Corn and Rice Stuffed Peppers

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Let this be known as the summer that I went corn crazy.

I have always loved fresh corn off the cob, but the corn here in the midwest tastes so much fresher and sweeter than my corn from Texas that I can’t help but make dinner after dinner with corn. Originally, these stuffed peppers came out of necessity when I was cleaning out the fridge and pantry before we moved here, and they turned out to be better than I even expected and have been repeated multiple times.

These area  great vegetarian main dish for dinner, and serve as great leftovers for lunch the next day. And they keep my cravings for corn temporarily at bay. So this dish is a winner all around.

CORN AND RICE STUFFED PEPPERS

INGREDIENTS

4-5 poblano peppers
Salt and pepper
1 cup dried brown rice
1 tablespoon butter
4 green onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 ears of corn
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup and 3 tablespoons grated parmesan

DIRECTIONS

Heat grill to medium-high heat. Place poblano peppers on grill and cook until blackened and charred, about 4-5 minutes per side. Place poblanos immediately into a ziploc bag and seal. Let sit for 20-30 minutes. Remove peppers and peel skin off. Make a cut into on side of the pepper length wise. Remove seeds and membranes. Set aside.

Preheat broiler.

Cook rice according to instructions. Heat butter in a large skillet. Sauté green onions and garlic over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in rice and corn. Stir in 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper. Spoon filling into peppers. Place in baking pan.

Stir bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top and brush with olive oil. Put into oven for 5 minutes (watch carefully so it does not burn).

Recipe from Cinnamon Freud.

Lemon Couscous with Avocado, Currants, and Almonds

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Earlier this semester I had a food challenge to meet: I needed a quiet dinner food.

Once a week I have a night class that is during and far past dinner, and the professor’s one request is that we bring in quiet food as to not disturb our classmates as we ate.  The first few classes I brought in salads, figuring there would be a little crunch, but I had cut my food into small pieces and used soft toppings- and my lettuce was often old and limp so quieter than it could have been.

Well, salad was deemed a little bit too loud, so I went back to the drawing board.  I sat down and took a moment to ponder: “what foods are quiet foods?”.  After some deep reflection, it came to me: avocado. Avocado: the ultimate quiet, delicious, and filling food.  Thus, this salad was born out of a desperation for solitude and has been eaten once a week during class ever since.

Although I often leave the almonds off because of the crunch factor.

LEMON COUSCOUS WITH AVOCADO, CURRANTS, AND ALMONDS
Adapted from Erin’s Food Files

INGREDIENTS

1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup currants
1/3 cup warm water
1 cup dried couscous
1 teaspoon aloppa pepper (or cumin as alternative spice)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
4 small avocados, diced
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

DIRECTIONS

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add butter and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium to medium low heat until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, soak currants in the water. Pour currants and water with onions and cook until liquid is evaporated. Set onion mixture aside.

Cook couscous according instructions. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in onion mixture, aloppa pepper, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Cook for an additional 1-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in avocado (salt avocado if needed).

Serves 3-4.

Egg Curry with Lentils

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Eggs really are a wonderful food.

I love to cook eggs many ways: scrambled, over easy, poached, and hard boiled to name a few. While I love a good runny yolk when I make eggs over easy or poached, when I am scrambling or hard boiled I love them well done.  I like to cook my eggs to death, and I love them that way. I like my scrambled eggs as dry as the dessert even though it is a serious violation of the foodie laws (which formally decree henceforth that scrambled eggs should be soft and runny- Ugh, nope).

Same for my hard boiled eggs- no soft boiled eggs for me here. I have loved hard boiled eggs since first trying them in my mom’s Spam salad (no shame). When I was younger, I used to eat around the yolks, just some salt on the hard boiled egg whites for me, but now I appreciate the richness of a good yolk.

This egg dish is a great dish for people who are looking to continue to eat healthy in the new year. The spicy curry and deep complex flavor of spices works really well with a creamy hard boiled egg.

EGG CURRY WITH LENTILS
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

4 eggs
2-3 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt, to taste
1-3 teaspoons curry powder, to taste
1 cup dried green lentils
2 1/2 cup vegetables stock
3-4 cups grape tomatoes, chopped
Extra vegetables, as desired*
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
Juice of one lemon
Cilantro, for topping

DIRECTIONS

Place eggs in a large saucepan. Cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover with lid and remove from heat. Let eggs sit in water for 20 minutes (or however long you normally do based on personal preferences). Let cool slightly, peel, and slice. Set aside.

In a saucepan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onions and cook until softened and translucent, 6-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook until golden brown and fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add cumin, paprika, turmeric, salt, and curry power. Toast 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Stir in lentils,vegetable stock, and tomatoes.

Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Cook until the vegetable stock is mostly evaporated. Stir in any additional vegetables and cook*. Stir in Greek yogurt and place hard boiled eggs on top. Spoon any remaining sauce on top of the eggs and cook for 3-5 minutes. Serve with freshly squeezed lemon juice and cilantro on top.

Serves 3-4

*I used cauliflower, which I like with more bite, so I added with the tomato and vegetable stock.  You can also add other vegetables when you are cooking the onions before you add the garlic (adjust olive oil as needed when adding more vegetables)

Cheddar Broccoli Rice Casserole

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I know it’s been a be quiet round these parts recently.  I have been trying to get back into cooking more, and I have actually been cooking dinner much more often.  But sometimes the recipes are only okay, sometimes the photos are not my favorite, and sometimes I just forget. It’s not you, it’s me.  I am hoping to get back into the swing of things more.  Lots has been going on around here though- I have officially gotten my Masters degree (and thus will now only respond to “Master Karen”), went on a vacation to San Antonio with my boyfriend, and am gearing up.  So lots of school but no cooking- something which I hope to fix very soon.

One way I have tried to inspire myself more is by meal planning (also helps me not waste food).  So one week I was planning out my meals and had a huge craving for some kind of warm casserole.  Knowing that I still had my month’s Secret Recipe Club meal to make, I went searching through   Turnips 2 Tangerines, and I found this lovely casserole.  Creamy, warm, and cheesy- just want the doctor ordered. Warm, comforting, and completely inappropriate for this flipping hot summer.  Perfect.

CHEDDAR BROCCOLI RICE CASSEROLE
Adapted from Turnips 2 Tangerines

INGREDIENTS

1 cup dried jasmati rice
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chicken stock
Celery salt
3-4 heads broccoli, chopped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Cheddar cheese, shredded

DIRECTIONS

Cook rice according to instructions. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Place broccoli on baking sheets in a single layer. Sprinkle olive oil on top and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 10-14 minutes, until broccoli is tender and beginning to brown. Set aside

In a saucepan, melt butter and stir in flour. Whisk in milk and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and reduce heat to simmer. Continue to stir until sauce is thickened. Combine rice, broccoli, and sauce. Prepare a pie pan for baking and spread mixture inside. Top with shredded cheddar cheese.

Bake until cheese is bubbly and melted, 5-10 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve.

Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month!

Pinto Bean Burger

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It’s that time of month again for secret recipe club!  For this month’s Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned Nayna’s blog, Simply.Food.  I was excited when I saw lots and lots of ethnic recipes on Nayna’s blog, especially lots of Indian recipes.  I haven’t eaten Indian food in a long time- the last time was probably when I was 18 and was making appearances at lots of graduation parties.  Lots of the parties had an Indian buffet, which often left something to be desired (AKA I just ate a lot of naan).

I was tempted to try some Indian recipes for dinner, but one day I had an intense craving for a veggie burger.  Since Nayna’s blog is vegetarian, I figured this was a great place to look for a fix for my veggie burger craving.  And satisfy it it did- this is a great, easy pinto bean burger that will satisfy any hungry stomach.

And I also realized that no matter what you do sometimes, delicious food like veggie burgers is not going to look super pretty.

PINTO BEAN BURGER

Slightly Adapted from Simply.Food

INGREDIENTS

2 cans pinto beans
1 potato, cooked
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon aloppa pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for cooking
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
4-6 scallions, chopped
6-9 burger buns
Ketchup, hummus, tomato, lettuce, and onion for serving

DIRECTIONS

In a food processor combine pinto beans, potato, salt, lemon juice, aloppa pepper, smoked paprika, and olive oil. Fold in chopped parsley and scallions. Form mixture into 6-9 patties.

Heat a large pan over medium high heat. Coat pan with olive oil and fry burgers, about 4-5 minutes each side. Serve on buns with desired toppings such as ketchup, hummus, tomato, lettuce, and onion.

Makes 6-9 veggie burgers.

Turkish Red Lentil Balls

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Time to go back to real life.  Teaching, working, cleaning, grocery shopping, picking up the mail, showering within a socially appropriate interval, wearing real pants – Yuck.

What isn’t yucky?  These lentil balls.  This recipe comes from the Turkish cooking classes I have been taking (and one thing I am actually looking forward to starting up again now that vacation is over), and I served them at our Around the World New Year’s Dinner.   They also are an excellent way to keep up any health related new years resolutions.

They may look a little strange, but they are little bites of lentil-y, tomato-y, pepper-y heaven.   The taste is not super exotic if you are afraid of trying new foods, but it it just a little bit different than the food we tend to eat, a little special.   And I love ’em.  They serve perfectly as a side dish for dinner or as an appetizer for you vegetarian (they may actually even be vegan too- my first vegan recipe!) friends at parties.

TURKISH RED LENTIL BALLS
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

1 cup red lentils
3 cups water
2 cups extra fine bulgur
1 onion, minced
15 ounces tomato sauce
7 scallions, chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons pepper paste*
1/2 cup olive oil
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons red pepper (aloppa pepper)*
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses*
1 bunch parsley, minced

DIRECTIONS

In a saucepan combine lentils and 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine uncooked bulgur, onion, tomato sauce, and scallion. Mix lentils and remaining water in bulgur mixture. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, pepper paste, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, red pepper, black pepper, and pomegranate molasses. Let stand until cooled. Mix in parsley. Shape into balls by hand.  Serve with lettuce, tomato slices, pickles, and lemon juice.

Makes approximately 30-40 lentil balls, can serve 8-10 as a side dish.

*These ingredients may be difficult to find but I found most in the specialty aisle of my grocery store. You can always substitute as needed

Vegetable Lasagna

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Well, my friends, we made it to 2014.  Last month was full of a lot of holiday cheer, gift giving, butter, and sugar.  But we made it to the other side.  So now it’s time for lots of gym memberships, work outs, and healthy living.  I definitely indulged a lot this holiday season, but everything in moderation right?  I balanced out my bowl of frosting with an apple, so it all evens out.

While New Year’s isn’t particularly my favorite holiday (I spent New Year’s Eve night contently at home after picking up subs, watched my dad light a few bottle rockets at midnight, and went to be shortly after), I do like the idea of a fresh start.  I don’t make formal new year’s resolutions, but here are some of my goals for this year:

1. Read 60 books for pleasure

2. Present my second year project and get my masters

3. Be more flexible

While my eating is pretty much good most of the time, I do sometimes make the choice to indulge.  And now I am happy to make the choice to bring back some more veggies.  This vegetable lasagna hit the spot- a little decadence of pasta and cheese mixed with some delicious veggies.  Perfect for a meatless meal and a good way to start this new year off.

VEGETABLE LASAGNA
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

INGREDIENTS

For the Tomato Sauce:
28 ounces tomato sauce
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 bay leaf

For the Cream Sauce:
2 cups cottage cheese
3/4 cup half and half
3 ounces grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

For the Lasagna:
Salt and pepper
3 globe eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Olive oil, for sauteing
3 summer squashes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
6 portobello mushrooms, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1/2 cup grated mozzarella
12 lasagna noodles

DIRECTIONS

For the Tomato Sauce:

Combine tomato sauce, sugar, oregano, parsley, basil, and bay leaf in a saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until thickened, about 20-30 minutes. Cool slightly.

For the Cream Sauce:

In a bowl combine cream cheese, half and half, Parmesan, cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

For the Lasagna:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 9×13 baking dish.

Toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon of salt. Line a plate with paper towel. Place eggplant on top. Microwave for 10 minutes, until soft and shriveled, rotating halfway through. In a large bowl mix eggplant, summer squash, and mushrooms together.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, about half of the garlic, and half of the vegetable mixture. Cook until vegetables are browned, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer to bowl and repeat with the remaining vegetable mixture. Set aside. Mix olives in with vegetable mixture.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles 2 minutes less than al dente. Drain and set aside.

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the prepared 9×13 pan. Place 4 noodles in an even layer on top. Spread half of the vegetable mixture on top. Then spread half of the cream sauce on top. Repeat the process (4 noodles, 1 cup tomato sauce, remaining vegetables, remaining cream sauce). Complete the final layer by placing 4 lasagna noodles on top, the remaining tomato sauce, and the mozzarella cheese. Bake until warm and bubbly, about 35 minutes. Cool on wire wrack for 20-30 minutes. Cut and serve

Serves 4-9.

Spinach in Puff Pastry

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I love food around the holidays since it always involves so many desserts.  And while I will happily provide you all with lots (and lots) of sweets during this month, unfortunately we do have to eat some non-dessert food in order to be socially appropriate. Sigh.

Another great thing about the holidays in the winter season is that you get to eat a lot of rich, warm food.  Casseroles (like my homemade green bean casserole), pastry, and lots of cheese.

This spinach in puff pastry dish is another winner from Ina Garten.  I have yet to eat one of her recipes that wasn’t fabulous.  And how could this dish be bad when it has cheese and puff pastry?  I am happy with just a piece of warm puff pastry so when it’s stuffed with a cheesy spinach, spanikopita-like filling, it gets even better.  Serve this with soup or a salad and you got a great lunch or dinner.

SPINACH IN PUFF PASTRY
Slightly Adapted from Barefoot in Paris

INGREDIENTS

4 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
20 ounces frozen spinach, thawed
6 scallions, chopped
1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, for egg wash
Kosher salt, for topping

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add butter and melt. Add onion and toss. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until tender. Add garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into bowl.

Squeeze liquid out of spinach. Add to bowl with onions. Let mixture cool slightly if needed. Stir in scallions, Gruyere, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg and eggs.

On a lightly floured surface, roll one sheet of puff pastry to approximately 12 inches by 17 inches (an additional 2 inches on each side). Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread spinach mixture evenly on top, leaving about a 1/2 inch border. Brush the border with egg wash. On a lightly floured surface, roll out second sheet of puff pastry to approximately 13 by 18 inches (an additional 3 inches of each side). Place second sheet of puff pastry on top and crimp the sides with a form. Brush the top with egg wash. With a sharp knife, cut three slits on top. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes. Cut and serve.

Serves 4 as a main dish, serves 12-14 as an appetizer.