile, and cheddar cheese on top of the potatoes Beat the eggs with the milk and season with sea salt, and freshly cracked pepper. Pour the egg mixture on top of the veggies then top with the remaining tomato, ham, green chiles, and cheese.
3. Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of the quiche comes out clean - don't overcook. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before slicing.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Broccoli, Spinach, Feta and Gruyere Pizza on Whole Wheat Crust

I love pizza, as guaranteed by two factors: 1) I'm from Chicago, and every person's DNA is altered by the Chicagoland area "pizza gene" (along with an automatic affinity for dancing the Superbowl Shuffle and the need to yell out "BER-WYN," or tearing up remembering the Bulls' glory days in the 1990's when one hears EMF's "Unbelievable"); 2) I make some damn good pizza crust.

I've posted my recipe for simple thin crust pizza once before, but I also love whole wheat crust. Now, before we go on, I must admit something. I'm going to say something that might shock you, especially those of who you might have preconceived notions as to what the Chicago "pizza gene" does, so I want you to sit down.


...I don't like thick crust. Or deep dish. I'm a thin crust kind of gal, and no amount of exposure to the aforementioned pies will ever convert me. Paper thin crust with a bit of a bite to it is just my cup of tea. In fact, I didn't know anyone growing up who even liked deep dish pizza. It's kind of a tourist thing.

So there. Moving on.

When I make whole wheat pizza crust, I generally feel weird putting sausage or heavy ingredients all over something so seemingly healthy, so I opt for veggies and non-traditional cheeses. In addition to the dough recipe and the pizza toppings, I'm including a simple recipe for pesto made with walnuts (instead of the traditional pine nuts that cost a stinkin' fortune). I'm going to be honest: I love my garlic, so feel free to cut down to 3 cloves. Or two.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (makes one 14" thick crust pizza, or 2 thin crust)

1 1/2 tsp. yeast
1/4 cup warm water (about 105 degrees)
1 tsp. honey
3/4 c. cold water
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 3/4 c. unbleached all-p flour

1. In a bowl or cup, mix yeast, honey and warm water together, and let sit for 8-10 minutes. When ready the mixture should be foamy. In another cup or bowl, combine cold water, olive oil, and salt.
2. Combine both flours in food processor bowl, and pulse until thoroughly mixed. Once yeast mixture is ready, add water/oil/salt mixture and yeast mixture to the processor with motor running. Mixture should form a dough ball after processing for 20-25 seconds. When it's ready, turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Place dough ball in a large bowl coated with olive oil or cooking spray. Turn to coat with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft free place for about an hour.
3. Once dough has risen, punch dough down on floured surface and cut in half for two thin crust pizzas, or simply roll out for one thick crust pizza. Sprinkle pizza pan with cornmeal and transfer crust to pan once rolled out. With a fork, puncture crust all around to prevent bubbles.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush dough with 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil and bake in oven until just beginning to brown. Remove from oven, top with desired pizza toppings, and bake.

Pesto (sans pine nuts)

2 c. fresh basil leaves, packed
4 cloves garlic
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
5-6 tbsp. water
1/2 c. parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/4 c. walnuts
Pinch of salt and pepper

1. In a food processor, combine basil, walnuts and garlic; pulse until mostly chopped (note: you might have to scrape the sides of the bowl down before moving on to the next step). With the motor running add olive oil, water, and parmesan until thoroughly combined. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

Note: If using all of the pesto for pizza, you may have to water down the pesto a bit more since pesto can sometimes dry out when applied to crust. Better yet, throw in a couple of tablespoons of ricotta, and give that a whirl.

Broccoli, Spinach, Feta and Gruyere Pizza on Whole Wheat Crust Note: this recipe is for two thin crust pizzas

1 recipe whole wheat pizza crust (see above)
2 small heads broccoli
2 c. baby spinach, packed
1/2 cup pesto (see above)
6 oz. Gruyere, shredded and divided
1/2 cup feta cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut broccoli into bite sized florets and steam for 3-4 minutes. In the last minute, throw in baby spinach and remove from heat.
2. Spread pesto evenly between two pizza crusts with a spoon. Sprinkle broccoli on top of pesto, and place pieces of spinach evenly around pizzas. Sprinkle gruyere and feta evenly amongst toppings.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 7-10 minutes, cool and enjoy.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Yet another appetizer from the Pioneer Woman: Olive Cheese Bread

If you need yet another tasty appetizer, this is another great one to try from the Pioneer Woman. It's a little too rich to eat as a meal, but it's the perfect indulgence at a party. Who knew that combining salty green olives and black olives with butter and mayonnaise yields such sinful deliciousness?

Olive Cheese Bread (Recipe from The Pioneer Woman)

1 loaf French Bread
6 ounces, weight Pimiento-stuffed Green Olives
6 ounces, weight Black Olives
2 stalks Green Onions (scallions)
1 stick Butter, Room Temperature
½ cups Mayonnaise
¾ pounds Monterey Jack Cheese, Grated


1. Roughly chop both black olives and pimiento-stuffed green olives. Slice green onions into thin pieces.
2. Combine butter, mayonnaise, cheese, olives and green onions in a mixing bowl. Stir together until thoroughly combined. Spread mixture onto French bread that has been sliced lengthwise. Bake at 325ºF for 25 to 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and browning.

Mixture can also be refrigerated (up to two days) and used as a dip. Great with crackers.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

An appetizer from the god(desse)s: Mushrooms Stuffed with Brie

Looking for a tasty, easy appetizer for your New Year's Eve party? Hats off to the Pioneer Woman on this one; it's a keeper. The original recipe calls for white button mushrooms, but I happened to have baby portabella mushrooms, which resulted in slightly larger finger food, but I didn't hear anyone complain.

Mushrooms Stuffed with Brie
(Recipe from The Pioneer Woman)

1 package White Button Mushrooms, Washed And Stems Removed
4 cloves Garlic, Minced
¼ cups Flat-leaf Parsley, Chopped
4 whole (to 5) Green Onions, Sliced (up To Middle Of Dark Green Part)
Splash Of White Wine (optional)
1 slice (wedge) Of Brie Cheese


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in large saucepan. Add mushroom caps and toss to coat in butter. Sprinkle lightly with salt and cook for 1 minute. Remove mushrooms from pan and place upside down in a baking dish.

2. In the same saucepan (without cleaning it) throw in garlic, parsley, and green onions. Sprinkle very lightly with salt and splash in wine, if using. Stir around until wine evaporates, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.

3. Cut rind off of brie wedge, then cut pieces of brie to fit each mushroom cap. Place inside, lightly pressing to anchor each piece of brie.

4. Top mushrooms with parsley/garlic mixture. Place into the oven for 15 minutes, or until brie is melted.

Pork Noodle Soup

It dawned on me awhile back that I rarely post the healthful, nutritious meals I serve most days of the week. It also dawned on me that the reason I don't post those recipes is that I rarely write them down. Most of them are so simple to make that I don't really need to follow a recipe, but I figured it was high time I write them down (just in case I ever think, "what was that delicious recipe for pork noodle soup I used to make?"). Without further adieu, here is one of my favorite soups.

Pork Noodle Soup

6 oz leftover pork (tenderloin, roast, pork chops, etc.), cut in small pieces or strips
5 cups low sodium chicken broth or stock
1" piece ginger, peeled and left whole
4 green onions, white and light green parts, sliced on diagonal in 1" pieces
2 tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
4-5 baby carrots, sliced in sticks
6 oz. whole wheat thin spaghetti, broken in half
2 bunches baby bok choy, cut in big pieces
1/2 cup snow peas
1 cup baby spinach, packed

1. In a 4-5 quart pot, simmer broth or stock, ginger, soy sauce, and green onions for 5 minutes. Add carrots and thin spaghetti to the pot; simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add baby bok choy and snow peas, and simmer 2 minutes more. Add spinach to the pot, stir to combine, and remove from heat.
2. Divide pork between two large soup bowls, and ladle soup over the pork.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pistachio-Parmesan Crusted Chicken and Hasselback Potatoes

Are you nuts? Or rather, do you have an abundance of nuts in your pantry? I eat a small handful of nuts just about every day between meals, but it seems I just can't get enough of them. For this dish, I first grind about 1/4 cup of pistachios (more or less, depending on the size of the shelled nuts) in a mini food processor and then combine it with the more usual breading suspects, including panko, parmesan, and herbs.

The result of using ground pistachios is a beautiful golden coloring with little flecks of green. It's actually a very visually pleasing dish, particularly when served atop a gorgeous pond of warm marinara. I imagine you could sub many different kinds of nuts in this recipe (and the original uses ground peanuts), but pistachios have always been my favorite.

In addition to the chicken, I was dying to make hasselback potatoes after catching a story on the Huffington Post on their re-emergence in the foodie scene. I've had them before and have figured out how I best like to prepare them, so be forewarned that this is not the traditional method (however, this is). I prefer to keep the potato skins on since the outer crunch is a very delicious texture contrast to the softness of the bottom half of the potato.

Pistachio-Parmesan Crusted Chicken (Adapted from Zoom Yummy)

2 chicken breasts
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup pistachios, finely ground
1/3 cup Parmesan, freshly grated
2 tbsp. Italian parsley, finely chopped
Black pepper to taste
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup flour
3 tbsp. olive oil

1. Place one chicken breast between two sheets of wax paper and pound until thin using a rolling pin or meat mallet. Breast should be around 1" thick. Repeat with remaining chicken breast.
2. For the breading mixture, combine pistachios, panko, Parmesan, black pepper, and parsley in a shallow bowl. Set aside.
3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season breasts with salt, and then dredge through flour, eggs, and finally, the breading mixture. Drop breasts into skillet once oil is hot enough, and cook until brown on both sides, about 5 minutes a side. Serve over warm marinara or alone with a wedge of lemon.

Hasselback Potatoes

4 Yukon Gold potatoes (or whatever you have on hand)
4 tbsp. butter, divided
Sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Scrub potatoes well and pat dry. On a clean cutting surface, run your knife through the potatoes at 1/5 inch intervals, being careful not to cut all the way to the bottom so they stay intact.
2. Place potatoes in a baking dish coated in cooking spray and sprinkle with sea salt. Distribute pats of butter evenly atop each of the potatoes and bake in an oven for 50-65 minutes, or until the outer skin is crispy and the inner flesh is soft. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Have you ever seen Grosse Pointe Blank? John Cusack (sigh. drool.) plays a hit man who returns home to Grosse Pointe, Michigan for his high school reunion and one last hit. At some point in the film, Minnie Driver suggests that the poor, embattled Cusack subject himself to shakabuku, or "a swift, spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever." Can you tell I've seen this movie many times?

Every time I've made shakshuka, an Israeli dish consisting of eggs cooked in a spicy tomato sauce and often served with pita, I think of that movie. Methinks it might be time to buy the DVD?

But honestly, this is a tasty dinner. I've located its origins as being Tunisian, or at least in the North African region, and it was first introduced in Israel by Tunisian Jews. Whatever its origins, it's cheap to make, vegetarian, and a great addition to your cookbook. So make it and watch the movie. At the same time.

(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, finely diced
1 jalapeno, finely diced
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1-28 oz. can whole tomatoes, with juice
4-6 eggs
Black pepper
1/4 cup feta cheese
1-2 tbsp. chopped flat leaf parsley

1. Heat oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add onion, garlic, green pepper, and jalapeno to pan and cook until lightly browned. Add spices and stir to combine, cooking until fragrant.
2. In a bowl, pour in tomatoes and juices. Crush tomatoes by hand. Add tomatoes and juices into pan. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until thickened.
3. Crack eggs into the sauce but do not disturb by stirring. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, or until eggs are set. Remove from heat and sprinkle with black pepper, feta, and parsley. Serve with warm pita or a good crusty bread.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Easy Mexican Rice

I know they have little pre-packaged side dishes readily available at supermarkets, but they're also full of crap. Seriously. Crap. Preservatives, lots of sodium, sometimes MSG--those little boxes and sleeves of dehydrated rice and spices are no match for a homemade side dish. I don't vouch for its authenticity as a Mexican side dish, but I do vouch for its tastiness. It takes about the same amount of time to make this recipe as the boxed crap anyway, so why not make it right?

Easy Mexican Rice

1 1/2 tbsp. canola oil
1/2 small yellow onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 cups rice
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
2 1/2 cups chicken stock (low sodium preferable)
1 cup tomato sauce
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 cup frozen peas

1. Over medium heat, saute onions and garlic in oil until translucent. Add rice to the pan and stir until just beginning to brown. Add cumin and chili powder, stirring to combine. Add chicken stock and tomato sauce to the pan. Bring to a boil and then heat to low. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until liquid is most evaporated. Add frozen peas in the last three minutes of cooking, stirring to combine. Stir in cilantro after removing from heat. Serve immediately.

I serve it with tostadas on busy nights. And guacamole--homemade, please! The green goo sold in stores haunts my dreams.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Holy Grail: Mom's Pepper Steak

I finally gone and done it: I called my mom and got her recipe for pepper steak. Now, I know what you're thinking: so what? It's just pepper steak, and everyone has a recipe for pepper steak. After all, I've already blogged a recipe for Chinese Beef and Peppers, and I regularly stir fry beef with peppers over noodles. But see, this is a special pepper steak. This pepper steak was the love of my life; it was the thing of childhood memories, fuzzy puppies, hugs that cured fevers, and moms that wrestled mountaintops plagued by one-eyed ogres covered in goo. This, my friends, is the thing of which my dreams are made. Beef. Peppers. Mushrooms. Tomatoes. Sauce. EXCELLENT.

No kidding folks, this is a great recipe, and it comes from my mama. I've been living 1800 miles away from her for over six years, and this is no easy feat for me (and I imagine for her). I can remember moving here to the middle of nowhere and flying home, only to cry in the fetal position on her bed, begging to come home. Her advice was always realistic and forward thinking: she told me to finish what I started. She also told me that whatever you're scared of doesn't matter, because "if it's gonna get you, it's gonna get you. Nothing can stop that." I've always loved this perspective because it's true: whether it's a tornado or a splinter, worrying about life won't help. In the absence of her in the flesh sassy advice, I often cook dishes that remind me of her cooking. Best to live life since it's gonna get you anyway. And cook. Always cook.

So here it is in all its simple, delicious glory.

Pepper Steak (from the lovely Snooty Snark)

1 lb. round steak, cut into thin strips
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small yellow onion, sliced into thin strips
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained with juice reserved
1 1/2 cups beef broth
Black pepper
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
2 green peppers, sliced into strips
1 red pepper, sliced into strips
2-3 tbsp. cornstarch

1. Heat olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium to medium high heat; add beef strips to pan and brown. Once browned, move beef to the edge of the pan and add onions and garlic to pan. Cook through until transparent. Add tomatoes to the pan along with 2-3 tbsp. reserved juice and beef broth. Season with black pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for ten minutes, or until liquid is reduced.
2. Add mushrooms and peppers to the skillet and cover, cooking until veggies are tender. Add 2 tbsp. cornstarch to the mixture and stir until combined. Cook for another 2 minutes until thickened and either serve or add an extra tablespoon of cornstarch if still runny. Serve immediately over rice.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Steaks with Simple Mushroom Pan Sauce

While I am a steak enthusiast, I rarely eat a big slab of beef, opting instead for a smaller size that actually corresponds to the recommended "pack of cards" visual usually touted by the FDA. Since I only buy smaller cuts, the natural beef brand carried at the Co-Op is actually affordable. I'm specifying eye of round for this recipe, but really, you could use just about any cut of beef.

I served this with some simply roasted carrots and baby potatoes tossed with olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and chopped Italian parsley.

Steaks with Simple Mushroom Pan Sauce

2 eye of round steaks (about 4 oz. each)
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
4 tbsp. minced onion
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup white wine (you can also use red)
1 cup beef broth
2 1/2 tbsp. all-purpose flour


1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat; swirl to coat. Add steaks and cook four minutes per side, or until meat is cooked to desired. Remove steaks from pan and keep warm.
2. Add butter to pan. Add minced onion and saute for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms have darkened and start to give off moisture. Pour white wine into pan and let simmer for 3 minutes.
3. Combine beef broth and flour in a bowl until combined, and then add to pan. Let mixture simmer until reduced and thickened. Pour over steaks.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup

Alright, so "sweet potato" means yam here. There is a difference, but the common parlance equates sweet potato with yam, so I commonly refer to yams as sweet potatoes. Feel free to grow indignant. The snow has been melting like crazy around here and the temperature has been steady around 40 degrees, so making this soup meant pairing it with a rather light salad, but I'm hoping for more snow. Hush. Don't tell anyone.

Yams are seriously healthful, and when combined with celery, leeks, onion, and garlic, they also happen to be damn tasty. I serve this soup with a spinach salad full of veggies and a bit of grilled chicken, but I imagine you could easily add rice to this soup for a more hearty soup. Also, for vegetarians, veggie stock works very well in this recipe, given the natural sweetness of the yams.


Creamy Sweet Potato Soup

3 tbsp. butter
1.5 lbs. yams, peeled and cubed
1 large leek, sliced
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup celery, chopped
4 cups chicken stock
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup skim milk
Italian parsley, to garnish

1. Melt butter over medium heat in a medium soup pot. Add onion, leek, garlic, and celery; saute for 8-10 minutes. Add chicken stock and yams to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes.
2. Once veggies are tender, salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and either puree in batches in a blender, or use a hand blender (I heart my hand blender). Return to pan with heat off, and stir in cayenne, salt and pepper to taste, and skim milk. Stir to combine. Spoon into bowls with chopped parsley as a garnish.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Shrimp and Broccoli Fettuccine Alfredo

All my life, I've had obsessions with certain foods: potatoes, cream cheese, blue cheese, and alfredo sauce. Notice how none of the foods I just listed is a fruit or vegetable? Sigh. One day I discovered that, in fact, I could combine two of my loves together when I dumped cream cheese into an impromptu Alfredo sauce, and it's been a match made in heaven ever since. It isn't exactly an authentic taste of Italy, but when I have a craving for something, I don't really care. I mean, after all, once I really did want to drizzle warm chocolate all over a plate of asparagus, so.....

Shrimp and Broccoli Fettuccine Alfredo
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
1 16 oz. package fettuccine
2 tbsp. butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup skim milk
1 package Neufchatel cheese (1/3 less fat cream cheese)
4 tbsp. Parmesan cheese

1. Heat butter in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for one minute, then add shrimp to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until pink. Remove shrimp to a plate and keep warm.
2. Meanwhile, steam broccoli and cook pasta according to package directions.
3. Add skim milk and Neufchatel cheese, stirring until Neufchatel melts and combines with skim milk. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese into the pan and stir to combine. Turn off heat. Add shrimp and broccoli to pan and toss to coat. Combine with pasta in the pan and serve with more grated Parmesan, if desired.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

When life dumps snow on you, make applesauce and latkes

It just won't stop snowing and melting, snowing and melting. Now, I love snow for a number of reasons, one of the most important being that I don't have to wipe the dogs' paws when they come inside, but since the town I live in barely plows the roads, I'm somewhat chained to my house. So what to do when you are a temporary shut in? Why, make applesauce and fry up some latkes, of course!

If you've never made your own applesauce, you're missing out. It's so easy to make that I sometimes wonder why applesauce is even sold in grocery stores. Your slow cooker comes in handy for this recipe, but you can simmer it slowly on the stove if you prefer. Notice that no sugar is added--this is not the case with store bought, which usually has a load of sugar. Apples are sweet enough as is.


1 lb. apples
2 tsp. lemon juice
1-2 tbsp. water
Cinnamon (optional)

1. Peel and core the apples, then dice into small pieces. Add to slow cooker and toss with lemon juice. If the apples are particularly dry, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water. Add a dash of cinnamon if you like. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours, or on low for 5-6 hours.

Classic, Basic Latkes

2 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and grated
1/4 cup grated onion
1 tsp. baking soda
1 egg
Few sprigs of fresh thyme
Kosher salt and pepper
5 tbsp. all-p flour
4 tbsp. olive oil

1. Squeeze as much moisture of the potatoes as possible, and be sure to blot the onions as well. Mix together potato, onion, baking soda, egg, thyme, a dash of salt and pepper, and flour.
2. Heat oil over medium high heat in a large, heavy skillet. Do not add patties until the oil is very hot. Drop some of the potato mixture into the pan and smash down with spatula. Cook on each side for 4 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with applesauce and/or sour cream.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chinese Beef and Peppers

My mom used to make a fantastic beef and green pepper dinner, and I remember it being smothered in a fantastic tomato sauce, but when I saw Jessica's recipe over at Foodmayhem, I knew I didn't have time to call mom for her recipe (which I will. very soon.). Nonetheless, this is a fantastic dish, and very simple to make. I may never need takeout again.

If you want Jessica's awesome step-by-step photo instructions, be sure to hit up the direct link to the recipe below. I adore Foodmayhem, so I know you won't be disappointed by their many awesome recipes (I also recommend the Garlic Knots and Ma Po Tofu recipes).

Chinese Beef and Peppers

1 pound flank steak
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon rice wine
1/2 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 1/2 medium green bell pepper, sliced
any spicy chili, small thin slices (optional)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons vegetarian oyster sauce

1. Slice flank steak against the grain in 1/4″ slices. For thicker parts of the flank steak, you may need to slice the strip in half so it’s not too wide.
2. In a medium bowl, mix beef with soy sauce, rice wine, and sugar. Set aside for 15 minutes.
3. While beef is marinating, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok or similar on high. Add peppers with a sprinkle of salt. Stir and fry for a minute, and remove from heat and set aside. The peppers should still be crisp. After the peppers rest for a few minutes, they will excrete some liquid (amount varies with different peppers). Drain and discard the liquid.
4. When beef has rested 15 minutes and peppers are ready, mix cornstarch into marinated beef.
5. Heat 2 tablespoons oil on high in a wok or similar. Add beef and stir quickly, separating the slices. When beef has started turning color with some pink spots remaining, add vegetarian oyster sauce. Stir quickly to distribute. Add peppers back in. Give a few good tosses and serve with rice immediately.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pot Roast in the Slow Cooker

I use my slow cooker year round, even if it may seem a little odd to most folks. Despite its usefulness for producing tender meat out of tough cuts in the winter months, it's also great for the summer, when you don't want to heat up your kitchen. But during the fall and winter, it still gets more use since I'm a comfort food lover. There is simply nothing greater than walking into your home after a long day and smelling pot roast. It's incredibly satisfying to every sense, even touch. Tender, falling apart meat is soft on the tongue and usually puts me into a state of ecstasy. Each time I eat pot roast, I remind myself why I could never give up meat. I.just.can'

I know a lot of people don't like to make pot roast in a slow cooker because of past experiences with grayish meat, but if you brown the roast first before adding to the slow cooker, the meat is a nice golden color and never produces the gray tones everyone decries. Here's what it should look like after only 3-4 minutes of browning:

And here is what the slow cooker pot will look like before the slow cooker works its 8-10 hour magic:

Slow Cooker Pot Roast
(from All Recipes)

4 pounds chuck roast
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of paprika
1 packet dry onion soup mix
1 cup water
3 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 cup frozen peas

1. Take the chuck roast and season with salt, pepper, and paprika to taste. Brown on all sides in a large skillet over high heat.
2. Place in the slow cooker and add the soup mix, water, carrots, onion, potatoes and celery.

3. Cover and cook on low setting for 8 to 10 hours. Add peas during the last 20 minutes of cooking.

Note: The original recipe calls for 3 potatoes, peeled and cubed, but I omit them because I prefer to serve pot roast over mashed red potatoes.

Meatloaf and blizzards

Snow! Glorious, glistening snow! The Palouse region of eastern Washington is currently under a blizzard warning, so what better time to blog about comfort food than a day spent snuggling with furry children? Some serious inches have dropped since it began snowing last night, with no sign of slowing down anytime soon, and every time it snows, I break out the slow cooker or start craving meatloaf and pot roast (which will be the subject of my next post).

Despite its resurgence in the foodie world, meatloaf remains one of those meals that people tend to view as unappealing, perhaps because of its "blue plate special" connotation. My mom made the most fantastic meatloaf--simply put together with no fancy ingredients, and delightfully moist. I'm recreating her excellent meatloaf here, along with cauliflower puree, which is a healthier option than mashed potatoes (although I do include a potato so the consistency isn't too soupy).

Snooty Snark's Meatloaf

8 oz. ground pork
6 oz. ground beef
4 oz. tomato sauce
1/4 cup minced onion
1 egg
Salt and pepper
3/4-1 cup instant oatmeal
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tbsp. Worcestershire

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together pork, beef, tomato sauce, onion, egg, salt and pepper by hand. Add oatmeal to mixture a bit at a time, adding more if the mixture is too wet or less if the mixture is just dry enough to hold shape.

2. Coat a 5"x9" baking dish with cooking spray and place meatloaf into loaf pan, shaping to conform to dish. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Mix ketchup and Worcestershire in a small bowl and set aside. Remove from oven and drain out fat, then brush with ketchup and Worcestershire. Bake another 25-35 minutes, or until meat is cooked through.

Cauliflower and Potato Puree

1 head cauliflower, white florets cut into pieces
1 Yukon Gold potato (you can use any potato, but Yukon yields the best consistency)
3 tbsp. butter
Splash of half and half
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

1. Steam cauliflower for 10-15 minutes, or until florets are tender but not mushy. Boil Yukon potato (cut into pieces for faster cooking time) until a knife cuts through potato easily.

2. Remove potato and cauliflower from heat and pour into food processor along with butter, half and half, and s&p. Pulse until desired consistency. Taste for seasoning, adjust if needed, and serve.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fall Vegetable Soup (and a little note on chicken stock)

Looking through some recipes for fall soup inspiration (and generally feeling very tired of butternut squash, pumpkin, and the like), I stumbled upon a recipe that included a number of my favorite ingredients, including kale, zucchini, and cannellini beans. I was going to come up with my own soup recipe based on my inspiration search, but this was too easy and too appetizing to pass up.

Ian is not a huge fan of kale, but he'll eat it if it's torn into tiny bits, so I was careful to include only tiny bits. He's also a fan of the tuna melt, so to soothe the sting of having to eat kale and a bunch of other vegetables, I broiled up a tuna melt. I'm not including the recipe for the sandwich since it's pretty darn self-explanatory, except I will note that to the tuna mixture I always add a splash of red wine vinegar and I prefer rye to any other bread for toasted perfection. The red wine vinegar adds a little tartness that is perfect with melted cheese.

Now before I post the recipe, I have one further caveat, and it's about something everyone can do easily, but due to the modern convenience of canned chicken broth, few ever bother to attempt. That something is chicken stock, and it's super, super easy to make, in addition to offering way more taste and nutrition than the watered down, salty versions you find in your local supermarket.

There are quite a few methods of making stock, but my favorite is the method that uses up chicken bones you might have otherwise thrown out and veggies that are nearing their toss date (including bits you normally would cut off a vegetable and throw out during prep, such as celery tops and leaves).

Here's my method for making chicken stock:

Bones of one or two cooked chickens, picked clean
3 cloves garlic
1 onion, quartered
Leftover leeks
Few stalks of celery plus leaves
2-3 carrots
Bay leaf
handful Italian parsley
water to cover
salt and pepper as needed

1. Throw all ingredients in a soup pot and cover with cold water, except salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn heat down to a simmer, add a few shakes of fresh ground pepper, and cover. Let simmer for 4-5 hours (I do my laundry, clean the house, all the usual Sunday activities).

2. After 4-5 hours, add salt to taste. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour into a container and refrigerate or freeze.

Note: I've never skimmed the fat off the broth, as I tend to agree with Elise of SimplyRecipes that the layer of fat is a kind of insurance against bacteria entering the container and contaminating the chicken broth. I'm a fan of healthy fats, and chicken fat might be a bit taboo these days, but it offers all the flavor you'd want in a homemade soup. I never include the layer of fat in a recipe, by the way, I just remove it when I'm ready to use the stock. You can skim the fat off if you wish.

Also, note that if you refrigerate the stock as opposed to freezing it, you'll need to boil it every third day to ensure it doesn't spoil.

Vegetable and Kale Soup

1 tsp olive oil
1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 celery, diced
1 zucchini, diced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 tsp dried basil, to taste
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes with juices
1 15 oz can of cannellini beans or white beans, drained and rinsed
6 cups of vegetable or chicken stock (I used chicken)
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
2 cups of kale, chopped

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat with the olive oil. Add the onion once it's warm and sauté for 2 minutes then add the minced garlic and stir constantly for 60 seconds. Add the carrot, celery, basil, diced tomatoes and chicken broth. Stir the soup, mixing everything together, then season with sea salt and black pepper. Simmer on medium low heat for 45-60 minutes (depending on how soft you like your veggies). Add the kale, zucchini, and white kidney beans, taste and re season if needed. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Enjoy.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Portabella Mushroom Burgers and Black Bean Couscous with Feta

I love me a good burger, and if there's bacon on it, even better. In fact, if you order a bacon cheeseburger anywhere in the United States, I instantly manifest, wearing a bib and ready to feast. Despite my love for burgers, I also love the veggie options that are currently out there. When I was first introduced to veggie burgers, it was of the tasteless cardboard variety and I never thought a good substitute would make its way to my plate, so I never ordered one again.

That is, until I tasted the Black Bean Chipotle Burger from Morningstar Farms. Don't get me wrong--the texture is somewhat mushy and the patty tends to fall apart if you stare at it too long, and it can never replace the bliss I feel from eating a meat hamburger, but it's pretty darn good compared to the hockey pucks that used to have the veggie market cornered.

My other favorite type of burger is the mushroom burger. Portabella mushrooms are like the meaty burger patty of the fungi world, and the hold marinades pretty well, so if you're one of those who appreciates the juices that flow from a beef patty and are disappointed by the dryness of veggie burgers, try this simple marinade and grill recipe.

In addition, while fries are the standard accompaniment to burgers (and I happen to adore piping hot fried foods in moderation), I decided on couscous with black beans, cherry tomatoes, spinach and feta as a lighter alternative packed with fiber and protein.

Portabella Mushroom Burgers
4 portabella mushroom caps, cleaned
1 shallot, finely minced
1 garlic clove, finely minced
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. dried oregano
Kosher salt and pepper

1. In a medium bowl, mix shallot, garlic, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Place mushroom caps in a shallow baking dish and pour marinade over to cover. Let stand for 30 minutes, turning the caps over occasionally.

2. Heat a grill pan (I used my George Foreman) to nice and hot. Add mushrooms to grill and cook 3-4 minutes a side. While on grill, place sliced cheese on and allow to melt on mushroom caps. Serve with lettuce, tomato, avocado, caramelized onions, or whatever else floats your boat on a steamed whole wheat bun. Enjoy!

Black Bean Couscous with Feta
1 1/4 cup chicken stock
1 cup couscous
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 medium zucchini, cut into bite sized pieces
1 1/2 cups baby spinach
15 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
4 tbsp. feta cheese

1. Heat chicken stock and 1 tbsp. olive oil until it comes to a boil, then add couscous and remove from heat. Cover and let stand while preparing rest of ingredients.

2. Heat remaining olive oil over medium heat. Saute zucchini in oil until soft, about 5-7 minutes. During the last three minutes, add halved cherry tomatoes and saute.

3. Fold zucchini-tomato mixture into couscous, along with baby spinach (I chiffonade the spinach) and black beans. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper if necessary.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

Growing up, there were few things in the world I loved more than my mother's lasagna. Meaty, cheesy, and hearty, I have fond memories of eating a big ol' slab of that delectable dish and washing it down with a giant glass of 2% milk. I believe there may have also been white bread and pats of butter involved.

Years later, I still love lasagna, but I tend to make a vegetarian version that includes tofu in the ricotta mixture, and I've traded in the 2% for fat free milk. This is still quite the feast, but the focus is on the light and bright flavors of mushrooms and baby spinach instead of heavy ground beef.

My only regret is that Ian the Husband Unit doesn't seem to hold the same reverence I do for lasagna, so I don't make it too often. But when I do, at least I get to eat the leftovers!

Baby Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

For the marinara:
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, chopped finely*
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1/2 tbsp. dried basil
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes, preferably Muir Glen
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
2 tsp. sugar
Fresh ground pepper

For the ricotta mixture:
1/2 15 0z. container fat free ricotta
6 oz. firm tofu
1 egg
4 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

For the mushroom mixture:
1 tbsp. olive oil
16 oz. baby bella mushrooms

Other ingredients:
6-7 sheets whole wheat lasagna
2 1/2 cups baby spinach
2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1. To make the marinara, heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and onions, and cook until onions are soft. At this point, I add the spices so they fill the kitchen up with aroma, and I've noticed that oregano especially benefits from being added first. After basil and oregano are added, pour crushed tomatoes into saucepan, followed by tomato paste. Once tomato paste has smoothed into mixture, add sugar and pepper to taste. Adjust seasonings to taste--I often add a bit more oregano. Let the mixture simmer for around 40 minutes--the flavor will deepen.

*Note: I sometimes chop up 3 or 4 baby carrots very finely and add it along with the onions. It sometimes allows me to cut down on the sugar in the sauce.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together ricotta with crumbled tofu (you can just dump it in and crumble by hand). Add egg, salt and pepper, and parsley and mix together. Set aside.

3. Cook pasta sheets about three minutes less than package directions. I also add a bit of olive oil to the salted pasta water so the sheets won't stick when drained.

4. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and add mushrooms. Be careful not to overcrowd pan. Cook until soft, darker, and reduced in size. Remove from heat.

5. To assemble lasagna, spread a bit of sauce on the bottom of a 8x8 Pyrex pan (or equivalent). Cover bottom with pasta sheets, tearing or cutting where necessary to fit pan size. Spoon some of ricotta tofu mixture onto pasta sheets, layer with a sprinkling of mozzarella, cover with a couple handfuls of baby spinach and mushrooms (fresh, uncooked spinach first, then mushrooms on top), marinara sauce, and repeat the layers. Once assembled, make sure pasta sheets cover the whole mess, and add a generous layer of mozzarella.

6. Cover and bake for around 40 mins. at 350 degrees. Uncover and bake an additional 5-8 minutes, or until mozzarella is just slightly browned.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Potato Leek Soup

Nothing says fall like this soup, and nothing excites me more than leeks. They look like giant green onions and they always remind me of being a kid. Everything seems big to a kid, and leeks always made me giggle because they looked like gangly, gaunt teenagers. Actually, a lot of things made me giggle (and still do), so suffice to say leeks are my reminder to always be young at heart.

Potato Leek Soup Adapted from SimplyRecipes

2 tbsp. butter
2 large leeks, cleaned thoroughly and diced
2 lbs. potatoes
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/2 tsp. thyme
Dash of hot sauce (I use Louisiana Style brand)
1 tsp. salt
Black pepper to taste

1. Cook leeks in butter with salt and pepper in a medium sized sauce pan. Cover pan, cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Check often. Do not brown leeks! Browning will give leeks a burnt taste.

2. Add water, broth, and potatoes. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Scoop about half of the soup mixture into a blender, puree and return to pan.* Add marjoram, parsley, and thyme. Add a few dashes of chili sauce to taste. Add some freshly ground pepper and salt.

*Note: I used an immersion hand blender and pureed until slightly chunky.

nom nom nom nom

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Scallop Pasta

I love scallops. I can't afford to eat them all of the time, but every now and then--budget be damned--I sneak them onto the weekly menu. I think my love for scallops stems from an early (albeit brief) repulsion in high school. I wasn't a fan of the fishy smell and at first bite I remember not being impressed by the soft texture. Then again, the only time I encountered them were in Greek diners where little pencil eraser-sized scallops made strange, rubbery squeak noises when bitten.

But then something miraculous happened. Seared scallops. They saved me from the terrible pit of repulsion, introducing me to a world where crispy meets a soft tongue massage, and I've been hooked ever since.

This recipe combines two of my favorite things in the world: scallops and peas.

Cream Scallop and Pea Fettucine From Eating Well

8 ounces whole-wheat fettuccine
1 pound large dry sea scallops
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
1 cup low-fat milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 cups frozen peas, thawed
3/4 cup finely shredded Romano cheese, divided
1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook fettuccine until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes or according to package instructions. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, pat scallops dry and sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallops and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
3. Add clam juice to the pan. Whisk milk, flour, white pepper and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Whisk the milk mixture into the clam juice. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly. Continue stirring until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Return the scallops and any accumulated juices to the pan along with peas and return to a simmer. Stir in the fettuccine, 1/2 cup Romano cheese, chives, lemon zest and juice until combined. Serve with the remaining cheese sprinkled on top.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Shrimp n' beans with couscous

This is one of my absolute favorite meals, aside from the fact that I completely forgot the tomatoes. You see, I usually cut up a whole mess o' cherry tomatoes to throw in right before I throw in the baby spinach in this shrimp n' beans dish. Let's just say there was grading involved in that kerfuffle.

No matter. This is still a light but filling meal that I end up craving even after eating it. Cannellini beans are my favorite beans, and their creaminess lends itself to the soft texture of the couscous. I love a citrus salad on the side; it's the perfect complement.

Shrimp n' Beans with Couscous

1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 cups baby spinach (I chiffonade it)
1 cup couscous
1 1/4 c. chicken stock
1 tsp. butter

1. Bring chicken stock and butter to a boil in a saucepan. Add couscous, stir, and cover until ready to serve.
2. Melt olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic to pan and saute until fragrant. Add shrimp and cook on each side until pink (don't overcook; I just barely cook them through).
3. Add cannellini beans and lemon juice to skillet and stir one minute. Add baby spinach and combine until spinach just barely starts to wilt. Salt and pepper (more pepper than salt, please!).
4. Scoop a generous serving of couscous onto a plate and cover with shrimp n' bean mixture.

Note: if you use cherry tomatoes, halve about 14-16 of them and toss them in the skillet along with the cannellini beans.