Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lava Cakes

Look at that chocolate lava!!!
This is the celebration food at our house! It's often made for birthdays or at the end of a swim season or for Christmas.

The recipe came from a long ago Bon Appetit...and I have made it whenever the day calls for a special dessert. Eleanor's not a fan of cake so this is her request for her birthday. I do like cake, but I like this even better!

I usually make half the recipe linked to this title. That seems to be plenty for our small family, typically making 6 smaller lava cakes. I haven't ever made the ginger rum ice cream...really...what's not to like with that? I just serve it with vanilla ice cream and find that delicious. I use semisweet chocolate chips.

I think that's it. It's hard to beat this recipe. The batter can even be made ahead of time and the cakes put into the oven 20 minutes or so before serving.

Nothin' left to say on these!

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Greek Skillet

This idea came to me on the way home from the Y on a recent Saturday. Eleanor and I were both hungry after our workouts. She swam for a couple hours and did body pump while I went to spin class and body pump. We were HUNGRY, and I needed to use what I had in the pantry and sell it to her as a good idea.

I boiled 3 potatoes. It would have worked better if I had done this so they had time to cool, but it worked out to rinse them under cold water when they were done. I grated them with the cheese grater to get the potatoes ready for the skillet. I sauteed a chopped onion in olive oil....I had a partial onion in the refrigerator so I finished that. I added the shredded potatoes and sprinkled it with Penzeys Greek Seasoning. When the potatoes seemed like they were browning I flipped them over and sprinkled the other side with the seasoning as well. I made a clear spot in the middle and cracked two eggs into it and stirred everything in the pan. When the eggs were nearly done I crumbled some feta cheese all over it until it started to melt. I served it with some of these chopped sundried tomatoes that are yummy!

A great breakfast out of things I had in the pantry/refrigerator.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Squash Risotto

I love making risotto...just because 30 minutes or so must be spent at the stove stirring with very little multi-tasking going on. For that reason(the 30 minutes with little multi-tasking), I don't make risotto too often anymore. Usually dinner needs to be on our table a bit faster than that and usually something else needs to be done. However, I did decide that it would be a fun dinner to have on a Tuesday night, the night we're home early.

Over the years I have put just about anything into this creamy rice dish. It does work well for using up odds and ends in the refrigerator and disguising them as a new meal. Here's my general guide for making it, but it really is a meal where anything you have can be tossed into the rice.

The required ingredient is arborio rice. From there, creativity and leftovers can take over. In the picture in this post, this is how I made it.

Heat large can chicken broth in a saucepan.

In the pan for the risotto (I used a stockpot):
Saute 2 slices bacon
Add 1/2 onion, chopped
1 butternut squash, cubed into 1/2" cubes
Add 3 c arborio rice and stir continuously. Add 1 c white wine( I used one of my favorite wines for cooking...Tisdale) and stir until liquid is absorbed. Add 1/2 c or so of broth every few minutes stirring until the liquid is absorbed and then adding more. Continue this until the rice is tender. In the middle of this process I added 1/2 T or so of dried thyme and 1/2 T or so of dried basil.

When finished top with Parmesan cheese and pepper and serve.

The vegetables and herbs used can be changed to match what you have.

Here's my interesting note about's Sendik's version of Two buck Chuck at $2.99 per bottle. In the grocery store I saw the owner of an upscale Milwaukee restaurant buying it for the house wine at his fancy restaurant when it was on sale for 50% off. Now that's some profit!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Englishman's Curry Chicken and Spinach

When I worked at American Red Cross in St. Paul I worked with some of the best home cooks. Every day was a fun experience to take a break and eat lunch together and share cooking ideas and recipes. I can't imagine that I will ever work with so many good cooks again....and not just good cooks for special meals...but people cooking good food nearly every night of the week. Since it was a group of fellow nurses the focus was on relatively healthy recipes yet very fast since we often worked late hours. I have special memories of everyone heating their lunches and the room being filled with good smells and...the best part....sharing recipes. Since I was newly married at the time and no longer traveling with my job, I was anxious to start a recipe collection (which has grown over the years, as you can tell). This one is from Joyce....a great cook and a great mentor!

I think that is one of my favorite things about cooking (besides the good result). I love the memories of getting the recipe from a friend and thinking about that person on some random day while cooking their food. The blog has been a fun way to dig out some recipes I have put in the back of the recipe box for some unknown reason and re-try them. I hadn't made this in years, but I remembered liking it, so here it is. It's a bit like finding that sweater in the back of the closet and realizing that you still like it!

2 chicken breasts, cut bite size
2 t vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 t garlic
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
1/4 c mango chutney
2 t curry powder
4 c spinach, cut into 1/2" strips
1/2 c sour cream

Heat oil and saute onion. Add chicken. When chicken is no longer pink decrease heat and add garlic, tomatoes, chutney, and curry powder. Stir. Sprinkle spinach ans steam for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in sour cream.

Serve over rice.

For the spinach I used 4 cups of mixed baby greens since I had a huge container of baby greens for salads, and it worked just fine.

I'm not sure why it took me until recently to figure out that it's a good idea to chop the chicken breasts and THEN freeze them. It makes the prep go so much faster and less counter to be decontaminated on the day of using the chicken.
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

16 Bean Soup

This one is almost too easy to blog the recipe. I use a 16 bean mix from the grocery store and rinse the beans and dump them into the slowcooker. I added:
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 small can chicken broth
2 bay leaves
2 T or so of dried parsley
12 oz turkey kielbasa, sliced into rounds
water to fill the slowcooker

I cooked it on low for 13 hours or so.
Everyone likes this...hearty and healthy.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Squash and Sausage

This idea comes to me from my friend, Dee. Eleanor always thinks that her food tastes the best, even if I use the same recipe. That being said, she is an excellent cook...and you can expect to see more of her recipes on this blog. She emailed this one to me telling me that she had adapted it from an English blog she follows.

Dee suggests using pork cranberry maple breakfast links made at our local, Sendiks. She did mention she thought this is going to be a seasonal item, and they didn't have them when I made this recipe. Instead, I got spicy Italian sausage for us and turkey breakfast links for Eleanor. I'm still planning on making this with the suggested sausage, but I will probably make it again this winter.....tasty and minimal work. I served it with some of the Trader Joe's harvest blend grains.

The only problem for me with this recipe is that it takes an hour to make, so I made it on a Sunday when I am home an hour before dinner. Eleanor took the leftovers in her lunch the next day, so it was a good way to start the week.

Dee's suggestion is to line a baking pan or cookie sheet with foil to make the clean up easier. I didn't do that and found it was moist enough to have fairly easy clean up.

Peel the squash and cut into 1 inch cubes. Toss in a bowl with a bit of olive oil and rosemary and thyme . Dee used dried spices...and so did I...and it was fine. I used thyme and basil. Spread the squash on one side of the pan. Add a couple cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed a bit.

There should be a little olive oil/herb mixture left in the bowl. Roll the sausage in it and place on the other side of the pan.

Tightly seal with foil and bake at 400 for about 25 minutes. Remove foil, stir the squash, and turn the sausages. Bake another 10-20 minutes until the squash starts to turn golden and the sausages are brown.

Dee's hint is that the squash my need to be removed while continuing to cook the sausages. Mine finished together...and it was good!

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Chili Blanco

This recipe calls for roasted chiles, so I charred them on the stovetop and put them in a paper bag to steam the skin off. Then, I rubbed the burnt part of the skin off and chopped them to add to the chili. Sendik's didn't have enough of these for my chili, so I got a couple and used some sliced bell peppers from my freezer (after sauteeing them on high heat for a few minutes) and some roasted canned chiles as well.

This recipe (or the original anyway) came from a Williams Sonoma catalog of long ago. I tried to find the original recipe on the internet but wasn't successful, so this is my version which has been adapted for the crockpot. I do like chili and Eleanor isn't a tomato fan, so this recipe works well for all of us.

Soak 2 c dried white beans while getting the rest of the chili ready.

While the beans are soaking.....
Heat olive oil in skillet and add:
2 c finely chopped onion
chopped roasted chiles...about 6 total
1 1/2 t oregano
1/4 t dried cloves
1/4 t cayenne
2 cloves garlic, minced
Add 2 chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces and stir until browned.
Put that mixture into the crockpot and add:
2 small cans chicken broth.
Drain the beans and put them in the crockpot

Simmer in crockpot for the day.
Serve with cheese, onions, chips, etc.

That all sounds really organized, right? What really happened when I went to make it for the blog post is that I soaked the beans on a day off. Then, I realized that I didn't have enough time to make the chili on the stove, so left the beans and refrigerated the roasted peppers. I worked a VERY long day the next day, so I completely forgot about the beans soaking in a bowl on the counter. When I got up the next morning and took the lid off the beans....I thought I would fall over from the terrible fermenting smell. Luck was with was garbage day and it hadn't been picked up yet, so the beans made a quick trip to the garbage can outside in time for the pick up. I didn't have time on this day to let the chili simmer on the stove for the 2 hours in the original recipe, so I came up with the version posted today using the crockpot. I decided that I like it better than the original since the crockpot doesn't have to be watched while doing its thing.

I made the cornbread shown in the picture and served it with a bit of white cheddar. It wasn't a very soupy consistency, so I think that increasing the liquid would be a good idea. Maybe another cup of water in the crockpot? We liked it this way and were glad that I found this recipe card from long ago. I will probably file this in my crockpot recipes now, which will probably mean that we will eat it a bit more frequently.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Curry in a Hurry

Love quick dinner ideas for the weeknights.

Here's one that works quickly and is good and hearty food.

Chicken breasts, cut in bite size pieces coated in flour
1 medium onion, cut into strips
2 piece of ginger, grated or chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz can chicken broth
3 T curry paste
1/4 c golden raisins
2 T mango chutney
2 T sesame oil

Brown chicken in a bit of oil. Remove from pan and set aside. Add onion, ginger, and garlic and saute 2-3 minutes. Add broth to deglaze the pan. Add curry paste and raisins. Return chicken to pan. Heat to a boil and decrease heat. Stir in chutney and sesame oil and simmer 5-10 minutes.

Serve with chopped peanuts, additional chutney, pineapple, chopped banana, coconut, etc and serve over rice. In the picture there are chopped apples on it as well. I had planned to add a couple handfuls of frozen peas toward the end of cooking...but forgot about that.
I have added chopped apples directly into the recipe, so that is an option as well. I think I have seen cans of curry paste at the regular grocery store and at Trader Joe's; however, I did pick up a small can when I was at the Asian grocery store. I'll have to remember to grab a couple cans of that next time I'm shopping there...just to have in the pantry for quick meal ideas.
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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Spaetzle and Spinach

I have made this with greens other than spinach, so go ahead and experiment. Be forewarned, this recipe makes a big mess! In fact, the friend who gave it to us has 3 cold beers listed on the ingredients. One beer for drinking before cooking. One with dinner...and one to help you tackle all the dishes! Dan's recommendation is that you make a large batch since the spaetzle does freeze well. And, a small ziploc bag of it is the perfect serving size for picky lunch eaters.

2 c flour
salt and pepper
a few grinds of nutmeg using a cool grater, if you have one.
2T dried herbs..any mix (parsley and thyme are good..usually I'm heavier on the parsley than anything else)
2/3 c milk
5 large eggs
olive oil
bunch of spinach or other greens cleaned thoroughly

Whisk together flour, 1 t salt and nutmeg. In another bowl, beat eggs and milk and 1/4 c olive oil and add dried herbs to this to soak and soften them. Whisk into the flour mixture until smooth.

In a large pot bring 6 quarts or so of water to a boil. Using a spaetzle maker, pour batter into it so it drips into the boiling water. I used a colander the first few times I made this until I was given a spaetzle maker. If anyone wants to borrow the spaetzle maker, let me know and we'll see if we can arrange a trial. When spaetzle floats to the top, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and saute for a minute or two with the greens (see below)

Heat 1 T. olive oil in a pan and saute the greens.
Saute the drained noodles briefly and serve together with the spinach.

Good for the carb loader in my family. And good when greens and eggs come in a CSA box!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Mustard Baked Chicken

Another recipe of unknown origin.

1/4 lb hard pretzels
1/4 c canola oil
1/4 c whole grain mustard *
1 T dijon *
2 T water
1 1/2 T red wine vinegar
4 chicken breast halves ( I will often pound them to be a bit flatter for quicker and more even baking)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In food processor, pulse the pretzels until coarsely ground. Dump them out and put into a bowl. Wipe the processor a bit and add oil, mustards, water and vinegar and process until smooth.
Pour 1/2 dressing into a bowl. Add chicken and turn to coat. Dredge in pretzel crumbs.
Bake 20-25 minutes and serve with remaining mustard mixture.

Eleanor is not a huge fan of mustard but she has eaten these and not noticed the mustard.

*I use whatever mustard I have on hand. For the pictures I used the "regular" yellow mustard that I had leftover from a summer hotdog party on July 4th. It really tastes good no matter what mustards you use.

Look how pretty the plate looks with all the vegetables....squash, mashed potatoes and broccoli.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Enchiladas Rojas

This meal was inspired by a recipe from Fields of Greens cookbook by Annie Somerville. I like this cookbook for meatless options...nice variety of soup, pizza, and sandwich options. It's one of the books I use for a reference when I have some type of vegetable from the CSA box I'm trying to use. I refer to this book other times as for this recipe which is a favorite at our house.

Many of the recipes in this book are not quick, so I don't usually use it for weeknight ideas; however, it works well to prepare a couple things on a day least partially and pull the meal together quickly when needed. I made this on a day off...making the vegetables and sauce and refrigerating the separate parts for a couple days. It does work well for me to make a couple items on a day off since the cutting board and utensils will only need to be washed one time, and we get a couple meals out of the deal.

There was a bit of discussion earlier this year about Meatless Mondays, a movement to decrease meat consumption for personal and planet health. At our house, we like a variety of things and tend to be an "all things in moderation" family. Anyway, back to the recipe!

The sauce:
1 T olive oil
about 2 c onion, diced
2 t cumin
2 t oregano
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
28 oz can pureed tomatoes
2 T ancho chile paste
1 t chipotle puree
Heat oil. Add onion, salt, cumin, and oregano. Saute until onion begins to release its juices. Add garlic and saute 5 more minutes or so. Add tomatoes, chile purees and cook, uncovered, on low for 15 minutes or so.
*I did not use the ancho chile paste since I didn't have ancho chiles. The original recipe says to toast the cumin seed whole...then grind and to toast the oregano. I didn't do that either and it tastes just fine to me.

The filling:
2 T vegetable oil, divided
about 2 c diced onion
1 t cumin (see * above)
1 red bell pepper, diced
about 4 c diced zucchini
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 lb mushrooms, thickly sliced (recipe says 3/4 lb)
1 t or so chipotle puree
1 t marjoram (original recipe calls for fresh marjoram)
1 T fresh sage (I didn't use any sage)
Heat 1 T oil in large skillet. Add the onions and 1/2 the cumin and saute for 5-10 minutes (until onions are soft). Add bell pepper, zucchini, half the garlic, and remaining cumin and cook 10 minutes or so, until the zucchini is soft but not overcooked. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl.
In the same skillet, heat remaining oil and sear the mushrooms over high heat...being careful to not set off a smoke detector:) Add remaining garlic and stir. Add a tiny bit of water to deglaze the pan and add to the bowl of vegetables along with the chipotle puree.

The original recipe calls for dipping the corn tortillas in oil before wrapping the filling in them. I just warmed them in the oven until soft and placed some filling in each one setting it in the pan coated with some of the sauce seam side down. Cover with remaining sauce. Bake, covered at 350 degrees 30 minutes or so. Remove foil and top with a bit of cheddar cheese.

The original recipe has some cheese being wrapped in each tortilla....I typically don't do that, but it could be done!

The author, Annie Somerville, describes this as an appetizing warming dish for a winter night. It is that.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

Happy Mardi Gras!
I made this a bit early....a couple weeks ago right after the new Bon Appetit arrived in the mail. It just sounded meaty and hearty...something I needed after a day of shoveling heavy cement (oops...I mean snow) off our sidewalk.

I'm usually not much for a dish with a lot of meat, but this did hit the spot. I did have a few variations to better match the ingredients I had on hand.

I decreased the bacon to 6-8 oz
1 lb linguica sausage...maybe it was even 12 oz...however it was packaged
chicken andouille
one chicken breast
chicken broth instead of beef broth
dried thyme instead of fresh 1/2 the amount called for in the recipe.
diced tomatoes instead of diced tomatoes with chiles
Other than that, I made it just like the recipe. HAHAHA

The picture was taken before putting it in the oven.

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pork Tenderloin

I just love pork tenderloin. It's one of my favorite things to grill, and I had some from the infamous meat sale that I needed to use. Really, what I should have done right after the sale was divide the 2 tenderloins into separate packages before freezing to have tenderloin for two separate meals. I must have been in a hurry because I didn't do that this time. When I thawed it I realized I had two loins...but that's OK. It will make a good addition to lunches this week.

This is a RUO (recipe of unknown origin).

Marinate the pork loin in:
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 T soy sauce
2 T ginger root, minced
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 c lime juice
1/2 c olive oil

I marinated it all day and the Paul grilled it on a Sunday evening.

4 c onion
2 T olive oil
Add 2 jalapenos, minced and cook 1 more minute
Add 2 T brown sugar and cook one more minute
Add 1/4 c red wine vinegar
And add 1/4 c water

I parboiled asparagus and Paul grilled that. Since we're in the depths of winter it's probably from Ecuador or some other foreign country, but it just looked so green and good. I just wanted to eat a vegetable grown above the even though it is from far away and took huge resources to get it here and grill was appreciated by all three of us. I also made mashed potatoes since we had some potatoes that needed to be eaten soon. And, I made the sweet potatoes (Eleanor's request) that I made on Thanksgiving.

Ready for the week after such a hearty meal.

I ended up using the leftover pork as an addition to Pad Thai that week. I just cut it into match stick size pieces and added it to the other ingredients.
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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cream Cheese, Potato, and Leek Soup

This recipe was inspired by a soup that I loved at a restaurant called Dixie's in St. Paul. Frequently Paul and I would go there for their Cream Cheese, Ham, and Leek Soup. I haven't found a recipe for it and have noticed through my internet sleuthing that it is no longer on the menu. However, I had potatoes and leeks and cream cheese in the refrigerator, so I thought I would try to make something close to it.

I made this awhile ago and am just getting around to posting it now. The vegetables were from the CSA box, so I think they were just asking to be in this soup! Also, I had a huge hunk of cream cheese from the warehouse club for pumpkin muffin frosting since that is Eleanor's birthday treat of choice. I knew that the clock was ticking on that cream cheese and that I had to find a way to use the remaining portion. This was an idea to use 8 more ounces of it. I really didn't want to make a cheesecake with the remaining portion because then I would eat a lot of that and have to work it off.

I sliced 3 leeks and sauteed them in 1 T. butter until just starting to soften. Then I added 6 chopped yukon gold potatoes and 2 carrots and added those to the pot (both of these items were from the CSA box as well). I added some of the parboiled turnips I had in my freezer from the CSA box. I wouldn't buy a turnip to throw in the soup, but it was a nice addition since I already had it and was looking for a use for it. I poured in some chicken broth (something I buy by the case at the warehouse club in the fall and winter) until the vegetables were nearly covered. I also added about 1/4 c white Two Buck Chuck that I had remaining in the refrigerator from some other recipe. I wouldn't have opened a bottle of wine for this recipe but did think it was a good way to use some that was remaining from some other cooking adventure. I simmered these until the potatoes were soft and turned off the heat until everything was cool.

After the soup was cool (and after we returned from violin), I used my immersion blender to cream the soup. Then, I stirred in about 8 oz of cream cheese. It was a bit bland so I added a couple grinds of pepper and 1/2-1 t. of dried thyme. I also used about 1 c skim milk since it was quite thick.

I served this with some of the artisan bread (see the link on the side bar of this blog). So, it was a whole dinner inspired by Twin Cities chefs. I guess they really know how to serve dinner on a cool fall night in Minnesota:)