Tag Archives: cheese

Quinoa Goes South of the Border

Cooking for one is a challenge.

On the plus side, you don’t have to cook as often. So the preparation and cooking time for one dish (which will give you six to eight meals) is reduced overall. On the negative side, especially with new dishes, what happens if you don’t LIKE the result? You end up having to eat it for six to eight meals. And some things don’t freeze well. If you’re smart, you halve the recipe to make that particular dish. But then, you often end up with half cans of sauces, beans, veggies etc that are needed for the dish.

Another negative is that you sometimes end up having to buy pre-packaged perishable foods for the dish you’re making that you don’t always use up before they go bad.

This past weekend I brought home a lot of pantry items. Some of them were intended for dishes in which the remaining quinoa in my pantry would be used. And then, I ran across a 900 gm package of white quinoa which was reduced to about 45% of its regular price. So I bought the bag planning to save the pricier tri-colour quinoa for dishes where appearance mattered. Luckily, such items have a long shelf life. But I ALSO bought a hard taco kit cause I have had a Tex-Mex craving for a while. And my Cinco de Mayo meal was just … sad. And it was on sale. 🙂

I DID have to buy some ground beef to put in the tacos, though, because I didn’t have any in my freezer. And old cheddar cheese because I was low on that too. Luckily the cheese was a dollar off.

(The JOYS of grocery shopping.)

Anyway, at this point, I had decided on a Tex-Mex menu for the weekend.

To spare you further headaches of the mental gymnastics I went through, my Sunday cooking ended up being beef tacos, a quinoa enchilada casserole and some mac and cheese (leftover pasta shells) as a side to one of my future weekday meals.

Quinoa Enchilada Casserole – serves 4

2 cups cooked quinoa (1/2 cup rinsed and drained quinoa, 1 cup chicken stock and 1/2 tsp salt, though you can use vegetable stock)
1/2 cup fresh or frozen and thawed corn
1/2 cup black beans (if canned, drained and rinsed well)
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced finely
1/2 cup grated old cheddar cheese or Mexican cheese blend

Enchilada sauce

1 clove garlic, smashed and sauteed over medium heat in 1 tsp vegetable oil til golden, discard garlic retaining the seasoned oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper
1 tbsp chipotle in adobo
1-2 tbsp water, as needed

Topping

1/2 cup grated old cheddar cheese or Mexican cheese blend

Garnish

1-2 diced Haas avocados
1/4 cup green onions thinly sliced on diagonal

Preheat oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit.

Lightly oil a medium sized casserole or other baking dish.

In a large sauce pan, combine the seasoned oil, tomato sauce, cumin, salt and pepper, chipotle and 1 tbsp water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add additional water if sauce is too thick.

Combine the quinoa, corn, black beans, jalapeno pepper and cheese in a medium sized bowl. Turn out into prepared baking dish and press down lightly.

Spoon the enchilada sauce over the top. Sprinkle the 2nd amount of cheese over the top.

Cover tightly with a sheet of aluminum foil, or the lid if using a casserole dish.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Let stand for 5-10 minutes and serve, garnishing each individual portion with diced avocado and green onion.

Expect to see more quinoa recipes … soon.

Easter Sunday (and Easter Monday) Dining

Sorry for the delay in posting … no real reason.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend with friends and family. Four days off seems like a lot but, amazingly, it’s Monday already and they flew by. It was a mild weekend so I went outside and bbq’d a tray of lamb shoulder chops, a package of asparagus and a package of jumbo hot dogs for my Easter dinner. It was all delicious.

Supper – Chickpea soup with a crispy kale garnish and the lamb chops, kale salad, sweet potatoes and grilled asparagus.

Instead of buns or rolls, I used part of the dough from the traditional Romanian Easter bread, pasca, which I posted already, to make a pull-apart braided cross.

And here’s the star of the meal. The cheese filling is an accent not the main feature.

I cut some of the flowers from the front ‘garden’ for my Easter table and though the daffodils are all faded (they were gorgeous last weekend) the narcissus are beautiful, as always. My dad’s plantings are doing him proud yet again.

And speaking of plants, I planted a small egg tray (2 seeds in each of 6 cups) of lavender seeds a couple of weeks ago but there’s no sign of any seedlings yet. I’m not quite sure why I decided to plan them, but I have had this package of seeds for a while so I thought I’d give it another try in the face of previous fails.  UPDATE (04/22) : only 1 seedling germinated. It was never a very successful package of seeds so I suspect there was something wrong from the source.

I’m debating on what else I should plant this year from my collection of seed packets. Mostly herbs since that’s mostly what I have. Basil (Italian and Thai), some shiso since none of the four or so lovely plants I had in the house over-wintered successfully indoors, from the fall planting. One leaf after another dropped off until all I was left with was a bare stalk with faded blossoms on it. I suppose I could have gathered the seeds but I didn’t plan ahead. As to the mitsuba, I have one very leafy plant sitting on the window sill in the entry way. I pinched off the older faded leaves as a new furl appeared in the center and now I have huge leaves on it. The pot isn’t very large or deep but I’m wary of transplanting in case the shock causes them all to drop off.

It seems like the sage plant I bought from the city market has overwintered successfully outside without any type of covering but the rosemary … I’m pretty sure it’s dead. Thyme, oregano and mint plants were also in the pots but it’s too soon to tell if they’re going to come back.

Pasca cu aluat de cozonac (Romanian Easter Bread)

There are several kinds of Easter bread or preparations called variously, pasca or pascha or paska. One is even a molded type of cheese. But this version, made with the same sweet yeast dough as cozonac, has a sweetened cheesecake filling. The cheese used is a dry curd cheese, though ricotta, drained cottage cheese or even cream cheese has been used in recipes I’ve seen on line. I had a bit of cottage cheese in the fridge but not enough for the recipe I wanted to try so I made a batch of paneer (cheese made from acid curdled milk) which I drained well and used instead.

I wanted a higher cheese to bread ratio so I only used 1 1/2 pounds of dough (instead of the full two pounds the dough recipe makes) for the pasca.

Paneer – freshly made curd and after being drained and pressed

 

The sponge for the dough was allowed to proof for 30 minutes and was then combined with the rest of the ingredients

Dough shaped into base and braided border – next time I have to press down the center area where the cheese is spooned in.

 

I made a braided bread cross with the remaining dough.

 

In Romania and other countries where the pasca is made, it has deeper religious meaning, but it’s also a very tasty bread enjoyed at this time of the year.

Broccoli and Danish Blue Cheese Souffle

I hate wasting food, but for some reason, I seem to be discarding broccoli stems. Just one stem and a few florettes and you have a delicious addition to a plain cheese souffle. This is a variation of my basic cheese souffle recipe for two. Over the years, I’ve made it with leftover shredded salmon, spinach, sauteed mushrooms and various cheeses.

Lovely moist interior

Unlike the usual souffle recipe, in which the eggs are separated and the eggs whites are beaten until stiff and then folded into the souffle mixture, whole, beaten eggs are added in this version. The souffle won’t rise as much as the regular method, and will fall quicker, but you can make the souffles, bake one and refrigerate the second one for the next day.

If you don’t like the strong taste of blue cheese, replace the 2 oz of blue cheese with 1 oz grated Parmesan and 1 oz crumbled blue cheese. I used a generous pinch of dried thyme instead of the chives.

Raisin and Ricotta Cheese Blintzes

My livejournal was started years before I thought of writing a blog. There are lots of fun recipes there that I’d like to share here, but rather than rewriting them from scratch, I’m going to copy and paste a few of my favourites with minimal changes, interspersed with new material. My tamales post(s) was the first time I did so. I’ll also share recipes that I posted before I had a camera.

A basic crepe recipe can be modified in many ways to produce savoury and sweet dishes like the meat-filled Hungarian dish, Hortobágyi palacsinta, or Italian crepe manicotti, like this spinach and mushroom version.

This breakfast item, however, makes a great dessert.

My mom worked in the kitchen of a Jewish deli for over 20 yrs. In that time, she learned to make a LOT of Jewish dishes. She even cooked some of them for us. 🙂 But she never made these cheese blintzes, even though she obviously knew how to make amazing crepes.

You can use cottage cheese and cream cheese/mascarpone in the filling, but I went with an Italian ricotta cheese, as well as raisins.

Because blintzes are pan-fried in unsalted butter (or vegetable oil) before being served, the crepes are often only cooked on one side. You put the filling on the cooked side, wrap it up and then, when you fry the outside, it doesn’t get too brown. It also makes the crepes easier to roll, as they’re more flexible if only cooked on one side.

Raisin and Ricotta Cheese Blintzes – makes 10 blintzes

10 9-inch sweetened crepes, cooked on only one side
475 gm (~1 pound) ricotta cheese, well drained
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
1 egg
1 cup raisins (omit if you don’t like them)
1-2 tbsp unsalted butter

Garnish: powdered sugar, fruit sauce or sour cream

NOTE: I only added 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp sugar to the basic crepe recipe.

In a small bowl, add raisins and pour 1 cup boiling water over them. Let sit for 15 minutes, then drain well (pat dry in a double thickness paper towel, if you wish) and let cool to room temperature.

Combine ricotta cheese, brown sugar, lemon zest and egg. Stir in raisins and refrigerate until ready to fill the crepes.

Divide the cottage cheese filling evenly among the crepes. You’ll probably use 3-4 tbsp for each one.

To assemble, spoon the filling in a rectangular block, in the central third of your crepe. Fold the bottom third up and over the filling. Fold in both the sides like you’re making an envelope and then fold the top third of the crepe down over the filling.

Assembly – Step 1

Assembly – Step 2

Assembly – Step 3

Assembly – Step 4

In a 9-10 inch non-stick pan, melt 1 tbsp of unsalted butter over medium-low heat.

Blintzes ready to fry – See how pale they are? They won’t be that way for long. 🙂

Put 2-3 filled blintzes, or as many as will fit comfortably, in the pan. You want to leave at least an inch between the blintzes so that you can flip them with a spatula. The crepes themselves are fragile, and the filling will be soft, so they may open and the filling will spill during flipping, if you’re too forceful.

Fry on each side, about 1 1/2-2 minutes, or until golden brown and the filling is cooked through. (If you’re concerned that the filling may not be set, since it’s still quite soft while hot out of the pan, place the finished blintzes on a microwave safe plate and cook for 1 minute on high. If feeding a crowd, you can arrange all of the pan fried blintzes on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350 deg F oven, for 8-10 minutes.)

Fried blintzes

You may serve these blintzes warm out of the frying pan, or at room temperature, with icing sugar sifted over the top.

I like a spoonful or two of fruit topping over my blintzes, like this mixed berry sauce, but there are people who prefer sour cream

Pesto … What kind do YOU make?

Nothing new about this post. I had intended to make a different kind of pesto but my poor basil plants have gone to flower, cause I’m neglecting them. The big leaves at the bottom are turning yellow and dropping off. At least I’m watering every day which is a necessity in this hot weather and a hot weather alert is coming up again. I made a couple of tasty things while dealing with the visit from the handyman (and his wife and daughter who help out) who is here to weed the worst of the back.

PS: They got 1/2 the lemon curd rolls, all the cherry braid and the rest of the ciabatta bread that I’d baked earlier that day.

* * *

Of course, the classic Genovese pesto of basil, pine nuts, garlic and Parmesan cheese with extra virgin olive oil is familiar to most people but you can mix and match your herbs, the nut used and even the oil.

Basil picked from my plants … FINALLY

For a strong tasting meat, like a leg of lamb, make a pesto with fresh parsley, toasted walnuts and walnut oil if you have it handy  … or just a nice neutral vegetable oil like canola. Butterfly your leg of lamb, spread the pesto over the meat, then roll it up, tie it and roast. The pesto will flavour the meat and keep it moist. If you put your leg of lamb on top of some potato wedges, the juices will flavour the potatoes. (Sorry, I dont’ have any pics to share.)

That reminds me. I really need to pick up a leg of lamb.

If you don’t want to buy a whole leg of lamb and butterfly it, pan fried lamb shoulder chops with a mint-cilantro pesto pasta is amazing.

Pesto garlic bread – Combine equal parts softened butter and pesto. Add some grated Parmesan cheese to the mixture as well, if desired. Spread over your favourite crusty bread and place the bread on a baking sheet under the broiler just until the bread is crunchy and the butter is melted

Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta

Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta – serves 2

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 3/4-1 inch cubes
1/4 cup whipping cream or chicken broth if you want to watch your calories
2-3 tbsp pesto
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
150-200 gm fettuccine, linguine or spaghetti cooked according to package directions

In a large saute pan, heat up the oil over medium high heat. Saute the chicken cubes until cooked through.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the pesto, whipping cream and cheese. Mix well and add the cooked pasta.

Add salt and pepper as desired.

Serve with crusty bread and a salad.

VEGGIE Add-ins: Steamed broccoli florettes or halved cherry tomatoes sauteed briefly in the same pan, after the chicken was browned. Sauteed pepper strips or sliced mushrooms would also be great.

Buttermilk Cheddar Cheese Biscuits

The dog days of summer … when you need to make something to eat but can’t motivate yourself to try a new recipe so you go back to the old favourites.

I bought a liter of buttermilk cause I had some vague idea of making buttermilk marinated friend chicken but after the frying that I already did … cannoli and arancini … the thought of doing any more frying is making me nauseous.

So, I made buttermilk cheddar biscuits with some of the buttermilk. You can also make ice cream or pancakes with buttermilk. (Click on the LJ ‘buttermilk’ tag to see the posts.) But I wasn’t inspired to do so this time.

They’re great, because you can just eat them on their own, with a piece of cheese, slather them with butter or jam, or drizzle honey over the top or dunk them into a bowl of soup. You can even stick a chicken or sausage patty inside for breakfast. And everyone should know how to make biscuits, whether or not you use buttermilk instead of regular milk.

Hybrid Brioche Cheddar Hamburger Buns/Rolls

I froze away some of my first sourdough starter, last year, and pulled out 2 oz which I rehydrated and fed a few days earlier.

Then, I made some rolls with it. I had intended to make hamburger buns but for some reason, changed my mind and ended up placing the dough balls into an oiled 9 by 13 inch glass baking dish and made rolls instead. Since I don’t have a scale accurate enough to weigh small quantities, I ended up with some large balls of dough and after removing the excess, ended up with enough dough to make a single perfect hamburger bun.

The bun makes a great sandwich. The crumb of the rolls is light and fluffy.

Hybrid Brioche Cheddar Cheese Hamburger Buns/Rolls – makes 2 1/2 lbs/1.1 kg dough, enough for 16 buns

1 1/2 tsp dry active yeast
3/4 cup warm water (replace with water and 1 tbsp milk powder or 2 % milk for a brioche)
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup active sourdough starter
2 eggs, plus an extra egg for egg wash
~ 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 – 4 1/4 cup all purpose flour

Poppy or sesame seeds for topping (optional)

In a medium sized bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water. Sprinkle in the yeast, stir and let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.

In a large bowl, add 2 cups of flour, salt, melted butter, 2 eggs and the sourdough starter.

Mix well with a large wooden spoon until you get a batter like consistency. Add the cheese and mix through. Gradually, add the rest of the flour, about half a cup at a time until the dough starts forming a ball in the bowl.

Transfer the dough to a floured working surface and add additional flour until you get a soft dough. Knead for about 10 minutes.

Turn dough out into an large oiled bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, which will take about 1 -1 1/2 hrs.

Divide the dough into 16 equal portions and form into balls.

Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper or brushing with vegetable oil. Spread out 8 balls of dough over each of the baking sheets so they’re at least 1 1/2 inches apart.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 425 deg F.

Beat the extra egg with a tablespoon of cold water and, using a pastry brush, brush over the top of the buns. If using the dough for buns, after letting them rise, pat them down a bit, gently, to get a wider bun.

Sprinkle poppy or sesame seeds over the top of the buns if desired.

Bake the buns for 12-17 minutes or until the tops are a golden brown and the bottoms are browned as well.

Transfer to a cooling rack.

April Clear-out

I haven’t done much cooking in April, certainly nothing post-worthy, but I thought I’d share some of the tasty things I made.

Barbecue meal of giant hamburgers and sausages, with mac and cheese and corn side dishes, and a Mexican beer to wash it down.

Burgers (ground beef and pork) and sirloin tip steak, chicken breast basted with Jamaican barbecue sauce and Grill ’em sausages

Baked chicken drumsticks with the jerk bbq sauce, mac and cheese, onion rings and raw broccoli with ranch dressing

Oven baked pork chop and baked potato

Hot Italian sausage and broccoli over pasta

Thin crust pepperoni and mozzarella pizza

I picked up some frozen chicken cutlets and used them in several dishes including a Chicken Alfredo salad and a Mexican chicken and rice wrap with Taco Bell hot sauce.

Breakfast burrito with a pepperoni omelette, home fried potatoes, Mexican rice and avocado

Sushi – fake crab legs and avocado or cream cheese filling. I also made an attempt at a Caterpillar/Dragon roll with a garnish of spicy Mayo with flying fish caviar.

Orange curd and …

an orange loaf cake

Cheddar cheese straws and bars

Placinta (Strudel) Redux

ETA: The post dropped before I’d finished adding the pictures. I made it several weeks ago … and lost track with RL stuff.

Strudel/phyllo/burek dough is found in many cuisines under a wide variety of names. My Romanian parents called it “placinta” and my mom’s cheese (placinta cu branza) or apple (placinta cu mere) versions were eagerly anticipated at my house. She also made a pumpkin version (placinta cu dulete or dovleac) which wasn’t bad … if that’s all that was left, IMNSHO.

I’m only made it once before, successfully. I don’t think this try was as good as that one and I messed up a few things, but everything was, at least, edible.

NOTE: I just discovered that I had only made a half recipe on that previous attempt so it’s possible that my stand mixer just wasn’t able to knead it well enough to get the gluten development it needed. It’s hard to imagine that my mom did all this by hand.

Because I didn’t have a lot of cheese (feta and ricotta) in the freezer, left over from previous projects, only enough for 2 mini coils, in fact, I thawed a container of filling for Jamaican beef patties and filled the remaining dough with it. My filling estimates were a bit uneven and the first roll was too meaty, while the 2nd was a bit too doughy. Oh well, it just means I need more practice.

Recipe in Pictures

Dough balls, coated with oil and allowed to rest covered with food wrap. After 1-2 hrs, each ball is stretched, carefully, over a linen covered surface, before being filled. Extra oil or melted butter is generously drizzled over the dough to help with the browning. Don’t skimp.

The thickened edges are trimmed off before rolling up into a long ‘snake’. The resulting ‘snake’ can then be coiled or shaped into a U onto a baking sheet before baking

The inside of the cheese strudel was a bit gummier than my mom’s ever turned out though it WAS cooked.

Cheese Strudel

Meat Strudel

My goal is still to be able to stretch the dough to cover the entire kitchen table, as she did.