Archive for August, 2011


Student-Style Spanish Skillet

Kind of creative, right? At the very least it’s something different (and with a little bit of spice too). With graduate school just beginning, I am looking for easy, tasty (and did I mention cheap? Really cheap) student food to sustain me during the last of this lovely month of August.

I must emphasize that this recipe is easy, super easy, and the only reason I ended up making it was because the exact portions of the spices (as well as a simplified version of the recipe) was sent to me by my wonderful mother who bought these recipe-spice packets in the states and sent them over. I mean, there’s no excuse really and so I thought I’d give it a try. The original recipe calls for chicken but I used turkey breast instead (which was not nearly as complicated to prepare as I thought it would be) simply because the stuff was cheaper by the pound (or kilo, whatever) at the local supermarket. The end result was a meal that was healthy, light, and full of flavor…which is all I really want anyway }:-)

The star ingredient in this recipe was definitely the diced canned tomatoes (again, cheap!) but a close second was paprika. After all, it’s the paprika that gives the dish its smoky, spicy flavorfullness (yeah, I made that word up) but the tomatoes smooth everything out, lending this wonderfully red color and even more wonderful tomato smell; mmmm…savory and sweet, man I love tomatoes!!

Simple Spanish Skillet with Turkey, Tomatoes, and Onion

Ingredients

1 1\2 lbs. turkey breast, cut into 5-6 pieces

3 medium-sized yellow onions, sliced

1 can diced tomatoes (in juice)

1 red bell pepper, seeded & sliced

1\4 cup flour

1\2 cup chicken broth (or 1 chicken bullion cube dissolved in 1\2 cup hot water)

2 Tbs. paprika

1 Tbs. garlic powder

1 Tbs. dried Thyme leaves

1 Tbs. red pepper flakes

olive oil

salt & pepper

(1) Mix all of the flour in a small bowl along with the paprika, garlic powder, thyme leaves, and 1 tsp. salt. Use 2 Tbs. of the flour mixture to lightly dust pieces of turkey breast (2) Heat 1 Tbs. olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet until hot, then add the turkey pieces and cook, turning, until sides are browned, 6-8 minutes. Remove Turkey from the skillet, set aside, and cover to keep warm. (3) Reheat the skillet over medium heat with another tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onions and bell peppers, cooking until soft, about 5 minutes. (4) Next add the canned tomatoes (with all the juice), chicken broth, and the remaining seasoned flour, stirring well with a fork to ensure no lumps form. Bring the mixture to a boil while continuing to stir. Add the red pepper flakes (using more for spice, if desired) then return turkey to the skillet. (5) Lower the heat, cover, and let mixture simmer until turkey is cooked through and the sauce has thickened, 12-15 minutes. Meal is best when served pipin’ hot with a side of citrus (lemon or lime) couscous 🙂

Serves 4

So, my experiments with the Spanish skillet have proven amazingly worthwhile }:-) I’m all about easy these days and it’s a relief to find that good cooking can still be simple, delicious, and inexpensive. I suppose my challenge these days will be to come up with tasty meals I can make within a puny student budget (sounds like a worthy challenge, nevertheless:-) Wish me luck!

My question: What is a simple but tasty student meal that can be assembled with less than 7 ingredients?

I’m in need of good ideas…

8.29.11

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Fluffy, Facile, Fanciful Quiche

As the breeze gets cooler and the weather a bit  more temperamental, I felt encouraged to make a dish that could be served both hot and cold and would supply enough leftovers to last us a couple of days. Quiche is one of my favorite things to make because it’s so easy; and, well…anything with eggs, veggies, and melted cheese is a winner in my book }:-)

Since the most important ingredient in Quiche is the cheese (what a surprise right?), I used generous cups of the grated goodness from a massive block of Leyden cheese which is speckled with cumin seeds and sweetly fragrant. I went for the fanciful choice of veggie ingredients including roasted shallots (and garlic, lots of that), cremini mushrooms, and sweet red peppers. I got the idea to make a ‘crusted’ Quiche when I realized I had half a bag of leftover breadcrumbs (actually, just bruschetta toast that I’d crushed effectively into breadcrumbs); I topped the Quiche with these crumbs and to make a crust across the top which browned as it finished baking in the oven :]

Not only easy in preparation, Quiche is also a very versatile dish. You can make it with whatever cheese and veggies you have  available (just keep the eggs a constant), eat it hot out of the oven or cold from the fridge. You can serve this meal for breakfast, brunch, or lunch (and dinner wouldn’t be pushing it ;-). It’s perfect with a spot (or two) of hot sauce. While the most important ingredient is undoubtedly cheese, I believe the star ingredient in this Quiche was the shallots. A little goes a long way and once they’re roasted, shallots gain a strong, sweet flavor that adds taste and substance to the dish.

Considering how fast the leftovers vanished, I’m considering making different versions of this Quiche that involve some of my more favorite veggie ingredients–cauliflower, tomatoes, jalapenos…leeks–something with flavor and pizzazz! Just a tip for those making Quiche for the first time, remember to cook it only as long as necessary and no longer. When cooked right, the Quiche will be soft and fluffy, but overcooked Quiche will taste thick and rubbery. If I can pull this off properly while converting to Celsius in a tiny European kitchen than I have faith that anyone can 🙂

Crusted Quiche with Roasted Shallots, Sweet Red Peppers, and Mushrooms

Ingredients

8 eggs, beaten

4 large sweet red peppers, chopped

1/2 lb. fresh cremini mushrooms, chopped

6 shallots, chopped

5 cloves of garlic, minced

2 Tbs. dried marjoram (or dried Parsley)

1 1/2 cups milk

3 cups grated Leyden cheese (substitute Cream Havarti or Farmer’s Gouda)

1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs (*you can make breadcrumbs yourself by letting bread harden, like French or Sourdough, and crushing it in a bowl with a can, cup, or rolling-pin until it is made into coarse, little breadcrumbs…🙂

butter

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (or 180 degrees Celsius:-). Melt 1 Tbs. of butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat; add the mushrooms and peppers and let cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 8 minutes. (2) Add another Tbs. of butter to one side of the pan and then all of the shallots and garlic; let them brown on that one side of the frying pan until golden, about 7 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and let cool. (3) In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, milk, and 2 cups of the grated cheese, stirring well and seasoning with pepper (not salt, adding salt to the eggs before they’re cooked will make them rubbery as well). (4) Lightly grease a large oven-proof glass dish (of any size, you can use circles, squares, or in my case, a rectangular dish) and spread the roasted vegetables in an even layer along the bottom; top the veggies with the remaining cup of grated cheese. (5) Pour the egg mixture into the glass dish over the vegetables and let settle a minute; top the Quiche with the breadcrumbs, spreading evenly across the top. (6) Put the Quiche on the bottom rack of the oven and bake 30-35 minutes depending, until the top is slightly browned. You can tell when the Quiche is done cooking by piercing with a fork; if the fork comes out clean (with no moisture on the prongs) then it is done. (7) Let the Quiche cool 5 minutes before cutting into small square pieces. Best served with a spoonful of hot sauce and/or a spot of tea 😉

Serves 6

Just as the weekend arrives and the start of school inches closer, I am relocating to another house with another kitchen, and entirely new ingredients. I am bringing plenty of spices with me, I’ll just have to see what tasty dishes I can concoct in my new surroundings 🙂 Wish me luck!

My question: What are some of the best grated cheeses to use in a Quiche?

There are so many that improve upon afer being melted…like Fontina, Muenster, (and my personal fav) Gruyère….mmmmm…

8.19.11

Vegetable Profusion

In my aspirations of late, I have been craving cold, crunchy flavorful meals that require simple preparation and even simpler ingredients. Summer will be coming to an end (I can’t believe it!) but it’s still warm and sunny outside and all I want to do is barbecue }:]

This salad recipe is a creation of my own that I thought would go well with a grilled entrée. I made this dish for a Saturday night grill fest in which it was served alongside T-bone steaks }:) Admittedly, the recipe itself is a bit hardy, with lots of raw vegetables and plenty of crunch so I’d advise chopping the veggies as small as you’d like to ensure easy chewing 😉 Colder weather is on its way so we’re supposed to be bulking up on our nutrition intake now and that includes Thiamin, beta carotene, Vitamins E and C, all of which are found in bell peppers (leafy green vegetables are a pretty good bet:-)! I used one of each: red, yellow, and green bell peppers although red is technically the most nutritious. Mixing in yogurt smooths the dish considerably and guarantees the peppers (I mean capsicum) aren’t the dominant flavor. You can even roast the peppers before you put them in the salad if you were looking for the ultimate smoothness :-]

The star ingredient of this meal would have to be the salad beans; I used a mix of my favorites: chickpeas, Cannellini beans, and black-eyed peas. Adding beans to a salad of this sort adds substance as well as texture and are lower carbohydrates than pasta or rice (but potatoes would work just as well!). I made this salad in mind of the couple I was eating it with, both on a diet (and really tired of vegetable soup) so I was going for a dish that was healthy, light, and delicious. I think I succeeded…

Creamy Cold Vegetable Salad with Chives, Beans, and Bell Peppers

Ingredients

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 head of broccoli

1 yellow onion, chopped

3 tomatoes, chopped

2 bunches of fresh chives, chopped

1 can chickpeas, drained

2 cans salad beans (black-eyes peas & white beans), drained

3 Tbs. rice vinegar

1 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt

3 gloves of garlic, minced

1/2 cup light sour cream

1 Tbs. smoked paprika

olive oil

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Wash the broccoli and divide into small florets; peel the stems and chop into small pieces. Put it all into a plastic strainer. Heat 1/2 cup of salted water in a large pot until boiling. Put the strainer into the pot and cover, letting the broccoli steam until tender, 5-7 minutes. Set aside to cool. (2) Combine the chopped bell peppers, yellow onion, and tomatoes together in a large bowl. Add all of the beans and chives, mix, and refrigerate until cooled, about 20 minutes. (3) In a small bowl, stir together the Greek yogurt, vinegar, smoked paprika, minced garlic, and sour cream, seasoning with salt and pepper. (4) When the broccoli has cooled, add it to the salad along with the yogurt dressing. If in need of more moisture, remedy with 1 Tbs. of olive oil. Mix the salad well and season with more salt and pepper (mostly pepper). Let chill until ready to serve. Goes well with grilled meat or garlic bread 🙂

Serves 4

So while my last week before school begins (and my summer ends) it is still sunny and I hope to get a lot more cooking done (if not grillin’). My next attempt will be combining vegetables in a warm dish, something that can provide lots of leftovers…

My question: What is one of the more tasteful vegetable ingredients to use in a salad?

8.15.11

An American-Inspired Salad

Okay, so it’s not American by any means but I feel that maybe the best parts of the salad are: bacon, eggs, tomatoes…wait, is this breakfast? Salads have this refreshing effect that pairs well with the humid climate of Summer. While lettuce (Romaine lettuce included) is not one of my favorite ingredients, I understand its necessity in the making of a tasty (maybe even healthy;-) green salad. According to Wikipedia, Romans and Babylonians alike ate their mixed greens tossed with a light dressing ; I believe the people of our age have only improved upon this culinary wisdom (yeah, that’s definitely what I’ll call it) in coming up with all sorts of new salad ingredients and combinations.

For my ‘Amerikanske’ salad I made a creamy vinaigrette with some basic ingredients I had on hand–vinegar, yogurt (and man is the yogurt tasty over here!), mustard, dried herbs, and olive oil. I’ve found that any strange-looking concoction of a dressing like this one can always be improved upon by adding more vinegar (why not?) and lots of whisking, until it has an even, smooth texture. Remember, salad vinaigrette (for the most part anyway) is better served cold so make it ahead of time and chill away 🙂 Any other ready-made dressing would be a good substitute if you haven’t the time to make your own; honey mustard, champagne, or blue cheese dressing would all work wonderfully with this salad.

The star ingredient in this recipe is the sunny-side eggs (but bacon was a close second), simply because eggs add the only warmth in this dish and when topping the salad it makes for pretty presentation. Did I mention eggs are delicious? I don’t usually go for the sunny-side option but I thought it was an original-enough idea to give a try. With a sprinkle of creamy dressing and a cold glass of wine, this dish makes for quite the classy lunch }:-)

Romaine Cucumber Salad with Bacon, Tomatoes, & Sunny-Side Up Eggs

Ingredients

(for the salad)

2 heads of romaine lettuce

1 cucumber, coarsely chopped

1/2 of a white onion, thinly sliced

2 cups grape tomatoes, halved

6 slices of bacon

4 eggs

butter

(for the vinaigrette)

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. white balsamic vinegar (or sub white vinegar)

1/4 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt

1 Tbs. beer

1 tsp. dried Rosemary

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Wash the lettuce well and let dry. Cut off the thick stalks and split the leaves into smaller pieces, putting the lettuce, tomatoes, and chopped cucumber into a large mixing bowl; toss the salad and refrigerate (2) In a large skillet, melt a spoonful of butter over medium-high heat until melted. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, 5-6 minutes. Remove bacon from the skillet and put on a paper-towel lined plate. When cool, chop the bacon into pieces and set aside. (3) To make the vinaigrette, whisk all of the ingredients (olive oil through Dijon mustard) in a small bowl until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and chill in the fridge. (4) Add the sliced onion and crispy bacon to the salad and toss. Distribute the salad evenly among 4 bowls and set aside until ready to serve. (5) Using another spoonful of butter, reheat the skillet over medium heat. When hot, crack each of the eggs into different sides of the pan and turn the heat down to low. Cook eggs until the whites set and the yolk begins to thicken, about 3-4 minutes. (6) Sprinkle a generous spoonful (or two) of the vinaigrette over the salad and top each bowl with a fried egg. Garnish with cracked pepper and serve immediately 🙂

Serves 4

When breakfast meets brunch you have tadaaa–eggs, bacon, & tomato in a salad (I guess we could call it a Cobb salad but it’s technically a little different;-) My next plan is to make a meal with perhaps slightly lower cholesterol }:-(damn you bacon!) but just as many vegetables! We’ll see how that goes…

My question: What are some of the tastier ways to add protein to a salad?

I’d say eggs, but then again there’s grilled meat, nuts, and best of all–cheese…

8.07.11

Summer has finally arrived here it seems and man is it hot (and humid)! Without an A/C in sight 😉 I decided it would be best to make some cold food that could chill in the fridge until it was needed. Pasta salad is still one of my favorite foods and simply I couldn’t resist the urge to make a different version that involved some other ingredients than what I normally use. Using a ready-made white Mornay sauce as a base for the dressing ensured that the salad had a creamy texture and was less likely to dry out in the fridge (luckily that’s still an easy fix; I’d recommend adding a little white wine if in need of some moisture).

I realize I’m a tad obsessed with Dill but the herb is very popular over here and it’s in everything–dressings, schnapps, seafood–they sell it frozen in bags already chopped at the supermarket so it’s very easy to use 🙂 The star ingredient in this recipe was the capers, which are awfully tiny little things but pack a lot of flavor. I always thought capers were seeds or dried fruit like peppercorns, but turns out they’re actually little premature flower buds (even cuter, right? At least tastier) Using some of the caper juice in the vinaigrette adds a briny taste to the salad that I think compliments the sweetness of the sausage and pickled onions. There is a cacophony of sausages made over here so I used mini pork & chicken sausages which were already cooked and brown in minutes.

My advice for anyone replicating this dish, don’t be shy with seasoning; taste as you go (imperative) and adjust accordingly. The pasta should not be overcooked as it absorbs a lot of moisture anyway and the dish may need to be dressed a couple of times if you plan on eating it all week like me 🙂 Adding 1-2 Tbs. more paprika contributes a little spice to the salad and you can substitute any procurable veggies–olives, celery, golden raisins (I know it’s not a veggie but still), chickpeas, corn, peppers, spinach–I’m telling you, the combinations are boundless }:-)

Chilled Pasta Salad with Dill, Chicken Sausage, & Pickled Onions

Ingredients

(for the salad)

1 lb. baby shell pasta (or elbow macaroni)

1 packet of chicken sausage

1 jar of small pickled onions, halved

1 jar of capers, with juice

2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 bunch of fresh Dill, minced (or 4 Tbs. frozen)

(for the vinaigrette)

1 1/2 cups white sauce, Mornay or Béchamel

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 Tbs. cider vinegar

2 Tbs. paprika

1 Tbs. lemon juice

olive oil

seas salt & cracked pepper

(1) Boil the pasta in salted water until cooked al dente; drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Put the pasta in a large bowl and mix with a tsp. of olive oil and a little bit of cracked pepper. (2) In a frying pan, warm some olive oil over medium-high heat and cook the chicken sausages until browned on all sides. Remove from pan and let cool a couple of minutes before cutting the sausages into smaller pieces. (3) Add the tomatoes, pickled onions, capers, and cooked sausage to the pasta, mixing well. (4) To make the vinaigrette, whisk together all ingredients from the white sauce through the lemon juice in a small bowl, adding 1 Tbs. of olive oil and leftover caper juice, stirring until well blended. (5) Stir the vinaigrette into the pasta salad, season with salt & pepper; cover and refrigerate until chilled, 20-30 minutes. Serve cold with thin slices of bread (or even colder beer:-)

Serves 4

I’ve got to deviate away from pasta at some point, lovely carbohydrate as it is, so I’m thinking of making a salad recipe of a greener nature…there’s still a month left of Summer so it would probably be advisable to stick to colder food anyway. Ah, the choices!

My question: What is the best chilled side dish you’ve ever tasted? It doesnt have to be pasta…

8.04.11