Friday, February 25, 2011

Emerald Isle Pasta with Parsley Pesto

I just decided to steal this name from a pasta dish they serve at The Puddlin' Duck.  It's kinda the same based on the menu description, but not exactly the same.  Their menu is all about meat and we don't usually eat there, but if we do, this is probably the only thing on their menu I could order besides some mozzarella sticks or fries.  I'd also say the macaroni and cheese, but they use egg in theirs.  Boo.

So, I had a big bunch of parsley that I bought late last week and still hadn't used by last night, and I was worried that if I didn't do something with it right away, it would all end up in the compost bin.  And organic parsley makes for some needlessly expensive compost.  Without having enough of an appetite to stay in the kitchen and make a meal out of it, I whipped up some pesto.  It went something like this:

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley (about two cups), coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts
juice of one lemon plus some of the pulp
8 gloves minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup olive oil

Puree all ingredients in a blender or food processor. 

That's it!  Left it in the fridge overnight, and tonight I added it to some cooked pasta, gave it a good stir and shaved some Romano cheese over the top.  I was also pleased to discover that it firmed up in the fridge, so now it also makes a tasty, garlicky, parsley-y chip dip.  Steve wasn't into the idea, but I'm sure I'll be snacking on it sometime this weekend.

In any case, this was a simple but great way to get ready for tomorrow morning's run. 

Until next time...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sunday Double-Header

For the first time in ages, I cooked for lunch and dinner yesterday, having been inspired by the wealth of culinary insight to be found in the blogosphere and the Food Network website.

Lunch was black beans and rice with pineapple.  I got the idea from The Runner's Kitchen, who apparently got the idea from someone's forthcoming book.  My recipe differed a little from both:

2 cups water
1 cup brown rice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
6 dried red chiles, cut in half
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
1/2 of a 12-ounce can of pineapple chunks
1/3 cup of juice from canned pineapples
2 cans of black beans, drained
salt to taste
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Bring water to a boil and cook rice according to package instructions (usually about 45 minutes on medium-low heat).

In a separate saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the next four ingredients and cook until onion has softened, about 3-5 minutes.  Add pineapple juice and cook until most of it has evaporated and chilies have plumped up slightly, another 3-5 minutes.  Add remaining three ingredients and cook until pineapple and black beans have heated through, another 5 minutes.  Stir in chopped cilantro and serve over a shallow bed of the brown rice.
And I guess I'd grown tired enough of having to eat 280-calorie frozen dinners on nights for which I had failed to meal-plan that I went ahead and filled my new (as of Thanksgiving) 9 x 13-inch casserole dish with a vegan shepherd's pie inspired by Rachael Ray's recipe

Mine, unlike hers, also features textured vegetable protein (TVP).  For the unfamiliar, this is a soy product that you buy dry and have to soak covered in warm water (like couscous).  From there, it takes on the flavor of whatever else you mix it with, but the idea is that it's a handy vegan substitute for ground beef.  I don't love it, but someone from my office gave it to me and I didn't want it to go to waste.

4 Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1.5-inch cubes
4 tbsp Smart Balance, divided
1 tsp white pepper

salt to taste
3 medium carrots, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 pound frozen green peas, thawed
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1.5 cups textured vegetable protein
1.5 cups water
12 ounces baby bella mushrooms, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place potatoes in a large sauce or soup pot, cover with water (1-2 inches above potatoes), salt generously and bring to a boil.  Boil covered until fork tender, then remove from heat.  Drain off as much water as possible and mash with a hand masher.  Stir in two tablespoons of the Smart Balance, white pepper and additional salt to taste.

In a separate pot, heat Smart Balance over medium heat.  Add carrots and cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes.  Add onion and cook until onions have softened, about 3-5 minutes.  Add next three ingredients, stir well and cook until peas have heated through, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

In a mixing bowl, cover TVP with hot water and cover with a plate for 5 minutes.  Stir in mushrooms, salt and pepper.

Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan and spread mushroom mixture in an even layer across the bottom.  Follow with an even layer of the peas and carrots mixture, then top with an even layer of the mashed potatoes.  Sprinkle paprika over the top of the mashed potatoes and bake for 45 minutes.
The prep work takes more time than anything with the shepherd's pie, and this ended up being another casserole that I started at 5:00 but that wasn't served until just after 7:30.  I'm just glad I managed to stay up for another hour after eating, having gotten up early yesterday to run. 

So now I'm set for leftovers for the rest of the week.  I think I'll have some now!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Vegan Spinach Lasagna

Like the title says, it's vegan.  You've been warned...

This post had to wait a day because it took longer than I expected for this thing to come together.  I'm never, ever hungry past 7:30 p.m., and I realized when this went in the oven that it wouldn't be done until almost 8:00.  So, I let it do its thing and ate hummus and tortilla chips again while a computer handed his competitors' asses to them on Jeopardy.

I was a bit skeptical as to how a tweaked version of this recipe would turn out, but I was curious to see exactly what flavor combination would be produced by the ingredients for the tofu ricotta cheese.  Plus I still have a bunch of lasagna noodles left over from the two or three times I've made it over the past year (in a bread loaf pan, which only takes four or five noodles for three layers), I'm not a fan of ricotta cheese, and I was intrigued by the notion that the marinara sauce didn't have to be cooked down for over an hour and the lasagna noodles didn't have to already be cooked as long as the steam was held in.  Suddenly, lasagna seemed to have gotten easier.

Well, the sauce part was easier, and I just used frozen spinach and fresh baby bella mushrooms instead of the more complicated vegetable layer described in the original recipe.  Still, the time got away from me while I was blending the ingredients for the "cheese," thawing packages of frozen spinach, draining them, mixing in a little salt and pepper, then thinly slicing mushrooms and having the time of my life stirring the contents of a brand new can of tahini until I achieved an even consistency.  Think of stirring all the oil back into a deep jar of all-natural peanut butter and multiply that times 5.  No, make that 10.  So, despite having started this thing just after 5:00, it didn't go into the oven until 6:30.  So, tonight was the first opportunity I had to taste the end result while I had any appetite.

The result?...To be honest, I was expecting the "cheese" to be a little funky, but it actually wasn't!  Steve even finished his helping before I finished mine.

I do think that if I use my 9 x 13-inch baking pan again instead of the usual bread loaf pan, I'll make more sauce.  Maybe not the half-gallon used in the original recipe, but more than I did for this lasagna.  I only had two 15-ounce cans of diced tomatoes on hand; one I pureed, the other I left diced because the dice were small.  However, since it took more sauce than usual to cover each layer of veggies, etc., I hardly had any left to cover the top layer of noodles and half expected them to come out uncooked.  Thankfully, the sauce and everything else produced just enough steam (held in by foil) to keep that from happening, but next time I'll at least go up to three 15-ounce cans' worth of tomatoes so that I can have an equal layer of tomato sauce on top to swirl with the cheese mixture.

Off to watch three humans compete in tonight's Jeopardy teen tournament and to enjoy a nice long weekend.  Good night!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Soup and Salad Sunday

Another recipe I've been thinking about and just now getting around to making.  I've been wanting to make something akin to minestrone, but since I didn't have any cannellini beans in the house (they often get used the day I buy them), I made do with a cup or so of dry lentils and some other things on hand.  This was a handy way to get rid of some carrots that have been hanging out in the fridge for over a week as well as one large onion from a bag purchased more recently.   The rest could have been used whenever, and today was as good a day as any.

Lentil soup:
2 tbsp Smart Balance
1 large onion, chopped
2 small carrots, peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp dried Italian herb mix
1 cup frozen green beans, thawed
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup green lentils, rinsed and sorted
1 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes

Heat the Smart Balance over medium heat in a 2-3 quart saucepan.  Add carrots and onions and cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes.  Add garlic and herb mix and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add green beans and cook until warmed, another 2-3 minutes.  Add vegetable broth, lentils and tomatoes.  Stir, cover and simmer until lentils have cooked through, about 25-30 minutes.

And today's salad involved an ingredient I'd never used before: radish sprouts purchased at the All-Local Farmer's Market at the end of my 11-mile run yesterday morning! 

I've been meaning to check out City Roots as well, and, having seen their selection on Saturday, I can't wait to stop by their location this week for some more new veggies!

Spinach salad with black olives and radish sprouts:
2-3 handfuls fresh spinach, washed and torn
1 small bag (1 cup?) radish sprouts
1/2 cup sliced black olives, drained
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Assemble the first three ingredients, in order, on two salad plates.  In a small bowl, combine the next three ingredients and pour over the salad.

Good good stuff!  And I'm happy to actually have time to cook when I'm not too tired, like I was all day yesterday.  "Dinner" was me stuffing my face with hummus and spicy blue corn tortilla chips in front of the TV, catching up on 30 Rock and Outsourced.  Yay, Saturday night.

But I've got plenty of leftover soup to enjoy over the next couple of days, and tomorrow Steve and I will be celebrating Valentine's Day at Al's Upstairs!

Enjoy this lovely weather while it lasts!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Supreme Pizza Pasta

...minus the pepperoni and sausage.  Maybe I should have named this after the veggie lover's pizza, but that doesn't sound as fun.

I've had this idea for about a week and finally got around to making it tonight.  Why tonight, you may ask, when Friday's such a great night for going out and enjoying food prepared by other people? 

Because I plan on going to bed at the usual (early) time tonight, having consumed no sugar or alcohol this evening, so that I can get up tomorrow bright and early and embark upon a running tour of Columbia that will begin at my house in Northeast Columbia and end at the All-Local Farmer's Market on Whaley Street!  (Many thanks to Steve for agreeing to drive down there and meet me at my anticipated time of arrival.)

1/2 of a 1-pound box of whole wheat rotini pasta
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
1 cup frozen green bell peppers, thawed
1 cup frozen sliced mushrooms (as far as I know, only Publix has these in Columbia)
3 cloves chopped garlic
2 tsp dried Italian herb mix
crushed red pepper to taste
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 of a 108 g can of Mario's sliced black olives, drained
15 manzanilla olives, cut in half crosswise

Bring 5-6 cups of salted water to a boil.  Add pasta and cook according to package instructions.

In a 2-quart saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add garlic and green peppers and cook for another 3 minutes.  Add mushrooms, dried herb mix and crushed red pepper and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Add tomatoes and raise heat as needed to boil off some of the liquid.  Stir in black and green olives. 

Serve when pasta is ready and sauce has reached the desired thickness.

I was even planning to garnish Steve's plate with some of the pepperoni slices he likes to snack on, but it turns out that he ate the last of them a day or two ago.  Oh, well.  A sprinkling of Parmesan or Romano also would have been nice, but I didn't want it enough tonight to grate it myself.  Next time?

Off to fall asleep in front of the TV and then get up tomorrow and blaze a trail from one end of this town to the other.  Good night!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Spinach and cheddar quesadillas

I've just about used up all of my perishables for the time being and, out of sheer laziness, will probably avoid shopping this week and just get by on what's in the cupboards and freezer.  Last night I couldn't think of another use for the last four flour tortillas or an easier finger food to prepare than quesadillas to nosh on while watching commercials during the Stupid Bowl (yeah, I said it), so away I went. 

By the way, where were all the commercials right around halftime?  It's the only reason some of us tuned in!

four 12" flour tortillas
one 8-ounce block of cheddar cheese, shredded
one 10-ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Lay two of the tortillas on cookie sheets or slightly larger sheets of aluminum foil.  Cover each tortilla with about one-third of the shredded cheddar and spread evenly.  Place spinach in a bowl and add salt, pepper and nutmeg, mixing with a fork to pull leaves apart and to evenly distribute the seasoning. 

Mix one-third of shredded cheddar with the spinach, stirring with fork to combine.  Add half of the spinach-cheddar mixture to each of the quesadillas-in-progress, spreading evenly with the fork.  Cover the spinach layer with the remaining cheddar cheese and follow with the remaining tortillas.

Bake for 5 minutes, turn over and bake for 5 more minutes.  Slice using a sharp knife and serve.

I somewhat rooted for the Steelers this year, but it was clear where the game was headed even after they scored that touchdown right before halftime.  And speaking of halftime - how tired was it that the Black Eyed Peas only sang two of their so-so songs and then performed good songs by other people in between?  (Was covering a receding hairline with the plastic headgear?)  And I hate the thought of Slash having financial troubles that could only be relieved by letting Fergie stand next to him and sing "Sweet Child O' Mine" - like any female vocalist can't pull that one off on karaoke night.  I like her singing and all, but...yeesh.  And I guess it's just as well that I wasn't tuned in when Christina Aguilera, whom I also generally like, botched the national anthem.  Burlesque wasn't even that lame.

On the plus side, the quesadillas were just as tasty and even easier to make than I expected, Steve liked them, and I got to enjoy them again today for lunch!

Until next time...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Week of Sweet Potatoes

The two recipes I made on Monday night and Wednesday night both yielded leftovers, so I've had sweet potatoes in some shape or form each day this week so far.  Not a bad way to live!

Sweet Potato and White Bean Soup
Nice and easy.  I had a lot of stuff to do on Monday night but figured I'd make this so I wouldn't have to rely on snackage for dinner or a frozen dinner for Tuesday's lunch.  I nearly used this recipe, since I had everything except the chipotles (chipotle Tabasco sauce does nicely in its place), but I didn't feel like dirtying a lot of dishes or futzing with the Cuisinart.  Instead, I used this recipe, sorta kinda, and got just enough out of it to feed Steve and myself and have leftovers for today.

Obviously, because of the vegetarian thing (one month, 3 days and holding!), I left out the chicken.  I also didn't have any chili powder, so I substituted about two teaspoons of chipotle Tabasco sauce.  At the end, I added a generous amount of finely chopped cilantro as suggested.  Yum!  Like a cassoulet with a kick.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Wraps with Chimichurri
I was inspired by this recipe to combine sweet potatoes and black beans in a wrap, but I didn't care to use all these ingredients when so many of the flavor additions seemed to be for the chicken.  So, I kept it simple by cooking the sweet potatoes and then mashing them with some Smart Balance, cinnamon and nutmeg.  To make the chimichurri, I used something like one cup of Italian parsley, half a cup of cilantro, two tablespoons each of lime juice and olive oil, and maybe half a teaspoon each of salt and pepper.  (I eyeballed everything.)  Then I just heated the tortillas and assembled the wraps. 

This was so good that I dug in before taking the picture!  I also discovered that using Italian parsley makes a world of difference with chimichurri, since it imparts a more distinctive flavor than the curly kind that I grow in the backyard.  Not that the curly kind's so bad, but it doesn't stand up to other strong flavors and is just kind of...there.

Tonight was a replay of the Chinese hot pots that used up nearly all of the remaining cilantro.  Tomorrow I'll be enjoying some Arts and Draughts at the Columbia Museum of Art, but I'll be back in the kitchen in a couple of days.  Good night!