Monday, August 29, 2016
Andrew and I have become suburban farmers. We planted some vegetables this summer hoping to turn our not-so-green thumbs around, and low and behold, we have zucchini and squash growing! We've already enjoyed a homegrown stir-fry dinner, so in an effort to find other creative ways to use up our bounty, I opted for this zucchini and onion crescent pie the other night. It had to be good; it won the Pillsbury Bake-Off in 1980!
Crust me, you're going to like this. ;)
What’s especially fun about this recipe is how interchangeable it is. Short on zucchini, but you have mushrooms and eggplant? Or broccoli? Or bok choy? Go ahead and swap the veggies out, still cooking them before adding them to the filling. It’s a very forgiving recipe; it can handle it.
The herbs called for give this pie an Italian flavor, but you can also have fun varying the seasonings, adding in cumin and chili powder, or rosemary, perhaps. It’ll all be delicious! I bet taco seasoning would be good. And onion soup mix, too! Maybe even ground beef or sausage. Each time you make this and adjust the ingredients, it will become an entirely new creation and never get boring.
Before I leave you to your cooking, I just have to comment on an interesting step in the recipe that I hadn’t seen before. It asks you to spread yellow mustard on top of the crust before you fill it. When I first read this, I thought, “How odd!” Although I never questioned it or hesitated for a second. The result when you take your first bite is enhanced flavor and in particular, a next-level savoriness. And apparently not all spell checks think savoriness is a word, but I assure you it is; it must be. It’s exactly what I need to describe the use of mustard.
So head to Trader Joe’s to purchase a tube of crescent rolls, or visit any major grocery store for Pillsbury’s version of the dough. You’re well on your way to pie for dinner.
And wish us luck in our suburban farming endeavors. We’re currently attacking our cucumber leaf mildew problem with a vengeance. We must emerge victorious. I want homegrown cucumbers!
Zucchini and Onion or Any-Vegetable-Combination-You-Want Crescent Pie
Adapted from a recipe by Millicent Nathan of Boca Raton, Florida, on the Pillsbury Bake-Off website
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
4 cups zucchini, thinly sliced (or any other vegetable of your choice!)
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 large eggs
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese (cheddar or muenster or jack or some combination would all work fine!)
1 can (8 ounces) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls (Pillsbury brand or Trader Joe's)
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large skillet, heat the butter or oil over medium-high heat. Stir in the zucchini and onions, and any other veggies you've selected. Cook 15 minutes until the veggies are tender and starting to brown. Stir in the parsley, salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil, and oregano. Remove from the heat and allow to cool briefly.
In a large bowl, add the eggs and beat well. Stir in the shredded cheese. Gently stir in the cooked vegetables, taking care not to break the vegetables. Set aside.
Now prepare your baking dish. Choose either a 9 or 10-inch glass pie plate, a 12x8-inch (2-quart) glass baking dish, or an 11-inch quiche pan. I recommend using a glass dish because it's easier to see when the crust is fully cooked. Open the tube of crescent rolls and separate the dough at the perforation marks into 8 triangles. Press these pieces into the baking dish so that the entire bottom and sides are covered. Seal the edges together so there are no holes for the filling to leak through. Using the back of a spoon, spread the yellow mustard all over the bottom and sides of the crust. Pour the egg-cheese-veggie mixture into the baking dish.
Bake, uncovered, for 18 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover loosely with foil to protect the crust, then return to the oven to continue baking for another 10-12 minutes. Insert a knife or cake tester into the center and if it comes out clean, the pie is done. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.
Step-by-Step in Pictures
Saute the veggies and then add in the herbs. Set aside...
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and then add in the cheese...
Add in the veggies, then set aside...
Press the dough into your pie dish, sealing all the seams...
Spread mustard over the bottom and sides of the crust...
Pour the filling over the crust and spread it around so it's evenly distributed...
Bake at 375 degrees F for 18 min uncovered, then cover and bake another 10 minutes...
Sunday, August 7, 2016
I'm a brunch fanatic. I love everything about getting up on a Sunday and taking my time with an assortment of breakfast treats. A combination of hot and cold food items, some sweet, some savory, all delicious. This is the way to my heart. Turns out I have a dessert tube and a brunch tube in addition to the normal anatomy. And hey, I always justify pigging out a little extra at brunch because it's a combo meal, taking care of both breakfast and lunch all in one sitting. I won't eat again till dinner, save an afternoon snack, so I deserve to have streusel coffee cake alongside eggs and potatoes.
In my dream brunch scenario, there's an egg dish, a baked good of some sort, hot coffee (greasy spoon quality definitely suffices!), and crispy hash browns. Pancakes or French toast are also always welcome. As are a bowl of fresh fruit, a glass of orange juice, a bagel with lox and cream cheese, and waffles. I think this brunch is quickly turning into a smorgasbord!
To fill the hash brown requirement of my unicorn brunch, my mom makes a yummy casserole of frozen shredded potatoes, cheddar cheese, onion, cream of celery soup, and sour cream, plus a heavenly topping of French's fried onions for the ultimate salty, crispy factor. I love this casserole.
It takes just a few minutes to mix the ingredients together, and then it bakes in the oven for more than an hour while you prep the rest of the meal and set the table. When you bite into the casserole, it's cheesy and crunchy and oniony and perfect. And it makes a lot! One recipe fills a 9x13-inch glass baking dish to the brim and serves a village, or 8 happy campers easily.
Hash Brown Brunch Casserole
Recipe from my mom Joyce in our family cookbook
1 (2-lb.) package frozen hash brown potatoes, unthawed
1 (10 3/4-oz.) can cream of celery soup, undiluted
3 cups (approx. 12 oz.) grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 (6-oz.) can French's fried onions (Trader Joe's sells their own version of this during the holiday season)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x13-inch glass baking dish.
Combine the hash browns, cream of celery soup, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and chopped onion in a large bowl. Stir to combine and break apart any large chunks of frozen potato. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and gently press across the top to spread the mixture to the corners and fill in any gaps.
Bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, until the top is slightly golden. Take the dish out of the oven and sprinkle the fried onions evenly over the top. Return to the oven and bake for 5-10 minutes more, until the fried onions are golden brown. Serve warm.
Note: I sauteed about a cup of sliced button mushrooms and stirred them into the mixture before baking. I'm sure you could also add bell pepper or another veggie! Or even sausage.
Step-by-Step in Pictures
Stir the first five ingredients together in a large bowl...
Press the filling into a greased baking dish and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes...
Then sprinkle fried onions on top and bake another 5 minutes...
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
What do you get when you cross Indian food with Italian food? No, this is not the lead up to a joke's punchline. You get something utterly delicious that I've now made multiple times and can't live without! Really! I keep craving it. It's sooooo good and so easy to make! Saag Paneer Lasagna.
"Mamma mia masala!"
What I discovered through making this dish is that lasagna, at least to me, is more of a process, a template, than a very specific thing. You can easily replace the marinara sauce with another sauce, the veggies with other veggies, the protein with other protein, and so on. And that's basically what this recipe is. Trader Joe's sells a delicious Indian Masala Simmer Sauce that makes a perfect substitute for Italian lasagna's traditional marinara. And instead of ground beef, zucchini, onion, and other veggies you might find in Italian lasagna, go for spinach and peas that pair well with the Indian sauce. That's all there really is to it! Because the ingredients don't require much prep (Ha! You do have to open the jar of Masala Simmer Sauce....the horror!), the whole dish comes together in minutes. And it's fun to assemble the layers! Do it with your kids! Your spouse! Your cat! No, not your cat.
The epiphany that lasagna is no more than a template recently drove me to experiment with enchilada sauce. And it worked. Of course it worked! I will be sharing my cross between Italian food and Mexican food soon. Chicken Enchilada Lasagnas are a-comin'. But for now, go forth and make Saag Paneer Lasagna and see what all the hype (that I manufactured) is about.
Saag Paneer Lasagna
Adapted from a recipe by Deana Gunn and Wona Miniati in the Cooking With All Things Trader Joe's Cookbook
1 (16-ounce) box dry "no boil" lasagna noodles
2 (15-ounce) jars Masala Simmer Sauce from Trader Joe's, or 30 ounces other tomato-based sauce with Indian spices
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen chopped spinach
1 cup frozen peas, thawed, or canned peas, drained
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese (fat free or low fat work just fine)
1 (16-ounce) bag shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degree. Spray or grease a 9x13" baking dish, preferably one with tall sides. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the Masala Simmer Sauce across the bottom of the dish with the back of a spoon. Place a single layer of the lasagna noodles on top (maybe 3 or 4 sheets). Set aside.
To make the filling sauce, start by thawing the spinach. Place the spinach in a fine mesh strainer (most pasta colanders seem to be problematic for me because their holes are too large and the spinach will fall through). Run cool water over the spinach and then squeeze dry. Get as much excess water out as possible so you don't make a watery sauce!
In a medium bowl, combine the thawed spinach, peas, and remaining Masala Simmer Sauce. Stir to break up the clumps of spinach and make sure everything is incorporated evenly.
To assemble the lasagna, start by layering 1/4 of the spinach sauce mixture over the pasta sheets in the baking dish. Then dollop 1/3 of the ricotta cheese over the sauce, using a spoon and an offset spatula to gently spread the ricotta around. Top with another single layer of pasta sheets. Press down against the sheets with your hands to push the layers together more tightly. Repeat the layering process two more times. Finally, spread the last 1/4 of the spinach sauce mixture on the pasta sheets and sprinkle the top with mozzarella.
Cover with foil, creating a bit of a tent or arch over the top so that as the cheese melts, it doesn't stick to the foil. Bake for 25 minutes and then remove the foil and return the dish to the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes longer, until the cheese is golden and bubbly. Enjoy!
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
For as often as I bake, it's kind of surprising how rarely I make biscuits. But they are so easy and so delicious! It's highly likely that I'll have all the ingredients in my pantry ready to go, so I don't even have to make a stop at the grocery store. I should do this more often.
These are really yummy, almost like savory scones. If you want, experiment with different kinds of shredded cheese. I bet pepper jack or smoked gouda would be delicious, too! Just try not to eat the entire batch in one sitting. The biscuits would go great with a Mexican casserole or, for a lighter meal, a bowl of soup or salad of mixed greens.
So as things go around here, when I make a cheese-filled baked good, it pairs well with a cheesy limerick and I have no self-restraint. Sorry, I'm not sorry.
Cheesy Cheddar Biscuit Limerick
There once was a biscuit of cheddar
Promising to make dinner better
With just the right spice
The crumb was so nice
It justified this cheesy love letter.
Cheesy Cheddar Biscuits
Adapted from a recipe in a Penzeys spice catalog
Makes approximately 12 biscuits
2 cups cake flour or all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or smoked Spanish-style paprika, to taste (optional)
1/2 -3/4 cup milk, divided
5 tablespoons butter
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.
In a measuring glass or small bowl, beat 1/2 cup of the milk with the egg. Set aside.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cayenne/paprika. Use a pastry blender or fork to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs the size of peas. You can break apart any stubborn large pieces with your fingers. Add the grated cheese and most of the egg/milk mixture, reserving just 1 tablespoon of the egg/milk mixture to brush on top of the biscuits. Blend with a fork and then use your fingers to finish. Only mix until combined and not a moment longer. Overmixing results in dense, tough, hard-as-a-brick biscuits! If necessary, add the remaining milk a teaspoon at a time until the dough comes together.
On a floured work surface, roll the dough out to about 1 inch thick. You can also just pat it down if you don't have a rolling pin. Use a small biscuit cutter to cut out circles and place them on an ungreased baking sheet (or you can use parchment paper or a silicone baking mat). Push the scraps of dough back together, re-roll the dough, and cut out more circles until you've used up all of the dough.
Brush the tops of the biscuits with the reserved tablespoon of egg/milk mixture. Bake for about 10 minutes, until light brown and puffed up. Serve warm or at room temperature.
If you are eating these as leftovers the next day, they taste amazing reheated in the toaster oven!
Monday, January 13, 2014
To all my fellow corn dogs, have I got a great recipe for you! Corn Dog Muffins! Who doesn't love corn dogs? They're so familiar, so homey, so nostalgic. And these days, you can buy vegetarian and even vegan corn dogs in mainstream grocery stores. They're a popular food item!
I was browsing Pinterest one afternoon and saw someone pin a recipe for Corn Dog Muffins. I couldn't believe my eyes. It combined a food I love (corn dogs!) with a shape I love (muffins!). And in particular, mini muffins.
If you ask my family, they'll all tell you that I make everything tiny. I prefer making my cookies bite-size, cutting my brownies and blondies into tiny morsels, shaping bread rolls into small rolls, and using a mini muffin pan for everything from mini muffins (duh) to mini quiches, mini appetizers, and mini cheesecakes. I don't know if it's that I like to be able to eat the whole thing in one bite, or if I think mini just looks cuter, or if I feel like I can justify eating the whole thing because it's a smaller portion size (which doesn't really work in the end because I end up eating more than one), but whatever the reason, I'm obsessed with mini treats. The idea of reshaping a corn dog into a mini muffin is, therefore, pure brilliance.
It just so happened that we had a bunch of leftover uncooked hot dogs in the fridge from a recent barbeque. We had purchased a gigantic package from Costco and figured we'd find a way to use up whatever wasn't eaten that day. Well, turned out we had so many leftover hot dogs after the barbeque that we would be eating hot dogs for a long time if we didn't find a recipe or two that involved them. So, we not only made corn dog muffins, but another hot dog-themed dish that I hope to blog about soon! And we even tossed leftover hot dog slices into some quinoa one night. Sounds weird, but made for a great dinner! Good thing I really like hot dogs.
If you don't feel like making the batter from scratch, I bet a corn bread or corn muffin mix would work just fine, and follow the instructions for placing a hot dog slice on each muffin cupful of batter. And if you are vegetarian, or you keep kosher, use fake meat hot dogs (since the corn bread batter calls for buttermilk). This recipe made a LOT of mini muffins...far too many to eat in one sitting without a tummy ache. So we enjoyed them for a few more days to go along with lunch or dinner. To serve warm and re-crisp them (which is definitely the way to go), simply place the muffins in the toaster oven on a foil-lined tray for a few minutes. Works like a charm!
This is for all you kids out there. And by kids, I mean everyone.
Corn Dog Muffins
Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Makes 36-48 mini muffins or 12-18 standard muffins
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, melted and cooled
1 cup yellow or white cornmeal (I used white!)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature (I used Saco Buttermilk Powder)
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature (I used nonfat milk powder and it worked great!)
4-6 hot dogs, sliced (see note in recipe instructions below for size of slice)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. In a separate, medium size bowl, combine buttermilk, milk, and egg. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir with a whisk until incorporated. Add the melted shortening to the batter and stir until the batter is smooth. Be sure the shortening has cooled off first or it will clump up into solid bits from attempting to mix with colder ingredients.
Grease or spray muffin pans. If using mini muffin pans, you'll probably need two pans of 24 cups each. If using standard muffin pans, you'll probably only need 1 pan of 12 cups. I made mini-sized. Fill each muffin cup a little more than half full. Drop one piece of hot dog in the center of each muffin cup. (For mini muffins, cut up the hot dogs into about 1/4-1/2-inch rounds and you'll probably only need 4 or 5 hot dogs; if using standard muffin pans, cut hot dogs into 1-inch slices and you might need all 6 hot dogs ).
Bake the muffins until the cornbread looks done and slightly golden on top, about 11-15 minutes. You want that crispy outside edge so it resembles a corn dog! Remove from the pan and serve warm with ketchup and mustard!
Step-by-Step in Pictures
Combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Set aside.
Whisk the egg...
Add the buttermilk and milk to the egg, then add this wet mixture to the dry ingredients, then stir in the melted shortening...
Fill each greased muffin cup a little more than half full...
Chop up the hot dogs...
Carefully place a hot dog piece into the center of each muffin cup. Bake at 425 degrees F for 11-15 minutes, until golden...
Remove from the pan and allow to cool on a wire rack for a few minutes...
Dunk the corn dog muffin in ketchup and enjoy!
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Ever heard of spoon bread? It's a casserole that's light and fluffy and airy, similar to a souffle or bread pudding. The word "bread" in the name is a bit misleading since it really doesn't resemble bread to me. But then again, bread pudding doesn't really resemble bread to me either. So maybe there's a second meaning to "bread" we all should learn? You certainly can eat spoon bread with a spoon since it's soft and scoopable. A fork would do well, too. But fork bread doesn't have quite the same ring to it. Ahh, such profound thoughts...
Anyways, this is a really fun recipe because it uses a polenta log in an all new (at least...new to me!) way! Rather than slicing the log up and pan-frying or grilling the slices, blend them up in the food processor to create a filling! The dish also makes great leftovers, so you could make it on a Sunday night and have it all week during your busy schedule. It's also a great base for modifying. If you feel like adding steamed cauliflower, or other types of cheese, or some peas, or even some chopped turkey, there are so many options! Go through your pantry and fridge and use up whatever you have lying around. This spoon bread can handle it!
And with a hefty helping of cheese and creamed corn in the recipe, there's no denying, this is one cheesy, corny casserole.
So I'll leave you with some cheesy, corny words in the form of the worst limerick of all time:
There once was a delicious spoon bread
Full of cheese, corn, and broccoli heads.
Though bread's in the name,
Souffle's more the game.
So don't blame me if you feel misled.
Literally Cheesy, Literally Corny Broccoli Polenta Spoon Bread
Recipe adapted from the Changing a Life blog, originally published in The One Pot Cookbook
16 ounce tube polenta, cut into chunks (Trader Joe's sells this!)
2 tablespoons water
12 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) broccoli florets, steamed (make sure to cut up any really large florets)
8 1/2 ounces creamed corn
1/2 cup milk (nonfat or 1% work great)
4 slices Swiss or Jack cheese, torn into small pieces (or you can use shredded cheese)
1/4 cup flour
2 large egg yolks (reserve the whites...see next ingredient)
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease or spray a casserole dish. Set aside.
Place the polenta chunks and the water into a food processor and pulse several times until the polenta has broken down and the mixture is smooth. Should take about 15 seconds.
Transfer the polenta mixture to a large mixing bowl and add in the broccoli, creamed corn, milk, cheese, flour, and egg yolks. Stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Test with the back of a spoon to make sure you've reached soft peaks. Carefully stir 1/4 of these beaten egg whites into the polenta mixture. Now gently fold in the remaining egg whites until just combined. Do not overmix and do not stir in circles because you'll deflate the egg whites!
Gently scrape the batter into the greased casserole dish and bake for 45-50 minutes, until slightly puffed up and golden brown on top. Serve warm.
Step-by-Step in Pictures
Whip up the egg whites...
Start by folding just 1/4 of the egg whites into the polenta mixture...
Add the rest of the egg whites and gently fold until the batter is well combined...
Spread into a greased baking dish...
Bake at 400 degrees F for 45-50 minutes...