I totally blame Becca over at Amuse Your Bouche for today’s post – when I saw her cheesy toast variation the other week I got a total craving. I don’t remember the first time I had cheesy toast but I’m going to guess it was a case of my mom not having enough bread for grilled cheese sandwich and going with an open-faced variation. Also should note as this point that I’m a HUGE fan of open-face sandwiches so thanks mom This extends as far as stripping my burgers which is why I tend to load up my cheesy toast with all sorts of goodies. I want the bread to just barely be hanging on so in part it does become a balancing act of figuring out how many toppings a piece can handle. I also used two different spreads (or smears) as I couldn’t decide which one would work best, one being vegan and one being not so vegan. That is of course assuming that vegan bread is being used, something I can assume since I made my own peasant bread using dairy-free stick “butter”.
The more I use Daiya, the more I’m starting to enjoy it in the melted form. The texture still drives me crazy when it’s raw but that all goes away once it melts. I’m also hoping to find some more varieties of cashew cheese as there are occasions where I can’t melt the cheese but would still like to have some, such as cold salads. I’m also sending this open faced cheese sandwich over to 52weeksofcooking for their historic foods challenge since this Depression Era treat has become a comfort classic over the past (almost) 100 years. Also cool to note that the original version was open-faced and it wasn’t until the 60s that the top piece was added. Important to note that the cheese on toast is historically different than an open faced cheese sandwich, something that has been around since the 15th century – the toasting makes all the difference!
In gardening news, I have a good dozen green cherry tomatoes growing and today my first little pepper joined the party. I’ve also got lots of purple flowers on my fairy eggplant but so far no lil eggplants, fingers crossed that will change. I’ve never done a container garden before so I’m looking forward to seeing how it does in comparison to my awesome box garden. I’m also hoping that the guy who bought my place appreciates the awesome box garden and is using it.
What to make for an 80s food challenge when I wasn’t eating food for the majority of the 80s…that was the question! Thankfully Google has come to the rescue again by providing all sorts of lists of popular 80s cuisines. After ruling out a number of dishes that would be beyond my skill set to convert to vegetarian living (meatloaf I’m looking at you), I decided to convert something that I had adjusted during my early vegetarian days. While I know that Hamburger Helper, and its friends Tuna and Chicken Helper, are far from healthy – they were easy to make and by switching the beef for mushrooms they were easy to vegetarianize. This time I decided to make one of my favorite helpers from those good ole days totally from scratch: Cheesy Pasta Helper. I debated making the pasta in one pot and mixing in to the sauce after the fact but after my one-pot pasta success last month I decided to do it again! This also made it much more authentic since one of the best things about Hamburger Helper is the ease of making it all in one pot.
1 cup "meat" crumble (I used Wegman's brand where's the beef crumbl)
2 14.5 oz cans no salt added diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
spring fresh thyme
4 basil leaves, diced
2 cups small shell pasta (or similar)
1/2 cup water
1 cup baby spinach, coarsely torn
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1/2 cup Mozzarella Cheese, coarsely grated
Heat the olive oil in a 14 inch saute pan that's at least 3 inches deep. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until lightly golden. Add the dried spices and continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring well before adding the mushrooms and "meat". Cook for 7 minutes, or until the "meat" has started to brown - different substitutes will have different cook times!
Add the tomatoes along with the fresh spices and bring to a boil. Stir in the dried pasta along with the water and return to a boil.
Boil for 2 minutes, then turn heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Stir in the spinach and cheese and allow to sit for a minute
This is totally not 1980s Hamburger Helper but it’s got all the ease of that one-box wonder without all the sodium and fat! Plus it can easily be veganized by switching in Diaya meltables, or cashew cheese, for the “real” stuff. Always an important thing to note, most cheeses are not vegetarian due to various enzymes so make sure to double check to avoid a less than pleasant surprise! Another quick note – when using GF pasta you might need to add up to a 1/4 cup of extra water in order to insure the pasta cooks all the way just be sure to only add 1 tbsp at a time to avoid watering down the sauce.
Apparently Mother Nature forgot to check her calender for it’s snowing in March in the Mid-Atlantic, and that’s just not right (or normal). This is resulting in a very large number of soups in my household, and with that a lot of crusty bread for soaking up every last drop. However one can not survive on crusty bread alone, so I decide to spice things up by adjusting one of my favorite cornbread recipes. The first few times I made this by just topping the muffin dough with the pepper and cheese, but quickly realized that folding them in was the better option – even though it increases the risk of heavy muffins. In my oh-so-scientific experimentation I found that adding folding in the pepper and cheese with the last bit of flour seems to keep the muffins fluffy while still insuring a mostly even distribution of the cheese and peppers.
These muffins are the perfect addition to a nice comforting soup, allowing you to soak up all the goodness – with just the right little kick. For those looking for a real boost serrano peppers can easily be switched in, either seeded or as is. Just be warned that these muffins are rather addicting, so if you serve them to guests be prepared to share the recipe! Or risk having them call you up at dinner time asking for the recipe…
Pretty sure that if I allowed my husband to design our weekly menu this would come up at least every other week. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy cheese but I don’t have the same appreciation for it that my husband does. Which is why when I make mac&cheese I tend to go a little over board with the cheeses that I use. Normally I do a baked mac&cheese, but last week I decided to try doing a white stove top mac&cheese – after all variety is a good thing. As for the cheeses, I decided to pick three different types of white cheese simply because I could!
Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water per box instructions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking water. Pour cooked pasta back in the pot - keeping the reserve water on the side.
While pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a deep saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5-7 minutes before adding the herbs. Cook for another minute, stirring constantly to prevent the spices from burning.
Add the flour, stir well and then continue to stir while slowly pouring in the milk. Begin to add the shredded cheese, adding a few handfuls at a time while stirring to prevent large globs. Once all the shredded cheese has been added, stir in the ricotta along with the precooked macaroni and cheese. Season to taste with pepper or old bay
While I’ll always be partial to baked mac&cheese there is something to be said about its much quicker and creamier cousin. I enjoyed mine as is while Joey decided to add some Old Bay to his – there is a reason why I buy that stuff in bulk after all!
Time for September’s edition of the Secret Recipe Club! This month I was assigned Mellissa’s awesome A Fit and Spicy Life blog, which was total perfection. We are BIG fans of spice over here, and always trying to be good decisions when it comes to what we eat. I found so many delicious recipes on her blog, including an incredible sounding summer chili, a very cheerful salad, and a new way to make a veggie friendly pasta sauce. In the end I sent all my choices over to my better half who selected Mellissa’s twist on a Mexican Casserole. I’ve done a few Mexican Lasagna/Casserole dishes but never one that included mushrooms so I was all on board for this dish! I had tons of fresh peppers in my garden so I decided to toss a few of them in as well.
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet, add garlic, onions, and mushrooms and cook for 7 minutes. Add he peppers along with the cayenne and cook for an additional 2 minutes before adding the black beans. Stir to combine and cook for a final 2 minutes.
Place 5 tortilla halves in a 2 quart baking dish, top with half the mushroom mixture, 1/2 cup salsa, and cheese. Add another layer of tortillas, mushrooms, salsa and cheese. Top with remaining tortilla halves, salsa and cheese. Cover, bake for 15 minutes. Remove cover and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese is brown and bubbling.
Make sure to check out all of Mellissa’s delicious recipes, including her version of this simple dish. It came together to quickly, and can easily be adapted by switching up the salsa or beans used in the dish. I’m also sending this to /52weeksofcooking for their pepper entry, for while peppers aren’t front and center in this dish they certainly added a strong pop!