Archive for October, 2010

spinach and rice casserole

I first had this  casserole when my friend Becky and I exchanged leftovers once. A humble-sounding casserole of kale and rice tasted so delicious. It was creamy, slightly spicy, cheesy, and crunchy. The crunchiness came from sunflower seeds, which I left out this time because I didn’t want to buy them. Becky also substituted kale, which was a delicious riff on the original recipe calling for spinach.

I checked out Mollie Katzen’s iconic cookbook, the New Moosewood Cookbook, from the library and found the recipe for the casserole Becky shared with me. And I made it. And it was good. There is something about this time of year – fall – that makes me want to eat hearty, warm food, like casseroles and stews. This is a great cool-weather dish.

You could also make the brown rice ahead of time to cut down on the prep time.

“Spinach-Rice Casserole,” from The New Moosewood Cookbook, by Mollie Katzen

2 c. uncooked brown rice

1 T. butter or olive oil

2 c. minced onion (about one large onion)

1 lb. fresh spinach (the recipe calls for 2 lbs, but I didn’t want to pay that much for prepackaged spinach)

1 t. salt

4 to 5 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 t. nutmeg

1/4 t. cayenne

black pepper

1 to 2 t. yellow mustard

2 beaten eggs

1 c. milk

1 c. grated cheddar


Fill a medium saucepan with 3 c. of water. Add the rice, cover, and bring to a boil. Then lower the temperature and let the rice simmer gently. Cook, covered, undisturbed for 35 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Fluff the rice with a fork.

Preheat oven to 350 and oil a 9 x 13-in. baking pan.

Heat the butter in a large skillet. Add onion and saute 5 to 8 minutes until soft. Add spinach, salt, and garlic and cook another 5 minutes. Do not let the garlic burn.

Add to the rice along with the cayenne, nutmeg, and pepper. Mix well.

Beat together the eggs and milk and stir into rice mixture along with cheese. Spread into the pan and sprinkle with paprika.

Bake, uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes until heated through and browned on top.



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veggie chili

My favorite sister ( my only sister actually, but still my favorite) moved to Canada last summer to get her PhD in art history. Being the likable, gregarious person she is, she met a nice group of people right away (unless she is lying), and started having weekly pot lucks. When it was her turn to make the vegetarian main dish, she asked me for advice and I immediately turned to this recipe for vegetarian chili, from the always entertaining, always delicious, Amateur Gourmet.

I had never made the chili before, but it was one of those recipes I knew would turn out well – so I recommended it to Kristen. She made it and, she said, everyone loved it. I was eager for an opportunity to try it myself.

One of the first chilly days earlier this month, I got together with some friends to “watch football.” I thought this chili would make an excellent addition to the evening, particularly for those of us more concerned with the food and company than with the football game.

And it was delicious. Smokey and spicy from the chipotle peppers, and hearty from all the beans. Adam (Amateur Gourmet), recommends serving the chili with smoked gouda, which I actually had on hand, and it was a delicious contrast to the spicy chili. I also made  whole-wheat-corn bread. It was a great fall meal.

The ingredients list may look long – but the beans and veggies are pretty cheap and the spices can easily be found at the grocery store, or, for my Louisville readers, at my favorite store, Nuts n Stuff.

And Kristen – since winter is hitting in Vancouver, this would be great to make again.

Adapted from “Don’t-Miss-The-Meat-Chili” from the Amateur Gourmet

2 T. olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 orange pepper, chopped

1 yellow pepper, chopped

1 jalapeno, chopped

1 28-oz. can chopped tomatoes

2 12-oz. bottle of porter beer

2 15-oz. cans kidney beans

2 15-oz cans black beans

2 T. white wine vinegar

5 garlic cloves, minced

2 T. chili powder

1 T. coriander seeds, toasted and ground in a coffee grinder (or use already ground)

1 T. cumin seed, toasted and ground in a coffee grinder (ditto above)

1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, chopped (these are really spicy, so use sparingly if you are sensitive to heat)

1 T.  paprika

Salt to taste

Heat olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add onions and peppers and jalapenos and saute until tender. Add some salt – maybe a small pinch.

Add the chili powder, garlic, cumin, and coriander and saute for a minute or two.

Add everything else, including another pinch of salt, stir, and bring everything to a boil. Then lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or more. Be sure to taste the chili and do not be afraid to adjust the seasonings to your taste. Maybe it needs more salt, some black pepper, or more vinegar.

You could also make the soup earlier in the day, let sit on the counter covered, and reheat closer to serving.


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One recent Sunday morning, I found myself alone and wanting a slightly more elaborate breakfast than say, oatmeal or toast.  I remembered a recipe for migas in one of my library cookbooks, a new obsession, and checked the ingredients list. I was glad to see I had everything for this makeshift breakfast and got to work.

This was only the second time I had migas. I ordered them in a Louisville brunch place last spring and was underwhelmed. The eggs were tough and a little bland. The whole thing was really dry too. I did, however, receive delicious hash browns and a biscuit with my meal. These migas, my migas, were much better I am pleased to report. But, unfortunately, did not come with the delicious breakfast sides. These were much healthier, I suppose.

So here is the recipe for Migas, from Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health

The original recipe serves 4, I scaled it back for 1  – so I’m providing the ingredients for one serving

1 t. olive oil

1/4 c. diced onion

a pinch of dried oregano

a pinch of red pepper flakes

1 egg

1 T. water

a dash of salt (really, just a little bit, less than a pinch. the chips and cheese listed below are salty)

a bit of black pepper

1/2 c. crushed corn tortilla chips

1/4 c. diced tomatoes – I may have used a little more

2 T. grated cheddar cheese

Warm the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, oregano, pepper flakes and cook. Stir frequently until the onions have begun to soften, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, water, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl. Stir in the crushed tortilla chips and set aside.

Add the tomatoes to the onions and continue to cook for 3 minutes or so. Pour the egg mixture in the skillet and stir well.

Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the eggs are mostly set, 3 to 4 minutes. Sit again. Sprinkle the cheese on top, cover, and cook until eggs are completely set, another 3 to 4 minutes.

Eat, preferably with hash browns and a biscuit if you are feeling ambitious. Or just enjoy with coffee, or whatever your morning beverage of choice is.

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tandoori chicken sandwiches

This has been another busy few days. My parents were here this last weekend, staying with me, and I had been a cooking and cleaning fool all week.

That is not really true. I’ve been busy doing other things, like going to movies and trivia nights and working and such, but last Thursday, I really was a cooking and cleaning fool. I did not make these chicken sandwiches. I did make the stuffed banana peppers with the Iowa sausage and they were a hit. I also made a tasty apple cake with brandy sauce, which I will posting sometime in the near future.

We all had a great weekend (I think!). Louisville had beautiful fall weather, we went to some excellent restaurants, and just enjoyed each other’s company (I think….). My parents live in Iowa so they don’t make it out here too often, but I’m always glad when they do.

Anyway, my cooking friend Andrew highly recommended this recipe – and it was great, if you eat chicken that is. And the spiced mayonnaise is not to be missed.


Tandoori Chicken Sandwiches

Serves 6


6 skinless boneless chicken breast halves 

2 T. fresh lemon juice
1 c. plain yogurt
2 T. chopped fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. ground coriander
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1/4 t. turmeric
12 slices bread
Indian mayonnaise
1 c. packed fresh mint leaves
1 c. packed fresh cilantro leaves
1 jalapeño chili, seeded, minced
3 T. chopped onion
2 t. cider vinegar
1/2 c. mayonnaise

For Sandwiches:
Arrange chicken in single layer in large glass baking dish. Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice: season with salt. Mix  yogurt, chopped fresh ginger, garlic, ground cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper and turmeric in medium bowl. Pour yogurt marinade over chicken breasts and turn to coat. Cover chicken and refrigerate 3 to 8 hours.

Preheat broiler. Remove chicken breasts from marinade (do not wipe clean). Broil chicken until just cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Cool slightly.

Lightly toast bread. Spread 1 side of each piece of bread generously with mayonnaise. Slice chicken breasts diagonally. Place slices of 1 breast atop each of 6 sourdough bread slices. Top with remaining bread slices. Cut chicken sandwiches in half. Serve sandwiches warm or at room temperature.

For Mayonnaise:
Combine mint, cilantro, jalapeño and onion in work bowl of processor. Process until very finely chopped. Mix in cider vinegar. Add mayonnaise and process just until combined. Season mayonnaise to taste with salt and pepper. Can be made ahead and refrigerated for future use.

For some reason, I did not take a picture of the completed mayo. But those are all of the herbs in it. Mmmm. It was so complex and tasty. A wonderful compliment to the chicken.

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This was another busy week which included seeing Michael Pollan on Thursday and spending the weekend in Harlan, KY. These were two vastly different experiences and provided an interesting juxtaposition. I’m going to spend a little time talking about both of those events – so if you want to get to the recipe, just skip below a few paragraphs.

Michael Pollan, who has written several books about problems with the industrial food movement in the U.S., spoke at Bellarmine University last Thursday. He advises: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” His lecture was engaging and he talked about the dangers of eating a totally western diet which includes too much processed food and not enough whole grains, fruit, and vegetables. The audience was a mix of college students, a lot of middle-aged adults, and some younger adults too, probably in their mid-20s to mid-30s, including me.  The audience was not very diverse in the terms of race, and if I had to guess, income level. Having the ability and means to afford high-quality, healthful food is not easy, and that is a huge challenge that will have to be addressed before fixing the industrial food movement in this country. I do like Michael Pollan though – and I think his advice is down-to-earth and “doable”. He does not do enough, however, to address food affordability and, as my friend pointed out, the huge employment sector that is industrial food. I don’t know a lot about that topic, but I think it is one that should be addressed and considered.

Then I visited eastern Kentucky.

There are only two employees at the organization where I work who are new to Kentucky and have not traveled extensively around the state. I am one of them. One of my coworkers grew up in Harlan, KY and her parents live in a beautiful cabin in the Appalachian mounts. They invited the office to visit for the weekend. We had a great weekend with beautiful fall weather, and visited a coal mine (Portal 31), and Pine Mountain Settlement School. We saw a reclaimed strip-mining site and talked to a mother and son whose family has lived in the area for generations.

This part of the country is home to some of the poorest counties in the United States and many people are simply worried about getting enough to eat, and not whether that food has more than five ingredients or was sprayed with pesticides. These are issues I struggle  with as I think about food and food policy.

None of this really has to do with the recipes I include in this post. I just wanted to share a bit about what I’ve been up to this week.

So, a couple had my boyfriend and me over for dinner last month and made delicious bison tacos. It was a great meal and I found myself craving the tacos a few weeks later. So I made these. You can substitute other meat for the bison or can use beans too. If you use beans – use about 2 cups of drained canned beans and saute the onion and peppers alone, then add the beans. This is a pretty easy – one-skillet recipe and tastes fresh and bright. The cilantro and lime juice help with this.

And I also included a pretty easy and healthful recipe for refried beans. These are delicious and flavorful. You should try them immediately.

Bison Tacos, adapted from the recipe for “Taco Filling” in Simply in Season by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert

1 lb. ground bison

3/4 c. chopped onion

1/2 c. chopped bell pepper, I used yello

1 chopped carrot

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 T. chopped cilantro

juice of 1/2 lime

1 t. ground cumin

1/2 t. salt

dash of cayenne pepper

In a large saute pan, saute onions, bell pepper, and bison meat until browned.

Add the rest of the ingredients and saute until garlic is cooked. Add a little water if needed so the meat can stew a bit and the flavors can blend.

Serve with taco shells or warmed tortillas and garnishes of your choice, like cheese, guacamole, sour cream, lettuce, salsa, etc. Refried beans make a tasty accompaniment too…

Refried Beans, by Ellie Krieger

1 T. olive oil

1/2 medium onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 t. chili powder

1  15-oz. can pinto beans, preferably low-sodium, drained and rinsed

2/3 cup chicken broth, low-sodium (You could certainly substitute vegetable broth)

Salt and pepper

2 T. chopped cilantro

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and chili powder and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the beans and chicken broth and cook until the beans are warmed through, about 5 minutes.

Mash the beans coarsely with the back of a wooden spoon, adding more chicken broth to moisten, if needed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in the cilantro.

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southwest potatoes

Whew! It has been a busy few weeks. Between traveling to Baltimore for work, going to various concerts, and prepping for my first big work presentation (given today! and I survived to write this blog….), I have fallen behind a bit on keeping up my cooking posts.

There are three kinds of breakfast people. Those who don’t eat breakfast (which I just don’t understand), those who tend toward more savory breakfasts of eggs, bacon, omelets, etc., and those who tend toward sweet breakfasts, like pancakes and french toast. I tend toward savory breakfasts, and my boyfriend tends toward sweet breakfasts. He’s also egg-averse, which I really don’t understand. This recipe, from the Minimalist – yes, Mark Bittman, AGAIN, was my attempt at finding an egg-free savory breakfast that would please myself and my bf. And oh my goodness, it was great. I bought the small white potatoes at the farmers market. They were so flavorful and creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside. These potatoes, combined with melted cheese and black beans made a wonderful Sunday breakfast, and could also suffice as dinner or lunch.

As Mr. Bittman explains in his article, these do take patience. It is important to cook the potatoes slowly in a pan, and not move them around too much. This is key for developing the nice crisp crust.

This method also works for making fried potatoes of any kind. I made some to go with a tandoori chicken sandwich, which I will be posting in the next week or so. I cooked them the same way but added curry powder in the end. Use your imagination, or just make the recipe below and enjoy a savory, egg-free breakfast.

Southwest Potatoes, from The Minimalist

Yields about 4 servings, or more

2 T. olive oil, or more as needed

2 T. minced fresh jalapeño, or more or less

1 c. or more of  corn kernels, fresh or frozen

Salt and black pepper

2 lbs. new potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks, I did not peel my potatoes and they were fine

1/2 to 1 teaspoon chili powder

1 14-oz. can black beans, well drained

1/2 c. or so of grated Cheddar or jack cheese

1/3 c. chopped green onions, for garnish.

Put 1 t. of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add jalapeño and corn, and sprinkle with salt and pepper; let sit for a moment. When corn begins to brown, shake pan to distribute for even browning. Remove corn.

Add remaining oil to pan. When hot, add potatoes.

Cook, undisturbed, until they begin to brown around edges, about 10 minutes.

Continue, at least 15 more minutes, turning potatoes to brown all sides without stirring too often. Add oil if needed to prevent sticking, and lower heat if needed to prevent scorching. When potatoes are tender and golden, add chili powder, corn and beans.

Turn on broiler. Place rack about 4 inches below. Transfer potatoes to a baking dish, sprinkle with cheese and run under broiler until cheese is melted and beginning to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Garnish with green onions.

Eat. Enjoy.

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