Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ten Minute Tuna Noodle Casserole

Obviously, we will not be getting a spring this year. Tonight it snowed. Again. The two or three days this month when we've enjoyed sunshine and warmth feel like a memory. OK, fine. I can adapt. I'll create a meal that's as comforting as a winter casserole, but with the tangy, light, bright flavors of spring.

The absolute best part of this recipe is its simplicity. It's as easy as boiling some egg noodles (or you could use pasta if you prefer, but that takes longer), adding frozen peas, then mixing in canned tuna, goat cheese, lemon juice, and some pasta cooking liquid to make a creamy sauce. If you've got them on hand (I didn't), sauteed leeks and asparagus would be great in here, as would a big handful of chopped parsley. (Side note: when I use frozen vegetables, I always remember this post. Read it and I dare you not to laugh. It's the creepiest/funniest thing EVER.)

Along with my stove-top casserole, I had a great open-faced radish sandwich with a scallion-chive compound butter. To make this, mix chopped scallions and chives with room temperature butter and add salt and pepper to taste. Spread on a baguette and top with sliced radishes. Delicious!

For dessert, I thoroughly enjoyed a slice of leftover lemon meringue pie (SO beautiful!) from Easter, recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart.

The standout part of this recipe was the pie crust - just a couple ingredients pulsed in my food processor and it ballooned up like a buttery puff pastry when baked.

After cutting the crust to size for my pie plate, I baked up the remaining crust pieces instead of throwing the scraps away. I brushed the pie scraps with water and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. That was a KILLER breakfast with hot black coffee on Sunday morning (I may or may not have also added a schmear of nutella). It will be difficult to rely on store-bought pie crusts from now on, because this crust was really that amazingly good.

Ten Minute Tuna Noodle Casserole
Serves 4

1/2 bag egg noodles
1 bag frozen green peas
2 cans tuna, drained and flaked
3/4 to 1 whole small log fresh goat cheese
juice from 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1 handful chopped flat parsley (optional)

Boil noodles in salted water until soft, about 5 minutes. Add peas and continue cooking about 1 minute more.

Reserve 2 cups cooking liquid and drain noodles/peas. Return noodles/peas to hot pan, add tuna, goat cheese, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and parsley. Mix well and add reserved cooking liquid to melt cheese (add enough to make a creamy sauce). Serve immediately.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Saag Paneer

I've been so conflicted about posting this recipe. On one hand, I was excited to try something new, make my own fresh cheese (!! I know, right??), and experiment with Indian flavors. On the other hand, during this process I dirtied waaaayyy too many dishes for my liking, had to wait 2 hours while the cheese drained and pressed, and thought the overall end result tasted only okay (not great).

Saag is Indian for sauteed and blended greens. It gets spiced up with lots of onion, ginger, hot chili pepper, and a spices (I just used a hot curry powder and some cumin).

Paneer is a fresh Indian cheese. You make it by heating milk and adding acid (lemon juice or cider vinegar) which forms curds.

You squeeze the water from the curds, let the cheese drain, and press it like tofu.

Then you fry the cubes of fresh cheese to serve with your saag.

I thought this cheese was beautiful, but tasted bland. Salt may improve it but I really don't think it is worth the time and effort, especially when I live in an awesome city like Minneapolis that has amazing cheese shops all over the place where I can get better stuff.

So, why the heck are you reading about Saag Paneer if it has all these negatives? Well, my friends - I made a few important realizations that changed my mind:

1) I forgot to add salt when I was making this!!!! Salt makes everything better.

2) I ate some leftover Saag a day later and it was 100 times more flavorful (also with salt added). It took the dish from okay to very good. After doing a little google research, lots of people say this dish should be made in advance to get the best flavors. Well, that's good to know! Make ahead next time.

3) You can easily buy paneer instead of making your own. Or, substitute cubed potatoes (which I did with the leftovers and it was awesome), or tofu, or chicken.

With these changes, Saag Paneer is exactly the type of recipe that belongs on Green and Lean - simple, healthy, green, and tasty.

Saag Paneer, Inspired by Saveur and Serious Eats
Serves 4, best made at least 1 day in advance

1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small serrano chili peppers (or 1 if you can't take the heat), seeded and diced
1/2 inch ginger, grated on microplane
1 Tbsp curry powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
2 packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and liquid squeezed out
1 cup plain yogurt
Store bought paneer, boiled or roasted potato cubes, cooked chicken, or tofu
Naan (Indian flatbread), or rice, or couscous

In a large skillet, heat a few Tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat and saute your onion, garlic, ginger, and chili pepper until soft (about 5 minutes). Add curry, cumin, and salt and continue cooking to toast the spices, about 1-2 minutes more.

Add spinach and heat through. Transfer to a blender or food processor, add yogurt, and blitz until smooth. LET SIT FOR A DAY OR TWO IN THE FRIDGE OR FREEZE FOR FUTURE USE!

When ready to serve, reheat spinach mixture on the stovetop or in the microwave.

Top with either fried paneer or tofu, potatoes, or cooked chicken.

Serve over cooked rice, couscous, or warmed Naan or pita bread.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Oh hey, another sweet recipe! You caught me...I've been hit with a raging sweet tooth lately. I blame my dad, he has to eat something sweet after every meal and you just can't hide that DNA forever!

Ever heard of an orangette? Way back before I knew what food blogs were, I stumbled upon a website called Orangette. I was captivated by Molly's writing but I thought her beloved orangettes (chocolate dipped candied orange peel) sounded pretty disgusting.

This is how I know I'm officially old: a candied orange peel now actually sounds good. And because Molly and I were born on exactly the same day (yay Virgos!), I'm pretty sure that makes us some kind of sisters so I should trust her when she says orangettes are delicious.

Additionally, I was having an email discussion with Cassandra today about how Easter (or Passover or whatever spring event you are observing around now) really requires some type of citrus dessert, so our taste buds can really celebrate the emergence of spring. Thus, I decided to give these little guys a test run tonight, hoping they'd be good enough to serve on Sunday.

Orangettes are putzy to make, taking about an hour to boil and another hour for cutting, dipping, and cleanup. But, none of this is difficult or tricky in any way. I gilded the lily a bit on a few of them and added some sea salt from Mexico (I can NOT resist a salty/sweet combo).

The orangettes turned out quite beautiful, and tasted great with a glass of wine. Boy did I feel sophisticated, elegant, and classy shoveling these little French candies into my mouth. As a bonus, I was left with a jar of freshly squeezed orange juice for tomorrow's breakfast, and a smaller jar of thick orange simple syrup that I'll use as a sweetener instead of honey. Nothing goes to waste in this recipe!

Molly has never posted an actual orangette recipe on Orangette, but she advocates trying Deb's version over at Smitten Kitchen, so I did

3 oranges
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate (I used Trader Joe's 72% because it was rated high on Serious Eats)

Slice off the top and bottom of each orange. Score strips around your orange, about 1/8 inch apart. Peel strips from orange.

Note: squeeze your naked oranges and save the juice for later.

Boil orange strips for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse. Repeat boiling, draining, and rinsing. This process should remove the bitterness from your peels.

Bring your water and sugar to a boil and add your orange peels. Cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring gently occasionally. Remove peels from syrup and cool on a rack or parchment.

Note: save your leftover syrup for a honey or maple syrup substitute.

Heat chopped chocolate in a double boiler, or melt slowly in the microwave (30 seconds at a time). Dip ends of your orange peels and return to parchment to set. If desired, sprinkle with sea salt.

Let cool completely before storing at room temperature in sealed container.

ONE YEAR AGO: Seafood Lasagna

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Maple Syrup Pot de Creme

Ever since I received that amazing gift of homemade maple syrup, I've been searching out new ways to showcase it in recipes. This one seemed intimidating, but was so easy!

I've ordered Pot de Creme at nice restaurants before and it always seems like special occasion food. Little did I know, it's about the simplest thing for the chefs to make! Pot de Creme (pronounced approximately like "poe-duh-krem") is French for "pot of cream" and it's basically just a cold creamy firm pudding.

Instead of flavoring my Pot de Creme with sugar or chocolate, I used that amazing maple syrup. I also didn't have any heavy cream on hand, so I crossed my fingers and just used whole milk. I was worried it wouldn't set properly, but it was perfectly light and airy. It would be a richer, more decadent dessert with heavy cream. This Maple Pot de Creme turned into a silky smooth, sweet, and perfect seasonal spring dessert.

If you really want to impress your friends with your French pastry skills, you can add a layer of sugar to the top and blow torch (or broil) it into a crispy hard sugar layer for a Creme Brulee (means "burnt cream"). I tried it this way too, but preferred the simplicity of the Pot de Creme.

Maple Syrup Pot de Creme, adapted from Closet Cooking
Serves 4

2 cups whole milk (or heavy cream, half-and-half, or any combination of those)
1/2 cup 100% pure maple syrup
2 eggs
2 egg yolks (save the whites to make a light egg white scramble)
1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium saucepan, heat your milk and maple syrup to almost boiling, then remove from heat.

In a separate bowl, whisk together your eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla.

Add 1 ladle of hot milk to your eggs and whisk. Add another lade and whisk. Continue to add hot milk slowly and whisk to incorporate without scrambling your eggs. When all your milk has been mixed into your egg mixture, pour into 4 ramekins.

Put ramekins in a cake pan or other baking dish with sides. Pour water into pan to halfway up the outsides of the ramekins. This keeps the puddings moist and won't dry them out in the oven.

Bake 30-35 minutes until the pudding is firm, but still a little jiggly when shaken. Cool completely and refrigerate. Best when eaten cold.

To make into Creme Brulee, sprinkle top of cold pudding with a layer of sugar. Torch or broil for 60-90 seconds until sugar is melted and browned.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Leek and Asparagus Bread Pudding

Several days ago, I bought a beautiful loaf of "rustic" bread from Rustica Bakery. And then I promptly forgot all about it. When my brain finally registered this unfortunate oversight, the bread was rock hard and inedible. Blergh!

I despise wasting food (especially food this good - Rustica was named one of the top 10 bread bakeries in America by Bon Appetit Magazine). So, I decided to salvage this stale bread in a savory bread pudding. I've never made a bread pudding before, nor have I ever ordered one in a restaurant (even a sweet dessert version) because it just sounds boring.

I refuse to waste one of my three meals of the day on boring food! So I jazzed up my bread pudding with TONS of springy leeks, asparagus, and Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese. Did you know Pleasant Ridge Reserve has won Best in Show THREE times at the American Cheese Society? I'd read about it a few times and knew if I ever saw it I would be required to buy it. It's a raw cow's milk gruyere made in Wisconsin and it rightfully earns every rave review it gets.

This bread pudding turned out amazing, and is great for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I know this to be true because I've enjoyed it each way past few days (did you see how huge this was?). And, it would make a superb brunch dish because you can make it the night before and let the bread soak up all the flavors of the veggies and eggs before baking.

How can this NOT be good - it's eggs, bread, green vegetables, and cheese. When you put these good quality components together in almost any form, I guarantee it's gonna be tasty.

Leek and Asparagus Bread Pudding
Serves at least 6 hungry people

1 loaf stale bread, cubed
4 medium leeks, cut into half moons and washed
2 bunches asparagus, washed and cut into 1 inch pieces
5 large eggs
3 cups whole milk (or cream, or half-and-half, or any combination of those)
salt, pepper, and nutmeg
1 cup grated cheese (Pleasant Ridge Reserve if you can find/afford it!)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large casserole dish and fill it halfway up with bread cubes.

In a large skillet over medium heat, saute your leeks and asparagus in some olive oil or butter and salt and pepper until soft, about 7-8 minutes.

Scoop all your sauteed veggies over your bread and press down so they fit in your dish.

In a separate bowl, crack your eggs and add milk. Add a big pinch of salt and pepper, then some fresh grated nutmeg. Whisk this together well and pour it over your bread and veggies. Use a spatula to press down on the bread to make sure the egg mixture soaks into everything well.

Top with grated cheese, cover and bake for 55 minutes. Uncover and bake another 15-20 minutes or until cheese is all melty and bubbly and a knife inserted in the casserole center comes out clean. Let rest a few minutes (like lasagna) before cutting and serving.

ONE YEAR AGO: Fattoush

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Breakfast Muffins

I am having a really great day. And, it started with these muffins. Coincidence? Don't think so. They are super healthy magic muffins that taste like they're really bad for you. They will start your day off with whole grains, fruit, vegetables, seeds, and a natural sweetener. Make these muffins and I'm pretty sure you will have a great day, too!

There are a lot of "hippie" ingredients in these muffins. And I am proud to say I had every single thing in my kitchen to make them, requiring no special trip to the store.

And, many of the ingredients were homemade, like the maple syrup from a friend's backyard, homemade vanilla extract (vanilla beans steeped in vodka), and homemade yogurt. Yay for being a dirty hippie! (side note: I'm really not that dirty. Most of the time.).

But, even if you don't have all these things on hand, it's worth a quick trip to the grocery store because you will want to make these muffins.

The only thing wrong with the recipe is that it only makes 6 muffins and I want more to have on hand for grab-n-go breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dessert for the upcoming work week.

Breakfast Muffins, adapted only slightly from Anja's Food 4 Thought
Yields 6 muffins

1 egg
4 Tbsp maple syrup
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup full-fat plain yogurt
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 carrot, grated
1 pear, grated
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup candied ginger

1 Tbsp butter, melted
1 Tbsp whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp each: sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp water

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and grease a muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, whisk your egg, maple syrup, olive oil, yogurt, and vanilla.

In a large bowl, whisk your oats, flour, baking soda, and spices.

Gently mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, then fold in your carrot, pear, craisins, and ginger. Evenly distribute batter into your muffin tin.

In a small bowl, mix together your topping ingredients with a fork. Evenly distribute topping on each of the filled muffin cups.

Bake 20 minutes or until done (toothpick inserted into muffin comes out clean). Enjoy!

TWO YEARS AGO: Faux Frisee aux Lardon

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Vinegar Marinated Roast Tofu

Growing up in a tiny town outside of Fargo, North Dakota didn't provide me with a whole lot of opportunities for expanding my culinary horizons. My mom is actually a great cook, but the '80's were known for the rise of the convenience packaged food product and my family partook of them often. We had our share of Hamburger Helper, and my favorite meal was Campbell's Bean with Bacon Soup, served with buttered saltine crackers (I can't believe I just admitted that).

So, I relate to Kate of the awesome blog Hola Jalapeno. She's a former San Franciscan who lives in Valley City, ND with her family and faces a familiar lack of options in her grocery store. Yet, she finds a way to cook amazing food and blog about it.

Kate recently brilliantly marinated some chicken in fruit vinegar and roasted it. Well, I simply love vinegar so I wanted to try this but I did it with tofu, and added shallots. It turned out amazing. The vinegar reduced to a thick glaze that made the tofu chewy and delicious. The crispy sweet shallots were my favorite part.

I only used half a block of tofu, and wish I would have done the whole thing so I could have more tofu for snacking later. I served my vinegar marinated roast tofu on a bed of spinach and poured the remaining hot marinade over the whole thing as a warm dressing.

Vinegar Marinated Roast Tofu, adapted from Hola Jalapeno
Serves 2

1/2 large block of tofu, moisture pressed out
1 medium shallot, sliced thin
1/3 cup fruit vinegar (I used Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar)
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
fresh spinach

In a large shallow dish, mix together vinegar, oil, S&P, and Worcestershire. Add tofu and shallots and coat evenly. Marinate 1 hour to overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Add tofu and shallots to a foil lined baking sheet and pour leftover marinade on top.
Roast 20 minutes, flipping halfway.

Cut tofu into bite-sized pieces and add to a bed of spinach. Pour warm remaining marinade from pan over salad and season with salt and pepper.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Maple-Glazed Salmon over Quinoa

I can't shut up about Green and Lean Smoothies. I tell everyone how great they are all the time. I am sure it's sickening. But I can't help it - when I decide I like something, I really like it (see: kale).

Well, a great co-worker started teasing me about bringing in a green smoothie to work for people to try. So last Thursday morning as I was blending up my smoothie, I made a little extra one and brought it to her. She liked it! And, as a trade, the next day she brought me 2 jars of HOMEMADE maple syrup. The bigger jar is less concentrated (for cooking, she says), and the smaller jar is more traditional syrup for pancakes, waffles, etc. The colors are so beautiful!

Clearly, this trade was lopsided. I realize that, by far, I got the better end of this deal! But I'm not looking back. I took that syrup and ran home to use it asap! First, I whipped up a big batch of Sweet and Spicy Roasted Nuts with maple syrup instead of honey. These are so addictive.

Then, after snacking on those nuts, I needed some dinner. I made a simple marinade for a beautiful piece of Coastal Seafood's salmon out of the maple syrup and added some pineapple, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger.

After marinating for a bit, I grilled the salmon in my grill pan and reduced the leftover marinade in a small saucepan to make it into a glaze. The grilled sweet and savory salmon was served over some simple quinoa (cooked in vegetable broth) with added red bell pepper, scallions, edamame, and more of the crushed pineapple.

This dinner was super spring-like, light, refreshing, sweet and savory, and delicious. Thank you for the maple syrup, Cindy!

Maple-Glazed Salmon over Quinoa
Serves 4 (easily halved to make 2 servings)

4 salmon filets or steaks
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp crushed pineapple (or other citrus juice like orange or lemon juice)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp grated ginger
2 gloves garlic, minced
1 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
1 cup shelled edamame beans
3 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup crushed pineapple (or diced)
salt and pepper to taste

First make your marinade. In a small bowl or large ziploc bag, mix together maple syrup, pineapple, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, and garlic. Add salmon to coat and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.

While salmon is marinating, bring your vegetable broth and quinoa to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When it comes to a boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until broth is absorbed. Add your bell pepper, edamame, pineapple, and scallion.

Heat a grill, grill pan, or broiler. Remove salmon from marinade and grill 5 minutes on one side, flip and grill 3 minutes on the other side.

While salmon is grilling, bring leftover marinade to a boil in a small saucepan to make a glaze.

Serve grilled salmon over quinoa and top with glaze.

TWO YEARS AGO: Springtime Stir-Fry