Sunday, July 31, 2016

Fresh Mozzarella Sammich

This is one of my all time favorite sandwiches ever. It is really simple (not that sandwiches are ever really that hard to make!) and tastes incredibly fresh.

 It is really important to use ciabatta bread or something else that has a thicker, heartier crust to help prevent your sandwich from getting soggy. I also recommend using a high quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar as it can really affect the flavor. Remember with balsamic vinegar - a little goes a LONG way.

This is for one sandwich but it's easy to make a couple of them. They do not store well so be sure to eat it right after making it although you can make a "kit" of all of the making of the sandwich so that if want to eat this at work you can just have all the pieces and just assemble on your break or whatever.

Ciabatta roll (or in a pinch you can use kaiser rolls)
Balsamic vinegar
Olive Oil
Fresh Cracked Pepper
1/2 cup fresh spinach
1 roasted red bell pepper (if using the kind in a jar be sure to pat it as dry as you can using paper towels or something)
thinly sliced red onion
thinly sliced tomato
4-6 fresh mozzarella medallions
garlic salt with parsley

1. Sprinkle or spritz the inside of the roll with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Top with spinach, red bell pepper, onion, tomato, mozzarella. Top the mozzarella with fresh cracked pepper and a light sprinkling of the garlic salt.

And that's really it.
I'm no food photographer but this doesn't look too bad. 

Variations -
add Fresh, Roasted or Grilled mushrooms, especially portabella, they lend a nice earthiness to the overall flavor.

Use roasted Hatch green chiles in place of the roasted red peppers

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Cuban inspired Black and White Beans with Rice (now with crockpot action)

Growing up we ate a lot of beans and rice and even to this day it's one of my favorite comfort foods. I decided to make Cuban inspired beans in the crockpot since I had a busy day planned and  I didn't want to deal with cooking when I got home. Thanks to my handy dandy rice cooker, dinner was a breeze to prepare! I served this with this Two Onion Relish and cornbread muffins.

I think the leftover beans are going to be used later this week to make chili, especially since the flavors I used to prepare them will lend themselves well to chili.

1 cup black beans
1 cup white beans
5 cups water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 chopped green bell pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne or to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper or to taste
cooked brown or white rice

1. Place the beans in a large bowl, add water to cover by 2 inches, and let stand overnight. Drain and rinse.

2. Put the beans, bay leaf and water into a crockpot on low.

3. Heat the oil in a frying pan and saute garlic, onion, and green pepper and saute until softened, about 2-3 minutes. dd the cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper and stir until it's absorbed into the onion mix. Add into the crockpot. Cook on low for 6-7 hours or until the beans are tender. Discard the bay leaf.

4. Serve over rice and top with onion relish.

Two Onion and Garlic Relish

Very simple relish that adds a nice punch of flavor on a lot of dishes. I particularly like it on bean dishes like Black Beans and Rice or what my cousin calls Ham Beanies. I really like the strong flavor and bite of raw garlic but you could always omit that if you feel like it's too much for you. You can also sub cilantro instead of the parsley if you like cilantro. 

1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion 
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 
1/2 cup chipped scallions (white and green parts of the scallions) 
2 garlic cloves, finely minced

I used a quart size baggie and put all of the ingredients in and just shook it up. Easy peasy. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Vegan Yellow Pea Curry with Crispy Veggies

I found a recipe in one of my cookbooks that inspired this recipe. It helped me think about using the peas differently than I usually do when making Indian style food. I usually only think of them in relation to dal but today I cooked them as the sauce for the curry with lots of seasonings and then added some tender-crisp fresh veggies at the end.

* I use a LOT of curry powder and I like mine a bit spicy so feel free to adjust the curry powder blending as you see fit for your own taste buds but use at least 1 1/2 tablespoons to ensure that you get enough flavor*

One thing I recently realized - growing up I rarely ate fresh vegetables, they were mostly frozen or canned because at the time, that is what we could afford (and basically all my mom could cook, love her but cooking is not her strong point) so lately I've made a point of using all fresh veggies whenever possible and boy does it make a big difference!

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 white onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon red curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoon hot yellow curry powder
2 teaspoons yellow curry powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 cup yellow split peas, rinsed (I usually can only find these at Sprouts)
2 3/4 cups water
1 can coconut milk (be sure to use the full fat one not the light version, it's worth the calories for the taste)
1 cup sliced carrots
3 cups broccoli florets
1 cup thickly sliced yellow onion
1/2 cup cut green beans
1 each - yellow, green, orange, and red bell peppers, chopped
4 roma tomatoes chopped
1/2 teaspoon of salt, or to taste

1. In a 3 quart saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and garlic, cook stirring until the onions are tender, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the curry powders, ginger, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne until the spices are absorbed into the onions.

2. Add the peas and stir until they are coated with the spices. Add the water and coconut milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about an hour to hour and fifteen minutes, or until the peas are mostly dissolved. Be sure to stir it occasionally.

3. When the sauce is almost done, about an hour into cooking, heat the remaining oil in a large skillet or a wok. Add the carrots and cook until they are almost tender, about 3 minutes. Add the rest of the veggies and cook until they are your desired tenderness. I like my veggies pretty tender so I cooked mine for about 10 minutes but 3-5 will cook them so they are still pretty crisp.

4. Stir the vegetables in the curry mix and add salt. Serve!

One of the things I like about this the most is it's really easy to modify so you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand. Everything from cauliflower, snow peas, squash, mushrooms, the sky is really the limit! Just be careful with the cooking times depending on what veggies you end up using.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

I stumbled across a recipe for Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie and it piqued my interest. I liked all of the things that went into it and I love Shepherd's Pie so I thought I would give it a shot. As usual I took several different recipes and cobbled it into one of my own and oh man, it turned out a million times better than I thought it would. As a matter of fact I might actually like this better than my meaty Shepherd's Pie and my meaty version is pretty damned good.

I used mushrooms in it to help give it a meaty, earthy flavor but you could easily do this without them and it would be just as good. You can also use whatever kind of mushrooms you like best, I went with what they had fresh and in bulk at the grocery store.

This is a vegetarian recipe but I think it can be altered to be vegan fairly easily. The only real trick is the mashed potatoes but I know my vegan friends know how to make some pretty good vegan mashed potatoes!

1 cup brown lentils cooked in vegetable broth
2 cups Savory Mashed Potatoes 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion (white or yellow), diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 cups fresh green beans, in 1" pieces
4 oz shiitake mushrooms
10 oz cremini mushrooms
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
freshly cracked pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste (the kind in the tube is best IMO)
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup frozen peas

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

2. In a large frying pan, saute the onions and garlic in olive oil over med-high heat until the onions are tender, about 3-5 minutes

3. Add the carrots, celery and green beans and cook until the carrots are tender, about 3-5 minutes

4. Add mushrooms, thyme, salt, rosemary, cayenne, and pepper and saute for approximately 4-5 minutes, sprinkle the Worcestershire sauce over the mixture and cook for 2 more minutes.

5. Add tomato paste and flour and cook until veggies are fully coated and a pasty mix starts coating the bottom of pan or forming on the mixture. I use a ceramic pan so it doesn't really form the pasty mix on the bottom of the pan but it's pretty easy to tell when it starts to come together.

6. Add the broth and stir everything together to dissolve the flour and tomato past mixture. bring to a simmer and let it cook for a couple of minutes until it starts to thicken a bit. Stir in the cooked lentils and the peas and heat through.

7. Pour the lentil/veggie mixture into a 13" x 9" pan or casserole dish and spread the mashed potatoes on top. Try and make some little peaks with the potato mixture as they will brown up really nicely and make the dish look extra pretty.

8. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until heated through. Remove from the oven and turn the broiler on. Once it's heated to broil, put the pan back into the oven under the broiler for a couple of minutes to brown up the potatoes. Be sure to keep an eye on it as shit can burn REALLY fast under the broiler.

Once it's browned, remove from the oven and let it sit for about 10-15 minutes to cool down and set and then serve!

Tomorrow I will be working with another new dish - Yellow Split Pea Curry with Crispy Veggies. Recipe to follow once I make it up!

Savory, Skin on Mashed Potatoes

I love me some mashed potatoes and this is one of my favorite ways to prepare them. I almost always leave the skin on my mashed potatoes, but you can obviously peel them if that is what you prefer. 

2 lbs russet potatoes, washed and diced 
1-2 cups of vegetable broth (you can use chicken too) 
1/4 cup butter 
1/2 cup 2% milk 
garlic salt (the kind with the parsley in it preferably), onion powder, and pepper to taste 

1. Bring a pot of salted water and vegetable broth to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes depending on big you cut them.
2. Drain the potatoes and transfer to a big bowl. Add the butter and start to mash the potatoes until they start to become smooth and then add the milk and keep mushing until they get to your desired texture. Once it's the texture you prefer, stir in the garlic salt, onion powder, and pepper. 
3. Done! 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Chocolate Chip Snickerdoodle bread

1/2 cup butter (I used salted butter but unsalted would also work) 
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream 
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips 
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 8x4 loaf pans with floured cooking spray, you HAVE to use two pans as one will just overflow all over the place. Trust me, I know. It will make two smallish loaves of deliciousness. 
  2. If you are using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment, or you can use a large mixing bowl and a whisk but your arm might be tired by the end of this! Add butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla to the bowl and beat over high power until it's light and fluffy and creamed together. It took about 3-4 minutes on high speed with my Kitchen Aid and about 5 minutes when I mixed it by hand. 
  3. Once that's fluffy, stop mixing, scrape everything into the middle of the bowl, and add the sour cream and beat for about 1 minute on high speed. Basically until its incorporated.
  4. Stop mixing again and scrape the bowl so everything is in the middle, add the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and mix by hand with a spoon until its mixed but do not overmix or the breads texture is not awesome.  
  5. In a small box mix up the chocolate chips and the 1 tablespoon of flour. I basically just shake the chips up in the flour until they are well coated. I guess the flour helps keeping them from sinking into the bread. Or at least that is what I read somewhere and it does seem to work pretty well. Then add the chips and any leftover flour to the big bowl and mix until they are all mixed in. Again, do not overmix. 
  6. Split the batter between the two loaf pans and smooth down the tops of them with a spatula. 
  7. For the topping - To a small bowl, add sugar, cinnamon, and stir to combine and then sprinkle evenly on both loaves. 
  8. Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. A couple of moist crumbs are okay too. Once it's done, take the bread out of the oven and let it cool in the pan for about 15 minutes before removing it from the pans. I did it over the foil that I was going to wrap the finished product in so that it would catch any loose cinnamon and sugar. Let it cool completely before you cut it otherwise it will totally fall apart. 
I was trying to find the recipes that I used to cobble this together but I had looked at so many links and took pieces from a couple of places so I couldn't remember what was what. There are lots of other good variations of this bread out there.