I did it! I cooked! I cooked like I used to cook – dreamed up a dish and set about throwing it together in the kitchen. It’s been awhile. I’ve been relying a lot (too much, maybe) on old staples like pasta with beans and goat cheese, Field Roast sausages, veggie-and-hummus snack plates, or big salads for dinner – all stuff that gets the job done, but dullsville and not really blogable. It’s just been a challenge to get into the kitchen lately. I’m completely wiped out when I get home from work, and all I want to do is lay on the couch with a book and shout out a running commentary on baby kicks.
But I was sick of relying on the easy staples and – although he’s far too nice to say so – I suspect hubby was too. So last night I resolved to get my butt into the kitchen and create something new, something we could really enjoy. This meal did the trick. It was easy, packed with protein from the edamame and with nutrients from the carrots and cabbage, and with the wonderful rich flavor of tamari, which I just love. I felt good eating it, and good after I finished, and I enjoyed every bite. It turns out this meal isn’t just a flash in the pan (pun intended); I’m already planning out when I can have it again. It’s going into my regular rotation… and maybe it will even inspire me to get back in the kitchen and whip up some new dishes on a more frequent basis.
Asian Noodles with Cabbage
Handful of udon noodles (or sub soba noodles or whole-wheat spaghetti)
5 carrots, peeled and grated
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup coleslaw mix (or sub finely shredded cabbage)
1 cup shelled frozen edamame
1 teaspoon Seaweed Gomasio (or sub white sesame seeds)
Salt and pepper
Several dashes tamari (or sub soy sauce)
- Heat a pot of water to a rolling boil. Salt generously and add udon noodles. Cook according to package directions (mine called for 8-10 minutes at a low boil).
- While udon noodles are cooking, heat a few dashes of olive oil in a separate nonstick pan until shimmering. Add carrots, coleslaw mix, and edamame. Season lightly with a sprinkle of salt (go easy on the salt though) and pepper, and saute until wilted down and until the edamame are warmed through.
- Add Seaweed Gomasio and a few dashes of tamari to taste. Continue cooking veggies over medium heat until the udon noodles are done.
- Drain the udon noodles, then add to the pan with the vegetables. Toss to combine well and taste for seasoning. Add more tamari if necessary. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for a chilled Asian pasta salad.
Source: Covered In Flour
Serves 2 as a main course, 4-6 as a side.
Here’s another blast from the recipe archive past for you, because I’m on my second business trip of two weeks and have barely cooked in days. And also because I love looking at my beautiful granite countertops from my old condo. Sigh. I haven’t made this recipe in a LONG time and now I’m thinking of picking up the ingredients next time I hit the market. Stuffed peppers are one of my favorite foods… Hope you enjoy these!
This dinner started out planned, in my menu notebook, as Zucchini and Orzo Stuffed Peppers, a Giada de Laurentiis recipe. But then a certain someone – who shall remain nameless – threw out my zucchini. He thought it was a weird cucumber, apparently. This sort of thing happens occasionally – little elves raid my produce drawer – and fortunately, I was prepared this time. A few quick adjustments, some fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants sauteeing, and I had some incredibly delicious Eggplant and Orzo Stuffed Peppers on my hands. You know what? I like eggplant better anyway.
Eggplant and Orzo Stuffed Peppers
2 Japanese eggplants, peeled and finely diced
4 Roma tomatoes, coarsely diced
1/4 cup full-bodied red wine, such as Cab or Zin (2012 edit: or sub mushroom broth)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/3 cup + 4 teaspoons freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup orzo
Kosher salt and cracked pepper to taste
4 red bell peppers
4 teaspoons Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and simultaneously begin heating vegetable oil (a moderate amount) in a saute pan, and water in a saucepan. Add the diced eggplant to the saucepan, season with salt, and saute until browned and crispy in parts, soft in others.
- Add red wine – not too much, just enough to deglaze the pan. Stir eggplant around and be careful to scoop up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add cracked pepper and dried oregano.
- Meanwhile, cook orzo until al dente, according to the instructions on the box. Drain and reserve.
- When eggplant starts to smell too divine for words (it’s a scientific process), add diced tomato and stir just until warm. Dump the whole mess into a bowl and stir in 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan and orzo.
- Prepare the red peppers – slice off the top (and if necessary, a tiny sliver from the bottom so the peppers will stand upright in the baking dish). Carefully cut out the ribs and remove the seeds, but don’t bother being too terribly precise.
- Scoop the eggplant and orzo filling into the red pepper shells. Top with breadcrumbs, remaining Parmesan, and a drizzle of olive oil on each pepper.
- Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes, until tops are golden and peppers are slightly soft. Let cool slightly before serving.
- Garnish with chopped fresh chives, if desired.
Yield: Serves 4 moderately hungry people (with sides) or 2 very hungry people.
Source: Adapted from Giada’s Kitchen, by Giada de Laurentiis
Ahhhh, spring. One of my favorite things about you is the new vegetables. Beans, peas, fennel, new potatoes… this is when I venture back out to the farmers’ market after too many months spent eating kale and winter squash. Everything is just beginning – the farmers and the customers are all getting warmed up for the bounty that’s coming our way in summer. But to ignore spring because we’re so excited about tomatoes and stone fruits would be a mistake. There are so many delicious new veggies making their appearance right now.
So, while at the King Street Farmers’ Market I decided to take advantage of the new season by throwing together a tasty, healthy pasta dish. I picked up whatever looked good from the market and my grocery store and ended up with fennel and green beans. I had originally planned to augment the dish with frozen peas, but apparently I ran out. (How did that happen?) So I tossed some corn in there instead and put goat cheese on my portion for extra calcium and protein. This was supposed to be our Easter dinner (in our non-ham-eating household, we go non-traditional and focus on spring flavors instead of the “quintessential” Easter ham feast). But neither of us was hungry at dinnertime on Easter, so it became a weeknight meal instead – and was plenty easy and quick enough to throw together after work. I love those multi-tasking meals, the ones that are fancy enough to serve for a special occasion but easy enough to make on a random Wednesday. Hope you like this one!
Roasted Spring Vegetable Pasta
2 fennel bulbs, cleaned, trimmed and thickly sliced
1 bunch green beans, cleaned and chopped
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and fresh pepper
1 cup frozen peas or corn
handful dried linguini strands
goat cheese (optional)
fresh herbs (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Line a baking sheet with tinfoil. Toss fennel, beans, oil, salt and pepper until vegetables are well-seasoned. Roast for 20 minutes, tossing once midway through.
- After vegetables have been roasting 20 minutes, add frozen corn or peas and toss to combine. Roast an additional 10-15 minutes, checking often, until vegetables are cooked to your satisfaction.
- Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Add linguini (or other pasta, but I think the long flat strands work best) and cook according to package directions.
- When linguini isal dente, remove from water and place in bowls. Remove vegetables from oven and top with generous portion of vegetables. If desired, garnish with crumbled goat cheese and/or fresh herbs.
Yield: Serves 2-4 as a main course.
Source: Covered In Flour
(Nota Baker: You don’t need to follow this recipe exactly or use the precise vegetables I’m calling for. These are the vegetables I used – or, in the case of the peas, wanted to use but was cruelly thwarted. Use what you like, what you have on hand, or what looks good at the market. Like all of my fridge-clearing recipes, this pasta is versatile and will be great with whatever vegetables you want to use. Don’t feel wedded to what I did! I just called for these vegetables in the recipe because that’s what I used, and there’s a picture up there, and I didn’t want anyone to say “Hey, I see beans in there, how come they’re not in the recipe?” Okay?)
I’ll just say this up front: I’m already married. Sorry, boys.
That out of the way, here’s how you can handle your disappointment – make this macaroni and cheese recipe. It’s a keeper (like me). See, every week I ask hubby if he has any special meal requests before we go grocery shopping. Usually he doesn’t, but this week he asked for my baked macaroni and cheese. I said sure, and was all set to make it, when at the last minute I decided it would be fun to add pumpkin to the mix. I asked hubby if he minded, and he was surprisingly enthusiastic about the idea. And let me tell you guys, it was GOOD. The pumpkin makes the sauce extra creamy, and you don’t need quite as much cheese as in the original recipe. It’s almost healthy! Okay, that’s a stretch. But it’s fun to have mac ‘n cheese now and again, and if your family includes it as a side at Thanksgiving – mine doesn’t – consider making this pumpkin version for a little extra-Pilgrimmy flair. Shoe buckles not included.
Pumpkin Mac ‘n Cheese
1 box short pasta, such as macaroni or tubetti
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup beer (or dry white wine)
1 2/3 cups milk
1 14-ounce can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1 block cheddar, grated
1 1/2 tablespoons thyme
freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
extra-virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Fill medium-sized pot with water and bring to a boil. Salt generously and add pasta. Cook until pasta is just al dente, drain and set aside. Return empty pot to burner and turn heat to medium.
- In pasta pot, melt butter. Add flour and whisk vigorously until mixture is bubbly. Add beer and milk and stir until sauce thickens and becomes a smooth bechamel.
- Add pumpkin to bechamel sauce and stir until completely smooth. Melt in grated cheese, then add nutmeg, thyme and pepper to taste, and stir to combine well.
- Return pasta to pot and mix thoroughly until pasta is completely coated with cheese sauce. Pour pasta into large casserole dish and spread evenly.
- Sprinkle panko breadcrumbs over top of pasta and add grated Parmesan (you be the judge of how much you want!). Drizzle top with olive oil and bake for 30-35 minutes.
Source: Adapted from recipe here, which was adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring America (Amazon link for convenience only; I’m not an affiliate).
April in D.C. has been acting really weird. One day it will be 75 degrees and hubby and I are eating salads and popsicles. Then the next day it’s rainy and 41. This is that time of year when D.C. can’t make up its mind as to whether it wants to be grey and gloomy and cold, or sunny and beautiful. We go through this every year, but this year it seems to be taking longer than usual. By Easter we should have sorted ourselves out, but in the meantime comfort food is still called for. And I know that it’s still cold up north where my family is… so this recipe is a gift for all of us. It’s warm and soothing, briny and salty from the Chickpeas of the Sea, and even includes a crispy golden crust. In short, Mock Tuna Noodle Casserole is the total package, perfectly designed for taking us out of the winter doldrums and into spring and summer.
Mock Tuna Noodle Casserole
6 ounces egg noodles (1/2 package)
1 cup Chickpeas of the Sea
1/2 cup Homemade Bread Crumbs (or substitute panko)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Boil egg noodles in salted water, until al dente. Remove noodles to a mixing bowl, reserving some of the pasta water.
- Add Chickpeas of the Sea to the noodles and fold together gently. Add pasta water, a little at a time, to loosen mixture as needed.
- Remove noodles and Chickpeas of the Sea to a casserole dish.
- Sprinkle bread crumbs in an even layer over the top of the casserole. Drizzle with olive oil to ensure browning.
- Bake at 350 for 3o-35 minutes, until top of casserole is golden brown and casserole is heated through.
Yield: Serves 4.
Source: Covered In Flour
Source: Covered in Flour.
Growing up, one of my favorite meals that my mom would make was Grecian orzo salad. Recently, I was in the mood for orzo salad and I decided to try to replicate hers. Thinking back, my mom’s orzo salad included Feta cheese, kalamata olives, and red peppers. Well, I don’t like Feta cheese and I always dug around it in the salad bowl (sorry, mom!), and my grocery store didn’t have any organic red peppers. Without those two, the kalamata olives just seemed a bit out of place. So the Grecian orzo salad idea went out the window, and I decided to try my own orzo salad concoction. Mine is fresh, light and simple – like my mom’s – but it’s not “Grecian.” Ah, well, the best laid plans…
This was still pretty darn delicious.
Refreshing Orzo Salad with Shrimp
~2 cups cooked orzo pasta, chilled
1 long English cucumber, large dice
2 green bell peppers, large dice
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
~1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
- Combine orzo, cucumbers, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes in large salad bowl and mix well.
- In a separate bowl, vigorously whisk oil and lemon juice until the mixture emulsifies. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour dressing over salad and mix thoroughly until the pasta and veg are coated completely. Add additional oil sparingly, and only if needed.
- Serve with steamed shrimp (I tossed mine in lemon-pepper seasoning).
Source: Inspired by my mom!
Nota Baker: This pasta salad recipe makes a TON. You will not, I promise, finish this in one day. That’s intentional! It makes a fantastic lunch for the next week or so. I’m nothing if not thrifty!
So, the other day, hubby and I were in Whole Foods, and something unprecedented happened.
Messy: Hey, what do you call it when you have beef in gravy over noodles? What is that?
Hubby: Ummmmm… Beef Stroganoff?
Messy: Yes! That’s it!
Hubby: Why do you want to know?
Messy: I want to make it, but with tempeh.
Hubby: How weird is this? Usually, I’m the one who asks you what a dish is called.
He’s right. Usually the conversation is reversed. But I’ve never cooked Beef Stroganoff before. I just had this thought… tempeh… mushroom gravy… egg noodles… mmmmmm. And mmmmmm it was. Hearty and savory, with the earthy flavors of tempeh and mushrooms perfectly complemented by the mild noodles. I’ll be making this one again, for sure.
extra virgin olive oil
1 package shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 package tempeh, crumbled
2 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
egg noodles, cooked
chopped chives (optional), for garnish.
- Heat olive oil (about a tablespoon, give or take) in a non-stick pan until shimmering. Add mushrooms and salt and saute until golden. Add tempeh and saute another 5 minutes or so, until tempeh is warmed through and just beginning to crisp up. Yum.
- Pour veggie broth into pan, add flour, and stir with a wooden spoon until mixture thickens, 3-5 minutes. Season to taste with black pepper and additional salt, if necessary.
- Serve over egg noodles, garnishing with chopped chives if desired.
Source: Covered In Flour
This dish is perfect for a special spring meal… the risotto is creamy and warm, with a subtle flavor from the shallots and spring onions. And the “spring chicken” adds the perfect touch to make this a meal instead of just a side. This made a wonderful Easter dinner in this non-ham-eating household, but would be just as good on any mid-spring night. If you’re not living in DC, where summer has arrived in all its blazing glory, you might just be able to warm yourself up with this on one of the last cool nights of the season. Please do, and then tell me how it goes. I’m dying to live vicariously as I dump cold water over my head. Farewell, spring!
Spring Onion Risotto with Roast Chicken
1 roasted or rotisserie chicken
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, sliced (not minced)
1 cup arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine or dry sherry
3-4 cups chicken broth
4 spring onions (scallions), sliced
kosher salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
- In a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter and olive oil together. Add the shallots, season with kosher salt, and cook until just beginning to caramelize.
- Add the arborio rice and toss to coat with the buttery, shalloty goodness. Toast rice for approximately 1 minute, then add wine and cook down, stirring frequently, until wine is absorbed.
- Meanwhile, warm the chicken broth in a small pot. After wine has been absorbed, add a ladle or two of chicken broth to the rice and allow it to absorb, stirring frequently. Continue adding broth a ladle or two at a time, stirring often, until you run out of broth and/or the rice is tender and creamy.
- On the last addition of broth, toss in the scallions and allow them to cook briefly with the rice. Finish off by stirring in the creme fraiche or sour cream.
- Arrange a bed of risotto in serving bowls and place chicken over the risotto. (You can either roast your own chicken while making the risotto – you’ll have to give the chicken a head start – or just use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and keep it warm while the risotto cooks. When you are nearing the end of the risotto cooking process, you can take a break from stirring to carve the chicken.)
Source: Covered In Flour
I think this just may be my new favorite spaghetti sauce. It is simple to make, inexpensive, tangy from the olives and capers, with a subtly spicy kick from the red pepper flakes. Making puttanesca sauce from scratch is barely more effort than opening a jar of Prego, but it’s much tastier – not to mention, you control the quality of the ingredients and there are far fewer preservatives. Plus, saying “spaghetti alla puttanesca” is fun. Now, who can argue with that?
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, medium-diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced anchovy
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon oregano
1 can crushed San Marzano tomatoes in juice
1/4 cup green olives, sliced (substitute black olives)*
1 tablespoon non-pareil capers, rinsed
whole wheat spaghetti
- In a heavy stockpot over medium-high heat, heat olive oil until shimmering, then add diced onion and season generously with kosher salt. Stir frequently until onion is slightly caramelized, 12-15 minutes.
- Add tomato paste, garlic, red pepper flakes and anchovy, and stir until anchovy has melted and garlic is golden, about 1 minute. (Your kitchen now smells amazing, by the way.)
- Boil water for spaghetti – I prefer whole wheat – and prepare spaghetti according to the package directions.
- Add crushed tomatoes, oregano, olives and capers. Stir to combine all ingredients, then turn heat down and allow sauce to simmer while pasta finishes cooking.
- Divide pasta into bowls and top with sauce. Add a sprinkle of extra oregano if desired and serve. Couldn’t be easier!
Yield: Serves 2 for dinner, with leftovers.
Source: Adapted from Williams-Sonoma
*The original/traditional recipe calls for black olives, but I can’t stand them, so I substituted green. Feel free to experiment with different olives, or go back to tradition if you actually like black olives.
Bring your appetite to this dinner.
I’ve mentioned before that hubby and I love to hike. What I failed to mention, is that we are certifiably insane and we will quite literally hike in all kinds of weather. And when I say all kinds, I mean all kinds. Sure, we like to hike on those nice, pleasant, 70-degrees-and-sunny kinds of days. But we’ve also hiked in the rain (Buttermere in the English Lake District) and the mist (Isle of Skye, Scotland) and in the snow. We got a few inches in the DC suburbs on Saturday, and hubby and I decided to take advantage of it by throwing on the Smartwool socks and the hiking boots and the snowpants and going traipsing through our favorite neighborhood woodlands at Great Falls National Park. Aside from the park rangers and one other crazy hiker, we were the only ones on the trails – well, with the exception of a huge flock of geese and one rather cold-looking heron (who let us get very close, since he was either too cold or too blase to fly away). After about three hours of wading through the freshly fallen snow, hubby and I were: (1) freezing, and (2) ravenous. We hurried home to this dinner, which took care of both the cold and the hunger in one shot.
Lemon-Buttered Pasta with Shrimp
1/3 package pasta, any shape (I used fusilli)
3 tablespoons butter, separated
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
4-5 shakes Tabasco sauce
chopped chives (optional)
- Boil a pot of water for pasta. When water is at a rolling boil, salt liberally and add pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions.
- In a non-stick or cast-iron skillet or pot, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil until butter has just melted. Add shrimp and saute, tossing constantly, until shrimp turn pink.
- When shrimp are cooked through, melt in the remaining butter. Add lemon zest, juice, Tabasco sauce and pepper, and stir to incorporate all the flavors.
- When pasta is finished cooking, transfer pasta with a slotted spoon over to the shrimp and sauce. Toss pasta to coat completely. If desired, sprinkle chopped chives (either fresh or freeze-dried) over pasta. Serve immediately.
Source: Covered In Flour