Tuesday, September 28, 2010

cheesy green enchiladas

This is a meal that I adapted from an old Vegetarian Times Magazine. You may have noticed that I am not a vegetarian, but I do love vegetarian meals. We often go for days without a bite of meat. I must say, these were very satisfying and very low calorie. I served the enchiladas with my Texas Caviar, which you can find here on the blog under snacks. The enchiladas would have been better if I also served lime wedges and avocados slices in keeping with the 'green' name. A dollop of sour cream never hurts either. Cilantro for garnish too. 

Here's what you need:
24 oz fat free, large curd cottage cheese
1 C shredded cheese - today I used reduced fat with no noticeable difference - every calorie counts, eh?
1 14 oz can of fire-roasted tomatoes with green chilis - drained.
1/2 - 1  t cumin ( I used a teaspoon and it was a little too much for my taste....start on the low end )
low fat flour tortillas
green salsa

As you can see from the picture above, I did not use the canned tomatoes..... I went with fresh tomatoes from the garden and a small can of chopped green chilis - only difference was the the fresh tomatoes were very wet.... making a 'soggy' enchilada. Maybe too soggy for some of you, but fine for us.

Here's what you do:
Rinse and drain the cottage cheese.....yes, I know, but do it anyway. Let it drain for about 15-20 minutes.
Mix tomatoes, chilis, cottage cheese, cumin and 1/2 C shredded cheese
Fill tortillas with about 1/2 C cheese/tomato mixture.
Place in a sprayed casserole.

As you can see, the fresh tomatoes created a puddle in the bottom of the casserole. Most of the liquid was absorbed by the tortilla. Using a drained can of tomatoes would be drier.

Smother the enchiladas with green salsa and cover with the remaining 1/2 C cheese. Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

One great thing about vegetarian meals is their low cost. This was a hearty meal, there were leftovers for lunch the next day, and it hardly cost a thing. Give it a try. I'd love to know what you think about this one.

Friday, September 24, 2010

mom's minestrone

Mom's Minestrone

OK, this isn't real minestrone soup, I realize that. We just call it that because it is great with cheese tortellini and Parmesan cheese. I'm not even sure it's my mom's recipe, but that's what family tradition calls it.  I do have an outstanding authentic minestrone soup recipe which I will post  later. I made this soup with a  girlfriend; we got together to make huge batches of soup for freezing. We also made a very nice white chili that day.

This soup is very easy to assemble:
diced onion, celery, carrot (all to taste, about 1 C each)
4C chicken stock
- please do yourself a favor and get in the habit of using real, low sodium stock and not canned chicken broth.... it really makes a difference. Of course, using home made is the best option.
1 C water
1 T beef crystals
1/2 t dried oregano, 1/2 t dried basil, 1/2 t garlic powder
1 large can stewed tomatoes ( you will cut them up with kitchen scissors)

Cook all this for about 1 hour on a low simmer

Then add:
1 can mixed veggies with all the liquid
1 can light kidney beans with all the liquid
1 can baby peas with all the liquid
1 small can garbanzo beans (aka chick peas) with all the liquid

Cook for another hour or so.

As you can see from the photo above, there is one more can to be added and that's the secret ingredient to this soup - Cream of Mushroom soup..... be sure to use a high quality brand.

Put the cream soup in a small bowl and whisk in a bit of the hot liquid, adding more and more of it until the creamed soup is not clumpy at all.... then pour it all back in the pot of hot soup.

Serve with tortellini which has been cooked separately and lots of good Parmesan cheese.

I don't really cook with canned products very often, but somehow, in this soup it really works. As I mentioned before, this soup freezes well.

Here is a special hello to my young friend Peter, who was unable to help with the cooking this day.  He is a true soup lover! 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

maple-mustard chicken

Maple-Mustard Chicken
This recipe comes directly from my favorite food magazine- Cuisine At Home (December 2008.) I give it 5 stars because it's easy, delicious, different, and very reasonable to throw together on a week night. I have not changed the recipe at all - very nice just the way it was written. Tonight I used thin slices of the chicken in a huge salad...... leftovers were for sandwiches the next day.

Here's what you need:
3 T Dijon (no substitutions)
2 T maple syrup (use the real stuff here, you want the flavor of maple, not just sugar)
1 T whole-grain mustard
1 T brown sugar
1/4 t dried thyme (secret ingredient, please don't substitute.... )
boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper

Here's what you do:
Mix the mustards, syrup, sugar and thyme to create this beautiful glaze - look at that color!
Line a baking sheet with foil (you'll be glad)
generously salt and pepper the chicken (I usually do not add salt when I cook, but when baking chicken I think it's needed..... )
Brush chicken with glaze and bake at 350 degrees for about 30-45 minutes.
While chicken is baking, continue to brush on more and more of the glaze.

Cooked chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees. I always use a meat thermometer to be safe.

You might notice that (once again) I split the chicken in half width-wise..... I like it thinner. The baking time above is for a full breast.

Friday, September 17, 2010



Maybe you've never worked with filo dough. Maybe you've never eaten much feta cheese. Maybe you've never tried much Greek food. Well, this is the perfect recipe to help get past any apprehension you might have about this excellent arena of flavor - Greek Spinach Pie. It's a lovely combination of spinach, cheeses, herbs, garlic and a most excellent crust. I can't quite explain filo dough - it's light and flaky, but it's also substantial and kinda chewy once baked. It makes the perfect dough for apple strudel too! A hint - when working with filo dough, it must be completely thawed and you must work fairly quickly. It is a very forgiving dough, but it can get dried out easily and because it is so thin, it will break and cause frustration.... Just treat it gently and you'll have great success. 

Here's what you need:
1 box filo dough - never to be confused with puff pastry!
          I'm not sure if it's spelled  f-i-l-o, or f-i-l-l-o, or p-h-y-l-l-o, but none of that matters- you'll love it.  It is found in the frozen food aisle near the frozen bread dough.
2 boxes of frozen chopped spinach - thawed. Be sure to 'wring' it out a bit.... don't want it too wet.
2 C minced or chopped onion (depends on how much onion you want to bite into I guess)
5-6 cloves garlic - minced
8 oz Greek feta cheese
1 C large curd cottage cheese
1 t oregano
1 t basil
2 t flour
lots of good olive oil
pastry brush ( a must for this dish...)

Here's what you do:
Saute the onions in a bit of olive oil until they are tender, but not brown. Add the herbs and garlic and cook a few more minutes. Add the spinach and cook until it is a beautiful mixture of veggies.
Then add 2 T flour and stir and cook for about 2 more minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. This flour will help give your spanakopita body. 

In the mean time:
Brush some olive oil in and around a glass 9x13 dish
Carefully unroll the filo, carefully unpeel one of the beautiful sheets, and carefully lay it in the dish. Brush some oil on top of the dough.
Continue layering and oiling the sheets of dough until you have 9 sheets of filo in the pan. You may use the brush to crunch down the edges of the sheets to keep it under control.

Don't feel like to you need to saturate the filo with oil.... 

Crumble the feta with a fork and add the cottage cheese. Mix well and add lots of freshly ground black pepper. ( I am thinking that next time I make this, I might whirl the cheeses in my food processor to make it completely smooth... I wonder how that texture would be?)
Combine the cheeses with the sauteed vegetables and put 1/2 of this mixture on the dough.

Layer 5 more filo sheets over the top of the filling brushing with olive oil each time.

Add the remaining spinach mixture.

Finish by layering 9 more filo sheets over the entire thing.... be sure to keep oiling between each layer. Tuck in any stray dough with the pastry brush until it is all neat and tidy.

Bake 375 degrees for about 40 minutes or until nice and brown.  Let it sit for a while before cutting. Enjoy! It's outstanding the first night and it is outstanding as leftovers - I eat it for breakfast the next day! 

Ready for the oven.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

tomato press

Tomato Press
I only plant 4 or 5 tomatoes each summer in my garden, but the amount of fruit those plants produce always amazes me! They just keep coming and I hate to waste any of them. I roast them, I make sauce, I make soup...... We eat tomato sandwiches, BLTs.......

If you make your own tomato sauce and you love kitchen gadgets, then this might just be for you. I bought my tomato press about 20 years ago from Lillian Vernon.  That company does not carry this particular product any longer, but this machine is very easy to find all over the internet.  Click here to see a nice one
Today, I cooked onions, garlic, zucchini, herbs and lots and lots of tomatoes. My largest pot was filled to the brim!  After cooking down a few hours, cool the mixture and begin the 'pressing.'
As you can see, the cooked veggies go in the top and as you turn the crank, the peels, seeds and pulp gets scraped out.  You are left with a beautiful, clean, pure sauce.... I usually just freeze it like this and then cook it down for a bit before serving. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

texas caviar

Texas Caviar
This recipe has been floating around for a while now in all its variations. I've seen it at every potluck and open house. I must say, though, this particular recipe is an excellent combination of all those familiar flavors - we go through a huge bowl of this very quickly in our house. I got this recipe from my girlfriend's husband.  I recommend Tostitos Brand Scoops for this. Aren't they the best chip out there for dips?
Here's what you need:
1 C celery
1 C green pepper
1/2 C red pepper
1 can black beans -drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans - drained and rinsed ( I think today I used light kidney beans which were fine)
1 can white shoe-peg corn (or regular corn)
1/2 C red onion

If you're going to eat it right away, another addition is avocado and cilantro. Don't add these till the last minute so the avocado stays nice and green and firm and the cilantro stays nice and green and firm......

To make the marinade:
3/4 C cider vinegar
1/3 C sugar
Heat in a small sauce pan until sugar is dissolved
1/2 C canola oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix it all together and enjoy!

I had to include these photos of some beautiful corn I got last week in Northern Michigan. Fresh corn for my Texas Caviar and a huge bag full in the freezer for later.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

spiced rum cake

Spiced Rum Cake
If you like the flavor of spiced rum, you will love this cake! Wow! It was great.... first time I have made it, but I'll be making it again for sure. The glaze is fantastic! 

Here's what you need for the cake:
1 box yellow cake mix
1 package instant vanilla pudding
4 eggs
1/2 C cold water
1/2 C cooking oil ( I always use Smart Balance or Canola oils)
1/2 C spiced rum

Here's what you do for the cake:
Mix the above ingredients and pour into a prepared bundt pan. If you have trouble getting a cake out of a bundt pan, please consider using Pam for Baking! It never fails!

Bake 325 degrees for 1 hour, checking it at about 50 minutes.
Cool slightly, then invert (with confidence!) on a serving platter.
Here's what you do for the glaze:
melt a stick of butter (no substitutions here)
add 1/4 C water and 1 C sugar
boil for 5 full minutes, stirring constantly
remove from heat and add 1/2 C rum 
You can see how dark and beautiful the glaze becomes once the rum has been added; it is very thin. Try not to eat too much of it at this point!

Gently poke the cake with a skewer or long fork on the top and sides. Drizzle the glaze over the top and sides of the cake with a spoon.
Be patient.
We also used a pastry brush to paint on the glaze. Keep being patient. Believe it or not, all that glaze did eventually soak into the cake - and it was worth the effort. 
Now here's the rest of the spiced rum cake story.... we ate about one third of it for dinner that evening and then all went our separate ways. The house was empty, except for our small, 14 pound dog.... and here you can guess the ending of this story.... yes, he ate almost the rest of this entire cake! He was pretty sick the next day, and even the following day.... just laid around and recovered from his feast.... I couldn't bring myself to post a picture of the destruction..... it wasn't pretty. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

zucchini-crust pizza

Zucchini Crust Pizza
From the Moosewood Cookbook, 1992 edition, this is a most delicious and gourmet meal. I think even zucchini haters will love this one..... It is a little fussy to make and it takes some 'babysitting' while baking, but the end result is worth it. I've been making this for years and each time I do, it is more and more beautiful - practice makes perfect!
Here's what you need:
olive oil
2 C packed, grated zucchini
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 C flour
1/2 C grated mozzarella
1/2 grated Parmesan
1/2 t basil

extra cheese for topping the pizza crust and any other toppings you like - today we used just a bit more Parmesan, some crumbled Feta and fresh tomatoes.
Here's what you do:
Preheat oven 400 degrees
generously oil a baking sheet
Mix the crust ingredients well and with your fingers, shape the mixture into a 10 inch circle. It will seem very wet...
Bake for about 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and brush with a bit of olive oil - this will help brown the top. At this point, it's a good idea to use a metal spatula and loosen it a bit from the bottom.

Bake for about 20 more minutes - this is the 'babysitting' part. You want it nice and brown, but not burned - remember, you will bake it again with the toppings.

Keep using the metal spatula to keep it from sticking. 
When the crust is done, top is with a few simple toppings. It really doesn't need much because the crust is very flavorful. 
I usually make lots of these at one time and gently freeze them on wax paper lined baking sheets for a few hours. They then can be gently layered between wax paper and wrapped in plastic to go back to the freezer. 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

kids in the kitchen

A Beautiful Chocolate Cake

Last week, my 18 year old son and his girlfriend informed me that they wanted to make a cake.  Alright, I thought..... (but what about the dishes?) I was thinking they would buy a box and make a 9X13 sheet cake (no harm there.) No, they said, they wanted to make it from scratch. (OK, I thought..... what about the mess?)  And they wanted it to have four layers. 

We leafed through the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and they decided on the Devil's Food Cake. (great, I thought.... chocolate....)  I had all the ingredients in my pantry, so with just a few pointers from me, they began their baking project. I ran errands.

As you can see, I came home to this beautiful, beautiful cake and a spotlessly clean kitchen! 
Four layers of chocolate goodness and raspberries from our garden.
 "Next time, I'll put a layer of raspberry jam between two of the layers." Nice idea, wouldn't you agree?  
My son (the engineer/baker!) left this week for his first year of college.....  How about some kudos to him for this great cake?