If you've been wondering where I've been for the past 2 weeks, the answer is - vacation! I will be writing about that for sure, but before I get to it I want to talk about this pasta that I made before we left. My friend Melissa (you know her by now) was also going out of town, a little before we were, and gifted me several of her home-grown bell peppers and tomatoes. I wanted to use them to do a take on sausage and peppers in pasta form because I'm, well, me.
So I browned some sliced sausage, and then threw in an onion, the peppers, and the tomatoes to saute. Then I tossed in cooked whole wheat penne along with pasta water, a splash of cream, and some Parmesan to make a sauce. And finally, I topped it with some fresh basil and parsley. Fast, easy, and hearty. Thanks Melissa!
Through a combination of being really lazy and really busy, I haven't been cooking that much at home lately. Or at least anything new or interesting (I mean, how many vegetable pastas do you want to see, right?). So I haven't been posting very frequently, either. Thank goodness for my lunches with Melissa, from Smells Like Brownies, or I wouldn't be posting at all! We made this savory tomato cobbler on a rainy day with terrible lighting, and it was just the right kind of comfort food.
Caramelized onions and cherry tomatoes get bound together with the help of a little flour, and flavored with balsamic vinegar and fresh basil. I love using multi-colored cherry tomatoes, so pretty!
Then the mixture goes into a baking dish and into the oven. We used the same cast iron skillet that we caramelized the onions in.
While the tomato mixture cooks, roll out and cut out some biscuits. The dough, made savory with the help of sharp white cheddar and black pepper, will have been resting in the fridge while the filling was put together. You want that butter cold in order to achieve maximum flakiness. We used whey in place of buttermilk, because we will never run out of whey (so much whey).
A friend of mine asked if I could put together a week of meals that are healthy, easy, and cost effective for a single working mother. I thought that sounded like a great idea! But I definitely underestimated how much work it would be. It's hard to make food for just two people without having a ton of leftovers - so to get a different meal in each night, I had to figure out how to use ingredients in multiple dishes. And I wanted to make sure that they were healthy, had a bit of variety, and took 30 minutes or less to put together. It's a tall order, but I think I managed. Each recipe is sized for two adults, and there is a shopping list included at the bottom of the post.
First up - Broiled Salmon with Mustard Butter and Boiled Potatoes and Green Beans. This meal is healthy, easy, and comes together in under 30 minutes. I am so in love with this mustard butter (that I discovered making this recipe), I make it all the time now. There are no grains in this dinner, and as far as starchy potatoes go, baby red-skinned are relatively low on the glycemic index. Plus - by cooking more salmon and vegetables than you need, you will already have the ingredients you need for dinner the next night. This meal comes first because fish needs to be cooked the same night that it is purchased for best quality.
The salmon is going to be one of the more expensive proteins for the week, but it is worth it because it is so good for you (not to mention delicious). Gotta get those Omega-3's! However, I do not recommend buying farm-raised Atlantic salmon as it is full of chemicals and pollutants. Instead, I recommend buying wild Alaskan or farmed Norwegian. The Norwegian salmon is pretty great and I can get it here in NoVA for around $15/lb, and coho goes for $13/lb (versus $29/lb for king salmon, yikes!). If you absolutely cannot swing Alaskan or Norwegian salmon, buy another type of fish instead (cod, halibut, or tilapia would be good).
For our second dinner, we use the extra ingredients from the previous night, plus a few more, to make Salmon Nicoise Salad. The only thing you have to cook for this dinner is hard boiled eggs, and you can do those in advance if you like. Boil more than you need, because we will use some in another dish. Like the previous night, this meal is grain-free and loaded with healthy fats. You can see how big one serving is in this photo - I ate the whole thing, Jasper only ate half of his. So if this is too much food for you, plan to set aside half of it for lunch the next day. It should travel well, just keep the dressing separate.
This is actually the most expensive meal of the week (if it is making 2 servings, and not 4), so the kind of greens you use will matter. I used mache or lamb's lettuce, which I think is really delicious. But there are definitely cheaper lettuces/greens out there. A note on olives - nicoise olives are traditional, but expensive, so feel free to sub kalamatas, which taste very similar. You could even buy jarred kalamatas to save even more.
Who would stuff a mushroom with more mushrooms? Melissa from Smells Like Brownies and I, that's who, for our weekly vegetarian lunch get together. Melissa had a ton of farro given to her by a neighbor that she needed to start using, and she was craving mushrooms. So she found a recipe for balsamic roasted mushrooms with goat cheese to mix with the farro, yum. You know how much we love goat cheese. But then she thought, what if we put that inside of a portabella and grilled it? And I said, why the heck not! Mushrooms inside of mushrooms, people - it's inception with fungi.
Mix up some baby bellas and tomatoes with olive oil, balsamic, thyme, garlic, and red pepper. Careful there - we thought we just added a pinch, but it turned out spiiiiiiiiicy. Thank goodness for goat cheese, amirite? Then roast those babies up.
Once they are roasted, mix them together with cooked farro, spinach,and goat cheese and spoon the mixture into portobello caps. The baby bellas are going inside the mamma bella! No? No one else finds that funny? Just me? Fine.
Is there anything better than a big pot of comforting beef stew in the Winter? Maybe if you add a lot of veggies, Middle Eastern spices, and some apricots for sweetness. Yum, yum, yum. At least I thought so - my husband wasn't really sold on the whole sweet things in a stew concept, and he doesn't like all those vegetables getting in the way of his meat. But whatever, I thought it was awesome. If you are not limiting carbs, you could serve this over some couscous and let it soak up all the juices.
Start by cooking some red onion and browning some beef chuck that has been seasoned with cumin, ginger, and cinnamon. I feel like red onions only work well in specific places, and this is one of them. Cooking them enough that they start to caramelize and release some sweetness is the way to go, here. Remove the meat to a plate temporarily and deglaze the pot with some red wine to scrape up all those browned spices and good bits that are stuck to the bottom.
Add in some sweet potato, apricots, and a can of whole tomatoes in their juices; then add enough water to cover and let simmer for a few hours. Your house is going to smell AWESOME. For reals.
After it is done simmering and the meat and potatoes are all soft and luscious - throw in some chickpeas and spinach. Oh my gosh. There is so much going on here! The apricots absorb the liquid and plump up, and the sweetness from them and the sweet potatoes contrasts the warm spices. I love all the different colors and textures, too. Let's get cooking, peeps!
This stunning dish comes to you from my weekly vegetarian lunches with Melissa from Smells Like Brownies. Consisting of just vegetables with a little feta, this is about as healthy as you can get! It's also super filling and surprisingly delicious. I say surprisingly because let's be honest, most people don't go around graving a pile of veggies. But this is so good that even my veggie hating husband liked it! Served warm with a variety of textures and flavors, vibrant basil, and salty cheese - it really leaves you feeling satisfied.
Great on it's own as a lunch, served as a side to chicken or steak (which is what I did with leftovers), or even stuffed into a pita pocket - this is a super healthy AND yummy Summer dish. It can also become vegan quite easily. So how about it? Let's get some veggies into our lives!
It's time for another vegetarian lunch with Smells Like Brownies! I've never really liked tabbouleh. Maybe because it's usually cold, or there's too much parsley, or there's raw red onion, or it just isn't that filling - I don't know why. As it turns out, Melissa doesn't like it either! So when she suggested we try to conquer it, I was skeptical. But making something yourself means that you get to adjust it until it is the way you like it.
Upping the bulgur, balancing the parsley with mint, and using scallions instead of onion certainly helped this dish out. But what really sent it into yummy land was serving it warm, stuffed inside pitas, with a generous amount of feta. We managed to turn something we both disliked into something we both loved! It may not be traditional, but it sure is delicious.
I bought extra pita pockets and feta to go with my leftover tabbouleh, but ended up with too much! Melissa had given me some of her CSA cucumbers (since she was drowning in them), so I threw together a quick cucumber salad with feta, mint from my garden, olive oil, and champagne vinegar.
Because everything is more fun in a pita pocket! (Except for peanut butter and jelly - I just found out the hard way that that doesn't work.)
Tabbouleh Pitas with Feta
adapted from Mad Hungry
1 cup dry bulgur wheat
2 cups water
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, diced (about 1½ cups)
1 bunch scallions, sliced (about 1 cup)
1 1/2 cups minced fresh curly parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 tsp lemon zest
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp coarse sea salt, or to taste
6 pita pocket rounds
8 oz feta, crumbled
Rinse the bulgur. Cook in the water over medium heat for 12–15 minutes, or until soft and chewy. Remove from the heat and stir in the garlic. Drain of any excess water and transfer to a large bowl.
Add the cucumbers, tomatoes, scallions, parsley, and mint. Toss together.
Whisk together the lemon zest, juice, olive oil, and salt in a small bowl. Stir the dressing into the salad to fully combine.
Serve stuffed inside pitas, layered with feta to taste.
1 cucumber, chopped
4 oz feta, crumbled
1 tbsp chopped mint
salt and pepper to taste
splash of olive oil
splash of champagne or rice wine vinegar
Mix ingredients together, serve with pitas.
I am one of those people that refuses to let go of a season, so I apologize if Spring drags on a bit for me here (especially since I am always late posting). But we are still in the transition period from Spring to Summer, so it's not THAT bad (I hope).
Anyway, during one of my weekly lunches with Melissa from Smells Like Brownies, we decided to make a shaved asparagus pizza with some gorgeous purple asparagus that she got from a local farm (she talks about it here).
Isn't it beautiful? It turns out that this asparagus is super juicy, so it released a lot of liquid during cooking that we had to mop up with paper towels. If you have some big, juicy stalks and want to make pizza, I recommend sauteing them a bit first or tossing with kosher salt and draining on paper towels for a bit to draw the moisture out.
Here is the beautiful whole wheat pizza dough that Melissa had ready to go when I got there.
The recipe calls this "mac and cheese", but I feel like it is more of a "cheesy casserole". Either way, it is tasty and good for you - packed with protein rich quinoa and tasty veggies. You can make it even healthier by using fat free milk and fat free cheese. It is also totally customizable to your tastes!
Start by sauteing whatever veggies you want to use. I went with leeks and tomatoes as suggested by the recipe, but you could do onions or shallots, bell peppers, corn, spinach, anything you want.
Add the quinoa and allow to toast a little bit to get extra flavor.
Now that Hurricane Sandy has passed us without incident, I can catch up on posting! Thanks to everyone for praying and thinking about us out here on the East Coast.
I have been trying to expand my repertoire of fish dishes beyond just salmon and discovered a really easy way to cook halibut. Wrapping it in parchment paper with with various other ingredients and baking it leaves it moist, flaky, and flavorful. Plus the presentation is really cool!
One combination that I really liked was lemon, cherry tomatoes, artichokes, olive oil, and basil. I made this right at the end of summer with super sweet cherry tomatoes - look at those colors!