Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Quick Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta

Nutty, slightly sweet and very mild creamy butternut squash pasta is the perfect dish to throw together when you're recovering from a surgery. Which I am. An elective surgery that will take more than a week to heal properly and unfortunately takes me away from my wonderful toddler. My husband has stepped up to care for both me and our two year old son. It's an exhausting double job and hasn't left him any time to cook. This recipe, which turned out surprisingly delicious, was an attempt to use what we had in the pantry and to be a snap to assemble.

To make this into an exceptionally easy recipe will require getting your hands on some pre made butternut squash soup*, or having some leftover to hand. Once you have that this is probably the quickest, easiest pasta dish you will ever prepare in your life. And it is delectable and warming on a cold night.

Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta

1/2 cup butternut squash soup
12 ounces small pasta shells
1 ounce grated parmesan
1 Tablespoon butter
Tiny pinch grated nutmeg
Salt, to taste

1. In a large pot bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. Drain pasta. While the same pot is still hot, melt butter and add a sprinkle of nutmeg. Stir in the soup, then the pasta while it's still hot. Grate parmesan generously over pasta and stir to melt.

Serve hot, garnished with minced parsley.

*our premade soup was very basic and had only stock, squash puree and a small pinch of powdered onion and garlic.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Zesty Chicken Tortellini Soup

Earlier this week both of my guys were sick. It’s been miserably cold out here (well, for California, anyway) and colds seem to be everywhere. I know how comforting chicken soup can be when you’re sick, and I know some that are convinced that chicken fat holds natural antibiotics. I think that special food always makes me feel better when I’m sick. Because it’s high in vitamin c, I “snuck” some parsley in. I wouldn’t say it added much to the flavor, but it was nice to think of my soup having extra cold fighting powers. Because my toddler has been sort of picky lately (the horrors!), and especially so when he is congested, I decided to make this chicken soup more tempting with tortellini and do a sort of play on tortellini en brodo. A version of the dish with a hearty soup as its staple.  And just for fun and because it always helps to clean out the sinuses, a bit of a kick with crushed red pepper flakes. The tortellinis worked to convince him to eat the solids out of the soup, carrots, chicken and all. He had great fun holding the bowl in both hands and slowly slurping the broth.  

Perhaps the best thing about this soup is that it comes together quickly. Surprisingly, you can still build some excellent flavors in that short amount of time.

Thankfully, my guys are all better. It was probably just rest and time. But I would like it believe it was my soup. That magical chicken tortellini soup.

Chicken Tortellini Soup

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cups mirepoix
2 Tablespoons minced Italian parsley
2 Tablespoons olive oil
8 cups low chicken broth
16 ounces cheese stuffed tortellini
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons herbed salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Cut chicken into 1” pieces. Heat your soup pot over medium heat. Add olive oil, then mirepoix, parsley, crushed red pepper 1 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper.
2. When mirepoix has been cooked through, add garlic and saute for one minute, stirring constantly. Add chicken stock, chicken, remaining salt and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.
3. Add tortellini. Cover and cook until tortellini is tender, up to 10 minutes.

Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Autumn Gumbo Pie with Herbed Biscuits

I’m hosting a pie challenge all this month at Foodies+. The challenge is to try to use two or more ingredients from the challenge list. When I saw that two of the three proteins were chicken and shrimp it immediately suggested gumbo to me. I realized the rich, zesty, tangy stew would be perfect for turnips and either pumpkin or squash. To cut down on labor I chose butternut squash, since it is available here peeled and chopped. The slightly tart, spicy and intensely flavorful gravy was a perfect match for the sometimes too sweet squash, mellowing out its sweetness and enhancing its richness. It was also a great match for the turnips, similarly offsetting their sweetness as well as their vegetal aroma.
I used chicken breakfast sausage, but you can use any kind of sausage you like, just be aware that highly seasoned sausages, especially spicy sausages, will add extra flavors to this already incredibly flavorful dish.
My family will not eat okra, so I've left it out, even as a thickener. I've found the amount of roux I made was sufficient.
After covering the layer of gumbo in the baking dish with biscuit dough, you will have dough leftover (about 1/3 of the total amount). You can bake it up to eat with the gumbo pie or cut it into rounds and freeze it raw. If you freeze it raw lay it in a single layer on a baking sheet and once it's frozen through store in the freezer in an airtight freezer bag. I used the biscuit recipe from this blog post: https://www.thespruce.com/homemade-chicken-and-biscuits-3052974 and they were fabulous. Use any herbs you like in the biscuits, fresh or dried. I used dried parsley and it imparted a nice little herbaceous flavor.

Make ahead: serve this when company comes, since it can go in the oven about a half hour before your dinner guests arrive. The gumbo can even be made the night before, then kept in the fridge overnight, until pie is ready to be assembled.

Autumn Gumbo Pie with Herbed Biscuits

For the gumbo:
8 oz chicken sausage, casings removed
8 oz shrimp, deveined and chopped into 1" pieces
1/2 large yellow onion
6 oz butternut squash, diced
1 large turnip, diced
2 small carrots, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 (15 oz) can chopped tomatoes
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
5 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons Cajun spice mix
2 teaspoons buckwheat  (or similarly dark) honey
2 teaspoons caldo de res (beef bullion)
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
salt, to taste

For the biscuits:
2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon minced parsley
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 large egg, beaten

1. Melt 1 Tablespoon of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil, then carrots, onion, celery, turnip and butternut squash. Add 1 teaspoon cajun spice mix. Salt to taste. Saute until turnip and squash begin to soften, about 10 minutes.

2. As the veggies saute, sift together the dry ingredients for the biscuits. Add chicken sausage to veggies and continue to cook until chicken has been cooked through.
3. Add tomato paste, and mix in thoroughly. Cook for a moment, then add chopped tomatoes, 2 cups of water and beef bullion.
4. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add honey. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Add shrimp to the stew.
5. Make the roux: toss 4 T flour with 1 t Cajun seasoning. In a separate pan, melt remaining butter. Whisk in flour/Cajun seasoning mixture. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mix turns deep golden brown, about 5 minutes.
6. Add the roux to the gumbo. Taste and add salt, if needed. Take gumbo off of the heat and pour into a 9 x 13” baking dish. Finish making the biscuits: pour cream into dry ingredients, add chopped herbs and mix until just combined. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead gently a couple of times. Roll out to approximately 1/4“ thickness and cut to cover the entire baking dish, with little room to spare. Cut into 12 squares and lay them as closely as possible over the gumbo. Brush with egg wash and bake until browned, 20 - 30 minutes. Serve with white long grain rice.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Pumpkin and Parmesan Arancini

Halloween is upon us, and with it plenty of holiday parties and the return of pumpkin everything season. I love pumpkin in savory dishes, especially when combined with rich, sharp and nutty parmesan. So, I've done it two ways and this is the first. Since I'm so late getting the first post up the second will appear here in November and be a fancy little finger food to serve to holiday guests. Actually, that can easily be said of both preparations, since if you serve your guests crispy fried balls filled with gooey, creamy delicious pumpkin they may never want to leave!
The recipe I used for pumpkin risotto made three times as much as I needed for the arancini (we're only so many people and those bad boys are kind of decadent). If you're expecting lots of guests and want to use all of the risotto for arancini (we instead had it for dinner the night before), for every four Tablespoon sized balls you need 1/3 cup breadcrumbs and 1 large egg.

The risotto recipe I used is here:
But I would use less wine next time and I did use less parmesan, as well as using vegetable stock, as I didn't want the chicken flavor to overwhelm the pumpkin

Makes approx 12
2 cups pumpkin parmesan risotto
1 cup breadcrumbs
3 jumbo eggs
Neutral oil for frying

1. Beat the eggs in a shallow dish. Lay the breadcrumbs in another shallow dish. Form the risotto into roughly tablespoon sized balls.
2. Heat the oil to medium. Roll the risotto balls in the egg, then the breadcrumbs.
3. Fry in a single layer (may need to be in batches, depending on the size of your pan), turning every minute, until brown on all sides. Serve hot.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Vegetarian Saltado with Tempeh

I love Peruvian food. And I love Tempeh. I know there are many, many people who would agree with the first sentence. And I suspect I’ve lost many of you at the second sentence. I know Tempeh can be a polarizing food; either you love it or you hate it. I imagine the people who can’t stand it have a hard time getting past the deeply bitter aftertaste that is incredibly hard to correct for or cook out of it, no matter how you prepare it. The main flavors in this dish are rich, tart, sweet and salty, so I thought it would be a fabulous combination to bring tempeh’s satisfying nuttiness to the fore while vastly muting its off putting bitterness. The vinegar and soy sauce marinade, crispy fatty fries and sweet peppers complimented the tempeh in exactly the way I had hoped. I did not taste a trace of the bitterness, but it's nuttiness shone through.

Saltado is a stir fry typically made with beef and served with french fries. The sauce is made with vinegar and soy sauce, as well as a pinch of a pepper used widely in Peruvian food, Ají Amarillo. It is a stir fry from Peru in the Chifa tradition, a culinary tradition which merges Cantonese cuisine with traditional Peruvian dishes. Chifa originated in Peru with a growing number of Chinese immigrants from the southern China province of Guangdong around the turn of the 20th century. It is a popular enough culinary tradition that Chifa restaurants can be found in many parts of Peru.

This dish is a flavorful, fantastic option for meatless Mondays. As well it is a perfect thing to serve to impress a vegan or vegetarian guest.


I used store bought frozen french fries, which you can choose to bake or deep fry I chose to deep fry it to bring the fat content to a satisfying level. If you bake them toss them in plenty of olive oil, since the fatty fries really complete this dish (the vinegar marinade cuts through that richness just perfectly).

If tempeh is still not your thing, fear not. I'll be posting a traditional version here sometime in October

Tempeh Saltado

1 lb tempeh, cut into 1/4" slices
2 bell peppers, sliced
1 small yellow onion, sliced thinly
3 small roma tomatoes, ribs and seeds removed and sliced into strips lengthwise
2 large russet potatoes, cut into fries*
1/4 cup vinegar
2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1/2 Tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 Tablespoon sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon Ají Amarillo pepper paste (or hot sauce of choice)
Fresh Black Pepper, to taste
To make marinade, whisk together vinegar, Ají paste, soy sauce, oils, sesame seeds, garlic and season with pepper. Lay tempeh, onions and peppers into a wide bowl. Pour marinade over tempeh and veggies and toss gently to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for one hour. Meanwhile deep fry potatoes, or bake them according to package directions; whichever you prefer. (If you bake them toss them in plenty of olive oil, since the fat on the fries is what really makes this dish as the vinegar marinade cuts through that richness just perfectly). Set potatoes aside on a paper towel lined plate. Heat a wok or large saucepan to medium high and toss in tempeh, veggies, tomatoes and marinade. Saute, stirring frequently, until onions are cooked through and peppers have softened. Serve over rice and topped with a handful of french fried potatoes.
*I used 1/2 bag trader joes handsome cut fries from the freezer section

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Labor Day Recipes: Onion Balsamic Relish and Beer Braised Carrots

Have you been invited to a bbq and don't know what to bring? This post is going to help you out with that! try bringing a sweet and tart savory onion relish or a fancy-ish side dish of beer braised carrots. Everyone loves beer, right? Both dishes are vegan and the relish makes a great topping for veggie burgers or tofu hot dogs (I can personally vouch for this, since we tried it as a topping on the latter and it was scrumptious), but don't let that stop you from piling the relish on your beef burger, hot dog or sausage or helping yourself to some carrots alongside your steak or bbq chicken!

Since I haven't posted in awhile, enjoy two recipes at once!
Deglazing caramelized onions with balsamic vinegar enhances their sweetness and at the same time imparts a lovely, subtle tart flavor that keeps the relish from tasting too sweet or too one note.
The braised carrots were inspired by Lisa’s fabulous traditional rosemary and garlic braised carrots, which are one of the many delicious recipes in our very first foodies+ collaborative cookbook, Foodies+ Christmas Around the World. Seeing how lovely carrots can be sauteed and then braised with the right aromatics inspired me to experiment with the vegetable. I decided to try braising them in beer on a whim, since no bbq is complete without beer! Just a touch of beer will lend its bitterness to the sweet carrots and balance out the slight vegetal taste that tends to put many people off of the vegetable.

Onion Balsamic Relish

Makes 10 ounces

5 onions, diced finely
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1. Heat a medium heavy bottomed saucepan over medium flame. Add olive oil, then onions. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Turn heat down to medium low and sauté until onions brown (about 30 minutes).
3. Add balsamic and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid has been absorbed. As you cook the vinegar in, try to scrape up any browned bits from the pan to add more flavor to your relish.

Serve warm with bbq item of your choice.

Beer Braised Carrots

Makes 6 side servings

8 carrots, sliced thinly
2 ounces India pale ale, or similar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, julienned
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1. In a medium saucepan over medium flame, add olive oil and sauté onions until they begin to soften (about 3 minutes).
2. Add carrots and sauté until they have begun to soften and have caramelized (roughly 15 minutes ).
3. Add beer and cook until liquid is absorbed (about 10 minutes).
Serve as a side or bring to a bbq as a side.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Creamy Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry (Chana Gobi)

This recipe will delight both vegetarians and curry lovers alike. If you fall in the center of that venn diagram, you are probably about to do a happy dance. For those of you seeking a way to mask your vegetables, creamy Chana Gobi delivers. The sauce is fragrant and creamy, made richer and thicker by the addition of yogurt and irresistible by the inclusion of mouthwatering spices. As spicy curries go, this one is certainly on the milder side. If you would like to bump up the heat level, add a diced chili of your choice in with the onions.

I specifically chose a cauliflower in our farm basket because my husband and I have agreed to cut down on our meat consumption, which left me scrambling to find dinners that are filling and substantive. I love Aloo Gobi and wanted to do something similar, but to add protein I decided to sub the potatoes for chickpeas. Soft, creamy chickpeas are wonderful in combination with sweet, crunchy cauliflower. The creamy tomato gravy, just a touch tart and very flavorful, provides a delicious backdrop.

Chana Gobi

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets and parboiled 3 minutes in salted water
1 (15 oz) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 large heirloom tomato, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup crushed tomato
1/2 cup yogurt
1/2 cup half n half (or 1/4 c milk & 1/4 c cream)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, julienned
1 ½ inch piece of ginger, peeled & grated
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 Tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
1 bay leaf
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Chopped cilantro, for garnish

In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add in olive oil, onions and a pinch of salt. Sweat onions until they begin to brown (5 minutes).
Add spices, garlic, bay leaf and ginger. Cook for 90 seconds, stirring constantly. Add in chopped tomatoes, and when their moisture has cooked out (about 3 minutes), add crushed tomatoes, then mix in yogurt and half n half.
Add in chickpeas and cauliflower. Stir to coat. Cover and bring up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes to thicken sauce.
Serve garnished with chopped cilantro and accompanied by steamed long grain rice.