Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Yes, I've been cooking a lot of comfort food lately. It's March and New England weather is so cruel and it's been getting me down. My comfort food routine has been mostly re-heatable dishes and casseroles that allow me to spend some time chatting with my friends on the internet and not slaving over a stove after a snowy ride home from work (like today). My friends are a lot like me, and Carol J (another New Englander) has a recipe on Just a Pinch that I recently "pinched" that most definately had my name on it. I kept hearing it talk to me in my head saying, "Try me. Try me". And so I did. It's definately blog worthy and I hope you'll give it a whirl. It's meaty, cheesy, and contains quite a bit of spinach, my kind of food for sure. I made a few minor changes and tried to cut the calories and fat wherever I could, 'cause that's what I like to do so I can maybe fit into my spring clothes.
Ground Beef, Spinach and Cheese Casserole
Inspired by Carol J from Just a Pinch Recipe Club
12 oz frozen chopped spinach
8 oz neufchatel cheese at room temp
1/2 cup low fat sour cream
3 T skim milk
1 T Boursin spreadable cheese
1 scallion chopped
1/2 medium onion diced
1 pound lean ground beef
2 cups uncooked penne pasta (I use Dreamfields low carb)
15 oz marinara sauce (homemade is best, store bought is fine)
1 cup lower fat shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
Cook spinach. I used the microwave on high for 3 minutes.
Let cool and squeeze out all the moisture. Set aside and cook the penne according to package directions. While pasta is cooking brown your ground beef with diced onion on medium heat. Add a little salt and pepper if you like, I did. I also would recommend some crushed red pepper flakes. I forgot to do that (but I did add it when I served myself a heaping portion at the dinner table).
Now I'm not into stress in the kitchen, but if you can handle this... while beef is browning and pasta is cooking, mix your cream cheese, Boursin, milk and chopped scallion in a bowl and set aside. I was actually able to do this. And I pre heated my oven to 350 degrees as well.
When pasta is done, drain and add to beef mixture. Make sure you drain off any excess fat from the beef before you do this. Now add your marinara sauce. Doesn't this look like a meal on it's own?
Time to get the casserole together. I used my large souffle dish of course, because every casserole deserves to be served in a nice dish, plus it's my all time favorite. Spritz your casserole dish with a little cooking spray and place half your pasta/beef/sauce mixture in the bottom. Top with half the cream cheese mix and top that with all the spinach.
Add the rest of your pasta beef mixture, cover your dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven, add the remaining cream cheese mixture and top with shredded cheddar. Bake for another 10 minutes uncovered and you're ready to eat this melty, ooey, gooey, yummy meal.
I served this with some toasted slices of parmesan pita triangles so I could scoop up some of the cheesy goodness and was a very happy gal. And no salad needed with this casserole, my veggie was waiting for me inside. Great dish Carol J, it's a definate keeper!.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
One of my new internet cooking buddies cooks for seven on a daily basis. I cook for one- that would be me and sometimes a few good friends who enjoy my cooking. So when Evie posted her recipe for Cornbread Tamale Pie for 4, I jumped at the opportunity to give one of her recipes a whirl. I didn't follow Evie's recipe to the letter, but I kept pretty close, and wow is this a delight to the senses and tastebuds. Pleasantly spicy, meaty and cheesy inside with a simple, cool (slightly sweet) cornbread topping. What more do you need for success at the dinner table? Maybe a side salad with a cool ranch dressing. Yes, I'd recommend a salad. Here's what you'll need to put my version of Evie's lovely little pie together:
Chicken and Cornbread Tamale Pie
Inspired by Evie DB
1 pound ground chicken
2 jalapeno peppers diced
1 fresno chili diced
1 T cilantro chopped
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 T olive oil (canola oil will work fine too)
salt and pepper to taste
2 packs Goya Sazon seasoning
1-1/2 tsp Old El Paso Hot & Spicy Taco Seasoning Mix
1 cup corn
1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix (8.5 oz)
1 cup Colby cheese shredded
In large skillet on medium heat add your oil and saute onions, peppers, cilantro and garlic. Add a small amount of salt and pepper if you like (I always do). Cook about 5-8 minutes until onion is transparent and peppers are cooked. Evie cooks her veggies on high, but I've burned way too many a good meal on my over ambitious stovetop.
Remove onion mixture from pan and set aside. To the same pan, add your ground chicken and cook until all the pink has disappeared. I usually don't have much fat accumulation from ground chicken, but if you do- please drain. Now add your Sazon and taco seasoning and incorporate with the chicken. Add the onion mixture back to the pan with the chicken and toss in your corn. Remove from heat and set aside.
Doesn't that just look good enough to eat already? Hold on, we're almost done. Pre heat oven to 400 degrees and prepare a small baking dish with cooking spray (I used my 7 inch round souffle dish and it worked like a charm). Prepare the Jiffy corn bread mixture according to package directions. Now we're ready for assembly
Into your prepared pan, place 1/2 of your cooked chicken. Top with the Colby cheese. Now add the rest of the chicken/veg mix.
Pour the cornbread mixture on top.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, let cool a bit and then dig in.
Garnish with sour cream, salsa, guac, or anything your little heart desires. Thanks Evie, next time you have the ladies to lunch I'll be waiting for another one of your recipes for 4.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Before Hurricaine Irene I posted a cookie recipe that I called "Cookies Before the Storm", and that recipe has taken me through many a trying experience, including no power for 4 days during said storm. Well this winter, I re-vamped those cookies and made them almost as crazy as Paula Deen's "Everything Cookies" and thank goodness I had the sense to leave out the M&M's. But this is a cookie that any cookie monster would want to experience. And due to the climate we've been having in the North East lately, I've decided to call this new batch Cookies Before, During and After the Storm. You'll yield about 40 cookies and they are yummy! It's a basic chocolate chip cookie with a few extras thrown in. Today I added dark chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, crushed walnuts, raisins, coconut, rolled oats and sea salt. They're simple and deeelish!
Cookies Before, During and After the Storm
2 sticks butter softened
1 cup Splenda no calorie sweetener
1/2 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
2 large eggs (room temp if possible)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup rolled oats
2-1/2 to 3 cups assortment of goodies- like chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, crushed walnuts, raisins, coconut and coarse sea salt for sprinkling on top before baking.
Pre heat oven to 350 degrees and line baking pans with parchment paper. Place butter and sugars in a large bowl. With hand mixer combine sugars and butter until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla extract and incorporate. Set aside.
In separate bowl combine flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Mix to incorporate (I just use a fork). Add the flour mixture in two batches to the wet ingredients and combine. Now add the rolled oats and the chips/raisins/nut mixture. Spoon tablespoons of the dough about 2 inches apart onto the parchment paper, sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 9 minutes. Crowd pleaser? YES! Just make sure to take a few for yourself before they are all gobbled up by your cookie monster friends. Hope you enjoy!
Saturday, February 15, 2014
This is a re-mix of an Asian soup that I made a few years ago that knocked the flu bug out of me like nobody's business. This year I feel a stronger medicinal soup is in order. I can't say it works yet as I've only had one dose, but have faith my friends, it's a delicious concoction of spices that will definately let you forget your ailments while you're enjoying it. And don't forget to use your napkin every few minutes- not to wipe your chin, but to blow your nose. It's better than any over the counter remedy I've found, and it's simple as simple can be. What would you expect from a cook with the flu? Get ready- it will be done in 30-40 minutes.
Amped Up Spicy Asian Potsticker Soup
Serves 3 or 4
32 oz low fat/low salt chicken broth
2 cups water
Zest of 2 limes
3 cloves garlic chopped or zested
3 T ginger chopped or zested
3 scallions chopped
3 T fish sauce
1 T Splenda no calorie sugar substitute
1 T soy sauce
2-3 Fresno chilis sliced in rings, seeds removed
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Juice of 2 limes
4 oz mushrooms sliced (optional)
6 frozen chicken potstickers (I use the Tai Pei)
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 scallions chopped
Sambal Olek (Thai chili paste)
1 -2 T soy sauce
There is nothing difficult about making this soup. But you do have to infuse the aromatics in the store bought broth and water. That's the only time you have to think about anything. So prepare your aromatics- the ginger, garlic, lime zest and scallions.
Heat a medium to large saucepan with chicken broth and water and add the aromatics. Cook uncovered for about 15 minutes. You can smell the goodness already, right?
We don't want our broth to be clouded with pieces of ginger, garlic, scallions and lime zest so the simple solution is to strain them out of the broth and just enjoy the flavors they bring to the dish, Take a strainer and pour your broth into a separate bowl and discard the goop.
Take a taste of the broth. I always do. So far, I've got an exotic flavor that appeals to me. Pour clear broth back in your cooking pot and add what you think fits into you flavor world. I like to add a little sugar (I use Splenda), fish sauce, chilis for heat, lime juice and soy sauce. Cook about 3 more minutes.Taste the soup again and see if you want another spice or flavor in there. I like Sambal Olek (but I save it for a garnish and it works great for me).
Now it's time to add the vegetables. Today I had sliced mushrooms and peas. Perfect for me, not so much for Dan Clark, but I think he could eat this soup sans veggies. I added the mushrooms and cooked them for 7 minutes. Then I added my beloved potstickers and cooked them for 5 minutes (covered). I then added the peas, cooked another 2 minutes and got ready to plate. Don't forget to add the Sambal, and as a decadent addition, the soy sauce and a drizzle of sesame oil. If my flu doesn't disappear soon, my next post might be an elixer that has root vegetables that you have to rub on your chest until spring. Lets hope it doesn't come to this.
On a happier note, doesn't this soup look divine?
Monday, January 13, 2014
This is becoming a broken record, so I might as well say it again, "I have the best network of internet cooking friends who are always inspiring me with their creations." Sometimes it's a burger or dessert or a casserole or dip. But tonight it was Susan B's Ratatouille Soup with Sausage and Tortellini. Her recipe is posted on JAP and the minute I saw this dish of loveliness I knew I'd be making it. Doesn't that bowl of veggies, pasta, meatballs and tomatoes look like a little bit of heaven? And best of all, it's a quick soup. I altered her recipe ever so slightly by adding my fav Old Bay Seasoning, a few red pepper flakes and the addition of mini chicken meatballs (instead of the sausage) and I'm thrilled with the results. Hearty and Healthy is what I was looking for, and that's exactly what I got!
Ratatouille Soup with Tortellini and Chicken Meatballs
Makes maybe 6 servings
4 T olive oil
1 medium onion diced
1 small green pepper diced
1 medium zucchini diced
1 small eggplant diced
4 cloves garlic chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp oregano
1-1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 28 oz jar Marinara sauce (I used Newman's Own Roasted Garlic and Pepppers)
32 ounces fat free/lower sodium chicken broth
1/2 pound ground chicken
3 cloves garlic grated
1 large egg beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup Italian flavored bread crumbs
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 12 oz frozen bag Tri-Color Cheese tortellini
Ready to cook? I'm ready to re-live the experience and imagine the aromas in my kitchen. Let's get to it. Dice all vegetables and garlic.
In large pan on stovetop, add your olive oil and heat on medium low. Add your veggies, but not the garlic just yet. Cook a few minutes until veg starts to soften. Now add the garlic, salt, pepper, Old Bay and oregano. If you like a little heat, add a 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes. You know I did. Cook another 5 minutes.
When the vegetables are softened and seasoned (don't let them get mushy), it's time to add the liquid. Pour in your marinara. Then your broth. Increase heat to a low simmer and cook while you make the mini meatballs.
To make the meatballs, combine beaten egg, bread crumbs, salt, pepper and grated garlic. When incorporated into a smooth mixture add the chicken and mix well. Start forming your mini meatballs abour 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter. Drop them into the broth/marinara/vegetable liquid and cook about 5-7 minutes. They are so tiny they cook in no time. Now add the tortellini. Keep the soup at a simmer and they will be done in 3-5 minutes. Ladle up and serve. I hope you enjoy!
Thanks for a great recipe Susan. I'll be making this often, and hopefully others will too. It's a another tasty way to get through these winter months.
Monday, January 6, 2014
I've been updating and improving my chocolate ricotta cake since I first made it and posted it a little over 4 years ago and realized I never kept up with the changes. So happy new year all, it's time to make this yummy, simple cake and celebrate 2014. I made this Saturday night and as I normally do, I've cut some calories and have a decadent little dessert that I'm excited to share with you. If you've never tried a ricotta cake, all I can say is it's creamy on the inside and just a tad crunchy on the top. It's my kind of dessert, hope you like it too.
Dark Chocolate Ricotta Cake
use a large loaf pan
2/3 cup AP flour
2/3 cup old fashioned oats ground in spice grinder or food processor
1/3 cup dark baking cocoa (I've been very pleased with Hershey's)
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter softened
1-1/2 cups Splenda no calorie sweetener (regular sugar will work as well)
15 oz part skim ricotta cheese at room temp
3 large eggs at room temp
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 tsp instant coffee diluted in 1/4 cup boiling water, then cooled
1 cup mini chocolate chips
Prep your loaf pan with cooking spray and pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Set loaf pan aside and get your dry ingredients together. In a medium size bowl sift flour, ground oats, dark cocoa, baking powder and salt. When you're sifting the oats, you'll end up with some of the hull from the grain. Discard it, it's just a tablespoon or two. Set aside your dry ingredients and let's get to the moist.
In large bowl mix butter and sugar for about 2 minutes until combined. Add the ricotta, coffee and vanilla. Now add the eggs.
Mix until your batter is a little curdled looking. Not pretty at this point, but we're getting there.
Time to add the dry ingredients. I do this in two batches and then add the chips and by mix them by hand.
Pour into prepared pan.
Bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees and then lower temp to 325 and bake another 45 minutes. Let cool before removing from pan. This is a very rich cake, so I didn't glaze it or even dust it with powderd sugar, but you could certainly do that. Or a dollop of whipped cream would be nice. If you've never tried a ricotta cake before, this is a great introduction to baking with cheese. Simple and simply delicious.
Monday, December 23, 2013
The only thing I like about winter in New England is the comfort foods I seem to constantly make. When it's grey and dank outside, and dark at 4:30 pm, a gal's got to feel good indoors right? And that's my goal from December to February. Here's a new soup, Italian inspired, that's hearty and delicious and promises to warm you inside and out. And it's another simple, quick fix.
Loaded Potato and Sausage Soup
Serves about 6
5 sweet Italian chicken sausages
1-1/2 T canola oil
2 Russet potatoes peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium onion diced
3 carrots diced
2 celery ribs diced
1-1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1 can (14.5 oz) fat free low sodium chicken broth
1 can (14.5 oz) water
1 can (14.5 oz) low sodium diced tomatoes
1 can (10.5 oz) 98% fat free low sodium cream of chicken soup
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp crushed red pepper (use less if you're serving children)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
pinch of salt
1 cup frozen corn defrosted
3 oz fresh spinach
parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)
In large skillet, brown your sausages. I like to keep my heat at medium to medium low. As they start to brown, I poke a few fork holes in each sausage, add a bit of water, cover the pan and let cook until they are almost cooked through. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. When cool, slice into 1/4 inch disks and set aside.
Prepare your potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery. In large soup pot, add your canola oil. Heat on low and add onions, carrots and celery. Cook a few minutes and add the Old Bay. Stir to incorporate the seasoning. Cover and cook on low for about 5 minutes until veggies begin to soften. Now add your cooked sausage and potatoes.
Mix them with the softened vegetables and get ready to open some cans. Add the chicken broth, water, diced tomatoes and and the cream of chicken soup. Bring to a simmer and lower the heat and cook covered on a low simmer for 10 minutes. Add your spices- oregano, red pepper flakes, garlic powder and salt. Cook for another 5 to 7 minutes until potatoes are just about done. Now add your corn and fresh spinach. Turn off the burner, cover and let sit for 5 minutes. You're loaded Potato and Sausage Soup is done. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired and dig in with some nice crusty bread. It's the perfect utensil to soak up the creamy, rich broth. And you don't need to serve any vegetables with this meal, 'cause they're all in the soup!
As much as I dislike winter in New England, this sure is a fine dish to welcome in the start of the season. And on that note, Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to all!