Thursday, January 29, 2009

Chili and Cornbread

I'm always up for trying a new chili recipe, and this vegetarian one is great! It comes together in a flash, and has lots of flavor.
Chunky Vegetarian Chili
Cooking Light

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 (16-ounce) cans stewed tomatoes, undrained
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell peppers, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add sugar and remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.

8 servings

I also tried a new cornbread to have with it:

Double Corn Bread
Cooking Light

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
4 tablespoons butter or stick margarine, melted
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 425°.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (flour through baking soda) in a large bowl, and make a well in center of mixture. Combine buttermilk and next 4 ingredients (buttermilk through egg) in a bowl; add to flour mixture. Stir just until moist. Spoon batter into an 8-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes.

9 servings

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Chicken Shawarma

This recipe is a favorite in our house. I use boneless, skinless chicken thighs because they are a lot more moist, and serve it with a store-bought tahina sauce. I also broil it instead if grilling it (I don't bother to skewer them), and, when possible, I marinate it for several hours.
(I'm sorry the picture is not so great. I had a long day and was just trying to get the picture done quickly.)

Chicken Shawarma
Cooking Light

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 16 (3-inch) strips
Cooking Spray
4 pitas

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Combine first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add chicken to bowl; toss well to coat. Let stand at room temperature 20 minutes.

Thread 2 chicken strips onto each of 8 (12-inch) skewers. Place kebabs on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 4 minutes on each side or until done.

Place pitas on grill rack; grill 1 minute on each side or until lightly toasted. Place 1 pita on each of 4 plates. Top each serving with 4 chicken pieces.

4 servings

I served it with this salad:

Chopped Vegetable Salad
Cooking Light

2 cups chopped cucumber
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped tomato
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
I saw this recipe on another blog ( and I had to try it. I liked it a lot, and even the kids gobbled it up, but it reminded me how much I hate the tedious job of cleaning mushrooms (it's really not fun to wipe 2 lbs. of cremini mushrooms!)

Mushroom Bourguignon

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons butter, softened, divided
2 pounds portobello mushroom caps, in 1/4-inch slices (you can use cremini instead, as well)
1/2 carrot, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup full-bodied red wine
2 cups beef or vegetable broth (beef broth is traditional but vegetable to make it vegetarian; it works with either)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup pearl onions, peeled (thawed if frozen)
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Egg noodles, for serving
Sour cream and chopped chives or parsley, for garnish (optional)

Heat the one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a medium Dutch oven or heavy sauce pan over high heat. Sear the mushrooms until they begin to darken, but not yet release any liquid — about three or four minutes. Remove them from pan.

Lower the flame to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil. Toss the carrots, onions, thyme, a few good pinches of salt and a several grinds of black pepper into the pan and cook for 10, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for just one more minute.

Add the wine to the pot, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom, then turn the heat all the way up and reduce it by half. Stir in the tomato paste and the broth. Add back the mushrooms with any juices that have collected and once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender. Add the pearl onions and simmer for five minutes more.

Combine remaining butter and the flour with a fork until combined; stir it into the stew. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency. Season to taste.

To serve, spoon the stew over a bowl of egg noodles, dollop with sour cream (optional) and sprinkle with chives or parsley.

4 servings

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Artichoke & Tuna Panini

I did not feel much like cooking tonight, so this sandwich was perfect - and delicious!
Artichoke and Tuna Panini with Garbanzo Bean Spread
Giada's Kitchen, Giada De Laurentiis

Garbanzo Bean Spread:
1 (15 1/2 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup pitted black olives, finely chopped
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (next time I would use less)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 (5 1/2-ounce) cans Italian tuna in olive oil, drained (I used chunk light in water)
1 (13 3/4-ounce) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
8 mini baguettes, halved lengthwise
2 cups arugula (I used baby spinach)

For the spread:
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

To make the panini:
Combine the black olives, olive oil, salt, pepper, tuna, and artichokes in a bowl and toss gently to mix.

Lay out the sliced baguettes. Spread both halves of the baguettes with the garbanzo bean spread. Spoon the tuna mixture onto the bottom half of each sandwich and top with the arugula. Close up the sandwiches. Wrap one end of each sandwich in parchment paper to make it easier to eat, if you like.

8 servings

Thursday, January 22, 2009

White Bean, Spinach, and Barley Stew

Somehow I ended up with 5 cans of white beans in the pantry (quite a few unmade recipes, I guess). Wanting to use some of them I searched the 'net and found this recipe for White Bean, Spinach, and Barley Stew. It was really good, and great for the (slightly) cooler, rainy weather we had today.
White Bean, Spinach, and Barley Stew

1 cup uncooked pearl barley
3 cups water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
3/4 cup small fresh mushrooms
1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
2 tablespoons white wine
1 (15-ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
1 pinch red pepper flakes

Bring the barley and water to a boil in a pot. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 30 minutes, or until tender.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, and cook the onion and garlic until tender. Season with rosemary. Mix the mushrooms, yellow bell pepper, and wine into the pot, and cook 5 minutes. Stir in the cooked barley, beans, tomatoes, and spinach. Season with red pepper flakes. Continue cooking 10 minutes, or until spinach is wilted. (I also seasoned it with salt.)

6 servings

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Country Captain Chicken

This is a great quick & healthy recipe. I served it with basmati rice and mango chutney (and in typical "me" fashion, I toasted the almonds, put them to the side, and then forgot to add them to the bowls).
Country Captain Chicken
Cooking Light

1 tablespoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 cups vertically sliced onion (about 2 medium)
3/4 cup thinly sliced green bell pepper (about 1 medium)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup dried currants
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with jalapeño, undrained
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Combine curry powder, salt, and black pepper. Sprinkle chicken with curry mixture.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken mixture to pan; sauté 5 minutes. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Add broth, currants, 1 tablespoon thyme, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon thyme; cook 1 minute. Sprinkle with almonds.

4 servings

Monday, January 19, 2009

Beef and Guinness Pie

I am not much of a drinker. When I was at a pub in San Diego a couple weeks ago, and I drank a pint of Guinness, it was a Really Big Deal. Seriously. Even Chaim couldn't believe it - and he was there.
But I love the flavor that alcohol gives to food, whether it's red wine in a stew, beer in a chili, or whiskey in a marinade. Or this recipe, which is first marinated, and then cooked, in Guinness:

Beef and Guinness Pie
The Irish Pub Cookbook, Margaret Johnson

*note that this recipe has to be started the day before you plan to cook it.

2 pounds stewing beef, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups Guinness stout, divided
1 clove garlic
2 bay leaves
1 cup beef stock
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 large carrots, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 bouquet garni (a cheesecloth bag containing 3 sprigs fresh parsley, 1 sprig fresh thyme, 8 to 10 black peppercorns, and 1 bay leaf)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
3 to 4 large mushrooms, sliced (optional)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup solid vegetable shortening, such as Crisco
1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup ice water
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water

To start the filling: In a large bowl or nonreactive pot, combine the beef, 2 cups of the Guinness, the garlic, and the bay leaves. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. Drain the marinade and discard the garlic and bay leaves.

In a stockpot or large saucepan over medium heat, bring the marinated beef, the remaining 2 cups of Guinness, and the beef stock to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender. Skim off any foam that rises to the top. Add the celery, carrots, onion, salt, pepper, parsley, and bouquet garni and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are slightly tender. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with 1/2 cup cold water, and whisk until smooth, Stir into the filling, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the liquid is thickened.

To make the pastry: Combine the flour, salt, shortening, and butter in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse 4 to 5 times, or until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle in 4 tablespoons of the ice water, pulse 4 to 5 times, and if needed, add the rest of the water and pulse again. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a circle 12 inches in diameter.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Remove the bouquet garni, and transfer the filling to a 10-inch deep-dish pie plate. Stir in the mushrooms, if using. Cover with the pastry, crimp the edges, and cut a few slits in the top to allow steam to escape. Brush the top with the egg wash. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top is golden and the mixture is bubbling.

4-6 servings


This morning I made myself a really good panini using some of the leftover olive bread from last night, roasted red pepper, feta, and a bit of chopped fresh basil:

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Greek-Style Chickpea Salad

This was a great meal for the summer-like weather we've been having here in L.A.

Greek-Style Chickpea Salad
Cooks Illustrated: The Best Light Recipe

2 (15 1/2-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 small red onion, minced
1/2 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup minced fresh mint leaves
1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled (about 1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
3 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons minced Kalamata olives
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
Salt and ground black pepper

Toss the chickpeas, onion, cucumber, mint, feta, and parsley together in a large bowl. Whisk the lemon juice, olives, mustard oil, and garlic together in a small bowl, then toss with the chickpeas and vegetables until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6 servings

Kalamata Olive Bread with Oregano
Cooking light

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
9 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until onion is tender. Set aside.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Combine buttermilk, butter, and egg whites, stirring with a whisk. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in onion, olives, and oregano.

Spread batter into an 8 x 4–inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

12 servings

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Caribbean Rice and Beans

Rice and beans are a classic combination for a reason - it's healthy, economical, and filling. Tonight's dinner was an easy and tasty variation on the theme.

Caribbean Rice and Beans
Bon Appetit

1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained
1/2 large red onion, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 white onion, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
3 1/2 cups canned unsalted chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 large bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper

Combine first 3 ingredients in medium bowl. Let stand 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat oil in heavy medium saucepan over high heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add rice and stir 1 minute to coat with onion mixture. Add broth, wine, bay leaves, turmeric and cayenne pepper and blend well. Bring mixture to boil; stir well. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until rice is tender and mixture is creamy, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne.

Spoon rice onto platter. Arrange beans and onion garnish alongside.

4 servings

I served it with roasted sweet potato wedges. For the kids I simply sprinkled them with some salt. For Chaim and myself I made this (they were really good!):

Spicy Sweet Potato Wedges
Cooking Light

6 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 1/4 pounds)
Cooking spray
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 500°.

Peel potatoes; cut each lengthwise into quarters. Place potatoes in a large bowl; coat with cooking spray. Combine sugar, salt, and peppers, and sprinkle over potatoes, tossing well to coat. Arrange potatoes, cut sides down, in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 500° for 10 minutes; turn wedges over. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until tender and beginning to brown.

8 servings

Monday, January 12, 2009

Pizza Night

Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I L-O-V-E pizza. Seriously. I can eat it every day and not get sick of it. Heck, I can eat it three times a day and not get sick of it. And I don't discriminate - I'll eat everything - from a pie made with fresh dough, homemade sauce and gourmet cheeses to a pita bread topped with jarred sauce and pre-shredded cheese. So is it any wonder that I was really looking forward to dinner tonight?

I don't usually make pizza on a weeknight unless I am using a premade crust. However, I made the dough yesterday and kept it in the fridge until late this afternoon. So all I had to do was prepare the toppings, roll out the dough, and bake.

The first pizza I've made before and it is wonderful - sweet onions, salty olive, gooey cheese. A really great combination.

Pizza with Mozzarella, Onions and Olives
The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook, Jack Bishop

1/2 recipe Basic Pizza Dough (recipe at bottom of post)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
12 large black olives, pitted and chopped (I used kalamata olives
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano leaves
Cornmeal for sprinkling

4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)

Prepare the dough through step 2 of the dough recipe. If using a baking stone, place it in the oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F for 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Do not let it brown. Remove from the heat. Stir in the olives and oregano.

Sprinkle a pizza peel or a large rimless baking sheet with cornmeal and stretch the dough into a 12-inch circle as directed in the dough recipe. Evenly distribute the onion mixture over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge. Sprinkle the cheese over the top.

If using a stone, slide the pizza from the peel or baking sheet onto the preheated stone. Otherwise, place the baking sheet in the oven and bake until the crust starts to brown and the cheese turns golden brown in spots, 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove the pizza from the oven. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

The second pizza was really good, too. The creamy ricotta tasted of garlic and basil, and went really well with the flavor of the eggplant.

Pizza with Eggplant, Ricotta and Basil
The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook, Jack Bishop

1/2 recipe Basic Pizza Dough (recipe at bottom of post)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 medium eggplant (about 3/4 pound)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
Cornmeal for sprinkling

Prepare the dough through step 2 of the dough recipe.

If your ricotta had a lot of liquid, drain in a sieve lined with paper towels for an hour.

Preheat the broiler. Trim the ends of the eggplant and cut it lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick-slices. Brush the eggplant with the oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Broil, turning once, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

If using a baking stone, place it in the oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F for 30 minutes.

Combine the ricotta and Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, the garlic, basil and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl.

Sprinkle a pizza peel or large rimless baking sheet with cornmeal and stretch the dough into a 12-inch circle as directed in the dough recipe. Spread the ricotta mixture over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge.

If using a stone, slide the pizza from the peel onto the preheated stone. Otherwise, place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 8 minutes. Quickly lay the eggplant slices in a circle on top of the cheese, overlapping them somewhat in a flowerlike design. Continue baking until the crust starts to brown in spots, 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove the pizza from the oven. Cool for 1 to 2 minutes to allow the cheese to solidify. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

I love that this dough can be made in the food processor (I'm only giving the directions to make it in the food processor):

Basic Pizza Dough
The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook, Jack Bishop

1 1/4 cups warm water (105-115 degrees F)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast (1/2 envelope)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Cornmeal for sprinkling

Pour the water into the workbowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. add the yeast and oil and process for several seconds until smooth. Add the flour and salt and process until the dough comes together in a ball, about 30 seconds.

Turn the dough into a lightly oiled large bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise until the dough is puffy and has almost doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Divide the dough in half and place each half in a separate lightly oiled medium bowl. Let rise, covered, for 20 minutes. (The dough can be refrigerated in separate airtight containers overnight or frozen for up to 1 month. Bring to room temperature before rolling out.)

Lightly sprinkle a pizza peel or large rimless baking sheet with cornmeal. Flatten 1 dough ball into an 8-inch disk. Pat the disk several times to level out the dough. Slowly rotate the disk, stretching the dough to the side as you turn it. Thin the edge by flattening and stretching it with your fingertips. The circle of dough should have a diameter of about 12 inches.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ratatouille Chicken Stew

I've been wanting to try this recipe for a long time, and I'm so glad I finally did - it was really good. While it does take a while, it is very easy. The chicken was moist with crispy skin, and the vegetables were full of flavor. All you need is some good, crusty bread, and maybe the rest of the wine used to make the stew, and you've got a great meal!

Ratatouille Chicken Stew
(adapted from Kosher by Design Entertains, Susie Fishbein)

Olive oil
1 chicken cut into 8 pieces, or 10 cchicken thighs
1 small Asian or Italian eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 carrots, cut into small chunks
1 onion, cut into small chunks
1 celery stalk, cut into small chunks
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/3 cup sliced black olives (optional)
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 cup red wine
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 roasted red peppers (jarred), sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a dutch oven, or very large saute pan. Add chicken pieces, in batches, skin side down. Sear on both sides until golden and remove from pan.

Add the eggplant to the pan , adding more olive oil if necessary, and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add the carrots, onion, celery, bay leaf, thyme, and peppercorns. Saute 6-8 minutes, until onions soften. Add the shallots and garlic; saute until soft, 4-6 minutes. Add the olives, if using, and the artichokes. Add the wine, and let cook until wine is reduced to 2 teaspoons.

Add the crushed tomatoes and the roasted red peppers. Simmer until the vegetables are soft, 5-10 minutes.

Place chicken, skin side up, on top of the vegetables. Do not submerge or skin will get rubbery.

Put pan in oven and cook, uncovered, for 50 minutes. Spoon some of the juices and vegetables over the chicken and bake for another 2 minutes.

4-6 servings

Thursday, January 8, 2009

"So you're making the KICK-ASS sloppy Joes!"

That was Chaim's reaction when I told him what I was making for dinner tonight. This recipe is so easy, so delicious, and so much better than anything that comes from a can.

Sloppy Joes
(adapted from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast, Martha Stewart Living)

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
1 pound ground beef
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 hamburger buns, split and toasted

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the ground beef to the skillet. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until it is no longer pink, 6 to 8 minutes.
Stir in the tomamto sauce, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce into the beef mixture in the skillet. Simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes.
Season the mixture with more salt and pepper, as desired. Spoon onto the buns, and serve immediately.

4 servings

This is what Miriam was doing while I was making dinner:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

All in one pot

While I had a lot of fun doing the "play-by-play" of dinner last night, it took a lot of time (and patience) that I don't always have. So while I will do it occasionally, I won't be doing it every day.
Tonight's dinner was a Pasta and Chickpea Ragout. It's inexpensive, quick, healthy, and cooks all in one pot. What more can you ask for? Oh, and it tasted good, too. Which is really what it's all about, isn't it?

All-in-One Pasta and Chickpea Ragout

(adapted from Fast & Easy Cooking, Johanna Burkhard)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large green pepper, chopped 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
1 cup vegetable stock
1 cup elbow macaroni, uncooked
2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 (19-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

In a dutch oven or large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, green pepper, oregano, basil, salt and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until vegetables are softened.

Add tomatoes and stock; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in pasta; cover and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in zucchini and chickpeas; simmer for 5-7 minutes more or until pasta and zucchini are tender.

4 servings

I served it with a green salad with this simple dressing:

House Salad Dressing

(adapted from Kosher by Design Lightens Up, Susie Fishbein)

1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup water
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine ingredients in a jar and shake.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Soup & Sandwich Dinner

When doing my weekly menu planning I often add a soup & sandwich dinner, especially in the winter. Tonight's dinner was a creamy corn and red pepper chowder alongside a crunchy grilled cheese with rosemary and roasted red peppers.

For the soup I started by sauteeing a couple chopped leeks and thyme in some butter until they were softened.
I then stirred in some vegetable stock and frozen corn kernels (when in season, you can use fresh corn).

After letting it simmer I added some diced red bell peppers, and let it cook for a few more minutes to soften

Meanwhile, I whisked together some flour and milk, added to the pot and let it cook to thicken the soup. A bit of salt and pepper, and the soup was finished.

Corn and Red Pepper Chowder

(Adapted from Fast & Easy Cooking, Johanna Burkhard)

1 tablespoon butter
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 1/2 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 large red bell pepper, diced
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley or chives

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add leeks and thyme; cook, stirring often, for 4 minutes or until softened. Do not brown. Stir in stock and, if using, frozen corn. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add red pepper and, if using, fresh corn; cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

In a bowl, blend flour with 1/3 cup of the milk to make a smooth paste; stir in remaining milk. Stir into saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring, until thickened. Season with salt snd pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with parsley or chives.
4 servings

Earlier in the afternoon I got a head start on dinner by roasting a couple red peppers.

To roast red peppers, place them on a greased sheet pan under the broiler until blackened, turning occasionally. Put them into a zip-top bag until cool enough to handle and then peel them (the skin will come right off).

I sliced some good, crusty bread and topped it with the roasted red peppers, sliced garlic, chopped fresh rosemary, and slices of cheese, and cooked the sandwiched in my panini press.After just a few minutes they were finished - YUM!!!

Rosemary-Scented Melted Jarlsberg and Red-Pepper on Soughdough
(Adapted from Grilled Cheese: 50 Recipes to Make You Melt, Marlena Spieler)

8 medium-thick slices sourdough bread
8 ounces Jarlsberg or a mild melting cheese such as Jack
2 roasted red peppers, sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Olive oil for brushing

Arrange 4 slices of bread on a work surface and top with the cheese, then add the red peppers, garlic, and rosemary. Top with the remaining bread slices and press together gently. Brush the outside of each sandwich lightly with the oil.

Heat a heavy non-stick skillet or a sandwich press over medium-high heat and add the sandwiches, working on several batches if need be. Lower the heat to medium-low, browning sandwiches slowly (press with spatula to help crisp), until lightly crisped on the outside and the cheese begins to melt. Turn over and repeat on second side.

Cut each sandwich onto halves or quarters.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Back Home

Chaim had some vacation days he needed to use up by the end of this week or lose, so on Saturday evening we dropped the kids off at his parents and drove down to San Diego for a mini-vacation. We spent Sunday at the Wild Animal Park and today we spent some time at Balboa Park before heading back up to L.A.

Since we did not get home until after 4:30 I wanted to make something very quick and easy, so I just cooked some chicken franks on my cast-iron grill pan and served them on some buns I had in the fridge. To have with them, I made one of my favorite easy sides - roasted carrots.

Roasted Carrots

(Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Ina Garten)

12 Carrots

3 tablespoons good olive oil

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly gound black pepper

2 tablespoons minced from dill or flat-leaf parsley (I usually leave out)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

If the carrots are thick, cut them in half lengthwise; if not, leave them whole. Slice the carrots diagonally into 1 1/2-inch-thick slices. Toss them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place on a baking sheet in one layer and roast in the oven for 20 minutes.

Toss the carrots with the minced dill or parsley, season to taste, and serve.

(note: I toss the carrots, olive oil, salt, and pepper right on the baking sheet.)

6 servings

Friday, January 2, 2009

Already Taking a Break...

I am going to be away until Monday, but I promise I'll start posting again when I get back, either Monday evening or Tuesday.
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Simple Pasta Dish

I normally cook vegetarian a few nights a week, but in order to save money I've increased it to most nights. Plus, I just like vegetarian food.

Tonight's dinner was a quick pasta dish, perfect for weeknights after a long day. Is it a knock-your-socks-off recipe? No. But it's darn good for so little work and so few ingredients (and most of them being stuff I normally keep in the pantry anyhow).

Penne with Tomatoes, Rosemary and Balsamic Vinegar

(adapted from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook, Jack Bishop)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, minced

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped

Salt anf freshly ground pepper

1 pound penne or ziti

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1) Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot for cooking the pasta.

2) Heat the oil in a large skillet, Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rosemary and cook for 30 seconds to release it's flavor.

3) Add the tomataoes and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings.

4) When the water comes to a boil, add salt to taste and the penne or ziti. Cook until al dente and then drain.

5) Stir the vinegar into the tomato sauce and toss with the pasta, mixing well. Divide among individual bowls and serve immediately with the grated cheese passed separately at the table.

4 servings

Alongside, I served a green salad with my new favorite salad dressing:

Creamy Garlic Dressing

(adapted from Kosher by Design Lightens Up, Susie Fishbein)

5 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise

2 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons white vinegar

1 tablespoon water

3 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Whisk ingredients together in a medium bowl.