Thursday, March 31, 2011

Skillet Macaroni, Broccoli, Mushrooms & Cheese

1 cup shredded Cheddar
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or other hard cheese
1 Tbs unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, chopped
6oz cremini or white button mushrooms, sliced
3 Tbs all-purpose flour
3 cups low-fat milk
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 Tbs minced tarragon leaves or 2 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8oz small pasta (shells, elbow or rotini)
4 cups small broccoli florets

1) Cook pasta according to package directions.  One minute before pasta is done cooking, toss broccoli into the pot with the pasta.  After cooking for a minute, drain and set aside.
2) Meanwhile, mix the Cheddar and Parmigiano-Reggiano in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3) Melt the butter in a large, high-sided, oven-safe skillet. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes.
4) Add the mushrooms and cook until they release their liquid and it comes to a simmer, and then reduces by about two-thirds, about 5 minutes.
5) Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables in the skillet. Stir well to coat.
6) Whisk in the milk in a steady, thin stream until creamy. Then whisk in the mustard, tarragon, salt and pepper. Continue whisking until the mixture starts to bubble and the liquid thickens, about 3 minutes.
7) Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in three-quarters of the mixed cheeses until smooth. Then stir in the cooked pasta and broccoli.
8) Preheat the broiler after setting the rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat source. Meanwhile, sprinkle the remaining cheese over the ingredients in the skillet. Set the skillet on the rack and broil until light browned and bubbling, about 5 minutes. (If your skillet has a plastic or wooden handle, make sure it sticks outside the oven, out from under the broiler, so the handle doesn’t melt.) Cool for 5 to 10 minutes before dishing up.

Review: Well, I'm still frightened by the broiler, so I skipped the last step.  So, my dish was basically a dressed up mac-n-cheese without the crunchy bits.  This was really tasty and very filling.  I bet it would be even better with the crunchy bits.  Maybe someday I'll get over my fear and test out the broiler.  I'll just have to clear out the cat toys that like to hide under the oven. . .

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Tonight I made Swiss Chard & Potato Toss.  And, in the process, I got to update an old recipe with a picture.

But, it was a bit of an ordeal to get the groceries for the recipe.  I needed fingerling potatoes, but my local grocery store was out.  I looked in the organic section and found some interesting fingerlings (Russian Banana, French Red), but they were all quite sprouted.  I decided to try my luck and then look at Costco for fingerling potatoes.  Fortunately, I found a great 2 lb bag.  This allowed me to double the recipe as I had planned, without having a bunch of leftover potatoes!  Here's the mix:

And, yes those are purple potatoes!  Wanna see the inside?

So fun!!  It also made the boiling water a blueish hue, which looked very odd.  :)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Blackbean Cornmeal Pie

1 large onion, chopped 
1 large green pepper, chopped 
1 tsp canola oil 
1-1/2 tsp chili powder 
1 garlic clove, minced 
3/4 tsp ground cumin 
1/4 tsp pepper 
1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes, undrained 
2 15oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained 
1 cup frozen corn 

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour 
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal 
2 tsp sugar 
2 tsp baking powder 
2 tsp chopped seeded jalapeno pepper 
1/4 tsp salt 
1 egg 
3/4 cup skim milk 
1 Tbs canola oil 

Salsa and reduced-fat sour cream, optional

1) In a large skillet, saute onion and green pepper in oil until tender. Add the chili powder, garlic, cumin and pepper; saute 1 minute longer. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
2) Stir in beans and corn; heat through. Transfer to an 11x7 baking dish coated with cooking spray.
3) For topping, in a small bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, jalapeno and salt. Whisk the egg, milk and oil; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Spoon over filling; gently spread to cover the top.
4) Bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes or until filling is bubbly and a toothpick inserted into topping comes out clean. Serve with salsa and sour cream if desired.

Review:  Some of the reviews of this recipe said it was too bland.  Therefore, I added more chili powder and cumin than it called for, and used lots more jalapeno.  It wasn't as spicy as I would have liked, but it was quite tasty.  Mike and I topped ours with our favorite Mexican sour cream.  Yum!

This Week's Planned Menu

Black Bean Cornmeal Pie

Pasta With Lentils & Kale

Swiss Chard & Potato Toss

Linguine Al Pesto

Skillet Macaroni, Broccoli, Mushrooms & Cheese

Mushroom, Raddichio & Smoked Mozzarella Lasagna


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Creamy Polenta With Portobello Mushroom Sauce

1 Tbs olive oil
1 8oz fresh portobello mushroom, stem removed, quartered, and sliced (2 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs dry red wine
2 tsp snipped fresh oregano or 1/2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
3 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 cup water
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 Tbs margarine or butter
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup shredded Havarti or brick cheese (1 1/2 oz)

1) In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add mushroom, onion, and garlic. Cook and stir for 4 to 5 minutes or until mushroom is tender. Add the wine and if using, dried herb. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes to blend flavors. Stir in tomatoes and if using, fresh oregano; heat through. Remove from heat; cover and keep warm.
2) Meanwhile, for polenta, in a small bowl stir together 1/2 cup of the water and the cornmeal; set aside. In a small saucepan bring the remaining 1/2 cup water, the margarine, and salt just to boiling. Slowly add the cornmeal mixture, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low. Cook and stir about 10 minutes or until polenta is thick. Stir in cheese.
3) To serve, divide the polenta between 2 shallow pasta bowls or soup bowls. Top with the mushroom mixture. If desired, garnish with additional fresh oregano.

Review:  I had originally planned to make this on Wednesday night, while Mike packed for another trip.  However, I had a long day and Mike volunteered to cook frozen pizza.  After the pizza was consumed, he confessed that he had no interest in this recipe and told me to enjoy it while he was gone.  I did, but I had bought enough to double this recipe, so I had a lot of food for just me.  I also messed up the polenta, as I made a couple of errors in reading the amounts and doubling the error.  So, my polenta never set up, and I basically made cheesy cornmeal soup.  It was still quite edible, however.  The havarti gave it a mild taste, while the red wine really enhanced the flavor of the portobellos and tomatoes.  Yum!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tomato & Olive Penne

salt and pepper
1 lb penne or other short pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2/3 pound (2 cups) cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1) In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook penne according to package instructions until al dente, about 13 minutes.  Drain.
2) Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, and cook, stirring, until just golden, about 1 minute. Add cherry tomatoes, oregano, crushed red pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring, until tomato juices run, about 3 minutes.
3) Add penne, olives, parsley, and 1/4 cup Parmesan to the skillet and toss to combine. Serve with more cheese if desired.

Review: This was a great dish.  I love pasta and kalamata olives.  What made this truly great, was the tomatoes.  They weren't quite cooked, but not quite raw.  Just warm and juicy.  Yum!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

This Week's Planned Menu

Caprese Lasagna

Vegetable Paella With Tofu

Tomato & Olive Penne

frozen pizza

Creamy Polenta With Portobello Mushroom Sauce

Navy Beans & Rotini In Herbed Tomato Sauce


Monday, March 14, 2011

Bittersweet Chocolate Ice Cream

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 tsp kosher salt
8oz dark chocolate (preferably 72% cocao), roughly chopped
1 Tbs rye, bourbon or rum

1) In a saucepan over medium-low heat, simmer cream, milk, sugar and salt, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves.
2) In bowl of food processor, pulse chocolate until finely chopped.  Add one cup hot cream mixture and process until smooth.
3) Transfer to a large bowl.  Slowly pour in remaining hot cream mixture and the liquor, whisking constantly.  Place bowl in refrigerator or set in an ice bath to chill.
4) When cold, pour into bowl of an ice cream machine and churn according to manufacturer's directions.  Transfer to a container and freeze until solid, at least 2 hours.  Let sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before serving, or in refrigerator for 15 to 30 minutes.

Review:  I used 2 bars of Ghirardelli chocolate.  It didn't produce a smooth ice cream.  There were definite bits of chocolate, providing a speckled appearance.  I believe this may have worked better, had the chocolate been melted instead of chopped.  I also used rum, which was still very present in the end flavor.  It was quite tasty, though, especially when coupled with the last half of last night's brownie!!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cheddar Vegetable Lasagna

1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, divided
4 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
dash of pepper
2 1/2 cups milk
16oz cottage cheese
10oz baby spinach, wilted
9 lasagna noodles, cooked
12oz shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1) Preheat oven to 350F.  Cook and stir mushrooms in 1 Tbsp of the butter in large skillet on medium-high heat until tender. Remove from skillet; set aside. Add remaining 3 Tbsp butter, the carrots and onions to skillet. Cook and stir 5 minutes or until carrots are tender. Reduce heat to medium. Blend in flour and seasonings. Gradually add milk; cook, stirring constantly, until mixture boils and thickens. Stir in mushrooms.
2) Combine cottage cheese and spinach. Place 3 of the noodles on bottom of greased 13x9-inch baking dish; top with half each of the cheddar cheese and the carrot mixture. Cover with 3 more noodles and the cottage cheese mixture. Top with the remaining 3 noodles, remaining cheddar cheese and remaining carrot mixture.
3) Bake 30 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with parsley. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting to serve.

Review:  I had a rough morning.  I didn't sleep well and Daylight Savings further robbed me of precious sleep.  So, I stumbled downstairs to put together the menu and grocery list, in preparation of today's shopping trip.  However, I could not have my morning coffee, as I ran out of milk yesterday.  I didn't think it would be a big deal.  Yet, as I prepared to make this lasagna, I found I had not put the carrots on the grocery list, nor did I add the cottage cheese.  I had too many mushrooms for a later recipe, and stole some from that container.  Yet, Mike still had to run out for the ingredients.  I was very thankful, even more so when he returned with the right ingredients and a brownie.  :)  So, the recipe was saved and it was a lot of work.  I dirtied a lot of dishes (I also made ice cream, to freeze for tomorrow night's consumption).  But, this was totally worth it.  It had such a great, savory flavor.  It had also called for Parmesan cheese on top, but I forgot to add it.  Mike thinks it had enough cheese and Parmesan may have been too much.  So, we have lots of leftovers and full bellies.  :) 

This Week's Planned Menu

Cheddar Vegetable Lasagna

Olive Pasta Salad
Bittersweet Chocolate Ice Cream


Roasted Corn, Black Bean & Tomato Salad

Spaghetti With Spinach, Beans & Tomatoes

date night - to celebrate Mike getting a new job!!

Pasta With Squash & Asparagus

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Stuffed Pasta Shells

1 box jumbo pasta shells
1 egg, beaten
2 cloves garlic, minced
15oz ricotta
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1 jar red pasta sauce
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

1) Preheat oven to 375F.
2) Cook shells according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
3) Meanwhile, mix egg, garlic, ricotta and mozzarella in a medium bowl.  Add salt and pepper, if desired.
4) Pour half of pasta sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 inch casserole dish (don't empty the jar and keep the lid!!).  Spread evenly.  Begin stuffing pasta shells with 1-2 spoonfuls of cheese mixture.  Place filled shells into the casserole dish, open side down.  Continue this pattern, until all shells are used and dish is full.  Some shells will be too broken to use, and will need to be tossed. 
5) Take remaining sauce in jar, and fill with water.  Shake, to thoroughly mix the water and sauce.  Pour over the shells, covering the shells.
6) Cover the dish with foil, and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and uncover.  Top with Parmesan cheese and bake uncovered for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until cheese has browned.  Remove and serve!

Review:  I made this dish from memory!!  In 2000, I moved to Connecticut (having previously lived in Western Kansas and SouthEast Missouri) and was introduced to a whole new world of amazingness.  I knew nobody, but quickly made friends with co-workers.  One such co-worker taught me three life lessons.  1) Garlic bread should be made with real garlic, not garlic salt (redneck garlic bread?).  2) I didn't want to be like her, age 31, clubbing 6 nights a week and asking parents for money to pay bills (the friendship lasted less than a year!).  3) This recipe.  I knew nothing about cooking, unless there were directions on the box!  She taught me this yummy recipe and I was able to memorize it!!  Over ten years later, I still have it committed to memory.  It's always filling, and so very easy to make!!  I also learned a different recipe years later.  One can substitute the ricotta with tofu, but I see no reason to do so. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mushroom Lasagna

1 box lasagna noodles 
2 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 lb button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
20 oz ricotta cheese
2 jars prepared red pasta sauce
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

1) Preheat oven to 375F.
2) Prepare lasagna noodles as directed on the box.  Drain and set aside.  If using no-boil lasagna noodles, skip this step.
3) Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat oil and garlic, until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add mushrooms and all spices.  Saute until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.
4) Pour 1/2 cup pasta sauce into bottom of large lasagna pan.  Spread evenly.  Place one layer of lasagna noodles.  On top of these noodles, evenly spread all of the ricotta cheese.  Pour 1/2 of one jar of pasta sauce on top of cheese and spread evenly.  Top with another layer of noodles.  Spread all of cooked mushrooms across the noodles.  Top with 1/2 of one jar of pasta sauce, spreading evenly.  Top with another layer of noodles.  Pour remaining pasta sauce across top layer of noodles.
5) Cover lasagna with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.  Bake, uncovered, for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until cheese has browned.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Review:  This is an original recipe!!!  I had leftover mushrooms from last week's ragout recipe that needed to be used.  And, I have most of a case of lasagna noodles in the pantry.  I plan on having lasagna every weekend until we move, just to use them up!  I used two jars of Newman's Own pasta sauce, one flavor was Roasted Garlic and the other was Mushroom Marinara.  It was a really yummy lasagna, but then again, I think it's hard to mess up lasagna!

This Week's Planned Menu

Mushroom Lasagna


Stuffed Pasta Shells


Penne With Hazelnut Pesto, Green Beans & Parmesan

Spaghetti With Walnuts & Parmesan

party with potluck taco bar - yum!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cheesy Chickpea & Sesame Crackers

1 can (15.5oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp coarse salt
3/4 tsp ground pepper
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for surface
5 Tbs cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg white
2 Tbs white sesame seeds

1) Preheat oven to 350F, with racks in middle and lower third.  In a food processor, pulse chickpeas until coarsely chopped.  Add coriander, salt, pepper, flour and butter, and pulse to combine.  With machine running, gradually add 3 Tbs cold water until dough forms a ball.  Add Parmesan and pulse to combine.
2) Divide dough and form into two 1-inch-thick disks.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out each disk to an 1/8-inch thickness.  Brush with egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  With a knife, cut into 1-by-3-inch rectangles and place, 1/2 inch apart, on two parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake until golden brown and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.  Let crackers cool on sheets, then transfer to airtight containers and store at room temperature, up to 2 weeks.

Review: I made these last night.  They were a bit time consuming.  I lack the equipment and space to roll out a sheet and cut out crackers.  So, instead I rolled them into little balls and smashed them.  I realize now that I should have made them smaller.  They were mostly a bit cakey in the middle and burnt on the edges.  If they were smaller, I doubt that would have happened. 

Last night, these crackers were quite crisp and tasty.  Today, they're softer and a little burnt tasting.  Hmm, I don't think these are good for up to 2 weeks.  But, are great for the night. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Mushroom, White Bean & Leek Ragout

Unfortunately, this recipe will not be made tonight.  Once again, Mike tells me "oh, I don't like ragouts."  These recipes may be forever stricken from my menu.  :(

Looks like pizza delivery is on the Friday night menu for the 3rd week in a row.  Mike never complains about pizza.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Spaghetti With Kale-Pecan Pesto

1 12oz bunch kale, stems removed, leaves torn into pieces
1/4 cup toasted pecan pieces
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup olive oil
1 pkg spaghetti

1) Cook spaghetti according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
2) Meanwhile, place kale pieces in large pot with 1 1/2 cups water, cover, and heat over medium-high heat.  Cook 5 minutes, or until kale is wilted but still bright green, tossing occasionally.  Add more water while cooking if necessary.  Drain, reserving cooking liquid.  Cool.
3) Blend pecan pieces and garlic cloves in food processor until finely chopped.  Add cooled kale, and blend until thick paste forms.  Add Parmesan, and blend until smooth.  Add oil and 2 Tbs kale cooking liquid, and blend until smooth, adding more liquid if necessary to obtain desired consistency.  Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
4) Stir pesto mixture in with spaghetti.  Top with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.  Serve.  

Review: I used one big pot of boiling water to make this.  Once it was boiling, I tossed the kale in and stirred occasionally for five minutes.  I then took the kale out with a slotted spoon.  I salted the water and then cooked the spaghetti in the green boiling water.  It cut down on dirty dishes and was more efficient than having two pots boiling!  This turned out pretty well.  I used about 1/2 cup of the water in the pesto, and it still functioned like glue in the spaghetti.  I topped it with Parmesan and it became a meal.  I feel like it could have used an additional vegetable.  But, considering this was made with kale, it's plenty nutritional!  And, the toasted pecans gave it an extra oomph.  Mike really liked it.  :)