Spoon bread (healthy, easy version)

For those of you who haven’t gotten to experience spoon bread yet, I highly recommend it.  It’s basically corn and sour cream baked into a corn bread.  The fancier versions treat it like a soufflé, with whipped egg whites and everything, but for weeknights, that’s just a little intense for me.  This can be made as complicated or as simply as you want.  For this variant, I’m going with a super easy, pantry friendly version, but feel free to make this as indulgent as you want.  

Ingredients*

  • 1 box (8.5oz) Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 1 (15oz) can corn kernels (we used the corn off of 3 cooked cobs, and it was just right)
  • 1 (15oz) can creamed corn
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup melted butter (most recipes call for 1 stick, but we didn’t miss it with only half that)
  • 5 oz plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 oz sour cream (could omit the Greek yogurt and just use 1 cup of sour cream, but the yogurt does save some calories, and gives you a lighter texture without whipping eggs)
  • 3 eggs

 

Method

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix ingredients in a large bowl.  Dump into greased baking dish (I used 8″x8″).  Bake until set, 40-45 minutes.  If desired, brown the top under the broiler. Cool, and serve.

*Note on additions-you can add pretty much any additional flavoring agent you could want to this.  Bacon? Go for it.  Jalapeños? Absolutely.  Cheese? Go nuts. Green onions? Why not?  Think of it as a blank corn-based canvas.

This is a really nice side dish with baked barbecue sauce chicken (as seen here), or anywhere you might otherwise serve corn.  This will probably make it into the rotation for side dishes for those days we’re running the smoker.

 

 

 

Hummus (the continuing saga)

Over the past year or so we have been making hummus fairly frequently.  While we have other recipes for hummus posted on the blog (as in here, and here), they just left us a little flat.  We both wanted to figure out a way to use dry chickpeas, and also a way to make the delicious and rich hummus we love without cups of oil.  After some experimentation and a healthy dose of google-fu, Chris hit upon the secret for super smooth hummus from dried chickpeas.

Baking soda.

Yes, you read that right, baking soda in the cooking liquid makes those tough chickpea skins soft and leads to a silky smooth hummus. The other secret is really good tahini and olive oil.  We usually get our tahini, chickpeas and olive oil at a local Indian/Middle Eastern market, and if you have one in your area, I recommend you start there.  We get the Sultan brand of olive oil. IMG_2953The tahini we found at the local Kroger was bitter and unpleasant, but the tahini from the Indian grocer is comparatively sweeter and has a pleasant nuttiness to it.  The best comparison I have is that it is really like natural peanut butter, but with sesame.  It made a huge difference with getting hummus that’s really balanced in flavors.  We have been getting the Gesas brand.

This is the brand we use.

This is the brand we use.

So with that in mind, let’s get to cooking!

Ingredients

1 lb dried chickpeas, soaked overnight

1 tbsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

scant 1/2 cup olive oil

scant 1/2 cup tahini

1/2 cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed)

1/2-1 cup cooking liquid from chickpeas

1/2 tsp garlic powder (or more to taste)

Salt and pepper to taste

Butter, olive oil, red onions, aleppo pepper, or paprika to serve

Method

Cook the chickpeas in water with baking soda and 1 tsp salt until soft, typically around 45-60 minutes.  Keep on eye on the pot, the baking soda will made any boil over quite foamy and spectacular (oops).  When the chickpeas are done they will be very soft, as will the seed coats.  Take the pan off the heat, save a cup of the cooking liquid, and strain the chickpeas into a colander.  Put the chickpeas in the bowl of your food processor and start processing.  Add the oil, and keep pureeing. Add your tahini, lemon juice, and seasonings and blend some more.  At this point, start drizzling in your cooking liquid.  Keep going until your hummus has a smooth, but not overly runny consistency.  The beans are still warm, so the hummus will be softer at this point than it would be out of the fridge.  If you like your hummus cold, err on the side of slightly softer than you think.  It will tighten up in the fridge.  Adjust the seasonings, and you’re ready to either chill it for later, or serve warm.

Hummus.  Even better with onion

Hummus. Even better with onion

We love this hummus warm, topped with red onion sautéed in butter or ghee and dusted with aleppo or paprika.  If we serve it cold, then I tend to opt for a drizzle of olive oil and a good dusting of paprika and Turkish seasoning.  With a pile of warm pita, and a few olives it makes a fantastic lunch too.

Moroccan spiced carrots

Let me preface this post by saying that I am a complete novice when it comes to Moroccan cuisine. I have been to a Moroccan restaurant, enjoyed the tagine, and otherwise my exposure to the food has been through Al Fez brand jarred sauces.  That said, we do keep those sauces on hand in case we need an easy weeknight dinner, or are just too lazy to go out. Tonight was one such night, so to go with our jarred sauce and couscous I made some sautéed carrots.   These were tasty enough that I decided I might actually want some record of what the heck I did when I was making them.  This is also why there aren’t many carrots in the photo.  I was not expecting them to be blog-worthy tasty, so no picture until we had each gotten some.  Oops.

Mmmm...carrots.

Mmmm…carrots.

Ingredients

1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4″ thick rounds

1 tsp ghee or butter

2 tsp olive oil

1/2 tsp Ras el Hanout (spice blend-we bought ours, but you could get close with a mix of cumin, ginger, pinch of cayenne, cardamom, cloves, allspice, and paprika.  Or you could probably use a garam masala, add some paprika and cayenne and call it good)

Pinch ground ginger and ceylon cinnamon

1 tbsp dried parsley, or 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 tbsp tomato paste or ajvar (pepper and eggplant past that is AMAZING)

1/4 cup water

Salt and pepper

 

Method

Heat oils in a medium skillet (with a lid) over medium heat.  Add carrots and a pinch of salt and sauté until they start to soften slightly.  Add seasonings, ajvar (or paste) and water, and slap the lid on.  Let simmer until carrots are soft, then remove lid and let the sauce thicken.  As you can see in the photo, you want the spices to stick to the carrots.  This was a really nice, very easy side dish for our lazy tagine night.  The Ras al Hanout provided a nice back of the mouth heat which was a nice counterpoint to the sweet of the carrot.  The ginger and cinnamon played up that sweet angle, while the parsley helped keep the entire mixture from becoming too cloying.  All in all, a really nicely balanced side dish.

Rajas con crema (poblano in cream sauce)

This is a fantastic side dish that we first encountered at a really great local Mexican buffet. It’s not hot, even though it’s mostly peppers.  It doesn’t take much time, but it can be broken down into multiple steps and the peppers prepped in advance if it makes your evening a little easier.

Ingredients

5-6 poblano peppers

1 small or medium white or yellow onion, sliced

1/2 cup crema (more on this later)

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup shredded white cheese (whatever Mexican style white cheese you have, or mozzarella or monterey jack)

Garlic powder, salt and pepper

 

Method

Turn on your grill as hot as it will go. Grill off your poblano peppers until the skin is black and blistered (as seen below).

Grilled poblano

Mmmm… toasty

Once they’re done, either dump them in a zip-top bag, or a bowl with cling-wrap over the top.

Steamy!

Steamy!

While those steam for a few minutes, go ahead and put a skillet over medium heat.  Melt the butter and start sautéing your onions.

We need smell-o-vision.

We need smell-o-vision.

While those are breaking down, I would recommend grabbing some food-safe disposable gloves.  If you don’t have contacts, feel free to use your bare hands, but consider this a friendly warning.  Peel the skin off the poblanos (which should be much easier, because of the steaming action of the bag or wrap).  Seed the peppers until you have a nice pile of pepper flesh.

Must...eat...flesh!

Must…eat…flesh!

If you have a little skin that won’t come off of them, don’t stress about it.  You just want as much of it gone as is reasonably possible.  Slice those peppers into strips, then toss them in with the onions.

Mixing it up!

Mixing it up!

Let these sauté together for a few minutes until all of the veggies are soft, then add the milk, crema and cheese.  Now, a note on that crema-you could use standard sour cream. I imagine you could, at least.  I’ve never tried it, and that is because we have this.

OMG. Nom.

OMG. Nom.

This is from the nearby Mexican grocer, and is unbelievably tasty.  It is less solid than traditional American sour cream, more the consistency of a standard yogurt. It’s a little saltier than sour cream, and so great for this sauce.  We can find the green topped jar at our local Kroger, so see if you can find it, it’s really worth it!

Also nom.

Also nom.

Ok, now that your dairy is in, stir it in and season to taste.  I like a little bit of garlic powder, a good grind of pepper and salt to taste.

YUM!

YUM!

This may not look like much, but it is surprisingly tasty.  You get a great, slightly smoky poblano flavor that pairs really nicely with the moderately sweet onion and mildly salty sauce. If you’re pressed for time, you can grill of the peppers and peel, seed, and slice them in advance.  I bet you could even freeze batches of the peppers already sliced and ready to add to the onions, and make this a really fast, simple side dish.  Another note: this makes enough for two people with a ton of leftovers.  Save those leftovers, and the next morning, toss them into some scrambled eggs with a little bit of additional cheese. Serve with warm corn tortillas.

Chip Shop Style Curry Sauce

A few weeks ago, we ate at a fish and chip shop in Lawrence. Chris ordered the curry sauce, and we both loved it. Tonight, we’re catching up on past EPL matches and had some fish and chips for dinner. I found a recipe for chip shop curry sauce that we used as a base, and then modified it further to try and recreate the curry sauce from Queen Lizzie’s.

Ingredients
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
2 1/4 tsp curry powder
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/4 tsp Indian chili powder
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2-3 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped (or 2 tsp garlic paste)
2 cups water
1 tbsp mayonaise
1 squeeze lemon juice

Method
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. In small sauce pan, heat oil, then add garlic and saute for about 30 seconds. Add dry ingredients and toast for another 30-60 seconds. Gradually add water, stirring constantly, until you have a smooth sauce. Bring it to a boil to fully thicken, then turn down to low and add mayo and lemon. Adjust seasoning as needed, and serve with chips.

Even with the mediocre baked fries we had, the sauce was fantastic. We’re going to continue tinkering with the spice blends, but it was still a fantastic first effort, and incredibly easy.

Dijon Brussels Sprouts

In my effort to get caught up after being woefully behind on posts, here’s one from about a month ago. As it is that time of year, where stalks of brussels sprouts start appearing in stores, we have been enjoying them roasted. Roasted sprouts are wonderful, but they can get a little old, so after some internet digging, I found this wonderful recipe for dijon braised brussels sprouts. As a side note, if you have some time, check that blog out-the recipes look great and the pictures are wonderful.

For clarity (and to include alterations) the recipe will appear here as well.

Ingredients
~1 lb brussels sprouts
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt
Black pepper (or white)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
2-3 shallots, thinly sliced
2 tbsp heavy cream
2+ tbsp smooth dijon mustard
1 tbsp country style dijon (or other mustard seed mustard)
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley

Method
Clean and half sprouts. Heat oils in wide skilled over medium heat, and place sprouts, cut side down in the pan. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and allow to brown (may take about 5 minutes-keep an eye on them). We failed a measuring the first time, so ended up with closer to 2 or 3 lbs of sprouts. If this happens to you, just work in batches. After sprouts have browned, add shallots. After another 30 seconds or so, deglaze with wine. Add stock, bring it all to a simmer. Reduce heat and lid, then simmer gently about 15-20 minutes. Sprouts should be tender, but not mushy. Remove lid, remove sprouts (to build the sauce). Add cream and whisk sauce together until thickened slightly. Whisk mustards in, tasting and adjusting seasoning as needed. Once the sauce is ready you can either pour the sauce over the sprouts in the serving bowl (formal) or just dump sprouts back in to pan to coat with sauce (informal). Either way, sprinkle parsley over the top and serve.

This is a great side dish to serve with pork or poultry. If you want to take this a different direction, you could use cognac instead of the wine. In the future, we’ll probably use half a stalk of sprouts for roasting, then keep the remainder on the stalk for later in the week, when we’ll do this.

Mushrooms with Wine and Coriander

For dinner tonight we made the Greek Turkey burgers found earlier in this blog. To go with it, I found some recipes for Greek vegetable side dishes, one of which was a sauteed mushroom with coriander recipe that turned out quite well. The original recipe can be found here. The end result was surprisingly light and fresh, and a nice counterpoint to the earthiness of mushrooms.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb large white mushroom, cleaned and quartered
1 tablespoon coriander seed, cracked
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon salt (to taste)
black pepper, freshly ground
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 -1 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Method
Heat oil over medium heat and saute mushrooms for 3-4 minutes, until softening. Add wine and coriander, and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are soft and the wine is nearly gone. Turn down and add remaining ingredients. Serve.