30 December 2009

Comfort Food for a Restful Break

Ahhhhhhhhh. Allow me to catch you up. After I submitted grades, I went to bed. I slept in without waking up at 2, 3 or 4 AM in a cold sweat, without even waking up when my cat meowed in my ear all morning. I logged into my email and didn't see 50 pleas or beggings for forgiveness, I drove to my office and didn't encounter a single student. It looked like a ghost town, and my blood pressure never rose once. Is it? Could it be? BREAK??!!

Yes, oh yes, it is break. I watched a line of cars the length of a football field head out of town from my little valley, and with their vacancy came the loud proclamation from the depths of my soul:


It isn't that I dislike the presence of students. I just relish the quiet. Pullman is a tiny town, and without the student population the whole town slows down. No rush, no bustle, just silent calm.

To commemorate my final winter break in Pullman, I decided on comfort food. Comfort food is stick-to-your-ribs delicious, but it doesn't have to stick to your waistline. Pork chops are lean enough that a simple pan sauce can be downright satisfying, and even though mashed potatoes have been given a bad reputation in recent years, without adding a pound of butter, the potato is one of the most nutritious vegetables around (they possess the highest amount of protein that any vegetable has to offer). Rounding out the meal with a big ol' pile of steamed broccoli and a salad, my version of "comfort food" was every bit as comforting as a steak and loaded baked potato dinner. Take that, end of semester!

Pork Chops with Sage Apple Sauce
(Adapted from Eating Well's Pork Chops with Apples & Thyme recipe)

3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons canola oil
4 4-ounce boneless pork chops, 1/2 inch thick, trimmed of fat
1 small onion, sliced
1 Fuji apple, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup apple cider, or apple juice
2 teaspoons whole grain Dijon mustard
1 tsp. crushed sage

1. Mix 2 tablespoons broth and cornstarch in a small bowl.
2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add chops and cook until browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
3. Reduce heat to medium-high and add onion to the pan. Cook, stirring often, until it starts to soften and brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add apple and cook, stirring often, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining broth, cider (or juice), mustard, sage and the cornstarch mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring, until thickened and glossy, about 1 minute. Return the chops to the pan and heat through. Serve immediately with mashed potatoes.

20 December 2009

Lighter Chicken a la King

When I was a kid, I loved sleeping over at other people's houses. There was something so exciting about sleeping in another bed and playing video games until the wee hours. However, the one thing I was always leery about was eating someone else's cooking. I was so used to my mom's cooking that sitting down at a different dinner table made me incredibly nervous.

Despite my apprehensive eating tendencies, one night at a friend's house I discovered what I can only describe as both the most disgusting and the tastiest meal ever: Chicken a la King IN A CAN. Yes, a can. Creamy chicken, tender mushrooms, salty and tangy pimentos: I had found my kryptonite.

Years later, I still have a taste for this comfort food now and again, but I tend to not eat meals from a can these days (I'm looking at you, ravioli and spaghetti o's). This lightened version was the answer to my craving, and I have to say it far exceeded my taste memory of its canned counterpart. Served over flaky biscuits or whole wheat egg noodles, I'm in heaven.

Chicken a la King
(Reprinted from Eating Well)

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
10 ounces white mushrooms, quartered
1 large green bell pepper, diced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry sherry, (see Note)
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup low-fat milk
1 4-ounce jar sliced pimientos, rinsed
1/2 cup sliced scallions


1. Toss chicken and flour in a medium bowl until coated. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Reserving the remaining flour, add the chicken to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
2. Reduce heat to medium and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. Add mushrooms, bell pepper, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are softened and starting to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour in sherry; bring to a boil and cook, stirring to scrape up any browned bits, 3 minutes.
3. Whisk broth and milk into the reserved flour until smooth. Stir the mixture into the pan. Bring to a simmer, stirring often. Stir in pimientos and the chicken and return to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in scallions and serve immediately.

Note: Sherry is a type of fortified wine originally from southern Spain. Don't use the “cooking sherry” sold in many supermarkets—it can be surprisingly high in sodium. Instead, purchase dry sherry that's sold with other fortified wines in your wine or liquor store.

16 December 2009

Chicken Cacciatore, or the last slow cooker recipe you'll have to endure for a spell

I'm beginning to think this blog should be renamed Dr. Slow Cooker. It would be much more fitting considering I'm not a medical doctor and I'm only doing a PhD in English, but frankly, I don't give in easily. Ask my husband.

Ian isn't a mushroom fan. He picks around them usually, but I decided that every now and then a gal has to recreate her favorite dishes to keep happy. Luckily, Ian was receptive and ate up his plate in just a few scarfs. I'm a lucky, happy almost doctor of philosophy. Spring graduation here I come! Er, except I'm not walking.

Chicken Cacciatore
(adapted from All You, October 2005)

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 (14 oz.) Spanish onion, sliced into 1/2-inch wide strips
1 green bell pepper, sliced into 1/2-inch wide strips
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into 1/2-inch wide strips
1 (8 oz.) package baby bella mushrooms, quartered
1 (4 lb.) broiler chicken, quartered
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 pound uncooked whole wheat egg noodles
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes; transfer to slow cooker.

2. Add onion, bell pepper and mushroom. Put chicken on top; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour in crushed tomatoes; cover and cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. Chicken should be very tender.

3. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook whole wheat egg noodles according to package directions until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.

4. Transfer chicken to 4 plates. Skim fat from surface of sauce and discard. Stir parsley into sauce. Spoon some sauce over chicken. Serve remaining sauce with pasta and cheese.

12 December 2009

Lentil Chili and the End of a Very Busy Semester

Ian graduated today, so we spent most of the morning and a good portion of the afternoon in an uncomfortable coliseum listening to speeches and recitations of names and chants and songs and...my butt still feels numb.

The one thing I didn't anticipate was that I would see so many previous students of mine graduating at the same time. I might preface this with the warning that I'm the type of person who cries at Discover Card commercials, and I'm pretty sure Rita Wilson was mocking my waterworks in that scene in Sleepless in Seattle. Needless to say, seeing students who were doe-eyed freshman ready to set the academic world on fire with their words (please, no Freedom Fighters references here) matriculating and moving on to greener pastures was entirely too much for this sappy teacher.

So what better way to celebrate than to make lentil chili? Yes, I'm the queen of the non sequitor. I may be done tearing up, but here comes the grading and advising. Sigh.

Lentil Chili
(adapted from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook)

1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, choped
1 jalapeno, finely diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. dry mustard powder
2 1/2 c. dried brown lentils, rinsed
8 c. vegetable broth
3 tbl. olive oil
Salt to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in slow cooker, except olive oil and salt. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Add olive oil and salt in the last half hour.

2. Serve with cheddar cheese and green onion toppings.

11 December 2009

In which I exhaust my slow cooker: Chicken Tagine

Yes, I'm addicted to my slow cooker. Yes, I probably need an intervention at this point. But really, why would you want me to quit easy cookin' at a time like this?

*Announcement alert*

Ian is graduating tomorrow morning, 12 December 2009 from Washington State University. He began his degree in 2000, the same year I began my undergraduate degree. He has taken a few classes at a time while working, and all of his hard work and perseverance is finally paying off. I couldn't be prouder of my love, my best friend, my everything. I know you're reading this, Ian. You rock.

Now that I'm done being cheesy, back to the food. I wanted to make this recipe the second I saw it in Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook (all the excitement around here has also meant a lack of creativity--sorry folks), but I didn't want to make the massive serving size outlined in the recipe, so I've adapted it to fit a two-person dinner without cutting out the flavor.

I also forgot the very last step, which is to stir the peanut butter into the cooker. I've made this recipe once before on the stove in its entirety, so I know what I'm missing, but it was still a fantastic way to end a rather hectic final week of classes. Can I just blame my gaffe on the excitement around these here parts as well? And exactly how far can I stretch this excuse? Not very far, you say?

Fine. Here's your recipe.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tagine
(adapted from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook

1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed
1 can whole plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tbsp. water
2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tbsp. peanut butter


1. Place the first 8 ingredients in slow cooker, and arrange chicken pieces on top. Cook on low for 6 hours.
2. Stir in the peanut butter and serve over couscous.

Note: I cook my couscous in chicken broth with a soup seasoning (separate post one of these fine days) and a tiny pat of butter. Toasted pine nuts and a handful of chopped fresh Italian parsley complete the base for this wonderful tagine.

10 December 2009

Easy Breezy Chicken Posole

I've been making a lot of soups and stews lately, mostly due to the cold and partly due to the fact that one pot is easier on crazy work days than four or five different pots. Feel free to use whatever meat you have on have that's cooked and ready to use up. I've used turkey and pork tenderloin for this recipe as well.

Chicken Posole
(reprinted and adapted from Real Simple)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
salt and black pepper
1 32-ounce container low-sodium chicken broth (or sub homemade stock like I did)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 dried ancho chili, thinly sliced
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1 15-ounce can hominy, drained and rinsed
Lime wedges

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and 1⁄4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes.
2. Add the broth, tomatoes, and chili and bring to a boil. Stir in the chicken and hominy and simmer until heated through, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve with the lime.

See how easy that was? Now go cuddle under some blankets and forget about the frigid weather outside. Bring a furry friend:

06 December 2009

Acorn Squash and Black Bean Chili

Here's another very simple, very filling vegetarian recipe. I love black bean chili, and after a lovely day of grocery shopping and tidying up around the house, Ian and I decided the fiber-filled dish was perfect for a cold, lazy day.

I couldn't resist the gorgeous acorn squash from the Moscow Co-Op, and even though I can eat acorn squash simply roasted with a pat of butter straight out of the shell, I figured adding it to the chili might be a welcome twist to the evening. I'm so glad I did: this was fantastic!

Acorn Squash and Black Bean Chili
(Loosely adapted from/inspired by the NY Times)

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 15 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, chopped
2 tbsp. tomato paste dissolved in 1 1/4 c. chicken stock
1/2 tbsp. cumin (or add a lot more...like I do)
1 tsp. Mexican oregano
Black pepper to taste
1/2 cup frozen corn
1 acorn squash, roasted and cut into chunks

1. Heat olive oil in a 2 quart pot and add onions and garlic. Saute until onion is translucent, then add next 7 ingredients, through black pepper. Turn heat down to medium low, and cover. Simmer for 25 minutes or until chili thickens.

2. Add acorn squash and frozen corn to pot and simmer for another ten minutes, uncovered. Serve with sour cream, chopped green onions and/or shredded cheddar cheese.

Pumpkin Lasagna with Italian Sausage

Last year you may recall I made a butternut squash version of this recipe.

After a repost on Foodmayhem's site of this marvelous recipe, I decided I should make it with pumpkin this time, but husband unit isn't too fond of lasagna and he objected to anything sweet, so I did in the end tweak the recipe to include one of his favorite meats: Italian sausage. I removed the casings and cooked the loose meat until crumbling. In the end, I was elated and somewhat sad that I didn't make this with pureed pumpkin last year--it's truly worth it!

Pumpkin Lasagna with Italian Sausage
(Adapted from Foodmayhem.com)

4-5 Italian sausage links, casings removed
1/2 a small onion, chopped
1 tsp. sage
1 tsp. oregano
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
21 oz. fresh mozzarella
1 1/2 c. part skim ricotta
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in a few pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 3/4 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 c. chicken stock
1/2 tbsp. each oregano and sage
1 tsp. kosher salt
16 oz. box lasagna

1. In a skillet, cook the sausage over medium high heat. Once the sausage is almost cooked through, add the onion, sage, oregano and pepper to taste. Cook until onion is translucent.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix ricotta with 12 oz. of fresh mozzarella, shredded. Set aside for lasagna assembly.

3. In a saucepan, melt butter and add pumpkin puree, along with chicken stock. Gently heat through (watch for too much heat--pumpkin splatters pretty easily!). Remove from heat and set aside for assembly.

4. Smear a thin layer of pumpkin mixture on the bottom of a 9×13 glass baking dish.

5. Place 3 lasagna sheets across. Spread a thin layer of ricotta mixture on the sheets, then a layer of pumpkin mixture. Sprinkle a layer of Italian sausage on top. Place 3 lasagna sheets across and repeat layering process until you reach the top. The final layer should be ricotta and pumpkin mixture--do not cover final layer with lasagna sheets.

6. Slice the remaining fresh mozzarella and arrange on top. Bake covered with foil in preheated oven for 35-45 minutes (I baked for 45 mins.) and another 5 minutes uncovered. Let the lasagna rest a few minutes before serving. Enjoy!!

15 November 2009

Slow Cooker Shrimp and Andouille Sausage Creole Stew

I've really been putting some mileage on my slow cooker these days. I work from home three mornings a week (the perfect time to assemble a meal-to-be while grading papers and writing that pesky dissertation), and the later afternoon has been spent at another job, so it's great to be able to walk into a house filled with aromatics at the end of a hurried day. Stews, chowders, casseroles, poached chicken for tacos...there isn't anything this lovely little contraption can't handle.

Friday happened to be the first day of snow here on the Palouse, and I figured that with the added driving time up the Lewiston valley grade (seriously, there's nothing scarier than limited visibility and a giant cliff next to your car), I wouldn't have much time to whip up dinner before meeting the husband unit on his dinner break. On cold days I crave soups and stews, and to me there's nothing more comforting than eating a steaming bowl of stew while watching the snow fall and the deer take shelter in the evergreens outside my picture window. Perfection.

Shrimp and Andouille Sausage Creole Stew
(Adapted from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook)

1-14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1-14.5 oz. can chicken broth (or homemade, preferably)
1 1/2 c. chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. paprika
Pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce (I use Louisiana Hot Sauce)
1 bay leaf
1-6 oz. can tomato paste
10-15 large raw shrimp, peeled
2 links cooked andouille sausage, sliced into coins
3 green onions, chopped
1 tbl. file powder

1. Combine first 10 ingredients in slow cooker. Add tomato paste and stir to combine. Set slow cooker on low for 5-6 hours (or on high for 2.5-3 hours).
2. Remove and discard bay leaf. Add shrimp, sausage, green onions and file powder to slow cooker and cover. Cook for 5 minutes, or until shrimp is cooked through. Serve with white rice.

11 November 2009

Another day, another fast and delicious lentil recipe

I love lentils. This is perhaps not surprising given I live in Pullman, Washington, the home of the National Lentil Festival, but what is surprising is that I've never, ever actually been able to get a bowl full of free lentil chili at the festival. I've gone every year for 6 years now, and every time they've run out before I can get to it.

Perhaps this is why lentils make their tasty way into many of my recipes. The festival mascot, Taste E. Lentil, would most likely agree with me.

For a few more awesome lentil recipes (I recommend the Rhubarb Lentil Crisp), follow this link to the Lentil Fest webpage.

Lentil Sauce for Pasta
Adapted from Diana Shaw's The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 sweet yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 tbsp. oregano
2 cloves
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 cup lentils
3 cups vegetable broth
Fresh ground black pepper

1. Heat oil over medium heat. Add onion to pan and cook until almost translucent, then add garlic, carrots, celery, cloves and oregano. Cook 2-3 minutes more and then add tomato paste and vinegar. Stir to combine.
2. Add lentils to pan along with vegetable broth. Simmer on medium low for 15-20 minutes, or until lentils are tender. If sauce is thin, add 1-2 tbsp. tomato paste. Season with fresh ground pepper. Serve ladled over whole wheat farfalle along with an over easy egg.

Yes, I am still alive. Now have a bison french dip sandwich with me.

No, really. I am alive. It's been an insane couple of months here, and I'm in the eye of the tornado at this point, so before things get really insane, I thought I'd actually update this blog. Even though my schedule has been hectic, I'm still carving out time to cook. I just can't give up that part of myself.

Ian and I spotted a 3 lb. bison shoulder roast not long ago, and I decided this would be the perfect time for a french dip sandwich dinner. With the temperature dropping and the fog taking over my commute down the Lewiston, Idaho grade, this turned out to be just what my overextended self needed. While I haven't sacrificed my peaceful time in the kitchen, the beauty of the slow cooker is that on a day I can't even carve out 30 mins. for dinner, I still have options.

Bison Shoulder Roast

3 lb. bison shoulder (I'm sure beef would work just fine if you can't get your hands on this)
1 can French Onion Soup*
3 cups beef broth, preferably homemade
2 tsp. peppercorns
Crusty french bread
Sliced, fresh mozzarella

1. Place shoulder roast in slow cooker and cover with the soup, broth and peppercorns. Set cooker on low 7-8 hours.

2. Remove from slow cooker and let sit for ten minutes; keep reserved juices warm. Meat should easily fall apart. Place shredded meat on split French bread. Place fresh mozzarella slices on top of meat and broil under melted. Serve with au jus.

*I used Wolfgang Puck's Organic French Onion Soup with 30% less sodium.

27 September 2009

Braised Lamb Shanks and Polenta

I've been on a bit of a lamb kick as of late (I still have a lamb chop recipe to blog). Since Ian has never had lamb shanks before, when I found a good deal I jumped at the chance. I consulted the backlog of recipes I've had sitting in my online recipe file but I couldn't find anything that would really showcase the flavors I was craving. I also don't have a roasting pan with a lid, so I had to account for the foil I had to use instead.

I was going to add cannellini beans but at the last minute I decided to serve it with polenta. This was stick-to-your-ribs good.

Oven Braised Lamb Shanks

4 lamb shanks
1 small onion, sliced
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. oregano (preferably fresh)
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 lemon, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Layer onions in roasting pan, placing crushed garlic cloves on top. Pour wine and vinegar over onions and garlic.
2. Add tomatoes on top of onions and garlic and sprinkle with basil and oregano.
3. Arrange lamb shanks on top, and drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Place a lemon slice on each shank. Cover loosely with foil.
4. Place shanks into a preheated oven at 375 degrees. Cook for 2 hours, or until meat is falling off the bone.

(from Anne Burrell's recipe on foodnetwork.com)

1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 cup long cooking polenta
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese

1. In a medium size saucepan, bring the milk, water and bay leaf to a boil. Season generously with salt, almost to the point of over seasoning. How do you know that you are there? TASTE IT! When it has reached a boil, slowly whisk in the polenta in small sprinkles. Once all of the polenta has been incorporated, reduce heat to medium and immediately switch over to stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook the polenta for 30 to 40 minutes, adding water if the polenta becomes too thick to loosen it up.

2. When the polenta is thoroughly cooked, it should look creamy and not feel gritty on your tongue. Remove it from the heat and stir in the Parmigiano and mascarpone. Serve it immediately, or place a sheet of plastic wrap right on the surface of the polenta to prevent a skin from forming on the top.

26 September 2009

Lamb Meatball Soup with Lentils

Despite the fact that it's the end of September, summer has decided to stick around. The temperature has been in the 80s and 90s, but the mere utterance of the word 'fall' makes me incredibly happy. When the leaves start to turn orange, only one thing can be eaten in my household: soup. Ian hadn't been feeling particularly well, so this was the perfect time to trot out a new comfort recipe that I'm happy to say will be a staple once the colder months set in.

I've been wanting to make this recipe from Foodmayhem for quite awhile, but I haven't had any ground turkey on hand, and I had to use the ground lamb up before I could even think about buying more meat. I followed this recipe exactly using the lamb, and the only changes I made were low sodium bacon and I added 1/2 cup of lentils to the soup in the last 25 minutes of cooking. The result was fantastic.

I'm reprinting the original recipe below but have renamed it to reflect the changes I made.

Lamb Meatball Soup with Lentils
(adapted from Foodmayhem)

2 strips low-sodium bacon, cut into 1" pieces
3 1/2 cup leek rings
1 1/4 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cup diced carrots
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
1/2 cup lentils, rinsed and soaked

For the meatballs:

1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 cup chopped onion
5 cloves garlic minced
1 egg
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat a large dutch oven over high flame. Add the bacon and stir until it gives off fats.
2. Stir in the leek and onion and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in carrots and cook for another 2 minutes. Add broth and water and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. While the soup is cooking, make the meatballs. Mix ground meat with bread crumbs, onion, garlic, and egg. Season with salt and pepper. Form 1 1/2″ balls (makes about 43).
5. Heat a large skillet with the vegetable oil and brown the meatballs on all sides (they don’t need to be cooked through). Place them in the soup along with the lentils, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook covered for another 20 minutes.

20 September 2009

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

Now that we have the mouse situation under control, I can finally use my stove again (that's a lot of scrubbing and bleaching--phew!), and I decided to try out a recipe I've been dying to give a shot since I saw it on For the Love of Cooking.

I love lasagna, and I love roasting vegetables, and combining these two elements together made for one perfect dinner. With a salad on the side, I was able to get a full day's worth of my vegetable intake in one meal.

The only changes I made here were to sub yellow sweet onions for the red onions and I used a mixture of crumbled tofu and ricotta in the ricotta layer. Tofu adds protein and isn't detectable; it absorbs the other flavors and its texture mirrors that of the ricotta. I also cooked my noodles beforehand and used leftover homemade marinara sauce in place of the jarred.

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna (from For the Love of Cooking)

Roasted Vegetables:
8 oz button mushrooms, quartered
1/2 red onion, quartered
2-3 orange, red or yellow baby bell peppers, sliced
Broccoli florets
1 small handful of shredded carrots
6 cloves of garlic, leave the skins on for roasting
1 green zucchini, sliced
1 yellow squash, sliced
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
Dried basil
Dried oregano

For the ricotta layer:
1 16 oz container of fat free ricotta cheese
3-4 tbsp mozzarella cheese, grated
3-4 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 egg
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
Dried oregano, to taste
Dried basil, to taste
Dash of nutmeg

Additional ingredients:
Lasagna noodles
Marinara sauce
Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Parmesan cheese, grated
Dried basil

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with tin foil (for quick and easy clean up) then coat the tin foil lined baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray. Clean and slice the veggies and layer all but the zucchini and yellow squash on the sheet. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top, season with sea salt, cracked pepper, basil and oregano to taste. Toss to coat and place in the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, add the zucchini and yellow squash to the roasted veggies, toss and return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Once the garlic cloves cool down, carefully peel the skin off and slice. Add sliced garlic back in with the rest of the veggies.
2. Combine all the ingredients for the ricotta layer and set aside.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a large glass baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Pour a bit of marinara sauce on the bottom of the dish then place a few lasagna noodles down to completely cover the bottom of pan. Add half of the ricotta mixture and spread evenly over the noodles. Next add half of the roasted veggie mixture. Cover the veggies with lasagna noodles then sauce. Add the last of the ricotta mixture then the remaining veggies. Cover with lasagna noodles, more sauce then sprinkle the top with mozzarella, parmesan and dried basil. Bake covered for 30 minutes; remove the cover and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

Nutritional goodness

Ready to roast

Ready to bake

17 September 2009

One thing most food bloggers won't EVER talk about

I live in a field outside of town, in a valley with no neighbors and plenty of wildlife. Most of the time, I post about the beautiful deer and my wonderful dogs/splendid cat.

Trust me, it isn't all wine and roses. We have mice.

Yes, I know this isn't the most appetizing topic (particularly when blogging about food), but this past three weeks has been a testament, a serious test as to what a human can handle when faced with blood sucking rodents carrying nasty diseases.

I'll start with this: we have one electronic mouse trap, 12 (some gone once bitten, some still waiting) glue traps, two plug-in noise emitters (worthless) and two bait-and release traps (also worthless because we have to kill the mice ourselves once they're caught). We have plastered, steel wool-ed, and cemented every last inch, and they still keep coming. It's like Arachnophobia for mouse phobics.

We've had mouse infestations in this house in the past, but this year has been horrible. To all food bloggers, a warning: scroll down or risk reading the dirtiest, most disgusting details EVER.

They got into my stove. While working in the living room one day (otherwise known as my impromptu office) I noticed a tiny mouse head poking through the burner on my stove range. It popped its head out and *raised its ears* (an image that still makes me shudder just thinking about it). After screaming, jumping up and down and taking a shower, I set traps that led to the demise of NINE mice in three days. Nine. That's not a minor infestation.

Needless to say, now that we've pretty much gotten things under control (we think, fingers crossed) I can return to my kitchen temple and sanitize. Stay tuned--I've really missed cooking and blogging!

06 September 2009

Chili Relleno for recovering from the Miss Piggy Flu

So my institution is famous. Not for anything noble or medal-worthy this time. Just a little touch of the swine flu, or rather, 2000 students or 10% of the student population becoming sick within two weeks of school starting.

After a high fever for a few days and a desperate longing to get back on my feet, I decided it was time to get back into the kitchen wearing cute vintage shoes. 1940's reconstructed vintage shoes, to be exact. I can't tell you how in love with them I am, and how much more cheery they made me feel in the midst of a wave of aches and shivers.

Once I had the duds on, I did some victory rolls to my hair and realized that sometimes if you build it, wellness may come. I extended this optimism to my favorite Mexican food, the chili relleno. I've made a slow cooker version in the past that was more like a casserole than anything, but since I'm not anywhere near Chicago and can't simply order out in this college town/petry dish, I decided to take the plunge. In fact, the last time I ordered chili relleno in Pullman, I got a chili stuffed with cheddar cheese wrapped in an egg omelet. Gah.

This proved to be the best activity in which I could partake whilst in recovery. You know, since I really wasn't well enough to produce any meaningful work yet. Sometimes being ill is a slightly unfortunate euphemism for vacation.

So here's your first step: buy some peppers. I picked up some peppers from the farmer's market the week before that needed to be used, and even though they weren't the traditional poblano variety, they had a sheen to them that screamed natural oils. Perfect for chili relleno.

I had four peppers total, so I broiled them in my electric oven until they charred on all sides, turning them over once.

Once charred, I let them steam in a Zip-loc bag for about twenty minutes, or just long enough that the charred skins were easily removed. When I tugged lightly on the pepper stems, most of the seeds came out along with the stem. I used a spoon to scoop out the rest of the seeds. I've seen people wash out the seeds under running water before, but that seems like a waste to me. Keep those natural oils that get released during the broiling process!

Next, I separated about three eggs and beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold the three beaten yolks into the egg white mixture.

After stuffing the chilies with some panela cheese (you can use chihuahua or the blasphemous monterey jack) and then securing my poor torn chilies with toothpics, I dipped them in egg batter and then added them to a preheated frying pan with about 2 tbsp. of olive oil

After browning the chilies I added them to a sauce pan filled with a mixture of tomato sauce, a bit of water, very finely minced onion and garlic.

Once they had a little simmer time (I'm talking less than 5 minutes) in the tomato gravy, they were ready to be eaten.

Here is hubby's portion:

I served these with warmed corn tortillas, guacamole and refried black beans. A perfect feast for someone clinging to the shirt tails of health. Yay for Tamiflu.

05 September 2009

Shrimp Feta Pasta Bake

I'm in love with this dish. Quick, easy and full of flavor, particularly when chock full of in season heirloom tomatoes. With the new semester in full swing, I'm too exhausted to even think about improvising. In fact, I'm surprised if I even make it past this post. Remember the swine flu? Yeah, it's alive and well, and 2000 WSU folk have already reported flu-like symptoms. Including me. The only change I made was from orzo to whole wheat penne.

Of course, Kevin's photos are much more appetizing, but I have an excuse this time: I was typing job letters while making dinner. Huzzah!

Shrimp Feta Pasta Bake
(from Closet Cooking)

Baked Shrimp and Feta Pasta
(makes 4 servings)
Printable Recipe

1/2 cup orzo
1 tablespoon oil
1 onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic(chopped)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups tomatoes (peeled and chopped)
1 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh herbs (chopped, parsley, basil, dill, mint, etc.)
2 green onions (sliced)
1/2 pound shrimp (peeled and deviened)
1/2 cup feta (crumbled)

1. Cook the orzo until al dente.
2. Heat the oil in a pan.
3. Add the onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
5. Add the white wine, tomato and oregano and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.
6. Remove from heat and stir in the herbs and green onions.
7. Mix the sauce, orzo and shrimp, place in a baking dish topped and top with the feta.
8. Bake in a preheated 425F oven until the shrimp is cooked and the sauce is bubbly, about 10-15 minutes.

24 August 2009

On Faux Calzones and the Start of a New Semester

They're back. It seems like it was just yesterday that the howling from the campus hill died down to reveal the more peaceful whisper of wind blowing in the trees and the faint sound of deer munching on foliage behind my house. I still remember sitting on my front porch in my little valley in Pullman with a cup of coffee (still in my pajamas because I don't have neighbors and hell, I love PJs), waving to the long line of U-Hauls headed out of town toward Colfax, Seattle, Bellevue and beyond. From that day for a few months, I parked anywhere I wanted, enjoyed shopping at grocery stores without being hit by errant carts driven by young adults too busy to look up from texting their friends in the next aisle to notice the human being bent over the produce, I even enjoyed long walks down my road with no sidewalks without jumping into the bushes to avoid SUVs barreling down the roadway well over the speed limit.

Ahhhh. Those were the days.

They started arriving in small groups, really only venturing out during the daytime to purchase ice cream cones from Licks during the heat wave or scour the campus looking for their assigned fall classrooms, but one day last week, as my dogs did their final business of the evening, I heard them. At first a howl that sounded like the coyote that plagued the valley for most of the summer, and then suddenly increasing into a cacophony of voices screaming "Go Cougs."

The students are back.

I've been a bit of an online and real-life ghost since they appeared, struggling to meet some important deadlines for writing the dissertation, tweaking the syllabus I created over the course of the summer and getting ready for the academic job market this fall, but part of me needed a little comfort food once I realized they were here to stay in my final year at WSU. There's no escaping them--the police blotters alone can attest to the sharp spike in DUIs and alcohol offense arrests.

With all the sadness of a little kid headed back to elementary school, I picked up a loaf of Salted French bread from the Moscow Co-Op like it was my lunch box and decided to use it for a most unorthodox meal: the faux calzone. The meal was less well thought out and put together than it was third grader-with-rubber-cement-and-confetti caliber, but it hit the spot of my soul that cried out for salty, cheesy comfort in the face of losing a prime parking spot at the local Safeway.

After scooping out the insides of the bread and freezing the breadcrumbs, I layered a quick pizza sauce made from tomato paste, water, fresh basil and oregano, garlic and olive oil inside the bread, along with freshly cooked and crumbled Italian sausage removed from its casing, and a mountain of provolone and fresh mozzarella. After a half hour in the oven, I drowned my back to school sorrows in the sweet and savory warmth of pizza bread.

Stuffed and feeling better about the state of my lost summer, I took solace in the finished syllabus before me: it's the best I've ever engineered. I have missed teaching, despite what this post may have indicated, and I can't wait to get back into a classroom to talk about books.

I mean really, who wouldn't give up a front row parking space to discuss books for a living?

Naked bread

No longer naked, just saucy

Some crave chocolate. Not I. Bring on the cheese!

Eat a slab. Just don't tell your cardiologist.

Once you're fully stuffed, grab a kitteh and cuddle off the calories.

14 August 2009

General Tso's Chicken

Hi, my name is Erin, and I'm addicted to General Tso's Chicken and Hot and Sour Soup. [*hi erin*] Whenever I get sick, you can bet the first place I call is the local Chinese restaurant, sometimes even before I call a doctor when I'm really sick. This week I was craving the old General standby, so I decided to recreate one of my favorite takeout comforts at home. After finding a number of promising but very fattening deep fried versions via Tastespotting, I came across La Table De Nana's version, which called for a quick pan fry instead of deep frying. After adding sugar snap peas so I could at the very least claim to have eaten some veggies, this was one of the best mock takeout recipes I've ever tried at home.

Crispy Golden Chicken Pieces

Spicy Sauce

General Tso's Chicken, adapted and reprinted from La Table De Nana

1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp. hoisin
3 tbsp. white vinegar
3 tbsp. ketchup
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 cup water
3-4 tbsp. cornstarch
1 lb chicken breasts, cut into 1" cubes
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. sesame oil
4 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced.
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger (use fresh if you have it on hand)
Hot red pepper flakes, to taste

1.In a bowl mix first 6 ingredients.
2.Dredge your chicken cubes in cornstarch. Shake off excess.
3.In a large skillet heat olive oil and fry chicken until done.
4. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
5.In the same skillet heat sesame oil and quickly stir fry green onions, garlic and ginger.
6.Add the sauce mixture you have made and simmer until heated through.
7.Return chicken to pan and toss to coat with sauce. Continue cooking until heated through. Serve with rice.

13 August 2009

Crab Bisque and Apple Brie Panini with Homemade Bread

Thrift stores are a wonderful thing. While the current fashion is to think of them as places where one can "upcycle" materials such as clothes, housewares and appliances, I have always relied on thrift stores since I am a perpetual student with no money. I've been in college for literally a decade this year, so I'm no stranger to the 50 cent cardigan. As I wandered around the Palouse Treasures thrift store a few days ago, I ended up in the kitchen section, where I inevitably find all kinds of interesting gadgets and drink/serveware that have seen better days. I was amazed to find a bread machine, still wrapped and in the box, for only ten dollars! Of course, I bought it. I've used a bread machine before, but at nearly a hundred dollars, buying one of my own has just never been an expense I could muster.

After playing around with it for hours, I ended up with a loaf of whole wheat bread that just begged to be panini'd (not a word, you say? bah!). After arranging Fuji apple slices and some brie on the freshly baked bread, I spread on a honey mustard mayonnaise and went to town.

Honey Mustard Mayonnaise

1 tbl. mayo (I used my Vegenaise)
1 tsp. stone ground mustard
1 tsp. honey

1. Mix the ingredients in a small bowl until ready for use. Serves 1.

After wandering around Tastespotting for awhile last week, I fell in love with the Tomato-Crab Bisque from Eating Well, Living Thin's blog. While I didn't have tomato juice on hand, I did have a big bottle of R.W. Knudsen's Organic Very Veggie juice that was a wonderful replacement. Lower in sodium than most juices (or even low sodium tomato juice), the veggie juice was already wonderfully complex in flavor, so mild, tender crab meat was its match made in heaven.

In other news, Zander the Howlin Wolf made it onto ihasahotdog (the sister site to icanhascheeseburger)! He was thrilled to hear the news, and would like to thank the academy. See Zander in all his glory here: http://tinyurl.com/pz2bsf Or just look below....

12 August 2009

Summer squash: or, the most vibrant side dish ever

I love summer squash, but I get a little tired of gratins. In fact, when it's as hot outside as in your preheated oven, it's best to find a way to grill it instead. While BBQ'ing a few chicken breasts and preparing a salad, I sliced up the summer squash and added it to the saute pan insert for the grill. As a side dish, the summer squash had a nice bite to it but was mild enough that it didn't induce a lemon face.

Grilled Summer Squash with Mustard Vinaigrette

1 medium summer squash, sliced into coins
1 tbl extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp stone ground mustard
Pinch of salt and pepper

1. Place sliced summer squash into a pan on grill. Cook for about 6-7 minutes, or until tender. Remove from grill.
2. Place grilled squash in a bowl and add remaining ingredients. Toss lightly.

Fresh Tomato, Shrimp and Cannelini Bean Pasta

I adore summer pasta dishes given the incredible quality of produce, but at times the outdoors call my name a little too loudly for me to whip up anything that showcases the fresh ingredients. In this instance, I decided that summer tomatoes just needed to be utilized. After parboiling four huge heirloom honkers in water and then peeling, I downed a few cups of watery tomato juice and sauce, and then added the fresh tomato chunks to a couple tablespoons of olive oil and five cloves of chopped garlic. I didn't write down a recipe here since it's a pretty straightforward endeavor. After simmering down the tomatoes and the juices they released, I added a can of cannellini beans, a handful or two of shrimp, a few servings of cooked whole wheat pasta, a little salt and pepper, and a couple tablespoons of chopped basil.

The result? Fantastic. What to do after dinner? Return to the outdoors.....