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.
It seems the end of one growing season is already here as I look outside to see lots of wilted greens that weren’t picked in time. I’m hopeful that the farmer’s markets but have some for at least the next week or two – but soon I’ll be forced back to the grocery store in order to get one of the staples of my diet: kale. It wasn’t too long ago that I was living a kale-free existence, unaware of this amazingly healthy and tasty treat. Now that I know it’s there – I essentially add it to everything! It adds the perfect crunch with just a hint of bitter, which is perfect for me since I’m allergic to the more common acids (aka citrus). I also understand that kale is not for everyone but I firmly think that’s just because everyone hasn’t tried kale!
Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.
Add the roma tomatoes, seed side down and cook for 7 minutes, then flip and use a spatula to break down the tomato. Add the fresh herbs and continue cooking for 5 minutes before adding the kale, half at a time.
Once the kale has cooked down, cover and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Then Serve and Enjoy!
I served this sauce over some whole wheat pasta but spaghetti squash or polenta would also work well. What’s next? Kale cookies? Kale Cake?? Probably not, but I plan to continue this love affair as long as possible – unless I turn my skin green in which case I might back off.
Now for other gardening news: first red tomato has been picked! There is one more that’s on the verge of ready and another 3 dozen or so close behind. I’ve also jumped up to 8 fairy eggplants and 5 jalapenos I have a feeling July is going to be a delicious month!!!
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.
I’m not going to lie, I’m a bit of a Pinterest nut. I find so many interesting and tasty looking treats that I just can’t help but to “pin all the things!” When I started seeing one-pot pasta meals I was intrigued as it goes against everything I was taught growing up regarding the proper cooking of pasta. Which is why I was expecting this post to be more of a #pinterestfail than anything else, I just couldn’t imagine this working. Just worked it did, after checking out almost half a dozen recipes. I wanted to insure that my pasta was al dente and my vegetables cooked but not floppy – which isn’t exactly the easiest thing. The first step was figuring out what vegetables have a similar cooking time, and what type of pasta was equal to or less than that cooking time. I wanted the pasta to have the shortest cook time just in case the vegetables needed extra time, again al dente pasta is (and always will be) the goal for any pasta dish. Luckily green vegetable are starting to show up at the market so I had a very large selection to pick from!
8 oz penne (look for one with a 10 minute cook time)
Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook for 7 minutes, or until slightly golden. Add the rosemary, basil, and thyme and cook for 2 minutes - stirring frequently to prevent burning.
Add the water along with the salt, red pepper flakes, and vegetables. Bring to a boil, then add the pasta and cook for 10 minutes. Stir regularly, using a tong as needed to make sure the pasta cooks thoroughly.
Now this recipe comes with a true tip/trick: cut and EVERYTHING first! Once it’s time to add the water everything needs to be ready to go in order to avoid a mushy mess. For this same reason I would avoid most members of the squash family and would also hold off adding any tomatoes until the very end.
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!