Category Archives: easy peasy lemon squeezy!

Easy Marinara Sauce

This is going to be a recipe sans photo, since it got gobbled up too quickly by the two of us for me to photograph it.  But since I posted about the deliciousness of it on Facebook, my friends have been demanding I post the recipe, so here goes.

I got a food mill for Christmas, which I’d been wanting to put to use.  Not being consumers of mashed potatoes, baby food or applesauce, there were few things I could make using this shiny new tool.  I’d wanted to make my own tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes, since many sauces have onion powder added to them, which SB is allergic to.  On top of that, jarred pasta sauces are something I like to use for certain recipes, although after this recipe, I don’t know that I’ll ever buy a jarred sauce again.  Many jarred sauces have added corn syrup in addition to onions, neither of which SB can eat, so I set out to make my own.  I needed the recipe to be easy, tasty, and something I could make regularly.  I’ll say this:  as long as I have access to fresh Roma tomatoes, I’ll make this recipe over and over.

Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • about 2 pounds Roma tomatoes, cut lengthwise
  • non-stick cooking spray
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 extra for sauteeing the garlic
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped into small pieces but not minced (I like mine a bit more rustic)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil (you can increase this as you like)
  • kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Meanwhile, prepare a rimmed baking sheet by spraying it with a bit of non-stick cooking spray.  Arrange the halved tomatoes in rows on the sheet, and drizzle the olive oil over the tomatoes so that they are lightly coated with the oil.  Sprinkle salt over the tops of the tomatoes, and place the pan on the middle rack of the oven for 30-45 minutes, or until the skins just start to brown and the tomatoes are nice and soft–keep an eye on the tomatoes, because you don’t want them to get too brown.

Remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool for about 30 minutes.  For the next step you can elect to use either a food mill, or a blender.  I didn’t want skin or seeds in my sauce, so the food mill was perfect.

I put the fine grinding disc into my food mill because I wanted a smooth sauce.  Placing the food mill over a bowl, put the tomatoes in (carefully so you don’t lose any juice!) and turn the handle so that you can get as much lovely puree as possible.  If you use a blender, just put all the roasted tomatoes in the blender and puree.

Finally, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan or other pan (I used a Dutch oven since I was going to heat meatballs in it with the sauce) and lightly saute the garlic.  Once the garlic softens, add the puree, tomato paste, and basil.  Stir over medium heat so that the sauce thickens up a bit.  Cook over medium-low heat so the flavors meld and serve with your favorite pasta.

This recipe made about 2 cups of sauce, which I served over homemade meatballs and al dente spaghetti.


Sticky Chicky Wings

Shopping at the grocery store this past weekend for a Super Bowl party inspired me to make some wings for dinner one night this week. Now you’re probably thinking, but aren’t wings really unhealthy? Not if you marinate them overnight in a yummy sauce and then bake them. I realize that the wing is a decently fatty part of the chicken, but it has a lot of flavor. At least the baked type are more healthy than their fried counterparts!

Craving wings? Craving Asian flavors? Make these!

I had some sake and mirin sitting around that I’d bought a while back in a lame attempt to recreate these wings served at David Chang’s Momufuku restaurant in New York City. Last spring, I’d taken a cooking class called “Great Restaurants of New York” and that particular recipe was one that our chefs had us prepare, with a few modifications–for example, we used a sous vide cooker to cook them rather than cook them in the 5 cups of duck fat the original recipe calls for. The flavor of the finished wings was indescribable, but one I knew I’d want to eat over and over again.

So this week, I decided to make sticky chicken wings with a marinade that I’d cobbled together and that turned out to have a similar flavor to the wings we’d made in class minus the smokiness that David Chang’s recipe has. I served ours alongside a quickie fried rice I threw together with frozen veggies and steamed rice. No eggs or scallions, of course. 🙂

Here’s how I did it. You will need:

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon five spice powder (if you don’t have this, you can use a blend of ground anise, cinnamon, ground ginger, ground fennel and black pepper. A good guideline for how to mix this is here.)
  • 2 tablespoons mirin**
  • 1 tablespoon dry sake**
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 12 chicken wings, tips removed and reserved for another use (make a stock! don’t let these guys go to waste!)

*Mirin is sweet rice wine. You can substitute sake plus a bit of sugar for it. You can also substitute sweet sherry for the mirin and sake if you don’t have either in your pantry. White wine would also work here.

In a small bowl, add the first 6 ingredients and whisk together until they are thoroughly mixed. In a gallon-sized ziplock bag, add the chicken wings and pour the marinade over the wings. Zip the bag closed, and lay it in a baking dish in your refrigerator so that it sits overnight.

The next day, when you’re ready to cook them, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper and remove the wings from the bag, laying them on the paper. Bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on how meaty your wings are (ours were quite meaty, so they required more time), and then turn the wings over, cooking for an additional 10-15 minutes. They will develop a gorgeous smell as they cook, and their color is as rich as the flavor.

This recipe made 2 servings of 6 drummettes each. I think I’ll use this marinade for larger cuts of chicken as well in the future. It really had a great flavor, and SB inhaled his plate. I deem dinner a success based on that alone.

Decadent Scalloped Potatoes

You know how once or twice a year, you find yourself either eating or cooking something you don’t normally eat or cook on an everyday basis?  This dish is one of those things.  When I was growing up, if we had ham for dinner, it was a special occasion.  My mom would make scalloped potatoes from the Betty Crocker mixes you can buy at the store as a side dish, and we’d have some vegetable too, usually green beans.  Friday, my dad called to let me know what we needed to bring over to his place today as we were celebrating Christmas with him and his wife and her sister.  We’d be having ham and prime rib, he said, along with a vegetable tray, pickled beets, and baked beans.  I asked him if he’d like me to bring something potato-y to accompany the meat, as my dad (like many of his generation) is a meat and potato eater at heart.  He said, “I’d like some scalloped potatoes.”  I agreed to make some, as I had the ingredients at home for them.

So this morning before the gift opening began, I got to work making what was possibly the unhealthiest thing to come out of my kitchen in a long time.

I'll be honest, the only healthy thing about this dish is the calcium in the cream. Otherwise, it's super decadent, and will make your cardiologist rich if you eat this every day.

But I’m not going to lie:  it was worth every last bite.  This recipe is stupidly easy, and if you make it, you will NOT have leftovers.  It’s the kind of dish where people will fight for the last bite–it’s that good.  The recipe I made was for a large group, so scale down as appropriate for your own needs.

Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • 6-7 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled*
  • 1 quart plus 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3-4 whole sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh nutmeg, ground
  • salt
  • pepper
  • butter

*I used Yukon Golds because they hold up really well to baking in dishes like this.  They are waxy-fleshed and not as starchy as Russets, which you can also use if you like.  The consistency of the final dish will be more mushy should you use Russets.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  In a large saucepan, heat the cream, thyme, rosemary and nutmeg over medium to medium-low heat.  You just want to warm it, not boil it.  Stir periodically to prevent a skin from forming on top of the cream mixture.

While the cream is warming, peel the potatoes and slice them into 1/4″ slices.   Use the butter to grease the bottom of a large glass casserole dish, and begin forming an overlapping layer of potato slices on the bottom of the dish.  Sprinkle the layer with salt and pepper.  You may want to salt liberally, as potatoes really need salt, but feel free to go light on the salt so your guests can salt the dish as they like.

Remove the cream mixture from the heat, and remove the thyme sprigs.  Using a ladle, cover the potato slices with the cream mixture.  Repeat the layers of potatoes and cream until you have used all of each.  This should give you about 3 layers.  Bake uncovered in the oven for 50-60 minutes, or until the top is brown and bubbly and the potatoes are cooked through.  Use a fork to test for doneness.  Let the dish cool for about 10 minutes before serving to allow everything to set up.

This recipe filled a 3 quart baking dish.  It was entirely gone by afternoon’s end.  These potatoes will only make an appearance once a year, even though they are really easy to make!  They are super rich, and definitely not something you’d want to eat on a weekly basis lest you drive your cholesterol sky-high.



Arroz con Pollo

Since being on holiday, I’ve done a bit of meal planning and prep work for upcoming meals for the week, some of which are more elaborate than the usual weeknight fare we have here. Last night, I decided we’d have something that was relatively fast and easy to fix since I’d been busy all day and SB was tired from the long day at school (they were in session until today!). Enter arroz con pollo:

Simple. Tasty. Comfort food.

It’s a variation of the usual chicken and rice dinner that I used to cook quite a lot as a kid, when both my repetoire and palate were much more limited than they are now.

I’ll start off by saying that this recipe really does need onions to add depth of flavor, but due to food allergy issues in our house, they have been omitted. If you do make this yourself, add half a small onion that has been finely diced to the rice when you brown it.

Here’s how I made the dish. You will need:

  • 4 chicken leg quarters, excess fat removed
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups long grain white rice, raw
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt, to taste
  • OPTIONAL: half a small onion, finely diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare the leg quarters by removing any excess fat and skin, or your finished dish will be extremely greasy. Sprinkle the leg quarters liberally with salt and pepper. On either a broiling pan or a rack set in a jelly roll pan, roast the leg quarters for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the leg is pierced with a fork. Remove the chicken to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

During the last 15 minutes of the chicken cooking time, in a large skillet, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat so that you can brown the rice. You will know that the oil is hot enough when you put a couple of rice grains in it and they dance a bit in the pan. When the oil is hot, add the rice and stir it around as it browns slightly. If you decide to use onion, this is where you want to add it in. Once the rice is lightly browned, add in your tomato sauce and stir. Add in the water and spices, and stir thoroughly to mix. Let this mixture cook for a few minutes until it begins to bubble. Once the rice begins to bubble, add in the chicken and cover with a lid. Turn the heat down to simmer, and allow the rice to cook, stirring only a couple of times as you don’t want your rice to be mushy. Allow the rice to cook for about 30 minutes, and tilt the lid slightly to allow steam to escape during the last 8-10 minutes. Then, turn off the heat, close the lid and let the dish finish steam cooking for about 10 minutes. Serve while hot.

We ate ours with mashed pinto beans and cheese. This would also be good with a green salad and tortillas. This recipe made 4 servings: 1 leg quarter plus about a cup of rice each, so for us, we got two really yummy meals out of this recipe.

Baked Chiles Rellenos with Turkey-Bean Stuffing

Alas, it is nearly the end of August, and that means two things:  it is hotter than hell, and Hatch chiles are in season.

For the uninitiated, Hatch peppers are probably, bar none, the best green chiles one can ever hope to consume.  Grown in Hatch, New Mexico, like champagne and bourbon, they can only be called those things if they hail from the specific geographic regions they originate from.

Hatch peppers are a foodie’s fondest dream, especially if that foodie has a love of all things capsaicin (the compound responsible for the heat in chile peppers of any sort).  The peppers can be mild, and impart only a hint of heat to the dish which they are added to, or they can be hotter than hot and leave a lingering burn that burns oh so good.

A few weeks ago, I’d made a mango salsa that had a poblano pepper in it.  Typically, poblanos are pretty mild when it comes to heat, measured in Scoville units.  Hatch peppers are pretty close on the Scoville scale when compared to poblanos, but can still pack quite a punch.

After seeing how gorgeous the poblanos at Central Market were last week, I decided we’d have chiles rellenos for dinner one night.  I’d gotten a recipe for some sort of turkey taco bean dip via email from Hungry Girl and wanted to try it, but needed to modify it since it had onions in it (one of SB’s allergens).  I also didn’t want to eat it as a dip, since I’d eat more chips than dip (my damn Kryptonite, tortilla chips are).  I also had a can of Hatch green chile enchilada sauce in my larder that needed to be used and that could be subbed into the Hungry Girl recipe.  So I figured I’d stuff some peppers with the filling and top them with a bit of cheese.  Here is the result:

A twist on the traditional chile relleno, this recipe does not roast the chiles first, nor does it dredge then fry them. Packed full of fiber, this is an easy, healthy dinner that can be put together in a short amount of time.

They were super easy to make, and full of heat from the Hatch chile sauce that was a part of the stuffing.  Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • 1 pound 93/7 ground turkey
  • 1 can Hatch green chile enchilada sauce (I used mild; you can ramp up the heat if you like)*
  • 1 can fat-free refried beans
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 4 large poblano peppers
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt to taste

*In lieu of Hatch green chile sauce, just plain ol’ green chile enchilada sauce (like Old El Paso or others) can be used.  The flavor won’t be the same, though.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  In a large skillet, brown the ground turkey and drain the excess fat.  To the turkey, add the can of green chile enchilada sauce, cumin and garlic powder.  Allow these to cook together for about 10 minutes so that the meat takes on the flavor of the chile sauce.  After that, add the can of refried beans, stir to combine and let this mixture heat until it bubbles slightly.

While the meat and bean mixture is cooking, slit the peppers lengthwise and remove the seeds without removing the stems.  You can remove the stems if you like, but I left mine on for presentation purposes.  I recommend using gloves to seed the peppers, as the capsaicin will get onto your skin and subsequently anything you touch.  Let’s put it this way, I now know what it must be like to be pepper sprayed. 🙂

Once your peppers are slit open and seeded, check your meat/bean mixture.  If it is a little bubbly, stir in 3/4 cup of the Monterrey Jack cheese and allow it to melt into the mixture.  Once the cheese has melted, lay the peppers in a 13 x 9 glass baking dish, and fill each pepper with the meat/bean mixture.  The amount will vary and will be determined by the size of your peppers.  You may have leftover filling–save it for a burrito!  Divide the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese among the tops of the 4 peppers, and bake uncovered for 40-45 minutes until the peppers blister slightly and your cheese is nice and brown.

This recipe made 4 servings and was served over brown rice.  With the amount of filling that I ended up with, I could have stuffed another pepper if I’d had one.  Additionally, this recipe could easily be converted to a vegetarian one with the omission of the turkey meat.  It could also be made vegan if a cheese substitute were used.  Give it a try!