Sunday, December 27, 2009

Beef-Less Comfort Casserole

I had a hard time coming up with a well-rounded dinner tonight. The only protein around is our fake meat selection, and I wanted to use up some green beans and zucchini from the fridge. The only logical solution seemed like a stir-fry, but my husband doesn't care for stir-fry. Or zucchini. However, there is one dish my mom makes that my husband actually likes with zucchini. She buries in in cream of mushroom soup, some other ingredients I'm not sure I remember, and covers it with something crunchy. There's so much going on that he hardly notices he's eating zucchini. So I just decided to throw all the ingredients I had into a giant casserole. The result was a big creamy casserole of comfort food, which was not bad at all.

Beef-Less Comfort Casserole
1 can condensed Cream of Celery soup
2 Tbsp water
2 C green beans
1 medium zucchini, sliced thin
1 package Trader Joe's Beef-less Strips
1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp fat free sour cream
1/2C + fried onion pieces
Salt, Pepper, Garlic powder

Trim beans into 2" lengths (I snap the ends of and snap each bean in half). Cover with water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile slice the zucchini, add to another saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Boil both about 5 minutes until almost cooked but not completely. Drain.

In a casserole dish, combine the condensed soup, 2T water, sour cream and half the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Toss in the drained vegetables and beef strips. Sprinkle a few fried onions, season with salt and pepper and stir together. Top with a light sprinkle of garlic powder, then cheese and fried onions. Bake at 400 20 minutes until bubbling and browned on top.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

It's only Christmas Eve, and I'm practically ready to give up food. For the first time, I'm looking forward to NOT eating. I need a deep cleanse. Last Friday it started with a pot-luck lunch at work. Sunday: drunk brunch. Monday was our work party, and although I'm not a fan of their dinner spread and ate mostly crudite, I did get in a good shot of Patron. That set the night on fire and I set out to the bar with co-workers, and continued at yet another bar. Tuesday was team lunch at Carmines, where the food and wine put us all in a coma for the rest of the day. Top that with drinks and dinner with a visiting friend (yeah, Houston's - STEAK). I forgot the leftover steak in my purse overnight, and threw it out - what a blessing in disguise. By Wednesday I felt about 3 inches fatter and very very tired. So needless to say, there will be no photo with this post, as the very last thing I want to think about is food, drink, parties, or entertaining. Don't tell that to the 9 family members I'll be feeding a giant lasagna to tonight! And that's not even the end...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sweet Red Onion & Black Bean Enchiladas

Finished Enchiladas

Naked enchiladas

I'm a little behind on the posting - I haven't wanted to spend much time in the kitchen this week. Thursday was absolutely freezing cold outside, so instead of going to the gym after work and having to make the longer walk home, I headed straight home to cook something hot. I had to make a fruit salad for our work potluck on Friday, so I figured I may as well do that while enchiladas baked in the oven. The salad of fresh pineapple, kiwi, red grapes and starkrimson pears came out awesome and was a huge hit with my fruit-loving coworkers. I hardly put any effort into the enchiladas (and just threw a sauce together with half the ingredients I usually do), and those came out awesome too. Quantities don't really matter, but a can of black beans will give you about 3-8" tortillas full of enchilada filling.

Sweet Red Onion & Black Bean Enchiladas

Vegetable or Canola oil
1 Can Goya Black Beans, rinsed and drained

2 small cloves Garlic
1/2C Red Onion, diced

2 plum tomatoes, diced

Adobe seasoning, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, dried oregano to taste

Shredded Sharp Cheddar
8" Flour Tortillas

Fresh Cilantro, chopped

Fat Free Sour Cream (for serving)

Simplified Enchilada Sauce

3T Vegetable Oil

1/2 tsp Arrowroot powder
1 Large Tbsp Chili powder (or more to taste)

1 small can of (no salt added) Tomato Sauce

Cayenne pepper (pinch)
Salt, black pepper (pinch)

Hot Sauce (Frank's Redhot) to taste

Saute onions in oil about 3 minutes. Add garlic, saute 2 more minutes. Add black beans and tomatoes and cook until tomato breaks down. Season to taste. Remove from heat and mix in a couple tablespoons of cilantro.

Meanwhile prepare the sauce in a small saucepan. Heat oil over low-med heat and add arrowroot, chili powder and cayenne and stir to dissolve. Add tomato sauce and season to taste.

Lay tortillas on a plate and heat slightly in the microwave to soften them (about 10 seconds). Covering with a damp paper towel helps them not to dry out. Divide bean mixture onto center line of each tortilla and top with some cheese. Fold 2 sides in and secure with a toothpick. Transfer to a greased baking dish. Top all the naked enchiladas with sauce and cheese. Less sauce will give a crispier tortilla, less cheese will give a more crunchy cheese topping. More sauce or cheese can be used to taste, depending on if you like your enchiladas saucy or dry. I'm leaning toward drier and crispier these days - you can always add more sauce while serving.

Bake at 400 degrees about 30 minutes until cheese is browned. Serve topped with more sauce if desired, hot sauce, a dollop of fat-free sour cream and chopped cilantro.

Thursday morning view - even looks cold outside, all the smokestacks going full-force

Monday, December 14, 2009

Leftover Meatballs with Egg Noodles and Sundried Tomatoes

I am getting very sick of leftovers already. I pawned a container of cookies off on my coworkers (inadvertently eating many myself since they were on my desk). Yesterday I had meatballs with the stroganoff for lunch, followed by a snack of sausage, olives and gratin. For dinner: toasted slices of baguette with sliced tomatoes and basil. Today I came home to snack on more sausage, olives and cole slaw. I'm even having a cocktail from leftover party drinks - Chambord & 7Up. But for dinner I decided to give the meatballs and noodles a re-mix, and it came out pretty good. Adding the new flavor from the tomatoes, and the fresh herbs made it taste fresh. I froze most of the baguettes, but there's still a bit left out so I sliced it and made parmesan toasts under the broiler. Toast is the best. Tomorrow I'm thinking brunch for dinner using eggs, sausage, toasts and re-roasted potatoes.

Leftover Meatballs with Egg Noodles and Sundried Tomatoes
cooked chicken meatballs (leftover)
cooked egg noodles (leftover)
olives (leftover)
sundried tomatoes
minced garlic
olive oil
toasted pine nuts
chopped parsley, thyme and basil
salt & pepper
grated parmesan

Saute garlic in olive oil over low-medium heat, a few minutes. Add tomatoes and meatballs, saute a few minutes until heated through and add olives, herbs, nuts salt & pepper. Toss in the egg noodles and stir to coat until heated through. Drizzle with some olive oil if they are too dry. Serve with grated parmesan or red pepper flakes.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Best Laid Plans for a Holiday Foodfest

I spent most of my free time this past week coming up with a menu for last night's party. Each year, my friends and I get together to celebrate the holidays. This year I hosted. I started with about 12 people on the guest list. Which quickly turned into 20, somehow. What was to be a big sit down dinner would now have to be reconfigured into something bigger and easier. There is a lot of planning that needs to go into this sort of thing.

With menu decided, I placed a big grocery order to arrive Friday afternoon. I came home and got to work organizing the fridge and making a plan. I felt like there wasn't quite enough, with the guest list still growing, so I ordered a few more things for Saturday morning. It was hard to get a handle on how much food I would need and how to make it all happen. So, I made one of my famous excel charts to plan my time and resources. I have a limited amount of cooking and serving pieces, I mean, we have a bigger apartment now, but it is still NYC. I laid out all the pans and bowls and post-it noted them with the dish they would be needed for. I tend to get confused and flustered when I'm juggling guests and drinks and cooking, so I felt the extra organization would help guide me as things got crazy.

Excel chart plan

As usual, I fell behind on Saturday's cooking schedule right away. The meatballs were pretty moist, and I planned to bake them in bulk, so I browned them in batches before adding them to the giant roasting pan. By the time the first guests arrived, I was only slightly behind schedule, and they were all willing to pitch in. I consulted my friend Todd on the dressing for the heart-of-palm salad and he went to work on it. My friend Mary Laura is always a lifesaver at parties and pitched right in seasoning potatoes and slicing sausages. Kristen topped and managed the baking of the pizzettes. Others drained olives, and plated cheese and jam (I gave up the idea of baking it) while my husband sliced a baguette. My sister-in-laws came with hot samosas and pies.

The plan was put on pause around 8:30, since most of the guests had not arrived. I'm not real sure what happened over the next 2 hours, except that the food took 4x as long as I planned to cook in the oven, but somehow we ended up eating around midnight. I ended up feeding a rather drunken crew of about 25 people who all seemed quite satisfied with the food and not at all bothered by the late hour (maybe that's because they were so busy doing shots of tequila). Food coma sent most of them home before the huge dessert buffet. We were worried we wouldn't have enough food, but we ended up with tons of leftovers and lots of desserts. The clear winners were the puff pastry pizzettes, chicken meatballs and my friend Ryan's Indian Infused Potato Latkes with yogurt sauce. Here is the entire menu:

Assorted olives
Manchego with Fig Preserves
Puff Pastry Pizzettes
Crusty bread with Olive Oil

Chicken Meatballs
Beef-less Stroganoff (entirely cooked in crockpot)
Egg Noodles
Hearts-of-Palm salad
Roasted Carrots (I gave up on the sauce)
Roasted Potatoes
Apple Craisin Cole-Slaw
Chicken Apple & Chicken Mango sausages
Indian Infused Potato Latkes (brought by guest)

Desserts - brought by guests:
Oreo cookie pie
Peanut butter cheesecake pie
Berry Pavlova
Gingerbread cookies
Homemade Pizzelle cookies
Kiss thumbprint cookies
Peanut butter cup thumprint cookies
Hot Apple crisp

food layover area

chicken apple and chicken mango sausages

Indian infused Latkes

Egg Noodles

Apple Craisin Slaw

Tomato Zucchini Gratin

Roast Carrots

Chicken Meatballs



Puff Pastry Pizzette slice

Manchego and Fig Preserves


Heart of Palm Salad

Monday, December 7, 2009

Quick Acorn Squash Soup & Starkrimson Pear Salad

Healthy Monday. Worked Late. Tired. Gym. Gym hard. Tired. Made salad. Salad good. Made Soup. Soup gooooood. Tired.

Starkrimson Pears with Baby Romaine and Sesame Cashews
Baby Romaine Salad
Starkrimson Pear, sliced
Trader Joe’s Sesame Cashews, toasted

Altered Store-bought dressing
Mix together:
3T Drew’s Poppyseed Dressing
1T Walnut Oil
½ tsp Cider Vinegar
½ tsp Country Dijon Mustard
½ tsp Maple syrup

Quick & Healthy Acorn Squash Soup
½ C red onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled & trim ends off (leave whole)
1 medium Acorn squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1” cubes
2 C Water
Olive Oil
Butter or Margarine
Fresh thyme (optional)
Salt & Pepper
½ tsp sugar

In a medium saucepan, saute onions and garlic in oil & butter for about 3 minutes. Add squash and water and bring to a boil. Stir in about ¼ tsp salt and several grinds of pepper. Place a few sprigs of thyme on top and continue to boil 10-15 minutes until squash breaks apart easily. Remove thyme. Cool a few minutes and transfer to blender and puree. Add back to pan and season with salt & pepper.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Cornmeal Pizza Crust

I'm still trying to get my cooking mojo back. Desperately I search for it each day, in a race against time, to recover my skills to full power before next weekend's holiday dinner party. Saturday morning I attempted to make hash brown potatoes. I even turned the food processor into a shredder to get evenly shredded potatoes (and no shredded fingers). They sure did turn brown. Crispy on the outside. Mushy and brown on the inside. I swear I've made excellent hash browns before - but not this day.

Later in the afternoon, I forged ahead. I gave myself a challenge that I've been avoiding. I thought, if I can succeed at this, I'll regain some kitchen confidence and hopefully pull out of the food funk. I've never been able to make a good pizza dough from scratch. Because, as I always say, I'm no baker - I'm a cook. Baking is science, and cooking is just knowing which flavors work together. is my go-to source for recipes that work, so I decided to try Bobby Flay's pizza dough recipe. Success #1: my yeast grew and doubled, despite being slightly expired. Success #2: the dough doubled in size while rising - yay! Success #3: my sauce turned out great, although it started out too watery and I had to boil it down for a while. Overall, the pizza turned out well. It wasn't as doughy and light as I might prefer, rather bread-y, but no major complaints. I over-salted a bit, but we can live with that too. I'm hoping this is a sign that this week my luck will change, in time to cook for 12+ people on Saturday.

Cornmeal Pizza Crust (
(Recipe is for 4 small thin-crust pizzas, but I made 1 12" pizza)

Sweet Garlic Pizza Sauce
(enough for 2 large pizzas)
1 28oz can peeled Italian Tomatoes (Whole) in sauce
¼ C tomato paste
1 clove garlic
½ tsp sugar
Dried Oregano

Add entire can of tomatoes and sauce and about ¼ C tomato paste to blender with garlic clove. Puree just a few seconds to blend in the garlic. Pour in saucepan and boil over medium heat (loosely covered) until sauce reduces and thickens – about 20 minutes. Add sugar, salt, pepper and oregano to taste.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Where did my skills go?

This week my cooking skills are MIA. I couldn't even pull off a successful salad this week. No disasters, but no winners either. Tonight I was going to make the coconut curry, but decided it would take too long to make jasmine rice. So I made white beans and spinach, but the spices I wrote down in my recipe months ago didn't really working for me this time. Better luck next time!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Salmon with Mango & Lemon Sauce

It's been a week since I've posted or cooked anything - I've been busy traveling, working and getting back into the gym routine. I always have grand ideas for dinners, but hitting the gym is a priority this week. The holidays are already packing on the pounds faster than I can run them off! When I get home there's not much time between hungry and starving to chef something up. Today, I planned to roast some vegetables and potatoes to go with a salsa-topped salmon, but when I got home I wanted dinner fast. I threw together a green salad, poached the salmon and made a quick sauce. I had dinner within 20 minutes of starting it, and that includes overcooking the fish a bit. But you can never go wrong with a mayo-based sauce for salmon, it can really compensate for alot.

Salmon with Mango & Lemon Sauce
(1 serving)
1 4-6oz fillet of Salmon (Wild Salmon is best for lower mercury - I never buy farmed)
1 tsp whole peppercorns
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp sugar
Lemon rinds (leftover from sauce)

1-1/2 Tbsp Light Mayonaise
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (or juice from about 1/4 small lemon) - reserve squeezed rinds for poaching liquid
Salt & Pepper

1/4 C diced mango

Chopped Cilantro
Crushed red pepper flakes

Boil a small amount of water in a skillet with a lid. Add the salt, peppercorns, sugar and lemon rinds. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and place carefully into the water (the water should come half-way up on the salmon). Poach for about 7-10 minutes depending on thickness of the fillet. When it flakes when prodded with a fork, it's done.

For the sauce, mix together mayo and lemon juice until smooth consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Top the salmon with the sauce, add diced mango and cilantro. Sprinkle a little crushed red pepper to taste.

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