But Sugar is Sweeter

Archive for February, 2011

Red Beans & Rice

There are 3 reasons why I really wanted to make this dish: First, although I really thought spring was on its way (and was planning dinner accordingly),  I was quickly thrown back to reality when I found my  car crystalized in 2 inch thick ice. After finally digging my car out from under the snow/ice mix, I decided that a warm, hearty, wintery meal was in order.  Second, Mardi Gras is fast approaching, and it really makes me miss Louisiana and the friends I made there.  Louisiana is probably the most cultural place in America, and they sure know how to cook.  And third, my friend Maggie, just bought a crockpot and I promised her a good “Crock Pot” recipe.

Likely your reasons for making this dinner are going to be different than mine, but I think you should find your own reasons, and make this.  This isn’t one of those crockpot meals where you have to cook everything before you put it into the crock pot (I never got the point of that), so it’s quite simple to make. In fact, when I had the cutting board out for dinner the night before, I just cut up the ingredients,  and then John threw them in the crockpot this morning.  But just because it’s simple doesn’t change the fact that it’s delicious.  You know what would make this dinner even more delcious?  King Cake! If you live in Louisiana, please go eat a king cake for me, and then tell me all about it (preferably one with cream cheese and strawberry filling).  Oh how I miss you Louisiana and your sweet, sweet food and drink and people.

Red Beans and Rice

  • 1 pound Dried Red Beans, rinsed and drained
  • 7 cups Water
  • 1 whole Green Bell Pepper, Chopped
  • 1 whole Onion, Chopped
  • 3 stalks Celery, Chopped
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Finely Chopped
  • ½ pound Turkey Polska Kielbasa, sliced (or Andouille Sausage)*
  • 3 Tablespoons “Tony’s” or other Creole Seasoning
  • Hot Cooked Rice

* If you want the real thing, you should go with the real sausage.  I happen to like turkey sausage, but it’s not going to give you quite as thick of a sauce.

Rinse and drain the red beans. Place all the ingredients into a large Crock Pot, except for the rice.

Cook, covered, at HIGH for 7 hours or until beans are tender.  Don’t peak.

Serve over hot white rice.  I also made this cornbread to serve with it.  (Krusteaz didn’t pay for me for this or anything,  but I just thought it was a really good box mix, and it was only $1)

Adapted from  Tasty Kitchen

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Chicken Enchiladas Verdes

To be honest, I’ve been eating the “verde” version of enchiladas for so long, that I kind of forgot there was any other kind. But that’s perfectly fine with me, because I love this dinner.  Its great because so many different cuisines are made using a red tomato base, so this really adds some variety to the dinner table. I made a similar version for the first time back in college (Friday night dinner parties!), and I’ve been adapting it ever since.  At this point I’m even afraid to order enchiladas at a Mexican restaurant, for fear that they won’t live up to this version.

I thought about making the  verde sauce from scratch,  but I couldn’t find tomatillos at the store. (Probably had something to do with being the middle of the winter in Ohio). But it’s probably better that I didn’t because this dish is great just the way it is, and I have enough other things to keep me busy.  For the cheese topping,  this time I happened to use  queso fresco, but I have made it before using Monterey Jack, and I like both.  It just depends on what I find at the store and what happens to be on sale.

Chicken Enchiladas Verdes

– Makes about 8 enchiladas

  • 1 can (10 oz) green enchilada sauce
  • 1 bottle (14 oz) salsa verde (or about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 an medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1  large (12 oz) chicken breast (or 2 smaller) – pounded to an even thickness
  • 1/2 block (4 oz) reduced fat  cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 8 corn tortillas (about 6 inch)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco or Monterey Jack cheese

Add the canned enchilada sauce, salsa verde, minced onion, and garlic to a saucepan over medium heat.   Add the 1 or 2 chicken breasts to the saucepan, cover pan, and cook for 20 minutes. Cut the chicken in half to ensure it is cooked through, and if not, continue cooking until it is no longer pink.

Turn off heat, and remove chicken from the pan.  After cooling slightly, shred chicken into small pieces.  In a small bowl combine the chicken, cream cheese, 2/3 cup of enchilada sauce and cilantro.

The salsa mixture should still be warm at this point.  Working with one tortilla at a time, dip the corn tortilla into the salsa mixture for about 10 seconds and remove with tongs.  This is just to make the tortilla more pliable, so it doesn’t crack when rolling.  Then place the tortilla on a plate and spread 1/3 cup of chicken mixture down the tortilla.  Roll up and place, seam side down, in a 11 x 7 baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Pour a heaping cup of remaining salsa mixture on top of the tortillas.  (I usually have some left over, but I prefer this to using 1/2 a can of enchilada sauce. If you want to double this recipe, I would just use an extra jar of salsa and skip the canned sauce). Top with crumbled queso fresco or shredded Monterey jack (or both).

Bake at 425° for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese melts and enchiladas are heated through.


Spinach Lasagna

The worst part about the first 2 years of medical school is that most of your time is spent studying alone. Despite the fun pictures on Facebook, we don’t actually get to hang out together that much.   To try to remedy this situation, John and I decided to have a little “Lasagna Party”.  It was a good excuse to get together with all of our friends, including the newest “member”- Baby Zoe!  We have some diverse tastes in our group, so we had quite a lasagna selection: Spinach Lasagna, Lasagna with a a beef and sausage sauce, and Lasagna made with chicken sausage.  It was quite a feast!

Of all the lasagna choices, this spinach lasagna was probably the healthiest. (Not quite sure I can call it healthy – it’s still lasagna after all).  But in general, the cream sauce used in spinach lasagna usually makes it much more fat and calorie laden than it’s meat and tomato counterpart.  However, I found a recipe that didn’t use cream, and used non-fat ricotta, to make this a healthier and much reduced fat version.  At first I was skeptical that this lasagna would just taste like a lowfat version of the real thing, but I was very pleasantly surprised.  I don’t think anyone would’ve guessed that this was “reduced fat”, and it was really quite easy to put together (it does take some time though).

Spinach Lasagna

– Makes a 13 x9 dish to feed 8-10 people.

  • 2 cups nonfat ricotta (16 oz)
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella (about 10 oz)
  • 1 grated parmesan cheese (2 oz)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Olive oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 5 cups 1% milk (I used skim milk and substituted  about 1/4 cup cream)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3o ounces (3 packages)  frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 12 lasagna noodles

1. Heat a large pot of water over high heat.  Season with salt and olive oil.  Add lasagna noodles to water and cook for about 9 minutes. (It’s better to undercook the noodles slightly.).  Drain,  and lay noodles onto paper towels to dry separately.

2. Combine ricotta cheese, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, 1/2 cup parmesan, slightly beaten egg and salt and pepper in a bowl.  Stir to combine, then set aside or refrigerate for later assembly.

3. Heat 2 T. oil in a large skillet over medium. Add onion and cook to soften (about 5 minutes).  Add garlic and stir until just fragrant (30 seconds).  Add flour and cook for about a minute (cook it just enough to eliminate the raw flour taste, but do not brown.)

4. Slowly whisk in all 5 cups of milk and 2 bay leaves.  Simmer, while stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.  The sauce should thicken slightly.

5. Remove from heat, and remove bay leaves.  Stir in spinach, nutmeg, and remaining (1/2 cup) parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 13×9 inch pan with cooking spray.

7. To assemble: Place a heaping cup of spinach sauce on the botton of the 13×9 inch pan.  Layer 4 noodles, overlapping, on the bottom of the pan.  Spread about 1 cup of ricotta mixture over the noodles.  Top with a heaping cup of spinach sauce.  Repeat 2 more times, ending with ricotta and spinach sauce.  The top layer should have 2-3 cups of spinach sauce poured over top.  Top with remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.

8.  Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.  To avoid spills you can place the lasagna dish on a large baking sheet lined with foil (I didn’t do this because I didn’t have space in the oven). After 40 minutes, remove foil and continue to bake for 20 minutes.  Cool slightly before serving.

Recipe adapted from America’a Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook.

*In the ATK recipe, they actually suggested making 4 layers of lasagna, using 16 noodles but the same amount of filling.  If you really like pasta this might be a good option for you!


Cincinnati Chili

Growing up in Ohio, Cincinnati Chili was always a go-to meal for my family, so I have very fond memories of it.   Because of this I might not be the best critic,  but I have to say that I LOVE this dinner.  If you haven’t had Cincinnati Style chili, you really must try it!  It’s often called 5 way chili, because you serve: 1) the uniquely flavored chili, 2) over pasta, 3) with cheese, 4) with beans, 5) with onion, and then I like to add a little bit of sour cream.  It is NOT a spicy chili.  It’s actually more on the savory/sweet side.  In fact,  it even has chocolate in the recipe, which is probably why I love it so much.

I think one of the reasons that we often had this as kids was because there is a fancy little seasoning packet you can buy that makes this dinner super easy.  Being up in Toledo,  I couldn’t find it at our store and I really had a craving for it,  so I decided that I would make this chili from scratch.  I know – “way to complicate things again, Jacqueline,” but sometimes I just feel like you can taste the work that went into the food, and I like the taste of effort.  I have since found a place that sells the seasoning, but I don’t think I will ever go back – I like this recipe too much!  I was a little intimidated when I found it, because the ingredient list looked really long, but once I actually went through it I realized the only things I had to buy at the store were the turkey & sirloin, onions, and a can of tomato puree!  (I do have a large collection of spices). This dinner is quite easy to throw together, and just remember, this isn’t baking – you definitely don’t really need to measure exactly.   I just eyeballed it using a regular old silverware,  and it goes a lot quicker.

Cincinnati Chili

– Prep/Active Time: 20 minutes           Cooking time: 45 minutes.
– Serves 5-6
  • 1  pound  ground turkey
  • 1/2  pound  ground sirloin
  • 2  cups  chopped onion (about 1 very large onion)
  • 3  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  cup  water
  • 2  Tablespoons  brown sugar
  • 3  Tablespoons  spicy barbecue sauce (ketchup would probably substitute fine)
  • 4  teaspoons  white vinegar
  • 2  Tablespoons  chili powder
  • 3/4  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 3/4  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground allspice
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground coriander
  • 1/2  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2  ounce  unsweetened chocolate, chopped (I used chocolate chips this time but it was better when I used the unsweetenend chocolate.  You could also substitue cocoa powder if need be.)
  • 1  (10 3/4-ounce) can tomato puree (I could only find a 28 oz can, so I just used half of it)

For Serving:

  • Hot Cooked spaghetti
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Kidney beans (rinsed, drained & warmed)
  • Chopped Onion
  • Light Sour Cream
  • Oyster crackers (if desired)

1. Coat a large dutch oven with cooking spray and heat over medium-high.

2. Brown the turkey and sirloin in the dutch oven. (About 5 minutes)

3. Add the onions & garlic to the pan and cook until tender (Again about 5 minutes).

4. Add the rest of the ingredients (water, brown sugar, bbq sauce, spices, chocolate, tomato puree) and bring to a boil.

5. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 45 minutes (or longer).

6. To serve: Place a scoop of spaghetti on each plate, top with a ladle of chili.  Add  cheese, kidney beans, onions, sour cream and crackers as desired.

Originally from Cooking Light


Latin Inspired Falafel

If you’ve got glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency*,  or if you generally just don’t like falafel, you might still enjoy this dish!  Traditional falafel is made out of fava beans and deep fried,  and personally I’m not a huge fan of fava beans or deep frying things.  So when I found this recipe for a healthy version of falafel made out of pinto beans, I knew I’d be in love.   Plus this gave me another excuse to make my own pita bread, and it came out so much better the second time!  Watching pita bread puff up in the oven is one of the coolest baking experiences EVER!

I had made this once before, and I wanted to make it again since I’ve been on such a “bean kick” lately.  Unfortunately, I tried using a cast iron skillet this time and the patties really stuck to the pan.  Because of the small amount of oil used to cook these, you really need a non-stick skillet.  Using the right pan, these patties are a cinch to throw together, and another easy weeknight meal.  I almost didn’t post this because I had a lot of trouble taking a picture of it that looked appetizing. But I couldn’t bare not sharing it with you  because I think it’s such a unique dish!  It really adds some variety to the weekly menu, and seems fancy while actually being really easy!  I hope you try it, despite the bad pictures.

*G-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase deficiency is a common x-linked disorder, in which affected persons can have attacks of hemolytic anemia brought on by fava beans (as well as infections and certain medications).  Sorry for being a dork, just trying to be educational around here.

Latin Falafel Patties

– Makes enough for about 4 pita halves.

  • 1  (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2  cup  shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/4  cup  crushed tortilla chips
  • 2  tablespoons  finely chopped green onions
  • 1  tablespoon  finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1  large egg white
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

For the Avocado Spread:

  • 1 avocado, peeled and mashed
  • 1/2 of a medium tomato, finely chopped
  • 1-2  tablespoons  chopped red onion
  • 2  tablespoons  light sour cream
  • Squeeze of fresh lime juice
  • Sprinkling of salt

For Serving:

  • 2  (6-inch) pitas, each cut in half crosswise (For updated pictures and my recipe see: Pita Bread)
  • Toppings such as lettuce, red onion, peppers (if desired)

1. First make the avocado spread by mixing all ingredients in a small serving dish.

2. To make the patties, combine all patty ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

3.  Preheat oil a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.

4. Combine mashed pinto beans, Monterey jack cheese, crushed tortilla chips,  cilantro, green onion, cumin and egg white in a mixing bowl.

5. Form the pinto bean mixture into patties and place them in the oil in the large skillet.

6. Cook patties for 3 minutes on each side, or until brown and heated through.

7. To serve, place 2-3 patties in a pita half, and top with avocado spread and any other desired vegetables.

Adapted from “Falafel with Avocado Spread” from Cooking Light


“Doctored Up” Bean Burritos

I’m done with cookies for a while…back to some healthy meals!  This is a super easy and healthy, but surprisingly delicious meal!  I know you might be thinking, “Bean Burritos”, do you even need a recipe for that?  Well I have made bean burritos by just warming up a can of beans, and I think that this recipe is much better.  Adding a few ingredients really makes this meal go from  simple to exciting!  You can always add more or less spice, I tend to like my food a little on the less spicy side.

Usually have a problem eating a meal without a serious source of protein – usually meat – but I’ve found that both John and I will find a meal with beans satisfying.  It’s just a plus that they are also cheap, easy and healthy!  Plus, I’ve found I’m much more likely to eat the leftovers of a meatless meal, because unlike meat, beans don’t really taste all that much different a day later.   I think I am going to start buying black beans in bulk from my new favorite store, Costco.

Easy Bean Burritos

– Makes 4-6 burritos depending on the size.

For the Beans:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  teaspoon  chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce*
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/3  cup  water (or vegetable broth)
  • 1  (15-ounce) can  black beans, drained
  • 1  (15-ounce) can  pinto beans, drained
  • 3  tablespoons  salsa

For the Burritos:

  • Tortillas
  • Mexican blend cheese
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Shredded romaine lettuce
  • sliced green onions
  • light sour cream

*These come in a small can in the “Mexican” aisle of almost any grocery store.

1. Heat oil at medium high in a large skillet.

2. Add garlic, and 1 teaspoon of each chile powder, cumin and chipotle peppers to the oil.

3. Stir for about 45 seconds, or just until fragrant.

3. Add the 2 cans of drained beans, salt and water.  Bring the mixture to a boil.

4. Turn down the heat to medium-low and let simmer, without a lid, for about 10 minutes. (You can use this time to cut up the tomatoes, lettuce and green onions for the topping)

5. Remove from heat and stir in the salsa.

To serve: Spread the bean mixture down the tortilla, and top with your choice of toppings.

Recipe found at Pink Parsley, and originally from Cooking Light.


Conversation Heart Sugar Cookies

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!   I know that this is my second post related to Valentine’s….but I just love excuses to make cookies!  I’m really lucky that my friends, Samiya and Sarah, also share in my love of cookie decorating – it makes it a great 10:30 at night study break :-).  A while back, Sarah had the idea to make heart  shaped cookies and decorate them like conversation hearts.  It sounded so cute that I just knew we had to make them.  This is our second time decorating cookies together, and I think we are getting a little better at it.  (Still not ready to open our own cookie business….but maybe eventually.)  I made a simple sugar cookie dough (seen below) and cut the cookies out.  Then together we whipped up a batch of royal icing, and started decorating.  To make these you need to make quite a few icing colors.  We made, blue, green, white and pink, and then then took about 1/2 of the pink icing and died it a darker pink/red to do the writing with. The conversation hearts also come in purple, yellow and orange – so you can just pick your favorites.

As a helpful hint, we used gel food coloring, and even with globs of it we had trouble getting the icing to be “Red”.  My advice would be to add color until it looks like hot pink, and then the icing will dry a little bit darker.  Also, in retrospect, you really need very little icing to “write with”, and it would be easier to darkly dye a smaller amount of icing.

I don’t feel that I’m near good enough (yet), to make my own tutorial on how to ice with royal icing, but if you are interested here are a few sites that seem to have it down pat:  Brown Eyed Baker, Annie’s Eats, Sweetopia.   One day, (probably over spring break), you will be seeing a royal icing tutorial from me.  However, I think that these cookies are a simple enough design that a plain “dip” icing, or buttercream would also work fine.  Royal icing just gives the cookies that professional looking sheen.

Please take note of the “P.L.T.” cookie.  We were inspired by this week’s episode of Glee, and the Micheal Jackson song, “Pretty Little Thing”…Which we realized after was actually called “Pretty Young Thing”…whoops.

And then of course, you have to have the classic phrase, “That’s what she said”.  Which was kind of inspired by my favorite blogger, Annie, and by the fact that this phrase is awesome…

We also tried our hand at some other languages, with cookies like “Te Amo”, “Ich Liebe Diche”, “Je t’aime” & “Mi Amore.”

Janice’s Sugar Cookies

– I made half of this recipe, and it made about 30 large heart shaped cookies.

  • One lb. butter (4sticks),  softened
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 5-6 cups flour
Beat butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla for 10 min, until fluffy. Mix together baking soda and 3 cups flour…add to butter mixture. Mix 1 min. Add remaining flour until bowl is clean and no batter is around the sides.
Chill dough for 20-30 minutes.
Roll on lightly floured board. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes, or just before the cookies start to brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Recipe passed on to me by our family friend Robyn M.