Monday, October 19, 2015

Pressure Cooker Breakfast: Steel-cut Oats

My electric pressure cooker. One of my favorite kitchen appliances. This one also slow cooks and sautés.
About a year ago, I posted a recipe for steel-cut oats cooked in the pressure cooker. The secret to pressure cooker oats is to use non-dairy milk. Cow's milk contains sugar - lactose, specifically -  and it can scorch to the bottom of your pot. Nut milks don't have lactose, nor much of any other sugar unless sweetened.

This new recipe still uses non-dairy milk, but the proportions are different. I made a mistake and added too much water the last time I made them. And, I liked it better! The oats are creamier and don't set up quite as stiff, which makes them better the next day.

Pressure Cooker Steel-Cut Oats, the 2015 version
(serves 4)

3 cups water
1 cup non-dairy milk, such as almond or coconut
1 cup steel-cut oats
12 dried apricots, chopped (see Note)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 big pinches salt

4 Tablespoons chopped nuts or nut butter
4 teaspoons brown sugar or maple syrup

Put everything but the garnishes in the pressure cooker, lock down the lid, and bring up to pressure. Cook for 3 minutes (4 minutes at 5000 ft. altitude). Turn off the heat and allow pot to cool for 10 minutes. Release the pressure. To serve, garnish with chopped nuts and sweetener. Any nut is yummy but I really like roasted pistachios with dried apricots.

Note: Dried apricots can be sticky. If you freeze them for 10 minutes then chop them, they won't stick to your knife.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Salmon Cakes

Just a quick pointer to a recipe posted to my personal blog:

Salmon Cakes

It's an easy recipe that uses canned salmon (or leftover cooked salmon) to great advantage. It gets a little crunch from onions, peppers, and celery. It's delicious served as a salmon burger, or on top of a big crunchy green salad.

It's good summer eating.

Monday, June 22, 2015

African Bean & Chicken Stew

Chicken is one of the most popular ingredients among our students. If you are looking for a quick and easy dinner option, chicken is a winner. It's versatile, and reasonably priced, particularly if you shop the sales. All this makes it a popular choice with time-strapped students on a budget. This recipe takes pantry ingredients to produce an unusual entree. It's super-easy and the beans stretch more expensive boneless chicken to feed six. You may not think boneless chicken is that expensive, but it is still 3-6x more expensive than the canned beans. And for convenience, a can of beans is hard to beat.

Peanuts are a New World food, originating in South America. But they grow very well in Africa and are a popular ingredient in West African stews. That's why this is called African Bean and Chicken Stew.

African Bean & Chicken Stew
(6 servings)

1 ½ cups of brown rice
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into ½" chunks
2 - 3 green onions, chopped
½ cup Fajita sauce (see Note)
3 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 cups frozen corn or 1 12 oz. can corn kernels, drained
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can red beans, drained and rinsed
1 14.5 oz. can petite-diced tomatoes, undrained
4 to 5 drops hot sauce, such as Tabasco
¼ cup chopped peanuts

Bring 3 ½ cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add brown rice, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 50 minutes until rice is tender. When rice is nearly done, heat oil in a large pan; add chicken and sauté over medium heat, stirring and turning frequently until almost all pink color has disappeared. Add green onions; sauté 2-3 minutes longer, continuing to stir frequently; reduce heat to low. Blend fajita sauce with peanut butter, drizzle over chicken and onions. Add corn, beans, tomatoes and hot pepper sauce; stir well to combine ingredients. Simmer mixture a few minutes longer to heat throughout, stirring occasionally. Spoon over brown rice in individual serving bowls. Garnish with chopped peanuts.

Note: This recipe uses liquid fajita sauce. There are a number of brands; we like Frontera skillet fajita sauce. One packet of Frontera skillet fajita sauce contains enough sauce to make this recipe twice.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sesame Street says "Let's Cook!"

Most of my audience are not the Sesame Street set. But, maybe some of you are parents and you struggle with getting your kids to eat a variety of foods. I know how that goes. My daughter is now all grown up and her palate has expanded a great deal but she was a fairly picky eater as a kid. The fact that her mom was a trained chef meant nothing to her. I introduced new foods until they became old foods and familiar to her. I cooked more simply. The wonderful folks at Sesame Street have just released a cookbook for families, which uses many of the concepts I used with my daughter. It has recipes that appeal to children (children-tested too) wrapped up in that lovable Sesame Street package of Grover, Elmo, and Zoe.

One recipe, Zoe's Tortellini Soup with Tiny Turkey Meatballs, is printed in a story in the New York Times. Check it out. It's a very easy soup that takes advantage of pantry staples and pre-made food to make a filling dinner that kids and adults will love. You buy the tortellini. You make your own tiny turkey meatballs. You use packaged stock and canned tomatoes for the soup. Simple and delicious. Pre-made food isn't bad food if you are careful about what you use. And, it definitely makes the parent's job of getting a meal on the table a lot easier.

“Sesame Street Let’s Cook!” by Susan McQuillan, RD. Copyright © 2015 by Sesame Workshop.

Photo credit: By cyclonebill (Tortellini med svampe og mascarpone) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Blueberry Wheat Germ Pancakes

We love pancakes in my house. My husband makes classic buttermilk pancakes every few weeks. I like to mix it up with some variations. I made these pancakes for Mother's Day this year. I adapted them from a King Arthur Flour recipe. As you can see from the picture, my recipe makes quite a stack of pancakes. This is half the King Arthur recipe. People must have very large families or else plan to feed all their neighbors in Vermont!

These are not sweet at all. I put real maple syrup on my pancakes. I vacationed in Vermont as a kid and only the real stuff will do. If the pancakes are sweet, breakfast tastes more like dessert. As much as the Vermonters like dessert for breakfast - pie for breakfast is a local tradition - I don't like sweet things for breakfast.

Blueberry Wheat Germ Pancakes
(serves 5-6)

Dry Ingredients
2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
¾ teaspoon baking powder (1 ½ teaspoon at sea level)
½ teaspon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda (same at sea level)
½ cup toasted wheat germ

Wet Ingredients
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
3 Tablespoons vegetable or nut oil (walnut is particularly good)

1 ½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries (no need to thaw frozen ones)

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix together all the wet ingredients in a large measuring cup until well combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until there are no large pockets of dry ingredients. Add the blueberries, and stir gently to incorporate. Do not over-mix. Heat up a griddle using a medium heat. Too hot and your pancakes will burn before they are cooked through. Too low, and you'll be waiting forever and they will dry out. Grease the griddle lightly with butter or oil before each set of pancakes. For medium-sized pancakes, use a scant ¼ cup of batter per pancake. Do not crowd them; it becomes very hard to flip them if they are too close together. Cook until bubbles pop through the top and the holes formed don't close up. The edges will be cooked and the pancakes nicely browned. Flip and cook until the other side it toasty brown. Repeat until all the batter is gone. Serve hot.

Can be reheated in a microwave or oven but they are at their best fresh from the griddle.

Adapted from The King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook by Brinna B. Sands, Countryman Press, 1992.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Whole Wheat Tortilla Chips

It's so easy to make your own healthy tortilla chips. No frying needed. You bake lightly oiled tortillas in a hot oven and you have crunchy, crispy healthy chips. Best of all, you can flavor them any way you want.

Some whole wheat tortillas are thick. These don't work as well for chips. I like the ones made for wraps. I found The Ole brand of Extreme Wellness High Fiber-Low Carb Tortilla Wraps work really well because they are very thin. All those "health" words in there are not necessary. Find a brand that is thin and whole wheat. That's what is important.

The seasoning is up to you:
  • Really simple: just salt
  • Simple and sweet: cinnamon-sugar. Equal parts ground cinnamon and sugar
  • Savory: any ground spice and salt. Blends like chili powder work well. I used a blend called Mapuche seasoning from the Savory Spicy Shop. It's based on a Chilean spice blend, and contains cumin, coriander, smoked sweet paprika and chile.
The method: heat your oven or toaster oven to 400°F. Brush or spray the tortilla with oil. Sprinkle lightly with seasonings. Cut into wedges. Place on a rack and bake for about 5 minutes. Turn them over and continue baking until crispy. Watch at the end of baking because they can burn at the edges. Store in an airtight container to keep them crisp.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Roasted Chicken with Fennel

I'm participating in the VegOut! campaign from Recipe for Success. It's a positive way to say "Eat Your Veggies!" Try a bunch of different vegetables - the goal is 30 veggies in 30 days - and see how you like them. Find some new ones you may not have known you liked and just eat more of them. Americans don't eat a lot of vegetables. Research shows that eating them is good for your health. You may be surprised to learn that you don't need to eat a lot of them - a meta-analysis showed that 4 servings a day is the sweet spot. Less than 4 is sub-optimal but more than 4 didn't seem to confer any greater health. So, get to 4. It's not that hard to eat that many. Stick to ones you like, nothing wrong with that. But, eat more of them!

This recipe uses a somewhat unusual vegetable: fennel. Fennel has a subtle licorice taste. You can eat it cooked or raw. It's used a lot in Italian cuisine where it goes by the charming name of Finocchio.

Note: This dish needs to marinate overnight for the full development of flavor.

Chicken Roasted with Ginger, Fennel, and Tomatoes
(serves 4-6)

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons grated ginger
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed (see Note)
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

4 - 6 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on (about 2 pounds)
1 head of garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 head of fennel, cored and sliced thinly
1 large onion, thickly sliced
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup dry white wine or vermouth
2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt and black pepper

Combine all the rub ingredients in a small bowl. Rub the chicken thighs with this, making sure you get most of it between the skin and the flesh of each thigh. Place the thighs in a large (big enough to hold the chicken and all the vegetables which you'll add later) glass or ceramic baking and marinate, covered, in the fridge overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Scatter the garlic, fennel, onion, and tomatoes around the chicken. Pour in the wine, drizzle the oil on the veggies, and season the whole thing with more salt and black pepper. Cover with foil. Bake for 1 ½ hours until chicken is completely cooked. Remove the foil and increase the oven temperature to 450°F. Put the chicken back in the oven and roast at this higher temperature until the skin gets browned and crispy. Serve over rice or roasted potatoes.

Note: To crush fennel seeds, smash them with the flat bottom of a skillet.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Meatless Monday: Cauliflower Marranca

It's not particularly photogenic, but it tastes really good!
A recipe from the original Moosewood Cookbook. Made a few changes - added tomatoes, used quinoa, measured the added fat, and added the crunchy topping. I'm not against fat but it does carry a heavy caloric punch. You need some to carry flavor and give richness but I see no point in gilding the lily, as my mom would say. The original gave no amounts for the fat (butter in the original) at all.

This is a good recipe to use up bits of cheese. Two cups is enough, but you can add a bit more, if you want to use up what you've got.

Cauliflower Marranca
(serves 6-8)

non-stick cooking spray
1 pound mushrooms, chopped or sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
3 ½ Tablespoons oil, divided
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
½ teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets and core cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
black pepper
1 Tablespoon fresh or frozen chopped basil
3 cups cooked quinoa or brown rice
2 - 2 ¾ cups grated cheese (jack, mozzarella, cheddar, manchego)
¼ cup dry bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Heat 1 ½ Tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and onion. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juice, and the oregano. Cook until most of the liquid evaporates. Add ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Pour all this into a large bowl.

Wipe out the pan, add 1 ½ Tablespoon oil, and heat over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, cook for 30 seconds, then add the cauliflower and 2 Tablespoons water. Cover tightly and reduce the heat to medium. Steam cauliflower until tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into bowl with mushrooms. Add chopped basil, cooked quinoa/rice, and cheese. Taste and add additional salt and pepper, if needed.

Pour into the prepared dish, cover, and bake for 25 minutes (35 minutes if the grain is cold). Combine the bread crumbs with ½ Tablespoon oil and mix until all the crumbs are moistened. Raise the temperature of the oven to 425°F. Sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the top of the casserole. Return to the oven, uncovered, to bake until top is browned and crunchy, about 10 minutes.

Let sit for 5-10 minutes. It is very hot right out of the oven and it's easier to serve if allowed to set up.

Best if reheated in the oven to keep the topping crunchy but it reheats OK in the microwave too.

Adapted from Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen, Ten Speed Press, 1977.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Pasta with Spinach, Chickpeas, and Sausage

This is a not-quite-meatless dish. A little bit of meat, in this case some sausage, can add a big dose of flavor. The dish is hearty because of the pasta and the chickpeas, not because of a large portion of meat. Many of us don't want to give up the flavor of meat. Using just a little bit gives the flavor satisfaction at a lower cost and higher sustainability. You win and the planet wins.

Pasta with Spinach, Chickpeas, and Sausage
(serves 4)

2 Tablespoons olive oil + more for garnish
2 cloves garlic, minced
about ⅓ pound flavorful sausage, such as basil or Italian
5 oz. fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
2 15 oz. cans of chickpeas
2 Tablespoons minced fresh sage
10 oz. dried orecchiette pasta or some similar frilly shape
black pepper
grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of salted water to boil.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until no longer pink and starting to brown. While the sausage is cooking, drain the chickpeas, reserving 1 cup of the liquid.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the spinach and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the chickpeas, sage, reserved liquid, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook this while you cook the pasta, which will take about 10-12 minutes. When the pasta is done, drain, and add to the chickpeas. Stir in more salt if needed and cook for another minute. To serve, garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, black pepper, and some grated Parmesan cheese.

Adapted from Fagioli: The Bean Cuisine of Italy by Judith Barrett, Rodale, 2004.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Spring Greens season is here - make some Saag

Spinach is one of the first greens to pop up in the garden in the spring. Amazingly, spinach can germinate in cold soils, as cold as 33 °F! I usually plant spinach in the fall, when it germinates easily in the warm soil. When the cold weather comes, it hibernates for the winter. As soon as the soil warms up again in the spring, it's off and running. That makes spinach the very first green to make it to my table.

I posted this recipe for Saag Paneer, which is Indian Greens with Cheese (or tofu if you prefer - it's easier to find than the fresh cheese and much cheaper). The original recipe called for frozen spinach, which is inexpensive and available year-round. But, this being the start of spring greens, you can make it with fresh spinach. Substitute 2 bunches of coarsely chopped fresh spinach for the frozen spinach and make the original recipe as written.

If you do use fresh garden or farmers' market spinach, make sure you wash it well (the process is described in this recipe for sautéed kale) because it holds onto sand and gritty greens is way icky.

Nowadays, you can also get bags of triple-washed fresh spinach, which is a great leap forward for spinach. You'll need a big bag of spinach for this, 20-24 oz. worth.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Oatmeal Snickerdoodles

Here we combine three excellent cookies into one: oatmeal, snickerdoodle, chocolate chip. How can you go wrong with that? These are crunchy, not chewy cookies, with a bit of chocolate and cinnamon. I think they are what happens when you cross Mexico chocolate* with New England home-style.

If you have an electric mixer, these are very easy cookies to make.

Oatmeal Snickerdoodles
(makes about 50 cookies)

1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda (½ teaspoon at sea level)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
⅓ cup sugar (⅜ cup at sea level)
⅓ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed (⅜ cup at sea level)
1 egg, at room temperature
¾ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
⅓ cup chocolate chips

Adjust the racks in your oven to ⅓ and ⅔. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with aluminum foil.

Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, mix together butter and the sugars in a large bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until well combined. On low speed, gradually mix in the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl, then mixing slowly again just to combine. Stir in the oatmeal and chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the foil, leaving 2" between cookies - they will spread. You will only be able to fit ½ the dough on 2 sheets, so you'll be baking these in 2 rounds. Place the cookie sheets in the oven and bake for 11-12 minutes until just lightly browned. Do not overbake. When done, slide off the foil and cookies onto 2 racks and let them cool for 5 minutes before trying to remove them. Let the cookie sheets cool to room temperature. Line with foil again and repeat portioning and baking with remaining dough. Store cookies in an airtight container to keep them crispy.

Adapted from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies by Maida Heatter, Alfred A. Knopf, 1977.

*Mexican chocolate is often flavored with cinnamon.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Shells with Peppers

A super simple Italian dish for Meatless Monday: pasta shells in a hearty sauce of peppers, onions, and tomatoes. Flavored with some basil and Parmesan cheese. All that there is to it and chock full of delicious veggies.

Pasta Shells with Peppers
(serves 4-5)

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, peeled
1 pound bell peppers (whatever color you like), about 3 medium peppers
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
5 sprigs fresh basil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Core the peppers and then slice lengthwise. Cut the onion in half, then slice. Pick the leaves off the basil sprigs. Rip or chop the leaves coarsely. Start a large pot of boiling salted water for the pasta.

Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté onions until golden and no longer crunchy, but not browned. Add the peppers and raise the heat to high. Sauté until the peppers are limp. Turn down the heat to medium-low. Add the tomatoes, basil, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the cover, reduce to low, and continue cooking while you cook the pasta.

By now your pasta water should be boiling. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and dump into the skillet. Stir to combine - a large spoon and tongs work better than just a spoon. Then stir in ½ cup of the cheese. Stir gently. Taste for salt; add more if needed. Serve immediately with remaining cheese as garnish.

Adapted from Food alla Florentine by Naomi Barry & Beppe Bellini, Doubleday & Company, 1972.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Waldorf Salad with Fennel

Waldorf salad, the old stand-by, an apple-celery-nut salad with a rich mayonnaise dressing. I can't tell you how much of this I ate during my college days. Could use with a little updating. I found a recipe from Whole Foods which was a good starting point. But, it's a side salad that contains 400(!) calories. That's rather excessive. Trimmed it down a bit by reducing the nuts and dried fruit, and cutting back on the amount of dressing.

This salad gives me a chance to introduce fennel. Fennel has a slight licorice flavor and great crunch. I'm not a huge licorice/anise fan but fennel has just the right amount. Celery is what usually gives Waldorf salad its vegetable crunch. No celery here, just fennel. Give it a try. Fennel is good raw in any salad. Slice it thin because big pieces can be fibrous. It is also good roasted. Simple and delicious.

Waldorf Salad with Fennel
(serves 4-5)

3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
5 Tablespoons lowfat Greek yogurt
1 Tablespoon lemon or lime juice
1 Tablespoon honey
2 Tablespoons minced fresh mint
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt

1 small bulb of fennel or ½ a large one
2 apples, cored and chopped (see Note)
⅓ cup chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews)
½ cup raisins or dried cranberries

Combine all the dressing ingredients and set aside while you prepare the rest.

To prepare the fennel, cut the bulb in half from the top (the part with the leafy stalks) to the bottom. Cut out the hard core at the bottom of the bulb. Slice the remaining bulb as thinly as you can. Combine the fennel with the rest of the salad ingredients, add dressing, and toss to combine. Add more salt to taste.

Best if eaten immediately because the dressing thins out when it sits in the fridge. But, it's still good. For a more substantial variation, add in some cooked chicken or turkey.

Note: Braeburns or Cortlands are preferred because they don't brown quickly. See our post on apple varieties for more info on our one of our favorite fruits.

Fennel photo credit: By Jamain (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, February 16, 2015

Meatless Monday: Spinach Lasagne

Previously, I posted a recipe for meatless Spinach Lasagne that is "baked" in the microwave. Here's a similar recipe that is cooked in the oven and it uses no-boil noodles. This makes the recipe easier, though the time is about the same. You have to give the noodles time to cook once it's assembled but you don't have to deal with cooking the noodles ahead.

Oven-Baked Spinach Lasagne
(serves 6-8)

9 no-boil lasagne noodles (2" wide by 10" long)
non-stick cooking spray
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 ½ cups water
1 Tablespoon vegetable stock concentrate or dry vegetable soup mix
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon black pepper
a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
12 ounces frozen spinach, thawed but not drained
2 cups low-fat cottage cheese, a 16 ounce container
2 eggs
8 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (2 cups)
½ cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a 9"x 11" baking dish with cooking spray.

Heat oil in a large skillet. Sauté onion for 4 minutes. Add garlic, cook for another minute. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, vegetable soup mix, salt, sugar, basil, oregano, black pepper, and crushed red pepper. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Keep warm while you mix up the filling.

Combine the spinach, cottage cheese and eggs in a medium bowl.

To assemble, lay 3 noodles in dish  Ladle on ⅓ of the sauce, ½ the spinach mixture, then sprinkle on ¾ cup of mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers, finishing with another 3 noodles covered by the remainder of the sauce, making sure that the noodles are completely covered. Cover tightly with foil.

Bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and sprinkle on the last ½ cup mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese. Bake for 10 more minutes. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving to allow cheese to set up which makes lasagne easier to cut.

Freezes well.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Chinese Ground Meat and Rice Casserole

I made this one with cooked leftover leg of lamb.
This recipe was inspired by one for Lamb Crepes Oriental. Just a hunch...most people reading here are not going to make crepes. I simplified things by using rice and making this a layered casserole. This is a delicious way to use up all sorts of cooked meats: beef, lamb, turkey, chicken, pork. If you don't have 2 cups of cooked meat, you can substitute 1 pound of ground meat. See the instructions for changes if you start with raw meat.

We don't usually think of cooking lettuce, but romaine is hardy, holding up to some gentle cooking, and adds some nice crunch here.

Chinese Ground Meat and Rice Casserole
(serves 4)

non-stick cooking spray
4 cups cooked rice (brown or white)
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (if using cooked meat only)
1 onion, minced
2 cups of cooked chopped meat or poultry
1 pound ground meat
¼ cup beef broth
½ large head of romaine lettuce, shredded
½ teaspoon black pepper

1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 Tablespoon dry sherry, sake, or rice wine
1 cup beef broth

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a 9"x11" baking dish with cooking spray. Spread the rice in the dish and set aside.

If using cooked meat, heat the oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauteacute; for 5 minutes. Add in the cooked meat and beef broth. Simmer until meat to warmed. Remove from heat, mix in lettuce and black pepper.

If using raw ground meat, heat up a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook the meat until no longer pink. Drain off most of the fat, leaving about 2 Tablespoons. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add beef broth and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, mix in lettuce and black pepper.

Pour the meat-lettuce mixture over the rice.

Make the sauce: Combine the cornstarch, soy sauce, ginger, dry sherry, and beef broth in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until sauce thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Spoon the sauce over the meat. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes.

Adapted from a recipe for Lamb Crepes Oriental in Cooking with Cornelius: The Corning Cookbook by Cornelius O'Donnell, Random House, 1982

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Trader Joe's Sale Alert! Hazelnuts! Cara Cara Oranges too.


Hazelnuts (aka Filberts) are on sale at Trader Joe's in Boulder this month. One of my favorites. I like them in salads. They are delicious in granola. They are good all by themselves as a snack. They are on sale for $7.99/pound which is a great deal.

They are raw and not peeled, however. No problem! Though sort of messy and tedious, this method really works. Then, for the best flavor, toast them until lightly browned and crunchy. I've also tried toasting them to get the skins off. Doesn't work consistently. Hazelnut skins are bitter so I go for the blanching method.

How to Blanch Hazelnuts:

Bring 1 ½ cups of water to a boil. Add ½ to 1 cup hazelnuts and 2 Tablespoons baking soda. Turn down heat to maintain a steady boil and boil for 3 minutes. When the timer goes off, run a few nuts under cold water and if the skin slips off of all of them, they are done. Otherwise, boil for another minute. Pour the nuts and the now black water into a strainer and run under cool water. Slip the skin off each nut and place in a dry dish towel (one you are willing to sacrifice-it will be permanently stained afterward). Rub to dry the nuts, then toast in a 300°F oven until browned, 15-20 minutes.

After a little rubdown in a paper towel. The skins come right off!

Cara Cara Navel Oranges

Cara Cara oranges are pink on the inside, sweet, and seedless. Winter is citrus season and Cara Cara's are one of the best. According to Trader Joe's, they were first discovered in Venezuela in 1976. A little citrus trivia - many new varieties come from random hybrids. Since citrus (like most tree fruits) is cultivated by grafting rather than seeds, one tree with unusual and delicious qualities can be propagated around the world. Nowadays, Cara Cara's are cultivated in California and Florida. Their flavor is more complex than regular navel oranges - a little spicy. Give them a try. They look beautiful in fruit salads.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Day Before Lentil Soup

This is a stick to your ribs winter soup. I love lentil soup. I posted a vegetarian lentil soup previously. This one is not vegetarian, but it's still full of wonderful things. The addition of bacon gives it a smoky flavor, which is quite delicious, without adding too much richness.

You really should make this the day before because lentil soup, like many soups and stews, gets better after chilling in the fridge. All the flavors come together in a more cohesive whole. It also freezes well.

Day Before Lentil Soup
(serves 9 generously)

5 slices bacon, chopped
1 teaspoon oil
2 onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 cups dried lentils, rinsed and checked for any pebbles
8 cups water
¼ cup balsamic or red wine vinegar
½ cup chopped fresh parsley

Garnish (optional)
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
lemon wedges
quartered hard boiled eggs

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until browned and the fat has rendered out. Remove the bacon pieces to a paper towel to drain. Add the onion, celery, and carrots. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes, and thyme. Cook for another minute. Add the black pepper, bay leaf, salt, lentils, water, and reserved bacon. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for 45 minutes (less time if lower than Boulder, CO altitude of 5300 ft) until lentils are tender but not mushy.

If you don't plan to eat the soup right away (good call!), chill in the fridge. Fish out the bay leaf and discard. Put about 3 cups of soup in the blender and puree. This makes the soup thicker and creamy. Or, you can use an immersion blender to puree it slightly, right in the pot. Reheat over medium-low heat until piping hot. Stir in vinegar and fresh parsley. Check for salt; add more if needed. Serve with garnishes of your choice. Add a salad and you've got yourself a hearty meal.

Adapted from Cooking with Cornelius: The Corning Cookbook by Cornelius O'Donnell, Random House, 1982.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Turkey Posole Soup

I have an old cookbook called Half a Can of Tomato Paste and Other Culinary Dilemmas. It's one of my favorites because it has recipes for using up little bits of this and that. Like a cup of milk or half a can of tomato paste (something I don't have to deal with much now since tomato paste started coming in squeeze tubes). It was published in 1980 and the culinary world has changed quite a bit since then. This recipe for turkey soup was inspired by that book - using up leftovers in an interesting way.

Back in the day, everyone had a bottle of ketchup in the fridge for who-knows-how-long. Now, it's a jar of salsa. This recipe is a good place to use up that old red or green salsa. Any brand you like will do but I like green salsa best.

Posole is dried corn, commonly used in the Southwest. The kernels are whole. It was a wonderful corn flavor and a chewy texture. You can find it dried or easier still, rehydrated in cans. The canned posole makes this soup soup-er fast.

Though this is a turkey soup - because I had leftover Thanksgiving turkey in the freezer along with homemade turkey stock - you could make this with cooked chicken and commercial chicken stock for an even easier version.

Turkey Posole Soup
(serves 6)

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced into thin half moons
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed in your palm
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ to 1 cup green or red salsa
8 cups turkey or chicken stock
1 pound 9 oz can posole, drained
2 cups chopped turkey meat
salt (may not need any if using commercial stock)

Possible Garnish
chopped avocado
crushed tortilla chips
grated jack or cheddar cheese

Heat up the oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add carrots, celery, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir around and cook for a few more minutes. Add the salsa, turkey stock, posole, and turkey meat. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, until carrots are tender. Taste for salt; add more if necessary. Serve with your choice of garnish on top.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Meatless Monday: Low Lactose Mac and Cheese

My lovely daughter spent 6 weeks in Southeast Asia last summer. Not a whole lot of dairy in that part of the world. At some point, she was able to get a latte chai. Little light bulb went off - maybe dairy and me don't really get along? She tolerates many cheeses because they are low in lactose. Milk and cream are chock full of the stuff. Sure, there are lactose free milks but they don't taste quite the same. Of course, neither does coconut milk but she really likes coconut milk. So, that's where this recipe came from. Many people have trouble digesting lactose so I offer this recipe to all those lactase-challenged people out there.

When shopping for a low lactose cheese, check the label for sugar. Lactose is the sugar in milk products. Cheeses that are low in sugar have very little lactose. Aged cheeses usually have low levels of lactose so a nice medium cheddar is a good choice here. Don't use processed cheese. They are very high in lactose because whey or milk (both high in lactose) are added during processing. Really, don't use processed cheese even if you can tolerate lactose. That stuff is a poor substitute for cheese, taste-wise.

If you don't have any trouble digesting lactose, you can use cow's milk in this recipe for the sauce. But, give the coconut milk a try and see what you think. Different flavor but still real good comfort food.

Saucy Stovetop Low Lactose Mac and Cheese
(serves 4)

2 cups elbow macaroni
salt for the pasta cooking water
1 ½ Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
a pinch of powdered garlic, optional
a pinch of powdered onion, optional
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
1 ¼ cups coconut milk or other non-dairy milk
8 oz. low lactose cheese such as a medium cheddar, grated
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons Tabasco or other vinegar-based hot sauce
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add about 1 Tablespoon kosher salt (a little less if using regular salt). When the water comes to a boil, add the macaroni. Cook until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain well, run under cold water to stop the cooking, and set aside.

In the same pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the flour and cook until golden, about 4-5 minutes. Add the powdered garlic, powdered onion, and dry mustard. Stir to combine. Whisk in coconut milk. Keep whisking until sauce thickens and the sauce comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Add the cheese a handful at a time, whisking to melt it after each addition. When all the cheese is added and melted, add in black pepper, salt, Tabasco, Parmesan cheese, and cooked pasta. Stir to cover all the macaroni with sauce. It will be saucy. Taste, add more black pepper, Tabasco, or salt, if desired. Serve while really hot.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Honey Lemon Peach Compote

Yummy topping for pancakes with some chopped almonds for crunch

Here's a tasty way to add some fruits to your diet. I was inspired by the very popular peach teas out there. Why not use those flavors in a saucy compote that you can mix with your yogurt, pour over your pancakes, or spoon over ice cream?

I don't suggest you go out and buy fresh peaches this time of year. They are probably from Chile, where they grow delicious peaches (I was there a year ago this month) but peaches don't travel well. Far too often, they are picked underripe so they can be shipped without turning to mush. Underripe peaches, even once they soften, taste bland and have a mealy texture. Trust, me, the peaches in Chile were nothing like this.

Frozen peaches, though they get a bad rap, are pretty good in a sauce like this. There is enough sugar and acidity to improve even frozen peaches. They are cheaper and far superior to bad fresh peaches, which is all you are going to find this time of year anyway.

If you are not a lemonhead, use the zest of ½ a lemon. The zest isn't tart but it packs a lot of lemon flavor.

Honey Lemon Peach Compote
(makes 4 servings)

1 pound of sliced frozen peaches
¼ cup honey
½ cup water
1 3" cinnamon stick or a big pinch of ground cinnamon
zest of ½ - 1 lemon

Combine everything in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a slow boil. It shouldn't look like a volcano but bubbles breaking on the surface without spraying peach everywhere. Cook until the liquid is reduced and syrupy and the peaches are hot. Can be refrigerated for up to a week, served hot or cold.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

5 Ingredient Pasta Dinner

Super simple recipe but it illustrates a few things.
  • The use of ready-made ingredients, like a commercial pesto, can elevate some simple things to delicious heights and save you a bunch of time.
  • In a recipe as simple as this, you have room for improvisation. Instead of chicken, use shrimp or a firm fish that will hold together like mahi-mahi. Instead of artichoke hearts, use cubed summer squash, halved cherry tomatoes, or lightly cooked broccoli.
  • Pasta water makes a good thickener for pasta sauces. It helps the sauce stick to the pasta better and stretches out a sauce without thinning it out.
And this whole recipe takes about as long as it takes to boil water and cook pasta.

5* Ingredient Pasta Dinner
(serves 4)

12 oz. chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon oil
¼ cup white wine (or use broth or water)
8 oz. frozen artichoke heart quarters, thawed
1 pound short pasta such as penne or cavatelli
4 Tablespoons pesto (homemade or commercial)

Start heating up a pot of salted water. Cut the chicken breasts into bite sized pieces and season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Heat a skillet over high heat. Add the oil, then the chicken pieces and sauté. As soon as the water boils, add the pasta and set the timer for 1 minute less than the suggested cooking time (how long depends on the shape). Cook the chicken until browned. Add the wine and scrape up any browned bits and cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Add the artichoke hearts, cover, and turn down the heat to low. When the pasta timer goes off, check to see that it is very nearly done. Scoop off a ½ cup of cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta, reserved water, and pesto to the skillet. Stir to cover the pasta with the sauce. Check for salt; add more salt if needed. Serve as soon as it is all hot.

*And, yes, I can count. I'm not counting the salt, pepper, or oil because they are pantry items. If I wanted to really push it, I'd say 4 because there is always white wine in my house. :-)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New Year's Resolution: Celebrate Veggies!

Happy New Year!

In 2015, School of Eating Good is going to celebrate veggies. There will be more veggie based recipes posted here. There are plenty of veggie recipes already but even more are coming. They won't be vegetarian, though there will be plenty of those too. A little bit of meat, if you don't object to meat for ethical reasons, is a great way to get most folks more excited about vegetables. As eaters, we need to tilt things a bit more to the veggies, beans, and whole grains and a bit less to animal products (and here's why).

This recipe for roasted broccoli uses cheese, olive oil, and some nuts to make things more interesting. Not that plain roasted broccoli is bad. It's wonderful. But, we all like variety, don't we?

Roasted Broccoli with Cheese & Nuts
(serves 5-6)

1 ½ pounds broccoli
2 Tablespoons olive oil
a few sprinkles of kosher salt
a few light sprinkles of black pepper
2 Tablespoons nuts (see Note)
¼ cup shredded Parmesan or Manchego cheese

Preheat the oven to 425°F. If you are using broccoli florets, pour them onto a large rimmed baking sheet. If you are using broccoli heads, trim off the end of the stem end. The stems can sometimes be tough, so you may have to peel thick stalks. Cut the broccoli however you like but keep the pieces in large-ish pieces (see photo above). Drizzle with the olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 12 minutes. Turn the pieces with a spatula. Sprinkle on the nuts and the cheese and continue roasting until nuts are toasted, cheese is melted and broccoli is tender, about another 5 minutes.

Note: you can use whatever nuts you like. Chopped walnuts, pistachios, cashews, or silvered almonds are all good choices.