Main Dishes

Main Dish Recipes

Chicken and Rice Casserole with Roasted Squash and Spinach

We’re moving in 12 days!  I’m starting to wonder why we thought moving 7 weeks before my due date was a good plan!  I’m actually very excited, just anxious and stressing a bit.  My sweet mom came down and helped me for a few days last week.  We didn’t pack the entire kitchen, but that process is beginning.  I plan to have the kitchen pretty much packed away by the beginning of next week.  That last week I plan to eat easy breakfasts, freezer meals, give Carson a lot of convenience foods (and his weight in strawberries of course) and explore the take-out situation in our neighborhood.  I’ve already stocked up on paper plates, plastic utensils and cups.  I don’t want to find myself packing plates and silverware at 2 am the night before we move.

Eating restaurant food is probably going to get old after a few days.  I like cooking and knowing what goes into our meals.  So I want to cook a lot in the coming week.  The problem with that is how unprepared I have been recently when it comes to groceries.  And if I’ve forgotten something, I have little to no desire to take Carson to the store for one item.  One night last week I made dinner with what we had around, which was an adventure.  And a pretty tasty adventure.  So tasty, in fact, that I typed this recipe up right after we ate so that I wouldn’t forget it.  The picture doesn’t do it justice, but casseroles in general are just plain unattractive.

I made fried chicken earlier in the week.  Since 2 people can’t (and shouldn’t) eat an entire chicken we had quite a bit left over.  My thought for dinner began with that chicken.  I knew we had rice, but I couldn’t think of what else I was going to throw in my chicken and rice dinner.  So began the scavenging.  Squash from Farmhouse.  A shallot.  Green onions.  A half bag of spinach.  The remains of a box of chicken broth.  The rest of a carton of sour cream.  Leftover white cheddar cheese.  And a packet of Lipton chicken noodle soup mix.  This was going to be dinner.  The biggest gamble was the squash.  I roasted it and figured if I didn’t end up using it in the casserole I could snack on it and give some to Carson.  It ended up being really great and something I would definitely repeat.

Chicken and Rice Casserole with Roasted Squash and Spinach

Ingredients

  • 2-3 cups 1/2 inch cubed squash (I used patty pan and butternut)
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4-6 ounces fresh spinach
  • 1 cup white medium grain rice
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 package Lipton chicken  noodle soup mix
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4-1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese (optional but delicious)

Directions

  1. Roast Squash:  Preheat oven to 400°F.  Toss seeded and cubed squash with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.  Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes, tossing about halfway through.  Set aside.
  2. Heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon of butter over medium heat in a large skillet.  Once hot, add in shallot and cook for 2 minutes, add in green onion and cook 2 minutes, then add in garlic, stir and cook for about 1 minute.
  3. Stir in the rice, stir and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add in the spinach and cook until slightly wilted.  Turn off the heat and mix in the chicken and roasted squash.
  4. Pour in the chicken broth, soup mix, sour cream and milk.  Stir until well combined.
  5. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F.  Pour into a greased 9×13 pan and sprinkle with the cheese, if using.
  6. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 40 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for 10 more minutes.  Let cool slightly before serving.

A Busy Life and Lots of Farmhouse Recipes: Spinach Basil Pesto, Quinoa Mac and Cheese Casserole, Mediterranean Eggplant and Quinoa Salad

The last month has been a crazy one, and the next two aren’t going to be any different.  We are moving from our sweet little rent house into a lovely suburban home with 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a nice big kitchen with garbage disposal, and enough counter space not to have to balance pans on top of the coffee maker.  Yes.  I have done this.  Life will be so good.  And about 5 weeks after we move in we will have a new baby on our hands, and so life will be a totally different kind of crazy.  Can that be an acceptable excuse for why I haven’t blogged in a month?

I have been cooking, but haven’t been taking pictures of any of it or recording it anywhere.  This is a big time bummer.  One of my favorite things about having this blog is being able to search for a recipe I’ve made in the past and be reminded of what I did to change it that made it better, or the things I didn’t like that I’d change the next time around.  When I don’t update the blog, I don’t have those recipes…unless I managed to write notes on them and put them somewhere safe…which is a rare event.  So today I am playing catch-up.

One of the things I’ve had the luxury of participating in this summer is the Farmhouse Delivery here in Houston.  When the bushel of local fruits and veg arrive on my doorstep carried by a shaggy headed hipster jamming out to whatever cool music is playing through his earbuds, I get positively giddy. Some of the items we receive are no-brainers.  Peaches and blackberries are perfect in my morning yogurt and granola.  Cucumbers, sweet peppers and the sweetest cherry tomatoes known to man get sliced and tossed into salads.  Potatoes, onions, corn and slicing tomatoes have also been part of our meals.  But then we get stuff like patty pan squash and eggplant.  What am I going to do with this?  I haven’t figured out the patty pan yet, but did find a use for the eggplant.  So Farmhouse Delivery, thank you for helping me to explore more in my kitchen.  And thanks, Sarah, for the recipe!  I feel more of an obligation to use the produce fully since, well, we paid for it, AND it’s fresh and local and delicious.  If I forget about a grocery store peach in the back corner of the fridge drawer I toss it out.  If I were to forget a farmhouse peach I would probably cry a few tears and have a little memorial service for the sweet and forgotten little guy. On to the recipes…

Spinach, Basil & Walnut Pesto

A big bag of fresh basil came one weekend, and so I made 2 batches of this pesto.  We ate it on pizza with mozzarella and farmhouse tomatoes.  Another night I mixed it in with penne pasta and chopped cherry tomatoes topped with grated Parmesan.  The leftovers from that meal got mixed with lots of mozzarella cheese, more pesto, more tomatoes and then baked in a casserole topped with Parmesan bread crumbs.  So many easy and delicious dinners out of one batch of pesto.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 2 cups basil
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Directions

  1. Rinse and pat dry spinach and basil.
  2. Put greens in the bowl of a food processor, pour walnuts over, sprinkle with salt and begin to pulse.  While pulsing, add olive oil in a stream until desired consistency is reached.  Taste and add more salt if needed.
  3. Transfer to a lidded container and store covered in the fridge or freeze for later use.

Quinoa Mac and Cheese Casserole

I’ve made this twice now.  It is sure to become a regular on our dinner menu.  The great thing is that you can change the vegetables, spices and cheese to make it fit your tastes or what you have available.  I used an onion from Farmhouse in this recipe, but other than that it’s a grocery store produce meal.  Don’t worry, I’m not getting all snooty about my produce…at least not forever.

Adapted from Eat, Live, Run

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups dry quinoa
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 6 ounce bag fresh spinach
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups grated white cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Heat a drizzle of oil over medium heat in a large, deep saucepan.  Add the onion, bell peppers, scallions and saute for about four minutes, just until bell pepper has started to soften.   Add the mushrooms and spinach and cook until spinach is wilted.  Add the garlic and continue sauteing for another 30 seconds.
  3. Add quinoa to the pot, followed by the chicken broth, salt, dry mustard and pepper.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until all liquid has been absorbed, stirring just a couple times.
  4. Add 1 1/2 cups of the grated cheese and milk.  Stir to combine then pour into a greased 9 x 13″ casserole dish.
  5. In a small bowl, combine the Panko and the remaining cheese.  Sprinkle on top of casserole and bake for about 30 minutes until golden.

Mediterranean Eggplant and Quinoa Salad

Eggplant, onion, zucchini and tomatoes from Farmhouse and then a great punch from the lemon dressing and an herby freshness from the parsley and mint make this my kind of summer meal.  My sweet sister helped me find a recipe to use up my eggplant without feeling like I was eating eggplant.  I used her suggestions of using quinoa instead of barley, and adding in a can of chickpeas and crumbled feta.  This has made a terrific lunch the past couple days.

From Sarah, Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 small to medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2-3 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 onion, halved then sliced
  • 10 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup chopped scallion (from 1 bunch)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 cups reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 lb cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and halved
  • 1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 4-6 ounces crumbled feta

Directions

  1. Roast eggplant and zucchini: Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 425°F.  Toss eggplant and zucchini and onion with 5 tablespoons oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl, then spread in 2 oiled large shallow (1-inch-deep) baking pans. Roast vegetables in oven, stirring occasionally and switching position of pans halfway through baking, until vegetables are golden brown and tender, 20 to 25 minutes total. Combine vegetables in 1 pan and cool.
  2. Cook Quinoa: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook scallion, cumin and coriander, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add quinoa and cook, stirring until well coated with oil, 2 minutes more.  Add broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until all of liquid is absorbed and barley is tender, 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer to reserved shallow baking pan and spread to quickly cool, uncovered, to room temperature, about 20 minutes.
  3. Make dressing and assemble salad: Whisk together lemon juice, sugar, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 2-3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl.  Add quinoa, roasted vegetables, and remaining ingredients to bowl with dressing and toss until combined well.

Vietnamese Turkey Meatball Bún

While in Austin a few weeks ago my sister took me to Elizabeth Street Cafe.  Eat here if you ever get the chance.  It’s a French-Vietnamese cafe, which may sound strange to you (it has to a couple people I’ve told about my meal) but the marriage translates into delicious bánh mì, bún and pho as well as sweet eclairs and delicate macarons.  We didn’t actually have dessert here since we’d already made plans to have ice cream at Lick.  Go there too.

This was one of the yummiest meals I’ve had in a while.  Vietnamese cuisine has a way of leaving you totally satisfied but not stuffed.  I think it’s the abundance of fresh veggies and herbs, differences in textures and the heat and intense flavor of the sauces.  We shared the pork belly steamed buns, pork  bánh mì on house-made baguette, and the keffir lime fried chicken bún.  All delicious.

This meal inspired me to make my own Vietnamese noodle bowl at home.  I decided on a Vietnamese turkey meatball instead of fried chicken.  Thanks to my Farmhouse delivery last weekend I had fresh carrots and cucumbers to use in the bowl.  I made the dressing for the bún, nuoc cham.  It’s a basic Vietnamese dipping sauce of lime juice, fish sauce, peppers, garlic, a touch of sugar and water.  I think this a really great summer dinner.  Fresh crisp veggies and herbs with warm meatballs and a spicy cool heat from the sauce.

I baked the meatballs instead of pan frying.  I think there was too much liquid in the meat mixture because the baked meatballs were sitting in a pool of meatball juice (you know what I’m talking about, and it ain’t pretty) so I had to drain them.  They tasted delicious and with some tweaking they could definitely be something I’d make again.  Although, these meatballs I know are good and could easily be used here.  The recipe below makes about 35 meatballs.  I wanted to have enough to make bánh mì later in the week, which we did (2 nights in a row, in fact).  Cut the meatball recipe in half if you’re only planning to use the meatballs for one meal with some leftover.

The meatballs do take some time to prep with all the chopping you have to do, and the chopping and slicing doesn’t end there.  The bún is full of shredded lettuce (I used iceberg but you could use romaine) julienned carrots, cucumber slices, chopped cilantro and mint.  So get your best knife and cutting board ready!  I made the meatball mixture, dressing and chopped everything during nap time.  This made dinner time pretty easy.  All I had to do was scoop and bake the meatballs, and cook the rice noodles.

In looking at different recipe for bún I saw other vegetables used like bean sprouts, daikon and red radish.  Traditionally beef is used as the protein as in this recipe from Leite’s Culinaria that looks dleicious.  But pork can also be used, like in this recipe from Fine Cooking which is making me crave grilled pork at 9 in the morning.

Vietnamese Turkey Meatball Bún

Ingredients

Meatballs

(Makes about 35, you may want to cut this recipe in half)

  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 5 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  • 3 small shallots, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger root
  • 2 stalks of fresh lemongrass, tender white inner bulb only, minced
  • 4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Nuoc Cham (Dressing)

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, minced
  • 1 red or green Asian chile, or serrano chile, sliced into thin rounds

Salad

  • 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded (or you can use romaine)
  • 6-8 ounces of rice noodles (this depends on how many people you’re serving and how much you like noodles. We used 5 ounces and it made 5 servings.)
  • 1 cucumber, sliced into half moons or halves
  • 6-8 carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • chopped cilantro
  • chopped mint
  • chopped basil
  • chopped peanuts
  • sriracha (if you need more heat!)

 Directions

Meatballs

  1. If baking right away, preheat the oven to 400°F.  Position a rack in the top third of the oven.
  2. Combine the turkey, fish sauce, shallots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, herbs, egg, salt and pepper and mix with your hands until well combined but without overworking the mixture.  At this point you can either refrigerate the mixture in the bowl, form into balls and cover and refrigerate on the pan, or form into balls and bake right away.
  3. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Using slightly moistened hands, roll the mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls. Transfer the meatballs to the prepared baking sheet and bake them for 15-20 minutes, until they are lightly browned and cooked through.

Nuoc Cham (Dressing)

  1. Combine warm water and sugar and stir to dissolve sugar.
  2. Stir in the remaining ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.

Salad

  1. Cook rice noodles by bringing a pot of water to a boil.  Add the noodles and remove from the heat.  Let sit for about 5 minutes.  Drain and rinse the noodles in cool water.
  2. Layer in deep, wide bowls: lettuce, noodles and meatballs.  Arrange vegetables and herbs around the sides.  Sprinkle with peanuts and green onion and drizzle with nuoc cham.  Toss everything together and enjoy using fancy chopsticks (or a nice reliable fork!).

Cilantro Peanut Pesto Pasta

When it comes to pesto, I tend to think only of the basil and pine nut variety.  This one is my favorite.  But there are so many combinations of herbs and nuts that you can use to make pesto!  I find basil and pine nuts to be on the pricier end of the spectrum, so using cheap ingredients like cilantro and peanuts make this a wallet friendly pesto as well as a delicious one.  The pesto is tossed with some linguine and shredded chicken to make for a complete meal.

My Everyday Food magazine on the iPad is proving to be quite the handy resource.  I can put the iPad in my cookbook holder.  I don’t have to print out the recipe, and I don’t have to have my big laptop next to the stove and sink.  In addition to being convenient, there are a lot of quick and simple recipes, like this one.

I didn’t change much about the recipe.  I used less pasta than the recipe calls for.  I did this for a couple reasons.  I’d rather have more stuff in my pasta dishes and less pasta.  Also, my pasta was a 1 pound package.  I’d rather use half and have enough to use later for another recipe instead of using 3/4 and trying to incorporate 1/4 into a meal.  I had some pesto left over, so I should have just used the 3/4 pound.

The recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, but spice hasn’t been my friend lately.  So I left that out.  I used a little more ginger, added shredded rotisserie chicken for some protein, and used 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and found that to be plenty.  But start with 1 tablespoon, taste and adjust as you see fit.

Martha says you can use the entire bunch of cilantro, including the stems.  I’m not sure if the same is true for basil and parsley.  I would think parsley would be since the two are so similar (I’ve bought one instead of the other at the store on more than one occasion).  Basil, I don’t know.  But since basil leaves are so big it isn’t a difficult task to remove them from the stem.

This cilantro peanut pesto has inspired me to search out some other interesting pestos.  Here is a kale and walnut pesto from Lauren of Healthy Foods for Living.  And Cookie + Kate’s arugula and walnut pesto sounds amazing.

Cilantro Peanut Pesto Pasta

From Everyday Food

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch cilantro, 1/4 cup leaves reserved for serving
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest plus 2 tablespoons juice
  • 1 teaspoon light-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup roasted peanuts, divided
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 to 3/4 pound spaghetti or linguine, cooked according to package instructions
  • 2 cups shredded chicken (optional)

Directions

  1. In a food processor, combine cilantro, garlic, ginger, vegetable and sesame oils, lime zest and juice, brown sugar, and 1/4 cup peanuts. Pulse until a coarse paste forms. Season with soy sauce and pulse to combine.
  2. In a large bowl, toss pesto with pasta.  Stir in shredded chicken.
  3. Roughly chop remaining peanuts and sprinkle over pasta along with cilantro leaves.

Basil Ricotta Pasta with Corn and Zucchini

The last meal I made from Martha Stewart Everyday Food was just ok, so I was a little apprehensive about this one.  It sounded like it had to be delicious, though.  Zucchini and fresh corn tossed with ricotta cheese, pasta and fresh basil.  It was a nice, light dinner served warm, but an even tastier lunch the following day right from the fridge.  This is a good summer pasta.

I changed some of the cooking methods.  The recipe calls for grilled zucchini left over from another meal, which is a great way to use leftovers, so use extra veggies if you have them on hand.  It also says to boil the corn with the pasta.  I just chopped the zucchini and sauteed it with the corn.  Basil and dill are the herbs in the recipe, but I just used basil.  I meant to add some fresh parsley, but forgot about it until my plate was almost clean.  I added some chopped grilled chicken Ben had made the night before.  I might serve this along side grilled chicken next time instead of mixing it in, at least the first night we eat it.  I think they would look good next to each other.  And then the chicken would have pretty grill marks and not look as pale and sad as it does in this picture.

The corn is wonderfully sweet and crunchy.  The basil is spicy and one of my personal favorite herbs for summertime.  The ricotta is not heavy or overwhelming, it just adds a light creamy coating to everything.  The only thing I found to be missing was salt.  I salted the pasta, salted the veggies and salted the sauce, but still I wanted more.  Now that I think about it, a nice squeeze of lemon juice might have done the trick.  Acid is important…at least that’s what they say on Top Chef.  So taste as you go along and definitely taste after mixing everything up to adjust as you see fit and let me know if you try lemon juice.

Here are some other changes.  I used bowtie pasta (and a little penne to make 3/4 pound) but I think you could easily get by with 1/2 pound of pasta.  Just throw in another zucchini or two and another ear of corn.  You can use fat free ricotta, but low fat might give you more of a creamy and substantial feel.  Grill the zucchini and the corn if you can.  While I loved the way the corn tasted I couldn’t stop thinking about how much better it would be with slightly charred smoky corn.  Grill it on the cob, then cut it off.  If you grill the zucchini, use a grill basket or cut the zucchini into long thick strips to grill it, then cut it into proper sized pieces after it cools a bit.

Does anyone have any great tricks for cutting corn from the cob?  I always make a ridiculous mess and throw bits of corn all over my kitchen.  Please advise.

Basil Ricotta Pasta with Corn and Zucchini

From Everyday Food

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/2-3/4 pound short pasta, such as campanelle
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 4-5 small zucchini, sliced and then quartered
  • 1 3/4 cups corn kernels (from 2-3 ears)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn, plus more for serving
  • 2 cups chopped, cooked chicken (optional)
Directions
  1. In a large skillet heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat.  Add zucchini and corn and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes or until zucchini is slightly softened but not squishy.  Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup pasta water, ricotta, and Parmesan. Add pasta mixture, zucchini, and basil, and toss to combine. Add more pasta water if necessary to create a light sauce that coats pasta. Season with salt and pepper and top with more basil and Parmesan.

You Can Make Your Own: Potato Gnocchi…But I Can’t

My gnocchi fell apart between boiling  and pan searing with browned butter.  It made for a gooey mess of a meal.  They tasted good.  But what wouldn’t after being tossed in butter and fresh thyme and topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese?

After my failure I started reading a little more about gnocchi and came across an article by Tom Colicchio that includes a nice little video of the chef at Craft making gnocchi.  I was very encouraged to read that the first time you make gnocchi you will probably not get it right.  Thank you, Mr. Colicchio.

I used this recipe from Giada (like how I just use her first name like we’re old pals?) for the proportions and this article and instructions from Fine Cooking for the method.  Maybe mixing the two was one of my problems.  I will probably try the Colicchio method, but it strikes me as one of those things you have to do a lot to get the feel for.  Good thing potatoes are cheap because I think this is going to take me a while.

Honestly the process is not a long or arduous one, but getting the right feel for the dough seems to be the tricky part.  It’s kind of like bread baking.  My mom and I went out to my great aunt’s once to have her teach us how to make her incredible Swedish rye bread.  She didn’t use a recipe, didn’t use times for rising or baking, she just knew what it was supposed to look and feel and smell like.  While mom and I came prepared with pencil and pad in hand, we weren’t able to go home and recreate the bread with our notes.  So I’m not going to be down on myself about this, I’m just going to have to keep doing it if I want to get it right.

Next time I will do the following things differently.

  1. Bake instead of boil my potatoes.
  2. Cut open and rice the potatoes right onto my work space right after baking.
  3. Make and shape the gnocchi right before I want to cook them. (I let them sit our for a couple hours…)
  4. Boil just until they float to the surface to avoid overcooking.
  5. Ice them down before saucing.
I will let you know how batch #2 comes out.  I’m going to try to convince my sister to make some with me.  Cooking is always more fun with someone else, especially when you’re unsure about what you’re doing and someone else can laugh about it with you when it turns into a big mess.
Dough Before Rolling
Dough Rolled Out
Cute Little Gnocchi

 

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas with Greek Yogurt

The internet is a great place to peruse recipes and get new ideas for healthifying your meals.  I think I made that word up.  I like comfort food.  I like cheese, cream, sugar, butter, bacon, chocolate and all things bread.  Unfortunately, eating like that all the time would mean big trouble.  So I sometimes like to find ways to lighten up those calorie laden foods, even if it’s just a touch, so that we can enjoy them more often.

There are all kinds of tricks and substitutions people come up with for lightening up old favorites.  Sometimes you find something that sounds great, almost too good to be true…which a lot of the time means it is and the final product is not what you’d hoped it would be.  I once found a recipe for scalloped potatoes that used skim milk.  Skim milk!  No cream!  And it claimed to be the same creamy potato dish without all the fat.  They lied.  I ended up throwing the majority of it away.  So, I was worried about these enchiladas.  I love the idea of using non-fat greek yogurt instead of sour cream or a cream sauce, but wasn’t sure if it was going to work out.  But I’ve seen lots of recipes that make the substitution, so I gave it a try.  Thankfully this was one of those times that taking a chance worked out and we had a delicious dinner with a little less guilt than usually comes with a plateful of enchiladas.

The original recipe came from Meals and Moves, a blog I hadn’t come across until yesterday.  I changed very little, and would make just a couple additional changes when I make these again.  I used corn tortillas, because I believe there is no other way to make enchiladas.  I added cilantro, garlic, jalapeno and just a bit more cheese to the filling.  Next time I might add chopped green bell pepper to the veggies, maybe a little more chicken and the whole jalapeno, seeded for the spice sensitive (like myself these days).  But feel free to go for it with the seeds.  I’ll meet back up with you in September when I can handle it without a serious case of heartburn.  Too much information?  Sorry.

If you’re looking for a good side dish to serve with these enchiladas or any Tex-Mex meal, try this black bean and corn salad from Whole Foods.  It also makes for a good salsa and can be adapted to fit your tastes.  I like to add chopped tomatoes.

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas with Greek Yogurt

Ingredients

  • 10 corn tortillas
  • 6-8 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeno, diced small
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can chopped green chiles (7-8 ounces total)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 cups cooked shredded chicken
  • 1 1/2 cups non fat Greek yogurt (a little more for topping)
  • 1 cup salsa verde
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2-1 cup shredded cheese (montery jack, colby jack, etc.)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup chopped cilantro (and a little extra for garnish)

Directions

  1. Heat a drizzle of oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Add the green onions and the jalapeno and saute for 3-4 minutes.  Then add in the garlic and cook for another minute or so.  Add the green chiles, cumin and a dash of salt and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  2. Mix the chicken into the warm vegetables and set aside.
  3. Combine the yogurt, salsa verde and cilantro in a bowl.  Add all but 1 cup of the yogurt mixture into the chicken mixture.  Add 1/4-1/2 cup of cheese to the chicken and mix to combine.
  4. Heat corn tortillas in 2 batches in the microwave, wrapped in slightly damp paper towels for about 30 seconds or until they are pliable.
  5. Coat a 9×13 pan with cooking spray.  Fill the center of a tortilla with about 1/3 cup of filling, roll up and lay seam side down in the pan.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas.  Some of your tortillas may crack, but it’s not a big deal.  (If you have extra space, extra tortillas and extra filling, cram another enchilada or 2 into the pan.)
  6. Spread remaining yogurt sauce over the enchiladas and then sprinkle with 1/4-1/2 cup of cheese.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes until cheese is melted and edges have started to brown.
  8. Garnish with a little yogurt and chopped cilantro.

Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta

This is a meal I made fairly frequently when Ben and I first got married.  I rediscovered it in an old pile of recipes I’d torn out of magazines (that need some serious organizing) and I’m glad I did.  It’s easy, quick and delicious; all things I appreciated back then when I was teaching full time, and all things I look for in recipes now that I work at home full time.  The ingredient list is short, there is very little prep, and you can have this on the table in about 45 minutes.  Serve with rice, this orzo from Martha or with some good crusty bread to soak up the sauce.  The tomatoes get nice and soft, becoming just delicious squished on a piece of bread with a little of the warm feta.

This recipe was in an old issue of Food Everyday and I was happy to find it on Martha’s website also.  In reading the reviews online, a lot of people opted to used basil instead of mint, which I am sure is fantastic.  I personally like the mint, but I know some people who wouldn’t.  Other than that change, I’ve never felt the need to change anything.  I will say that this isn’t great leftover, as is the case with most seafood in my opinion.  So make a half recipe for 2 people, a full recipe for 4.

Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta

From Martha Stewart

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 thinly sliced scallions
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined large frozen shrimp, thawed, tails removed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh fresh mint, plus more for garnish
  • 4-6 ounces feta cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 475°F with rack set in upper third.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium.  Add scallions, garlic, and oregano; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add tomatoes. Cook over medium, stirring occasionally, until no liquid remains in skillet, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add shrimp and mint to skillet. Stir to combine; transfer to an 8-inch square (or other shallow 2-quart) baking dish. Crumble feta over top.
  4. Bake until liquid is bubbling, cheese is beginning to brown, and shrimp in center of dish are opaque, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with additional chopped mint.

 

Peanut Noodles with Chicken and Vegetables

One of the great things about having a pantry that’s on the small side is that it is next to impossible to lose track of food, only to find it years later.  I don’t have to get elbow-deep in my canned goods to find a can of tomatoes.  My small food storage also keeps me from stocking up on things I don’t need…I do have a snack bowl on top of the cabinet for my assortment of gummy candies and what remains of Carson’s Easter goodies.  But candy is a need, right?

Anyway, when I came across this recipe on Eatingwell.com I knew that I had about 3/4 of a box of thin spaghetti because I see it every time I get something from the pantry, so I added this to my meals for the week.  I was already planning to buy chicken for chicken parmesan, so I was able to buy a 4 pack of chicken breasts and know that they would all get used that week.  That makes me happy.

The recipe calls for a bag of vegetable medley, but I just used veggies that we like; broccoli, red bell pepper, snap peas, frozen edamame and carrots.  Since I was using more like 11-12 ounces of spaghetti, I increased the amount of vegetables I used to about 20 ounces.  I really like there to be a lot of vegetables in pasta dishes, so you may not want to use as much as I did.  I used 1 medium sized broccoli crown, 1 red bell pepper, 5 small carrots, 1 small bag of snap peas, and 8 ounces of frozen edamame.  I kept the sauce pretty much the same, but did end up adding more soy and a drizzle of sesame oil at the end.  The sriracha is spicy.  I like spice, so I used 2 teaspoons of the stuff and definitely felt the heat.  If you are not a fan of spicy foods, use 1/2 a teaspoon in the sauce, taste it and add more if you’d like.

A mistake I made with this was adding all of my vegetables at once.  The carrots were a little under cooked, so if you’re using carrot slices, don’t slice them too thick and make sure to give them a head start in the boiling water.  The broccoli, bell pepper, snap peas and edamame cooked easily in the 3-4 minutes of cooking time.

To make this meal even faster to fix, use shredded rotisserie chicken.  Buy bagged vegetables that are ready to go, or chop your veggies the morning of or the night before.  You can even make the sauce ahead of time and refrigerate it.  The heat from the cooked pasta and hot water will loosen it up as it will be stiff coming out of the fridge.  You can serve this warm or cold.  We ate it both ways and it was delicious.

Peanut Noodles with Chicken and Vegetables

Adapted from Eatingwell.com

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 10-12 ounces thin spaghetti
  • 16-18 ounces of vegetables (broccoli, snap peas, bell pepper, carrots, edamame) carrots, broccoli and bell pepper cut into pieces
  • fresh chopped cilantro, optional

Sauce

  • 1/2 cup chunky, natural peanut butter
  • 2-3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1-2 teaspoons chile-garlic sauce (Sriracha), or to taste
  • 2-3 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon sesame oil

Directions

  1. Cook the chicken.  In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil, salt water, then add chicken, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.  Remove chicken from water and let cool slightly before shredding into bite size pieces.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook for 4 minutes, add carrots if using and cook for a minute, add the rest of the vegetables and cook for another 3-4 minutes.  Reserve about 1 cup of pasta water then drain and rinse with cool water.
  3. Make sauce by whisking peanut butter, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sriracha and sesame oil in a large bowl.  Stir 1/2 cup of pasta water into the sauce.  Toss in pasta, vegetables and chicken.  Add in more pasta water to moisten pasta to your liking.  Mix thoroughly so that all the veggies, pasta and chicken are coated with sauce.  Garnish with cilantro if desired.

Greek Turkey Meatloaf

When Ben got home from work and asked what we were having for dinner I am pretty sure that he cringed and rolled his eyes when I said turkey meatloaf.  If it were up to him there would be no turkey burgers, no turkey meatballs, and no turkey meatloaf.  And I get it.  If the name of the food has the word meat in it, then it should be made of meat.  This made me wonder, what is meat, exactly?  I looked into the definition of meat, which is really just any animal flesh that we eat.  But meat is defined more specifically as pork, beef and lamb by the meat packing industry.  Chicken and turkey are grouped in the poultry category.  So today we’re making poulty-loaf…which just doesn’t sound very good.  So, I will keep calling this turkey “meat”loaf.

This was a good meatloaf.  Definitely unique in flavor with the feta and dill.  It wasn’t real juicy, but not at all dry either.  I liked it, and Ben didn’t say that he hated it…

One of the reasons I chose to make this was its built in leftover recipe.  I recently got an iPad (which I still can’t believe I talked myself into thinking I needed) and I have the Martha Stewart Everyday Food mag on it.  This meatloaf recipe uses 1/3 of the leftover meatloaf to make turkey and spinach hand pies.  Usually the only option for leftover meatloaf is meatloaf sandwiches, which are delicious, but it was fun to try something different.  More on those later.

The only changes I made were to use wheat sandwich bread slices (which I soaked in a few tablespoons of milk before mixing them with everything else) and using all 85/15 turkey.

Greek Turkey Meatloaf

From Everyday Food April 2012

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, diced small
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 large celery stalks, diced small
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 pounds ground 85/15 turkey (or half 93/7 and half 85/15)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 slices white or wheat sandwich bread, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 4 ounces feta, crumbled (1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium. Add onion, garlic, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs and milk and let soak for a few minutes.  Add in vegetables, turkey, egg, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Using your hands, mix until combined. Mix in feta and dill.
  3. Transfer to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and form into a 4-by-10-inch loaf. Bake until cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through. Let rest 10 minutes before slicing. (To store, cover and refrigerate, up to 3 days.)