First Monday of November – and with that time for the Secret Recipe Club! This month I was sent out of the US and south of the border to check out Leslie’s La Cocina de Leslie blog which is packed full of spicy traditional dishes. I’m a huge fan of spicy food, and over time my husband has also grown to appreciate the delicious that comes from a good pepper. Leslie’s blog had so many delicious treats to pick from, and more than a fair number of them used ingredients or techniques that were new to me – which are my favorite dishes to pick! In the end I decided to go with one that had a new ingredient as well as a new technique – as a bonus it’s a technique that wouldn’t have worked at my old place with our electronic stove. So enough teasing – time to share her incredible Poblano Mac & Cheese which made enough for a fantastic dinner and a tasty lunch the next day. I had to a make a small change due to allergies but since her recipe was already vegetarian perfection it was only the lime/cilantro that had to go away. I used wasabi arugula from Chocolates and Tomatoes Farm but any variety would work – just figured the added spice would fit right in!
Roast the poblano peppers directly over an open flame until the skin is charred and blistering. Place the peppers in a plastic bag and seal for 5 minutes. Remove the skin, and then seed and dice. Set Aside
Cook the pasta per instructions on box until al dente. Rinse and remove to a lightly oiled casserole dish.
Preheat oven to 350
Melt the better in a large saute pan over medium heat and add the garlic, cook for 5 minutes. Add in the flour and stir until well combined, then slowly whisk in the milk. Cook until thick, around 7 minutes, then add the spices along the pepper and arugula.
Turn off heat, and slowly stir in half the cheese. Once melted stir in to the pasta, then top the pasta with the remaining cheese.
Bake for 25 minutes - then serve and enjoy!
Manchego cheese was a pain in the arse to locate at my grocery store but well worth it - that stuff was AMAZING!
I also bookmarked another handful of dishes for the future, most of which will need to wait until next summer when fresh tomatoes are available. The first on the list are her entomatados with the rajas con crema close behind. So many amazing dishes to try – a few of which I had never even heard of! Needless to say this SRC was another smashing success.
One more sign of fall – Football season is here! I’m not a huge fan of football, more of a hockey girl, but now that we are living in a football town I feel like I have to at least show some team spirit. So with that in mind, below are some awesome dishes perfect for tailgating.
These are also the same dips that I rotate in and out for gaming days – with the Garlic Feta Dip being everyone’s favorite. It also makes a great burger topping, be it meat or otherwise. Chili is also the perfect group dish since it can easily be doubled and switched to a stock pan if it becomes too much for the slow cooker.
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…