Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Shepherd's Pie

Whenever I make mashed potatoes, I always make way more than we can actually eat in one meal.  I don't know why.  Seems like I would learn to scale back a bit but I haven't done that.  Instead, I've just accepted the fact that there will be leftovers, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Last night, I decided to use the mashed potatoes leftover from the Thanksgiving feast for this super yummy, surprisingly easy shepherd's pie.  You'll need your potatoes already prepared as this recipe is just for the meaty filling part of the pie:

1 TBSP vegetable oil
1/2c onion, chopped
1 carrot, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 ground beef
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 TBSP all-purpose flour
1 tsp. tomato paste
1/2c chicken broth
1/2 Worchestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/3 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1/4c frozen corn
1/4c frozen peas
1.  Preheat oven to 400*
2.  In a large skillet, heat oil on medium-high.  Add the onions and carrot slices; saute 3-4 minutes.
3.  Add the garlic and continue cooking another minute or so.
4.  Add the meat, salt, and pepper.  Cook and stir until nicely browned and cooked through.
5.  Sprinkle flour over the top.  Toss to evenly coat the mixture.
6.  Add the tomato paste, Worchestershire sauce, rosemary, and thyme.  Cover, reduce heat, and allow to simmer about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
7.  Add the corn and peas, stirring to combine.
8.  Spoon everything into a prepared 8x8 baking dish.
9.  Top with your mashed potatoes and spread to completely cover the meat filling.
10.  Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes.

*I made my shepherd's pie vegetarian by using good quality substitutes for the meat, broth, and Worchestershire sauce.  This could be made even healthier by using vegan mashed potatoes.

I totally forgot to snap a photo of the shepherd's pie so you'll just have to take my word that it looked amazing.  I'll remember next time.  For now here's a photo of the mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving:
Served with rosemary biscuits on the side.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Spicy Rosemary Roasted Cashews

Our pre-Thanksgiving feast snacks consisted of a tray of Mediterranean-style marinated olives, an assortment of cheeses, and these yummy cashews. 
1lb. whole cashews
2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. sea salt
1 TBSP butter, melted
1.  Preheat oven to 375*
2.  In a small bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar, and salt.  Set aside.
3.  Spread cashews out on a baking sheet and bake about 10 min.
4.  Place cashews in a medium-size bowl, pour melted butter over the top, and stir to coat.
5.  Sprinkle the seasoning mixture over the cashews and mix together.  Serve immediately.

You could make them ahead of time (they do keep really well) but I think they're particularly fabulous served warm.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Easy Bean and Cheese Taquitos

I like to serve these as an appetizer or side to a Mexican dinner, but really, I would be totally happy just eating them all by themselves!  Dip them in some salsa or guacamole....good stuff!

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can refried beans
2 tsp. cumin
1 TBSP chili powder
2 garlic cloves, minced
 shredded Cheddar Jack cheese
small flour tortillas

1.  In a medium saucepan, heat black beans,refried beans, cumin, chili powder, and garlic.

3.  Mash the bean mixture - potato masher or fork both work - until you like the texture. (I like to keep some of the chunkiness in there.)

4.  Grab a tortilla and spoon about 2 TBSP of the bean mixture onto it, along with about 1 tsp. salsa, and 1 TBSP cheese; roll it up and set aside on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Repeat until you're out of beans.  I got 16 taquitos with this recipe.

5.  Bake at 375* for about 20 minutes, or until warmed through and slightly crispy.
Bonus:  You can freeze the leftovers!
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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Asian Lettuce Wraps

I think of lettuce wraps as little Asian tacos.  And rather than serve them as an appetizer like they do in restaurants, I like to serve them up as the main course.  We have had these several times over the years and they are always so very good! 

1lb. ground beef
1 TBSP olive oil
1/2c onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 TBSP soy sauce
1/4c hoisin sauce
2tsp. fresh ginger, minced
1 TBSP rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. Asian chili sauce
1/4c green onions, chopped
1-2 tsp. dark sesame oil
whole lettuce leaves
1.  In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef in olive oil.  Remove from skillet, drain if necessary, and set aside.
2.  To the skillet, add the onion and cook for a about a minute or so, stirring frequently.
3.  Add the garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, vinegar, and chili sauce and stir to combine.
4.  Add the  green onions, sesame oil, and cooked beef and heat through.
5.  Serve with the lettuce leaves.

I like to just put it out on the table like this so
 everyone can make their own.
(Also, once again, I used Match ground beef.)
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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Italian Chili

This is fabulous comfort food on a cold, wintery night and the leftovers hold up really well.  If you feel like you just have to add cheese over the top, I recommend Parmesan.  But really, it's not necessary.

1lb. ground beef (I used Match Meats substitute)

1/4c garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
4c vegetable broth

Served with homemade herb and cheese bread - yum!
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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mini Meatloaves

Last night's dinner was vegan meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and peas.  I was in the mood for some good old fashioned comfort food and this was perfect!  Obviously, you could substitute ground beef for the vegan meat, but, really, why would you want to?

While I'm on the subject of vegan meat, let me just say that, like alot of foods, there are good brands and there are not-so-good brands.  For substituting ground beef in recipes, I like Match Meats much better than anything else I've tried so far.  Gardein is winning in the chicken department though.  Anyway, on to the recipe:

1lb. ground "beef"
1/4c ketchup
1 1/8c Italian breadcrumbs
1 TBSP vegetable base (I like Better Than Bouillon)
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. dried parsley
1/8 tsp. celery salt
1/8 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP olive oil

1.  Preheat oven to 350*

2.  In a large bowl, add all ingredients (except the olive oil) and mix well.  I just use my hands to really get in there and blend it all together.

3.  Divide into four loaves.

4.  In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high.  Place loaves in skillet and cook until nicely browned, about 2 minutes or so on each side.

5.  Remove from skillet and place in a prepared 8 1/2 x 11 baking dish.

6.  Bake 20 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 160*.

7.  Top with a little extra ketchup and put back in the oven for another five minutes.

8.  Remove from oven and serve immediately.
This is also very good reheated.
 I just devoured the leftovers for lunch today!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Vegan Ranch Dressing

I'm cooking vegan at home now and needed ranch dressing for tonight's dinner of Gardein chicken wraps.  So, one quick search online and I found the perfect dairy-free ranch dressing:

1/2c vegan mayonnaise (Vegenaise is great!)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. chopped parsley
1/4c unsweetened soy milk

1.  Combine everything in a small bowl.  Chill until ready to serve.

They'll never know it's vegan! ;)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!!!

Yesterday was my birthday and we celebrated by dining at a fabulous new Indian restaurant.  It was one of those meals that was so crazy good, I'm still thinking about it today.

When we got home, it was time for cake and presents.  The packages had been sitting in the living room all day, just teasing me.  I first spotted them in the morning and immediately recognized the Williams Sonoma wrapping paper. 
I am so easy. My husband knows he can walk in that store and buy anything and I will be thrilled. I had no idea what was in those boxes but I knew it was good!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pesto, Spinach, Tomato Naan Pizzas

Last night, I made personal pizzas using garlic naan bread.  It was so simple and so good:

garlic naan flatbread (I found these perfectly-sized breads at Trader Joe's)
fresh spinach, a handful for each pizza
basil pesto, 2 TBSP for each
roma tomatoes, chopped, about 1/8c for each
Parmesan cheese, to taste

1.  Preheat the oven to 425*  Put the pizza stone in also so it will get nice and hot.  If you don't have a pizza stone - get one!  In the meantime though, a baking sheet would do just fine.

2.  Top each naan bread piece with 2 TBSP pesto, some spinach, tomatoes, and Parmesan.

3.  Place on preheated stone and cook for about 7 minutes.
 Served with Pasta e Olio .

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Pasta with Mushrooms and Goat Cheese

I woke up this morning still thinking about how yummy this was last night! 

2 TBSP butter
4 TBSP olive oil
1/2c shallots, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 lb. baby bella mushrooms, rough chopped
3 TBSP fresh parsley, plus additional for garnish
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 lb. bowtie pasta, or whatever you have on hand
5 oz. herbed goat cheese, crumbled
3 TBSP grated Parmesan cheese

1.  In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 1 TBSP butter with 2 TBSP olive oil.

2.  Add onions, 1/2 tsp. salt, and sugar.  Stir until browned and fragrant, about 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.

3.  Add the remaining 1 TBSP butter and 1 TBSP olive oil to the skillet.

4.  Stir in the mushrooms and 1/4 tsp. salt.  Continue cooking over medium heat until mushrooms are tender and browned, about 5 minutes.

5.  Add the cooked onions, parsley, 1/4 tsp. salt, and pepper.  Keep warm until the pasta is ready.

6.  Prepare the pasta in a  large pot, according to package directions.  Drain, reserving 3/4c of the water, and return to pot.

7.  To the pasta pot, add 1/2c of the pasta water, the mushroom mixture, 1 TBSP olive oil, goat cheese, and Parmesan.  Add extra pasta water, if necessary.

8.  Garnish with extra Parmesan cheese and parsley. 
This is best while it's hot, so serve immediately!
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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork BBQ over Sweet Potatoes

Why I have never tried this before, I don't know.  Because the flavor combination is brilliant.

2 - 2 1/2 lb. pork butt roast
salt, pepper, and garlic powder, to taste
1c beef broth
1/4c brewed coffee
olive oil
4 sweet potatoes

1.  Rub pork roast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Place in slow cooker.

2.  Add beef broth and coffee.

3.  Cook on Low for approximately 6 hours, or until cooked through.

4.  During the last hour, preheat the oven to 400*.

5.  Prick sweet potatoes with a fork and coat with olive oil (I just do this with my hands).

6.  Bake potatoes for around 30 minutes, or until a fork stuck into the potatoes tells you they're done.

7.  Get back to the pork:  Dump the liquid and remove pork to a cutting board.

8.  Shred the pork and return it to the slow cooker.

9.  Add as little or as much BBQ sauce as you like (I usually end up using the entire bottle).

10.  To serve:  Slice open each potato and top with the BBQ pork.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Hot Bean Dip

My husband used to say he wasn't a fan of bean dips.  That is, until he tried this one:

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2c plain Greek yogurt
1 (16oz.) can refried beans
3 TBSP taco seasoning
3 good shakes of cayenne pepper sauce
1 TBSP dried parsley
2 TBSP green onions, chopped + a little extra for garnish
1c Mexican blend cheese, shredded

1.  Preheat oven to 350*

2.  Mix everything together in a medium size bowl, reserving 1/2c cheese and the extra green onions.

3.  Add to prepared pan.  I used two smaller dishes but you could put it all in an 8x8.

4.  Top with the remaining cheese.

5.  Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.
Top with extra geen onions and serve immediately.
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Monday, August 20, 2012

Simple Grilled Portobello Salad

I rarely spend much time cooking on Sunday nights, and last night was no exception.  This is one of the fastest and easiest meals I've made lately. 

I'm not specifying amounts for the ingredients here because this is really one of those recipes that depends on your personal tastes:

portobello mushrooms, stems removed
olive oil
steak seasoning
Romaine lettuce, chopped
Caesar dressing
black pepper
Parmesan cheese
1.  Rub the mushrooms with olive oil.  Then sprinkle with steak seasoning and rosemary.
2.  Cook in pre-heated grill pan over medium high heat for about 3-5 minutes per side.

3.  While the mushrooms are sizzling, toss the lettuce with Caesar dressing, black pepper, and Parmesan cheese.  Arrange the lettuce on plates.

4.  Remove mushrooms to a cutting board, slice, and place on top of the lettuce.  Serve immediately.

Served with garlic bread - yum!
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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Slow Cooker Carne Guisada

 We've had this easy Mexican stewed meat over rice and I've also served it taco-style in flour tortillas.

It's good both ways:

2 TBSP olive oil
1lb. beef stew meat
3 oz. tomato paste
1 1/4c beef broth
1/2c water
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. Ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. salt
2 Serrano chili pepper, seeded and chopped

  1. In a medium bowl, toss beef to coat with flour, salt, and pepper.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
  3. Cook beef until evenly brown. Set aside.
  4. In the slow cooker, combine tomato paste, beef broth, and water. Season with garlic, chili powder, cumin, black pepper, salt and serrano peppers.
5.  Add stew meat and cook on Low heat for about 8 hours, or until meat is cooked through and shreds easily with a fork.
Sauteed zucchini, yellow squash, and tomatoes on the side.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fast and Easy Ground Beef Substitute

I've tried a few different brands of ground beef substitutes but haven't found one I really love.  No more worries about that though because now I just make my own!

3c eggplant, finely chopped (1 - medium size)
3c portobello mushrooms, finely chopped (3 - medium size)
1c onion, finely chopped
1/4c olive oil
1/8c balsamic vinegar
1 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp. black pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 350*

2.  In a large bowl, combine the eggplant, mushrooms, and onion.

3.  Add olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Use your hands to mix it really well.

4.  Spread onto a foil-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with the garlic powder and pepper.

5.  Bake 20 minutes, then remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Easy!  Make a big batch and freeze in plastic bags. 
Defrost just as you would ground beef.
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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Easy Eggplant Parmesan

Sometimes the simplest meals are the best!  We had this for dinner a few nights ago and it was so easy and so yummy.  Also super cheap!

1/2c Panko breadcrumbs, seasoned to taste with Italian seasoning
red pepper flakes, to taste
medium size eggplant, 4 slices, 1/2" thick (or just do more slices if you use a small eggplant)
1/4c olive oil
6oz. tomato paste
3/4c water
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. brown sugar
salt and pepper, to taste
1c mozzarella, shredded
1/2c grated Parmesan

1.  Preheat oven to 425*
2.  In a small bowl , combine bread crumbs and red pepper flakes.
3.  Brush eggplant slices with olive oil.
4.  Press slices into breadcrumb mixture to coat.
5.  Arrange eggplant in a prepared 8x8 baking dish.
6.  Bake approzimetely 15 minutes, or until nicely browned.
7.  Make the sauce while eggplant is baking: In a small saucepan, whisk together the tomato paste and water.  Bring to a simmer and add basil, oregano, parsley, garlic, brown sugar, salt, and pepper.  Simmer until ready to use.
8.  Remove eggplant and reduce temperature to 375*.  Top with sauce, then mozzarella and Parmesan and return to oven for another 15 minutes or so, until cheese is melted.
9.  Switch the oven to Broil and broil 2-3 minutes, or until browned just the way you want it.

Served atop capellini mixed with a little extra tomato sauce.
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Friday, July 27, 2012

Spinach and Orzo Salad

 I like to serve this with grilled white fish:
8oz. uncooked orzo pasta
5oz. pkg. baby spinach leaves, chopped
1/2c Feta cheese, crumbled
1/4c pine nuts
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1/4c olive oil
1/4c balsamic vinegar
1.  In a medium size pot, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
2.  Add orzo and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain and rinse with cold water.
3.  Transfer to a large bowl and stir in spinach, feta, pine nuts, basil and white pepper.
4.  Toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
5.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.               

I usually serve this cold but my husband heated up leftovers the
 other day and thought it was pretty good warm, too.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Basic Tomato and Basil Sauce

Not buying the jarred stuff anymore!  This is so much better:
1/8c olive oil
1/2c onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
handful of fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

1.  In a medium size skillet, heat olive oil and add onions and garlic.  Cook just until soft and fragrant.

2.  In a medium size pot, combine crushed tomatoes, basil, olive oil mixture, salt, and pepper.

3.  Simmer on low for about an hour, stirring occasionally.

I used this recipe for baked zucchini subs (sauteed chunky zucchini strips topped with sauce and mozzarella on French bread) - yum!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pimento Cheese Dip

Pimento cheese will forever remind me of hot summer days spent swimming at my grandparents' house as a kid.  I remember pimento cheese sandwiches were pretty standard lunch fare served alongside a nice cold can of Tab (do they even still make that anymore?).  It was so common, my Dad and I used to joke about going to Nana's house for pimento cheese sandwiches.  And while we're there, maybe we'll jump in the pool.

And it wasn't even good pimento cheese; it was the one that came in a plastic tub from the grocery store.  I'm not even certain whether it had actual cheese in it at all.  It was bad, which was exactly what made the joke so funny for us.

This is not that; this is the good stuff:

1c sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 lb. cream cheese, softened
1/4c mayonnaise
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. onion powder
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced 
1/2 (4 oz.) jar diced pimento, drained
salt and black pepper, to taste

1.  Throw everything in a bowl and stir until well blended.

2.  Chill until ready to serve.              
I like to serve this with the cracked black pepper Triscuits.
So good!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Best Chicken Enchiladas

I've gone through alot of chicken enchilada recipes over the years, most of which involved cream-of canned soups - which I now find gross.  This one is different because there is not a single can of soup involved, nor is there any actual chicken (I'm all about fake meat these days).

I made these a few nights ago and they were practically inhaled by the entire family.

Here's the recipe:

 8 taco-size flour tortillas
2c cooked chicken (I used Gardein)
1/4c onion, chopped
2c Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
4 TBSP butter
3 TBSP flour
2c chicken broth (I used no-chicken bouillon base with water)
6oz. Greek yogurt
4oz. can diced green chiles, drained

1.  Preheat oven to 350* and spray a 9x13 pan with non-stick cooking spray.

2.  In a skillet over medium high heat, add 1 TBSP butter and saute chicken and onion.

3.  Wrap tortillas in damp paper towel and heat in microwave (about 30-45 seconds).

4.  Combine chicken and onions with 1c cheese.

5.  Add 1/4c mixture to each tortilla, roll up, and place in baking dish.

6.  In medium sauce pan, melt remaining 3 TBSP butter, add flour and stir until thick and pasty.

7.  Add broth and whisk until smooth.

8.  Continue cooking until mixture is thick and bubbly.

9.  Remove from heat and stir in Greek yogurt and green chiles.

10.  Pour sauce over enchiladas and top with remaining cheese.

11.  Bake approximately 20-25 minutes.

12. Switch oven setting to Broil for 3-5 minutes. Watch to make sure the cheese is browning, not burning!
Served with sauteed mixed veggies.
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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fake Steak Kabobs

The majority of the meals I cook at home lately are vegetarian and, on occasion, vegan.  It's something I'm experimenting with....

So, last night I tried out a recipe for beef kabobs, only I didn't use beef.  I bought the BBQ skewers by Gardein, rinsed off the sauce, marinated them according to the recipe, threw them on the grill pan, and watched as they smoked and sizzled just like real meat.

My husband knew what I was up to but we did not tell the teenager who thinks a meal isn't complete unless some animal was slaughtered for it.  I was amazed as I watched him eat two whole kabobs and everything else on his plate without even questioning it.

Here is the recipe I used:

1/4c olive oil
1/4c red wine vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
sea salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
1 pkg. Gardein BBQ skewers

1.  Rinse skewers to remove the bbq sauce that comes on them; set aside.

2.  Make the marinade:  Combine the olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper.

3.  Add the skewers and marinate approximately 30 minutes at room temperature.

4.  Add a little more olive oil (or use non-stick spray) and heat on high.

5.  Place the skewers on the grill pan, turning about every minute or so until they look good to you. 
Served over parslied couscous with roasted carrots and rosemary bread on the side.
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