Tuesday, November 24, 2009

So Cheesey!!!

Mac and Triple-Cheese with Ham and Peas (If You Please)

I have had a life-long love affair with mac and cheese. Really, what's not to like? Pasta and melted cheese is a match made in Foodie Heaven. From my early encounters with powdered-cheese Blue Box Mac to my current and constant quest for new cheese and pasta combinations- the passion and commitment is very real.

When planning my menu this week, I did my typical fridge/pantry inventory for inspiration and found several intriguing remaining items from previous recipes including several cheeses, a cup of half and half, a cup of chicken broth, Canadian bacon, and (for some reason) bags and bags of frozen peas. The solution seemed obvious and I'm always up for a little culinary experimentation. Ham and peas go together as naturally as peanut butter and jelly and I think you'll really enjoy this velvety, mild cheese sauce playing off the crisp freshness of Italian parsley. I hope you love it.


- 1 yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 lb. medium shell pasta
- 4 Tbsp. butter
- 1/4 c. flour
- 1 c. chicken broth
- 1 c. half and half
- 2 c. whole milk
- 2 c. grated mild white cheddar cheese
- 4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
- 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 oz. diced Canadian bacon
- 1 lb. frozen peas
- one bunch chopped Italian parsley
- 1/2 c. plain toasted bread crumbs
- salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spray a 9x13" glass baking pan with cooking spray, set aside. In a large stock pot bring water to a boil to cook pasta. Boil pasta to al dente. While water is boiling, melt butter in a large Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook until tender (about 5 minutes), season with salt and pepper. Add flour and whisk together with butter. Whisk constantly for 1 minute to create a thick paste. Slowly add chicken broth, whisking constantly to combine. Add half and half and milk, a little at a time, and whisk to combine until smooth. Cook over medium heat until sauce begins to thicken and can coat the back of a spoon. Add grated cheddar cheese and feta and whisk sauce until smooth. Remove from heat, add peas, Canadian bacon, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

When pasta is cooked, drain and add to cheese sauce. Stir until pasta is well coated. Transfer to prepared baking dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle evenly with breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake in oven for 30 minutes until top begins to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving. It's a tasty dish!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Freeze . . . Jive-Ass Turkey!

Turkey and Butternut Squash Chili

I slept for one hour last night. I'm not kidding . . . ONE. Although I am an admitted "mutant" in need of less sleep than the average . . . a single, insignificant hour is not enough to fully rejuvenate my mind and body. Needless to say . . . today was LONG. I survived the commute, classes, meetings, and students from moment to moment with a steady stream of coffee and the promise of a cozy evening in my fuzziest of sweatshirts with a yummy fall dinner that would warm me from the inside out.

Chili is one of the fastest, easiest, and most filling meals on my dinner roster. This meal was put together with very little effort (perfect for an evening such as this when I barely had the energy to pull on my sweatpants) and very little time. It was inspired by a two classic Thanksgiving flavors and perfect to get you in the mood for that particular upcoming fall feast!


- 1 lb. ground turkey
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
- 2 lbs. peeled and cubed butternut squash pieces*
- 1 14.5 oz. can diced fire-roasted tomatoes with green chilies
- 2 15 oz. cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), with their juices
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 Tbsp. chipotle chili powder
- 2 Tbsp. ground cumin
- 2 tsp. cardamom
- 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
- sour cream or grated cheddar cheese

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium. Add diced onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add turkey and cook until not longer pink (about 5 minutes), breaking up with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes, beans with their juices, squash, chili powder, cumin, cardamom, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer chili for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let sit about 5 minutes before serving. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve in bowls and top with sour cream or grated cheddar cheese. Delicious dinner in no time!!!

*The sheer ease of this meal was made possible by the blessed availability of Trader Joe's pre-washed, cubed, and packaged butternut squash pieces.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Too-Many-Blueberries-Blues

Blueberry Pumpkin Bread
When budding Kitchen Diva Lacey presented me with the problem of what to do with an over-abundance of frozen blueberries, I promised her I'd devise something delicious. At first I thought of the more conventional choices- blueberry pancakes, pie, muffins . . . etc. Although these are indeed tasty uses for bags and bags of frozen blueberries, I wanted to develop something more in the spirit of fall baking. Combining pumpkin with one of my favorite berries seemed like a perfect fit . . . enter Blueberry Pumpkin Bread. It's a snap to whip up. Try it for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning to give you energy for the busy day of cooking ahead of you!

- 1 15 oz. can pumpkin
- 1 1/4 c. sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 c. vegetable oil
- 1/2 c. vanilla yogurt
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- zest from one lemon
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1 c. fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease the bottom of a 9x5x3" loaf pan with butter or vegetable shortening. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, oil, yogurt, pumpkin, and vanilla until smooth. Add dry ingredients and whisk gently to combine. Add blueberries and lemon zest and combine thoroughly. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in oven for about 1 hour and 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven, let cool ten minutes in baking pan then turn out on wire rack and let cool completely before serving. That's it! Nothing to it!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This Little Piggy . . .

Fast and Fancy Onion Smothered Pork Cutlets with Sautéed Kale and Peas

This is an extremely fast, yet surprisingly elegant, meal. I got home tonight at 5:50 . . . by 6:20 I sat down to a great dinner! Pork is a fantastically versatile protein to include in your regular dinner rotation. I find that it lends itself particularly well to hints of sweetness- caramelized onions, for example, are the perfect compliment to this marvelous meat. A generous helping of hearty greens adds a healthy dose of fiber and antioxidants to the meal. This is a very fast meal (the thin sliced pork cutlets brown up in no time at all) for weeknight family dinners, but it also makes a very pretty plate for guests served with a big glass of white wine.


- 8 pork cutlets, sliced thin (about 1/2"), seasoned with salt and pepper on both sides
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- 3 large sweet yellow onions, peeled and sliced crosswise into disks
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 2 Tbsp. dry vermouth
- salt and pepper
- 1 shallot, peeled and diced
- 3 bunches kale, rinsed, stems removed, and torn into pieces
- 1/4 c. dry white wine
- 1 c. frozen peas, defrosted

Preheat oven to 350˚ F. While oven is heating, melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onions, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until onions soften and are turning brown, lower heat. Just before serving, add vermouth to onions and simmer for about 2-3 minutes until liquid soaks into onions. Remove from heat.

While onions are cooking, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, sear pork cutlets (about 1 minute per side). Transfer cutlets to an oven proof baking dish and finish cooking in oven for about 10 minutes. Remove cutlets from oven and tent with foil until serving.

While cutlets are in the oven, add remaining olive oil to pork cutlet skillet and heat over medium. Add white wine and shallots, stir over heat and scrape brown bits from bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add peas to pan. Working in three batches, cook kale in skillet, covered, for about 2 minutes per batch, allowing kale to soften before adding new batch. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Remove kale and cooked onions from heat. Plate the meal by portioning out kale, then top with 2 pork cutlets. Top with caramelized onions. Enjoy! It's really good and delicious. Pork cutlets are thin, so two per serving will do it for a filling meal for four.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Everything's Better With Bacon

Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf with Roasted Garlic Smashed Potatoes and Bacony Brussels Sprouts

Meatloaf is just one of those great comfort foods perfect for warm and fuzzy family dinners or (in my case tonight) friends and Scrabble. A moist and well-seasoned meatloaf is a great and hearty meal for meat-lovers and a sneaky way of slipping lots of vegetables onto the plate of a picky eater.

This recipe is a full dinner menu- complete with two easy and delicious side dishes. The roasted garlic addition to the mashed potatoes steps up a tried and true side dish to something a little more elegant and, in the case of the Brussels sprouts (as this blog title would indicate) . . . bacon just makes it better! The sides can also compliment other great dinners, try them with roast chicken or a pork loin.


- 1 lb. ground beef
- 2 slices of whole wheat bread, ground up in food processor into breadcrumbs
- 3 carrots, peeled and minced
- 3 sticks celery, trimmed and minced
- 1 large onion, peeled and minced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 Tbsp. grill seasoning
- 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 1 Tbsp. ketchup
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 c. barbecue sauce plus 1 Tbsp.
- 8 slices bacon
- 1 head garlic
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 lb. russet potatoes, scrubbed clean and quartered
- 2 Tbsp. half and half
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- fresh chives, minced
- 1 lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed
- 3 slices bacon, diced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tsp. dried Herbs d' Provence

In a large mixing bowl combine ground beef, bread crumbs, ketchup, 1 Tbsp. barbecue sauce, celery, carrots, onion, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, egg, grill seasoning, and salt and pepper. I find that the best way to combine meatloaf ingredients is with your bare hards. Work the mixture until all the ingredients are well combined. Transfer mixture to an 13" oval or rectangular baking dish and shape it into a 10x4" loaf shape. Brush loaf with half of the 1/4 c. of barbecue sauce, then wrap loaf in eight strips of bacon laying them lengthwise across. Brush bacon layer with remaining barbecue sauce. Place loaf pan into a preheated 350˚ oven and bake 40-50 minutes until meat is cooked through.

While meatloaf is baking, take head of garlic and trim top 1/2" away to expose individual cloves, place in a small sheet of foil, drizzle with 1 Tbsp. olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Wrap head of garlic in foil and then place in oven on rack beside meat loaf pan. Roast garlic about 30 minutes, remove from oven, and allow to cool before handling.

While garlic is roasting, scrub and quarter potatoes (leave skins on), trim brussles sprouts, chop chives, dice bacon, and bring two medium heavy sauce pots of water to a boil. Place potatoes in boiling water and cook until they are soft enough to pierce easily with the tip of a knife (about 12-15 minutes). Drain potatoes and return to pot, add half and half, butter, chives, salt and pepper, and squeeze roasted garlic cloves from their skins into mixture. Whip potatoes with a hand-held mixer until creamy, add more salt and pepper to taste. Cover to keep warm.
When meatloaf is cooked through, remove from oven, cover with foil, and allow to rest about 10 minutes before cutting.

While meatloaf is resting, blanch brussles sprouts in boiling water until slightly softened and bright green (2-3 minutes). Drain. While sprouts are blanching, cook diced bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat until it begins to brown. Remove bacon from skillet and allow to drain on a paper towel-lined plate, reserve 2 Tbsp. rendered bacon fat in pan. Return pan to medium heat, add sprouts, and cook 3-4 minutes until softened. Season with salt and pepper and Herbs de Provence. Remove from heat and toss with diced, cooked bacon.

That's it! While not a lightening-fast dinner in 30 minutes, it's easy enough to put it all together in about an hour . . . not too shabby. Serve it all together! What a lovely plate. Serve potatoes with extra butter and try the meatloaf with either ketchup or barbecue sauce as a topping. It's quite tasty and really filling. I think you'll like it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mmmmmm, Lamb-tastic!

Tasty Lamb Ragu with Pappardelle for a Chilly November Night
My friend Jordan likes to say, "The cuter the animal, the tastier the meat." While perhaps a rather barbaric sentiment in certain ways, I suppose it's true in the case of lamb. As a commonplace protein in Eastern European and Italian cuisine, perhaps it's just in my blood to enjoy the rich and distinct flavor of good lamb. Or maybe it's just a damn tasty meat to put in my mouth.

This quick and tasty pasta dish with a savory, brothy sauce is a nice break from the old chicken-or-beef-routine. The creamy tanginess of the crumbled feta cheese plays nicely with the lamb and fresh herbs. Serve with a good quality crusty bread to sop up the extra sauce. (I was lucky enough to be given a loaf of amazing sourdough bread straight from San Francisco today and it was perfection with this dinner.)


- 1 lb. ground lamb
- 1 lb. cherry or grape tomatoes, rinsed and halved
- 3 large shallots, peeled and minced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 c. beef broth
- 1 c. red wine

- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves, minced
- 1 large handful Italian parsley, minced
- salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- crumbled feta cheese
- 10 oz. fresh pappardelle noodles (wide noodles)

Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat, add ground lamb. Cook, season with salt and pepper, and break up with a wooden spoon, until it begins to brown (about 4-5 minutes). Add shallots and garlic, cook until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes and sugar, mix with ground lamb and cook until tomatoes begin to soften, about 2 minutes.
Add vinegar, wine, and broth to mixture, raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, add minced herbs, and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes for broth to thicken. Stir occasionally while cooking and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

As sauce simmers, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil to cook noodles. When water is at a rolling boil, cook. Fresh noodles take very little time to cook (1-2 minutes, really) so pay attention to the timing. Cook noodles and drain.

After sauce has simmered, remove from heat and toss with fresh noodles. Divide pasta with lamb ragu among four bowls. Pour extra broth over pasta. Top each bowl with crumbled feta cheese. Serve with a nice glass of wine and bread to sop up extra sauce.

This is a great dish for a quick weeknight meal, but the mystique of the lamb makes it "fancy" enough for guests- they'll never know how easy it actually was to throw together in about 30 minutes.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stewin' in Your Own Juices

Oh So Tasty Beef and Beer Stew

Two of the many things we are never lacking in the Northwest are rain and delicious, locally brewed beers. This yummy stew recipe brings together a uniquely Northwest experience- perfect for a rainy evening when you need to be warmed from the inside out. The rich, bitterness of a good porter with a nice pot of slow-cooked beef? It's everything you're craving on a chilly November night.

- 3 lbs. stew beef, cut into 2" cubes
- 1 1/2 lbs. pearl onions, peeled
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 spring fresh rosemary, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. fresh sage leaves, minced
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1 pt. dark beer (such as a stout or porter)
- 2 c. beef broth
- 1/2 lb. baby carrots
- 1 lb. small red potatoes, halved
- salt and pepper
- pinch of sugar

Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Sprinkle beef cubes with salt and pepper.
Working in batches, brown beef cubes in Dutch oven, turning to brown all sides (about 5-6 minutes per batch). Transfer beef to a bowl and cover with foil. In same Dutch oven, add remaining olive oil, onions, garlic, and chopped herbs. Cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes to soften onions. Add flour and tomato paste. Stir for one minute, creating a thick paste. Add broth and stir until thick, scraping up brown bits from bottom of Dutch oven with a wooden spoon (about 2 minutes). Add beer, a sprinkle of sugar, and beef and any juices back to Dutch oven. Cover partially, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 45 minutes.

Remove cover, add carrots, potatoes, and 1 tsp. of salt and pepper. Simmer, partially covered, until beef, carrots, and potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and wait 5 minutes before serving.

While super easy to throw together, this stew is not a quick dish. Plan ahead to put it together for a filling weekend family-style supper or a night when you have a little more time to watch the stove. The prep time is fairly minimal, but allow for about 90 minutes for the stew to . . . well . . . stew! It's definitely worth the wait. If you have a crock-pot, brown the beef in a skillet, then add it and the other ingredients to the slow-cooker. Cook over low for 6-8 hours and enjoy a hearty meal when you get home from work.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Well Equipt 2

Cozy Autumn Pumpkin Soup with Cheesy Garlic Toasts

Oh immersion blender . . . how ever did I prepare delicious, creamy soups without you?

The immersion blender, sometimes referred to as a "stick blender" or as my mom calls it, "the motor boat," is an extremely useful, small, and inexpensive kitchen tool. It's basically exactly what it sounds like: a blender on a stick. It has all the chopping/whipping action of a blender without the hassle of having to clean the blender or running the risk of spraying the ceiling with hot soup. I use mine to whip up salad dressings, smoothies, and (obviously) creamy soups in a snap. It is (almost) as easy to make this soup recipe with a regular blender- just work in batches and make sure the soup isn't too hot (unless you wish to learn the hot-soup-on-the-ceiling-lesson for yourself).

The weather is definitely changing, I had to wear my cute new mittens on my commute to and from work today. Not that I'm complaining- the mittens are extremely cute and I really enjoy getting home from a long day and enjoying a warm, comforting bowl of soup while the rain is beating on the windows outside. I put together this creamy and satisfying concoction in about 30 minutes- it's really yummy and makes tons of leftovers for many more upcoming chilly fall evenings.


- 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- l red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 30 oz. canned pumpkin
- 14.5 oz. diced tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 qt. chicken broth
- 7-8 oz. mascarpone cheese
- 1 small handful Italian parsley, chopped
- salt and pepper
- good quality sliced crusty bread
- butter
- ground paprika
- sliced provolone cheese
- crushed garlic

For the soup, heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add bell pepper and garlic and cook until softened and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add chicken broth, canned pumpkin, tomatoes, parsley, and brown sugar. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.

As soup simmers, prepare the garlic cheese toasts. For each toast use 1 Tbsp. butter, one slice of provolone, and 1-2 cloves crushed garlic. In a small bowl mash together butter and garlic with a fork. Spread each slice of bread with butter mixture, sprinkle with a pinch of paprika, and top with a slice of provolone. Preheat broiler and place toast slices on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Place toasts under broiler and toast for about 5 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly (keep an eye on your broiler).

After soup has simmered, remove from heat and blend in batches in blender until smooth OR use your fantastic immersion blender. Add mascarpone cheese to blended soup and stir over low heat until cheese is melted and well combined. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste and serve with garlic cheese toasts.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Eggplant to Cure a Bitter Heart

Delicious and Authentic Eggplant Parmesan

Vegetarian friends coming over for dinner? In the mood for something filling, but not too heavy? This is one of my favorite recipes my mom brought back from a trip to Tuscany. It is delicious, easy, and elegant enough to impress your friends. Serve with a bottle of Pino Gris and enjoy this little taste of Tuscany.

Eggplant is a great ingredient for soups and stir-fry dishes. The spongy texture takes on flavors extremely well. The trick to making fantastic eggplant is to salt it liberally and allow the salt to work its magic, drawing the bitterness from the plant. Slice the eggplant crosswise then lay the slices out in a single layer on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes until the salt dissolves and beads on top of the eggplant. Flip over and do the same on the other side. Once the eggplant has been salted, rinse the excess salt, then pat eggplant dry. Now . . . your eggplant is ready for battle!


- 1 large or 2 medium eggplants, sliced crosswise into 1/4" rounds and salted (see above)
- flour for dredging
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for frying
- 3 eggs, beaten
- salt and pepper
- a pinch of sugar
- 6 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 1 bunch fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 1 handful fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Salt and prepare eggplant (see above). While eggplant is "sweating" out the bitterness prepare the tomato topping. In a medium bowl, combine diced tomatoes, garlic, basil, parsley, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, and sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

After eggplant has been salted, rinsed, and patted dry, heat olive oil over medium-high in a large skillet. Dredge slices, one at a time, through beaten egg and then through seasoned flour. Fry eggplant slices in batches in skillet until they just start to turn golden brown (1-2 minutes per side). Drain on paper towel-lined plate.

Lightly spritz a 13x9" glass baking dish with cooking spray and arrange eggplant slices in 2 layers with slices of mozzarella cheese. Spread tomato mixture over eggplant and cheese then sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Bake in oven for 35 minutes until the cheese starts to turn golden brown.

Melted cheese, delicious tender eggplant, fresh tomatoes, crisp herbs? What's not to love about this tasty dish? Enjoy with a nice glass of wine and a great group of friends! You're going to love it. Really.