The weather has turned cold around here, and autumn is upon us in all of its chilly, rainy glory. So it’s comfort food for us, the kind that warms you up and makes you happy to be watching the rain fall outside.
This pasta is creamy, tasty comfort food at its best and (thanks to the yogurt, which cuts down on the cheese and eliminates the need for cream) it’s also not terribly unhealthy. The BBQ sauce and peppers provide a little taste of summer to a dish that we will be eating all winter long.
Creamy BBQ Pasta
Makes 2 Large Servings
1 cup dry whole wheat pasta, a short variety like penne or macaroni
3 cups water
½ teaspoon oil
1 cup bell pepper chopped (about 1 medium pepper)
½ cup cooked pinto beans (canned beans work fine)
½ cup corn kernels
1 clove garlic
½ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 Tablespoon prepared BBQ Sauce (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
freshly ground pepper, to taste
- In a medium pot, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add pasta and stir a few times to prevent sticking. Boil about 8 minutes or until pasta is the consistency you like. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small frying pan. Add the peppers and saute on medium heat until they are softened and the edges are just starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl, mix the cooked pasta, peppers, corn, beans, garlic, yogurt, cilantro, and BBQ sauce. Mix well.
- Stir in the cheese, and serve immediately.
Friends, I present you with not such a great picture of a very delicious dish. I was inspired by a friend who cooked a similar dinner for us in the summer, and I thought that I could make my version a little bit lighter (and use up my cream cheese!) by subbing in cream cheese for heavy cream. It worked perfectly, resulting in a thick, creamy, but not-too-heavy sauce. The fresh taste of the vegetables balances this dish nicely, and it is heavenly when served with some garlic bread, a simple green salad, a nice white wine. You can make your own pesto, of course, but premade pesto makes this so easy to throw together. It’s your call. Either way, you’re in for a scrumptious meal.
Creamy Pesto Pasta
Makes 4 to 6 Servings
3 cups dry whole wheat pasta, a short shape like penne or fusilli
6 cups of water
¾ cup pesto, store-bought or homemade
½ cup Neufchatel cheese or cream cheese
2 cups mixed vegetables, finely chopped
(I used ½ cup each of carrots, broccoli, peas, and bell peppers)
salt and pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of boiling water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until tender, about 6 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- In the meantime, cut up your veggies into small bite-sized pieces. (The vegetables I used worked really well, but I can also imagine green beans, asparagus, mushrooms, or zucchini being especially good in this dish.)
- In a large pan, combine the cheese and pesto and heat on low until the cheese is melted. Stir constantly during this process to mix the pesto and cheese.
- Add the veggies to the sauce and cook about 5 minutes, or until the veggies are tender but still bright and slightly crisp.
- Add the drained pasta to the sauce and toss to coat.
Back to school! That means simple, hearty recipes that will keep us going all day long, and tacos are among our favourites. This recipe may look a bit complicated, but don’t be fooled! It’s actually really simple to put together and it makes lots, so you can enjoy it for a few days after the initial work. Each of the elements in these tacos are also delicious on their own. The coleslaw makes an excellent side dish that travels well to picnics and potlucks, and the bbq peppers and tofu are great as a main dish served over rice or couscous. They are extra delicious in these tacos, though, where the tang of the coleslaw stands out against the subtle sweetness of the BBQ sauce, and the yogurt provides a creaminess that makes it all come together.
Wintertime BBQ Tacos
10 small corn or flour tortillas
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup prepared salsa
1 recipe bbq peppers and tofu (below)
1 recipe cilantro-lime coleslaw (below)
- Prepare the BBQ Peppers and Tofu. While they are cooking, prepare the coleslaw.
- Fill each tortilla with some of the peppers, tofu, coleslaw, yogurt, and salsa. Fold and enjoy!
BBQ Peppers and Tofu
1 lb. tofu, cubed (about 2 cups)
2 bell peppers, sliced (about 2 cups)
1 large onion, sliced (about 2 cups)
1 cup BBQ sauce
- Preheat the oven to 425F. Lightly oil a 9×13 baking dish.
- Slice the peppers and onion and cube the tofu.
- In the baking dish, toss the veggies and tofu with the BBQ sauce.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then stir and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
4 cups cabbage, thinly sliced (or 1 bag of shredded cabbage)
1½ cups cooked or canned black beans
1½ cups cooked or canned corn
½ cup lime juice (about 2 limes)
¼ cup olive oil
1½ cups cilantro leaves (1 bunch of cilantro)
1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar
¼ teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste
- In a blender (or using a hand blender), combine the lime juice, oil, cilantro, honey, cumin, salt, and pepper and blend until smooth.
- In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, corn, and beans together with the dressing.
BBQ Peppers and Tofu recipe borrowed from The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet by Nava Atlas.
This is the soup that my family eats every year on Christmas Eve or sometimes on New Year’s Eve. It’s a super-simple soup with very few ingredients, and part of the fun is adding garnishes to your own bowl at the table. If you want to forego the garnishes, though, it’s still delicious and warming – especially with a bit of green salad and a hunk of crusty bread.
By the way, I’m sorry my posting has been so sporadic this semester. I’m hoping to get back to regular posting now, but we’ll see how this next semester goes!
Simple Potato Soup
Makes 4 – 6 Servings
1 large leek, washed and sliced (white and green parts) – about 1½ cups
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 large baking potatoes, scrubbed and chopped (unpeeled if you like) – about 3 cups
4 cups vegetable broth
½ cup soymilk or cream (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
shredded cheddar cheese
sliced green onions
fresh (or dried) dill
sour cream or plain yogurt
- In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the leek, stirring until the green parts are wilted and the white parts are translucent and separated (about 10 minutes).
- Add the potatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until potatoes are soft enough to be mashed easily.
- Blend with an immersion blender or potato masher until smooth.
- Add cream or milk (if using) and salt and pepper.
- Garnish as desired.
Sorry I’ve been absent a few weeks. It’s just that time of the semester, but to make up for it, I have for you a delicious recipe that will make your breakfasts sublime this week.
I love spinach-feta cream cheese. Love it! Sadly, I haven’t been able to find it anywhere in New Haven, even at the decent bagel place around the corner from my house. Always industrious, I decided to make my own, reasoning that this would solve my problem and allow me to control the quality of ingredients that I used. I found organic neufchâtel cheese at Nica’s (the little Italian market near my house) that was only slightly more expensive than the regular cream cheese, and bought a nice, sharp feta from their deli. The spinach came out of my freezer, and the pepper was a last-minute addition that adds a bit of a bite without overpowering the other flavours. In the end, this was more expensive to make than simply buying flavoured cream cheese, but it was delicious and easy to make and definitely worth it if you are (like me) without a source of premade spinach-feta cream cheese.
Spinach and Feta Cream Cheese
Makes about 2 cups
8oz. plain cream cheese or American neufchâtel cheese
1 Tbsp. water
4oz. feta cheese (about 1½ cups), crumbled
1 cup cooked spinach, chopped (from about 4 cups raw)
¼ tsp. pepper
- You can use thawed frozen spinach but if you are using fresh spinach, start this way: remove spinach stems, and chop the spinach finely. In a medium pot over medium heat, cook the spinach until it has reduced to about a quarter its original volume but it is still bright green. Set aside, making sure that it is completely cool before using.
- With an electric mixer (or a good spoon and a strong arm), beat the cream cheese until it is smooth and creamy, adding water as necessary.
- Add spinach, feta, and pepper and stir to combine.
- Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Enjoy on bagels, crackers, or veggies (cucumber slices are especially good).
Nothing is easier to make than a batch of oven fries. Cut up potatoes, put them in the oven, take them out of the oven. Voíla!
In this recipe, the sweet potatoes are tossed in a bit of oil and spice to add a subtle spice to the sweet flavour of the potato, and they are served (if you like) with a super-simple spicy mayo dip (because if you aren’t going to deep-fry your potatoes, you should at least serve them with mayo, right?).
We like to eat these as a side dish with all manner of entrees, from burgers to baked tofu to chili. It’s a fun and simple way to enjoy what is, in my humble opinion, one of the best winter vegetables out there.
Sweet Potato Oven Fries
1 large sweet potato, about 1 lb.
1 teaspoon olive oil
½ teaspoon chili powder
- Preheat oven to 425F.
- Cut potatoes into long, thin strips. Try to make them as even as possible so that they will all finish cooking at the same time.
- In a large bowl, toss together the potatoes, oil, and chili powder.
- Bake on a cookie sheet for 20 – 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes. (20 minutes should be long enough for them to cook through, 30 minutes should make them a bit crispy on the outside. Test a few with a fork to make sure they are done).
Makes ½ cup
- In a small bowl, mix together all of the ingredients.
- Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to about 5 days.
This week, I solved two of my long-standing culinary dilemmas. First, what to put in dinner crepes besides sauteed veggies and cheese, and second, how to enjoy Ethiopian food at home without the traditional flatbread injera, which is so central to Ethiopian cuisine. When the problems are posed together like that, the answer is simple of course: serve Ethiopian dishes in crepes!
I tried it this week and it was delicious! The crepes stood in beautifully for injera and the lentils made a scrumptious filling for dinner crepes. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of making crepes, this particular lentil dish is also really good with couscous or even served on rolls like sloppy joes.
Makes 16 crepes, Serves 8
3 eggs (ener-G egg replacer also works well here)
1½ cups soymilk or milk
2 Tablespoons oil
1½ cups whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon salt
- Using an electric mixer or blender, mix the eggs (or egg replacer) and milk until frothy.
- Add the flour and salt and mix to combine well.
- Let chill for at least 1½ hour before using.
- After chilling, lightly grease a medium pan and heat over medium-high heat.
- When the pan is heated, pour in about ½ cup of batter and tilt the pan until the batter covers the bottom.
- Cook until the edges are solid and the crepe begins to bubble, about 1 minute.
- Flip and cook the other side about 30 seconds. Set aside and repeat, greasing the pan between every three crepes or so.
Mesir Wat (Ethiopian Red Lentil Puree)
Makes 8 Servings
¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger or ½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cayenne powder
½ lb. red lentils
3 cups water
- Heat the oil in a large pot (the lentils will expand quite a bit; you need a bigger pot than you might think). Add onions and garlic and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add spices and stir to coat the onions. Saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the water and bring to a boil. When it is boiling, add the lentils and stir to prevent sticking. Simmer for 30 – 40 minutes, or until lentils are tender and mushy and the water is absorbed.
- If desired, you can puree the mixture (an immersion blender works especially well for this).
- Place about ½ cup of lentil mixture in each crepe just before eating and roll them up. Serve topped with yogurt and hot sauce, if desired.