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Saving Dinner

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Saving Dinner

Last night I had a dream. Not in the Martin Luther King, Jr. way, but in a cooking dinner way. Yes, I dream of cooking dinner. In that dream, I made a delicious, perfectly golden brown, intact tortilla española. This was a dream because I have never yet been able to make this dish. Why do I keep trying? I’ll tell you.

About nine years ago, my cousins and I went to Spain just for a fun backpacking trip. On the way from Zaragoza to Madrid, our bus stopped at a random rest area and we got “tortilla”. I had never been to Spain and had no idea what to expect. What I got was a delicious egg and potato frittata-type thing. From then on, whenever we got tapas (which was pretty much every meal because we were poor and you get tapas with beer at restaurants), we got the tortilla.

When I got back to the States, I tried to make the tortilla and failed miserably. It looked like a sad breakfast scramble. Later attempts have improved. I have not tried to make a tortilla in a couple of years. Since then, I have talked with several friends who studied in Spain and thought that I had the tips down. “Thought” is the key word. This evening, based upon my dream, I tried again to make a tortilla. It was a failure, but I saved dinner! And I’ll tell you how.

Both of these recipes are from my La cuisine Méditerranéenne that I got while I studied abroad. The Eggplant “Caviar” is like a baba ghanoush-bruschetta hybrid. I added a few things to the tortilla, which may or may not have been my downfall.

Tortilla Española Bake

4 servings

Tortilla

5 medium-ish waxy potatoes (I used Yukon gold)

5 eggs

1 medium yellow onion

More olive oil than you ever dreamed of using

Salt

Pepper

1 cup Manchego cheese

Sauce

2 Tb olive oil

1 Tb flour

2 cloves of garlic

½ tsp paprika

¼ tsp cumin

½ tsp salt

1 Tb parsley, finely chopped

1 cup of water

  • Chop the potatoes into roughly half-inch cubes and chop the onions into a medium dice. Meanwhile, heat about two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.
Lots of potatoes and onions

Lots of potatoes and onions

  • Once the olive oil is heated, toss in about a third of the potatoes, and stir to coat them with the olive oil. Add in a third of the onions, then some salt, then some more olive oil and stir. Repeat the process of potatoes, onions, salt, olive oil until all of the veggies are in the pan. Cook the potatoes until they are tender, but not brown.
More olive oil than you think you'll ever need. Well, not this much.

More olive oil than you think you’ll ever need. Well, not this much.

  • As the potatoes and onions are cooking, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs with a little milk, salt and pepper. Let them hang out while the potatoes are cooking.
  • When the potatoes are finished, let them cool for about 10 minutes. When they are cool, remove them with a slotted spoon and combine with the eggs. The slotted spoon will allow the olive oil to drain off. Once the potatoes and onions are mixed with the eggs, let them sit for about 10 minutes. A tip I learned from my friend who lived in Spain is to keep the oil for future tortillas. This sucker uses up so much oil that reusing it is key. After you have drained the oil, clean the pan and put it back on the heat.
  • Turn the burner up to a relatively high heat and pour in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Immediately pour in the eggs and potatoes and spread around the pan.
  • When everything is in the pan, turn the heat to medium. Use a thin spatula to loosen the mixture from the sides and bottom of the pan. Loosening the eggs and potatoes from the bottom is clutch for the next step.
  • After about 6-8 minutes and the eggs are beginning to look like they’re setting, take a plate that is larger than your pan. This is the part where I screwed up. Put the plate on top of the pan, then flip the tortilla onto the plate. If you’re like me and screw up this part, no worries! A screw-up can be defined as the tortilla sticking to the pan or falling apart upon the flip. Carry on to the next step. If you didn’t screw up (take some time to gloat), add more olive oil to the pan and slide the tortilla back into the pan so that the bottom is now the top. Cook for about 2-3 more minutes. You’ll have a delicious tortilla. Then, move on to the second to last step.
  • Preheat the oven to 350. Pour your sad mess of eggs, potatoes, and onions into a glass baking dish.
  • Grate about a ½-1 cup of Manchego cheese and throw it on top. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.
He looks like he is some sort of indentured servant, but I assure you, he was super excited about grating cheese. He was just against getting his picture taken.

He looks like he is some sort of indentured servant, but I assure you, he was super excited about grating cheese. He was just against getting his picture taken.

  • While the “tortilla” is cooking (or if you succeeded in making your tortilla, gloat), you can deglaze the pan and make a sauce/gravy in the process by adding (you guessed it!) more olive oil to the pan. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 30 seconds then add the garlic and the herbs. Pour in the water while whisking the sauce. Allow it to reduce for about 5 minutes over medium heat.
  • When the tortilla is finished, spoon some sauce over top and enjoy!

Eggplant “Caviar”

4-6 servings

1 medium-large eggplant

1 Tb sesame seeds

juice from one lemon

2 Tb olive oil

1 clove of garlic

6-8 slices of rustic bread, grilled or toasted

1 Tb of parsley

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the eggplant in half length-wise and place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until the flesh begins to char.
  2. As the eggplant is cooking, toast the sesame seeds for about 3 minutes in a non-stick pan.
  3. After the eggplant has begun to char, remove from the oven and allow to cool enough to handle. Once it is cool, remove the flesh and squeeze out the juice.
  4. Place the eggplant in a food processor with the olive oil, sesame seeds, lemon, and garlic. Pulse until it is still slightly chunky.
  5. Put the “caviar” in a bowl, and stir in the parsley.
  6. Serve on the bread.
Tortilla espanola bake and eggplant caviar

Tortilla espanola bake and eggplant caviar

Vegan “Thai” Noodles

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Sometimes Asian food really lends itself to vegetarian, and then vegan, dishes. I didn’t quite know what to make for dinner tonight and I had 1,000,000 green beans, so I came up with this Thai-inspired dish. It was really quick and easy for a Monday night. Not necessarily the most fat-free dish with the peanut butter and coconut oil, but INCREDIBLY delicious. Ben helped and he enjoyed it.

Vegan Thai Noodles

(20 minutes, serves 3-4)

8 oz. firm tofu, cut into cubes of about a ½ inch

2 Tb coconut oil, divided

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp ginger powder, divided

half onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic

1/2  lb green beans, cut in half and blanched

½ cup chopped carrots

½ cup fresh corn

½ lb rice noodles, softened according to package directions (mine said to

leave it in warm water for 5-8 minutes)

Sauce

2 Tb peanut butter

¼ soy sauce

1 Tb Sriracha (or less, depending on your spice liking)

juice of two limes

2 cloves garlic, diced

½ tsp dried ginger

  1. In a large wok, heat 1 Tb of coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and season with the garlic powder and ginger. Stir-fry until golden brown, then set aside.
  2. When the tofu is out, add in the other Tb of coconut oil, the onions and garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds, then add the vegetables. Stir-fry until they become tender.
  3. While the veggies are cooking, mix all of the ingredients of the sauce together in a small bowl. Whisk them together until they become a thick-ish sauce. If it’s too thick to your liking, add in a little water from the rice noodles to thin it out.
  4. Once the vegetables are tender and the noodles are soft, add the noodles to the pan along with the tofu. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds before adding in the sauce. Add the sauce gradually and continue to stir-fry until everything is covered. You can add a little water from the noodles to ensure that the sauce is coating everything.
  5. After about 3 minutes of stir-frying the noodles, tofu, veggies and sauce, remove from heat and serve. You can serve with some crushed peanuts, cilantro, and/or limes. All would be delicious!
Gluten free and vegan? What?!

Gluten free and vegan? What?!

Vegan Indian Meal

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In an attempt to get my child to eat anything at all, I’ve been cooking as much Indian food as I can, which is slightly challenging. One thing I’ve learned about cooking is that watching someone cook is really important. Having only served as a sous chef to my bestie as we made channa masala during high school, I make a lot of things up as I go. I’m working on it, though!

Dinner tonight was an accidentally vegan meal. Accidentally, because I don’t intend on ever becoming vegan and the recipes just happened to not have animal products. Trust me. I love dairy far too much. This meal was spawned from a desire to get rid of a lot of the produce that I had in my fridge. My dad found the eggplant recipe after two HUGE eggplants arrived in my Washington’s Green Grocer box. Getting rid of produce will be a theme this week.

Baingan Bharta and stuffed Kale Parathas. Yum.

Baingan Bharta and stuffed Kale Parathas. Yum.

For the main dish, I made Baingan Bharta, which is an eggplant and tomato curry. Think of it kind of like an Indian ratatouille. Fun fact: Indian food is not quick to make. I used Mark Bittman’s recipe and was really pleased. It was probably one of the better curries that I’ve made so far. I followed it to a T and it came out really well. I recommend using only one jalapeño with the seeds mostly removed. We like heat and this was a pleasant amount.

To go with the Baingan Bharta, I made stuffed Kale Parathas. Husband LOVED them. I used this recipe and altered the filling slightly by using fresh ginger instead of ginger paste and I didn’t use the chilies or the sugar. Instead, I used a dash of cayenne. They were superb, if I do say so myself. Highly recommended!

Maryland Sweet Potato Burgers

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Recently, I decided to give up eating land animals (you can’t give up fish in Maryland!). I never really liked meat and I, genetically, have high cholesterol, so it made sense. Husband and Ben are thankful that I’m not going to give up cooking meat for them, but I decided to try my hand at a vegetarian dish. In perusing for sweet potato burger recipes, I came across a bunch. They weren’t too my liking, so I came up with this one. The word “burger” is a little bit generous. They’re a little more of a crab cake consistency than a burger consistency. Therefore, I found it fitting to dress this one up like we would in Maryland.

The awesome thing about this recipe is that it’s packed with good-for you foods. There are lean proteins in the form of the legumes and the nutritional power house:the sweet potato. If you serve it with avocado, you get the added benefit of the “good fats”. Enjoy, my friends!

Maryland Sweet Potato Burgers

Makes 7-8 patties

Patties/Cakes

2 medium sweet potatoes, baked, peeled, and mashed

2 cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 ½ Tb Old Bay Seasoning

½ tsp Ancho chili pepper

½ tsp paprika

½ tsp cumin

¼ coriander

2 Tb Greek yogurt

1 egg

1 cup panko breadcrumbs (more or less)

½ cup all-purpose flour (more or less)

Sauce

2 Tb Greek yogurt

2 Tb Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

  1. In a large bowl, coarsely mash the sweet potatoes and cannellini beans together.

    Potatoes and beans, all mashed up

    Potatoes and beans, all mashed up

  2. Once they are sufficiently mashed, mix in the spices, yogurt, and egg. The mixture will be pretty sticky.
  3. Add in the breadcrumbs and flour a little at a time. You want to judge the consistency so they don’t become pancakes but aren’t blobs of goo. I used about a cup of each, but you might use more or less depending on how goopy your sweet potatoes and beans are.
  4. Form the mixture into patties of roughly equal size. Allow the patties to chill in the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes.

    These look a lot better than raw meat.

    These look a lot better than raw meat.

  5. As the patties are chilling, you can make your sauce. Simply mix together the yogurt and hot sauce and adjust the proportions to your heat-liking.

    While Ben is a big help, he won't quite make it onto Top Chef with his breaking down of green beans.

    While Ben is a big help, he won’t quite make it onto Top Chef with his breaking down of green beans.

  6. When the patties are done chilling, heat some olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  7. Depending on how large your skillet is, place about 4 patties in at a time. Because the patties will be slightly sloppy, you should wait until you can easily flip them and they become golden brown. It will take about 5-6 minutes per side.
  8. Enjoy! I added a little avocado as nature’s butter and served it with roasted green beans that Ben picked. 🙂

    Sweet potato burger with Frank's Red Hot Sauce-Yogurt dressing and avocado

    Sweet potato burger with Frank’s Red Hot Sauce-Yogurt dressing and avocado

Back in the Saddle

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Back in the Saddle

For the past week I have been gallivanting across Europe. Before you get too jealous, I was one of four chaperones to 29 high school students. Sounds daunting, but it was still awesome. After taking a couple of days of recovery, I’m back in the cooking saddle. Because I studied abroad in the South of France, whenever I think about French cuisine, I think of North African/Middle Eastern dishes. Thus, for dinner tonight, we dined al fresco on chicken kebab pitas, grilled beets, fresh (tahini free!) hummus, couscous, and Nutella and banana crêpes for dessert. Amazing.

Chicken Pitas

Marinade

Juice of 2 lemons

3 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt to taste

Kebabs

1 lb of boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into bite-sized cubes

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1/2 of a red onion, sliced

  1. Combine all of the ingredients of the marinade into a plastic bag, add the chicken, and allow it to sit for at least an hour.
  2. While the chicken is marinating, soak about 10 skewers in water so that they don’t burn when placed on the grill for an hour.
  3. After the chicken has marinated to your liking, alternate pieces of chicken with the tomatoes and red onion on the skewers.
  4. Grill it, baby!

Grilled Beets

3 beets sliced to about 1/4″ thickness

2 Tb olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Simply toss the beet slices with the olive oil, salt, and pepper and grill for about 3 minutes on each side. Yum!

Tahini-free Hummus

Tahini can be annoying to find if you don’t have a Middle Eastern grocer near you. This recipe eliminates the need for the fatty sesame paste and reduces the calories/fat content.

1 15-oz can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained

juice from 1 lemon

1 tsp olive oil

3/4 cup of fat-free Greek yogurt

3 cloves garlic

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Blend the chickpeas, yogurt, lemon juice and olive oil in a food processor until it is smooth, but slightly chunky. Then add the garlic and salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.

Put all of this deliciousness on a pita and add some feta. Enjoy!

Green Foods

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Green Foods

One of my friends is one of my stay-at-home-mom heroes. She comes up with some of the most creative ideas to keep herself and her two young children entertained. For example, one week this fall she came up with “Rainbow Week”. During Rainbow Week, she, her daughter, and her son dressed in each of the seven colors of the rainbow (well, indigo got nixed because indigo is really hard to distinguish from violet) and they had activities and food around that color. Tonight, while Husband had to stay late at work, Ben and I had our mini-Rainbow Night with green foods that shouldn’t be green.

What do I mean about green foods that shouldn’t be green? Well, I’ll tell you. Ben has been a little bit of a finicky eater lately. Like karma getting me sick, karma got me back for having a baby who would eat anything. Thus, I tried to bring back that eating anything in a clever, sneaky, Mommy-you-so-smart kind of way. I made Spinach and Banana Waffles. Spinach and banana waffles? Ugh. That sounds foul, Sam-I-Am! I will not eat Green Waffles for dinner! That recipe is not a winner! However, you are a Doubting Thomas. This was a really good and toddler approved way of sneaking something green into a delightful package. Who doesn’t love waffles? Communists. That’s who.

Spinach and Banana Waffles

Makes 2 Belgian Waffles

1 cup frozen spinach, thawed and all excess water squeezed out

1/2 banana, sliced thin

1 1/4 cup Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Baking Mix

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup water

1 egg

1 Tb oil

 1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp sugar

  • Turn on waffle maker to your desired crispness level.
  • Combine all of the ingredients into a blender. Pulse slightly to allow to catch, then blend until smooth. You don’t want to go too smooth, otherwise the waffles will not be fluffy.
You put the spinach in the blender and you mix it all up.

You put the spinach in the blender and you mix it all up.

Not a Shamrock Shake

Not a Shamrock Shake

  • Spray the heck out of your waffle iron with non-stick spray. I say this because my waffle iron has been acting temperamental lately, as seen by the slight tearing of the waffle.
Mommy is soooo sneaky sticking spinach into the waffle.

Mommy is soooo sneaky sticking spinach into the waffle.

  • Enjoy! You can use maple syrup on these, or it might be really tasty with a sweetened ricotta or marscapone spread. Bon appetit!

To finish up Green Foods that Shouldn’t be Green Night, Ben and I read Les oeufs verts au jambon (Green Eggs and Ham) before bed. It was quite the night!

Vegetable Beef Stew

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The past week has been a snowy, cold mess here in Maryland. Being from Chicago, I should be better at this kind of weather, but I’m not. Basically, all I want to do is sit around and drink hot chocolate while reading a book. That’s the good life, my friends. To further our winter ennui, Ben has been sick for the past week and a half. It’s very sad. However, yesterday was the first day he has felt more like himself, so we decided to venture out and play in the snow.

While in Colorado, Ben learned about snow. Here he has paused from his stomping around in circles saying, "snow".

While in Colorado, Ben learned about snow. Here he has paused from his stomping around in circles saying, “snow”.

In addition to enjoying the snow, we needed to replenish our groceries. I had it in my head that I wanted to make a ham sometime this weekend so that next weekend, when it gets cold again, I can make some split pea soup. Anyway, Ben and I took an epic trip to the grocery store. This trip wasn’t epic in the sense that it was far (1.2 miles) or that we spent a lot, but epic in that it took ffffffoooooorrrrreeeeevvvvvvvveeeeeeerrrrr. Our journey took so long that the poor kid ate all of his Cheerios and I had to be “that mom” who buys her kid food to eat in the store because he is too hungry. An hour and ten minutes and two boxes of raisins later, we left the store for the fixings for my mom’s Vegetable Beef Stew, which I have changed for my own purposes.

While he didn't fall asleep this time, sometimes Ben takes a little snooze in the grocery store.

While he didn’t fall asleep this time, sometimes Ben takes a little snooze in the grocery store.

This stew is the ultimate comfort food from my childhood. On cold or dreary days, it is the best at filling both your body and soul. This recipe also freezes really well, which can make it be a really easy dinner on a yucky night.

Vegetable Beef Stew

Hands on time, 30 minutes; Simmering time, 2 hours (minimum)

Makes about 8 servings for a main course, 12 for a side

2 lbs. stew beef (Pot roast works well. If you have pot roast, cut into 1″ cubes)

2 Tb olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 celery stalks, cut cross wise

4 14.5 oz cans or 2 29 oz cans of diced tomatoes, pureed

2 russet potatoes, cut in 1″ cubes

1/4 cabbage, finely sliced

4 cups frozen mixed vegetables

salt and pepper to taste

In a large, heavy bottomed pot (I used a Dutch oven), over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add in the onions and celery to soften. Once the celery and onions are tender, add in the beef, season with salt and pepper, and brown.

Brown the beef and season with salt and pepper.

Oh raw beef, you are so gross looking.

While the beef is browning, puree the tomatoes until they have a slightly chunky consistency. Add the tomatoes to the pot once the beef has browned.

Add in the cabbage

Add in the cabbage

After stirring in the tomatoes, add in the potatoes and cabbage. Adjust the seasonings. Bring the stew to a simmer and then reduce the heat. Let simmer uncovered for at least 1 hour. The longer you let it cook, the more the flavors will develop. if the liquid starts to look like it is reducing to much, cover the pot. An hour before serving, add in the frozen vegetables, cover, and let simmer for the remaining hour.

Vegetables

After letting the broth reduce, add in the vegetables about 1 hour before serving

Serve with some nice crusty rye bread or grilled cheese sandwiches and you’re good to go! Enjoy!

Finished product