Tuesday, January 31, 2012

mushroom, caramelized onion & pumpkin lasagna (and Don Cheadle)

Mushroom, caramelized onion and pumpkin lasagna. All things I love! Mixing pumpkin with savory elements like turkey, onion, sage, etc. creates a delicious flavor. This quick lasagna helped me use some pantry items like a can of pumpkin that had been staring me in the face since October. This is an adaptation from the Moosewood Cafe recipe. 
·     1/2 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
·     1 tablespoon brown sugar
·     1 small onion, chopped (Vidalia if possible)
·     1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
·     2 teaspoons olive oil
·     1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
·     1/2 cup half-and-half cream
·     1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
·     Dash pepper
·     9 no-cook lasagna noodles
·     1 cup reduced-fat ricotta cheese
·     1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
·     3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
·     In a small skillet, saute the mushrooms in some salt and oil until tender; set aside in a small bowl. Slice onion and sautee on low for about 20 minutes until caramelized. I added a bit of brown sugar to sweeten the onions even more. In a small bowl, combine the pumpkin, cream, sage, pepper and remaining salt.
·     Spread 1/2 cup pumpkin sauce in an 11-in. x 7-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with three noodles (noodles will overlap slightly). Spread 1/2 cup pumpkin sauce to edges of noodles. Top with half of mushroom and onion mixture, 1/2 cup ricotta, 1/2 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers. Top with remaining noodles and sauce.
·     Cover and bake at 375° for 45 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake 10-15 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting. Yield: 6 servings. 
*My pan was a bit smaller so I baked the lasagna covered for 35 minutes and then uncovered for another 10 - it was perfect! Do let the lasagna sit for about 10 minutes before cutting into it!
Served with a spinach salad. A delicious Saturday night dinner.  
 During dinner, we watched Hotel Rawanda with Don Cheadle. If you have not seen this movie, you must rent it this weekend. It is incredibly compelling - I cried into my lasagna for two hours. Don Cheadle is also in a hilarious new show - House of Lies on Showtime. Check it out!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Quick Taco Night

Turkey taco salad (not from a packet!) - serves about 4 people for a jazzy taco salad.

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeno chile, minced (seeds and ribs removed for less heat, if desired)
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 to 1.5 pounds lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 to 1/3 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • Coarse salt


  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, jalapeno, chili powder, cumin, and coriander; cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  2. Add beef; cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes; cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, 15 to 20 minutes. Season generously with salt.
  3. Serve in taco shells, soft tacos or as a taco salad. We had shredded iceburg, cheddar cheese, chopped tomatoes, sour cream, tortilla chips & salsa. You could also sautee peppers and onions, add black or white beans - so many options!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Nurse Maura

Have you heard that doctors make the worst patients? Well, that is correct. Vance pulled a muscle in his back and has been laid up all week! He is being a trooper, but I know he secretly just wants to go back to work. Our apartment smells like Bengay, and I am doing my darndest to play nurse to my doctor. Of course I am trying to feed him well in hopes that that will heal his ailments.
I took a poor-woman's spin on Ina Garten's Conchiglie Al Forno With Mushrooms And Radicchio by changing some of the cheeses and using less expensive mushrooms. This pasta bake is delicious for dinner with a salad - it also makes a great lunch.
6 ounces baby Portabella or white mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt 

1 - 1/2 cups 
1 ½ finely shredded radicchio
2 ½ cups heavy cream
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

½ cup coarsely shredded Monteray Jack cheese
½ cup crumbled goat cheese
2 teaspoons ricotta
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 pound conchiglie rigate (pasta shells) - small shells

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Bring 5 quarts of salted water to a boil in a stockpot. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and reserve for another use. Slice the mushroom caps about ¼ inch thick. Heat 6 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet; add the mushrooms and ¼ teaspoon salt. Sauté over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they are cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the mushrooms, radicchio, cream, cheeses, sage, and remaining salt.

Parboil the pasta shells for 4 minutes; drain and add to the ingredients in the mixing bowl. Toss to combine. Divide the pasta mixture among 6 to 8 individual, shallow, ceramic gratin dishes (1 ½ - to 2 cup capacity). Dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and bake until bubbly and brown on top, about 7 to 10 minutes. 

 Note: You may garnish with fresh Italian parsley, but do not cook the parsley in the pasta
This dinner almost feels like an adult mac 'n cheese. It isn't too heavy and the radicchio gives it a nice texture change. If you don't have individual ramekins or want to serve from one dish you can also prepare like this in a pie dish...
Topped with a little fresh Italian parsley.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Do I actually have risotto down?

Making risotto has always felt like this big ordeal that I need to plan out days in advance. Onion chopping and sauteing following by stirring. And stirring. And stirring. Yesterday morning I thawed a box of chopped spinach with the intentions of making a spinach and feta pie or a spinach tart. As the night went on, I felt so blah about a tart for a Saturday night dinner. Saturday night dinners are for something rich or sexy -- like risotto. On a whim, I thought - it is time for risotto. By some luck, I had the onion, white wine (of course), Aborio rice, and chicken stock. Last night was the first time that I made a spur of the moment risotto and I am very happy with how it turned out.
Parmesan & Spinach Risotto and The Ides of March - I sense a green theme.
  • 1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • small chopped yellow onion
  • 1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 glass dry white wine (half for me, half for the risotto!)
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  • 3 cloves minced garlic


In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the stock to a simmer and maintain over low heat. (or microwave for about 2 to 3 minutes in safe bowl).

In a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch Oven over medium heat, warm the olive oil and butter. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the spinach and garlic, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the spinach mixture to a bowl and set aside.

Add the rice to the pan and stir until well coated with the oil and translucent with a white dot in the center, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and stir until absorbed. Add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring frequently after each addition. Wait until the stock is almost completely absorbed before adding more. Reserve 1/4 cup stock to add at the end.

When the rice is almost tender to the bite but slightly firm in the center and looks creamy, after about 18 minutes, add the spinach mixture to the pan and add a ladleful of stock. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach mixture is heated through and the rice is al dente, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in cheese and the reserved 1/4 cup stock (if needed). Season salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

A night on the couch with my hubs, warm risotto and a great movie. What a Saturday!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A healthy (ish) spin on Chicken Parmesan

Tonight my mom and dad are having our former neighbors over for a meal of chicken parmesan. My mom's chicken parm is - amaaaazing! It is always juicey and has just the right balance of sauce and cheese. I find myself getting a little stressed with frying chicken on the stove top. There can be a lot of sizzling and popping and then I worry about my arms getting burned so I tonight I am going to make chicken parm that doesn't require the deep frying. A bit healthier and faster (but likely not a good as Mary Clark's).


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 (3-ounces each) chicken cutlets
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • about a tablespoons cut into pieces


Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
Stir the oil and herbs in a small bowl to blend. Season with salt and pepper. Brush both sides of the cutlets with the herb oil. 
I used thin chicken cutlets; if you use breasts, I would suggest pounding them a bit.
Heat a heavy large oven-proof skillet over high heat. Add the cutlets and cook just until brown, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the skillet from the heat.
Spoon the sauce over and around the cutlets. Sprinkle mozzarella over each cutlet, then sprinkle Parmesan over each. Sprinkle the butter pieces atop the cutlets. Bake until the cheese melts and the chicken is cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Serve with orzo/parsley & salad. A quick and delicious dinner!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pizza Night

Arugula was on sale this weekend, and although I like the bitter green, I can't do a full arugula salad. Blah - too bitter. I have seen a few recipes that toss some rocket salad on top of pizza so that is what we did tonight.
Pre-made whole wheat pizza crust (I used Trader Joe's)
4 oz soft goat cheese
2 tablespoons honey
1 red pear
a few ounces of blue cheese
1-2 cups arugula
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
flour to roll dough

Roll out the dough and place on a heated pizza stone. Melt the goat cheese and spread, top with drizzled honey. Slice the pear and assemble slices, top with crumbled/sliced blue cheese. Bake for about 15 minutes until cheese is melted and crust is done. Remove from the oven and top with arugula and a few sprinkles of EVOO. Slice and enjoy!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Alton Brown inspired us.

It is a rare scene to catch both Vance and I parked on the couch watching TV. Catching me on the couch is no great task, but it is always challenging to get Vance to enjoy quality television time. And then Alton Brown came around - he is the most sciencey, non-emotive chef in the world - always following strict measurements. Adhering to a recipe and cook times to the T. Well my scientist husband seemed to take to Alton this week as we watched him make seared ahi tuna.
I jazzed it up a bit and served the tuna over steamed baby bok choi, bell peppers and green onion with a ginger and garlic tipping sauce.
Tuna was on sale for 9.99/lb at Teeter!
  • For the tuna marinade:
  • 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 4 table spoons dry wasabi powder
  • 1 pounds tuna loin, cut into 2 pieces
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1-2 tablespoons peanut oil

  • Dipping Sauce:
  • 1/3 reserved marinade
  • 1 teaspoon back brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 chopped green onions
  • 1 head of minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
Steamed vegetables:
2 colorful bell peppers
4 small heads of baby bok choi
2 green onions

  • Mix all ingredients together and reserve about 1/3 of it for the dipping sauce. Marinate tuna in a shallow container for a few hours in the refrigerator. Turn once if the marinade doesn't cover the entire fish. On a plate, lay the sesame seeds. Roll the tuna in the seeds to evenly coat.
  • Brush a grill pan lightly with olive oil and heat on medium-high heat. When the pan is hot place the tuna on the pan and do not move! Sear on each side for 1.5 minutes for rare tuna.
  • Slice the vegetables thinly and place in a bamboo steamer basket (over a wok with steaming water). Steam vegetables for about 10 minutes until tender. A delicious and healthy dinner!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Santa was good...and so are the sales!

Santa was quite good to Vance and I this year (and he came all the way from PA). 
Peppering Skirt from Anthro.
and oh the post-Christmas sales!
Hobo Lauren Wallet
J. Crew Liquid Silk Skirt
Perfect Patent Pump - Ann Taylor

The most amazing part...the Liquid Silk Skirt was $19.50. Yes - that's right. After a 40% final sale and then an additional 15% with Vanderbilt I.D., I paid with a 20 dollar bill at J. Crew. That is so amazing to me. The shoes were 50% too. I love a good sale.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Holiday Mainstays

Family. Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation. Stockings and Bloody Mary's. Champagne and fantastic drink glasses for every beverage. Turkey and pork. Thank goodness my parents were here to take over turkey duty on Christmas day. I found myself in a swarm of anxiety of nerves when it came to cleaning, lifting, roasting and then carving this gigantic bird. I let my mom do the roasting and my dad do the heavy lifting.
Dad (in my apron) ready to list the beast and carve!
My mom brought her culinary A-game and really helped me pull of a food-filled weekend. Our turkey was delicious and has made great turkey salad, stock and turkey tetrazinni will be next week!
Christmas turkey!
On New Year's Day, I took a more active role in the meat preparation. Gourmet Magazine (via epicurious.com) had a wonderful herb-roasted pork recipe that was great for New Year's Day dinner. 
My take is below:

For pork:
         1 (2 lb) boneless pork loin roast, trimmed
         2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
         8 large thyme sprigs, divided
         4 sage sprigs, divided
         4 sprigs parsley, chopped
         1/2 cup finely chopped shallots (4 to 5)
         1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
         1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

For sauce:
         1/4 cup dry vermouth
         1 teaspoons Dijon mustard
         1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
         1 tablespoon butter
         1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Roast pork:
 Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Pat pork dry and season with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven or stove-top/oven proof pan, brown pork on all sides, then transfer to a large plate.
Arrange half the herbs down the center of baking dish. Stir together shallots, garlic, mustard, and 1 tablespoon oil and smear over top and sides of roast, then put roast, fat side up, on top of herbs. Roast 45 minutes. Toss remaining herbs with remaining teaspoon oil and arrange on top of roast.

Continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer registers 140 to 145°F, 5 to 15 minutes more (temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees as it rests). Transfer pork to a cutting board and let rest 10 minutes.

Make sauce while pork rests: 
Remove the pan from the oven and discard herbs. Straddle pan across 2 burners on medium heat. Add vermouth and mustard and deglaze by boiling, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until reduced by half. Add broth and simmer 3 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a 2-cup measure.
Melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking, until pale golden, about 3 minutes. Whisk in vermouth mixture and simmer until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.
Serve pork with sauce.

Served with carrots, mashed potatoes, sauerkraut and crescent rolls. Happy New Year!