Purposely eating the same thing all week

I don’t know about you, but post Thanksgiving, I’m perfectly happy to not cook for a couple days. Thanksgiving can take a lot of my cooking mental space. The problem with trying that this year is that we didn’t have much in the way of protein leftovers – the leg of lamb Adam roasted was excellent. Also, he estimated servings pretty well, so with much effort (i.e. attempting to cut even more meat scraps off the bone) we had two lunch portions of lamb, each. I mean, hurray, more tasty lamb, but not so much with the not having too cook – we needed a protein/main course for dinners. Have enough left over sides that I didn’t really need to cook any vegetables or stuff… So what did I do?

Cook a vegetable heavy lasagna, of course.

Totally worth it.

For you vegetarians out there, and anyone who just wants to occasionally have a meatless dish, this recipe will totally work in a vegetarian version. It should since the original was developed that way 🙂 We just really wanted some animal protein. And I really dislike mushrooms. It’s a personal failing I’m sure 😉

Cheesy Lasagna

Original from TheKitchn
Makes 8-10 servings
Recipes left to try (& copy…): 9 recipes; Dinner: 1

  • 1 onion, diced small
  • 3/4 lb ground 90/10 beef
  • 1/2 lb smoked andouille sausage, sliced into bite-sized slices
  • 1 eggplant, small – medium (12-16 oz), small dice
    • [psst, go for the smaller size, especially if your skillet or pot isn’t all that large]
  • 1 butternut squash, small – medium, small dice
    • again, go for a squash on the small size
    • your favorite type of squash will work here: feel free to substitute (butternut squash was a pleasant surprise – I had not idea if it would actually work or not walking in, we just need to use up these squashes floating around the house)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • pinch of red pepper flakes, optional (but totally awesome in)
  • 5-6 oz baby spinach
  • 3 cups tomato sauce
    • (one 24 oz jar worked, but we would have been happier with more sauce. or I failed measuring whilst executing, since 24 oz should definitely be 3 cups…)
  • 15 dry lasagna noodles (not no-boil, you want the regular ones)
  • 2 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 2 1/4 – 3 cups mozzarella, chopped or shredded
    • we used 2 1/4 cups, but would have been happy with more
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Warm some olive oil in a large skillet or pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they begin to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and sausage; cook until the beef browns.
    IMG_0361
    Add the eggplant, squash, and bell pepper; cook until all soften, roughly 3-5 minutes.
  3. Clear some space in the middle of the pan (this is where it would have been easier if I’d used a pot with tall sides…). Add more olive oil, the garlic, salt, and spices – stir until the garlic is fragrant and beginning to turn golden, about 30 seconds. Now stir the garlic and spices into the vegetables. Add the spinach on top and stir until it wilts, about 3-5 minutes later. Remove the skillet or pot from heat.
  4. Spread some tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9″x13″ baking dish (you do not need to use cooking spray or butter the dish). Lay 5 of the lasagna noodles (breaking if needed) in a single layer over the sauce. Spread 1 cup of ricotta on the noodles (I totally reached in and spread out the ricotta with my hands), half of the vegetables, 1 cup of tomato sauce, and 1 cup of mozzarella. Add another single layer of lasagna noodles using 5 pieces, the rest of the vegetables, 1 cup of tomato sauce, and 1 cup of mozzarella (in that order). Top with a final layer of 5 pieces of lasagna noodles, the remaining tomato sauce, and 1/2 cup of ricotta. Reserve the remaining 1/4-1 cup of mozzarella for later.
  5. Cover the dish with a lid or tightly with foil; bake for 1 hour. After 1 hour, check that the noodles are done by inserting a knife – if the knife does not slide easily through all the layers, recover and cook for another 15 minutes. Once noodles are done, sprinkle the remaining mozzarella over the top and return to the oven, uncovered, until the mozzarella melts, about 10-15 minutes.

 

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Why does everyone think a 4hr slow cooker recipe is helpful?

Seriously, if I’m around to turn on the slow cooker 4 hours before dinner, I’m around enough to cook. Okay, now our slow cooker can switch over to warm after a set number of hours, but things still cook (at least a bit) on warm. It might be that my first slow cooker didn’t have a timer option and I came home to quite a few batches of overcooked chicken something. But 4 hour cooking times in a slow cooker still sounds like a really awkward time to work with/around.

Eh, I might just be cranky about how many vegetables I chopped up for this one – more specifically, how long I was standing up to do so. Also how much in leftovers there are. Trust me, there was no way this recipe, as written, was going to fit in my 6 quart slow cooker.

I think I’m starting to understand what Adam means by his (usually anguished) cries of “It got away from me!” We are totally going to be eating this for the rest of the week.

At this point, in a change from how things usually go around here, I’m thinking I will not keep this recipe. Basically too much work for the end result (for me) – those of you with working olfactory senses might get more out of it.

Vegetable & Chickpea Stew

Original from TheKitchn.com
Makes … lots. 8-12 servings?
Recipes left to try (& copy…): 17; Dinners: 3 recipes left

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 – 1 large onion, diced
  • 10 purple potatoes, diced
  • 1 tbsp salt, divided
  • 1 tbsp curry powder of choice
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder
  • 2 cups broth
  • 32 oz chickpeas
  • 4-5 small peppers, diced
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
  • 28 oz (5-6) tomatoes, diced
  • 10 oz baby spinach
  • 1 can coconut milk
  1. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot on medium heat. Add the onion and 1 tsp of salt; sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and 1 tsp of salt; sauté for several minutes.
  2. Add the curry, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and chili powder; cook, stirring a bit, until fragrant – about 30 seconds. Pour in some of the broth and scrape the bottom of the pan to pull up any brown bits. Add the rest of the broth, chickpeas, peppers, cauliflower, tomatoes; stir to combine. Cover and simmer for 45 – 60 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
  3. Add the spinach and coconut milk; stir until spinach wilts. Pull off the heat and adjust any seasonings if necessary. Serve.

And we’re back!

With a summer time salad! Just as summer is winding down. ::sighs::

So, Adam and I are back from his brother’s wedding – congratulations John and Caroline, it was a very lovely ceremony. Let me tell you – Charleston in August (especially the tail end of August) is HOT. Also muggy. Am also glad that I wore all the clothes that could become see through from sweat on days I was mostly indoors. With air conditioning.

I truly understand why air conditioning is used all the time in the south. Life around here would be pretty unbearable in the summer otherwise. Says a fairly died-in-the-wool preferrer of cold over heat (I can put on a sweater; eventually I can’t peel off any more clothes!)

Any rate

An asparagus and radish with mint salad.

Little cooking but decent amount of knife work. The whole thing tastes much, much better with very thin slices of radishes. So really, I’m not about to recommend this one to you unless you own a mandolin. Or are really good with a chef’s knife. … Or want to develop your knife skills.

It is pretty darn good though. And make ahead (by a bit) if you need the time closer to the meal for other things.

Asparagus and Radish Salad

Original from TheKitchn.com
Makes ~6 servings
Recipes left to try (& copy…): 30; Vegetables: 1 recipe left

Verdict: Keeping

  • 1 asparagus bunch, ~1lb
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil or butter
  • 1 bunch radishes, ~1/4-1/2 lb
  • 1 tbsp good olive oil
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • Kosher or other flaky salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh or dried mint leaves, to taste (fresh is better, dried will do)
  1. Remove the woody ends of the asparagus and cut the remainder into 1 inch pieces. Heat the oil or butter in a skillet over high heat; cook the asparagus until warmed through and tender, but still crisp, about 2 – 3 minutes.
  2. Slice the radishes into thin rounds with a mandolin or very sharp chef’s knife – by preference, the slices will be translucent. Toss the asparagus and radishes together in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk together the good olive oil and rice vinegar. Pour this over the vegetables and toss; season to taste with salt and black pepper. If using fresh mint leaves, slice them very fine. Toss the mint with the vegetables.

Can be refrigerated for up to 4 hours before serving. Serve cold or at room temperature.

And finally Pho

So, this is the Pho recipe I’ve been meaning to write up for maybe 2 weeks now. I just kept getting side tracked by desserts and bread and the Purim feastly event. Which meant that in the meantime, I misplaced/deleted the photo that was going to accompany this one – I’d actually filled up the memory card for my camera. Appearances to the contrary, I take somewhere between 5 and 25 photos for every entry here – y’all only see the one I like best.

On to the pho!

This is another one where the quality of the meal is entirely dependent on the quality of the ingredients. Without good noodles and vegetable stock, this just isn’t going to be worth it. So make the trip to an Asian supermarket for the noodles and get (or make) the best stock your budget/time allows for. As written, this is a vegetarian meal, but, it’s pho. Treat this as a base and add whatever toppings and garnishes you want. It’s flexible and can do that.

And hey, when Adam eats a vegetarian meal, looks over, and says “keep this”, I say this is a recipe that works.

Pho for 2

serves 2
original from TheKitchn.com
Recipe Count – 26 left
Section Count – Main dishes: 2 more left, subsection – vegetarian: no more!

  • 1 large onion, peeled and halved
  • 2 inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 3 inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 4 cups unsalted vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp soy sauce (here’s your sodium)
  • 4 carrots, peeled  and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2  lb dried rice noodles
  • firm tofu
  • green leafy vegetable such as bok choy, mustard greens, and/or broccoli
  • hoisin sauce and/or sriracha (optional)
  1. Place the onion and ginger directly under a broiler until slightly blackened, about 5 minutes on each side. In a large pot, dry roast the cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and coriander over medium-low heat; stir to prevent burning. When the color starts to change (or they become aromatic), add the vegetable stock, soy sauce, carrots, and charred onion and ginger.
  2. Bring stock to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Strain and keep warm until ready to serve.
  3. Meanwhile, place the noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot water. Let stand until tender but still chewy, about 20-30 minutes. Drain.
  4. Divide noodles between two bowls, top with tofu and vegetables, and ladle about 2 cups of stock into each bowl. Serve with sauce and any other garnishes you desire on the side.

The right noodles make all the difference

I am a big fan of Wegmans – they’ve got great selection, good prices on everything I want from meat to bulk staples, and it’s just a pleasant store to shop in. Somebody definitely did some studies of industrial design to encourage purchasing. But there is definitely  (at least) one area where Wegmans is deficient.

Noodles.

Not pasta – their pasta selection is pretty good. I’m talking about noodles of the non-Italian variety. Lo mein. Udon. Rice noodles. Pretty much anything a recipe from ANYWHERE in Asia and/or that ENTIRE HALF OF THE PLANET calls for. I’m lucky if I can find one example of what I’m looking for, and usually it’s some mass-produced exemplar of cardboard.

Yeah, not happy about it. I mean I get it, Wegmans is not a specialty store and they’re catering to whatever ‘mainstream American’ tastes constitutes. And it works – they’re my weekly grocery run. But from now on? Whenever we move, I am finding a local Asian supermarket. And then? ALWAYS going there for any noodles.

Udon Noodles

I mean, who wouldn’t want the chance to browse all the funky fruits I’ve got no idea what to do with? 😀

This is a simple recipe and like all simple recipes, the quality of your ingredients will really dictate the quality of your meal. It is totally worth the extra grocery run for real udon noodles. Assuming there’s an Asian grocery store in your area. If not? a) I’m sorry and b) make friends with someone who knows how to make noodles at home?

Udon Noodle Soup with Bok Choy and Poached Egg

Recipe Count – 28 more
Section Count – Appetizers: 3 more
original from TheKitchn.com

  • 4-5 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 14ish oz of pre-cooked udon noodles – not the dried variety please
  • 1 head of baby bok choy
  • 1 bunch spring onions
  • 3-4 tbsp soy sauce

Udon Ingredients

  1. Bring the broth to a simmer in a medium sauce pan. Add the star anise and cinnamon; continue simmering for 5-10 minutes, in order to infuse the broth with the spices.
  2. Crack both eggs into separate small cups, then gently slip them one at a time into the broth. Cook on a simmer for two minutes. Add the noodles and the bok choy, then stir very gently so as not to break the eggs. Continue cooking for another two minutes, until the egg whites are completely set but the middles are still loose.
  3. Pull the pan off the heat, then gently stir in the spring onions and soy sauce. Taste and adjust soy sauce if needed. Remove the star anise and cinnamon with a slotted spoon. Divide between two bowls and serve. Enjoy!
We added slices of beef to get some protein and make it a main dish.

We added slices of beef to get some protein and make it a main dish.

Pasta Interrupted

So this is what I should/wanted to have posted last Tuesday, before I got sick (all better now, thanks. just a cold/sinus thing) – y’all might recognize the roasted squash from last week. In a lot of ways, this recipe (Fettuccine with roasted butternut squash, brown butter, and sage) is comfort food for me – lots of carbs, contrast with some nuts, and slightly sweet squash with some bite.

Man I like carbs. Might explain why I like baking bread. I get to eat the results.

Any rate, this pasta recipe is also rather flexible. As written, it’s vegetarian (not vegan through) but it’d be pretty easy to add some animal protein, especially if you’ve got a little grill – slap a chicken breast on a grill or chop it up and sauté in a pan, then mix in the cooked chicken at the end. If you’re trying this one on a weeknight or just otherwise don’t have time to fully roast the squash, there’s a short-cut version I’ll include. I think it’s not quite as good, but still very decent. The original calls for pine nuts, but those are expensive so I’ve always substituted cashews – bet you could substitute your favorite nut. And it’s not like we keep any sage other than the dried variety around the house, which still works despite the original calling for frying sliced thin whole sage leaves in butter. I mean it sounds delicious, but there are some limits around here. … I’ll get back to you when I actually figure them out.

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Fettuccine with Roasted Butternut Squash, Brown Butter and Sage

Serves 4
original: TheKitchn.com

  • 1 small to medium butternut squash, about 2 lb (don’t worry if all the ones at the store are too big – as long as you can fit all the chunks on a pan in one layer, you’re good)
  • 1/2 lb fettuccine noodles
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • dried sage to taste
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup nuts of choice, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray or butter a baking sheet OR lay down enough parchment paper to cover the bottom.
  2. Peel the squash, scrape out the seeds, and cut into roughly 1/2 inch cubes. Toss with a little olive oil and salt. Spread the butternut squash in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 45-60 minutes*, by preference stirring every 15 minutes but will work if left alone. You are cooking until the squash is tender and beginning to have caramelized brown spots. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the fettuccine noodles with a generous amount of salt according to package instructions. Scoop out and set aside 1/2 cup of cooking water before draining the pasta and setting aside.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Swirl the pan every so often and cook until butter turns caramel-brown, about 5 minutes. I am told there should be a nutty smell.
  5. Add the sage leaves to the browned butter and allow to fry for a few seconds, until crispy. Add the roasted squash, nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp salt to the pan*; stir until butter coast the squash. Pour in a 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta liquid and let bubble into a thin sauce, adding more liquid if needed. Taste and adjust salt at this point. Add the cooked pasta, tossing to coat and mix evenly. Remove from heat, split into bowls to serve, and top with nuts and parmesan.

Short-cut version:
1) Roast for 15-20 minutes, until squash is tender, but not carmelized.
2) Squish the squash a bit with the back of your stirring utensil.