Posts Tagged vegetarian recipes

Steak and Sweet Potato Wednesday

After Tuesday night’s meal of kraut and ribs, I felt confident in Wednesday’s glorious eats…. What Shall I Serve by Letta W. Hesse is my guide this week. And, heaven help us, it just keeps getting better.

Wednesday Night Menu

Broiled steak, fried eggplant, sweet potatoes en casserole, cardinal salad, peach crumb pudding with custard sauce, and iced tea

A few initial thoughts: I was really excited about the cardinal salad until I saw that it was made cardinal by beets… beets in lemon gelatin. And, after the horror that was the Golden Salad coupled with my aversion to beets, I nixed that one right off the bat. And, pudding with custard sauce seemed overkill. So, we’re left with steak, fried eggplant, sweet potatoes, and iced tea. (And, letting a few notches out of the old belt.)

Well, you won’t see eggplant because I couldn’t get to the store in time to buy them… alas, we will survive. Stick with me, people!

Broiled Steak

Select sirloin, club or porterhouse steak and have it cut from 1-2″ in thickness. Trim. Rub broiler with fat and arrange steak with thickest part in center of broiler. (Now, hang on a sec… rub broiler with fat? And, potentially cause a grease fire in my oven. No thank you, sir.) Broil under electric grill, gas fire, or live coals without a flame. (I went with my standard gas broiler.)

Place steak close to fire, sear quickly and turn often until rare, medium, or well done according to personal preference. Remove to platter, sprinkle with salt and pepper and (here’s my favorite part) spread with butter.

Results

Obviously, the quality of this recipe depends upon the quality of the one ingredient. The butter! Kidding, this is a dull but get it done way to get your meat cooked.

Hunk o' meat

Sweet Potatoes en Casserole

Boil same as for Candied Sweet Potatoes. (Which basically says peel and boil 6 medium-sized potatoes in slightly salted water for 20 minutes. They also note that it is “easier and all food content will be retained if peeled after cooking.” That’s how I did it.)

Put through ricer, add 2 T butter, ⅓ C milk, 2 T brown sugar, and ¼ t salt. Beat until light. Bake in a buttered dish surrounded by water in oven (350°) for 20 minutes. (I eschewed the water bath and just put it in the oven.)  Cover the top with marshmallows (oh, you didn’t think we were going to get off without a marshmallow topper, did you?) and return to oven until well browned. Serve immediately.

My favorite part of this is the addendum: Crushed pineapple may be added; or alternate layers of apple slices and mashed sweet potatoes also make a pleasing variation. This lady sure loved her pineapple.

Results

Sweet Potato en Casserole

Well, I went for the apple slices in the sweet potatoes. And, yeah it’s a sweet sticky mess. Mr. Moo liked it when he thought that the white goo was milk, but then actually tasted it and did his little, “I’m a weirdo kid that hates sweets” face.

Of course, Paul thought it was the best thing since sliced apples were put into an orange potato. I threw up a little in my mouth. But, I hear that this is a standard recipe at Thanksgiving tables across this fine nation… so, have fun tomorrow!

For future reference, I am also noting that saying things like “en casserole” make your recipe sound fancy even when it’s just in a regular casserole dish. This is what it looked like all spooned onto a plate:

Steak and sweet potato

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Bust Out the Cauliflower

Sometimes I love my veg box delivery and sometimes… well, sometimes, it serves its purpose. I started ordering the veg box because I’m not keen on many of the green leafy ground growers. I thought that if someone came to my door every other week shoving things I hate into my home, I’d be forced by sheer cheapness at having paid this man to shove these offensive bits at me to actually eat veggies.

There have been beets which I have pawned off on my son. There have squashes and other root vegetables that I detest. I have taken all of these in good stride. But, when for the third delivery in a row, I have gotten an entire head of cauliflower, I start getting irked. Yes, you can puree cauliflower and mix it with potatoes. Yes, you can steam them and roast them and put them in pasta dishes. Yes, you can eat them raw dipped in hummus. I know, because I’ve done all of it.

And, now as they often say, for something completely different. Bust out the Indian spices, it’s aloo gobi time. Aloo is potato and gobi is cauliflower. And, that’s really what this dish is… potatoes, cauliflower, and spices. You might it served with peas (ick) or tomatoes (yum). I really do like the sweetness that the tomatoes bring, so here is a recipe I like based on one I found at food.com. (I’ve made some significant changes.)

Aloo Gobi

  • ¼ C vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 t cumin seeds
  • 2 t turmeric
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t chili powder
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, drained of half the juice
  • 1 2″ piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, pressed (I know, I’m crazy, but it doesn’t quite taste the same if it’s all pressed or all chopped.)
  • ¾ large cauliflower, leaves and core removed, cut into large chunks
  • 4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into even pieces
  • 1 t garam masala

Over medium-high heat vegetable oil in a very large saucepan. Add the onion and cumin seeds to the oil. Stir together and cook until onions become translucent (I’d go with 5-10 minutes.)

Add turmeric, salt, and chili powder. Stir for a bit. Then, add the tomatoes with half the liquid from the can. Cook into bubbling happily.

Add ginger and garlic, mixing thoroughly.

Add potatoes and cauliflower to the sauce. Mix gently to make sure that all of the vegetables are covered with the sauce. This is supposed to be a dry dish (so not swimming in sauce), but if it looks like the vegetables are going to stick and scorch the bottom of the pan, add a bit of water.

Reduce heat. Cover and allow to simmer until potatoes are cooked through. (The original recipe said 20 minutes, but I found it was more like 40. The cauliflower can still be a bit crunchy, but no one wants crunchy potatoes.) Check on the liquid level a few times. If it looks like you need more, splash in some water. But, if you’ve added too much liquid from the tomatoes, uncover the pan for the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Add the garam masala and stir. Turn off heat, cover and leave as long as possible before serving.

Results

This recipe makes a ton… enough for eight side dishes or four main dishes. Again, there’s not enough sauce to serve over rice (but it includes potatoes, so I’m not sure you’d need to serve it over rice). And, because of the limited chili powder, this isn’t an overly spicy dish. The original recipe called for 2 t garam masala, but I since it is added at the end, you really taste that flavor first. So, I recommended cutting it back to just 1 t. Or, if you really feel you need it, sauté the spice in a tablespoon of oil before adding to the end product. This will mellow the garam masala and cut down on that cinnamon up front flavor.

Aloo Gobi

Otherwise, put a win in the vegetarian column!

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Real Simple: Week Four

This is the last week of my self-imposed Real Simple challenge. And, thank God for that. This has been probably the worst month of eating I’ve ever had. Seriously. From the bland to the weird, in 20 different recipes, I found maybe two worth making again. Pretty bad ratio. If you’re interested in past weeks, you can read them here:

  • Week One (back when I was eager to try new things)
  • Week Two (then I started to feel a bit irritated)
  • Week Three (the week of starvation

For those of you who love to see me in pain, my last week will not disappoint.

Monday: Tilapia with Pecan Brown Butter

  • 1 C wild and long-grain rice blend
  • 1 lb  green beans, trimmed
  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • ¼ C chopped pecans
  • 2 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 t fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 t canola oil
  • 6-oz tilapia fillets, halved lengthwise

Cook the rice according to the package directions. Steam the green beans until tender, 6-8 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until foamy, 1-2 minutes. Stir in the pecans and cook, stirring, until the butter is golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the parsley, lemon juice, and ¼ t each salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season the tilapia with ½ t salt and ¼ t pepper. In two batches, cook until opaque throughout, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Drizzle the tilapia with the sauce and serve with the rice, green beans, and lemon wedges.

Results

Em said that the best part of this recipe was the rice… which was Uncle Ben’s wild rice from a box. Pecan butter is fun and easy to make, but it just kind of sat on the fish and beans. Honestly, I think a crushed pecan crust over the fish with a pecan butter on the green beans would have been an improvement.

Tilapia with green beans and wild rice

Tuesday: Turkey Cutlet Sandwiches with Oven Fries

  • 3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1½ lbs), cut into ½” wedges
  • 3 T olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • ¼ C mayonnaise
  • 1-2 t hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
  • 1 t sugar
  • ¼ head red cabbage, shredded (about 3 C)
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 4 turkey cutlets (about 1 lb total)
  • 8 slices pumpernickel bread, lightly toasted
  • 4 dill pickles, sliced lengthwise

Heat oven to 450°. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the sweet potatoes with 2 T of the oil and ¼ t each salt and pepper. Roast, tossing once, until browned and crisp, 25-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, hot sauce, and sugar. Add the cabbage and carrot and toss to combine.

Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the turkey with ¼ t each salt and pepper. Cook until cooked through, 2-3 minutes per side. Form sandwiches with the bread, turkey, slaw, and pickles. Serve with the fries.

Results

The weird thing on this was forming the sandwiches with pickles cut lengthwise. I like my spears on the side. But, let’s not stop the weirdness train at the pickles. Let’s talk about this slaw. Or rather the blandness of the turkey with the slaw. Real Simple, would it kill you to maybe marinate or cook the meat in something other than salt and pepper? The slaw also didn’t have enough of anything to really have a flavor. It either needed more vinegar or rather it needed vinegar. Sigh.

Turkey sandwich with slaw

Also, you’ll notice from the picture that I didn’t have pumpernickel bread. I went with rye. Sue me. By this point, I figured the bread choice didn’t really matter much.

Wednesday: Steak with Peppers and Polenta

  • ¾ C instant polenta
  • 2 t olive oil
  • 1½ lbs skirt steak, cut into 4 pieces
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • ¼ C red wine vinegar
  • 2 C baby spinach
  • ⅓ C pitted kalamata olives, halved

Cook the polenta according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the steak with ½ t salt and ¼ t black pepper and cook, 3-5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Add the bell peppers, shallot, and ¼ t each salt and black pepper to the drippings in the skillet. Cook, tossing frequently, until beginning to soften, 3-5 minutes. Add the vinegar and ¼ C water and cook, tossing, until the vegetables are tender and the liquid is almost evaporated, 2-3 minutes. Add the spinach and olives and cook, tossing, until the spinach begins to wilt, 1-2 minutes more.

Serve the steak and vegetables with the polenta.

Results

I didn’t even take a picture of this one. That’s how disgusted I was by the entire thing. Let’s talk about skirt steak. The beauty of this cut of meat is that it’s hugely flavorful but a bit on the tough side. That’s why normal people marinate the heck out of it before cooking it in a pan. Or, they slow cook it at low temperatures in a crock pot or Dutch oven for an afternoon. They DO NOT pan sear it with a bit of salt and pepper. Barely edible, folks at Real Simple. Am I angry? A bit.

As a bonus, polenta should have something in it. Like butter or cheese or an herb. For crying out loud, throw a thyme sprig in that pot. This was a horrid example of a meal. Oh, and let’s not even talk about the olives. You need to get over olives, people.

Thursday: Pork Ramen Soup

  • 1 T canola oil
  • 2 boneless pork chops (½” thick; about ½ lb total) I used that pork tenderloin I had in the freezer from last week.
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 8 scallions, sliced, white and green parts separated
  • 1 2″ piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 6 C low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 3-oz packages ramen noodles (discard the seasoning packets)
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 2 radishes, halved and thinly sliced
  • ½ C fresh cilantro leaves

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the pork with ¼ t each salt and pepper and cook until cooked through, 2-3 minutes per side. Let rest for 5 minutes before thinly slicing.

Add the scallion whites and ginger to the drippings in the Dutch oven. Cook, stirring, until softened, 1-2 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the noodles and boil, stirring occasionally, until tender, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce.

Serve the soup topped with the pork, carrot, radishes, cilantro, and scallion greens.

Results

By gum, this wasn’t bad. (It did not redeem the recipe above… or maybe my expectations are so low at this point… you decide.) I would like to take a few seconds to point out that this past month used a lot of scallions. Go ahead, scroll back and take a look at the scallion numbers. It’s like someone at Real Simple works for the Scallion Board. What do they have against onions? They tend to keep a bit better than their green brethren. (I get it in an Asian-inspired recipe like this though…)

Pork Ramen Soup

Anyway, this one was a decent soup. It needed a bit of garlic and a bit of Sriracha sauce, but other than that… not bad.

Friday: Mushroom and Egg Pizzas

  • 2 T olive oil, plus more for the baking sheets
  • All-purpose flour, for the work surface
  • 1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 1 C marinara sauce
  • 8 oz mozzarella, grated (about 2 C)
  • 4 oz cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • 5 oz mixed greens (about 6 C)
  • 1 T red wine vinegar

Heat oven to 425. Brush 2 large baking sheets with oil. On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into four 8″ rounds and place on the baking sheets.

Dividing evenly, top the rounds with the marinara sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms, and onion; season with ¼ t each salt and pepper. Bake, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, just until the crust begins to brown, 18-20 minutes.

Carefully crack an egg on top of each pizza and return to oven. Bake, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the egg whites are set, 5-7 minutes.

In a large bowl, toss the greens with the vinegar, the 2 T of oil, and ¼ t each salt and pepper. Serve with the pizzas.

Results

So, when you put the egg on the pizza, crack it into a small bowl first. This way, you will avoid shells on your pizza. Next, as you slide the egg out of the bowl on the pizza, press the bowl into the pizza so as to make a well where the egg can sit. If you do not, you will get this mess:

Egg Pizza in the Oven

But, that’s OK because then you can put the fried eggs on top and make a sick looking face.

Egg Pizza Face

This recipe was decent. Mostly due to the processed dough and the jarred marinara sauce. So, it actually had a bit of flavor. Whatever. I’m over Real Simple.

What I Learned

  • Real Simple recipes are good in small doses—like Monday night for the ease of it all.
  • Planning ahead saves money on groceries but forces you to actually cook meals each night.
  • I like flavor in my food.

Next challenge? Oh, I’ve got an old cookbook that has a week-by-week menu planner. Just wait for that one…

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Salad…This Time with Lettuce

Back in the day, I went to Greece and fell in love… madly, deeply in love… with a salad. The original Greek salad. Greek salad made by Greeks was a revelation to me. The simplicity befuddled me. See, growing up in suburban Detroit, Greek salads from the Coney Island were loaded with the dreaded pickled beet. Ick, ugh, poo!

But, Greek salads are really just a handful of ingredients (no lettuce!) with a perfectly tart and tangy dressing. And, I’ve talked about Greek salads here before.

Why delve into them again? Some people (who shall remain nameless) believe a salad needs to have lettuce. Seriously? Lettuce. I found a Greek salad with lettuce in Cook’s Encyclopedia of 30-Minute Cooking. Those of you up on your Greek history will find it hysterical that it’s called Turkish Salad (can’t these guys just get along already? Don’t even get me started on the differences between Greek and Turkish coffees. Whoa, Nelly.)

Turkish Salad

Serves 4

  • 1 romaine lettuce heart
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • ½ cucumber
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 8 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • Black olives, to garnish

For the dressing:

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 3 T lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 T chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 T chopped fresh mint
  • Salt and ground black pepper

Chop the lettuce into bite-size pieces. Seed the peppers, remove the cores, and cut the flesh into thin strips. Chop the cucumber and slice and chop the tomatoes. (Besides the addition of lettuce, this is a main difference between the Greek and Turkish versions. Greek salads have tomato wedges and cucumber discs.) Cut the onion in half, then slice finely.

Place the chopped lettuce, peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, and onion in a large bowl. Sprinkle with feta over the top and toss lightly.

Make the dressing: Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic in a small bowl. Stir in the chopped fresh parsley and mint and season with salt and ground black pepper to taste.

Pour the dressing over the salad, toss lightly and serve at once, garnished with a handful of black olives.

Results

Tastes remarkably like the Greek salad but with more leafy bits. Obviously, this recipe needs to be made with the really good vegetables. But, because they are chopped, if your tomatoes are a bit mealy, then this recipe is a touch more forgiving.

Turkish Salad

And, I suppose I could get used to eating a Greek salad with lettuce. I just need to draw the line at beets.

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Real Simple: Week Three

I’m back with another week of Real Simple delights. Yup, that’s sarcasm. If you don’t believe me, read Week One and Week Two. There were a few dishes worth eating, and one entire meal that I’d probably make again.

But, all in all, another dismal week… only one more to go! This week will also go down as the week of meat mess-ups.

Monday: Lamb Chops with Braised Escarole and Chickpeas

  • 4 T olive oil
  • 1 small head escarole, leaves torn (about 13 C)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • ¼ C dry white wine
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 8 small rib or loin lamb chops (1 inch thick; about 2¾ lbs total)
  • ½ t dried oregano

Heat 2 T of the oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat. Add the escarole, garlic, wine, ½ t salt, and ¼ t pepper and cook, covered, tossing occasionally, until very tender, 8-10 minutes. Add the chickpeas and cook until warmed through, 1-2 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 T of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the lamb with the oregano and ¼ t each salt and pepper. In two batches, cook the lamb, 2-3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Serve with the escarole.

Results

Now, for the first meat mess-up: I asked for eight loin chops, and I received only four. (I was wondering why my package was so light.) But what they lacked in numbers, they made up for in taste. The lamb chops were fabulous. But, it’s not difficult when you’re dealing with meat that costs $17.99 a pound (on sale). High quality meat with a bit of oregano and olive oil is good no matter what you serve with it. But, the braised escarole was a nice accompaniment.

Lamb chops with escarole

So, not exactly what I usually serve on a Monday night, but easy enough. And, even though they run on the pricey side, lambs are small so their ribs and loins are tiny. This meal isn’t going to send your grocery bill over budget.

Tuesday: Pork Tenderloin with Red Cabbage and Applesauce

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 pork tenderloins (about 1½ lbs total)
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • ½ small head red cabbage, thinly sliced (about 6 C)
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • ¼ C chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 C applesauce

Heat oven to 450°. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season the pork with ¼ t each salt and pepper and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, 8-10 minutes.

Add the cabbage and ½ t salt to the skillet with the pork and toss to coat. Transfer to oven and cook until the pork is cooked through, 10-12 minutes. Remove the pork and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Add the vinegar and parsley to the cabbage and toss to combine. Serve with the pork and applesauce.

Results

And, meat mess-up number two: This time it was completely my fault. Apparently, I have yet to learn to read. I bought two pork tenderloins at about a 1½ each. So, now I have a pork tenderloin in my freezer.

Pork loin with cabbage and apple sauce

The pork is just kind of eh. Take a look… white meat cooked with salt and pepper (not even a stray herb like Monday’s recipe). The cabbage is like raw cole slaw. It could have stood to marinate a bit. And, well, applesauce as a side is pretty much what I feed Mr. Moo at lunch. So, that made me feel like I was back in short pants. (I can talk like it’s 1910 if I want to… I’m cranky… I’m practically starving over here after three weeks of this crap.)

And, I’m officially over applesauce and pork. The end.

Wednesday: Spicy Orange Chicken with Cucumber Couscous

  • 1 C couscous
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 4 6-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • ½ English cucumber, chopped
  • ¼ C chopped dried cherries
  • ¼ C chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • ¼ C orange marmalade
  • 2 T fresh orange juice
  • ¼ t crushed red pepper

Cook the couscous according to the package directions. Spread on a plate and let cool.

Meanwhile, heat 1 T of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken with ¼ t each salt and black pepper and cook until cooked through, 6-8 minutes per side.

Transfer the couscous to a medium bowl and gently toss with the cucumber, cherries, parsley, vinegar, 2 T of the remaining oil, and ¼ t each salt and black pepper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the marmalade, orange juice, crushed red pepper, the remaining tablespoon of oil, and ¼ t salt. Serve the chicken with the couscous salad and drizzle with the marmalade sauce.

Results

This shouldn’t be called spicy, but rather sweet… overly sweet. I’m not a fan of marmalade (thank the good Lord that now I have a jar of it in my fridge) so maybe that’s why I wasn’t a fan of this recipe. Mr. Moo loved it. After all, it had his favorite fruit (dried cherries) and his favorite carb (couscous).

Orange chicken with couscous

I’ll skip this one.

Thursday: Shrimp and Pineapple Tacos with Black Bean Salad

  • 1 15.5-ounce can black beans, rinsed
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 T fresh lime juice
  • 4 T olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 lb frozen peeled and deveined large shrimp, thawed (The picture in the magazine had them with tails on… that’s silly… take the tails off for easier eating.)
  • ½ medium pineapple—peeled, cored, and cut into 1½-inch chunks (about 4 C… I just bought a pre-peeled and cored one… a bit more money, but a lot less stressful come dinnertime.)
  • ½ t ground cumin
  • ¼ t cayenne pepper
  • 8 6″ corn tortillas, warmed
  • Cut-up avocado, salsa verde, cilantro, and hot sauce, for serving

Soak 8 small wooden skewers in water for at least 10 minutes. (I have metal skewers. You need to use oven mitts to turn them, but they’re not as wasteful.) Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the beans, scallions, lime juice, 2 T of the oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper.

Heat broiler. Thread the shrimp and pineapple onto the skewers and place on a foil-lined large broiler-proof baking sheet. Rub with the remaining 2 T of oil and season with the cumin, cayenne, ½ t salt, and ¼ t black pepper.

Broil the skewers until the shrimp are opaque throughout, 3-4 minutes per side. Serve with the tortillas, avocado, salsa verde (I only had salsa of the red variety so that’s what we used.), cilantro, and hot sauce and the bean salad.

Results

This was the winner of the week and is definitely on my list of recipes to make again. Corn tortillas are a must as they lend a nice texture to the taco. Fortunately, I live near a Chicago-famous tortilla manufacturer—El Milagro. I typically don’t like to recommend brands, but if you don’t make your own, these guys make a great “homemade” tortilla.

Shrimp and pineapple taco with bean salad

Anyway, the combo of cumin and cayenne with the sweetness of the pineapple under the broiler was pretty darn tasty. Mr. Moo approved of the bean salad, but picked all the scallions out before eating each bean individually.

Friday: Rigatoni with Roasted Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts

  • ¾ lb rigatoni or some other short pasta
  • ½ medium head cauliflower (about 1 lb), cut into florets
  • 8 oz Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (quartered if large)
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into ½” wedges
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 T olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 oz grated pecorino (about ½ C), plus more for serving

Heat oven to 450°. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1 C of the cooking water; drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

Meanwhile, on two large rimmed baking sheets (I was fine with just one half sheet pan.), toss the cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and onion with the thyme, 2 T of the oil, and ½ t each salt and pepper. Roast, tossing the vegetables once and rotating the sheets halfway through, until golden brown and tender, 15-20 minutes.

Add the vegetables, pecorino, ½ C of the reserved cooking water, and the remaining 2 T of oil to the pasta and toss to combine (add more cooking water if the pasta seems dry). Serve sprinkled with additional pecorino.

Results

And, we’re back to bland. Admittedly, I completely forgot the onion… but I’m not sure it would have mattered. There’s no sauce to speak of… just cooking water. Also, as previously noted, roasted cauliflower stinks up the joint. Not a great way to end the week, but I have such low expectations at this point.

Rigatoni with roasted vegetables

I also amended the recipe a bit. I wasn’t sure what two sprigs of thyme would do just hanging out in my roasted veggie mix, so I chopped a bit up AND threw in the two sprigs. Didn’t even really taste the thyme.

Yes, I’m a glutton for punishment. But, next week will be my final week on what has now become known as the Month Real Simple Tortured My Family. Read Week Four of my Real Simple challenge.

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My Baby Loves the Berber

Almost every night, Mr. Moo has been requesting couscous for dinner. I think he likes saying the word couscous over and over again more than the actual dish. Especially, when I overhear him chattering to his toy car, “No, blue car, couscous stop. Couscous go.” Oh, to know what goes on in his wee little brain. But, I imagine a world filled with couscous stop lights and noodle roads. I would love to live on Mr. Moo’s planet.

Well, who am I to deny such a wonderfully imaginative little man? But, I am getting a bit sick of plain couscous. Fortunately, I have the Cook’s Encyclopedia of Vegetarian Cooking which has a perfectly easy recipe that jazzes up my son’s new favorite carb.

Couscous Salad

Serves 4

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 5 scallions, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1½ C vegetable stock
  • 1 C couscous
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • ¼ C chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ C chopped fresh mint
  • 1 fresh green chile, seeded and finely chopped (I used jalapeno.)
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Toasted pine nuts and grated lemon zest, to garnish (I’m usually opposed to the for garnish, but the pine nuts pretty much make this recipe.)
  • Crisp lettuce, to serve (I used a few Romaine leaves.)

Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the scallions and garlic. Stir in the cumin and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and bring to a boil.

Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the couscous, cover the pan and let it stand for 10 minutes, until the couscous has swelled and all the liquid has been absorbed. If you are using instant couscous, follow the package instructions. (I’m a package instructions kind of gal.)

Scrape the couscous into a bowl. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, mint, chile, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. If possible, set aside for up to an hour, to allow the flavors to develop fully.

To serve, line a bowl with lettuce leaves and spoon the couscous salad over the top. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and grated lemon rind over the top, to garnish.

Results

Like I said, super duper on the easy factor. Add a bit of extra veggies or some chicken to make it into a meal. My suggestion is to make a double batch if your child will only eat couscous for dinner.

Couscous Salad

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Real Simple: Week Two

Welcome to week two of horrible eating thanks to Real Simple. Last week, I started their month of recipes. After that first week, I took it as a challenge—to cook five nights a week and to eat what came out of the kitchen unchanged.

I’m not going to mince words… this has been more of a challenge than I thought. The recipes have sounded good on the surface, but have been truly boring once you start to eat them. And, for those of you who don’t like change… good news, this week is more of the same.

Monday: Roasted Salmon, Broccoli, and Potatoes with Miso Sauce

  • 1½ lbs new potatoes (about 15), halved if large
  • 1 bunch broccoli, cut into florets
  • 3 T plus 1 t canola oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 3 T white miso (found in the refrigerated section, near the tofu)
  • 1 T rice vinegar
  • 4 6-oz pieces salmon fillet
  • ¼-½ t crushed red pepper

Heat oven to 425°. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the potatoes and broccoli with 2 T of the oil, ½ t salt, and ¼ t black pepper. Roast, tossing once, until the vegetables are tender, 25-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the miso, vinegar, 1 T of the remaining oil, and 3 T water.

Heat the remaining teaspoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season the salmon with ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper and cook until opaque throughout, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Drizzle with the sauce, sprinkle with the crushed red pepper, and serve with the vegetables.

Results

Roasted Salmon with Potatoes and Broccoli

And, another week of Real Simple starts with an anemic-looking, salt lick of a sauce. A few thoughts:

  1. Make sure your potatoes are pretty small or more than halve them because they have to cook at the same rate as the broccoli. So, make sure your broccoli is cut a bit larger. In the midst of some lovely veggies, I had a few larger under done potatoes and burned broccoli.
  2. Roasted broccoli smells like hot socks.
  3. This is salty, salty, salty… and not in a miso soup sort of way.

Tuesday: Chicken and Rice with Peas

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2½ lbs)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 C long-grain white rice
  • 2 C low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 T fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 C frozen peas
  • ½ C pitted green olives, halved

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with ½ t salt and ¼ t black pepper. In two batches, brown the chicken, 5-7 minutes per side; transfer to a plate.

Add the onion and bell pepper to the drippings in the Dutch oven and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, 3-5 minutes. Add the rice, broth, thyme, and chicken. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, the rice is tender, and most of the liquid is absorbed, 20-25 minutes.

Remove the Dutch oven from heat. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Fold the peas and olives into the rice and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Serve with the chicken.

Results

Oh my good gravy. It was all 1960 up in this recipe. Red pepper, olives, and peas. Seriously? As if we’re just adding crap to rice to make it look pretty without a care in the world as to how it would taste. Awful. Then, the addition of thyme just made the whole thing taste like a muddy mess. Probably the worst idea for rice that I’ve ever had the misfortune to taste.

Chicken with rice and peas

Paul, my sister, AND Mr. Moo all found it a bit disgusting. The leftovers sat in the fridge for quite a bit before I ended up pureeing them for the dog. (I kid you not.)

Wednesday: Red Lentil Curry

  • 3 T canola oil
  • 2 T chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 8 scallions, sliced, white and green parts separated
  • 1T curry powder
  • 4 medium carrots (about 8 oz), chopped
  • 1 large russet potato (about 10 oz), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 C red lentils
  • 4 C low-sodium vegetable broth
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Naan bread and lime wedges, for serving

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, and scallion whites and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the curry powder. Add the carrots, potato, lentils, broth, ¾ t salt, and ¼ t pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and vegetables are tender, 15-20 minutes.

Sprinkle the curry with the scallion greens and serve with the naan and lime wedges.

Results

Finally! A recipe that had some flavor. Too bad it came out looking like this:

Lentil Soup

So, despite my self-imposed challenge to not change the recipe, I found myself giving the soup a few pulses with the immersion blender. After which, it came out with a better consistency for curry with potatoes in it.

Lentil Curry with Naan

Mr. Moo loved it. This was a definite winner in comparison to the others. Having said that, I’ve had better curries… in fact, I’ve made better curries.

Thursday: Beef and Bean Enchiladas with Sautéed Zucchini

  • 2 T canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ lb ground beef
  • 1 15.5-oz can pinto beans, rinsed
  • 2 C grated cheddar (about 8 oz)
  • 2 C enchilada sauce
  • 8 6” corn tortillas
  • 2 medium zucchini (about 1 lb total), thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • Sour cream, salsa, and cilantro, for serving

Heat oven to 400°. Heat 1 T of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add the beef and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until browned, 2-3 minutes. Mix in the beans and 1 C of the cheddar.

Spread 1 cup of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish. Roll up the beef mixture in the tortillas and place the rolls seam-side down in the dish. Top with the remaining cup of enchilada sauce and cup of cheddar. Bake until the cheddar is brown in spots, 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, wipe out the skillet and heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini and ¼ t salt and cook, tossing occasionally, until tender and golden, 8-10 minutes. Top the enchiladas with the sour cream, salsa, and cilantro and serve with the zucchini.

Results

The crux of this recipe is definitely the quality of your enchilada sauce because this is drowning in it. If you don’t make your own, you really need to find a good (read not El Paso or Ortega) enchilada sauce. So, the enchilada filling was just OK… ground beef, pinto beans, and onions. Read no spices inside the filling. Thank you bland middle bit.

Enchiladas

My last complaint about this recipe is the random side dish. If the editors at Real Simple looked back at this recipe thought, “Hmmm… we need a vegetable in there.” Why oh why would they just slap some bland zucchini on the side? It doesn’t really fit with the dish. If they were hell bent on using zucchini, maybe put it inside the enchilada or grill it or do something besides cook it in oil. Blah.

Friday: Ham and Mozzarella Melts with Sautéed Spinach

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 bunches flat-leaf spinach, stems discarded (about 16 C)
  • 2 large ciabatta rolls, split
  • 4 oz sliced deli ham
  • 2 plum tomatoes, sliced
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1 t dried oregano

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ¼ t each salt and pepper, and as much spinach as will fit. Cook, tossing and adding more spinach when there is room, until tender, 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat broiler. Place the rolls split-side up on a foil-lined large broiler-proof baking sheet. Dividing evenly, top with the ham, tomatoes, mozzarella, oregano, and ¼ t each salt and pepper. Broil until the cheese is melted, 2-3 minutes. Serve with the spinach.

Results

Paul loved this one. I had to agree, but I also had to point out that this is really a fancy grilled cheese sandwich. If you’re going to make this recipe and you get ciabatta rolls, you will probably have to cut off the tops a bit so you have a flat surface. I had one go a bit roly-poly on me.

Ham Mozzarella Melts

But, yes, this was a top notch way to end a week of horrors. So, why, you ask do I continue. Because this is really forcing me to save by not ordering out, having leftovers for lunch, and not impulse buying at the store. By the way, the total for this week came in at around $75.

I’d like to ask of Real Simple: Why does your magic formula for salt and pepper seem to be ½ t salt, ¼ t pepper? That seems to be a regular ratio here. Also, what’s with supreme amount of sautée? OK, two down, two more to go… on to next week. Read more at Week Three of the Real Simple experiment.

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