Friday, February 29, 2008

Sesame Vegetable Lo Mein

Today I went out to lunch with my coworker and got some awesome kung pao tofu. I completely forgot that I planned to make vegetable lo mein for dinner tonight. Oops!!

The vegetable lo mein came from a cookbook, Vegetarian and More! by Linda Rosenweig. I like the cookbook because it is full of vegetarian recipes, but then it has little notes for how to add meat to the recipe. Not that I'm planning on ever eating meat again, but it's nice to be able to provide a versatile recipe to others who may or may not want to eat a vegetarian dish!

The lo mein recipe is good, but it's not comparable to take-out. For an Asian noodle dish, I think we prefer the Fettuccine and Tofu with Peanut Sauce that we've made several times. I know it's not similar to this recipe, but I think we sort of expected a peanutty flavor. But the recipe we made tonight is good, it's just probably not a repeater.

lo mein

Sesame Vegetable Lo Mein

8 oz Chinese wheat noodles or spaghetti
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp vegetarian oyster sauce or black bean sauce
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
2 cups coarsely chopped bok choy or spinach
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
1 small carrot, shredded
3 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup drained, canned baby corn, cut into 1" pieces
1/4 cup chopped unsalted peanuts (optional)

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the broth, soy sauce, and oyster or black bean sauce.

Warm the oil in a large nontick skillet or wok over high heat. Add the ginger. Stir fry for 1 minute. Add the bok choy or spinach, broccoli, carrot, and scallions. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes, or just until the vegetables are tender.

Stir in the broth mixture. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the noodles and baby corn. Cook for 1 minute to blend the flavors. Sprinkle with peanuts, if using.

Yield: 4 servings

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Swiss-Style Cheese Bake

Tonight we made the Swiss-Style Cheese Bake that we loved so much a few weeks ago, and I learned the importance of using the right ingredients for your tastes. Last time we made them with some basic shredded cheddar cheese and it was phenomenal. This time I thought I'd experiment with some Kerrygold Aged Cheddar cheese from Ireland....and it was not so good. I'd never had that cheese before but I thought it would just be a basic cheddar. No. It was stinky, and it had a weird taste, and it reminded me of the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair. I still ate my food, but it was nowhere near as good as before.

Next time, I will use my usual Sargento Shredded Cheddar.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Potato Hash with Baked Eggs

This was pretty simple to put together, and although I would have liked it to take a little less time, it didn't take too long. As for how it turned out? Just ok. Nothing special. It's very simple and would be nice in the morning if you feel like putting forth the effort. I would imagine it's probably also a good hangover food. We probably will not make this again though.


Potato Hash with Baked Eggs
Michael Chiarello, Food Network

4 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
8 eggs
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, Asiago or other aged cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and boil until about 3/4's of the way done, about 4 minutes. Drain well and spread out on a baking sheet to cool.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet over high heat. When hot, add the olive oil, and then add the potatoes in a single layer. Lower the heat to medium and cook, tossing occasionally, until the potatoes are crusty and browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the onion and cook until the onions brown slightly, about 2 minutes

Off the heat, make 8 small evenly-spaced wells in the hash and pour a small bit of olive oil in each well. Break an egg into each well. Sprinkle the eggs with salt and pepper. Scatter the oregano and the cheese over the hash.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the eggs are cooked to your taste, about 5 minutes for firm whites and soft yolks. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

Monday, February 25, 2008

Not-So-Sloppy Joes

Tonight we made our favorite sloppy joe recipe and enjoyed it with some tater tots. We think that next time we might skip the bun and just put the sloppy joe 'meat' mixture over tater tots. I promise it would be good!


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Stuffed Garlic Bread

I wanted a reason to make this recipe, so I specifically made an easy pasta for dinner just so I could focus on this garlic bread. It has several steps and is not the healthiest recipe (though I did reduce the amount of butter and used low-fat sour cream and cheeses), but it is worth it. We really liked it a lot. It's kind of like spinach-artichoke dip in bread, minus the spinach. Rather than make two little bread boats like the recipe says to do, I just filled up the bread and put the top back on it. It was maybe a little messier to eat my way though, so if I make this again I would make the two separate ones.

See, the filling didn't even want to stay put long enough for a photo op:

Stuffed Garlic Bread
Posted on the CLBB (Gecko)

1 unsliced loaf french bread
6 T. butter
1 whole head of fresh garlic, peeled and chopped fine
7 t. sesame seeds
1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated
1 1/2 c. sour cream
2 C. monterey jack cheese, cut into 1" cubes
2 t. lemon pepper
2 t. parsley
2 c. chopped artichoke hearts

Cut loaf in half lengthwise. Tear out soft center of bread in chunks, leaving crust intact.

Put crust shells on a foil covered cookie sheet, crust sides down.

Melt butter in a large skillet, stir in garlic and sesame seeds. Cook for 1-2 minutes on medium heat (don't burn the garlic!). Stir
in torn bread chunks, and cook until golden brown and butter has been absorbed. Remove from heat.

In a very large bowl combine sour cream, jack cheese, parmesan, parsley and lemon pepper. Stir in artichoke hearts and toasted bread
(garlic bits too!).

Mix well and spoon back into bread shells. Lay them both crust-side down on the foil covered sheet, and put a sheet of foil over
the top (it just has to be over the top...doesn't need to be wrapped), then bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes uncovered. Let rest 5-8 minutes before cutting.

Lauren's note: This recipe would make a HUGE amount of this bread, so cut down the recipe if you're making it for 2 or even 4 people.

Vodka Cream Pasta

Tonight we had Vodka Cream Pasta, which we have made before and enjoyed. I think it was a little bit liquidy this time, and I'm not quite sure why. But that's OK. I made the full recipe and put the extra in the freezer so we can reheat it sometime when I am too lazy to cook (like Tuesdays after my horrible class).

We didn't take a picture last time, so here is a photo:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Oatmeal Carmelitas

I was excited to make this recipe because it won a "Best Cookie" contest a couple years ago for Child magazine (I found it posted on the CLBB). It is simple and sounds very tasty. And it is very tasty. I enjoy it a lot. However, it is SO BUTTERY. I'm not sure how it won with the amount of butter that is in it. I thought that 3/4 cup was a lot when I was making it, but I went along with it because I figured there was a reason for it. Wrong! You would get a much lighter, less greasy bar cookie if you use about 1/2 cup or maybe even 1/3 cup. These are delicious though and I would like to try them sometime with that reduction in butter.

The recipe also was lacking the temperature for which to bake the bars. I guessed 350 and baked accordingly. I don't know if that's right, it just seemed like a standard temperature. I think it worked out just fine. The initial baking of the bottom crust did need an extra 5 minutes though. Like I said, I'd make these again, just with much less butter.


Oatmeal Carmelitas

1 cup plus 3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
¾ cup butter or margarine, melted and cooled
1 cup (6 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
¾ cup caramel ice cream topping

Step 1: In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup flour, oats, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, and melted butter. Blend at low speed to form crumbs.

Step 2: Press half the crumbs into bottom of an 11" by 9" pan; bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with chips and pecans.

Step 3: In a small bowl, blend caramel topping with remaining flour. Drizzle over the chips and nuts to cover.

Step 4: Sprinkle remaining crumbs over caramel and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool. Chill covered for 1 to 2 hours and then cut into bars. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: I got about 16 bars.

Vietnamese Lettuce Rolls with Spicy Tofu

I'm not sure why I've never posted this recipe - I made it several times when I was still in college (when this blog began) and have tweaked it many times to make it "my" recipe. Yes, that's right. I used my skillz and adapted (created?) a recipe.

It's originally from Cooking Light, June 2003 (see original recipe Here). I liked the lettuce wraps from PF Chang's better, so I decided to start working with this recipe to make it more similar. I added finely chopped water chestnuts for that crunch that is prevalent at PF Chang's. I also added green onions, because everything benefits from green onions. I omitted the lemongrass (too much effort), the mint (too overpowering), and the carrots and peanuts (meh). I also used dried basil instead of fresh.

So here is my recipe. I hope you like it.

We like this photo so much we're going to put it on the wall.

Vietnamese Lettuce Rolls with Spicy Tofu
Adapted from CL, 6/03

1 (16-ounce) package water-packed firm tofu, drained
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon chile paste with garlic (Sriracha!)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
2 green onions, minced
Cooking spray
1 can water chestnuts
1 head romaine lettuce
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1 Tbsp dried basil, or some basil leaves

Put tofu block on a paper towel, and cover with another paper towel. Place something heavy on top and leave for about 10 minutes to get some of the water out of it. Cut tofu into small cubes and put in a bowl or baking dish.

Combine juice and the next 8 ingredients (juice through ginger) in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring until honey dissolves. Pour over tofu and stir to make sure it is all coated. Cover and let stand at room temperature 45 minutes to an hour.

Finely chop water chestnuts; stir into the tofu mixture. Saute in a skillet or pan over medium-high heat until heated through. Add green onions and basil and cook for 1 more minute.

Remove 12 large outer leaves from lettuce head; reserve remaining lettuce for another use. Remove bottom half of each lettuce leaf; reserve for another use. Spoon tofu mixture onto each leaf. Wrap leaf around toppings.

Yield: 4 servings

Friday, February 22, 2008

Bean Chili and Rice

Tonight we had another "make-again," Bean Chili & Rice. It was perfect for an icy, cold night when I've had a long, tedious day at work and just want to throw something tasty together.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Yummy Dinner

Tonight we had some repeats, which was wonderful and delicious and comforting amidst the smattering of pathetic Maryland snow.

We had some Multigrain Pilaf with Sunflower Seeds, last seen at Thanksgiving, as our main dish. I didn't have any sunflower seeds so I just used extra pearl barley. We still love it!

To go with our rice dish, we also had Baby Brussels Sprouts with Buttered Pecans, which were even tastier than the first time we made them. Gibby ate all of them, happily. It's nice when you find a good brussels sprouts recipe that everyone enjoys.

Since I didn't take a picture last time we made them, we took a picture this time:

tiny cabbages

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Spinach and Kale Turnovers

We dug out this recipe from the make-again folder and had some Spinach and Kale Turnovers for dinner tonight. I bought the wrong kind of dinner roll so it was hard to make them fold over properly...they tore in a lot of places and looked silly. But they were still good.

Here's a picture:

Monday, February 18, 2008

Couscous and Feta Stuffed Peppers

This is from Self magazine but was posted on Epicurious. It sounded good, and super-healthy due to all the vegetables, whole grains, and protein, but I was a little nervous about the flavor. I read the reviews and they recommended adding some extra seasonings and some garlic.

So I sauteed some garlic along with the onions before adding the rest of the vegetables. I used whole-wheat couscous for some extra health benefits. And then instead of using fennel and oregano, I used Penzeys' pizza seasoning. It has fennel, oregano, basil, onion, garlic, salt, crushed red pepper, and cayenne pepper. This was a GREAT idea because it added a lot of extra flavor. We also used some low-fat feta cheese.

These peppers were really good. They're easy to make, especially for a stuffed pepper recipe, and provide so many nutritional benefits. Some pine nuts might be a nice addition if we make them in the future. We would make these again.

Tip from Lauren: To make peppers stand up in the casserole dish, slice a very thin part off from the bottom of the pepper so that the rounded parts are flat. Then it stands up! If you mess up and accidentally cut a hole in the bottom, just place a piece of the part you cut off into the inside of the pepper and patch up the hole.


Couscous and Feta Stuffed Peppers
Self magazine, September 2000

This nutrient-stuffed dish won't leave you hungry. What do you get when you give bell peppers center stage on your plate? A veggie-heavy meal that even a meat fiend will find too tempting to resist. Here we stuff antioxidant-rich bell peppers with couscous (a tiny, round pasta) and hardworking nutrient powerhouses like zucchini and yellow squash. The result? A meal low in fat, high in fiber, and loaded with vitamins A and C.

Vegetable-oil cooking spray
1 1/4 cups fat-free chicken or vegetable broth
2/3 cup couscous
4 large bell peppers, mixed colors
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
6 oz zucchini, quartered lengthwise then sliced across thinly
6 oz yellow squash, quartered lengthwise then sliced across thinly
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
15 oz canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 oz crumbled feta cheese (about 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 350°F F. Coat a small baking dish with cooking spray. Bring the broth to a boil in a saucepan, add the couscous, cover the pan and remove it from the heat. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut the stems and top half inch off the bell peppers and scoop out the seeds and membranes. Boil trimmed peppers for 5 minutes, then drain them upside down. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet. Add onion, zucchini, yellow squash, fennel seeds, oregano, and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Remove from heat and stir in the tomatoes and chickpeas. Using a fork, scrape the couscous into the skillet and toss with the vegetables. Stir in the crumbled feta. Place peppers upright in the baking dish and fill them with couscous. Bake 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

P.S. I'm submitting this to the ARF/5-a-Day Challenge, too!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sweet Potato and Pecan Flapjacks

He was really afraid of our dinner tonight. All week he was like "Ugh, do we have to have those?" But then I made them and he thought they were really good. I guess he was afraid of the sweet potato, but it's mashed and incorporated into the batter so well that you don't even know it's in there. The pancakes are very thick and dense, but they are nicely flavored. I don't know if we would make these again, but they're a good way to sneak some sweet potatoes into a meal.


Sweet Potato and Pecan Flapjacks
Cooking Light, January 2006

Cornmeal adds crunch, and mashed sweet potatoes lend creaminess to this weekend favorite. Yellow- or white-fleshed sweet potatoes have a dry and crumbly texture when baked and are not moist enough to make tender pancakes, so use the orange variety. For convenience, roast a sweet potato the night before. Serve with maple syrup, butter, and fresh fruit, if desired.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (about 5 1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
3 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup fat-free milk
1 cup mashed cooked sweet potato
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
Cooking spray

Lightly spoon all-purpose flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through cinnamon) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Combine milk, sweet potato, sugar, oil, vanilla, and egg yolks, stirring until smooth; add to flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Beat egg whites with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form; fold egg whites into batter. Let batter stand 10 minutes.

Heat a nonstick griddle or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat griddle or pan with cooking spray. Spoon about 1/4 cup batter per pancake onto griddle or pan. Cook 2 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked. Carefully turn pancakes over, and cook 2 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned.

Yield: 6 servings

Cranberry Pistachio Refrigerator Cookies

I just baked the last log of the Cranberry Pistachio Refrigerator Cookies that I made in December. My tummy is happy. Whoever thought of freezing cookie dough is a genius!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Garlicky Roasted Broccoli

To go with our dinner tonight, I picked up some fresh broccoli (trying to have more side dishes in our repertoire) and threw together this easy recipe from Food & Wine. It was very yummy and we liked the spiciness of the red pepper. This is a great go-to side dish because everything except the broccoli is stuff we'd typically have on-hand. Except the lemon wedges, but I think that's a stupid addition to the recipe anyway. Make-again!


Garlicky Roasted Broccoli

1 1/2 pounds broccoli, cut into long spears
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
Lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat oven to 450º. In a large bowl, toss the broccoli with the olive oil, garlic, ginger, salt and crushed red pepper. Spread the broccoli on a rimmed baking sheet and rost in the upper third of the oven for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender and browned in spots. Serve with lemon wedges.

Yield: 4 servings

Savory Stuffed Mushrooms

I've made these before, a long time ago, before I had my blog. I loved them and made them a few times. They're tasty and cheesy and good.

I recommend increasing the amount of cream cheese by a little or else there won't be enough to fill up the caps. I never use egg substitute so I just used an egg white. We also used panko instead of normal bread crumbs, which was a good choice.

They look HORRIBLE, but I promise it was yummy.
shroomy shroom

Savory Stuffed Mushrooms
From Cooking Light, April 2002

If you can't find whole portobello mushrooms, use about 24 cremini or large button mushrooms instead.

6 (4-inch) whole portobello mushrooms
Cooking spray
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup (2 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 cup egg substitute
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2/3 cup dry breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 450°.

Remove stems from caps; finely chop mushroom stems to measure 1/2 cup. Set mushroom caps aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add chopped mushroom stems and garlic; sauté 3 minutes, stirring often. Add wine; cook 2 minutes or until liquid evaporates. Remove from heat; cool 3 minutes. Add cheeses, onions, and peppers; stir until smooth. Spread cheese mixture evenly into mushroom caps.

Combine egg substitute and flour in a small bowl; stir well with a whisk. Place breadcrumbs in a shallow dish. Working with one mushroom cap at a time, dip, cheese side up, into egg mixture; dredge in breadcrumbs, coating only the mushroom cap. Place mushroom cap, cheese side up, on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining mushroom caps, egg mixture, and breadcrumbs. Lightly coat stuffed mushrooms with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 25 minutes or until tender and lightly browned.

Yield: 6 servings

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Spicy Mumbai Potatoes

So we're eating our Spicy Mumbai Potatoes, and as he finishes up his meal I say, "Mwahahahahaahaha there was tofu hidden in this!" and he says, "I know, I watched you put it in the food processor and mix it with the potatoes. But if I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't know there was tofu in it."

And that is the lesson to be learned from tonight's dinner: it is a good recipe if you want to sneak tofu into a meal. It wasn't spicy, so I added some cayenne pepper on top, and then it was very delicious. It's similar to the Stuffed Zucchini with Potatoes and Peas we've made in the past. We liked it a lot and would recommend it for those trying to make their significant others enjoy tofu. I'm not sure if we will make it again because I think I like the zucchini one better, but if we're in a spicy potato mood, I'd definitely pull this recipe back out.


Spicy Mumbai Potatoes
From Joe's Blog
Adapted from The Art of Tofu

4 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and rinsed well
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 cup finely minced leeks
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
4 tablespoons water
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
3/4 cup silken-firm tofu (we used the boxed Mori-Nu non-refrigerated), pureed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 425

Prick each potato with a fork a few times - lightly coat the potatoes with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil (if desired, sprinkle some salt on too). Bake until tender, about 40 to 60 minutes depending on size. When they are done, remove and set aside to cool slightly. Reduce oven temperature to 350.

Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in a skillet over medium. Add the leeks - sauté until softened and beginning to lightly brown, about 6 minutes. Stir in ginger and garlic - cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with coriander, cumin, black pepper and turmeric - cook for 2 more minutes. Stir in peas and water - cook just until peas are tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

Cut potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the potato, leaving a 1/4" shell. Mash the potato pulp with the tofu puree - stir in the leek mixture until well combined. Spoon the filling evenly between the potato shells.

Place stuffed shells on a baking sheet and place in the oven to bake until thoroughly heated through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with a sprinkling of the cilantro.

Makes 4 servings.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Rice and Peas (Risi e Bisi)

At first glance, this probably looks really boring. Few ingredients, few seasonings, little to no effort. But this, my friends, is comfort food at its finest. A rustic Italian equivalent of macaroni and cheese, or mashed potatoes. It's simple, absolutely delicious, and very easy to make. It is good for a cold night (like tonight) or a night in which one has had a nervous breakdown from stress due to wedding-planning (like tonight). We had it with some quick garlic bread (butter, garlic salt, parsley; wrap in foil, bake in oven) and were very happy. This is a definite make-again.

risi e bisi

Rice & Peas (Risi e Bisi)
Cooking Light, January 2008

This version of the Italian classic rice and pea dish is almost like a thick soup, though it can also be prepared as a risotto. Round out dinner with Radicchio, Endive, and Carrot Salad, peasant bread, a versatile cheese like Monte Veronese or Asiago, and a red Italian table wine.

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 cup Arborio rice or other short-grain rice
2 1/2 cups organic vegetable broth (such as Swanson Certified Organic)
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (2 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 (16-ounce) package frozen green peas, thawed

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until golden. Add rice to pan; sauté 1 minute. Add broth, 2 cups water, salt, and pepper to pan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cheese, parsley, and peas; cook 2 minutes.

Yield: 6 servings

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Roasted Garlic and Shallot Potato Soup with Cheesy Croutons

Garlic? Awesome. Shallots? Awesome. Potatoes? Awesome. Cheesy croutons? Awesome.

Seriously, what could be wrong with this soup? Nothing. It was delicious. It might be better as an appetizer soup, but we loved it as our dinner (we just added some extra croutons!). It is super delicious if you like all of the aforementioned ingredients. It's a little bit time-consuming, but not too bad. Things happen in intervals so you still have time to do other stuff between steps. The only change we made is that we didn't use blue cheese on our croutons, which turned out to be a good choice. I think it would have been too overpowering. We would definitely make this again.


Roasted Garlic and Shallot Potato Soup with Cheesy Croutons
Cooking Light, 12/07
Originally from CL 3/03; reprinted as a "Greatest Hits" recipe

5 whole garlic heads, unpeeled
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
10 shallots, unpeeled (about 3/4 pound)
2 cups coarsely chopped onion
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled baking potato (about 3/4 pound)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 cup 2% reduced-fat milk

16 (1/2-inch-thick) slices French bread baguette
Cooking spray
3/4 cup (3 ounces) crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400°

To prepare soup, remove white papery skins from garlic heads (do not peel or separate cloves); cut off tops, leaving root ends intact. Place garlic in a shallow roasting pan. Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over garlic; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cover with foil. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes. Add shallots to pan. Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over shallots; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cover and bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until tender and browned. Cool. Squeeze garlic to extract pulp; peel shallots. Discard skins. Set garlic pulp and shallots aside.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat; add onion. Cover and cook 15 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add garlic pulp, peeled shallots, and wine. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes.

Stir in broth, potato, and thyme; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until potato is tender. Cool slightly. Place half of potato mixture in a blender; process until smooth. Pour pureed mixture into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining potato mixture.

Return pureed mixture to pan; stir in milk, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper into pureed mixture. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Preheat oven to 400°.

To prepare croutons, place bread slices in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Lightly coat tops of bread with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Sprinkle cheeses evenly over bread slices, turning once. Bake 3 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve warm with soup.

Yield: 8 servings

Note added on 2/16/08: I'm going to attempt to get in on Sweetnicks' ARF/5-A-Day Challenge, and this recipe is the first one I am submitting, since it's made with antioxidant-rich Russet potatoes! My goal is to continue making at least one recipe per week that I can submit to this "challenge." It will be fun!

Frosted Vanilla Cupcakes

Our neighbors are really nice, and they are buying a house in West Virginia and escaping from our tiny apartment complex here in Maryland. So we decided to congratulate them by baking them some cupcakes. And of course we kept some for ourselves.

These are very basic vanilla cupcakes with a very basic buttercream frosting, but they are very tasty. They're also super-simple. We would make these again.

Yeah, we used Christmas muffin cups, so what? You got a problem with Santa?

Frosted Vanilla Cupcakes
From Everyday Food

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
Vanilla Frosting (recipe follows)

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a standard (12-cup) muffin tin with paper liners. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

2. With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until combined. Beat in vanilla.

3. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in flour mixture and sour cream in alternating batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups.

4. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean and the top is springy to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely before spreading with frosting.

Vanilla Frosting
Makes 1 cup

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1. In a small bowl, beat together butter, sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt until light and fluffy. Use immediately, or cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate up to 3 days. Before using, bring to room temperature.

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Vegetable and Chickpea Curry

Another recipe from The Time Before Gibby, so I am going to re-post the recipe here instead of linking to the original post!

This recipe has consistently been one of my favorite recipes, and has been one of the only delicious things to come out of my crockpot. We love it, I love it, it makes great leftovers, and it will continue to be repeated many, many times.

Side note: We never, ever make it with the spinach. I love spinach, but I don't think it belongs in this curry.


Vegetable and Chickpea Curry
Cooking Light

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup (1/4-inch-thick) slices carrot
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
3 cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1 1/2 cups cubed peeled baking potato
1 cup diced green bell pepper
1 cup (1-inch) cut green beans
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14-ounce) can vegetable broth
3 cups fresh baby spinach
1 cup light coconut milk
6 lemon wedges

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and carrot; cover and cook 5 minutes or until tender. Add curry powder, sugar, ginger, garlic, and chile; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Place onion mixture in a 5-quart electric slow cooker. Stir in chickpeas and next 8 ingredients (through broth). Cover and cook on HIGH 6 hours or until vegetables are tender. Add spinach and coconut milk; stir until spinach wilts. Serve with lemon wedges.

Makes 6 servings and tastes excellent warmed up in the microwave the next day.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Buffalo Wing Pizza

We watched an episode of Dinner:Impossible on the Food Network where Guy Fieri and Robert Irvine competed with teams of children to concoct the best kid-friendly summer-camp foods. They each had to prepare certain items, like pizza, pasta, and dessert. Guy Fieri's team made this buffalo chicken pizza that all the kids loved and it looked very tasty. So I decided to veg it up and make it this week. Bought all the ingredients, decided to make it for our first 'date night' at home...

And then I regretted my decision. First, I used buffalo "chick'n" wings from Morningstar farms, which are made of soy. Second, salad dressing on a pizza? It started to sound nauseating and icky. All day today I tried to think of back-up options for when this meal inevitably failed: maybe we have some extra dumplings from earlier in the week? Tater tots? Grilled cheese sandwiches?

It turns out all my worrying was for naught. The pizza turned out quite delicious. Not at all nauseating. We preferred the sections with ranch dressing versus the blue cheese, but even the blue cheese parts were good. The soy chicken was surprisingly delicious, even on its own - a drastic change from the cardboard-like soy chicken I have cooked with before (I am not a fan of the fake poultries). We were pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed this. I can't say we would make it again, but it's a great, kid-friendly meal (or Super Bowl meal) that is tasty and fun.

None of our pictures turned out well, so you don't get a picture.

Buffalo Wing Pizza
Dinner: Impossible

1/4 cup olive oil
2 large white onions, sliced
2 (16-inch) pizza shells
1/2 cup hot sauce, your choice
2 packages prepared pre-cooked chicken nuggets (or soy chicken, of course)
1 (8-ounce) package shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 (8-ounce) package shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1/2 cup blue cheese dressing

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a fry pan over medium heat, reserving the balance. Cook the onions until they caramelize.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spread 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil over each of the 2 pizza shells. Spoon 1/4 cup of the hot sauce over each of the pizza shells. Lay out 1 package of chicken nuggets on each pizza shell. Distribute the caramelized onions over the 2 pizzas. Sprinkle the Monterey jack cheese and mozzarella cheese over the pizzas. Drizzle ranch and blue cheese dressings over the pizza toppings and bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and chicken is heated through.

Yield: 12 slices

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Banh Mi Chay

We've made these Vietnamese Sandwiches several times, but I've never posted a photo of them. Since we made some tonight, we took some photos.

I like that the tofu kind of looks like meat. It doesn't taste "tofu-y" either, because of all the five-spice seasonings and shallots and everything. We really love these sandwiches. They are tasty. You can still make them with regular meat though.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Asian Dumpling Soup

We made our Asian Dumpling Soup again tonight, and it was delicious as usual. I used Trader Joe's Thai Vegetable Potstickers, and I used coleslaw mix instead of the cabbage and carrots. No shiitakes.


Monday, February 04, 2008

Update on the Mandarin Cream Delight

The Mandarin Cream Delight we made last night is still delicious today. In fact, it's actually more delicious today because the cookie base is softer and it all blends together so nicely.

We loved it so much we decided to make a tribute to it. Here is a little stop-motion montage of Gibby eating his dessert tonight:

Vegetarian Harira

When I read this recipe, for some reason I pictured it as being a dark, thick puree. It is not. It is a basic stew. It has a lot of delicious flavors and was pretty good, but it was not at all what I pictured. We tried it in keeping with our attempt at trying new cuisines. This is what Wikipedia has to say about harira:

Harira is the traditional Algerian and Moroccan soup. It is usually eaten during dinner in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to break the fasting day. It is considered as a meal in itself. It is also served to relatives and friends after a special celebration, such as the morning after a wedding night, and its recipe varies then slightly from the harira eaten during Ramadan. Of course, it could be prepared any time, however, some families prefer to stick to tradition and serve it on special occasions.

So instead of eating it on a special day, we ate it on a Monday. And ours didn't have lamb in it, since it was vegetarian. Oh and we used regular lentils instead of red lentils since we couldn't find any red lentils, and just basic vegetable broth instead of some fancy mushroom broth. But that's OK. It was good, but we probably won't make it again.


Vegetarian Harira
Cooking Light, June 2007

1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 cup warm water
Pinch of saffron threads
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/8 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup organic mushroom broth (such as Pacific Natural Foods)
3/4 cup chopped seeded plum tomato
1/4 cup dried small red lentils
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Combine 1 cup warm water and saffron; let stand 2 minutes. Add 1/8 teaspoon salt, ginger, red pepper, cinnamon, and garlic to pan; cook 1 minute. Add saffron mixture, broth, tomato, lentils, and chickpeas; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until lentils are tender. Stir in cilantro, parsley, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt.

Yield: 2 servings

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Mandarin Cream Delight

Usually on Sundays, I bake some sort of cookie, sweet bread, or muffin for us to snack on and eat for lunches during the week. But today I decided to make a real dessert - not just a cookie or a pastry. This recipe involves a cookie base topped with a mandarin orange-vanilla pudding and Cool Whip. We used sugar-free cool whip, sugar-free pudding mix, and all light sour cream. I made it in the morning and it sat in the refrigerator until after dinner. Although the cookie base was hard to break through to cut squares, it turned out to be quite delicious. We really liked it, and it was a nice change from our usual sweets. The mandarin oranges are not overpowering and add just a little extra flavor. We would make this again, especially as a make-ahead dessert for a party or event.


Mandarin Cream Delight
Cooking Light, 2000

9 tablespoons butter or stick margarine, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray

2 (11-ounce) cans mandarin oranges in light syrup, undrained
1/4 cup sugar
1 (16-ounce) carton fat-free sour cream
1 (8-ounce) carton low-fat sour cream
2 (3.4-ounce) packages vanilla instant pudding mix or 2 (1.4-ounce) packages sugar-free vanilla instant pudding mix
1 (8-ounce) container frozen reduced-calorie whipped topping, thawed
Mint sprigs (optional)

To prepare crust, combine the butter, 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed of a mixer until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add flour and salt to butter mixture, beating at low speed until well-blended.
Preheat oven to 400°.

Pat dough into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray, and pierce bottom of dough with a fork. Bake at 400° for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool crust on a wire rack.

To prepare filling, drain mandarin oranges over a large bowl, reserving 1/2 cup juice. Combine juice, 1/4 cup sugar, sour creams, and pudding mix in a large bowl. Stir in the orange segments. Spoon orange mixture over crust, spreading evenly. Top with whipped topping. Chill 1 hour. Garnish with mint, if desired.

Yield: 16 servings

Black Bean Burgers with Spicy Cucumber and Red Pepper Relish

I picked this recipe for dinner because I wanted a nice burger to go on the hamburger buns I made in the morning. Though the 'relish' mixture has to sit for 2 hours, the actual prep work is minimal and dinner came together in less than 10 minutes when it was time to actually cook. I almost didn't buy the fresh dill, since I usually avoid fresh herbs, but the dill turned out to be very important to the dish and added a lot to it. We were surprised at how much we really enjoyed these sandwiches. I'm sure the buns helped a lot, but the burger itself, along with the relish, were delicious. We would make these again.


Black Bean Burgers with Spicy Cucumber and Red Pepper Relish
Cooking Light, June 2001

The cucumber releases some liquid while chilling, so serve relish with a slotted spoon. Shape the patties, and wrap them in wax paper to transport them from the kitchen to the patio grill. Serve with baked potato chips and dill pickle spears.

2/3 cup finely chopped peeled cucumber
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon finely chopped dill
1/8 teaspoon salt
Dash of ground red pepper

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 large egg
Cooking spray
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
4 (1 1/2-ounce) hamburger buns
Dill sprigs (optional)

To prepare relish, combine first 8 ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and chill 2 hours.

To prepare burgers, place beans in a large bowl; partially mash with a fork. Stir in breadcrumbs and next 5 ingredients (breadcrumbs through egg). Divide bean mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty.

Prepare grill.

Place patties on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 5 minutes on each side or until thoroughly heated. Spread 1 tablespoon mayonnaise on the bottom half of each bun; top each with a patty, 1/4 cup relish, and top half of bun. Garnish with dill sprigs, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings

Moomie's Beautiful Burger Buns

These burger buns are legendary on the internet. I've heard tons about them from other food blogs and food bulletin boards, and they were apparently originally posted on another bulletin board and found their way onto the King Arthur Flour website, etc. They are supposed to be the best recipe for homemade hamburger buns.

And it's true!

They were so easy, since we have a breadmaker (although you can make it without a bread machine) and they came out looking nice and tasting delicious. Our dinner of black bean burgers was good, but probably wouldn't have been nearly as good if it weren't for the delicious buns. I plan to make these any time we have burgers. Will that happen? I guess we'll see. But I'll try to make them whenever possible, at least!


Moomie's Beautiful Burger Buns
The following recipe created quite a stir when it was first posted on our “bakers sharing” site, Baker after baker tried these buns and declared them THE BEST. Soft, vaguely sweet and golden-yellow from the butter and egg, these simple buns are perfect for burgers, but also fine for any kind of sandwich. Or shape them into round balls and crowd them close together in a pan to make dinner rolls.

Just to give folks unfamiliar with a taste of the site, I’ll reprint Moomie’s recipe just as she wrote it: Thanks, Moomie!

1 cup water
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 egg
3 1/4 cups flour*
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast

*Ed. Note: We think King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose is a good choice, naturally!

Place all ingredients in your bread machine. Select dough. Allow to run cycle.

Dump out onto lightly floured surface. Divide into 8 pieces. With each piece, slap into a bun shape. Usually four or five slaps will do it. Place on greased cookie sheets or your bun pans, cover; rise about 30 to 40 minutes.

Bake in preheated 375°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes till golden. Cool on wire racks. I like to add a teaspoon of onion powder and about 1/2 teaspoon dried onion to the dough in the bread machine. It makes a light onion-y flavor that is wonderful!

When I do these for burgers, I split the bun, butter, and fry in a skillet till brown. Yummy! They make great sandwich buns too! Nice and soft! You can’t go wrong with this recipe!

Ed. Note: Moomie’s right; you really can’t go wrong with these buns. If you don’t have a bread machine, simply mix and knead the dough by whatever method you prefer. Let it rise for about an hour before shaping into eight big buns.

Yield: 8 buns

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Moroccan Vegetables

Tonight we made Moroccan Vegetables again. We've made it before using our Madras curry powder, but tonight we used each of the spices called for in lieu of curry powder. This was not a good decision. It was still very good, but it was not as good as it is when you use a high-quality, spicy curry powder. Still a make-again, but with our changes.

Here is a photo we took of it tonight:

Friday, February 01, 2008

Spaghetti Pie

The first time I made Spaghetti Pie, I was living by myself here in Maryland. It was October 2006. Since then, we have made it sooooo many times, because it is sooooooooo good. You can make it with meat, or you can sub soy crumbles like we do. No one would ever know the difference!

Obviously, we had it for dinner tonight.

Even though we've made it so many times, we've never taken a picture. So here is a picture: