Two easy recipes you should try

It’s been so nice to have a little more time to cook lately. Harper likes to watch me cook, but she only stays entertained so long. So I’m trying to stick to recipes that can come together in about a half hour. Last week I tried some new ones, and I wanted to share them because they turned out great.

First up: tomato, mozzarella, and basil orzo, found on Sweet Paul.

It might be a little early for such a summer-y dish, but oh well. Basically, you saute up some red onions, then add in the orzo to toast for a minute.

Then you ladle in homemade stock and let it cook down, just like you would if you were making risotto.

Finally you add in chunks of tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.

The mozzarella gets all melty and yummy.

We used some of the leftover cheese to make salads.

Orzo doesn’t take as long to cook as risotto (maybe 20 minutes), so this dish came together really quickly. I will definitely make it again.

The second dish was Pioneer Woman’s spicy shrimp. It might be one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made.

Basically you just put some shrimp in a pan and add a little of this and a little of that (including as much hot sauce as you like),

then cover it with pats of butter and cook it under the broiler.

I did have to scale down the recipe (3 pounds of shrimp was a bit much for two people), but the full recipe would be great to serve to a group.


This time it was just me and my lovely assistants.

The shrimp comes out with a tasty sauce that you can sop up with toasted bread slices.

We added salad, too.

The only downside is that as fast as this recipe is to cook, it takes a really long time to peel all those shells and eat it. With a baby, eating time is definitely a factor. So maybe in the future I could make it with already-shelled shrimp.

A couple days later I discovered that leftover orzo was really good combined with leftover shrimp. So maybe these two would be good together one night!

Waffles!

I never used to be a huge waffle fan, but since I’ve been pregnant they sound good all the time. So I was pretty excited when we got a griddler and waffle plates for Christmas. Now we can have them whenever we want!

The first waffle recipe I tried was for bacon black pepper waffles from Joy’s cookbook (which you need). They were really good, but after that I wanted to try a sweet version. So the other day I made them without the pepper and bacon and added cinnamon and nutmeg. I’d go easier on the nutmeg next time, but otherwise I really like this recipe.

I also halved the recipe since it was just the two of us and it came out like this:

Waffles
adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook
makes approximately 8 waffle squares

1 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
Lots of nonstick cooking spray for waffle iron

Heat your waffle iron/griddle to 375 degrees. Whisk together dry ingredients in one bowl and wet ingredients in another. Fold wet mixture into dry until just combined (it will be a little lumpy). Spray plenty of nonstick cooking spray on the waffle iron and then pour in 1/4 cup batter for each waffle square. You may have to adjust this for your particular waffle iron. Cook for 5 minutes, or until waffles are golden brown.


Don’t be like me and keep opening the griddle before they’re done. 

Serve with maple syrup and blueberries.

Next time I might make a full batch and freeze the extras. We’re getting to the point when the freezer needs to be fully stocked.

Yummy Thai noodles

I just finished reading “Garlic and Sapphires,” Ruth Reichl’s book about being the restaurant critic for the New York Times. It’s a great read, but the book is made even better by the fact that it also contains recipes. And one of them is her take on Thai noodles.

I don’t think I’ve ever tried to make Pad Thai before, so I was excited to give it a go.

Here is the complete recipe, which I followed pretty closely.

You start by chopping up your scallions, garlic and peanuts and squeezing some fresh lime juice.

Then you heat some water until it’s just about boiling and then turn off the heat. Your rice noodles soften up in here for about 20 minutes.

I couldn’t find ground pork at the store, and I was too lazy to pull out the mixer and grinder attachment to grind my own So I ended up cutting a pound of boneless pork chops into strips. I also skipped the shrimp. But if I made this again, I might go with the original pork/shrimp combo. Or tofu strips would be a yummy vegetarian substitute.

So the meat goes in to saute with some scallions and garlic. Then you add in the noodles and a fish sauce mixture. After the liquid has cooked down, you scramble in some eggs and add the rest of the ingredients.

I had half a package of Trader Joe’s potstickers in the freezer, so I cooked those to go with our dinner.

Serve your noodles with an extra squeeze of lime and a few drops of Sriracha.

Honestly, by appearance alone I was not sure the noodles would turn out great. But they are really tasty. Probably just as good as what I’ve had in restaurants. Thanks, Ruth!

Feta couscous salad & more goodies

This week has been one of those weeks when a bunch of stupid stuff happens that just stresses me out. Thank goodness for the election and newborn babies. Otherwise I think I might have gone nuts.

I have had some luck with recipes, though, and I wanted to share some of them with you. The first is a super easy side dish that goes great with boxed falafel mix, if you need a quick dinner.

Feta couscous salad
adapted from Cooking Light

1 cup water
2/3 cup dry couscous
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup feta cheese
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (or you could use pine nuts)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light balsamic dressing (I like Newman’s Own)
1 cup baby spinach leaves, cut into ribbons

Bring the water to boil in a small saucepan. Then add the couscous, cover and remove from heat. Let sit for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Move the couscous to a big bowl and let it cool for a few minutes. Then add the remaining ingredients and toss to combine.
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I also really enjoyed these salmon tacos I saw on a Cup of Jo. I got some colorful heirloom cherry tomatoes, which made a gorgeous salsa.

I followed the recipe exactly. The only thing I had to change was cooking the salmon an extra 10 minutes because I had thick fillets. I will definitely be making this again.

But the best recipe of all was this chicken pot pie with cream cheese and chive biscuits from Joy the Baker. Wow, was it good. This picture does not do it justice.

The biscuits alone are fantastic. Using cream cheese in place of some of the butter is genius, and really does add another element of flavor to them. They were also super easy to roll out. I still like Heidi Swanson’s yogurt biscuits, but they take a little more time.

For the filling I used 2% milk instead of whole and got a soupier consistency than I would have liked. But it was still great. Maybe it’s not a true pot pie if it has biscuits rather than a baked-on top, but I have to say I like this recipe even better than Ina’s veggie pot pie, which is damn good.

Mom’s pumpkin bread

This is one of those recipes that takes me straight back to childhood. I remember my mom making this pumpkin bread seasonally, and we would often eat it cold for breakfast with a smear of butter. It’s crunchy from the pecans, and sweet, but not too sweet.

Making it now I realize that the recipe is actually really easy, and, bonus!, it makes two loaves. (Though you could always halve the recipe if you wanted.)

Mom’s pumpkin bread

3 1/2 cups AP flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2/3 cup water
1 cup chopped pecans
1 15-ounce can pumpkin (or 2 cups homemade)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a big mixing bowl. Then combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Then divide into two greased loaf pans and bake for 1 hour. Check for doneness. Mine needed another 10 minutes or so.

After the loaves have cooled a bit, turn them over and gently shake them out of the pans. If you want, wrap one and freeze it for later. Or not.

*You could also make these into mini loaves. Just cut back on the baking time a little.

Butternut squash bisque

I’ve written about this recipe before, as my version is inspired by the one in the Clean book. But I’ve never given a full recipe, and I thought that since it’s feeling all lovely and fall-ish, now would be the perfect time.

This soup could not be healthier, but it’s sweet and satisfying as well. So few recipes really have all those qualities, but this is one of them. If you want a little crunch, sprinkle some chopped toasted nuts on top.

Butternut squash bisque
If nothing else, remember the 1-2-3 measurements of the first three ingredients and add water!

1 small or 1/2 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 tart apples, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 small or 1/2 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for roasting
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
4 cups water

Start by roasting the veggies. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the squash, carrots, and apples with a little olive oil and the teaspoon of kosher salt. Roast for about 40 minutes, or until you can easily press a fork into the squash.

In a big pot or dutch oven, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium and saute the onions until they are just starting to brown. Add in the turmeric and toss to coat. The smell is heavenly.

Pour in the water and vinegar and then add the roasted vegetables. (I guess technically there is a fruit in there, too.) Put the lid on and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 20 minutes, just to let all the flavors meld and make sure the carrots get nice and soft.

Turn off the heat. Blend the soup using an immersion blender. Or you could do it in batches in a regular blender.

If you don’t want to eat all the soup now, freeze some of it to enjoy later!

Butternut squash bisque
The perfect healthy soup for fall.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 small or 1/2 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  2. 2 tart apples, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  3. 3 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  4. 1 small or 1/2 large onion, diced
  5. 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for roasting
  6. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  7. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  8. 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  9. 4 cups water
Instructions
  1. Start by roasting the veggies. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the squash, carrots, and apples with a little olive oil and the teaspoon of kosher salt. Roast for about 40 minutes, or until you can easily press a fork into the squash.
  2. In a big pot or dutch oven, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium and saute the onions until they are just starting to brown. Add in the turmeric and toss to coat.
  3. Pour in the water and vinegar and then add the roasted vegetables. Put the lid on and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 20 minutes, just to let all the flavors meld and make sure the carrots get nice and soft.
  4. Turn off the heat. Blend the soup using an immersion blender. Or you could do it in batches in a regular blender.
Notes
  1. If nothing else, remember the 1-2-3 measurements of the first three ingredients and add water! -
  2. Soup can be frozen and reheated later.
Adapted from Clean Program book
Adapted from Clean Program book
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/

Mini apple crisp

Last night Mike and I were craving a little fall-ish dessert, but I didn’t want to make a huge pan of apple crisp and then feel bad about eating it all week. So I just made a little one.

I adapted my full-sized recipe for apple crisp, which actually comes from my recipe for strawberry-rhubarb crisp. But really you could use any fruit you like. This one just makes it mini. (Though I tried apricots once, and it was just meh.)


A photo from a full-sized apple crisp. Very dangerous.

Mini apple crisp

2 tart apples, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup oats
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup softened butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped pecans

To make this a little healthier, reduce the sugar in the apples to 1/4 cup, and use whole wheat pastry flour and raw sugar instead.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, toss the apples with the sugar and vanilla and cook them until they are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the cornstarch/water and stir until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl until you get a mixture with some clumps. Press half the mixture into a small casserole. Add the apples on top of that, and then the rest of the topping. Bake for 30 minutes.


We also got a little pint of Haagen-Dazs vanilla bean ice cream. Perfection!

Some other desserts that can be made as minis:

Rustic apple tarts

Zucchini bread (just make it in mini loaf pans)

Muffin tin pies

Mini puddin’ pies

Pupusas

One of the things we most loved to do in Des Moines was go to the farmers market on Saturdays and get a pupusa from the pupusa stand. We haven’t been able to find any pupusas in California that come close to how good those were. The ones here are too small, too perfectly round (as if a machine made them), and don’t have enough filling. The Des Moines ones are stuffed so full the filling starts to ooze out the sides until it gets crispy on the grill. YUM.

So I finally decided, why not try making them ourselves?

The reason I thought we might actually be able to pull it off is that a few years ago Mike spent a morning with the El Salvadoran grandmother that runs the pupusa stand and learned how to make them. And while I didn’t expect us to get to that level of pupusa-making any time soon, I thought we could at least get close. My favorite filling was the bean/cheese combination, so we went with that.

Here’s the recipe we used for the corn masa and filling.

Here’s the recipe we used for the coleslaw/curtido.

Mike notes that for the filling we used red beans instead of kidney beans and Oaxaca cheese instead of jack. For the curtido he sliced everything using the food processor, and cut the carrots into coins instead of grating them.

We doubled the filling recipe and did 1 1/2 times the masa recipe. In the end we had way too much filling, so we either should have left that the same or did a full 2x the masa. I think we got about 8 good-sized pupusas.

It definitely takes a while to do all the steps, so it helps to have another person cooking with you. We cooked the beans first and let the coleslaw marinate for at least a couple hours before we made the rest.

Once you have your masa mixed up, make sure it’s always covered so it doesn’t dry out.

Basically your technique is to take a ball of masa, and using your thumbs, start to make an indentation in the center. Then you’ll pinch the edges until you have what looks like a little ceramic bowl, maybe 1/3-inch thick. Try to make it as uniform as possible. Place some filling in the center (my favorite was about 1/2 bean, 1/2 cheese) and fold the edges in until it looks like a taco. Then you carefully press the edges closed, and start pressing the whole thing flat until it becomes a disc about 1/2-inch thick and 6 inches long.


I should have taken more photos of this process. Sorry!

The masa wants to crack, so you just have to keep pressing it closed and trying to keep the filling close to the edges, but still inside. If a little bit is sticking out, it’s OK.

Then you oil a hot griddle and cook them for a few minutes on each side until they start to get browned. It takes a fair amount of oil to make sure your pupusa is fully coated and doesn’t get too dry.

To serve,  you add a big scoop of coleslaw and some salsa verde and you’re good to go.

The first couple we made were pretty good, but once we got the hang of it we started making some really good ones. I wouldn’t say they were farmers market level, but they were the best ones we’ve had in California, for sure. Success!

Bean and veggie tostadas

When I saw this recipe in Real Simple, it totally took me back to the days when we were still vegetarian and both working 9-5 jobs. Sometimes I wonder what the heck we ate then, since we had so little time to cook. But I guess we ate a lot of things like this — quick, easy, satisfying.

I made a few adaptations to the recipe (mainly that I think you have to crisp the tortilla before you put anything on it), and here is what I came up with:

Bean and veggie tostadas

2 zucchini, cut into thin half moons
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 orange bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small or half a large onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon taco seasoning mix
8 corn tortillas
1 15-ounce can vegetarian refried beans
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Heat the oil in a deep skillet over medium and saute all the veggies until they are cooked through and just starting to brown. Partway through cooking sprinkle on the taco seasoning, reserving a little bit for your refried beans. My taco seasoning is just a mix of 1 tablespoon cumin, 1 tablespoon chili powder, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay out your tortillas on a lined baking sheet (you might need 2 to fit them all) and poke holes in them with a fork so they don’t puff up. Bake the tortillas for 5-7 minutes so they start to get crisp.

Stir up the refried beans with a little sprinkle of taco seasoning. When the tortillas are cool enough to handle, spread a little bit of beans on each one, and sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake again for another 5 minutes, or until the beans are warm and the cheese is melted. Top with the sauteed veggies and any other condiments you like.