Saturday, October 31, 2009

Vegetarian Chili Mac and Cheese

There is nothing quite as comforting as a big bowl of cheese and noodles. It's my two weaknesses together. The addition of beans and Ro-tel bulks it up and adds some color. The spices really give this dish some great flavor. Joe loved it, and it took much less time to make than I thought it would. Although not the healthiest, this will definitely be on the rotation as it gets colder.

Stovetop Vegetarian Chili Mac and Cheese
source: A Year in the Kitchen

1/2 red onion, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
salt and pepper
2 tbsp. flour
2 c. milk
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
6 oz. elbow macaroni
1 12 oz. can Ro-tel with lime and cilantro (I just used plain Ro-tel)
1 15 oz. can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp. coriander
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
cilantro, for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt and add pasta.
Heat a deep skillet over medium.
Add onion, EVOO and butter. Season with salt and pepper.
Sweat out onions for 2-3 minutes, sprinkle flour over onions and whisk to cook off flour.
Add milk, turn heat to high and bring to a bubble.
Drain rotel and add to the milk, whisk in cheddar cheese and spices.
Once cheese is melted and incorporated, add beans.
Drain macaroni and add to the pot.
Stir well, serve with cilantro.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Creamy Pea and Artichoke Pesto Pasta Salad

This weekend was pretty busy and exciting. On Saturday, a few of us surprised Mrs. Sac of Mrs. Sac's Purple Kitchen with a baby shower. The theme was 3 peas in a pod since she is expecting triplets, and I was asked to bring a salad with peas in it. I remembered that I had starred this recipe in my Google Reader, and even though it uses a lot of spring ingredients, I figured it would be perfect for this occasion. We had a wonderful time, and everyone loved the pasta salad. Thanks to Erin from Erin's Food Files for the gorgeous picture!

Creamy Pea and Artichoke Pesto Pasta Salad
source: Closet Cooking

8 oz penne pasta
1 cup pesto
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 cup peas
1 cup artichoke hearts

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions and rinse with cold water.
2. Mix the pesto and mayonnaise in a bowl.
3. Toss pesto mixture with pasta, along with the peas.
4. Fold in the artichoke hearts.
5. Let chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or more. (I made this the day before.)
6. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pumpkin Walnut Bread

Last year I made this pumpkin chocolate chip bread over and over again because I loved it so much. So this year I wanted to try some other recipes before I reverted to the old one. I trusted Elise at Simply Recipes to guide me, and I was not disappointed. Allspice is quickly becoming a favorite spice of mine, and this bread has a healthy dose of it. I asked Joe which bread he liked better, and he said that he would have to do a side-by-side comparison. I love the walnuts in this as well, though it probably isn't as healthy as the pumpkin chocolate chip bread with it's 1/2 cup of oil.

Pumpkin Bread
source: Simply Recipes

1 1/2 cups (210g) flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (1/4 L) pumpkin purée*
1/2 cup (1 dL) olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup (1 dL) chopped walnuts


1 Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda.

2 Mix the pumpkin, oil, eggs, 1/4 cup of water, and spices together, then combine with the dry ingredients, but do not mix too thoroughly. Stir in the nuts.

3 Pour into a well-buttered 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Bake 50-60 minutes until a thin skewer poked in the very center of the loaf comes out clean. Turn out of the pan and let cool on a rack.

Makes one loaf. Can easily double the recipe.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Creamy Pumpkin Penne

I keep thinking that this picture looks a little orange and then remembering that it IS orange. I believe that this was my first savory dish using pumpkin, and I am a fan. The richness of the blended cottage cheese makes this sauce seem a lot more indulgent than it actually is. I switched out the chicken sausage for some mild Italian sausage links that I needed to use, so it isn't quite as healthy as the original. If you do this, cook the sausage through before adding the garlic and onions. The spinach is a great addition for color and heft. Plus, this meal came together quickly. It was like eating a gourmet meal at home!

Creamy Pumpkin Penne
source: Cara's Cravings

4 oz whole wheat penne pasta
2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
about 2T chopped fresh sage
2 links cooked chicken sausage, sliced
1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese (1% milk fat)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup nonfat milk
pinch of nutmeg
5oz torn spinach, thick stems removed
grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, optional

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook gently for about 10-15minutes, until softened and beginning to caramelize. Add garlic, sage, and chicken sausage; continue to saute.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.

In a blender, combine combine pumpkin, cottage cheese, and milk. Blend until no lumps are present. Add to sausage mixture in skillet and continue to cook over low heat. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.

Drain pasta and return to pot over low heat. Add sausage mixture and baby spinach, and toss together. Cover for a few minutes to let the spinach wilt. Serve with parmesan cheese, if desired.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Birthday Dinner at Delvin Farms

When Joe asked me what I wanted for my 25th birthday this year, I told him that I would love to do one of the special dinners that had been popping up around town. Usually a special prix-fixe type of menu with wine or beer (or even tequila or rum) pairings, they tended to cost a little bit more than we would spend for a normal night out. I said I would keep an eye out for any dinners like that around my birthday weekend. Shortly afterward, this dinner popped up, scheduled for my birthday evening. A special menu prepared by Chef Jeremy Barlow of tayst using local fruits and vegetables, including wine, benefiting Food Security Partners of Middle Tennessee, and taking place amidst the pines at Delvin Farms, a local farm just south of town that has a very popular CSA program and large presence on the local food scene.

We arrived, and our car was valet parked while we walked down a dirt path through the pine trees, stopping for a glass of wine at the tent. The weather was absolutely perfect with clear skies and a slight fall chill. When we passed into the pine trees, there was a magical clearing with tables set up. I kept expecting to have woodland creatures come out to serve us.

Fortunately, there were also space heaters, as when the sun went down, it got a little chilly. We stood around and chatted while we drank wine and waited for the passed hors d'oeuvres to come out.

The menu was quintessentially fall food. The roast pig was succulent and moist. The lettuce salad was much loved by everyone at our table for its textural contrasts and the surprisingly creamy sweet potato dressing. I particularly enjoyed the pasta salad with its touch of sweetness from the sorghum and figs. The fall squash napoleon was topped with fresh ricotta and was similar in texture to a savory pumpkin pie. The cornbread was not too sweet or too dry. Everything was just perfect. Unfortunately, it had become quite dark by the time we ate, so I have no pictures of the main dinner food or dessert. Since the dinner, I have dreamed of the caramel from the caramel apples for dessert. I don't usually like caramel as I find it cloyingly sweet, but this caramel was rich and smooth.

Admittedly, the passed bites were my favorite part. Above you see me with a caramel cone full of spicy apple relish. The cone was delicate and sweet without being sticky, and the peppers in the relish contrasted beautifully with the sweetness of the apples.

The smoked trout hush puppies covered in wildflower honey were to die for. I could have made a meal out of them alone. The rich smoky flavor of the trout was juxtaposed with the slightest sweetness of the honey. The white grit cakes were topped with sauteed kale and local goat cheese, and the goat cheese just melted in my mouth.

It was a wonderful birthday and a unique experience that I will treasure for a long time.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Swirled Pumpkin-Bourbon Cheesecake Squares

I'm so pleased that it's fall again, and I can revisit recipes that I saved from last year and never got around to making them. The funny thing is that I even bought gingersnap cookies at the end of last fall to make the crust for this and still didn't make them. Last Friday, we had plans with some friends for dinner, and I offered to bring dessert. When I was calling out saved recipes to Joe, he zeroed in on this one. Who wouldn't? I had him at bourbon.

These don't have a very strong pumpkin flavor, but they're nice and creamy in addition to being festive. The bourbon flavor really comes through in the crust. It's almost like making a cheesecake but without nearly so much effort. These were a hit, and I'm glad I finally got around to making them.

Swirled Pumpkin-Bourbon Cheesecake Squares
source: Kelsey's Apple A Day

For crust:
about 20 gingersnaps, broken into large pieces

1/4 c. granulated sugar

3 TBSP butter, melted

1 TBSP bourbon

Cheesecake Filling:

11 oz. low-fat cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 c. low-fat sour cream

1/3 c. granulated sugar

1 TBSP all-purpose flour

1 large egg

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 c. pumpkin puree

1 TBSP (packed) dark brown sugar

3 TBSP bourbon


1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line the bottom and sides of a 9x9x2 in. square pan with foil. Spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray.

2. To make the crust: Process the gingersnaps in a food processor until very finely chopped. You should have one cup of crumbs. Combine crumbs, sugar, butter, and bourbon. Pat into an even layer in the bottom of the pan. Bake for 7 minutes. Cool on a rack.

3. To make the filling: Beat the cream cheese, sour cream, granulated sugar, and flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add egg, vanilla, and bourbon and beat until smooth.

4. Scoop 3/4 c. of the cream cheese mixture into a medium bowl and stir in pumpkin puree and brown sugar.

5. Spoon the plain cream cheese mixture evenly over the crumb layer in the pan. Dollop pumpkin mixture on top and swirl with a fork to make a decorative design.

6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until firm in the middle when gently shaken (Mine took about 35-40 minutes). Cool in the pan for one hour. Chill thoroughly.

7. To serve, lift cheesecake and foil from pan. Cut into squares.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ham and Cheese Corn Muffins

I'm always looking for freezable, portable breakfast ideas for Joe, and I thought I hit the jackpot when I found the Oatmeal Breakfast Clafoutis. However, man cannot eat oatmeal breakfast clafoutis forever, and this recipe from the October 2009 Cooking Light looked like a good, savory counterpart. Joe has enjoyed them so far and likes the heft that the cornmeal gives the muffins as well as the zing that the ground red pepper and green onions add. The ham helps keep him satisfied, which is great since sometimes he can go 7-8 hours between when he eats breakfast and his lunch break. They freeze and defrost beautifully. I did sort of "unhealthify" these, and my changes are reflected below. These would also go well beside chili or another hearty soup.

Ham and Cheese Corn Muffins
source: Cooking Light October 2009

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk
2 eggs
3 tbsp canola oil
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
1/2 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
1/2 cup diced ham
Cooking spray

  1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
  2. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, salt, and red pepper in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Form a well in the center of the mixture. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, egg, and oil. Pour into well in flour mixture, stirring until moist. Do not overmix. Gently fold in cheese, green onions, corn, and diced ham.
  3. Coat 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray and spoon batter into each well. Bake at 350-degrees for 23 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove muffins from pan and place on a wire rack to cool.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Tres Leches Flan Cake

We had our housewarming party last Saturday, and I wanted to make a cake that was slightly different, would stand out, and did not require any artistic decorating. Cue the bundt pan and this recipe that I've had squirreled away since last September. This was the perfect time for it. I was worried that it wouldn't come out okay, but it worked absolutely beautifully and everyone loved it.

Yes, that is cake with a layer of flan on top. The cake is deliciously moist, and the flan is a nice textural contrast to the cake. This will impress everyone at your next gathering and doesn't require too much extra effort. Be sure to pour the flan mixture slowly down the side of the pan so it sinks to the bottom. My cake came out of the pan as soon as I flipped it over; I didn't have to wait for it to warm to room temperature.

Tres Leches Flan Cake
source: Joelen's Culinary Adventures


1 (18.25 oz.) box butter/yellow cake mix and ingredients to prepare as directed on box
1 (12 oz) can of regular Coke or Pepsi

1 (10.9 oz) jar of cajeta or caramel ice cream topping

1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract


Heat oven to 350 degrees

Follow instructions to make cake, but use the can of coke instead of water. Set cake mix aside and make flan by putting the flan ingredients in a blender and mixing well.

Spray the bundt pan with Pam and then cover the bottom with caramel

Pour cake mix into bundt pan.

Pour the flan mix gently down one side of the pan. The flan will go to the bottom and the cake mix will raise up a bit as the flan mixture fills the bottom of the pan.

Set the bundt pan in a larger pan or tray with water. (I used a roaster.) You are creating a double boiler, but you only need a couple inches of water.

Put it all in the oven and it will cook for at least 45 minutes and as much as an hour.

Check the cake doneness with a toothpick. The cake will stay more moist than most cakes you've ever made and you will see it separate a bit from the pan when it is done.

Let is cool and refrigerate for several hours.

Take it out two hours before you plan to serve. Turn the bundt pan over and let it sit while warming to room temperature.

The bundt pan should then lift off to reveal a layer of flan, topped with caramel sitting atop a very moist cake.

Friday, October 2, 2009

White Bean Turkey Chili

October is my favorite month. It's my birthday month and the real beginning of fall. What better way to celebrate the beginning of October than with chili! I enjoyed this chili very much. It's basically lean protein and vegetables, so I felt pretty good about the health factor, and the beer added a lot of flavor. It's not too spicy and the flavor overall is very balanced and subtle. I might add another teaspoon of chili powder in there next time. Serve with avocado, sour cream, and cheese.

White Bean Chicken Chili
source: Lime in the Coconut

1 small onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
pinch of cardamom
pinch of allspice
1 tsp olive oil
1 lb ground turkey meat
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
1/2 bottle of beer
salt and pepper

In a soup pot or dutch oven, pour in your olive oil along with your diced veggies and garlic. Saute until tender. Add your spices and chicken meat. Cook until meat is well browned.
Add in your beans, tomatoes and beer. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and let it stew for 30 minutes on low heat. If it's too runny you can add a little cornstarch or tomato paste to thicken it up. Once ready, serve in bowls and top with garnish.