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

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

Gazpacho

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Chilled soups scream summertime and gazpacho is the ultimate summer soup.  During my trip to Spain I sampled a variety of Spanish gazpacho and not all of them were the same. One was served in a chunky form but the rest came to the table in the form of a smooth puree.  Others were more peppery and one had the distinct addition of sherry.  All excited my palate and I came home wanting to make my own but the weather just never seemed warm enough for a cold soup to entice me.  Until recently that is.

This soup is very fast to put together.  If you are feeling ambitious you can make your own tomato juice but I like to use low-sodium V-8 but any tomato juice you may prefer will work.  This soup is really a salad you sip so feel free to add whichever vegetables you like or have on hand. Sometimes I add corn for added flavor and color.  Because I was pureeing the soup I omitted it this time.

I served these with a double corn muffin that I adapted from a cornbread recipe. For  my purposes I omitted the thyme and cooked the bread up in large muffin tins.  I’m thinking that I could easily make mini muffins and serve them alongside the soup as the first course of a summer dinner.

GAZPACHO

4 cups tomato juice of your choice

1/2 cup dry sherry

2 cups chopped tomatoes

2 English cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 large red onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup Italian parsley, minced

1/4 cup cilantro, minced

Juice of 1 lemon

Juice of 1 lime

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Dash cayenne pepper, or more to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a large stock pot.
  • If you prefer a smooth soup, use a stick blender to puree until smooth.  You can also leave the soup in a chunky form or puree only a portion of the soup.
  • Chill until very cold.
  • Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.

Serves 6

Braised Red Cabbage

And of course I served it from a Polish pottery bowl

And of course I served it from a Polish pottery bowl

I’ve been wanting to make my own braised red cabbage since we visited Prague, Czech Republic last fall.  On our first evening in the city we ate at a restaurant where I ordered the local speciality of roasted duck.  Much to my delight it was served with a side of braised red cabbage.  I had forgotten that I actually liked red cabbage and from my first bite of the sweet and savory vegetable I was reminded of childhood meals cooked by my Polish Nana.  I was immediately inspired to make this recipe at home.  However, my family is not a fan of cabbage so I put off making the dish but when I spotted the pile of bright purple cabbages at the local market this past weekend, I was inspired me to try my hand at this traditional Eastern European dish.

Much to my surprise, my one Polish cookbook did not include a recipe for any form of red cabbage.  Really? Growing up I was taught that cabbage was a staple of all Polish (and Eastern European) cooking.  I did find a recipe on the William Sonoma website which sounded like the dish I remembered from childhood.  The following recipe is adapted from the original one I found and the resulting dish tastes just like the one I ate in Prague and the one I remember from my childhood.  Although hands on time is minimal, the cabbage needs to cook for over an hour before it reaches the correct tenderness so be sure to plan accordingly!  To complete the Eastern European theme, I served the cabbage alongside some grilled Albanian-style kielbasa (which was surprisingly authentic in both taste and texture) and some potato and cheese pierogi.  My Polish ancestors would be so proud!

BRAISED RED CABBAGE

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium-sized red onion, thinly sliced

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons honey

1 red apple, thinly sliced

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 1/4 cups dry red wine

3/4 cup water

1 red cabbage, cored and sliced into shreds

Zest of 1 orange

 

  • In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and a pinch of salt and sauté until the onion is soft and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the honey and cook for 1 minute more. 
  • Add the apple slices and vinegar, raise the heat to medium-high and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring the liquid to a boil, then add the wine and water. Season with a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the liquid begins to reduce, about 10 minutes. 
  • Add the cabbage and, using tongs, toss well to coat with the liquid in the pan. Cover the pan and cook the cabbage, stirring occasionally, until it begins to wilt, 25 to 30 minutes. Uncover and cook until the cabbage is tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, 25 to 30 minutes more. 
  • Taste and adjust the seasonings. Remove the pan from the heat and finely grate the zest from the orange over the cabbage (reserve the fruit for another use). Stir well to evenly distribute the zest, then transfer the cabbage to a warmed bowl and serve immediately.

SERVES:  4 to 6.

Broiled Avocados

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I love avocados. A perfectly ripe avocado melts in your mouth when eaten in its natural state, adds cool texture to a sandwich or salad, and creates the perfect guacamole.  As an added bonus a serving of avocado fulfills one of your daily fruit and vegetable requirements and provides a healthy dose of good fats (which is a nice change after all of the bacon that has been creeping its way into my cooking lately.  Inspired by a recipe I found on Morsels and Musings, I set about creating my own version of a broiled avocado.

We ate the avocados as a side dish with dinner but they could easily be served as a part of a buffet table or as an appetizer, or even a late night snack.  I’m thinking they would make a nice first course when paired with a cup of chilled gazpacho soup and a handful of homemade tortilla chips.

BROILED AVOCADOS

1 avocado, sliced in half lengthwise with pit removed

1 lime, juiced, plus more for garnish

1 tablespoon minced red onion

1 tablespoon minced fresh jalapeno peppers

1 tablespoon tabasco sauce

1/4 cup finely grated pepper jack cheese

Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • Pre-heat the broiler.  Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  • Score the insides of the avocado halves and place on the prepared baking tray.
  • Squeeze the lime juice over each half, add the tabasco sauce, and sprinkle with the cheese. Top with the minced onions and jalapeno and a healthy dose of sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
  • Place under the broiler and cook for 5 minutes or until the cheese is brown and melted.
  • Remove from oven, let cool for one minute then serve with additional lime juice if desired.
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