But Sugar is Sweeter

Vegetarian

Fresh Tomato Ricotta Tarte with Garlic Herb Crust

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In some parts of the country, it might be a little late for this post; but here in Ohio, we’re still trying to find ways to enjoy fresh garden tomatoes before the first frost hits.  Hopefully that first frost will not present itself as 2 inches of snow in the middle of October (like it decided to last year).  After the infamous 2013-2014 winter, I’d be fine waiting until Christmas Day for snow, and then having winter be over.  For now, I’m still revealing in the fact that it’s  beautiful, a perfect 70 degrees, with the garden is still going strong.

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I felt like being a bit adventurous (per usual) and made ricotta cheese from scratch for this recipe.  It was pretty each- basically just heat milk, add lemon juice and vinegar, and then strain over cheese cloth for about 10 minutes.  It was fun to try, but it did take this from being an easy weeknight meal to kind of a production with multiple things to clean up.  I made the dough for the crust a day in advance, so this was pretty simple when it came to putting together.  It really highlights the tomatoes, and lets you hang onto that last bit of summer.  Better get on it before it becomes a winter wonderland around here!

Fresh Tomato and Ricotta Tarte with Garlic Herb Crust

Serves 6

For the crust: 

  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1¼ cups all purpose flour
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 8 tbsp.  cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 tbsp. ice cold water

For the filling: 

  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 2 tbsp. minced fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3-4 tbsp. milk, if needed
  • 2 large ripe heirloom tomatoes, thickly sliced
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Directions

1) To make the crust, combine the garlic and basil in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely minced, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add in the flour and salt and pepper to taste, and pulse again to combine. (If you don’t have a food processor, just mince the garlic and basil as well as you can and then stir into the flour mixture. It will work just fine.) Add in the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal and the largest butter pieces are the size of peas. Add in the water and pulse just until the dough comes together. Remove from the bowl, form into a disc and cover with plastic wrap. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill 1-2 hours, until firm.  This can also be done in 1-2 days in advance.

2) Transfer the chilled dough to a lightly floured work surface. Roll out into a flat round sheet about 12 inches in diameter, or large enough to fully line a 9-inch pie plate. Transfer to the pie plate, trimming away any excess at the edges and crimping the dough to create a fluted edge. Transfer the pie plate to the freezer and chill 15-20 minutes, until firm.

3) Preheat the oven to 375˚ F. Line the chilled pie shell with aluminum foil, making sure all edges of the crust are fully covered. Fill the pie shell with baking beads if available to weigh the crust down (dry beans or rice also work). Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and baking beads, return the pie shell to the oven and continue to bake until the crust is golden and fully set, about 10-12 minutes more. Transfer the pie plate to a wire rack and let the crust cool completely.

4) In a medium bowl combine the ricotta, garlic, and herbs.  Stir together until evenly combined.  To give the ricotta a smoother texture (if needed), stir in 3-4 tablespoons of milk until evenly combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread the ricotta into the pie shell in an even layer. Layer the tomato slices on top of the ricotta, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with additional minced basil. Slice with a sharp knife and serve immediately.

Source: Annie’s Eats

 

 


Black Bean Patties with Corn Relish and Avocado Cream Sauce

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You know the saying, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person?”  Well in the past month, I have found that this saying is pretty much spot on.  Somehow when I was working 10-12 hour days, studying for shelf exams, running, being a wife, and taking care of a puppy, I had time to post all these new things I made.  Then second semester fourth year happened, and  for the first time since I can remember, I have a lot of free time, yet  I have posted almost nothing on this blog! It’s really true, when you are busy, you just get more done!  That being said, it’s not like I haven’t been in the kitchen.  I have been trying out lots of fun recipes – everything from making my own greek yogurt, tiramisu cupcakes, shrimp enchiladas and the very delicious but dangerous blackberry pie bars– I just didn’t get any pictures! So finally, here’s a new recipe just in time for the summer-like weather.

I loved this dinner because it’s healthy enough that you feel good about eating it, but the avocado cream sauce gives it just a touch of sass that still makes you feel like  your cheating.  And if you really feel like being rebellious,   I think it would go great with these cookies. 

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Black Bean Patties with Corn Relish and Avocado Cream Sauce

– Makes about 18 patties

For the patties:

  • 2 (15 oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed,  divided in half
  • 2 roasted red bell peppers*, divided in half
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo, minced
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2/3 cup cornmeal or panko (plus more, as needed)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Canola or vegetable oil

For the corn relish:

  • 2 tsp. canola oil
  • 2 cups corn kernels
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the avocado cream sauce:

  • 1 avocado, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup greek yogurt or light sour cream
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

*To Roast the Red Peppers: Preheat oven to 475°.  Line a baking pan with aluminum foil Coat the outside of each pepper with olive oil.  Cook the peppers for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until the skin is lightly browned.  Remove from oven and pull aluminum foil around the peppers.  Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes, then peel of skin and remove seeds. Can be done several days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

1. To make the bean patties, place half of the beans in the bowl of a food processor with 1 coarsely chopped bell pepper, the eggs, oregano, cumin, and chipotle.  Process until smooth.  Finely chop the remaining bell pepper.  In a large bowl, lightly mash the remaining beans.  Stir in the bell pepper, onion, and smooth bean mixture.  Season to taste with salt and pepper

2. Stir in the cornmeal or panko, a bit at time, mixing lightly just until the mixture firms up.  (Pick up a bit and see if it can be easily molded into a ball.  If it is too sticky, add a little more. I ended up needing at least 1 cup).  Chill the mixture for 30 minutes.

3. While the bean mixture is chilling, make the corn relish.  Heat the canola oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the corn to the pan and sauté briefly until lightly browned, 2-3 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and jalapeño and cook just until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl.  Stir in the tomato, lime juice, and cilantro.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. To make the avocado cream sauce, combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or blender.  Process until completely smooth.

5. Form the bean mixture into patties approximately 3½ inches in diameter.  Heat about 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the patties in batches, cooking until lightly browned and firm, about 3-4 minutes per side.  Serve the patties warm topped with the corn relish and drizzled with the avocado cream sauce.

Source: Annie’s Eats 


Harvest Apple Salad with Buttered Almonds

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Pretty much every type of salad that I like is some variant of spinach,  fruit, good cheese and nuts.  For as long as I can remember my Mom has been making a spinach salad with pears, blue cheese and salted pecans, and for a Mom who loves decorating the table but isn’t so big on the actual food – this salad was quite a delectable creation.   I have made that salad countless times, and it’s still my go to,  but in the interest of changing it up ever so slightly, I decided to try this recipe, and guess what, I loved it!  In fact it holds the title as the first salad a certain “salad hater” has ever eaten, and liked (no…it’s not John but another picky husband who doesn’t like vegetables :-)).

I think what I really liked about this is that it includes an easy, throw together recipe for a really good dressing.  So much of the time I go to the trouble of toasting nuts, chopping fruit, buying spinach, and then covering it all with some bottled dressing because making homemade just seemed like too much work.  This dressing is super easy, and really complements the flavors of the salad well.  Also, I think I like this salad because I love an excuse to eat my new favorite apples,  ‘Honeycrisp”.  (Which, ironically recently had a sign aat the grocery store that said “Everyone’s New Favorite” – good to know I’m not alone).  But if you can’t find Honeycrisp, I think Fiji or Granny Smith would work equally well.
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Harvest Apple Salad with Buttered Almonds

Ingredients:
For the dressing:

  • ¼ cup finely minced sweet onion
  • 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. white wine  vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. sesame seeds
  • Pinch of paprika
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

For the almonds:

  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup sliced or slivered almonds
  • 2 tbsp. sugar

For the salad:
6-8 cups baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
2 medium apples, cored and thinly sliced
4-6 oz gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Directions:
To make the vinaigrette, whisk all ingredients except olive oil in a measuring cup.  Then slowly add the olive oil whisking vigorously to combine.

To make the buttered almonds, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the almonds and cook, stirring occasionally until toasted and lightly browned.  Stir in the sugar and cook just until melted and well incorporated.  Set aside to cool.

Place spinach in a large salad bowl or on individual salad plates.  Top with apple slices, gorgonzola,  and the buttered almonds.  Drizzle with the dressing and serve immediately.  Leftovers are good for up to a day, as fresh spinach does not wilt as quickly as other types of lettuce.

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Adapted from The Curvy Carrot  

Bean and Tortilla Pie

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Unfortunately, I can be a bit of a perfectionist.  A lot of times I will plan on putting something on the blog and after making it decide that it is just not tasty enough to share.  After all,  I am putting my personal endorsement on all the items on here, and I don’t want to lose your trust.  Other times I will make something that is delicious but so un-photogenic that I can’t seem to get a nice picture of it, and I don’t want get some kind of ugly photograph reputation.   Well in an effort to worry less about the small stuff,  I decided to post this recipe even though my camera was just not cooperating with me.  It should tell you something  that I thought it was special enough to share even without a perfect picture.

I would describe this as a comfort food dinner.   It’s especially handy to have in the recipe repertoire because it uses ingredients that I can store in my pantry or usually have on hand.    I thought it was just going to turn out like a bunch of flour tortillas layered with beans, but something magical happens in the baking process.  The cheese melts and the tortillas soften, and the whole thing solidifies into a concoction that actually does seem like a pie.  For some reason I didn’t think about the fact that there is a lot of food going into this “pie” and it is way more than John and I could even try to eat.  This is a filling pie, so I’m definitely adding it to my list of good dinners to make for company.
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Speaking of company (such a sly transition :-)), last weekend our family got together to celebrate my Grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary.   They have certainly started a wonderful family to be a part of!  Here’s a picture from our weekend:

love this picture!

Happy Anniversary Grandma and Grandpa!

Bean and Tortilla Pie

Makes: 6-8 servings

  • 4  9-inch flour tortillas
  • 2 T. Olive Oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 t. ground cumin
  • 1/2 t. chili powder
  • Pinch of Salt and Pepper
  • 2 – 15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup water (or you can use beer if you didn’t drink what was in your fridge)
  • 1/4 cup salsa
  • 1 – 15 oz can refried beans, warmed to spreading consistency
  • 2 cups frozen corn (about 10 oz)
  • 4 scallions, thinly slices plus more for garnish
  • 2 1/2 cups mexican style shredded cheese
  • Garnish: Scallions, tomatoes, sour cream, cilantro, black olives

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. In a large saucepan heat oil on medium-high heat.  Add the onions, jalapenos, garlic, cumin, chili powder and salt and pepper.  Cook until softened, about 6 minutes.

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3. Add in the black beans, scallions, salsa and water, and stir until well mixed.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low to simmer.  Continue to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until most of the water has evaporated.
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4. Once water has evaporated, remove pan from heat and add in the frozen corn and scallions.  Mix to combine.
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5. Lay a flour tortilla in the bottom of a 9-inch springfoam pan.  Spread the tortilla with about 3 T. of refried beans.  Then continue layering by spreading about 1 cup of bean mixture on top of the refried beans.  Top the layer with 1/2 a cup of shredded cheese.
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6. Repeat this layering with the 3 remaining tortillas.  On the top layer, cover the beans generously with cheese.

7.  Bake the “pie” for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.   Remove the sides from the springfoam pan, and top with garnishes of choice. Slice into wedges  and serve warm.

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Slightly Adapted from  The Curvy Carrot


Smoked Gouda Pasta Salad

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Usually I’m one of those people who remembers the 4th of July on the 3rd of July, but this year was different.  Since we have some organized and adventurous friends, we had a camping trip planned about month in advance of the holiday weekend.  This was a good lesson for me in the fact that “anticipation is half the fun”, because it really was exciting having something to look forward to.    I even bought some  red and blue marshmallow roasting sticks as well as color coordinating paper plates to take with us.  And of course, I was excited to plan some of the menu.  When I saw this smoked gouda pasta salad, I immediately bookmarked it as a must try, and I thought camping would be the perfect opportunity.

I’m very familiar with the Caprese type pasta salad, and while the tomatoes, basil and mozzarella are tasty, I often feel that they are not strong enough flavors to create an interesting pasta salad.  I’ve made that type of salad many times, and usually end up picking out everything but the pasta.  That’s what I think is so great about this recipe – the pasta itself has some great flavor. It’s also really easy to make and requires pretty basic ingredients.  While you might not regularly buy  chipotle peppers in adobo sauce,  they add a lot of great flavor for a small cost.  The thing that used to annoy me about them is that most recipes only call for 1-2 peppers and I would inevitably let the leftovers sit in the fridge until they looked so gross that I didn’t feel guilty throwing them away- but I have found the solution.  Well, actually I should say that Sara over at Our Best Bites has found the solution: freeze the peppers in individual cubes of how much you might need.  See her post here to see what I’m talking about.  But seriously, don’t skip the chipotles- the adobo has very little spice but adds a smokey flavor that complements the gouda nicely.  Then you can make this pasta salad and eat it out of  individual ziplocs like we did on our picnic (classy I know).  Or don’t do that, and eat it like a normal person, out of a bowl – I’m pretty sure it will taste good either way.

By the way, we went to Mackinac Island.  You should totally make the trip if you live anywhere near Michigan, or even if you don’t.  I did not remember such cool places existing in Michigan – it’s kind of making me change my view of the Midwest (at least until winter comes :-)). IMG_1123

Smoked Gouda Pasta Salad

Serves 10-12 as a side

  • 1 lb (16 oz) Mostaccioli pasta
  • 1/2 cup light Mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup Milk (I used part skim, part cream)
  • 5 Tablespoons White Vinegar
  • 1 T. Adobo Sauce From Chipotle Peppers
  • Salt and Ground Black Pepper To Taste
  • 2 pints  Grape Tomatoes, Halved Lengthwise
  • 1/2 pound Smoked Gouda Cheese, Cut Into Small Cubes
  • 30 whole Basil Leaves, sliced thin (chiffonade)

1. Cook pasta according to pasta directions.  Drain and rinse in cold water to prevent pasta from sticking.

2. In a large bowl, mix mayonnaise, milk, vinegar, salt, pepper, and adobo sauce.

3. Add the pasta, halved tomatoes, cubed gouda and basil to the sauce in the large bowl.  Stir to incorporate, and add more salt and pepper to taste.  Chill before serving (or keep on ice in your camping cooler).

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman 

 

 

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Greek-Style Panzanella

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When I put this on our (new) menu board for the week, John had no idea what it was.  I described it to him as  crouton salad, partially because it’s true, and partially because John loves bread and I knew a salad made of it would intrigue him.  I really liked this dinner because it was easy, fresh, and included more than a full serving of vegetables, but the really great thing about it was the John loved it as well.  He even said, “Wow, this was a lot more filling than I expected.”  I served this as a meal on its own, but I think it would also be great as a side dish for a summer picnic.

In terms of cooking, don’t be tempted (as I was) to turn the heat up on the croutons in order to make them brown faster – this actually only makes them burn faster. You do have to watch the croutons while cooking, which is why I think cooking them on the stove is better than the oven.   Just be sure to use a large pan, and to toss the croutons every few minutes.  Also, this makes a lot of salad (way more than John and I could finish), and unfortunately the leftovers aren’t good because the bread gets soggy.  To avoid this, cook the bread and cut the vegetables, but only combine the ingredients you will actually use that day.  Then you can make the salad again the next day for lunch!

Greek Panzanella

Serves 4-6

  • 6 cups rustic bread (about 3/4 loaf), sliced into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and sliced (or 1 hothouse cucumber – no need to peel)
  • 1 Red pepper, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 Yellow pepper, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 Green pepper, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/2 of a Red onion, sliced into thin strips
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
  • 8 oz feta, sliced into 1/2 inch cubes

For the Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon dried, crushed oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon combined)

1. In a large frying pan heat 1/4 cup olive oil on medium- high heat.  Once hot, add bread and reduce heat to medium-low.  Salt the bread with 1 teaspoon salt. Toss the bread for about 10 minutes until crisp and slightly browned.

2.  Chop vegetables, and in a large bowl combine all vegetables, feta cheese, and olives.

3. In a small bowl combine all ingredients for the dressing and whisk until combined.

4. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss.  Add in the crisp bread and toss until evenly coated.

5. Clean up the kitchen while waiting for the flavors to meld.  Add salt and pepper as needed and serve.

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Slightly adapted from The Curvy Carrot, Originally from How Easy is That? by Ina Garten


Grilled Vegetable and Sun Dried Tomato Sandwiches

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I first made this last year when my mom came to visit me in Toledo for pre-wedding preparation, and I remember her loving them so much that I wanted to make it again.  Since John isn’t visiting with me this time  (he has summer school), I thought I would try to eat some of the foods that normally he would turn his nose up at – this way I can get my fill, without having to torture him :-).  While he’s never tried these sandwiches, he’s not a big eggplant fan, and it also seems that he  normally prefers meals if there is some meat included.  So these sandwiches seemed like a perfect lunch/dinner option for my solo visit home.   However, after enjoying them so much – I might have to try to convert him.

This is a pretty simple recipe, and it becomes a lot simpler if you don’t worry about measuring everything exactly.  The basic gist is to make a thick marinade with a 2:1 ratio of sun dried tomatos and basil, which becomes the base for the whole sandwich.  You use this marinade to flavor the vegetables, and then you put some of the marinade on the sandwich itself.  I chose to use sun dried tomatoes in oil, because I like to use the flavored olive oil in the recipe – it has a very strong flavor, which can be good or bad depending on your taste.  If you prefer, dry packed sun dried tomatoes can also be used, but you will have to add a little bit more olive oil to the marinade.  Whatever you use, know that the marinade is really what makes this sandwich.

Another great thing about this summery delight  is the variety of summer vegetables it works with.  I personally love roasted red peppers and eggplant, but I think zucchini, portobello mushrooms, yellow squash, or any other summer vegetables would be great.  In addition, I used ciabatta bread here, but a french baguette would also be excellent.  By chopping the roasted vegetables you could even serve this as an open faced appetizer – endless possibilities

Grilled Vegetable and Sun Dried Tomato Sandwiches

Make 4 sandwiches

  • 1 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed basil, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3-4 T. olive oil
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 3 red peppers, cleaned and sliced into 2 -3 inch slices
  • 2 small eggplants, sliced  1/4 inch thick
  • 4 ciabatta rolls
  • 6 oz goat cheese
  • spinach leaves for topping (optional)

1. Combine the chopped sun dried tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper in a small dish.
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2. In a large bowl, place the chopped eggplant and red pepper and toss with 2-3 T. of the sun dried tomato mixture.
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3. Heat the grill to medium-high, and begin by grilling the peppers – I put them directly on the grate, but you could also use a grill basket if you prefer.  The peppers will take longer to cook than the eggplant, so cook them for about 5 minutes and then add the eggplant.   Continue to grill all the vegetables for 8-10 additional minutes, flipping half way through.
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4. While the vegetables are grilling, slice the ciabatta rolls in half lengthwise and warm  on the grill until slightly crisped.  Top each with a generous tablespoon of goat cheese, followed by a tablespoon of remaining sun dried tomato mixture.  Feel free to put goat cheese on both sides of the bread (if you are a goat cheese lover like me).

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5. Top each sandwich with 3-4 slices of eggplant and 2 slices of roasted red pepper.  Finish with spinach, if desired.

IMG_0817Inspired by Giada’s Recipe from the Food Network


Potato, Corn & Leek Chowder

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A couple weeks ago, I thought the soup making weather for the year was over – clearly I was wrong.  I guess a good way to embrace  the cold, is to look at it as one last opportunity to make a warm wintery soup!  When I was planning the grocery/menu list this week, I asked John what soup he would want for a (fingers crossed) last soup of winter meal, secretly hoping he would pick this soup.  Without any coaching from me, he said, “How about the potato one you make?”, so that sealed the deal – it went on the menu.  It also happens to be a quick meal (chopping is the only kitchen time), and a one pot deal (less clean up)!

What I like about this soup is that it’s a potato soup, with more than just potatoes and cream.  It has has a lot of vegetables in it, so it really feels like a balanced meal.  It does use some whole milk, but just enough to give it that creamy texture, while still keeping it healthy and relatively low fat.  I do realize that just before this I posted a recipe primarily made of butter and sugar – but what can I say, I like my sweets sinful and my meals, well the opposite.   This soup is pretty filling, and this recipe makes a lot – so if you’re not feeding a crowd, you might want to try halving it.  However, this is one of the few meals where I think the leftovers actually taste just as good or better than the original meal.  This is a rare finding for me, so I don’t mind making the whole thing and eating it later in the week.  I’ve never tried freezing it, but if you try it – let me know how it turns out!
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Potato, Corn & Leek Chowder

Servings: about 8 bowls         Prep Time: 20 minutes (for the chopping)       Stove time: 25 minutes

  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped  leeks (about 2 leeks)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 2 pounds yukon gold potatoes (about 8), peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups corn (frozen or fresh)
  • Dash of Salt & Pepper
  • Scallions/Chives/Parsley for topping

Melt butter in a large dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the leeks, celery and red pepper and stir until tender (3-4 minutes).
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Slowly add the flour and milk to the pan, stirring constantly.  Once mixed, add the rest of the ingredients (chicken broth, potatoes, corn, salt & pepper).  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Then cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes (or as long as you want – the starch from the potatoes will continue to thicken the soup).

Serve by topping with your choice of parsley, scallions, chives, or a mix.

Slightly adapted from Cooking Light


Twice Baked Potatoes

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In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I figured what would be better than a POTATO with the colors of the Irish flag!   I made mine with  broccoli, scallions, and cheddar, so I could get the green, white and orange effect.   I hope this brings a little St. Patrick’s Day spirit to your day!

My better half is interviewing people this week,  so it’s just me here until tomorrow.   Cooking for 1 can be tricky, but I think this recipe fits the bill – It’s quick, easy, and I had all the ingredients on hand.  The recipe is for 4 potatoes, but can easily be adapted to make just 1, or 8.  I often forget how great a good baked potato can be.  In college, my friend Christine, once had a “Baked Potato Party” in which she baked a bunch of potatoes, and then had all kinds of fun toppings for us to put on them.  It was such an easy and creative idea, and I have been wanting to do it ever since – maybe this will inspire you to host your own.  Whatever you put on your baked potato, it can be a hearty, and filling meal that’s easy and cheap to make.  I also included some suggestions for alternate stuffed baked potatoes , which I am now dying to try!

Twice Baked Potatoes

  • 4 russet potatoes – scrubbed and patted dry
  • Olive Oil and Salt
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3/4 cup light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 cup chopped broccoli, steamed
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions

Preheat oven to 400°.  Rub potatoes with a small amount of oil and sprinkle with salt.  Place potatoes directly on rack and cook for 45-60 minutes.  Do not wrap potatoes in foil because this will make the skins soft and it will be difficult to scoop the filling out later.

In a large bowl combine 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, sour cream, milk, garlic powder, broccoli, and 1/4 cup scallions.

Remove potatoes from oven and let cool slightly.  Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Using a soup spoon, scrape out as much potato as you can while leaving the skin intact – leaving about 1/8 inch.  The potatoes taste better when there is less plain flesh left in them.  Add the flesh to the large bowl with sour cream mixture.  Mash the flesh until combined.

Spoon the flesh back into the potato shells.  Place filled shells on a baking sheet coated with aluminum foil.  Sprinkle remaining cheddar cheese over the tops of the potatoes.

Return potatoes to the oven for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and starting to brown.

To serve, top with remaining scallions.


Variation 1: Blue Cheese, Onion and Mushroom Potatoes

  • Substitute 1 cup crumbled blue cheese for the cheddar, and 1 cup sautéed mushrooms and onions for the broccoli.

Variation 2: Goat Cheese & Caramelized Onion Stuffed Potatoes

  • Substitute 1 cup of herbed goat cheese for the cheddar, and 3/4 cup caramelized onions for the broccoli.

Variations inspired by America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook


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!


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.


Spinach and Ricotta Pizza

I am on a huge pizza kick lately!  Ever since I started making my own pizza dough, it seems like we have homemade pizza for dinner about once a week.  I love knowing exactly what goes into the pizza, and it’s really not much more work than ordering!!!  I’ll post a tutorial on making your own pizza dough soon, but for now substitute any pizza like dough or crust you’d like!

John even likes this pizza, despite the fact that it has a lot of vegetables!    The recipe for the sauce calls for fresh basil, which can be hard to find and really expensive.  Thanks to Monnette’s Market, I was able to buy a bunch of it for several recipes this week, right here in cold, wintery Toledo. A little hint with fresh basil is to roll up several leaves into a “cigar” shape, and then thinly slice them.  This is how they get the basil to look so fresh and not wilted in restaurants.   But if you can’t find fresh basil, substituting dried would probably be okay.  Also the sauce recipe makes enough for 2 pizzas – but it freezes well.  I usually make one pizza and freeze the other half of the sauce for pizza another week.

New York Style Pizza Sauce

1 (14.5 oz) can petite-cut tomatoes, undrained

1 (6 oz) can tomato paste

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons sugar

1  1/2 Tablespoons olive oil

7  Tablespoons water

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir with a wisk.

Spinach and Ricotta Pizza

2 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves

1 teaspoon (about 2 cloves) minced garlic

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/3 cup part-skim mozarella

2 Roma tomatos – sliced very thin

1/2 of the above recipe for New York Style Pizza Sauce

Pizza Dough

Olive Oil

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  If you have a pizza stone (which is an awesome investment because it makes the pizza crisp on the bottom), preheat it as well in the oven.  Roll your choice of pizza dough into a circle or square. Lightly brush the outer crust with olive oil.  Evenly spread the pizza sauce over the pizza, leaving a thin border for the crust. Top with the Parmesan cheese, garlic, and spinach leaves.

Then sprinkle mozzarella over the spinach, and top with small spoonfuls of Ricotta.

Bake in the oven for 10-13 minutes or until the crust looks golden brown.  Carefully remove from oven and top immediately with sliced tomatos.

Slightly adapated from Cooking Light