Archive for the ‘Main Courses’ Category

Oh My, Oatmeal Cream Pie

October 3, 2011 2 comments


Busted. Yep, you caught me. It’s been a little while since I have blogged. The summer was busy with the kids, family, work, training for a marathon (yes, it’s this weekend finally!), house/garden work and other assorted shenanigans that occur during warmer weather. But I am back.  And I bring you pie (actually, a rather large cookie like dessert) so you can’t be too mad, right?

Another reason for my absence is a valid one that directly relates to this blog. Many of my blog posts intermix food and food politics/ethics. I have been internally juggling many different feelings about how I should be eating. One day I think that eating animals is okay, the next I am making vegan recipes. Quite frankly I am getting tired with this one-sided conversation with myself. I am guessing Mark Bittman thought the same thing when he came up with his “Vegan before 6pm” lifestyle.  I think this is something I can adapt to and have resolved also to make any meat consumed from local sources, and no factory farmed animal or product.

Why am I sharing this with you? First of all, I want to be honest. Many of my recipes are vegetarian or vegan and I do not want to pretend that I am 100% vegetarian/vegan. Second, I know some friends who are also struggling with this concept and thought we could support each other and offer ideas and recipes to make things easier. Your comments have and always will be very welcome to me – a huge reason why I do this – so please throw me your thoughts and opinions, and I will provide tasty vegetarian recipes. Deal?

Okay, enough of the emotional stuff…bring on the pie!

This is a recipe I found in Have your Cake and Vegan Too, a glorious cookbook by Kris Holechek. It’s pretty easy and tastes so much like those little cakes I used to devour in middle school. I would cut the raisins to only 3/4 of a cup though as it has a little heavier raisin taste than I prefer. Kids loved it and it did not last long in our house (goes great with coffee in the morning).


Black Bean Enchiladas and a Startling Revelation from Gwyneth Paltrow

June 1, 2011 2 comments


This is a rant post. Those that know me well understand that when I get fired up about something, I get, well…pretty PO’d. The cause of this fury was located in my mailbox. Being a person with a passion for cooking, I subscribe to Bon Appetit magazine. I adored Gourmet magazine and was devastated when it folded. Well apparently BA has a new sheriff in town (editor/sheriff/crapmaster) and the format has changed. The editor was the former editor of GQ and is looking to shaking things up other than martinis. The new format reads like Maxim magazine with short attention span articles that are the length of a visit to the toilet. I always enjoyed the at-length adventure stories that whisked me away to other cultures with interesting, tasty recipes to follow.

Now what do I get? I get Gwyneth Paltrow telling me how to cook. Nu-uh. Not going to happen my friend. I won’t even put a link to show you my disdain for someone who dabbles in a bunch of everything and is mediocre at best (okay, I did like her as an actor, but her singing, blogging, cooking – ugh!).  What fired me up was that her recipes were beyond blah and that the magazine actually printed her “advice” when cooking:

“Drink while you cook!”

“Clean as you go!”

“State the obvious for those that cook all the time!”

Okay, the last one was mine, but REALLY – “Drink while you cook!” What a startling revelation!  Why didn’t I think of that?

So in summary, thumbs down to Bon Appetit and the new hazmat…oops, I mean format. So in response, I will post a recipe for Black Bean Enchiladas that I modified from America’s Test Kitchen, one of the few sources I still trust. Now if Christopher Kimball starts appearing on Glee, we’re all in trouble.

Black Bean Enchiladas
Makes 12 Enchiladas, serving 4 or 5

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil or corn oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
3 medium cloves of garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 cans black beans, drained, rinsed and mashed
2 cans tomato sauce (8 ounces each)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 can diced green chilis
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese , grated (2 cups)

Tortillas and Toppings
12 corn tortillas (six-inch)
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 cup sour cream(optional)

1. FOR THE SAUCE AND FILLING: Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering but not smoking, about 2 minutes; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, coriander, cumin, salt, and sugar; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add beans and cook, stirring constantly, until coated with spices, about 30 seconds. Add tomato sauce and 3/4 cup water; and stir. Bring to simmer. Pour mixture through medium-mesh strainer into medium bowl, pressing on beans and onions to extract as much sauce as possible; set sauce aside. Transfer mixture to large plate; freeze for 10 minutes to cool, then combine with cilantro, green chilis, and cheese in medium bowl and set aside.


2. Heat oven to 400 degrees.

3. Have a margarita! (Because we all know drinking while cooking is fun!)

4. Stack the tortillas on a microwave-safe plate, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high until warm and pliable, 45 seconds. Get a 11x 14 baking dish and spread 1 cup of the reserved sauce on the bottom. Fill each tortilla with 2 tablespoons of filling, roll it up and place in dish. Top with 1 cup of cheese (or more if you have it!). Cover baking dish with foil. Bake enchiladas on lower-middle rack until heated through and cheese is melted, 20 to 25 minutes. Uncover and serve immediately, top with sour cream if wanted.

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A Walk on the Mild Side: Red Pepper Tamales

April 28, 2011 4 comments

I was raised in a middle-class suburban town with little exposure to any different cultures and heritages.  We grew up eating a meat and potatoes type diet with the occasional walk on the wild side.  Betty Crocker Chop Suey and Ortega taco night was as crazy as it got.

My first exposure to authentic Mexican cuisine was at my first job out of college.  There was a potluck lunch and a co-worker brought homemade tamales that his mom spent the better part of a day making.  If you are not familiar with tamales (as was I at the time) the actual edible part of the tamales is wrapped up in a corn husk.  The filling is encapsulated in the corn husk and steamed to cook it all up and add some yummy flavor imparted by the corn husk.  Well, my first time eating a tamale, I was not aware of the fact that you don’t eat the corn husk! I thought to myself…”These are terrible! It’s like chewing, well…on corn husks!” Someone spotted my foodie faux pas and immediately let me know I was doing it wrong.


Put the tamales in vertically so they'll all fit

Fast forward many years later, I became smitten with trying something I have never cooked before. I enjoyed making these oh-so yummy Red Pepper Tamales – a vegetarian version of the tamale.  The feta cheese, red pepper, corn and awesome corn meal flavors blend very well and are addictive. They do take about 1 1/2 hours to prepare and another 1 1/2 hours to steam, but me and my nine year old had a fun mother-daughter cooking moment. These would be great to make ahead of time and steam when you need ’em.

red pepper tamales

Doesn't photograph well, but sure are tasty!

A few notes:

– Start off the recipe by soaking the corn husks (I really hate when you read a recipe and halfway through the recipe, they say “meanwhile, you should be doing XXX”.  Why don’t you just tell me that at the beginning?)

– Masa Harina and corn meal are NOT interchangeable. I found it at Walmart of all places. It’s got lime in it, that’s what makes it a completely different product than corn meal.

Soaking the corn husks (yep, that's a rock)

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A Safety Net of Noodles

February 1, 2011 1 comment

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Yesterday I did not have a very good day. In the grand scheme of life, it was just a bitty blip on the bad day radar. But still I was stressed and found a way to relieve some of that ickyness. So what did I do? Some yoga? Hit the bottle? No, I busted out my pasta maker. For Christmas my husband got me a pasta maker attachment for my KitchenAid and the downward spiral has officially started. For those that know me well, many of them have been surprised I have not entered the experience of homemade pasta. I had a fear. I knew that once I made fresh pasta, anything out of a box would be inferior in taste and I would be destined to make fresh all the time. I was not ready to take that path, until yesterday.

Within a blech kind of day I found solace and comfort in cooking and here’s why. What I realized while boiling the pasta water was that I appreciated the consistency of cooking. My pasta water would always boil at 212 degrees. My blueberry coffee cake would always take 45 minutes to bake. Cooking makes no judgment on you and best of all, cooking will always be there for you. I will always have to cook and I appreciate that stability in life’s ups and downs.

So how did I use my fresh fettuccine? I made Fettuccine with Peas and Asparagus – a nice light and appealing dish where using fresh pasta really makes the dish.  I did not use pancetta (I just used a little olive oil to serve as the fat) or fresh basil.  Sorry…I missed taking a photo since we gobbled it up so fast (if you click on the recipe link there is a great picture there).

Today has been a better day and perspective has kicked in as well…but after last night’s dinner therapy, I may have to attend another type of meeting…those addicted to making fresh pasta.  Crap, I knew this would happen.

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Broccoli Penne with Pesto Cream Sauce

September 30, 2010 2 comments

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If I could pick a dream job, being the host of a TV cooking show would rank pretty honkin’ high.  When I was a kid, I would pretend the window that was above the kitchen sink really was a camera and I would talk to the window like I was hosting my own cooking show.  I even did my own commercials ( I still remember the one I did for Vlasic pickles…so any ad agencies out there, gimme a call).  This was waaaay before Food Network so my idols were few, but the uber-talented chefs like Julia Child and the sort really made cooking on TV fun for me.

I would say 88.7% of the recipes I make are those of other people, they are not my own creations.  I wish that number was lower, but the more I cook the more comfortable I get with combinations and techniques.  Last night I had some broccoli from the garden that needed to get used up, so I totally improvised (Augggh!) and to my and my family’s surprise, it turned out pretty good!

I know I will never be the Next Food  Network star (even though my last name just screams out numerous options for a snappy title).  But that’s fine with me, as the house I live in now has a window over a sink and I have an in-house studio audience of four who give me applause and won’t cancel me due to poor ratings.

Broccoli Penne with Pesto Cream Sauce

Serves 5 (2 adults, 3 kids)

1 lb penne pasta
2 Tbs olive oil
1 lb or more fresh broccoli ( I would not use frozen due to extra water it has)
3 Tbs. jarred roasted red pepper
3 Tbs pesto
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 Tbs flour
3/4 cup cream**
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup white wine
Optional: grated Parmesan cheese

** To make this a vegan recipe, you could sub in some cashew cream use non-egg pasta and cheese free pesto -> -> I used that for this recipe

In a large pot, boil water.  When water is boiling, add pasta and cook per directions on the box.

Meanwhile in a large skillet,  heat olive oil and cook onions until soft about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Stir and add white wine first then the broccoli.  Cover with a lid and cook on medium heat for 3 minutes.  Add red pepper and stir.  Then sprinkle flour over and stir and then cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add cream and stir, cook for 2 minutes and then add pesto.  Season with salt (about 1 tsp) and pepper. You want the broccoli to be cooked but not super limp and overcooked.

Drain pasta and return to the same pot.  Add the broccoli mixture to the pasta and combine well.  Top with cheese if desired.

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Grilled Veggie Flatbread

August 9, 2010 Leave a comment

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Here in Chicago, the air conditioning has been on for a while…and will continue to be on as it will be in the 90s all week. I don’t know about you, but turning the oven on in this kind of heat is more unbearable than Jim Gaffigan not being in the cast of My Boys anymore.  This will be a short and savory post,  so your computer doesn’t output any more unnecessary heat.

If I were to make a list (don’t tempt me) of my favorite recipes, this recipe for Grilled Veggie Flatbread would definitely make the cut.  I like it because, like a pizza, you can throw anything on it and it tastes awesome.  It’s perfect for this time of year when the garden and farmers markets are overflowing with superb produce like eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and anything else you can find.

You can follow the recipe and just use tomatoes, but when I made this the other day, before I grilled the flatbread I sliced and grilled some:
Red Onion
Japanese eggplant (the long and skinny kind)grilled veggie flatbread
Summer squash
Cherry Tomatoes

After the bread came off the grill, I topped it with some olive oil, shredded parmesan cheese and then added the toppings.

Another idea: If you can get your hands on a mushroom mix,  saute those bad boys up with some garlic and when the bread comes off the grill, top it with shredded parmesan cheese and then the mushrooms…SO good!  This makes a nice light dinner and also a killer appetizer.  Stay cool my friends!

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Did you hear the one about the Linguine, the Shrimp and the Zucchini?

August 3, 2010 Leave a comment

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Q: Why do people in small, peaceful towns still lock their car doors?

A: So nobody sneaks a zucchini into their car.

Yep, it’s zucchini season and the buggers are taking over neighborhoods.  People distraught with overflowing produce, are finding ways to use the squash like no other.  They are putting them in breads, muffins, stir-frys, appetizers, stuffing them, grilling’s just culinary chaos.

Here is a quick, easy recipe that I have been cooking for quite a while that makes use of these fast growing green beauties.  It’s a variation on a recipe by Jeff Smith aka “The Frug”.

linguine with sauteed zucchini

Linguine with Shrimp and Sauteed Zucchini
Serves 6


  • 1/2 pound fresh medium shrimp, peeled
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3/4 pound or more green zucchini, julienned (2 inches by 1/4 inch)
  • 1 cup fresh tomato sauce
  • 3/4 pound dried linguine
  • Freshly grated Parmesan to taste
  1. Heat a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil for the pasta.
  2. Place the peeled shrimp in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste and 1 tablespoon of the oil.
  3. Grill the shrimp over high heat about 1 minute per side, until opaque and lightly charred. (Do not overcook or they will be rubbery)
  4. Heat a medium-size frying pan with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, the garlic, and the zucchini.  Saute until the zucchini is tender.
  5. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer.
  6. Add salt and pepper if needed.
  7. Cook the pasta al dente, drain, and return to pot.
  8. Add the grilled shrimp to the simmering sauce and cook for 1 minute.
  9. Toss sauce with the drained pasta and serve with Parmesan cheese.

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