Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Mac ‘n Pimento Cheese

The secret ingredient!

The secret ingredient!

Spoilers: this recipe contains a secret ingredient. Of course, trained chef’s are reluctant to tell their secrets, but I’m not a chef. I’m just a decent cook. Says so on my business card. But this dish has received too many great comments from taste-testers to keep the recipe under wraps. It’s easy to assemble, cooks in the slow-cooker so you don’t have to watch it much, and is a great twist on what might be the world’s most popular comfort food.

Did I sell you on it?

I hope so.

Next time you need something new for a potluck, try this version of Mac ‘n Pimento Cheese!

Equipment

  • A 4.5 quart crock pot, or the equivalent-sized oven-safe casserole dish or pot.

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. cooked macaroni (I use spirals, but the traditional elbow style will be fine)
    • Helpful hint: cook the macaroni the day before and keep refrigerated until needed. Saves time the next day when you are worried about the guests coming early. And they always come early.
  • 10 oz. Colby Jack cheese, shredded
  • 12 oz. Pimento Cheese
    • Spoiler: I use Palmetto Cheese with Jalapeno as my secret ingredient. This South Carolina low country specialty food is thankfully available in most higher quality grocery stores, or online here.
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (any version that works for you. Except chocolate milk. That would be a bad choice.)
  • 12 oz. Evaporated Milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced

Directions

I use a “layer” approach to building this mac ‘n cheese.

  • Place enough cooked macaroni in the bottom of the crock pot to cover the bottom.
  • Sprinkle a handful of shredded Colby Jack cheese on top of the cooked macaroni.
  • Using a small spoon, or a melon baller, place 4 – 5 small scoops of pimento cheese evenly on top of the Colby Jack cheese. I do four corners and a center.
    • Helpful hint: use the spoon to spread the pimento cheese into a thin layer across the entire pot.
  • Repeat the layering of macaroni, Colby Jack cheese, and pimento cheese. Make the top layer one of the cheeses.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the remaining ingredients.
  • Pour the liquid mixture on top of the macaroni and cheese. Try to drizzle it around the entire top surface so liquid will seep down throughout the crock pot.
  • Cover and cook on low heat for 3 hours. If using the oven, bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
  • Now check the inside of the crock pot wall. Using a plastic spatula, scrape the macaroni away to keep the cheese from forming a burnt crust.
  • If your mac ‘n cheese has thickened to the point a large spoonful will maintain its shape, you are done!
    • If still soggy, then cover and continue to cook for 30 additional minutes.
    • Check again. The dish should be done.
      • The longest I have let this cook is 4 hours, but I ended up with a thick inedible crust which wasted probably three servings.

This dish has won rave reviews from both office-mates and church ladies. I don’t which group has the more discriminating palate, but on both occasions I returned home with zero leftovers.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Veggie Lettuce Wraps

Tofu Lettuce Wraps

Veggie Lettuce Wraps

If you like the lettuce wraps at P.F. Chang’s, then you will love this version – perhaps you will like them more. I do. Thanks to a great recipe courtesy of vegan cook, Namely Marly, for once I was able to stay true to (most of) the recipe. The only substitution was iceberg lettuce for butter lettuce. You use what you have, right?

The clincher? The blackberry hoisin sauce, made with blackberry jam, garlic, soy sauce, a little vinegar, and the best part – ginger. It was good tonight. I think it may be awesome tomorrow. I’m thinking adding it to fried potatoes for breakfast. Really.

I’d post the recipe, but you should stop by Marly’s website. Plenty of tasty recipes there; why try just one?

Buen Provecho, amigos!

 

Sweet & Spicy Eggplant Parmesan for Two

Sweet & Spicy Eggplant Parmesan

Sweet & Spicy Eggplant Parmesan

My better half had just returned from three days of driving across and around two states. I knew she would be tired and not in the mood to eat much at all. Sitting in a car all day will do that to a person. Fortunately, I had a spare eggplant and some noodles so I knew, with a little help from some spices, I could create a nice dinner she could not refuse. And it only took about 30 minutes to prep and cook!

Sweet and Spicy Eggplant Parmesan for Two

Prep: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and start heating a large stock pot of salted water for the pasta.

Ingredients

1 large eggplant, sliced crosswise, between a quarter and a half inch in thickness

Olive oil, you will need a good bit of this. Just keep the bottle handy.

8 oz. angel hair pasta (capellini)

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon lime juice

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves

Directions

Tip: to keep the eggplant slices from sticking to the baking sheet and casserole dish, you may want to apply a light coat of cooking spray first.

Place the eggplant slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush a little olive oil onto each slice.

Turn the slices over and brush olive oil onto the eggplant, just as before. Place eggplant slices (still on the baking sheet, silly) into the preheated oven. Bake for 10 minutes or until the top of the eggplant slices start to brown.

By now your pasta water should be boiling. Add the angel hair pasta, stir once with a wooden spoon, and let cook.

Once the eggplant has browned on top, using an oven mitt (hot oven, remember?) and a metal spatula, flip the eggplant slices, then bake for another 10 minutes.

Time for the sauce!

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, lime juice, sugar, cayenne pepper, cumin, and sea salt. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.

When the eggplant has finished baking, remove from the oven BUT DO NOT TURN OFF THE OVEN.

Layer the eggplant slices in a 9×13 casserole dish, offsetting the slices slightly. Drizzle the sauce over the eggplant. Bake in the oven one more time, for 10 minutes.

Your pasta should be done by now. Drain in a colander, then return the cooked pasta to the pan and cover.

Tip: to help keep the noodles from sticking together, gently stir in a tablespoon or two of butter.

Putting It All Together

Begin by creating a nice bed of cooked pasta in the center of your dinner plate.

Place 4 or 5 eggplant slices on top of the pasta.

Sprinkle a few chopped mint leaves on top of the eggplant.’

Finish by sprinkling grated Parmesan cheese over everything.

Kripyā bhojan kā ānnaṅd lijīyai! (enjoy the meal!)

Carrot-Ginger Soup

Carrot-Ginger Soup

Carrot-Ginger Soup

The original plan was to make recipe numero dos in my quest to cook the book Easy Vegan – Simple Recipes for Healthy Eating. But then I found the bag of baby carrots in the freezer.

If this freezing had been planned, the carrots would have been blanched first, then frozen. Alas, this had not been the case. Still, it was a goodly amount of carrots and I hated to just throw them away. There had to be a way (a safe from food-borne illness way) to use these now thawed, soggy carrots.

Plan A: Roast them. So I thawed the carrots, drained as much water away as I could, then put them on a baking pan in a single layer. I seasoned the carrots with poultry seasoning (no worries, vegans – this is just a label for a combination of spices you probably have in your pantry right now) and some sea salt. 30 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven later – I thought Plan A had been the right approach.

Result: Hot, well-seasoned, and soggy carrots. Obviously, I needed a new plan.

Plan B: Saute them. I had a spare bit of Earth Balance Butter so why not toss the roasted carrots into a skillet and see if adding some buttery flavor would help. The carrot texture was still limp and soggy at the start; I was hoping the transfer of heat through conduction would steam the remaining water from the carrot’s cells, thusly reviving the original texture of a solid carrot.

Result: Very hot, well-seasoned, buttery, and still soggy carrots. Yes, you are right – time for the next plan.

Plan C: Make a soup. If there were any unwanted bacteria on the carrots due to the unplanned freezing, the roasting, sauteing and now soup-making should have been to kill those nasty things off. Chef’s tip: reducing the risk from unwanted bacteria is one very important reason why you blanch carrots first, then freeze them.

Result: It worked!

Since I do not want you to deal with accidentally frozen, unblanched carrots, let’s assume we are starting from scratch here. Try this recipe if you want a nice hot soup that tastes good, keeps the chill away, and is probably good for you!

Ingredients

1.5 – 2.0 pounds of fresh carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks the size of large wine corks

Olive oil

Poultry Seasoning

Sea Salt

4 Tablespoons (or more if you dare) of fresh ginger, chopped.

2 cloves of garlic

2 Tablespoon of black peppercorns

4 cups vegetable stock

2 Tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup coconut cream, or full-fat coconut milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place carrots on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over the carrots- not too much, just a quick drizzle over all of them.

Sprinkle poultry seasoning and sea salt on top. Again, not too much, but make sure every piece of carrot has some seasoning.

Bake for 30 minutes or until tender. Turn the carrots every once in a while if they start to char up on the underside. Nobody likes burned carrots. Not even rabbits.

When done, remove from the oven and let rest. Now go look for your food processor or blender. It’s that device hiding in the back of the lowest cupboard shelf you have. That’s where the things you need always end up. See it? Good.

You may have to do this next part in batches, depending on the size of your food processor/blender.

Put the roasted carrots into the food processor. Adding the fresh ginger, garlic, peppercorns, and a cup or so of the vegetable stock, puree the ingredients. Transfer the mixture to a stock pot.

Once all of the carrot mixture is in the stock pot, stir in the remaining vegetable stock, sugar, and coconut cream. Keep stirring occasionally, and heat the soup until it just starts to boil. Now turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes. Continue to stir every once in a while, just to keep carrot solids from sticking to the bottom of the stock pot.

Once done – serve it up! And what you don’t use? Why, you can freeze it, of course.

I hope you have enjoyed my tale of kitchen (mis)adventures. And I hope you enjoy the soup!

Godt Nytar!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garlic-Red Pepper Vegetable Rice

Garlic-Red Pepper Vegetable Rice

Garlic-Red Pepper Vegetable Rice

Huzzah! I received a great cookbook from my Secret Santa (who was nice enough to sign the title page. Thanks, Temma!) Anyhow, I immediately did what one always does when receiving a new cookbook – I looked at all the photos! And it was clear I had a new mission: cook.this.book.

The cookbook, easy vegan – simple recipes for healthy eating,  contains over 100 recipes so it will take a little over two years to fulfill this quest, recreating one recipe per week. I had thought about waiting until the New Year started, but in the category of what the heck – why wait, I have already started!

But first – a couple of caveats: (1) I reserve the right to change the recipe to fit what I have available and (2) I reserve the right to change the recipe to fit our personal taste. Number one is in response to not having enough vegetable stock to make a soup for this first recipe, and number two is in anticipation of the beet salad about a third of the way into the book.

And by the way – this is a one pan dinner. You can’t get any easier than that, can you?

 

Garlic-Red Pepper Vegetable Rice

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: approximately 40 minutes

Serves: 8

Ingredients for Step One

3 Tablespoons of vegetable oil

1 Tablespoon of sesame oil

4 scallion, chopped

1 cup carrots, julienned (thin little matchsticks)

1 medium red bell pepper, diced

1 cup frozen green peas

8 cloves garlic, chopped (not minced)

1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped – practically minced. Okay, go ahead. Mince away! Make the garlic jealous!

Ingredients for Step Two

3 cups uncooked rice (I used Jasmine-scented white rice)

4 cups of unsalted vegetable broth

1 cup of water

1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce

2 Tablespoons crushed red pepper (yep – two!)

Ingredients for Step Three

3 – 4 cups of hand-torn field greens

1 cup cashews or peanuts. Use more if you want. It’ll be okay.

Directions:

Using a (very) large non-stick sauce pan, pre-heat the olive oil and sesame oil over medium-high heat. Test the temperature by carefully dropping a carrot stick into the pan. If you hear it start to sizzle, add the Step One Ingredients.

Stir until the ingredients are mixed, then reduce to medium heat and cover. You are sautéing the vegetables here so be aware of how heat applied to oil reacts with damp vegetables such as frozen peas. Stir occasionally, sautéing for 10 minutes.

Can you believe it? You are almost done!

Add the Step Two ingredients, stirring until mixed. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let cook until the liquid has been absorbed into the rice. This might take 30 to 40 minutes.

In this step, you are allowing the liquid to cook the rice, and you are giving the spices and aromatics a chance to meld into the other ingredients. Plus you are giving yourself an opportunity to pour the glass of wine that has been calling your name since this morning. I know. I have the same thing happen to me all the time!

Just before serving, gently stir in the Step Three Ingredients. There you go – you have just created a wonderful one-dish meal full of substance and flavor. This works both as a main dish and as a side.

Optional: Add two more cups of hot vegetable broth after the rice has been cooked and you will have yourself a nice spicy soup, too.

Chef’s tip: Try to use fresh ginger whenever possible. Candied ginger is right out. All you need to do is peel the root a bit, chop what you need, then wrap the remainder in foil, place in a freezer bag (squeeze as much air out as possible) and keep in the freezer until you need more. The next time it may be a slight bit soggy, but the fresh flavor will still be there. And now you know!

Enjoy.

P.S. If you don’t use the V-word (you know – vegan) people will never know. It’s just a great tasting bowl of food!

Veggie Enchilada Casserole

Veggie Enchilada Casserole!

Ring in the new year on a saucy note with a spicy vegetable enchilada casserole. Stuffed with black beans, corn, potatoes, and Colby Jack cheese, then topped with a rich tomato-based sauce that has a good bite from chopped green chilies – this dish is perfect for those who are busy entertaining during the holidays. And it pairs well with beer, red wine, and even a decent champagne or sparkling wine. What more do you need?

The best part? You can make the sauce a few days in advance, freeze it, and then you are left with only 25 minutes of prep time and a half hour of cooking time. Great food in under an hour!

For the sauce:

Put the following ingredients in a stock pot, stir, and then apply enough heat to simmer for twenty minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking on the bottom of the pan. Let cool, then transfer to a blender or food processor. Blend until you have a nice smooth sauce. Store in the freezer until you are ready to make the enchiladas. On the day you make them, thaw the sauce either in a microwave oven or in a sauce pan on the stove top. Bring it back to a simmer, then you are ready to go!

2 cups of vegetable broth

1 can of diced tomatoes

1 can of tomato sauce

2 small cans of chopped green chilies

1 small can of tomato paste

4 cloves minced garlic

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon onion powder

For the enchiladas:

4 medium Russet potatoes, diced into pieces a little smaller than, well, you know, dice.

A few dashes of olive oil

1 can of cooked black beans

1 can yellow corn

16 ounces of shredded Colby Jack cheese. Vegan option: any nondairy variety such as Daiya-brand Jack cheese will do!

12 corn tortillas (six inch diameter) or 6 flour tortillas (twelve inch diameter)

Optional: sour cream for the final topping. Vegan option: try Vegan Gourmet nondairy sour cream!

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. You will also need a fairly large saute pan, a 13 x 9 inch casserole dish, and a dinner plate.

1. Saute the diced potatoes with the olive oil until the potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. While they are cooking, check to see if your sauce is hot yet, and then get the rest of your mis en plas. Once the potatoes are done, remove from heat. You are ready to assemble the enchiladas!

2. If you are using the twelve-inch flour tortillas, cut in half. This will help the enchiladas fit in the casserole dish.

3. Put a few spoonfuls of sauce in the casserole dish. Spread evenly on the bottom of the dish. You don’t need much; you just want a barrier between the tortilla and the dish surface.

4. Place a tortilla on the dinner plate. Coat the tortilla with a thin spread of sauce, then spoon on some potato, black beans, and corn. Finish the filling with a sprinkle or two of shredded cheese.

5. Roll up the tortilla, being careful to keep as much of the filling inside the enchilada as possible. Place it in the casserole dish. Repeat until you have used all of your tortillas.

6. Drizzle more sauce on the enchiladas. You can also add any leftover potatoes, black beans, and/or corn. Finally, top with the remaining shredded cheese.

7. Bake in your preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Serve topped with a dollop of sour cream. This dish works well alone or with added side dishes such as rice, stir fried green beans, or both. And don’t forget your beverages!

Buen provecho, mis amigos!

 

The whole enchilada!

The whole enchilada!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Granola Bars

Easy Granola!

Easy Granola!

Who doesn’t like a nice, tasty granola bar? Call it what you will: protein bar, energy bar, “health” bar, as long as it can’t be compared unfavorably to a brick of sawdust, it is probably popular and thusly sells very well. Add chunks of chocolate, or a thin base of chocolate underneath and you probably have the sales leader!

But are they really as healthy as you think? That depends. Like cars, they all tend to have the same basic shape, and they all have many of the same parts – it’s just that some parts are better for you than others. The trick is in knowing which is which.

Why not make your own?

If you make it yourself, you know exactly what goes into it. You can adjust ingredients to meet your desired goals. Want more quick energy? Add a bit more honey. Want more protein? Vitamin E? Zinc? Add some wheat germ. Need the extra crunch? Pumpkin seeds will help, and they pack in some unexpected protein, too!

Based on a recipe from the culinary team at my office, here is an easy recipe for making your own granola bars. And hey, it’s an easy activity kids can help with (except the stove-top and oven parts. Use common sense, people!)

Prep Time: 15 minutes                   Cooking Time: 20 – 25 minutes                   Cool-down time: 3 hours

This recipe makes 16 bars, maybe more, maybe less, depending on how you cut them.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups of rolled oats (as in Quaker Oats found in the cylindrical cardboard package)

1 cup of almond slivers

1 cup of shredded coconut

1/2 cup of pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds)

3 tablespoons of unsalted butter

2/3 cup of honey (use locally harvested, if you can. Legend has it local honey helps build immunity to allergies. Is it true? I have no idea. But it’s a cool idea, isn’t it? Plus, you’ll be helping out a local business. And who’s against that? I didn’t think so!)

1/4 cup of light brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1 1/2 cups of dried cranberries (or any combination of dried fruits, i.e. 1 cup raisins and 1/2 cup cranberries.)

Directions:

–    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. or gas mark 4 for certain UK ovens, or Stufe 3 for das Deutsch – Ofen. [good granola bars know no borders!]

–    Take a small bit of butter and coat the bottom and inside walls of a 9×13 inch baking dish.

–    Now line the pan with parchment paper. Make sure you have enough paper to overlap the sides of the dish. I didn’t do this when we made the bars today, but now I see the value. Trust me – line with parchment paper. Getting the bars out later will be sooooo much easier!

–    In a large heat-resistant (i.e. Pyrex) bowl, toss the oats, almonds, and coconut together.

–    Pour mixture onto baking sheets and spread thin and evenly.

–    Bake in the pre-heated oven for 5 minutes; take out, stir gently, re-flatten out, then place back in the oven for 5 more minutes or until toasty and lightly browned.

–    Remove from oven and pour mixture back into large heat-resistant bowl.

–    In a small sauce pan, place the unsalted butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Stir ingredients together as you heat the mixture over medium heat, just until the mixture starts to boil.

–    Once boiling, reduce heat just a bit and stir for one minute.

–    Pour the hot liquid over the oat mixture and stir with a wooden spoon. Why wooden? Why wooden you? Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

–    Add the dried fruit and stir again until thoroughly mixed.

–    Pour everything into your prepared 9×13 inch baking dish. Press down until you have an even thickness throughout.

–    Reduce the oven heat to 300 degrees F. (gas mark 2 or stufe 1.5)

–    Bake the granola for 20 minutes, then check every few minutes until the desired level of browning is reached. We stopped after 22 minutes.

–    Remove from oven and let cool for three hours. Refrigeration may help but we didn’t try it this time.

When ready, slice the bars and serve. Ours were about 1 inch wide by 6 inches long. If you don’t want to serve them right away, you can wrap individual bars up in plastic bags. Once sealed up, these bars will keep for several days. They make great snacks for traveling, too!

Enjoy!