Friday, February 26, 2010

Lazy Vegetarian Refried Bean Enchiladas

How this little white girl from Vermont became the Queen of Enchiladas, I don't really know. Maybe it's because anything you stuff inside a tortilla and top with melted cheese is going to be great. Maybe I'm just awesome. Either way, last night's experiment was simply delicioso... muy bueno... que lindo. Even though I made them the lazy way by using pre-made beans, leftover spaghetti sauce, and other random things from the fridge and freezer. Enchiladas are fun.

Lazy Vegetarian Refried Bean Enchiladas
Makes 2 Fat Enchiladas

8" Round Flour Tortillas

1/2 Can Amy's Organic Vegetarian Refried Beans with Green Chilis
2 T Fat Free Sour Cream
2 T Cilantro, chopped
1 small Plum Tomato, diced
2 T Sweet Onion (or Vidalia) diced
2 T Mung Beans (cooked) *optional - I had these leftover and added them for a protein boost
2 T Corn
*optional - I keep frozen corn on hand at all times for soups and sides - you could subsititute with another crunchy veg like bell peppers.
Salt, to taste
1/3 C shredded Cheddar

1 T Canola oil
1T + Chili Powder (to taste)
1 tsp Cayenne powder (to taste)
1/8 tsp Cumin
1/8 tsp dried Oregano

1/2-3/4C Leftover or jarred Marinara sauce
2 T water, if needed, to thin the sauce
1/3C Shredded Cheddar (or other Mexican cheese blend)

Fat Free Sour Cream
Chopped Cilantro

Heat oven to 450F.
1. Prepare the sauce by heating oil in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir in the spices. Add the tomato sauce. If the sauce is very thick, thin it with a little water. Add more spices if needed. Once satisfied with the flavor, remove from the heat.

2. If tortillas are cold, microwave for a few seconds to make them pliable. Lay each tortilla on a plate and spread a thick layer of refried beans in the center, leaving 1" on all sides.

3. Combine the balance of the filling ingredients (except cheese) in a small bowl. Season with salt. Spoon the mixture in a line down the center of each tortilla. Top each filling with cheese.

4. Fold each tortilla and secure closed with a toothpick. Transfer to a glass baking dish. Spoon the sauce over the enchiladas and top with shredded cheese. Bake at 450 for 15-20 minutes until bubbling and browned. Serve with sour cream and chopped cilantro.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mustard Parmesan Baked Cod with Balsamic Tomatoes and Onions over Couscous

Cod is one of the most reliably easy and fast fish to cook. That's why I've ended up eating it for the past two days. Yesterday, I was supposed to go out to dinner with my husband and his coworkers, but they got postponed, so I went home to eat alone instead of killing time in the rainy city. Unfortunately all my proteins were frozen, since I didn't plan on eating in. Luckily, a cod fillet can easily go from freezer to oven without getting too tough or dry. I simply ran it under cold water for a minute or two, seasoned it with salt, pepper, lemon and butter, and threw it into a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. One zucchini, sliced and boiled, and one pouch of frozen potatoes and beans microwaved, and dinner was done.

Today's cod was meant for the freezer stock, as well. But, seeing as my husband is again working late, I am left at the last moment to cook for myself. The groceries arrived early, but the only protein in the box was the replacement cod. Can one eat this much fish in a week? I've already had a bit of tuna sushi, and some smoked salmon... so I checked quickly the NRDC website to make sure cod is not super high in mercury. The site even has a little wallet cheat sheet and an online tool to check your mercury intake. Cod has only moderate levels, so I'll be fine.

Seeing as I had a beautiful, fresh, thick piece of fish today, I decided to put a little work into it. I probably thought about what to do for 20 minutes and the actual preparation only took about 15. But in the end, my little experiment came out of the oven and was more than I hoped for. The topping was cheesy. The sauce hidden below was creamy, tangy, spicy, sour and sharp - but mild enough not to overpower the fish. The surrounding tomatoes and onions were sweet, salty and tart, lending crunch and juiciness to whole wheat couscous. It was an unexpected kitchen victory. Not to mention, this fish is under 400 calories - and that is for the whole 8oz piece.

Mustard Parmesan Baked Cod with Balsamic Tomatoes and Onions
recipe for 1 large serving

1 6-8 oz Fillet of Cod, seasoned with salt and pepper

1 T Light Mayonnaise
1/2 tsp Mustard Powder
1 tsp fresh Lemon Juice

1 T Italian seasoned Bread Crumbs
1 T fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Dried Parsley flakes

10-15 grape tomatoes
1/4 C very thinly sliced Sweet or Vidalia Onion
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar

Preheat oven to 425F.

1. Rinse the fish and place in a glass baking dish coated with non-stick spray. Season with salt & pepper.

2. Prepare the sauce by mixing together mayo, lemon juice and mustard powder. Slather the sauce onto the fillet (photo top left).

3. Sprinkle paprika and cayenne over sauce, to taste (see photo top right).

4. Top with bread crumbs, cheese and a sprinkle of parsley.

5. Surround fish with grape tomatoes and onions. It's important to slice the onions thin, since the cooking time is short for the tomatoes and fish - you wan them to be browned. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, a tiny bit of balsamic, and salt.

6. Bake at 425F for 15 minutes, until fish flakes with a fork, or begins to separate, and onions look caramelized. Baking more servings may require a longer cooking time.

7. Squeeze a wedge of lemon over the fish, and serve with couscous or rice topped with the tomatoes and onions.

The Elusive 100th Post

I've been putting off blogging for a while. I bet no one noticed, except for me, that I had written 99 posts. I feel like the 100th post should be some sort of a mile-marker, something significant. But I haven't done really anything of 100th post quality recently. I made some less than semi-homemade meals and some more than ambitious travel plans. I ate too much steak at Houston's. I hosted a take-out taco party. I feasted at Tabla with a $25 gift card from Fresh Direct, and had a super-drunk brunch at Olea while making friends at the bar. To me, they're just a few ordinary events in the life that is mine, and did not consist of any personal achievements worth mentioning.

So now we can commence with the posting of delicious food, henceforth. The 100th post is published.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Beet and Cauliflower Soup & Potatoes Au Gratin

Beet & Cauliflower Soup

Classic Potatoes Au Gratin

Mixed greens, sliced pears and golden raisins topped with a dressing made with Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, sesame seeds, salt & pepper.

This week I resolved to eat much healthier. Soup and salad is an easy answer to that. Both fill you up, and as long as you add some nuts or protein, keep you satisfied. Plus, soup creates a big pot you can eat from for days, without having to think about what to eat. I had planned a beet soup, but also still had a half-head of cauliflower to use up. I found a pretty interesting recipe on this blog, Tofu for Two. It had never occurred to me to add spice or lime to a beet, but it turned out really well. I never keep chilies on hand, so I substituted with Cayenne. I try to keep limes, but they always turn brown quickly, so I used lemon instead. My wrist has been hurting since snow-tubing, so my husband helped me perfect the use of the immersion blender - that's his new job! He also had to help me chop things, which is hard for me to sit back and watch, since I go for speed and he goes for perfection.

I also threw together a salad with some funky vinegar I found at Trader Joe's, and a pan of potatoes au gratin from the stand-by recipe from my college cooking class textbook: Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. Ok, so I'm weening off bad foods. Potatoes and cheese aren't the best, but at least we didn't have bread! I also managed a good long workout today, since we had plenty of leftovers from last night (and spaghetti and vegetarian meatballs from Valentine's Day). So far this soup thing is working out for me this week. We'll see how it goes. Step 2: stay away from the wine rack!

Beet & Cauliflower Soup
(adapted from Tofu for Two blog)
approx. 8 servings

1 T Canola Oil

1 Large sweet white onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped

3 Large beets, trimmed & sliced (I scrubbed them and peeled the rough parts off near the top)
1/2 head Cauliflower (or 1 small head), broken into pieces
1 C raw cashews
4 C water (just enough to cover everything in the pot)
juice of 1 lemon
Salt, Pepper, Cayenne - to taste

In a stock pot, saute the onions in oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes to soften. Add garlic, beets and cauliflower with a little cayenne. Stir to coat and add the cashews and water. Cover and boil 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and blend using an immersion blender until evenly pureed and the cashews are fully processed. Add lemon juice, and a generous amount of salt, cayenne and pepper. I used about 1T or more of salt, and at least 2 tsp cayenne. Reheat if necessary and serve with raw cashews, or sour cream.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Beet Greens & Dressed-up Pumpkin Ravioli

Store-bought pumpkin ravioli are topped with browned butter, crispy sage, roasted pearl onions, toasted pine nuts and grated parmesan.

Saute garlic in 3T of olive oil, remove garlic and add washed and chopped greens. Saute until wilted and add salt.

It's been a fairly lackluster week in my kitchen. The upside is that it's sparkling clean. About the only thing I cooked last week was some frozen pumpkin ravioli and some beet greens. It was a last-minute decision, and took only 30 minutes or so to throw together. I've never cooked beet greens before, and they were actually really easy to prepare. They also tasted less bitter than other greens like swiss chard.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Tarragon Zucchini Pea Soup

Wednesday was yet another day that I arrived home from the gym, tired, and no husband to share dinner with. And I was starving. Yes, I'm always starving. So dinner needed to be quick, but I was still intent on making the planned meal: pea & tarragon soup. I think I had the whole thing ready, including a side of Italian chicken sausage and a whole wheat roll, in about 20 minutes.

What I thought was going to be a bland soup turned out to be velvety and flavorful, and made an amazing combo piled on top of the bread with chunks of sausage. I was in some sort of England meets Italy heaven, piling each bite of roll with peas and meat. There could definitely be a version of this soup including the sausage from the get-go, that would go over well with the meat-eaters. But, for the moment, I kept it sans-sausage in case the husband went for it (which he hasn't, since he seems to have some unexplained aversion to green food).

Tarragon Zucchini Pea Soup
(4 servings)
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 C chopped onions
1 C chopped green zucchini (1 medium)
1 lb bag of frozen Green Peas
2 C Water
1/4 C fresh Tarragon leaves
Kosher Salt & Pepper

1. In a medium saucepan, saute the onions in olive oil for 2 minutes.
2. Add the zucchini, cook another 2 minutes.
3. Add the water and half of the peas (about 1 C). Bring to a boil and simmer about 5 minutes.
4. Stir in the tarragon and transfer to a blender and puree (hold a towel over the loose cover insert to let steam escape).
5. Add the soup back to the pot, over medium heat. Add the remaining peas and bring to a boil until peas are heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste (I used about 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons of Kosher salt, and about 25 grinds of pepper).

Serve with bread for dipping.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Makhanwala-Inspired Chana Aloo Gobi

Chana Aloo Gobi Makhanwala
Chickpeas, Potatoes and Cauliflower in Creamy Tomato Sauce

I'm pretty proud of myself right now. My husband just devoured a pot of curry that I created, and said it tasted like "outside" food (meaning restaurant quality). That's an awesome compliment, coming from him. But, I'm picky too. There are a lot of dishes, as with any cuisine, that I really don't care for. I also don't like following rules. If I don't like some ingredient in a traditional recipe, you can bet I won't be adding it. I'm also very stubborn, so if I'm told something is the "rule" or I "have" to do it a certain way, I can guarantee you I'll take the opposite steps. Every time I cook cauliflower my husband wants to mash it up and put pav bhaji seasonings in, or add garam masala. He's happy, but I'm not lovin' it.

When we order in a restaurant, I usually go for creamier dishes, so I'm assured there won't be too much spice. I also love tomato based sauces with strong ginger flavors, or anything with nuts or fruits. I stay away from chickpeas because I don't care for the texture, and cauliflower dishes sometimes end up too hot to handle. Today, with a fresh head of cauliflower and a well-stocked pantry, I created a dish that both me and my husband enjoyed. By focusing on my favorite ingredients, and compromising on others (a few chickpeas for protein, just a smidge of cumin, no butter), we now have a good base for a recipe to improve upon and grow into our own signature meal. Authentic or not, who cares?

Makhanwala-Inspired Chana Aloo Gobi
(serves 3-4)
2 Tbsp Canola Oil
2/3 C finely diced Onion (spanish or white)
1 large clove Garlic, minced
2 tsp minced fresh Ginger
2-1/2 Tbsp Yellow Curry Powder
1/2 tsp ground Cumin
1/2 tsp ground Turmeric
pinch of Crushed Red Pepper
1 C Evaporated Milk
1 C Potato, cut into 1/2" cubes, (pre-boiling them for 10 minutes in water)*revised 6/1/10
2 C fresh Tomato, diced (1 for the pot, 1 for garnish)
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
2 C Cauliflower, broken into very small florets
1/2 C chickpeas, (drain and rinse if canned)
1/2 tsp salt (Iodized, table salt)
1/4 C Almond slices (raw)
pinch of cayenne pepper, and ground black pepper, to taste
Fresh cilantro, chopped

Cooked Basmati Rice (plan about 10-15 minutes to cook the rice)
Naan or other Indian flat bread

1. In a stock pot, heat vegetable oil over medium heat and add onions. Saute for 5 minutes until translucent and add ginger and garlic. Saute 1 minute and add curry, cumin, turmeric and red pepper. Stir until fragrant and add the milk.

2. Add potatoes and 1 Cup tomatoes, and bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes.

3. Stir in tomato paste and salt until dissolved, and add the cauliflower and chick peas. Cook another 5-10 minutes until cauliflower is cooked through. Add the almonds, and season with cayenne and black pepper.

4. Serve garnished with cilantro and chopped tomatoes, alongside basmati rice and naan.

*Note: thinking about adding more potatoes, and making more sauce next time.

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