Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Creamy Tortellini with Confetti Vegetables

I love tortellini -- something about them is just really fun! You can use fresh (from the refrigerated section) or frozen...either way, just cook according to the directions on the package before adding to the sauce.  The sauce here couldn't be easier -- it's basically just cream cheese melted into a pan of sauteed veggies.  Here, I used bell pepper, carrot, and frozen peas, but you could easily change this up based on what you have in the fridge -- cauliflower, broccoli, snap peas, zucchini, and green beans would all be delicious.  Just make sure to keep the onions and garlic in for their flavor (or sub in something similar like shallots or green onions.  Leftovers kept well for lunches later in the week.

Creamy Tortellini with Confetti Vegetables (adapted from Budget Bytes, original recipe here)
Serves 4

1 cup frozen peas
20 ounce package refrigerated tortellini
1 T butter (more as needed)
1 small onion, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 carrots, peeled if necessary and thinly sliced into rounds
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into small dice
1 cup chicken broth
4 ounce Neufchatel cheese
1/4 cup crumbled Cotija cheese
Salt and pepper

1. Place the peas in a pasta strainer and run warm water over them for a minute or so.  
2. Put on a large pot of water to boil.  When it boils, add the tortellini and cook according to the package instructions.  When they're done, pour over the peas in the strainer.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.  Melt the butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often, until translucent.  Add the carrots and cook for another 3-5 minutes or so.  Add the bell pepper and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  The veggies should be just shy of crisp-tender at the point.
4. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer.  Cut the Neufchatel cheese into a few pieces, and add to the skillet.  Stir gently until it melts into the sauce.  Simmer for 5 minutes or so, and then stir in the Cotija cheese, tortellini, and peas.  Season with salt and pepper, and simmer for a minute to ensure that everything is hot.  

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Creamy Goat Cheese Orzo with Butternut Squash and Spinach

This orzo recipe from The Kitchn caught my eye, but Tim isn't a huge blue cheese fan so we decided to adapt it with goat cheese instead.  If you roast the butternut squash ahead (either on a weekend afternoon or in the oven alongside a dinner earlier in the week), this makes a really quick weeknight dinner.  The finished dish hits all the right notes -- sweet roasty flavor from the squash, fresh greens from lightly wilted spinach, fragrant garlic, whole wheat orzo to bulk things out and make this a main dish, and finally lots of creamy goat cheese that melts into the pasta to create a super simple sauce.  I haven't cooked with orzo much in the past, but I'm definitely a convert! I like it a lot better than many whole wheat pastas which can be on the heavy side.

Creamy Goat Cheese Orzo with Butternut Squash and Spinach (adapted from The Kitchn, original recipe here)
Serves 2 as a main dish, or more if serving as a side

2-1/2 cups cubed butternut squash
1 T olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 cup whole wheat orzo
2 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups spinach, thinly sliced
4 ounce package goat cheese, at room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with foil.  Toss the butternut squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake until tender and browned, 35-40 minutes.  (Can make ahead and stash in the fridge for a few days for an easy weeknight dinner -- just reheat with the garlic later in the recipe.)
2. Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain well.
3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet pver medium-low heat and add the garlic.  Cook until just softened, and then stir in the butternut squash.  Cook until warmed through.
4. Combine the cooked orzo, hot squash-garlic mixture, spinach, and goat cheese.  Stir until the cheese is melted and creamy and everything is combined.  Serve warm.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Enchilada Pasta

As regular readers know, I am a huge fan of the blog (and cookbook) Budget Bytes.  Beth's meals are always delicious, simple to prepare, and affordable.  This vegetarian Mexican-Italian mashup is no different.  Everything is prepared in one pot, and there's very little prep -- just chopping a little garlic, cilantro, and green onions, and opening some cans and bags.  And it really does taste like enchiladas in pasta form (with way less work)!  This is a great recipe for weeknights, and the leftovers also keep well for lunch the next day.  The pasta is super creamy and satisfying, with a nice kick from the green chiles.  If you like spicier food, you can add extra red pepper flakes or a minced jalapeno.  Next time I make this, I'll probably also chop up a bell pepper and add it with the garlic to up the veggie quotient.  If you're not vegetarian, some chopped rotisserie chicken would also not be out of place.

Enchilada Pasta (adapted from Budget Bytes, original recipe here)
Serves 4

1 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounce can green chiles
1 cup frozen corn
15 ounce can black beans
1 tsp cumin
Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
8 ounces wide egg noodles
2 cup chicken (or vegetable) broth
1/2 cup sour cream
3 green onions, thinly sliced
A handful of fresh cilantro, minced
3 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated

1. In a large non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat and add the garlic.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often, and then add the green chiles, corn, black beans, cumin, and red pepper flakes.  Stir well.
2. Add the pasta and chicken broth to the skillet -- the broth won't fully cover the noodles, but that's ok -- just get as much under the liquid as possible.  Cover the skillet and bring everything to a boil.  Turn heat town to low, and let simmer 10 minutes, covered, stirring every few minutes or so.
3. Check the noodles and make sure they are tender -- if not, cook a bit longer.  Stir well, and then stir in the sour cream, green onions, and most of the cilantro (reserve a little to sprinkle on at the end).
4. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the skillet, replace the lid, and let melt over the heat for a few minutes.  Then sprinkle with the reserved cilantro and seve hot.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Roasted Caulflower and Chickpeas on Homemade Flatbread with Avocado Sauce

This is one of those "happy accident" recipes -- I spotted it online and thought it looked amazing, but didn't quite manage to read all the way through the instructions before getting started!  By the time I realized the flatbread/pita dough was supposed to rise for an hour, I had a bunch of other components going and we were starving.  So, I decided to just go ahead with the recipe and see how it went.  This was a great decision -- the flatbread turned out super soft and delicious, despite my mistake.  If you have the extra time, feel free to let the dough rise at the end of step 3; if not, it will still be really tasty.

On top of the homemade flatbread is a super-flavorful vegetarian topping.  The base is a tangy, lime-spiked avocado sauce.  On top are crispy roasted cauliflower and chickpeas spiced with garam masala, Aleppo chiles, and chile powder. You could absolutely change up the spices here based on what you have on hand and what you like.  This flatbread kind of has it all -- soft, tender bread, a rich sauce with a kick of acid, protein-filled and hearty chickpeas, and crispy cauliflower.  Definitely a winner!


Roasted Caulflower and Chickpeas on Homemade Flatbread with Avocado Sauce (adapted from Pinch of Yum and Mel's Kitchen Cafe)
Serves 4 as a light meal, or 2 as a heartier meal

For the vegetables:
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
14-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garam masala
Generous pinch Aleppo chili flakes (or other chili flakes)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the flatbread:
1 tsp instant yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1/3 cup warm (but not hot) water
1/4 cup warm (but not hot) milk
1/2 T olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided

For the avocado sauce:
2 medium avocados
1 clove garlic
1 T olive oil
A small handful fresh parsley
1/2 tsp cumin
Juice of 1 lime
A tablespoon or two of water, as needed

To serve:
Sour cream

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with foil, and place a cast iron skillet on the stovetop.
2. Pat the cauliflower and chickpeas dry, and then toss them with the chili powder, garam masala, and chili flakes.  Drizzle generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, and toss again until everything is well combined.  Arrange on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer.  Bake 30-40 minutes, stirring halfway through.
3. Make the pitas.  Combine the yeast, sugar, water, milk, olive oil, salt, and 1/2 cup of the flour in a large bowl. Stir with a rubber spatula until well combined. Add more flour gradually, switching to kneading with your hands when the dough becomes too stiff for the spatula.  Add enough flour to get a tacky but not sticky dough that forms a ball.  Knead for about 5 minutes.  Form the dough into a ball, and cover the bowl with a dish towl.  Let rest for about 10-15 minutes.
4. Make the avocado sauce.  Place all the ingredients in a mini chopper, a food processor fitted with a small bowl, or a blender. (Note: I found that using a larger food processor just didn't work -- there wasn't enough of the sauce for the processor to effectively blend it.)  Blend the sauce until it is smooth, adding a little water if things seem to thick. Taste and adjust seasoning.  Cover and set aside.
5. Cook the pitas. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Meanwhile, cut the dough into four pieces.  Roll out one piece between two pieces of parchment paper as thinly as possible without ripping the dough.  Carefully transfer to the skillet, and cook for a couple of minutes on each side, until nicely browned.  Roll out the next pita while first one is cooking.  Continue until all the pitas are cooked, keeping them on a warm plate covered with a dish towel to keep warm.
6. Assemble the dish.  Spread a quarter of the avocado sauce on a pita. Top with a large scoop of roasted veggies.  Finally, dollop on a little sour cream.  Enjoy!

Happy Patriot's Day to those celebrating -- here we are viewing the reenactment of the Battle of Lexington!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Pina Colada Granola

I love homemade granola for breakfast.  My go-to recipe is this one that was passed along from a former roommate, and this pina colada-inspired version is actually a variation on that one.  But, this combination of flavors was so good that I felt it deserved its own post!  The starting point for this granola was dried pineapple that Tim picked up at the grocery store.  From there, I added coconut flakes, coconut oil, and ground vanilla -- although you can of course use vanilla extract, I adore ground vanilla for the more intense flavor and the little black vanilla specks.  For crunch, pecans and raw quinoa (which crisps up enough to eat in the oven) are perfect add-ins.  This granola doesn't make big "clumps" like some recipes, which I think makes it the perfect yogurt topping.

Pina Colada Granola
Makes 3-4 cups of granola

2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/4 cup uncooked quinoa
3 T coconut oil
2 T maple syrup
2 T brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground vanilla (or vanilla extract)
Big pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup dried pineapple, diced if the pieces are large

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and line a large baking sheet with foil.
2. In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients except the pineapple.  Use your (clean!) hands to make sure everything is evenly distributed.  Spread out on the baking sheet in an even layer.
3. Bake 20 minutes, or until everything is toasted to your liking.
4. Sprinkle the pineapple over the granola, without stirring.  Let everything cool, then gently stir to combine everything.  Keep in an airtight container.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

California Bowl

This hearty vegetarian bowl actually comes from a breakfast cookbook, but I probably couldn't handle this much food first thing in the morning (maybe for brunch!).  We actually had it for dinner, and found it to be plenty filling as it's got whole grains, protein, and healthy fat from the avocado and almonds.  The base is quick-cooking barley from Trader Joe's -- I love this product as it makes serving whole grains so much quicker.  Of course, you could sub in farro, quinoa, brown rice, or any similar favorite.

On top of the barley goes my favorite super-simple massaged kale with lemon. This is probably the most common way I prepare kale, and I love it because it's tender but still substantial, with a great bright flavor from the lemon.  Luxurious toppings finish the bowl -- soft-boiled egg, sliced avocado, crumbled Mexican cheese, and toasted almonds.  These components combine together really nicely to make this a really satisfying meal.  You can serve one or two eggs per person depending on your appetite, or cut back on one or more of the toppings if you're looking for a lighter meal.


California Bowl (adapted from Whole Grain Mornings)
Serves 2

For the lemon-yogurt sauce
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp lemon zest
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 T minced fresh chives
Kosher salt

For the salad:
3/4 cup quick-cooking barley (such as Trader Joe's brand)
Kosher salt
4 eggs
1 bunch kale, stemmed and thinly sliced
Olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1/3 cup crumbled Cotija cheese or queso fresco
1/4 sliced almonds, toasted

1. Make the dressing.  Whisk together the yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice, and chives.  Season with salt to taste.  Set aside.
2. Prepare the barley.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the barley and a generous pinch of salt.  Cook according to package directions (about 10-12 minutes).  Then drain and keep warm.
3. Meanwhile, set up a steamer basket over water, and bring to a boil.  Add the eggs to the steamer basket, cover, and steam for 6-1/2 minutes for soft-boiled eggs, or 12 minutes for hard-boiled eggs.  Run under cold water and carefully peel.
4. Prepare the kale.  Place the kale in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil.  Add a generous pinch of kosher salt, and then massage until the kale becomes tender and begins to break down.  Squeeze over the juice of 1/2 lemon, and set aside.
5. Assemble the salad.  Toss together the barley and kale, adding another drizzle of oil if things seem too dry.  Divide among two bowls.  Top with the sliced avocado and soft-boiled eggs.  Then drizzle over the lemon-yogurt sauce.  Finally, finish with crumble Cotija cheese and sliced almonds.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Giant Cheddar-Cornbread Biscuit

This giant biscuit is one of those recipes that is total, genius-level indulgence.  Basically, picture making a biscuit dough full of cornmeal and sharp Cheddar cheese, but then baking it in a round pan to create a giant biscuit.  Amazing!  After baking, the biscuit can be cut into big wedges for serving (or small wedges if you're not feeling gluttonous -- this is pretty rich).  Leftovers kept pretty well, wrapped tightly, since the dough is very moist.  Fair warning -- you'll need to plan ahead because the dough should chill for about and hour in the fridge and then bakes for quite a while.  You could speed things along by baking this as regular-sized biscuits...but that just wouldn't be anywhere near as fun, would it?

Giant Cheddar-Cornbread Biscuit (adapted from Food52 and A Periodic Table)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup coarse cornmeal
3/4 cup sugar
1 T baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
5 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
2 sticks cold butter, cubed
3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk
Heavy cream, freshly ground black pepper, and sea salt, to finish

1. Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and Cheddar cheese.  Add the butter, and cut in with a pastry blender or your fingers.
2. Add 3/4 cup of the buttermilk and gently fold into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula until just combined.  Add more buttermilk if needed so that the dough is just moistened.
3. Cover the bowl, and chill 1 hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9-inch springform pan.
5. Scrape the dough into the prepared pan and use your hands to pat it down so everything is even.
6. Brush the top of the dough with heavy cream, and then sprinkle with sea salt and lots of black pepper.
7. Bake 30-45 minutes, until the top is brown and a tester comes out clean.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Secret Recipe Club: Peach Dutch Baby

My partner for this month's Secret Recipe Club was Amanda of Dancing Veggies.  Amanda's blog focuses on simple vegetarian recipes that are quick to prepare but full of flavor. I was immediately drawn to her peach Dutch baby recipe because I love Dutch babies but I haven't made them with fruit baked in.  This recipe is super easy -- just toss fruit with cinnamon, and whisk everything else together in a bowl.  Then pour it all into a sizzling hot cast iron skillet and bake until the Dutch baby puffs up beautifully.  As a necessary finishing touch, shower everything with a generous sifting of powdered sugar -- since there's no added sugar in the fruit or batter, this is where you'll get all your sweetness.  This makes for a very pretty and delicious breakfast or brunch dish.  Thank you, Amanda!


Peach Dutch Baby (adapted from Dancing Veggies, original recipe here)
Serves 2

2 T unsalted butter
1-1/2 to 2 cups frozen peaches, fully thawed
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup flour
Powdered sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a large cast-iron skillet (or another oven-safe dish) in the oven to heat up.
2. When the oven and skillet are hot, add the butter to the skillet, return to the oven, and let the butter melt.
3. Toss the peaches with the cinnamon and set aside.
4. Whisk the eggs briskly until foamy.  Add the milk and salt and whisk again until foamy.  Whisk in the flour until just blended.
5. Remove the skillet from the oven -- be very careful and use a pot holder!  Arrange the peaches in a single layer on the bottom of the skillet.  Pour the batter over and return to the oven.
6. Bake about 20 minutes, until the Dutch baby is puffed and golden.
7. Dust generously with powdered sugar and serve.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Winter Abundance Bowl #2

Since spring is fast approaching, I figure I'd better post a couple of winter veggie bowls that we enjoyed during our freezing cold winter! Although in some ways a snowy winter screams heavy pasta and beef dishes, it can be good to lighten things up and enjoy veggie-focused meals as well -- this one is even vegan, but is still hearty and warm enough for a chilly night.  Protein-rich quinoa forms the base of the bowl, and then hot roasted potatoes and green beans are piled on a top.  A generous handful of toothsome-but-tender marinated kale adds an important hit of freshness, and sliced almonds give each bite a little crunch.  A super simple Dijon mustard dressing punched up with roasted garlic pulls everything together.  You won't even miss the meat!  Bonus: leftovers are great at room temperature for lunch the next day.

Winter Abundance Bowl #2 (adapted from Oh She Glows, original recipe here)
Serves 3-4

3/4 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 large garlic cloves (peel left on)
Olive oil
Kosher salt
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 bunch kale, stemmed and thinly sliced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 green onions, minced
Sliced almonds, to serve

For the dressing:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven and line a large baking sheet with foil.  Spray lightly with oil.
2. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes, green beans, and garlic cloves with a generous drizzle of olive oil and a big pinch of kosher salt.  Lay out on the baking sheet in a single layer.  Roast about 30-35 minutes total, stirring every 10 minutes, until the veggies are tender.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the quinoa.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and season with a generous pinch of salt.  Add the quinoa, and simmer until tender, 12-15 minutes or so.  Drain in a fine mesh strainer, and then set the strainer over the pot, cover with a lid, and let sit until ready to use (this will keep the quinoa warm and keep it from getting soggy).  
4. Prepare the kale.  Add the sliced kale leaves to a large bowl along with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt.  Massage for a few minutes, until the kale breaks down and becomes tender.  Squeeze over the juice of half a lemon, and stir to combine.
5. Make the dressing.  Combine the vinegar, olive oil, and Dijon in a jar with a tightly fitting lid.  Season with salt and pepper.  When the garlic cloves are roasted, squeeze them out of their skins and mash into a paste with a fork.  Add to the jar with the oil and vinegar.  Screw on the lid tightly, and shake well until the dressing is nicely combined.
5. Assemble the bowls.  Start with a scoop of quinoa and drizzle on a bit of the dressing.  Then pile on the roasted veggies and kale salad, and add more dressing.  Finish with a sprinkle of green onions and sliced almonds.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Apple-Cinnamon Flapjacks

As my regular readers probably know, I am a sucker for good breakfast and brunch foods. There's nothing better than a lazy Saturday morning topped off with waffles, bacon, eggs, muffins or pancakes (I could go on...).  This particular recipe comes from the Huckleberry cookbook, which Tim got me for my birthday, and these pancakes are so good!  Start off by cooking diced apples in butter and cinnamon until they're soft and luscious.  Then the apples get stirred into a semi-healthy batter made with white whole wheat flour, cornmeal, and yogurt.  Cook them up like any other pancake, and serve with maple syrup and/or yogurt and applesauce (my personal favorite pancake topping combination).  What you end up with is a pancake that feels a little hearty and substantial without being heavy, and little dots of sweet apple throughout.  I'm in love!  Next time I may add chocolate chips...

Apple-Cinnamon Flapjacks (adapted from Huckleberry)
Serves 2-4, depending on your appetite (and if you're serving sides)

6 T unsalted butter
2 small apples, peeled and cut into small dice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Kosher salt
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
3 T sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup + 2 T milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 egg
2 T canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
Spray oil

1. Heat a skillet over medium heat, and melt the butter.  Add the apples, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.  Cook, stirring often, until soft.  Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/2 tsp salt.  
3. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the milk, yogurt, egg, canola oil, and vanilla.  Add to the dry ingredients, and whisk until just combined.  Scrape in the cooked apples, including any butter in the pan, and stir with a rubber spatula until everything is just combined.
4. Heat a large skillet (or a griddle) over medium-high heat.  When hot, spray with a bit of oil and use a 1/3 cup measure to scoop the batter onto the skillet.  Cook until bubbles form on top of each pancake, and then flip and cook the second side until nicely browned. 
5. Eat right away, or keep warm in a 200 degree oven.  Serve with maple syrup or your other favorite toppings.