Tag Archives: vegetarian

Beer & Jack Chili Mac n’ Cheese

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I don’t know about where you are, but here in Belgium we are yo-yoing on the cusp between winter and spring. Warmer days have me craving lighter and healthier food but on the cool and cloudy ones by body wants comfort food. And what is more comforting that chili? Or macaroni and cheese? How about combing the two and throwing in a cup or two of beer? Yes, you read that right. Beer infused chili macaroni and cheese. What’s not to love?

I adapted this recipe from the always fun Bakeaholica Mama food blog. (If you haven’t checked her out, do so. Her entire website is filled with delicious and inspiring recipes). The original recipe simply called for beer but since you can taste the beer in every bite, be sure to use one you love. In the Brown household Sam Adams Boston Lager is the beer of choice so that is what I used. Some people insist that their chili must have meat in it but this recipe is so hearty that you won’t even miss it. Meat lovers, beer lovers, and vegetarians alike are sure to fall for this recipe. So cook some up for a crowd today and be comforted on these last days of winter.

BEER AND JACK CHILI MAC n’ CHEESE

For the chili:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 small yellow pepper, diced
1 jalapeno sliced
3 cloves minced garlic
1 16 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 cup beer (Sam Adams)
1 – 11 ounce can corn
1 – 15 oz can of black beans
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

  • Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat.
  • When the oil shimmers, add the onions, yellow pepper, jalapeno, and garlic. Saute until the onions are soft and the mixture is fragrant.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the tomatoes, beer, corn, black beans, chili powder, cumin, salt, and balsamic vinegar.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and allow to cook until the flavors have melded and the chili has thickened, at least half an hour but longer if desired.

For the macaroni and cheese:
1 16 oz box of pasta
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup beer (Sam Adams Lager)
1 cup light cream
10 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded
4 oz mascarpone cheese
2 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste

Minced cilantro and diced avocado, if desired

  • While the chili is cooking, cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain, return to the pot, an set aside.
  • In a medium sauce pan melt the butter until it is foamy.
  • Whisk in the flour to form a thick paste then slowly add the beer and cream. Whisk well to ensure there are no lumps.
  • Bring to a low boil then remove from the heat.
  • Stir in the jack and cheddar cheeses and the mascarpone until completely incorporated.
  • Season with salt and pepper then pour over the reserved pasta. Stir well.
  • Pour the chili over the macaroni and cheese and mix until fully combined.
  • Serve topped with minced cilantro and diced avocado if desired.

Serves: 12

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Curried Apple Soup

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Its soup weather and this soup is sure to warm both the stomach and the soul. It is inspired by one by the Nomad Chef.  I’ve made the soup vegetarian but you could use chicken broth instead of the vegetable if you prefer.  The apples give the soup a sweetness while the potatoes give it bulk.  There are many different curry powders available on the market but for this soup I prefer the subtle sweetness of Penzeys Spices sweet curry powder because it adds flavor without a lot of heat that would overpower the mild apple flavor.  Experiment to find a curry powder you like and adjust the amount you put in the soup to find the right balance.

I served this soup as the first course of a dinner but it would be just as good as a lunch or a light supper when served alongside some fresh crusty bread.

CURRIED APPLE SOUP

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups white onions, thinly sliced

4 green apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

3 large potatoes, peeled and sliced

4 cups vegetable broth

1 teaspoon sweet curry powder

1 cup heavy cream

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Heat the butter and olive oil in a medium-sized stock pot set over medium-high heat.
  • When the oils are melted and hot, reduce the heat to medium add the sliced onions and saute until soft, 8-10 minutes.
  • Add the apples, potatoes, broth and curry powder to the pot and stir to combine.  Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat, cover the pot and allow to cook until the potatoes and apples are soft, approximately 30 minutes.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  • Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth and all of the ingredients are well blended.
  • Return the soup to the stove and stir in the cream.  Stir to combine and gently warm over low heat.
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves 6

Curried Eggplant & Tofu

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Curry is the ultimate in Asian comfort food.  To me, it warms me both inside and out.  You can put just about anything into your curry; whether you use meats, tofu, or any of a combination of vegetables, you really can’t go wrong.  Eggplant adds a bit of bulk to an otherwise light dish making it a filling dinner choice.  If you aren’t a fan of tofu you can substitute an equal amount of meat, chicken, pork, or shrimp.  To make the dish completely vegetarian, use vegetable broth instead of the chicken broth.  Serve it over basmati rice and dinner is ready.

CURRIED EGGPLANT & TOFU

1 tablespoon peanut oil

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onions

4 tablespoons yellow curry paste

1 14-ounce can coconut milk

1 tablespoon fish sauce (omit for a vegetarian version)

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest

2 cups purple eggplant, cut into bite sized pieces

1 pound firm tofu, cut into bite sized pieces

1 cup diced tomatoes

Juice of 1 lime

Salt and pepper to taste

Cilantro and limes for garnish (optional)

  • Heat the peanut oil in a wok set over high heat.  When the oil shimmers add the red onion and curry paste and stir fry for 2 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, combine the coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar, and lemon zest.  Add to the wok and bring to a boil.
  • Add the eggplant to the wok and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Add the tofu and tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes or until heated through.
  • Stir in the lime juice.
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately over basmati rice.

Serves 4

Porcini Risotto

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Here’s another risotto dish that celebrates the flavors of fall.  Like most risotto dishes, they only appear to be complex when in reality they are a snap to make.  Rich and meaty porcini mushrooms make this dish satisfying and substantial enough to serve as a meal in itself which is how I like it but you can also serve it as an accompaniment to roasted meat.  If you don’t have porcini mushrooms you can substitute other flavorful varieties or you can use a combination of mushrooms for added texture and flavor. However you chose to make it or eat it, enjoy!

PORCINI RISOTTO

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

2 cups boiling water

3 cups vegetable broth

1 cup dry white wine

3 tablespoons butter

1 small onion, minced

1 ½ cups risotto rice

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • Place the porcini mushrooms in a small bowl. Cover with the boiling water and allow to sit until they are soft and have rehydrated, approximately 10 minutes.  Drain well then cut into slices. Set aside.
  • Heat the vegetable broth and white wine in a medium sized saucepan set over medium-high heat.  Adjust the heat to keep the broth mixture at a low simmer.
  • In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium0high heat.  Add the onions and sauté until soft and translucent, approximately 5-6 minutes.
  • Add the rice to the onions and stir to combine.  Add one ladleful of the broth to the pot and stir well.  Stirring occasionally, continue cooking the rice until most of the liquid is absorbed before adding additional broth.
  • Repeat this process until the rice is al dente.  You may not need to use all of the broth.
  • Add the reserved mushrooms with the last ladle of broth.  Stir well to incorporate the mushrooms throughout the rice.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the grated Parmesan.  Serve immediately.

Serves:  4 as an entree or 6 as a side dish

Gingered Carrot Soup

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Once the weather turns cool, soup is one of my favorite go to meals.  It is warming and satisfying and is often a snap to put together.  This carrot soup from Williams Sonoma’s Soup of the Day cookbook has become a family favorite.  The ginger adds an unexpected kick and it is just as good for a weekend lunch as it is as a first course of an elegant dinner.  You can also dress it up a bit by adding a dollop of sour cream to the top or serving it with a few garlic croutons.  To make it a vegetarian dish use vegetable broth for the chicken broth.

GINGERED CARROT SOUP

2 tablespoons butter

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch coins

Salt and pepper to taste

6 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1 teaspoons peeled and grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

  • In a large, heavy stock pot, warm the butter over medium heat.  Add the onions and saute until they soften and are translucent, approximately 8-10 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the carrots and salt to taste and stir to coat the mixture with the melted butter.
  • Add 2 cups of the broth, increase the temperature to high, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the carrots are tender when pierced with a fork, approximately 20 minutes.  Uncover, remove from the heat, and allow to cool slightly.
  • Using an immersion blender, puree the carrot mixture until smooth.
  • Return the pot to the stove over medium-high heat and gradually whisk in the remaining 4 cups of broth.  Stir in the ginger and orange zest.
  • Reheat until warmed through, about 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves 4

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

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Macaroni and cheese is one of those classic American dishes.  During a recent trip to the United States we had international friends who made a point of trying this all-American dish.  However, they came back disappointed and not understanding what all of the fuss is about.  This is just proof that not all macaroni and cheese recipes are created equal.  And as any self-respecting foodie will tell you, cheese should never come in a dehydrated form.  That means those boxes of macaroni and cheese with their bright orange powdery “cheese” are a non-starter for true macaroni and cheese connoisseurs.  Besides, when the dish is so simple to make from scratch, why should you rely on those pre-made kits anyway?

Macaroni and cheese is family favorite at our house and I regularly cook but big batches of it.  I will make a big pan of it and we’ll eat it for dinner one night then enjoy it as leftovers throughout the week.  I’ve even taken to putting the macaroni in individual sized crocks and serving it at formal dinner parties to provide our guests with a little taste of America.

In addition to being easy to make, the recipe is quite flexible.  This recipe calls for cheddar, Swiss and Gorgonzola cheeses but you can easily substitute whichever cheeses you like or have available. This is especially convenient here in Albania where our cheese selection although limited yet growing, is never reliable.  A cheese might be available in the supermarket one week then disappear off of the shelves for months at a time.  Be flexible and experiment since you never know what new flavor combination you will discover and love!  I also like to bake my macaroni and cheese. Panko bread crumbs and a bit of butter make for a crunchy topping but you can also use fresh bread crumbs or even crackers.

BAKED MACARONI AND CHEESE

1 pound uncooked small pasta of your choice (I like to use shells for individual   sized servings and penne when I am making it in a single dish).

2 1/2 cups whole or low-fat milk

3 dried bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 1/2 cups Gruyère cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Salt & pepper to taste

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

3 tablespoons butter

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Generously coat an 8 x 10 casserole dish or 10 individual ramekins with cooking spray.  If you are using ramekins place them on a rimmed baking sheet.  Set aside.
  • Cook the pasta until al dente according to package instructions.  You do not want to over cook it since it will continue to cook in the oven.  When done, drain and place in a large bowl.
  • Place the milk, bay leaves, and Tabasco sauce in a medium-sized sauce pan.  Heat over medium-high heat until scalding.  Do not allow to boil.  Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes then remove the bay leaves.
  • Place the flour in a small bowl.  And the milk to the flour and whisk continually until well blended and no lumps remain.
  • Return the milk and flour to the sauce pan.  Set over medium heat and whisk continually until thickened, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the cheeses.  Mix until blended then pour over the prepared pasta.  Season with salt and pepper and stir until well combined.
  • Pour the pasta into the prepared baking dishes.
  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Add the Panko crumbs and stir to coat.
  • Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the top of the pasta.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until browned and bubbly.   Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

The dish can be prepared up to one day ahead of time.  Simply allow to come to room temperature (or adjust the baking time accordingly), sprinkle with the crumb topping, and bake.

Serves 10

Spicy Peanut Noodles

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion.  If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

If you love peanut butter, you’ll be sure to love this dish.  Courtesy of The Moosewood Cookbook,  you can make tthe peanut sauce while the pasta is cooking making this a quick and easy dinner when paired with a salad.  I prefer to eat the noodles at room temperature — especially on hot summer evenings– but they are also good cold or even warmed.  I also like to make a double batch since the leftovers make a great packable lunch.

SPICY PEANUT NOODLES

1 pound bucatini or other long pasta

1/2 cup organic peanut butter

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

2 tablespoons cilantro, minced

Cayenne pepper to taste

  • Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Drain and set aside.
  • Heat the 1/2 cup water until boiling.
  • Place the peanut butter in a small bowl and add the water.  Carefully mix until well combined and smooth.
  • Add the soy sauce, sugar, garlic, cider vinegar, cilantro, and cayenne. Stir thoroughly to combine.
  • Add the peanut sauce to the reserved pasta adding a bit of water if needed to loosen the peanut butter.
  • For best flavor, serve at room temperature.

Serves 6

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