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Posts Tagged ‘cheese’

A basic, simple lasagna satisfies hunger any day of the week but particularly in inclement weather.  It’s very simple if you keep some homemade marinara sauce or bolognese sauce in the freezer.  Then all you  need is a good mixture of cheeses with some herbs bound with and egg or two and some noodles (fresh, dried or no-bake–your choice).  The result is the ultimate comfort meal.  You can add some fresh roasted garlic to a toasted baguette and a salad on the side if you are a big eater.  Any which way, this is a satisfying, economical and pleasing meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  I’m just going by my own experience.  (Wink)

This photo shows the richness of the cheeses:lasagna with bologese sauceAnd this shot shows the meaty bolognese sauce:

lasagna with bolognese sauce 2Two sides of the same piece of lasagna.  Sheer happiness.

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I am still experimenting with Pizza.  Such a versatile medium, right?  So I wanted to create a pizza with some interesting flavors.  I thought about making an Eggplant Parmesan instead but I really didn’t want something that heavy.  Then my thoughts moved to the realm of pizza; lighter and less work.  The end result was this Cheesy pizza crust covered in marinara sauce, topped with grilled eggplant and zucchini, sprinkled with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, finished with pepperoni slices and some ribbons of Parmesan. Red pepper chili flakes on the side. Delicious.

Pizza with Eggplant and Zucchini

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Fig Pizza: Store-bought Boboli* crust (since this was an experiment) with a cover of shaved Parmesan melted on the grill before proceeding, topped with freshly sliced figs, chopped prosciutto, crumbled goat cheese and grilled again before proceeding, then sprinkled with Balsamic vinegar and topped with fresh peppery arugula. Excellent.  Fresh food can hardly be simpler than this.

*Note: I usually make a homemade crust but when experimenting for the first time, I do cut corners with store-bought.  I admit this was good even with the thin crust Boboli though, however, homemade would be preferable.

Fig Pizza

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Halibut is usually so expensive that I substitute cod in recipes that call for halibut since their textures are so similar.  Recently I got a deal on halibut so I snatched it up.  I love the way halibut tastes so I don’t embellish it much.  For this halibut I used a simple butter/lemon sauce flavored with slices of garlic.  After the halibut was grilled, I added a couple of spoonfuls of sauce with a garnish of parsley.

halibut with quinoa stuffed tomato

However, halibut alone is not a dinner so I paired this beautiful fish with a stuffed tomato recipe I found on Cooking Light.  It was a gorgeous large tomato stuffed with a tomato flavored quinoa containing flavorful pieces of roasted poblano peppers, roasted corn, roasted onion, a touch of cumin, lime juice, salt and pepper.  After I stuffed the tomatoes with the quinoa mixture, I topped them off with some Colby-jack cheese.  As much as I love halibut, I must say that the tomato was the better part of the meal.  I hasten to add that they could have been the whole meal.  Vegetarians, take note.

 

 

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Easy as pie!

grilled fresh vegetable pizza

One homemade whole wheat crust, pre-cooked and brushed with a couple of tablespoons of hot chile oil.  Layer coarsely grated mozzarella, provolone and asiago cheeses evenly over the crust.  Before you clean the grater, finely grate some Parmesan for dusting the top as a finishing touch.

Next thinly slice one medium zucchini, break up 3 medium broccoli florets and thinly slice one half of a red onion.  Mix the vegetables in a bowl and spread them evenly over the cheese layer.  Slice 4 green onions into little rounds and set aside to reserve for garnish.     Mince a couple of cloves of garlic and sprinkle them over the top.  Dust the top with Parmesan.

Put the pizza pie back on the grill* until the vegetables brown and the cheeses melt.  Slice into serving sized pieces.

Garnish with the green onions and serve with your favorite beer or wine.

*This works well under a broiler also.  So  if you don’t have a grill or the weather is inclement this is the way to go .

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Last night we served a Grilled Cheese Sandwich Buffet with 3 different grilled sandwich delights.
Grilled Cheese Sandwich Assortment
First was the Jalapeño Cheese grilled cheese with softened cream cheese, roasted jalapeño and mixture of spicy Jack and Sharp Cheddar. The second sandwich was a combination of tart Granny Smith apple, thick sliced Applewood Bacon and Sharp Cheddar Grilled Cheese Sandwich.  Next up was a Green Goddess Cheese Sandwich with an herbed cheese spread comprised of cilantro, Italian parsley, Basil, Tarragon, shallot, lime and some other goodnesses grilled sandwich.

sandwich stack

We used two artisan breads for the sandwiches smeared with a condiments including Dijon mustard, Major Greys Mango Chutney and on the side we offered miniature dill pickles and home-baked crinkle cut potato chips.

For a first course we offered a choice of two soups: tomato basil or chicken with matzo balls. Not one drop of leftover soup at all!

It was a great evening, good food and the finale was a sweet dessert of homemade fro-yo (frozen yogurt) with fresh blueberries, strawberries and raspberries from our farmers market.  And as an added option we offered a selection of Girl Scout Cookies because it’s a personal thing.  I love the cookies and the program.

 

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Recently, a client brought me a recipe from Cooking Light magazine that looked good as far as flavors go.  After following Cooking Light’s recipe exactly, I changed some ingredients to be more to my client’s liking and ended up with a delicious, flavorful and pleasing casserole that was even a wee bit healthier than the Cooking Light version.  Mine also had stronger flavor to make it tastier.

My version began with Cooking Light’s Tortilla Chip Casserole’s basic recipe.  I avoided all the packaged ingredients and spent a little time in the kitchen making my own ingredients from scratch.  After our experience with the original recipe, I adjusted the ingredient amounts and flavors to please their tastes.

The result was a good casserole with low caloric value, lower fat, low sodium and high flavor.  Totally a successful dish that we augmented with a simple spinach salad with some tomatoes, low fat balsamic vinaigrette and chopped vegetables.  For those who aren’t concerned about calories, you could even add ½ cup of corn kernels to this recipe.

Note: If you are taking the “from scratch” route, I recommend that you make your chicken stock, baked chips, roasted pepper and enchilada sauce first or even a day ahead to make this recipe easier.

chicken casserole

Here is my version of Tortilla Chip Casserole

(Serves 6-8 depending on serving sizes):

Ingredients

3 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 full tablespoon minced fresh garlic

2 Tablespoons all-purpose King Arthur flour

1 cup 1% milk

¾ cup homemade, unsalted chicken stock (if using canned, use salt free stock)

1 ½ teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon coriander

¼ teaspoon Kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

4 ounces, reduced fat cream cheese

1 cup reduced sodium black beans, rinsed and drained

4 cups chopped cooked chicken breasts (trimmed of all fat and skin)

4 ounces, homemade baked tortilla chips, crushed  (If you are using store-bought use the baked Tostitos brand chips)

1 freshly roasted bell pepper, chopped (you can used jarred peppers if necessary)

1 ¼ cup sodium free, homemade green chile sauce  (Or substitute low sodium enchilada sauce if necessary)

2 ounces shredded reduced fat cheddar mixed with 2 ounces shredded reduced fat

Monterrey Jack cheese (you can use packaged low fat cheese if necessary)

2 tablespoons chopped jalapeño or more to suit your taste

Garnishes:

¼ cup chopped green onions

¼ cup chopped cilantro

Fresh homemade red salsa (or use jarred if you must)

Preparation

Make your chicken stock, baked chips, roasted pepper, enchilada sauce and salsa and set them aside.  If you are cooking these the day before, cover in air tight, separate containers and refrigerate them all except the baked chips.

Preheat your oven to 350°.

Heat the 3 teaspoons vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion; cook 4-6 minutes depending upon your stove-top.  Add the garlic and flour.  Cook two minutes.

Gradually add the milk and chicken stock, stirring constantly to prevent lumps.  Bring the mixture to a boil.

Remove from the heat and stir in the spices: cumin, oregano, coriander, salt and pepper.  Next, add the jalapeño and stir.  Lastly, add the cream cheese stirring until it melts.

PREPARATION:

In an 11×7 pan, spread ½ cup milk mixture over the bottom of the pan.

Spread the black beans as the next layer.  Add 2 cups chicken.  Add half of the crushed chips.

Top the chips with ½ cup milk mixture.  For the next layer, add 2 cups chicken, the roasted bell pepper and the rest of the chips.  Cover it all with the remaining milk mixture and the green chile sauce.  Sprinkle the top with the cheese mixture.

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until the cheese melts.  Top with chopped onions, chopped cilantro, and a dollop of salsa.

Serve hot with a side salad and ice cold beer.

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We decided to do things differently for our New Year’s Eve party this year. We happily abandoned the elegant, complicated menu we usually serve. As an alternative, we enjoyed a simple yet succulent paprika/garlic roasted chicken with pan juices on a bed of roasted tomatoes and onions complimented by oven roasted sweet potato planks (to ensure a sweet new year) served with an herb and lime yogurt dipping sauce accompanied by a medley of steamed vegetables.

After so much holiday cooking for everyone else, I wanted to enjoy my party. So, while our dinner was in the oven, I prepared some simple appetizers.

We had a selection of cheeses consisting of a tangy special edition white cheddar and a homemade herbed cheese spread served alongside four delightful soft cheeses paired with wines. We paired the nutty Camembert with Chardonnay, the Bleu cheese with a Pinot Noir, the triple crème with Gewürztraminer and the buttery Déjeuner with a white Zinfandel. new year cheese platter

Next, I prepared an appetizer tray that encourages guests to interact. Each guest constructs their own bite-sized cracker beginning with a dollop of cayenne-spiced avocado spread and then topped with a spoonful of Crab seasoned with a hint of tart lime juice and fragrant mint. As our guests move around the table building their appetizers, the conversation warms up. new year crab appetizer platter

new year crab appetizer

The appetizer table rounded out with a fiery hot appetizer that I call a Wonton Cigar. This is one of my favorites. Inside a crisp oven-baked rolled wonton is a ground beef filling sprinkled with minced jalapeño and livened up with oregano, cumin, chili powder and sharp cheddar cheese. It’s served with a room temperature homemade salsa. If the salsa is too cold, it’s not as spicy tasting. We served this with a dark beer.

new year wonton appetizer

Overall, it was a fun evening with good food, great friends and lots of laughter. I wish everyone a sweet, healthy, happy and successful year ahead.

Happy New Year to you all!

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Aside from the bountiful choices of fabulous flavors found in Indian and Southeast Asian cooking, its appealing aspect of extremely healthy food draws me back to it time after time.  In the West Indian state of Gujarat, the emphasis is on vegetables and freshness.

Most Gujaratis are strictly vegetarian and it is from this region that I draw inspiration for some of my gluten-free recipes as well as recipes for overall enjoyment at both small and large gatherings.  The majority of Gujaratis observe a belief that all living beings deserve respect and that taking of any life for personal enjoyment is forbidden.  Hence, it is in this region that I find vegetarian cooking at its perfection.

Saag Paneer, which is simply spinach with an Indian cheese in a flavorful sauce, is one of my favorite dishes.  The flavorings and sauce are considered beneficial medicinally and the spinach is a highly touted vegetable for overall well-being.

My recipe is based on those I enjoyed in India, in Indian restaurants and under the guidance of my culinary mentors.  It’s simple, serves 4-6 diners and reheats well the next day.

Gujarati Saag Paneer

2 lbs. of fresh baby spinach, washed, stems removed

(Substitution: 2 lbs. fresh leaf spinach, washed, stems removed and coarsely chopped.  Do not use frozen spinach.  It is too watery and gives off a metallic taste that will ruin the recipe.)

¼ cup Ghee or melted, unsalted butter

½ lb. cubed Paneer cheese (an Indian semi-soft cheese) or substitute

½ lb. firm tofu or ½ lb. feta cheese that has been rinsed to remove excess salt

1 large onion, chopped

6 garlic cloves, minced

½ inch piece of ginger, minced

Indian Curry Powder, homemade* or store-bought but NOT Asian:

Depending on your preference this amount can vary

from 1 ½ teaspoons to 1 tablespoon.  I use about 1 tablespoon.

1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped (omit if you don’t like heat)

¾ cup buttermilk

¼ cup Greek yogurt (I like Fage)

Salt to taste

Wash and stem the spinach and set aside in a colander to drain.

Assemble the remainder of ingredients near your cooking area.  This will allow you to proceed with ease through the recipe.

Heat the ghee (or butter) in a deep sauté pan over medium high heat.  Add the cubed Paneer and fry while tossing occasionally to brown on all sides.  Be gentle because you do not want to break the cubes.  When the cubes are lightly browned, remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

In the same pan, over medium high heat, sauté the onions, garlic, ginger and jalapeño.  Cook, while stirring, for about 5 minutes or until the onions soften.  Sprinkle the mixture with curry powder and stir to combine.  Within a minute or so, you should be able to smell the spicy aroma.

At this point, slowly add the spinach while stirring and folding to mix with the aromatics.  As soon as the spinach is bright green and softened, turn off the heat (if using electric heat, remove the pan from the burner) and stir in the buttermilk and yogurt.

Mix the sauce and spinach to combine well.  The mixture should be thick and creamy.  If it is too “watery”, add another ¼ cup yogurt.  Now, gently add the Paneer cubes and combine them with the spinach mixture.

This dish can be served as a vegetarian main course with basmati rice and/or any type of flat bread.  It’s also a versatile side dish when combined with a variety of other Indian foods.

*Basic Homemade Mild Curry Powder

Makes about ½ – ¾ cup

½ cup coriander seeds

4 tablespoons cumin seeds

2 tablespoons fennel seeds

2 tablespoons fenugreek seeds

4 dried red chilies (for hotter flavor, add more chilies)

5 curry leaves

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon ground turmeric

¼ teaspoon salt (may omit if observing a low salt or no salt diet)

Dry roast the whole spices (omitting the chili powder, turmeric and salt) in a large pan over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, shaking the pan to keep the spices from burning or sticking.  When the spices darken, you will enjoy a fragrant aroma.  That means you can remove the pan from the heat and allow the spices to cool.

Grind the toasted whole spices in a spice mill, coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle until they become a fine powder.

Combine the ground spices with the chili powder, turmeric and, if using, the salt.  Mix well.  Store in a glass, airtight container.

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Aside from the bountiful choices of fabulous flavors found in Indian and Southeast Asian cooking, its appealing aspect of extremely healthy food draws me back to it time after time.  In the West Indian state of Gujarat, the emphasis is on vegetables and freshness.

Most Gujaratis are strictly vegetarian and it is from this region that I draw inspiration for some of my gluten free recipes as well as recipes for overall enjoyment at both small and large gatherings.  The majority of Gujaratis observe a belief that all living beings deserve respect and that taking of any life for personal enjoyment is forbidden.  Hence, it is in this region that I find vegetarian cooking at its perfection.

Saag Paneer, which is simply spinach with an Indian cheese in a flavorful sauce, is one of my favorite dishes.  The flavorings and sauce are considered beneficial medicinally and the spinach is a highly touted vegetable for overall well being.

My recipe is based on those I enjoyed in India, in Indian restaurants and under the guidance of my culinary mentors.  It’s simple, serves 4-6 diners and reheats well the next day.

Gujarati Saag Paneer

2 lbs. of fresh baby spinach, washed, stems removed

(Substitution: 2 lbs. fresh leaf spinach, washed, stems removed and coarsely chopped.  Do not use frozen spinach.  It is too watery and gives off a metallic taste that will ruin the recipe.)

¼ cup Ghee or melted, unsalted butter

½ lb. cubed Paneer cheese (an Indian semi-soft cheese) or substitute

½ lb. firm tofu or ½ lb. feta cheese that has been rinsed to remove excess salt

1 large onion, chopped

6 garlic cloves, minced

½ inch piece of ginger, minced

Indian Curry Powder, homemade* or store bought but NOT Asian:

Depending on your preference this amount can vary

from 1 ½ teaspoons to 1 tablespoon.  I use about 1 tablespoon.

1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped (omit if you don’t like heat)

¾ cup buttermilk

¼ cup Greek yogurt (I like Fage)

Salt to taste

Wash and stem the spinach and set aside in a colander to drain.

Assemble the remainder of ingredients near your cooking area.  This will allow you to proceed with ease through the recipe.

Heat the ghee (or butter) in a deep sauté pan over medium high heat.  Add the cubed Paneer and fry while tossing occasionally to brown on all sides. Be gentle because you do not want to break the cubes. When the cubes are lightly browned, remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

In the same pan, over medium high heat, sauté the onions, garlic, ginger and jalapeno.  Cook, while stirring, for about 5 minutes or until the onions soften.  Sprinkle the mixture with curry powder and stir to combine.  Within a minute or so, you should be able to smell the spicy aroma.

At this point, slowly add the spinach while stirring and folding to mix with the aromatics.  As soon as the spinach is bright green and softened, turn off the heat (if using electric heat, remove the pan from the burner) and stir in the buttermilk and yogurt.

Mix the sauce and spinach to combine well.  The mixture should be thick and creamy.  If it is too “watery”, add another ¼ cup yogurt.  Now, gently add the Paneer cubes and combine them with the spinach mixture.

This dish can be served as a vegetarian main course with basmati rice and/or any type of flat bread.  It’s also a versatile side dish when combined with a variety of other Indian foods.

*Basic Homemade Mild Curry Powder

Makes about ½ – ¾ cup

½ cup coriander seeds

4 tablespoons cumin seeds

2 tablespoons fennel seeds

2 tablespoons fenugreek seeds

4 dried red chilies (for hotter flavor, add more chilies)

5 curry leaves

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon ground turmeric

¼ teaspoon salt (may omit if observing a low salt or no salt diet)

Dry roast the whole spices (omitting the chili powder, turmeric and salt) in a large pan over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, shaking the pan to keep the spices from burning or sticking.  When the spices darken, you will enjoy a fragrant aroma.  That means you can remove the pan from the heat and allow the spices to cool.

Grind the toasted whole spices in a spice mill, coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle until they become a fine powder.

Combine the ground spices with the chili powder, turmeric and, if using, the salt.  Mix well.  Store in a glass, airtight container.

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