Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pepper and Black Bean Filling

All the peppers and Onions

This is my go-to meal when I am by myself or don't feel like doing a lot of cooking. Mexican is probably my favorite cuisine and this is a mexican-ish tasting filling that works for pretty much anything. I use them as a filling for a quick burrito, sprinkle them on top of nachos along with other toppings, in see where I am going with this.


I can make this in about 20 minutes and have enough to use for several days (if it is just me eating it). I never get tired of eating it either, yesterday I had a burritos filled with these beans and today I had nachos.


Pepper and Black Bean Filling
2 15 oz cans Black Beans
1 Onion chopped
1 Orange Bell Pepper diced
1 Poblano Pepper diced
1 Red Chili Pepper diced
3/4 cup Frozen Corn
To taste:
Chili Powder
Heat oil in a large frying pan on medium heat and saute onions, bell pepper, poblano pepper, and chili pepper until browning then add in the corn, black beans and spices and cook on medium low for about 10 minutes; sprinkle with cheese and continue to heat until melted then take off of heat. Wrap these beans in a tortilla, sprinkle over nachos, or whatever you want to do.

Kashmiri Chicken

This chicken is simply amazing. The pungent and tangy blend of spices just makes my mouth water when I am making this. Also, I love recipes that use cinnamon sticks, not just because cinnamon is tasty, but also because I feel cool cooking with a whole cinnamon stick - it seems like something only a fancy chef would do. Anyhow, the spice blend in this recipe is excellent, probably because it is from the Complete Indian Cooking cookbook.

I think this would be great paired with a spinach salad with dried cranberries in it. I just ate it plain but I definitely think it would have benefited from something fresh along side.

Also, I used greek yogurt in this because I love how thick and tart it is but you could use regular yogurt just as well.

Kashmiri Chicken
3 Onions finely sliced
10 Peppercorns
10 Cardamoms
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 2-in long Piece Ginger finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons minced Garlic
2 teaspoons Chili Powder
2-3 teaspoons Paprika
3 lbs. Chicken Breasts cut into large pieces
1 1/2 cups Unsweetened Plain Greek Yogurt
Heat oil in frying pan until hot (on medium heat) and put in onions. Fry onions, with peppercorns, cardamoms, salt, and cinnamon stick, until the onions are golden brown. Add in the ginger, garlic, chili powder, paprika, and chicken and let the chicken briefly brown on both sides (about 2 minutes or so). Add in the yogurt and reduce heat to low; cook for about 30 minutes (for about half the cook time cover to conserve juices) or until the chicken it cooked through (no longer pink inside and the chicken will be firmer). Serve over rice. Makes enough to feed about 6 people.

Balti Mixed Vegetables

Tasty healthiness!
These mixed vegetables are based on a recipe from my trusty Indian cookbook, Complete Indian Cooking, and they are the best. If you add in a can of chick peas this could easily be made into a main dish. This is not a spicy recipe, the flavors are actually pretty mild, more on the savory and slightly sour side from the lemon.

I like to make these when I have some veggies I need to use up and am short on time. Also, if I am running low on cash this is a pretty cheap meal and works quite well using frozen vegetables or fresh ones. And this is a very healthy recipe, that, with the addition of chick peas, is filling as well.

Spices all blended together


Balti Mixed Vegetables
1 Onion diced
1 tablespoon minced Garlic
1 1/2 inch long piece Ginger chopped fine
1 1/2 teaspoon Chili Powder
2 teaspoons Coriander
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
2 teaspoons Curry Powder
1 1/2 lb (approx) Vegetables (I used Zucchini, Squash, Potatoes, Carrots, and Green Peas) chopped in small pieces 
2-3 Tomatoes diced
4 tablespoons Lemon Juice
Heat large frying pan with a little oil on medium heat; once pan has heated put in onions and saute for a few minutes then add in the garlic, ginger, spices, and chopped up vegetables; saute for about 2 minutes then add in the tomatoes and lemon juice and cook covered on medium-low for about 15 more minutes until vegetables are tender but not mushy. (I had to transfer everything into a pot once I had sauteed it for a few minutes because my skillet wasn't big enough). Serves 4-6 depending on whether you make it a main dish or not.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Salmon Sandwich Spread

Fresh veggies!
This spread is based on a recipe I used to make as a teen for lunches, and I remembered it when my partner mentioned that he was tired of eating his typical meat and cheese sandwich at work. It is especially great if you feel iffy about the taste of tuna (which I do) and also if you want to incorporate more fish into your diet but at a more affordable price. This spread is super tasty and you can throw it together in about 15 minutes and it will keep just fine for a few days so it would be handy to take to work for cheep lunches.

I have work on the brain today because I just found out that I am finally starting my part-time job tomorrow! Excited to finally be working again.

Anyway enjoy the spread.

Salmon Sandwich Spread
1 14.75 oz can Salmon drained
6 oz Cream Cheese softened
6 Green Onions chopped fine (bulb and all)
4 Carrots grated
1 tablespoon garlic chopped fine
2 tablespoons Miracle Whip
2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
3/4 teaspoon Salt
3/4 teaspoon Fresh Ground Pepper
Dump salmon into a medium mixing bowl and mash up add in the other ingredients and stir until well mixed. Make sandwiches! Makes about 6-8 sandwiches depending on how much you use.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Stuffed Zucchini and Squash Shells

Ready to bake
I found this recipe a while ago on Annie's Eats when I was looking for recipes that used fresh rosemary, but at the time I didn't have the other ingredients so I didn't end up making it. However, this week I decided I wanted to try it so I got the few extra things I needed, put on a movie, and started cooking. I changed a few things in the recipe, to make it more my style, namely adding in cayenne pepper to give the filling a little extra kick. I also put in crushed croutons because I needed to use them up and I added in sage because it seemed like it would pair well with the other flavors, I was right - I really loved the spice combo in this filling.

All done and ready to consume

These were a little time consuming to make because of all the chopping (having a kitchen helper would have made this go a lot faster) but they were so yummy!

Definitely try these when you get a chance!

Stuffed Zucchini and Squash Shells (adapted from Annie's Eats recipe)
1 lb. Ground Turkey
3 Zucchini (medium sized)
2 Yellow Squash (medium sized)
1 Onion diced
2 tablespoons Garlic chopped (I always buy the jarred minced garlic packed in water, it's quick and I can't tell the difference)
1 8 oz container Portabella Mushrooms diced
3-4 Tomatoes diced
2-3 tablespoons fresh Basil coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh Rosemary chopped
1-2 teaspoons Sage
1 teaspoon ground Cayenne Pepper
1 teaspoon Salt
fresh ground Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons White Wine optional (this was in the original recipe but I really don't see why, if you don't have any don't worry about it)
2 Eggs
1/2 cup (approx) smashed up Croutons (or bread crumbs)
3/4 cup Parmesan Cheese grated
Olive Oil
Peel and dice up one of the zucchinis and set aside. Slice remaining zucchini and squash in half and scoop out the insides leaving about a 1/4 inch of flesh (so they don't fall apart when stuffed and baking). Dice up the insides and set aside with the other diced zucchini.

The fresh stuff all chopped up!
Saute onion and garlic in a little olive oil for about 5-7 minutes then add in the diced zucchini, zucchini and squash insides, mushrooms, ground turkey, and spices; saute until turkey has browned. Add in the tomatoes and wine and cook for another few minutes.

Cooked up filling mixure
Set aside and cool slightly. Once the mixture has cooled down some mix in the eggs, croutons, and parmesan cheese. Spoon mixture into the halved zucchini and squash shells and place them on a large cookie sheet.

Uncooked stuffed shells

Pour water into the cookie sheet until the water just covers the entire surface (this helps the squash and zucchini not dry out when baking) and bake for 40 minutes at 375 degrees.

Note: There will be a significant amount of leftover filling and you can just bake that in a pie plate right along with the stuffed squashes. I added about half a bag of spinach to the leftover filling because I needed to get rid of it and it tasted really good. (This would probably be pretty good served over toast for breakfast).

Classic Wet Burritos

These burritos were inspired by memories of really tasty burritos a friend of mine back in Michigan would make, also I had a bunch of pinto beans I had made a while ago sitting in the fridge and I needed to use them up. I totally didn't write down how I made the pinto beans but they are pretty simple, soak them overnight in water, drain the next day. Put in just enough water to cover and add in some garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper and whatever else suits your fancy and let them simmer for about 3 hours until they are cooked down. The most important thing is to cook them until they are in a very thick broth made from the beans partially breaking down, this is what makes homemade pinto beans so different and so much better than canned ones.

Anyway, on to the burritos. These are really easy to make and make good leftovers. Enjoy!

Classic Wet Burritos
1 lb Ground Turkey
2-3 cups cooked Pinto Beans
2-3 Jalapeno Peppers seeded and diced
2 Red Chili Peppers seeded and diced
2 Onions chopped
3-4 teaspoons Chili Powder
1 1/2 teaspoons Cumin
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 1/2 teaspoon Onion Powder
2 10 oz cans Enchilada Sauce
1 1/2 cups Shredded Mexican Cheese Blend
10 Tortilla Shells (soft taco sized)
Olive Oil
Spice amounts are approximate I just dumped stuff in for this recipe
Saute peppers and onions in a large skillet in a little oil for about 5 minutes then add in the ground turkey and spices and cook until turkey is browned. Add in the pinto beans and stir, then turn off heat. Put about a 1/4 cup of the filling onto a tortilla shell and sprinkle on a little cheese then roll up and put in a 13x9 inch pan that has  been lightly greased. Repeat until filling is used up. Pour Enchilada sauce over the top of the rolled up burritos and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for about 25-30 minutes at 350 or until heated through.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Garlic Cheese Sauce

While engaging in one of my favorite activities, stumbling food websites, I came across this recipe for sweet potato gnocchi on The Noshery, an excellent food blog. I had never made gnocchi before so I decided to try my hand at it. These are truly little bites of heaven. Using sweet potato instead of regular potatoes was a genius move, it makes the gnocchi even richer and gives it a slight sweetness which the garlicky cheese sauce offsets perfectly. Making gnocchi is a time consuming endeavor, I think it took me about two hours to make the dough, cut it up, and boil it. Not to mention the sauce. Definitely a weekend project for a meal that you want to make special, or if you are bored and want to tackle a new kitchen project (that would be me).

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Garlic Cheese Sauce (adapted from this recipe)

Sweet Potato Gnocchi
1 1/2 cups Mashed Sweet Potatoes (about 3 sweet potatoes)
6 oz Low Fat Ricotta Cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese shredded
1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
2 1/2 cups (about) Flour
Pierce sweet potatoes with a fork and roast at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes or until soft. Mash up sweet potatoes and then let cool. Once they have cooled put them in a large mixing bowl and mix in the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, and nutmeg.

Sweet potatoes and ricotta cheese

Gradually add in the flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough is only slightly sticky and stays together enough to handle. Take dough out and knead on a floured surface, adding more flour as needed until dough is smooth. Divide dough into three sections.

Divided dough

Roll one section into a rope, one inch in diameter.

Rope of dough

Cut the rope into four equal parts and then slice the four parts into about one inch pieces.

The four pieced
Uncooked pieces of gnocchi

Repeat with other sections. Bring a large pot of water to boil with 1 tablespoon of salt. Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water in about three batches (you don't want too many gnocchi in the water). Boil the gnocchi for 6 minutes - once gnocchi are starting to get done they will rise to the top of the pot. The Noshery suggested frying the cooked gnocchi to crisp them up a little and I tried that, it was an excellent idea. Just put a little butter in the frying pan, turn onto medium heat and throw in a few handfuls of gnocchi at a time cooking on each side for a minute or two until lightly browned. The exterior crunch makes the chewy gnocchi center even better.

Garlic Cheese Sauce
2 cups Milk
3 tablespoons Butter
3 tablespoons Flour
1 cup Gouda Cheese
1 tablespoon Garlic minced
1 Onion chopped fine
In a large frying pan on medium heat saute onion and garlic in one tablespoon of the butter until onions become translucent and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn burner down to low, then add in the rest of the butter and melt. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter, onions, and garlic and stir in. Slowly add in the milk, stirring constantly or the mixture will clump. If it starts to clump pull off heat and stir in more milk until mixture is smooth again. Once milk is incorporated continue to cook on low heat until boiling, continue boiling for about 2 minutes (should be slightly thick). Add in the gouda and stir until melted. Pour over the gnocchi and serve. Gnocchi and sauce serve about 3-4 depending on if you have sides and how hungry everyone is.

Caramelized Carrots

These carrots are from the 2007 America's Test Kitchen Cookbook, created by the fine people behind the fabulous cooking magazine Cook's Illustrated. Aside from the recipes, which are always the best, they go through and analyze how they perfected the recipe and what makes it good, what mistakes were made, everything. It is like having a window into a cook's mind - great for someone who is just starting out cooking and wants to understand the mechanics behind what happens in the kitchen. Also, their product reviews are the best - they go through and rank different products by overall best product and best product by price. They always give good reasons for why a product is picked and it isn't always the higher end stuff that ends up being ranked the best.

Anyway, these carrots are super yummy, the sweet glaze caramelizes perfectly in the oven, and the carrots have a nice crunch before the softness inside.

A lovely accompaniment to any dinner. Enjoy!

Caramelized Carrots
1 1/2 lb Carrots cut in 2-3 inch pieces and quartered
1 1/2 tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 tablespoons Butter melted
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 -1 teaspoon Fresh Ground Pepper
Cut ends off of carrots. Cut into 2-3 inch pieces then quarter those pieces (the carrot pieces should be small so that they are crisper and caramelize better). Put carrots into a medium mixing bowl and toss with all of the other ingredients. Spread in a single layer onto a large cookie sheet.

Carrots about to go into the oven

Bake for 20 - 25 minutes at 475 degrees, stirring once or twice while baking.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Balsamic Roasted Asparagus

Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables, normally I pan fry it but I decided to try roasting it since I have been doing that lately with most vegetables. This asparagus turned out beautifully. One thing to keep in mind is that the quality of asparagus varies greatly in stores. The best asparagus is on the smaller side, the smaller, younger stems are more tender and taste a lot better. The larger the asparagus the more "woody" and tough it is going to be. Also, it should be pretty bright green with darker purply tops. The photos below are some examples of how good asparagus should look.

This is how the asparagus would look
Here is the big bunch
 This recipe is really simple and easy to modify. If you don't like balsamic vinegar try using lemon pepper seasoning or some other blend that you like.


Balsamic Roasted Asparagus
1 lb or more Fresh Asparagus
2 - 3 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Fresh Ground Pepper
Olive Oil (approx 1 tablespoon or less)
Snap and rinse the asparagus and lay in a single layer on a large cookie sheet. Sprinkle with spices, oil, and balsamic vinegar and toss to coat. Bake at 425 for 10-15 minutes until some of the asparagus starts to brown slightly and stick to the pan.