Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Creamy Spicy Chili Mac n Cheese

My favorite dishes are the ones that are inspired by the people I love. My sister just came to visit from Maine and we had a lovely time churning out delicious food from my small kitchen. It brought to mind a memory of making late night nachos with my sister and how amazing they tasted (granted, we’d been drinking sparkling wine most of the evening, so pretty much anything was going to hit the spot). Those nachos and my fabulous foodie sister inspired this semi-fusion dish. Why combine Chili with Mac & Cheese? Creamy cheese sauce is perfect in combination with spicy chili. Starchy, earthy beans are just marvelous with pasta as well. I served it with an avocado, cilantro and greens salad tossed in a garlic-y dressing. I recommend garnishing each serving with crushed tortilla chips.

Chili Mac n Cheese

Serves 8

15 ounces chili*

4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated

12 ounces elbow macaroni

3 cups milk

2 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder

1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pepper, to taste

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt, then cook according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, make your roux: sift together flour, mustard powder and cayenne. In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, melt butter. Whisk in flour and cook over medium-low flame, whisking almost constantly, until the mixture turns golden and the flour no longer smells raw. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly, until you’ve incorporated a half cup of milk with no lumps. Then you can add the rest of the milk at a more steady pace.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Season roux and milk mix with pepper and salt and bring it to a point just before boiling. Turn off heat. Add 3/4 of the cheese and mix until melted.

4. In a greased, 9 x 9” baking dish, combine pasta and cheese sauce, then stir in chili. Top with remaining cheese and heat 10 to 15 minutes, or until chili is heated through and cheese has become melty.

Serve hot garnished with crushed tortilla chips and accompanied by a salad.

*I used Annie's medium chilli to make things easier, but if you'd like to use homemade I suggest my beef and bean chili.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Best Breakfast Burritos

In honor of National Burrito Day I’d like to share with you my favorite on the go breakfast: breakfast burritos.

My two year old has places to go and things to examine and tinker with. I never thought about stocking my freezer with homemade ready made meals until I found myself grabbing freezer burritos and toast for breakfast most every morning; pretty much anything I could munch one handed and make easily as I looked after my busy baby. Toast wasn’t very nutritious or filling and freezer burritos were starting to get expensive, not to mention even the best of them had preservatives or more sodium than I was comfortable with.

My foodie friend Justine has introduced me to homemade breakfast burritos. We have made them a few times to stock up on quick and easy breakfasts, or pre-packed lunches for our toddlers. Through trial and delicious error, we’ve found a recipe we really love. Hopefully you will enjoy them as much as our family does!

Best Breakfast Burritos

Makes 20 servings

20 flour tortillas

2 cans black beans, drained

3 large russet potatoes, diced

13 jumbo eggs

1/4 cup milk

1 large zucchini, grated

1 ounce raw spinach, roughly chopped with stems removed

1/2 yellow onion, diced

1 jar (16 oz) chipotle or other medium tomato salsa

9 ounces sharp cheddar, grated

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon butter

1. Preheat the oven to 400. Grease a 13 x 9 baking sheet and lay potatoes in a single layer. Season lightly with salt and pepper and spray all over with cooking oil spray. Roast potatoes for 15 minutes.

2. While potatoes are cooking, melt the butter in a large heavy bottomed pan and saute onion and zucchini until nearly cooked through. At the end of the cooking time add spinach to slightly wilt.

3. Whisk eggs together with milk and a small pinch each of salt and pepper. Add the eggs to the pan with the veggies and cook the eggs until they are just slightly underdone. Set aside.

3. When the potatoes have roasted 15 minutes, remove from oven. In a large heavy bottomed pan heat oil. Toss potatoes into the pan, along with salsa and beans. Cook until the potatoes are soft and have started to absorb the salsa.

4. Assemble the burritos: lay a small amount egg scramble across the center of the burrito. Top with a sprinkling of potato/bean mixture, then sprinkle with cheddar. For each burrito you will probably need less than 1/2 ounce grated cheese, around 1/4 cup of beans and roughly 2/3 scrambled egg. To form burritos: fold two parallel sides of the burrito in tightly. Rotate tortilla so the folds are facing in a vertical direction from your body. With your pinkies resting gently on the folds, roll your burrito up snugly. Wrap (those you aren't eating immediately) in aluminum foil.

Enjoy one or two burritos while they are fresh and freeze the rest. To reheat from frozen: wrap in a napkin or paper towel and microwave on high for 50 seconds. Flip and microwave on high an additional 50 seconds. Let stand 1 minute.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Reuben Style Beer Poached Bratwurst

One of my favorite things to do is to cook with my foodie friends. Together we can tackle bigger projects than we might attempt alone. So when a friend suggested we make homemade sauerkraut I eagerly agreed. It came out exceptionally tasty, with more personality than the store bought stuff. Unlike the canned sauerkraut, homemade sauerkraut contains loads of beneficial probiotics. More than that, it has been inspiring me to cook some especially lovely sausage based meals of late.

Recently I was inspired to try my bratwurst “reuben” style and it was my favorite experiment yet!

Some of you might be wondering what a “Reuben” is. It is a sour and sweet, salty sandwich style which is usually served with roast beef, pastrami or brisket as the protein. I have had a marvelous version with tempeh, so the sandwich style is very versatile. It always includes sauerkraut, thousand island dressing (what I refer to as sauce below) and warm, gooey Swiss cheese. It also includes such variations as mustard and sauteed onions. It is a fabulous, complex combination that delivers tart, salty, sweet, rich and fatty all in a single bite.

These can be made with hotdogs, or even be made vegetarian with soy hotdogs (just poach in water).

Try it out, especially if you are planning to grill tonight.

“Reuben” Style Bratwurst
(Makes 5 servings)

For the sausage & poaching liquid:

1 lb pork bratwurst (should be about 5 per pkg)
10 oz ipa or darker beer
1/2 onion, sliced
1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil

For the sauce:

2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon ketchup
1/2 Tablespoon dill pickle relish

Toppings & extras:

5 buns or small rolls
Homemade sauerkraut (store bought is a fine substitute)
~3 oz sliced Swiss cheese

1. in a pan over medium heat, bring the beer to a low boil with onions, garlic and butter. Add sausages, cover and reduce to a summer. Poach for about 14 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl, cover and set in fridge.

3. Remove sausages and onions from liquid. Drain pan and pat sausages dry. If you are going to grill the sausages* brush them with oil. Allow them to brown on one side over indirect heat for 3 - 5 minutes.

3 Flip and cover with cheese, then cover with a baking dish so cheese gets properly melted while the other side browns. If you like to toast your buns/rolls, put them on the grill over indirect heat while the sausages brown, another 3 - 5 minutes (watch them carefully because they burn quickly).

4. Remove sausages and rolls/buns from grill and serve sausages in buns/rolls. Pile with onions, sauerkraut and sauce. I served mine with baked seasoned fries and steamed peas.

*You can pan fry the sausages in the olive oil for ~5 minutes per side, and you can also use the same process for melting the cheese.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Quick Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta

Nutty, slightly sweet and very mild creamy butternut squash pasta is the perfect dish to throw together when you're recovering from a surgery. Which I am. An elective surgery that will take more than a week to heal properly and unfortunately takes me away from my wonderful toddler. My husband has stepped up to care for both me and our two year old son. It's an exhausting double job and hasn't left him any time to cook. This recipe, which turned out surprisingly delicious, was an attempt to use what we had in the pantry and to be a snap to assemble.

To make this into an exceptionally easy recipe will require getting your hands on some pre made butternut squash soup*, or having some leftover to hand. Once you have that this is probably the quickest, easiest pasta dish you will ever prepare in your life. And it is delectable and warming on a cold night.

Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta

1/2 cup butternut squash soup
12 ounces small pasta shells
1 ounce grated parmesan
1 Tablespoon butter
Tiny pinch grated nutmeg
Salt, to taste

1. In a large pot bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. Drain pasta. While the same pot is still hot, melt butter and add a sprinkle of nutmeg. Stir in the soup, then the pasta while it's still hot. Grate parmesan generously over pasta and stir to melt.

Serve hot, garnished with minced parsley.

*our premade soup was very basic and had only stock, squash puree and a small pinch of powdered onion and garlic.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Zesty Chicken Tortellini Soup

Earlier this week both of my guys were sick. It’s been miserably cold out here (well, for California, anyway) and colds seem to be everywhere. I know how comforting chicken soup can be when you’re sick, and I know some that are convinced that chicken fat holds natural antibiotics. I think that special food always makes me feel better when I’m sick. Because it’s high in vitamin c, I “snuck” some parsley in. I wouldn’t say it added much to the flavor, but it was nice to think of my soup having extra cold fighting powers. Because my toddler has been sort of picky lately (the horrors!), and especially so when he is congested, I decided to make this chicken soup more tempting with tortellini and do a sort of play on tortellini en brodo. A version of the dish with a hearty soup as its staple. And just for fun and because it always helps to clean out the sinuses, a bit of a kick with crushed red pepper flakes. The tortellinis worked to convince him to eat the solids out of the soup, carrots, chicken and all. He had great fun holding the bowl in both hands and slowly slurping the broth.

Perhaps the best thing about this soup is that it comes together quickly. Surprisingly, you can still build some excellent flavors in that short amount of time.

Thankfully, my guys are all better. It was probably just rest and time. But I would like it believe it was my soup. That magical chicken tortellini soup.

Chicken Tortellini Soup

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cups mirepoix
2 Tablespoons minced Italian parsley
2 Tablespoons olive oil
8 cups low chicken broth
16 ounces cheese stuffed tortellini
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons herbed salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Cut chicken into 1” pieces. Heat your soup pot over medium heat. Add olive oil, then mirepoix, parsley, crushed red pepper 1 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper.

2. When mirepoix has been cooked through, add garlic and saute for one minute, stirring constantly. Add chicken stock, chicken, remaining salt and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.

3. Add tortellini. Cover and cook until tortellini is tender, up to 10 minutes.

Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Autumn Gumbo Pie with Herbed Biscuits

I’m hosting a pie challenge all this month at Foodies+. The challenge is to try to use two or more ingredients from the challenge list. When I saw that two of the three proteins were chicken and shrimp it immediately suggested gumbo to me. I realized the rich, zesty, tangy stew would be perfect for turnips and either pumpkin or squash. To cut down on labor I chose butternut squash, since it is available here peeled and chopped. The slightly tart, spicy and intensely flavorful gravy was a perfect match for the sometimes too sweet squash, mellowing out its sweetness and enhancing its richness. It was also a great match for the turnips, similarly offsetting their sweetness as well as their vegetal aroma.
I used chicken breakfast sausage, but you can use any kind of sausage you like, just be aware that highly seasoned sausages, especially spicy sausages, will add extra flavors to this already incredibly flavorful dish.
My family will not eat okra, so I've left it out, even as a thickener. I've found the amount of roux I made was sufficient.
After covering the layer of gumbo in the baking dish with biscuit dough, you will have dough leftover (about 1/3 of the total amount). You can bake it up to eat with the gumbo pie or cut it into rounds and freeze it raw. If you freeze it raw lay it in a single layer on a baking sheet and once it's frozen through store in the freezer in an airtight freezer bag. I used the biscuit recipe from this blog post: https://www.thespruce.com/homemade-chicken-and-biscuits-3052974 and they were fabulous. Use any herbs you like in the biscuits, fresh or dried. I used dried parsley and it imparted a nice little herbaceous flavor.

Make ahead: serve this when company comes, since it can go in the oven about a half hour before your dinner guests arrive. The gumbo can even be made the night before, then kept in the fridge overnight, until pie is ready to be assembled.

Autumn Gumbo Pie with Herbed Biscuits

For the gumbo:
8 oz chicken sausage, casings removed
8 oz shrimp, deveined and chopped into 1" pieces
1/2 large yellow onion
6 oz butternut squash, diced
1 large turnip, diced
2 small carrots, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 (15 oz) can chopped tomatoes
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
5 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons Cajun spice mix
2 teaspoons buckwheat  (or similarly dark) honey
2 teaspoons caldo de res (beef bullion)
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
salt, to taste

For the biscuits:
2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon minced parsley
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 large egg, beaten

1. Melt 1 Tablespoon of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil, then carrots, onion, celery, turnip and butternut squash. Add 1 teaspoon cajun spice mix. Salt to taste. Saute until turnip and squash begin to soften, about 10 minutes.

2. As the veggies saute, sift together the dry ingredients for the biscuits. Add chicken sausage to veggies and continue to cook until chicken has been cooked through.
3. Add tomato paste, and mix in thoroughly. Cook for a moment, then add chopped tomatoes, 2 cups of water and beef bullion.
4. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add honey. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Add shrimp to the stew.
5. Make the roux: toss 4 T flour with 1 t Cajun seasoning. In a separate pan, melt remaining butter. Whisk in flour/Cajun seasoning mixture. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mix turns deep golden brown, about 5 minutes.
6. Add the roux to the gumbo. Taste and add salt, if needed. Take gumbo off of the heat and pour into a 9 x 13” baking dish. Finish making the biscuits: pour cream into dry ingredients, add chopped herbs and mix until just combined. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead gently a couple of times. Roll out to approximately 1/4“ thickness and cut to cover the entire baking dish, with little room to spare. Cut into 12 squares and lay them as closely as possible over the gumbo. Brush with egg wash and bake until browned, 20 - 30 minutes. Serve with white long grain rice.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Pumpkin and Parmesan Arancini

Halloween is upon us, and with it plenty of holiday parties and the return of pumpkin everything season. I love pumpkin in savory dishes, especially when combined with rich, sharp and nutty parmesan. So, I've done it two ways and this is the first. Since I'm so late getting the first post up the second will appear here in November and be a fancy little finger food to serve to holiday guests. Actually, that can easily be said of both preparations, since if you serve your guests crispy fried balls filled with gooey, creamy delicious pumpkin they may never want to leave!
The recipe I used for pumpkin risotto made three times as much as I needed for the arancini (we're only so many people and those bad boys are kind of decadent). If you're expecting lots of guests and want to use all of the risotto for arancini (we instead had it for dinner the night before), for every four Tablespoon sized balls you need 1/3 cup breadcrumbs and 1 large egg.

The risotto recipe I used is here:
But I would use less wine next time and I did use less parmesan, as well as using vegetable stock, as I didn't want the chicken flavor to overwhelm the pumpkin

Makes approx 12
2 cups pumpkin parmesan risotto
1 cup breadcrumbs
3 jumbo eggs
Neutral oil for frying

1. Beat the eggs in a shallow dish. Lay the breadcrumbs in another shallow dish. Form the risotto into roughly tablespoon sized balls.
2. Heat the oil to medium. Roll the risotto balls in the egg, then the breadcrumbs.
3. Fry in a single layer (may need to be in batches, depending on the size of your pan), turning every minute, until brown on all sides. Serve hot.