Friday, October 30, 2009

Susy-Inspired Shepherd's Pie

I HATE Shepherd’s Pie. Next to “Welsh Rarebit” (saltines drizzled with a gooey orange cheese-like substance), Shepherd’s Pie was the most disgusting dish served in my elementary school cafeteria. I still believe that if you want a burger, peas and mashed potatoes, you should eat a burger, peas and mashed potatoes instead of mixing it all together in some sort of “pie.” Alas, my friend Susy recently opened my eyes to a different kind of Shepherd’s Pie—one that includes yummy things like sweet potatoes and carrots.

Armed with the crazy idea that Shepherd’s Pie could be tasty and a few ideas from a recipe for Autumn Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie from the Canyon Ranch Cooks cookbook, I set out to give Shepherd’s Pie another chance…and it was really good!

1 package ground turkey

2 lbs sweet potatoes (2 big ‘uns)

2 cups peeled and sliced carrots

1 butternut squash, peeled and diced

½ cup diced onions

½ cup diced celery

3 tbsp olive oil

½ tsp dried rosemary

¾ cup vegetable stock

¾ cup apple cider

3 tsp brown sugar

½ tsp peeled and grated fresh ginger

2 tsp maple syrup

orange juice, to taste (somewhere between ¼ and 1/3 cup)

1. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into chunks.

2. Bring water to boil in a large saucepan. Add sweet potatoes and cook until soft when poked with fork. Drain and set aside.

3. Brown turkey in a small skillet, using just enough oil to keep the turkey from sticking to the pan. Set aside.

4. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, butternut squash, onions and celery. Sauté until onions are translucent.

5. Add rosemary and continue cooking for 5 minutes.

6. Add vegetable stock, apple cider and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, 25 minutes or so.

7. Preheat oven to 350°.

8. Using an electric mixer or a food processor, puree the sweet potatoes, ginger and maple syrup. Add orange juice to taste. Mix well.

9. Assemble the “pie” in a casserole dish: first the ground turkey, then the vegetables and finally the sweet potatoes.

10. Bake for 15 minutes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Spinach, etc Quiche

This dish is based on a recipe for “Springtime Quiche” from the Silver Palate’s New Basics cookbook. We’ve changed the name because a) it’s not springtime—it’s decorative gourd season—and b) the ingredients in the original recipe aren’t especially spring-like. This is a throw-together recipe. In other words, we use the ingredient list as a guideline and throw in whatever we happen to have available.

12 cups spinach leaves (about 2 packages)

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

¾ cups chopped peeled shallots

3 plum tomatoes, chopped, de-seeded and de-juiced

1 cup skim milk

2 eggs

¾ cup shredded Monterey jack cheese

2 tsp grated lemon zest

1 tbsp. shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Rinse spinach and shake it gently so the leaves are still wet, but not drenched. Place slightly-wet spinach in a large skillet or saucepan over low heat. Stir until it wilts.

3. Put wilted spinach in a colander and use the back of a spoon to squeeze out any excess moisture.

4. In a small skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add shallots and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.

5. Combine milk, eggs, Monterey jack cheese and lemon zest in a large bowl. Whisk. Add spinach, shallots and tomatoes. Stir to combine.

6. Spray a pie dish with your cooking oil of choice. Pour the quiche filling into the pan and sprinkle with Parmesan.

7. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the top is golden.

8. Technically, you’re supposed to let the quiche stand 10 minutes before serving. We think 3 minutes is long enough.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Pasta

This is one of our go-to dinners. It’s yummy, fast and kind of comfort-food-ish. The untweaked recipe is from Eating Well.

8-10 oz. penne (one package)

2 tbsp EVOO, divided

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 hefty, but not disturbingly ginormous sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced

1 large bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 cup diced tomatoes (either canned or fresh)

½ cup water

1 tsp dried parsley

1 heaping tsp dried tarragon

1 tbsp lemon juice

heaping ½ cup goat crumbled goat cheese…who are we kidding? We use closer to ¾ cup.

1. Cook pasta until al dente (unless you like mushy pasta…by all means, enjoy your mushy pasta, ick).

2. In a large skillet (we use a big electric skillet), heat 1 tbsp EVOO over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until the garlic is sizzling and fragrant, about 2 minutes.

3. Add sweet potato, bell pepper, tomatoes and water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the red pepper and sweet potato are tender crisp, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and keep warm.

4. Add the cooked (and drained) pasta to the skillet along with 1 tbsp EVOO, the parsley, tarragon and lemon juice. Toss to combine. Add the goat cheese, mix it all together and serve.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Baba Ghanoush

Baba ghanoush! Baba ghanoush! Baba ghanoush! Yes, we made this because we love the name, but it’s pretty tasty too. This recipe is from Everyday with Rachael Ray.

3 medium eggplants (we used one mongo one)

1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley leaves

¼ cup (plus more to taste) fresh lemon juice

¼ cup tahini

2 – 3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tbsp EVOO (plus more to taste)

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Stab eggplants (so they don’t explode) and place on a baking sheet. Bake 35 minutes, flipping once, until the eggplant is soft and the skin is shriveled.

3. Let eggplants cool 15-30 minutes.

4. Remove the skin and stems from the eggplants, then cut into big chunks. (If they’re juicy, drain any excess liquid using a colander.)

5. Puree eggplant, parsley, lemon juice, tahini, garlic and 2 tbsp EVOO in a food processor.

6. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with additional EVOO and/or lemon juice, if desired.

7. Serve with carrots, pita wedges or whatever you want to dip in the BABA GHANOUSH!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Quinoa with Chili-Orange Dressing

This was our first experiment with quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) and it was a success. In fact, quinoa is now one of our staples. (It’s delicious in place of cous cous in Tofu Mojito.) We found the original recipe—of course, we couldn’t resist tweaking it a bit—in one of the random magazines my aunt gave us, but it comes from The Complete Whole Grains Cookbook.

1 tsp finely grated orange zest

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from 2-4 oranges)

1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

1 tbsp honey

2 tsp sesame oil

¼ tsp chili sauce

1 package extra-firm tofu, drained, patted dry and cubed

1 cup quinoa

8 oz. can of water chestnuts, drained and chopped

1 red bell pepper, diced

2 cups snow peas

4 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced

1 tbsp olive oil

1. In a small bowl, whisk together orange juice, orange zest, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil and chili sauce. Set aside.

2. Cook quinoa according to package directions.

3. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Sauté scallions, red pepper and tofu for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the tofu starts to brown. Add snow peas and water chestnuts and sauté for one more minute.

4. Combine tofu, vegetables, quinoa and dressing in a large bowl. Toss.

5. Serve hot or cold.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Stuffed Pork Chops

This recipe is from a 2005 issue of Cook's Illustrated. Perhaps our pork chops are puny or maybe we’re just not aggressive enough when we pack the stuffing into the chops, but we always have excess stuffing. It’s no biggie. We just eat it as a side dish or as a chutney-type thing on top of the pork chops. We served the pork chops with grilled polenta and peppers—it's a delicious combo as long as you get a bit of grilled pepper with each bite of polenta since the grilled polenta was incredibly bland on its own.


4 bone-in pork rib chops (1 ½ inches thick)

¾ cup packed light brown sugar

¼ cup table salt

6 cups water

2 tsp vegetable oil


1 slice bread

¼ cup pine nuts, toasted

1 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

6 ounces of baby spinach (about a package of prewashed)

½ cup fontina cheese, shredded

½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 medium lemon, cut into 4 wedges (keep peels)

1 tbsp lemon juice (fresh squeezed from wedges)

1. Cut a one inch opening in the side of each chop, pivoting the knife to create a pocket in the inside of the chop. (The bigger the pocket, the more stuffing you can fit inside, just be careful not to poke a second hole in the opposite side of the chop.)

2. Dissolve sugar and salt in the water and submerge the chops for an hour in the refrigerator.

3. Preheat oven to 450º and put rimmed baking sheet on lower-middle position.

4. Meanwhile, pulse bread and pine nuts in a food processor until evenly ground.

5. Heat olive oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, add garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Add spinach, cooking until wilted.

6. Transfer spinach to colander and squeeze out water. Set aside.

7. Mix fontina and Parm in bowl. Add spinach and bread crumb mixture, mixing well. Add lemon juice.

8. Remove chops from brine, rinse and pat dry. Stuff with the spinach mixture.

9. Trim reserved lemon peel quarters into two-inch lengths, and insert one into each chop pocket to prevent the stuffing from oozing out during the cooking process.

10. Heat vegetable oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, until smoking.

11. Cook chops in the skillet until browned, 3 minutes per side, flipping only once.

12. Transfer chops to preheated baking sheet and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 135º. Flip once midway through cooking time.

13. Remove and tent with foil, letting sit for 10 minutes. (It will keep cooking, getting up to an internal temp of 145º or so.) Serve.

As you can see from the picture, we opted to forego the pesky "insert lemon peel into chop" step and ended up having stuffing that oozed out everywhere during the cooking process. The first time we tried it with the peels, they popped out in two of the four chops. Even so, we strongly suggest you include that extra step because the end result is much prettier (and tastier too).

Friday, October 9, 2009

Lemon Chicken Schnitzel

This simple, but yummy dish is from Anne Lindsay’s Smart Cooking--supposedly the cookbook that “began Canada’s healthy eating revolution.” Whatev. It tastes good, it’s easy and it’s healthy and that’s all we really care about.

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts

juice of at least 1 large lemon

¼ cup flour

½ tsp crushed dried thyme

½ tsp celery salt

1 egg

2 tsp water

½ cup to 1 cup breadcrumbs

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Cut chicken breasts in half so that each piece is about ¼ -inch thick. Place the chicken between 2 pieces of wax paper and pound it with the bottom of a bottle until it’s flat.

3. Sprinkle chicken with lemon juice and let it sit for 10 minutes.

4. Combine flour, thyme and celery salt in a shallow dish.

5. In another shallow dish, lightly beat egg with water.

6. Add breadcrumbs to a third shallow dish.

7. Dip chicken in flour mixture, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Place on baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Non-spherical Balls of Awesomeness

These are NOT healthy! But they’re absolutely positively delicious. They usually come out of the oven in ball-form, but this time they morphed into a cookie-ish shape. We’re not sure what happened, but it didn’t affect the taste. In fact, they seem to be a bit lighter, which is a good thing.

The original recipe comes from Erin. We’ve changed it a little bit.

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups flour (we used a gluten-free blend)

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 ½ cups old fashioned oats

2 eggs

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla

12 oz. chocolate chips

2 large dark chocolate bars (about 3.5 oz each)

1 ½ cups dried cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Blend oats in food processor until it’s the consistency of flour.

3. Melt the chocolate bars in the microwave. Do not let the chocolate burn!

4. In an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar and brown sugar.

5. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix.

6. Add flour, oats and baking powder and mix until everything is combined. The mixture will be dense…this is why you want to use an electric mixer.

7. Add melted chocolate. Mix to combine.

8. Add chocolate chips and dried cranberries. Mix to combine.

9. Erin says to roll them into balls and place them 2-inches apart on a cookie sheet. That’s what I did the first time I made them. This time the batter stuck to my hands so much that rolling the dough into balls was a pain in the butt. After the first cookie sheet, I just scooped the dough out with a spoon and plopped it on the cookie sheet.

10. Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Red Onion and Goat Cheese Pancake with Balsamic Syrup

We’re aware that this dish sounds a little strange and looks fairly odd in the picture. Trust us, it’s delicious. To maximize leftover-age, we served it as a side dish with grilled squash and grilled turkey burgers. This recipe is from Eating Well.

1 tbsp EVOO

2 large red onions, sliced

2 tbsp water

2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

½ cup flour (we used rice flour, but you can use whatever kind you want)

½ cup skim milk

2 large eggs

2 large egg whites

1 tbsp canola oil

1 tbsp sugar

¼ cup crumbled goat cheese

1 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tsp honey

1. Preheat oven to 450°.

2. In a large oven-proof nonstick skillet, heat EVOO over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender and golden brown (about 15 minutes).

3. Add water and thyme to the onions and stir.

4. In a blender or food processor, mix flour, eggs, egg whites, canola oil and sugar until smooth.

5. Pour batter over onions, then sprinkle with goat cheese.

6. Bake the pancake until it’s “puffed and golden” (15-20 minutes).

7. While the pancake is cooking, combine balsamic vinegar and honey in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until it’s reduced (to about 1/3 cup) and has a syrupy consistency, 10-15 minutes.

8. Cut the pancake into slices and serve immediately. Drizzle with syrup.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Apple Salad--with Dulse! (and a DEAL for YOU)

Last week, we received a super-special box from Maine Coast Sea Vegetables containing a smorgasbord of natural, local, sustainable products from the Gulf of Maine. We’ll tell you about everything as we try it, but first, the big news:

The awesome people at Maine Coast Sea Veg will give you (our loyal readers) $1 off your phone or internet order. Just use the code KELSEY when you place your order. This coupon is valid for 60 days.

FYI: Dulse is red algae. It’s supposedly crazy-nutritious and well, it’s basically the bacon of the sea. Yum!

3 apples, cubed

1 cup raisins

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup grated mild cheddar cheese

handful of dulse

½ cup plain yogurt

1. Heat canola oil in skillet over medium heat. Add dulse and cook until the dulse starts to turn greenish brown (not black—that would mean it was burned), becomes crispy and smells like bacon. (We're not kidding. It really does start to smell a bit like bacon.)

2. Combine apples, raisins, celery and cheese in a large bowl. Toss with yogurt.

3. If you’re not going to eat the salad right away, sprinkle with lemon juice and refrigerate.

4. Add dulse right before serving.