04.30.12_Braised Coconut Spinach and Chickpeas

April went by so fast! With Phillip's parents visiting and his birthday, we had little time for cooking let alone blog posts. Now that it is somehow May (how did this happen?!) things seem to be slowing down a little bit and we've been able to start cooking a bit more again. I had found this recipe for Braised Coconut Spinach and Chickpeas with lemon a couple of weeks ago and added it to our never-ending list of recipes to try. I let Phillip chose what to have for dinner on Monday and he chose this.

The recipe called for:
  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (we left these out for Phillip)
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 dash of red pepper flakes
  • 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 pound baby spinach
  • 14-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Sweet potatoes (2-4 depending on how many people you are serving)

This recipe was served over baked sweet potatoes so to start, we preheated the oven to 400°. We pierced the potatoes with a fork and then popped them in the oven for about an hour. While the potatoes cooked we prepared the topping! Phillip actually helped me with a lot of the prep work for this and I will say his mincing skills have improved drastically! After we had the onion, garlic, ginger, and lemon zest ready, I heated oil in my biggest pot over medium-high heat. I then added the onions and let them sweat for a few minutes. Next, I added the garlic, ginger, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes. This cooked for a few minutes before I tossed in the chickpeas to let them cook a bit and get coated with the mixture.

Then, I started adding the spinach. I am still surprised every time by how much spinach wilts. A lb of fresh spinach looks like a TON but after it all cooks down it is much more manageable. It cook a couple of minutes to get all the spinach into the pot and wilted. I was stirring pretty regularly to make sure the garlic and onion weren't burning on the bottom of the pan. Once the spinach had wilted, I added the coconut milk, fresh lemon juice, and salt. This got brought to a simmer then I lowered the heat and let the mixture simmer for about 10 minutes. Then we were ready to eat. We scooped the spinach chickpea mixture oven the sweat potatoes and I topped them with some cilantro. These were super delicious. We realized after we were eating that this was a vegan dish which was a nice surprise. Serving the mixture over the sweet potato was a great idea and adds nice texture since the spinach and chickpeas don't have much. Definitely try this one out!

04.10.12_Beer and Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

A while back Caitlin had me and Phillip over for dinner. She had made a vegan Mac and Cheese that had butternut squash in it and it was super delicious. In my daily perusing of the food blogs, I came across a recipe for Beer and Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese. It sounded like Caitlin's version, except it had real cheese instead of vegan, and added beer. Sounded like a win win to me. The original recipe used two whole boxes of pasta and seeing as I was only cooking for the two of us, I decided to half the recipe.

After cutting the recipe in half, it called for:
  • 1 box elbow macaroni
  • 1 lb butternut squash (peeled and diced)
  • 1/2 bottle wheat beer
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Pecorino Romano cheese (we subbed a Four Cheese Blend we already had)
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter (I actually omitted this)
  • Pinch of nutmeg (my addition)
  • 1/8 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/8 cup grated parmesan cheese
When we went shopping, Safeway didn't have any whole butternut squash. They did, however, have the already peeled and diced butternut squash. I was really bummed that the store did all the work for me since, as you may recall, I LOVE peeling butternut squash (where's the sarcasm font when you need it?). To start, I cooked the macaroni, then drained and set aside. In the same large pot I cooked the pasta, I added the diced butternut squash, milk, beer, garlic, bay leaf, and S&P. I brought the mixture to a boil, then lowered the heat and simmered for about 25 minutes until the squash was soft. I removed the bay leaf, then used my handy immersion blender to puree the squash until it was nice and smooth. I mixed in the cheeses and the Greek yogurt, grated in some fresh nutmeg, then folded in the macaroni. After it was all combined, I poured the mac and cheese into a baking dish I had sprayed with non-stick spray, then topped with the Parm and panko. Then it was into a 375° oven for 30 minutes.

Thank goodness we split this recipe in half. It made a ton (though I am very happy to have leftovers). As if this recipe weren't easy enough already, I actually had made this in advance and kept it in the fridge. Then when we were ready to eat all I had to do was preheat the oven and pop it in. I ended up turning on the broiler for the last 5 minutes to get it nice and brown on top. The mac and cheese was so good and I could really taste the squash and the beer. I served it with a side salad of mixed greens, dried cranberries, and cashews topped with a homemade lemon vinaigrette and a shaving of Gruyere cheese. Delish.

04.05.12_Coq-au-Vin-Less Coq au Vin

So this recipe does not contain chicken or wine, thus the name Coq-au-Vin-Less Coq au Vin name. However having made the real deal a couple of weeks ago, I see why the blog where I found this recipe still called it Coq au Vin. It had very similar flavors and ingredients, even with the two primary ones obviously missing. However, not having the chicken and the wine (which is often not vegan believe it or not) made it extremely easy to convert to a vegan recipe since Caitlin was coming over for dinner. The recipe called for:
  • 1 eggplant, cubed
  • salt
  • 3 oz tempeh bacon, cut into small strips (we used Lightlife's Smart Bacon)
  • 1 block extra firm tofu, pressed and patted dry, cubed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 10 oz frozen pearl onions (we used fresh)
  • 1 lb cremini mushrooms, minced or food processed into tiny pieces
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • several sprigs fresh thyme
  • several sprigs fresh parsley (I used dried)
  • 8 oz green beans
  • 1 tbsp butter (we omitted for Caitlin)
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 4 cups water
This recipe had a fair amount of prep but luckily Caitlin and I have a long history of cooking together and it was nice to have her in the kitchen with me helping like the good ol' days. One new thing for me was having to buy fresh pearl onions. The recipe called for frozen but after going to both Safeway and Whole Foods and having no luck, I managed to find a bag of fresh ones. I looked up how to peel them online, hoping to find an easy way. All you have to do is bring a pot of water to a boil, drop in the onions and let them cook for about 2 minutes. Then after cooking put them into an ice bath. Finally cut off the root end and the skins come right off. Still a lot more work than buying a frozen box but good to know for the future if you are in dire of need of pearl onions!

Another prep item was the eggplant. Caitlin diced the it while I pressed the tofu. We put the diced eggplant into a colander, salted, and let sit for 20 minutes or so to draw out the excess liquid and to make it less bitter. While the eggplant sat and the tofu was being pressed, we both cleaned the mushrooms. Maybe there is a better way of doing this, but cleaning mushrooms takes forever, especailly when you have a 1lb of cremini to clean. Finally it was time to start cooking. I put some oil into a pan and sauteed the diced tempeh bacon for a few minutes. Next, I added the tofu, seasoned with S&P, then sauteed for another 5-6 minutes. After the tofu started to brown, I added the diced eggplant, the onions, and the mushrooms which I had pulsed in the food processor to a very fine dice (its easier to hide them from Phillip when they are tiny). About 5 minutes after adding the rest of the veggies, I grated in 6 cloves of garlic. This mixture sautes for a total of 15 minutes (10 minutes after you add the garlic).

Finally, I added 2 cups of veggie stock, a cup of tomato sauce, the green beans, 2 bay leaves, a few sprigs of thyme, and the parsley into the pot. Lower the heat so that the sauce is just bubbling. This simmers for a good 20 minutes or so until it has reduced and thickened. We served the Coq-au-Vin-Less Coq au Vin over polenta and Phillip and I topped it off with some grated Parmesan cheese. We were all pleasantly surprised with the flavor of the dish. Our only complaint was that there was a lot of the same texture, which you know is usually an issue for me. Luckily the fresh green beans and the pearl onions provided a nice crunch as needed. This recipe was not difficult but definitely takes a lot of time to get everything ready since you are working with so much fresh produce that needs to be handled before cooked.

04.04.12_Stove-Top Pineapple Enchiladas

My friend McKinsey told me she made dinner for her roommates last week and she had made Chicken and Pineapple enchiladas. I had never really though about pineapple in enchiladas before so I thought it would be a good veggie dish if I just left out the chicken. After deciding to make the enchiladas and buying all the ingredients, I realized that our oven is still not working. While our toaster oven has allowed us to make a quiche and roast asparagus the other night, I do not have a small enough casserole dish to fit. I had to get creative and found a few recipes online for stove-top enchiladas. I ended up combining so many different recipes, using ingredients for some, but techniques form others, that in the end I inadvertently created my own recipe. Here is my newly created recipe!

Stove-Top Pineapple Enchiladas
Servings: 6-8

1 fresh pineapple (or 2 cans)
1/2 a chopped onion
7oz can green chile peppers
1 taco seasoning package
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups (1 lb container) cottage cheese
8 flour tortillas
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
14 oz red enchilada sauce
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper

1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and green chile peppers and saute until soft, then add taco seasoning packet. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. Prepare pineapple by removing the skin and removing the core. Dice pineapple into small pieces.  If you use canned pineapple, I would recommend running your knife through the cubes to make them smaller.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine pineapple, 2 cups of cottage cheese, 1/2 cup of sour cream, 2 cups of Monterey Jack cheese, salt and pepper.
4. Stir 1 1/4 cup enchilada sauce and the pepper and onions into the cheese/pineapple mixture.
5. Spray a large skillet (with a lid) or a sauce pan with nonstick cooking spray and begin to assemble your enchiladas. Place one flour tortilla at the bottom of the pan, put a generous amount (about a cup) of the filling onto the tortilla, then repeat until you have 3 layers of filling and topped the stack with a fourth flour tortilla.
6. Pour 1/4 cup of enchilada sauce over the top then cover and cook over low heat for 10-12 minutes (until the enchilada is warm all the way threw). 
7. Repeat the steps 5 and 6 to make a second enchilada or use another pan/pot to cook them at the same time. 
8. Let the enchilada rest for a few minutes before cutting and serving!

If you wanted to get fancy you could separate out the layers by doing cheese on one layer, then the onions and sauce on another level, but I just figured it was all going to get eaten at the same time and decided to mix it all together. The enchiladas may not have been the prettiest things I've ever cooked but definitely the most resourceful and they sure were tasty. I really liked the sweet pineapple with the spicy chiles. I would definitely recommend doing this in a deep sided skillet rather than a pot. I made the second round in a sauce pot to save time, and while it was definitely entertaining to watch me stack up enchiladas in a pot, getting them out was....tricky. But, it's good to know that even without an oven, you can make delicious enchiladas!