Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ricotta Stuffed Swiss Chard

With all the innovations in food, why have we not come up with more no-boil pasta? Seriously. No-boil lasagna noodles are easily on my top ten list of food innovations. Why has no one gotten on the train and invented no-boil manicotti? No-boil jumbo shells? This cuts your cooking time almost in half, people! I'm aiming to stuff some pasta with things and I got no no-boil options.

Enter this dish. I saw a recipe that used collard greens as a wrap instead of flour tortilla. Aha! Why not use leafy greens in the place of manicotti? I suppose necessity really is the mother of invention. Tasty, tasty invention.

Notes: There are a couple of tricks you need to make this dish successfully. When you're de-stemming your swiss chard, try your best to keep the large leaves in tact. This may require some delicate fingers. Instead of the grab-and-pull method, you can use the fold and separate method. Fold the leaves like you're closing a book. Then pull the stem away from the folded leaf like you're tearing a sheet of paper out of a notebook. You'll end up with more whole leaves that way.

Because you're using a veggie, you'll end up with a lot of excess liquid in the bottom of your pan. As such, you'll want to minimize the amount of liquid you add at the beginning. Opt for a thick marinara sauce and drain the liquid out of your ricotta. The excess liquid is not really a deterrent, just something to watch out for.

10-12 large swiss chard leaves, cleaned and de-stemmed
1 container of ricotta cheese (approx. 15 oz)
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce (approx. 26 oz)
1 ball of fresh mozzarella
2 teaspoons of dried herbs de provance
2 teaspoons of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes


Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Put your ricotta cheese, herbs, red pepper, salt, and pepper to a bowl and mix well.

Lay your chard leaves out on a flat surface. Put between 1 to 1 1/2 heaping tablespoons on the lower end of the leaf in the center. Tuck the end around the cheese and bring in the sides. Roll it over continuing to tuck in the sides as you go. Roll it up until you have a neat little bundle. Put them seam side down in a glass baking dish. Repeat with all the leaves until the ricotta is used up.

Once your bundles are in the dish, top it with your sauce. Slice the mozzarella ball and lay the discs on top. Cover it with foil and bake it for 30 minutes. Take the foil off and bake for 10 more minutes to brown the cheese on top.

Serve it up and enjoy!

Dill Scrambled Eggs

Fresh herbs are awesome. They add tons more flavor than dried herbs. The trouble is they are sometimes difficult to use up. The co-op where I buy my groceries sells bunches of fresh herbs that are the size of a small bouquet. If I buy fresh dill for my egg salad, I better be prepared to eat dill in everything else I make that week.

Case in point: I mistakenly bought some dill last week forgetting I was going out of town. I didn't manage to use it all up, but I at least used a little more with this dish.

Notes: This isn't so much a recipe as an idea. If you have fresh herbs to use up, don't forget about breakfast!

Also, I will tell you my strategy for making (the perfect?) scrambled eggs. 

2 eggs
2 tablespoons butter
1 heaping tablespoon of fresh dill


Take your eggs out of the fridge. Crack them into a measuring cup and whisk. [Many people add milk at this point. Nay, my friends. It detracts from the creaminess of the eggs.] Add the salt, pepper, and dill and whisk to combine. Let them hang out on the counter while you heat your pan. [Most people crack them too late. They need to take the chill off.]

Melt the butter in the pan over medium-low heat. [Many people rush the cooking of their eggs. Rookie mistake. Take your time.] Once the butter is melted, add the eggs to the pan. Let them sit for a minute. [Most people want to stir them immediately. Let them warm through so that they start to congeal.]

Stir the eggs by drawing the sides into the center and gently folding them over as you go. Once you make it all the way around the pan once, stir the eggs in a circle starting in the middle to redistribute them in the pan. Keep doing this motion until they start to look like scrambled eggs.

Take them out of the pan when they still look a little moist. [Most people take them out only when they look dry. Newsflash! You'll have dry eggs.] Serve them up warm and enjoy!

I'd eat those green eggs any day!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Pomegranate Pancakes

My husband and I see eye-to-eye on most things, but pancakes is not one of them.

I am pro fruit and he is anti-fruit.

If you ask me, adding bits of fruit inside of pancakes is just about the only thing that can make them better than they already are. Blueberry pancakes? Please! Apple pancakes? Don't mind if I do. Banana pancakes? Bring me a dozen, garcon!

If you ask my husband, fruit should be safely on the outside of the pancake. Perhaps in a bowl as a refreshing side, but it could be all the way on the other side of the room for all he cares. As long as it's not in his pancakes.

I believe his views are backward at best and he believes that he should be able to enjoy his fruitless pancakes in peace (without my commentary). It's an impasse. But since he does not currently live with me, I can make all the fruit pancakes I want. So there!

Notes: I experimented with two different ways of adding in the fruit: one where I add the fruit to each pancake after it was in the pan and one where I mixed the fruit with the batter. I preferred the former method. The pancakes were less doughy around the bits of fruit. If you have a favorite way of adding fruit, by all means I'm open to suggestions.

Hear me when I say that you do not want to skip the cinnamon. I learned this trick from my brother-in-law. You don't actually taste the cinnamon, but you can tell the pancake has a deeper and more interesting flavor. Everyone will wonder why your pancakes taste so much better than the ones they make at home. It will be our secret.

Now, here's the thing: I suck at making pancakes. I wish I was kidding, but when I make them, I almost always have to throw out the first two and probably one in the middle. They don't come out right! They're too light or I can't manage to flip them correctly. So, if you screw up a few, you're not alone. This batch will make enough for two people, unless you're like me and then it's enough for three correct pancakes and three jacked-up pancakes. 

1 cup of "instant" pancake mix (recipe follows)
1 egg
2 tablespoons of melted butter, plus more non-melted butter for the pan
1 cup of milk
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 cup of pomegranate seeds (or as much as you like in your pancakes)


First of all, melt your two tablespoons of butter. You'll want it to cool off before you make the mix. I just heat mine in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

Crack your egg into a mixing bowl and beat it just slightly. Add in your milk. Once your melted butter is cool, add it in and whisk the liquids together. Add in the dry mix and the cinnamon. Whisk it all together until most of the lumps are gone, but don't fret about getting it perfect.

Heat your skillet. You want it on medium-high: not hot enough to where the pancakes brown too quickly, but hot enough so that the pancakes don't spread too much. Once it's hot, take a pat of butter in a paper towel and coat the bottom of the skillet. Then use another paper towel to wipe out the excess butter (this is key to getting the nice even brown).

Use a ladle to add the batter to the pan. You know it's time to flip the pancake when big bubbles rise to the top and start to burst. The edges of the pancakes will also start to look a little dry. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top of the batter and then flip it over. Cook for another 30 seconds or so until the pancake puffs up a bit. Repeat until your have reached your desired number of pancakes.

This is technically bottom side up, but I wanted you to see the pomegranate seeds.

Add your favorite pancake topping and enjoy!

"Instant" Pancake Mix

You can make about 3 batches of pancakes with this. It's adapted from Alton Brown's recipe and his makes WAY more. So if you have room to keep a big batch, use his measurements.
3 cups spelt flour 
3/4 teaspoon baking soda 
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

Mix all the ingredients and store in an airtight container.

Q.E.D.: Coconut Couscous

As I've mentioned before, I love dishes that I can put in a bowl and eat while sitting on my couch. And winter is prime couch weather. The coconut milk adds more texture than flavor to this dish -- it makes the couscous creamier than usual.

This is dish has a lot going for it. Pro #1: it's quick and easy. Pro #2: it admits of a lot of versatility. You could flavor it any way you like and add whatever vegetables strike your fancy. It's also a great way to use up any leftover produce you have. Pro #3: since couscous and coconut milk are the primary ingredients, it's a pantry staple. That's a lot of pros.

Notes: I used curry paste in this dish and afterwards I was wishing I had used something else. It still tasted great and I didn't use enough to make it really hot. I think I wanted something more herb-y. No matter! I'll try something else the next time I make this dish.

1 box of plain couscous (it usually comes in 10 oz.)
1 13-16 oz. can of coconut milk
1 15 oz. can of white beans
1/2 bunch of kale, stemmed
3 cloves of carlic
3 tablespoons of butter or olive oil
1 teaspoon curry paste


Start by chopping your garlic and your kale. Drain and rinse your white beans.

Add your fat of choice to a skillet and turn it to medium. Once it's hot, toss in the kale and saute for about 30 seconds.

Scoot (technical term) the kale to the edges of the pan and add in the couscous. Stir it around to coat it in your remaining fat. Toast the couscous for just a minute and then add in your coconut milk. At this point, you may need to add a little water to thin the mixture out. I would just fill the empty can of coconut milk up about halfway. Add the beans and curry paste. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Turn the heat down to medium-low. Cover the pan with a lid and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the couscous has absorbed the liquid. Keep an eye on it because your burner might be hotter than mine. It should be creamy and tender, but not mushy.

Add to your favorite bowl and enjoy (preferably on the couch)!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Kale Diaries, Part Four: Brown Butter Greens and Eggs

Greens for breakfast? Why not! Actually, you could make this dish any old time. It would be great for brunch or an easy dinner. I tweaked this dish from Healthy Green Kitchen.

Notes: This dish was even more delicious than I thought it would be. The greens were tender-crisp and went perfectly with the egg. You simply must try it. I made it for one, but you can easily add as many eggs and bunches of kale as you have people.

1 egg
3 tablespoons of butter
2-3 kale leaves, stemmed and sliced thin
Dash of red pepper flakes


Heat your butter in a skillet (with a lid -- you'll need it later) on medium-high. Once the foaming subsides, allow the butter to brown slightly, just until it smells nutty.

Add your chopped kale and stir it around for just about 30 seconds. The kale will make a lot of noise and might spatter, so just be watchful. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

Make a hole in your kale bunch (like a bird's nest) and drop your egg into the hole. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Season your egg with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and let your egg cook to your preference. I like my yolks runny, but my whites set.

Serve it up and enjoy!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Poblano and Corn Chili

It rains a lot in the Northeast. Today was no exception. It was misty and cold -- the kind of weather that drives you inside and begs you to take a nap. In other words, it was chili weather.

Notes: Chili cries out for experimentation. Try out your own blend of spices. This chili is not as hot as my usual recipe. I wanted the flavor of the poblano to come through. If you like it hotter, by all means, fire it up.

1 sweet onion
3 garlic cloves
1 poblano pepper, seeded
1/2 bag of frozen corn (or 2-3 ears of fresh, if it's in season)
1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes 
1 15 oz. can red beans (kidney, pinto, aduki would all work)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 cups of water
2 tablespoons cumin
10 dashes of hot sauce
4 tablespoons butter or olive oil

Directions: Dice your onion, mince your garlic, and finely chop your pepper. Add your fat of choice to a stock pot and heat it to medium-high. Saute your veggies until they are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cumin and stir to coat the veggies.

Rinse and drain your canned beans. Add the tomatoes and beans to the pot. Pour in the water. Stir in the tomato paste and brown sugar. Finally, add the corn (no need to thaw) and the hot sauce.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and let everything simmer together at least 20 minutes. The longer it simmers, the better it gets! Be sure to taste it for seasonings before you serve.

Top with your favorite chili garnish (sour cream all the way!) and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Carrot Fries

I am on a constant quest for non-standard ways of cooking vegetables. Roasting is by far my favorite method, but I like the idea of making fries and chips out of vegetables. I had some eggplant fries not long ago. They were so good, I wanted to try my own.

At the co-op today, I found a giant carrot. It was the size of a small yam. Even the cashier noticed it: "Wow! That's a huge carrot!" I decided to make my mutant carrot into carrot fries.

Notes: These are the consistency of sweet potato fries. They were good, but I longed for them to be really crispy like shoestring fries. I think the only way I'm going to manage that is if I actually fry them rather than bake them. I'll probably try baking them on a cooling rack next time to see if I can get them a little crispier. I'll let you know how it turns out. But if you like sweet potato fries, you'll like these just as well!

1 giant carrot or 2-3 normal sized carrots, peeled.
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions: Preheat the oven to 425.

Cut your carrots into thick matchsticks. I slice the carrot in half and then half each piece lengthwise. Slice each of those pieces into thick slabs and then slice each slab lengthwise to get french fry pieces.

Toss the carrots with the olive oil and spices. Lay them out on a foil-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 30 minutes until browned. Enjoy!

Hasselback Potato

Move over boring baked potatoes, there's a new Russet in town.

I discovered this delightful recipe over at Everybody Likes Sandwiches. It solves the age-old problem with baked potatoes: how to make the skin edible. I love potato skin, but the standard way of baking potatoes somehow doesn't lend itself to delicious skin -- too dry and it tends to separate from the flesh of the potato. I may never go back to standard baked potatoes. I'm so disappointed that I haven't been eating these all my life!

Notes: Hasselback potatoes require a little knife work. You want to make thick-ish potato chip slices 3/4 of the way through the potato without cutting it all the way through. I would err on the side of caution: make shallow cuts to start with and then go back and make them deeper as needed. You want the potato to move a little like an accordion.

As many Russet potatoes as you have hungry people (in my case, just one)
Olive oil for drizzling

Directions: Preheat the oven to 425.

Be sure your potato is scrubbed clean, since you'll be eating the skin.

Make slices in your potato from end to end. You want them about 1/4 of an inch thick or about the size of a thick potato chip. Slice 3/4 of the way through the potato, but be sure not to slice all the way through.

Once your slices are done, sprinkle salt and pepper on top of of the potato and in between the cuts. Drizzle liberally with olive oil. Put the potato on a foil-lined baking sheet or in a glass dish and bake for 45-50 minutes until it's fork tender. Halfway through the cooking, drizzle with more olive oil for crispier skin. Enjoy your new favorite baked potato!

The Kale Diaries, Part Three: Kale and Pomegranate Salad

Happy 2012, everybody!

If your holidays were anything like mine, you ate a lot of crap. Crap can take many forms: too many sweets, too much fast food, or just a bunch of high processed stuff. There's no better way than to de-crapify than with a super food salad.

Notes: The only reason this isn't Q.E.D. is because of the pomegranates. Pomegranates are in season now and if you've never had one, you should. The edible part is the seeds inside the husk. They are juicy, a little crunchy, and sweet/tart. The trouble comes when you have to monkey those seeds out.

Some people employ a spanking method. I disagree. Pomegranates, like LL Cool J, need love. I make a cut all the way around the pomegranate (seen in the photo above) and gently pry it open. I take each half apart as I need to, loosening the seeds as I go. You can work right over the container you plan to store them in. It's a little time-consuming, but you'll end up with a lot more seeds than the spanking method and you won't abuse your pomegranate in the process. Be sure to wear an apron or a dark shirt. The juice stains and you'll inevitably get some on you.

I made a single serving of this, but you could easily double the ingredients for two servings.

1/4 of a bunch kale, stemmed and cleaned
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
Pomegranate seeds to taste

Chiffonade your kale by stacking the leaves on top of each other and rolling them up like a cigar. Slice the cigar thinly to get kale ribbons. Put them in the bowl you plan to serve the salad in and set aside.

Get to work on your pomegranate. Make a cut around the whole thing and pry it open. Gently pull the seeds away from the husk and knock them off into a tupperware container. Once you have all the seeds out, set the container aside.

Whisk together the balsamic vinegar and honey. Pour it over the kale and massage it into the leaves. Let sit for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle the desired amount of pomegranate seeds on top. Give it one more toss and enjoy!