DDD Ep. #13 – Healthy and Cheesy Vegan Green Enchilada & Spicy Chili Pepper Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2017

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or just print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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OK – kiddies! DDD #13 is UP!

Like boobs? Like mac & cheese? Who doesn’t? I am really proud of this episode (and my cans – it seems) as it makes the best of a disaster & really showcases (boobs) how mac & cheese can be delightfully vegan (boobs). But – if (boobs) mac & cheese is not your bag – my rack is very prominently on display here & really tries hard to distract viewers from the recipe in progress so – feel free to just focus on that. Watch my blunders, my fun bags or learn a great recipe – I don’t care. Just watch! I even have a post-credits blooper! Oh – and I think I say “fuck” about 20x in this. So – enjoy!!! Please share & please SUBSCRIBE!! Did I mention boobs? BOOBS!

Click the link for my Green Enchilada & Spicy Chili Pepper Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower recipe & please subscribe!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFiPBGYVT0s

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vromans back

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So – I wanted to make a healthier mac & cheese – less cheese (even less vegan cheese) and less pasta.  I looked in the fridge & my pantry & found these potential ingredients.

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As it turned out – I used all but the vegan cream cheese & the Daiya cheddar shreds.    So – the only actual cheese (vegan cheese) in this recipe is the Field Roast Chao Tomato-Cayenne slices.  If you can’t find these or do not like them (I think the 3 Chao cheeses are the best grocery store vegan cheeses on the market so far) – then use Daiya or any other kind of vegan cheese – or even real cheese (if you are not vegan).

This is a very easy dish to make – though it does have a few steps.  The only special tool you need is a blender (or a food processor).  No need to soak cashews overnight.  And – most importantly – it is VERY convincing!  None of the over-powering flavor of nutritional yeast yet all the wet, creaminess of real mac & cheese.  I swear – non-vegans will not identify this as vegan.  It has the additional benefit of using two full heads of cauliflower – but they blend in and become virtually undetectable – so your veggie hating kiddies will likely eat this with little argument (though you might want to reduce the spiciness for tender palates).

My primary excitement about this recipe is the green enchilada roux.  Traditional roux is made with butter, flour & milk.  I definitely wanted to use the green enchilada sauce but I did not want the dish to be swimming in liquid – as I feared it might be if I made a roux with milk and also added the enchilada sauce.  Happy news!  The enchilada sauce blended & thickened with the butter & flour as easily as milk would have but added SO much more flavor.

Again – while there are a few steps (mainly, boiling & draining to heads of cauliflower & the pasta) – none are difficult & the resulting dish is supremely gratifying!   I hope you try it!

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Healthy and Cheesy Vegan Green Enchilada & Spicy Chili Pepper Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower

Serves at least 6

INGREDIENTS

2 heads cauliflower (I used one white & one yellow)

for the roux

4 TBS vegan butter

4 TBS flour

16 oz green enchilada sauce

7 oz vegan cheddar (sliced up or grated)

1/4 cup nutritional yeast (SUPER optional – I just had a little left over that I wanted to use up)

for the mac & cheese

1-2 jalapenos – one seeded & diced and one seeded & sliced (optional – depending on your taste for spice)

1 4oz can diced green chilies (I used hot but you could use mild)

2 ears corn – kernels cut from the cob (or about one 14 oz can of corn or 1 cup frozen corn)

1 lb pasta (shape of your choice)

1-2 cups breadcrumbs (I used panko)

Cooking spray

GARNISH: cilantro, avocado, diced tomato, hot sauces, additional fresh jalapeno or canned chilies

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Treat a 9×13 casserole pan with cooking spray.

Cook the pasta according to directions (maybe 1 minute less than suggested) – drain & set aside.

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If you are using 2 different colors of cauliflower – you might want to cut each into florets & then boil & drain them each separately.  Or not.  It doesn’t matter much but the yellow cauliflower purees & looks like a cheesier sauce than white cauliflower will.  Still – some cheddar cheeses are white – so – don’t sweat it, whatever you decide.  If you are just using 2 heads of the same color – boil until just tender (5-7 minutes) – drain & set aside.

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If you used one head of yellow cauliflower – put it (with about 1 cup of hot water) into a blender & puree until very smooth.  Only add just as much water as you need to accomplish this – which could be more or less than a cup of water – depending on the size of the head you used.

If you used to heads of the same color – just puree one head worth as described above.  Set aside.

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Melt the butter in a sauce pan & whisk in the flour.  It should thicken & brown a bit very quickly – maybe a minute.  Add the enchilada sauce incrementally – letting it thicken before adding more – until it is all incorporated & rater thick.

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Add the cheese & stir until it melts.

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Add the pureed cauliflower & nutritional yeast (if using), salt & pepper to taste, and then one diced jalapeno, canned chilies & the corn.

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Combine & adjust S&P – if necessary.

Put the sauce in a large bowl & then add the pasta and the remaining cauliflower florets.  Combine.

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Pour the mac & cheese into the casserole dish & top with breadcrumbs & maybe some sliced jalapeno.  Spray with cooking spray – as this helps the breadcrumbs brown (because vegan cheese does not have the animal fat of real cheese – which is what browns in traditional mac & cheese).

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Bake at 400 for about 30-45 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are browned a bit & the cheese sauce is bubbly.

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Let rest for about ten minutes & then serve.  Garnish with avocado, cilantro, diced tomatoes and/or anything else you like.

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10-Minute Vegan Creamy and Spicy Mac & Cheese

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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I have posted several vegan mac & cheese recipes but I think this one comes closest to a Kraft experience.  The color is nearly right & it really is creamy & delicious.  I also think – of the pure vegan mac & cheeses (meaning – not the eggplant Parmesan kinda ones – seen below) –

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– this one is most likely to trick a cheese-eater.  The sauce only takes as long to make as it takes to boil pasta – just like Kraft.  Plus – it has a little kick to overpowers any flavor from the nutritional yeast that sensitive palates might object to.  Add some Crystal hot sauce & you have a vegan, cheesy pasta orgy!

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10-Minute Vegan Creamy and Spicy Mac & Cheese

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

8 oz dry pasta

1 3/4 cups unsweetened almond (or soy) milk

1/4 cup potato flour

1-3 tsp Dijon mustard (depending on your taste for the tang of mustard  – I went with 3)

1-3 tsp sriracha (I went with 1 tsp but added much Crystal hot sauce when I served it)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 TBS tomato paste

1 TBS white miso paste

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp mustard powder

Salt to taste

Garnish – Crystal (or other) hot sauce

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DIRECTIONS

Cook the pasta according to directions.

Whisk the rest of the ingredients over high heat.  Once it begins to bubble – reduce heat to low & stir until it thickens.  If it gets too thick – add water.

Drain the pasta & toss with the cheese sauce.

Serve with extra hot sauce.

See?  EASY!

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Healthy and Cheesy Vegan Green Enchilada & Spicy Chili Pepper Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

images (1)download (1)

All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or just print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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BathingandthesinglegirlCover

vromans back

4-30-16 (46)

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So – I wanted to make a healthier mac & cheese – less cheese (even less vegan cheese) and less pasta.  I looked in the fridge & my pantry & found these potential ingredients.

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As it turned out – I used all but the vegan cream cheese & the Daiya cheddar shreds.    So – the only actual cheese (vegan cheese) in this recipe is the Field Roast Chao Tomato-Cayenne slices.  If you can’t find these or do not like them (I think the 3 Chao cheeses are the best grocery store vegan cheeses on the market so far) – then use Daiya or any other kind of vegan cheese – or even real cheese (if you are not vegan).

This is a very easy dish to make – though it does have a few steps.  The only special tool you need is a blender (or a food processor).  No need to soak cashews overnight.  And – most importantly – it is VERY convincing!  None of the over-powering flavor of nutritional yeast yet all the wet, creaminess of real mac & cheese.  I swear – non-vegans will not identify this as vegan.  It has the additional benefit of using two full heads of cauliflower – but they blend in and become virtually undetectable – so your veggie hating kiddies will likely eat this with little argument (though you might want to reduce the spiciness for tender palates).

My primary excitement about this recipe is the green enchilada roux.  Traditional roux is made with butter, flour & milk.  I definitely wanted to use the green enchilada sauce but I did not want the dish to be swimming in liquid – as I feared it might be if I made a roux with milk and also added the enchilada sauce.  Happy news!  The enchilada sauce blended & thickened with the butter & flour as easily as milk would have but added SO much more flavor.

Again – while there are a few steps (mainly, boiling & draining to heads of cauliflower & the pasta) – none are difficult & the resulting dish is supremely gratifying!   I hope you try it!

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Healthy and Cheesy Vegan Green Enchilada & Spicy Chili Pepper Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower

Serves at least 6

INGREDIENTS

2 heads cauliflower (I used one white & one yellow)

for the roux

4 TBS vegan butter

4 TBS flour

16 oz green enchilada sauce

7 oz vegan cheddar (sliced up or grated)

1/4 cup nutritional yeast (SUPER optional – I just had a little left over that I wanted to use up)

for the mac & cheese

1-2 jalapenos – one seeded & diced and one seeded & sliced (optional – depending on your taste for spice)

1 4oz can diced green chilies (I used hot but you could use mild)

2 ears corn – kernels cut from the cob (or about one 14 oz can of corn or 1 cup frozen corn)

1 lb pasta (shape of your choice)

1-2 cups breadcrumbs (I used panko)

Cooking spray

GARNISH: cilantro, avocado, diced tomato, hot sauces, additional fresh jalapeno or canned chilies

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Treat a 9×13 casserole pan with cooking spray.

Cook the pasta according to directions (maybe 1 minute less than suggested) – drain & set aside.

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If you are using 2 different colors of cauliflower – you might want to cut each into florets & then boil & drain them each separately.  Or not.  It doesn’t matter much but the yellow cauliflower purees & looks like a cheesier sauce than white cauliflower will.  Still – some cheddar cheeses are white – so – don’t sweat it, whatever you decide.  If you are just using 2 heads of the same color – boil until just tender (5-7 minutes) – drain & set aside.

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If you used one head of yellow cauliflower – put it (with about 1 cup of hot water) into a blender & puree until very smooth.  Only add just as much water as you need to accomplish this – which could be more or less than a cup of water – depending on the size of the head you used.

If you used to heads of the same color – just puree one head worth as described above.  Set aside.

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Melt the butter in a sauce pan & whisk in the flour.  It should thicken & brown a bit very quickly – maybe a minute.  Add the enchilada sauce incrementally – letting it thicken before adding more – until it is all incorporated & rater thick.

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Add the cheese & stir until it melts.

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Add the pureed cauliflower & nutritional yeast (if using), salt & pepper to taste, and then one diced jalapeno, canned chilies & the corn.

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Combine & adjust S&P – if necessary.

Put the sauce in a large bowl & then add the pasta and the remaining cauliflower florets.  Combine.

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Pour the mac & cheese into the casserole dish & top with breadcrumbs & maybe some sliced jalapeno.  Spray with cooking spray – as this helps the breadcrumbs brown (because vegan cheese does not have the animal fat of real cheese – which is what browns in traditional mac & cheese).

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Bake at 400 for about 30-45 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are browned a bit & the cheese sauce is bubbly.

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Let rest for about ten minutes & then serve.  Garnish with avocado, cilantro, diced tomatoes and/or anything else you like.

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Baked Pink Pasta Casserole With Chicken & Peas (Vegan)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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Another easy one & another one that can be made with or without “meat.”  Today is the last day of my badass boyfriend’s holiday stay so I will make this as brief as possible (so I can hang out with him).  So – recipe only.

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Baked Pink Pasta Casserole With Chicken & Peas (Vegan)

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS

1 lb dry pasta (I used large shells)

Olive oil

1 29 oz can tomato puree

1 10 oz can Rotel (or diced tomatoes with green chilies)

4 garlic cloves – minced

1 tsp crushed red pepper (or to taste)

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp dry basil

1 tsp each S&P

9+ oz veganchicken – thawed & shredded (optional) – I love Beyond Meat

1 cup peas (optional)

4 oz vegan cream cheese

10 basil leaves – sliced or diced

1 cup grated cheese (I used a mozzarella/cheddar mix)

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DIRECTIONS

(Full disclosure – I originally – 3 years ago – made and posted this with real cheese – hence the visual.)

Cook & drain the pasta.

Heat a TBS or so of olive oil in a sauce pan.  Add the garlic & cook for about 30 seconds.  Add the tomato puree & Rotel.  Stir & add the oregano, crushed red pepper & dry basil.  Add the S&P.  Stir to incorporate.   Stir in the cream cheese & peas (if using peas).  Take about 1 cup of sauce & set it aside.

Heat the oven to 375.  In a large bowl, mix the pasta with the larger quantity of sauce.  Add chicken – if you are using it.  Stir it all together.

Grease a casserole dish with cooking spray.  Cover the bottom of the dish with the cup of reserved sauce.  Put the pasta mix in on top of that.  Top with the grated cheese.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until the cheese on top is sift or melted & beginning to brown.  Serve it up & garnish with the chopped basil.

ENJOY!

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Creamy Goat Cheese Spaghetti with Lemon & Collard Greens

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

~

Yesterday, I decided to blog about wraps.  A wrap rap.  So – I set about making a wrap.  A collard green wrap.  But what to wrap it around?  I had the ingredients for a decent slaw in my fridge, leftover from my Vegan Pozole & Taco Pizza efforts so I decided to make a sort of light, Asian slaw with a soy-vinaigrette rather than anything creamy.  I also had some plain tempeh in my fridge so I opened that and marinated it in the soy vinaigrette.

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Then, with the addition of some avocado & tomato – I commenced to wrap.

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As seems to be happening more often these days, I was uninspired in the photography department.  I have exhausted my lit locations & various plates & napkins – all of which have been used many times & I now feel like all my images look the same.  Cranky & hungry – I snapped a few of the damn collard wrap & then shoved it in my face like a wine cork.

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I discovered that 1) the vinaigrette was a bit overpowering and 2) the wrap was MESSY to eat and 3) I fucking hate tempeh!  Ick!  Even my dog Dexter turned it down when I offered it to him – though my fatboy Memphis ate the piece I gave him AND Dexter’s.

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So – I found myself with nearly a full bunch of collard greens that had been quick wilted by soaking them for 2 minutes in boiling water.  I didn’t want to muck around with wraps anymore when it came time for dinner.  So – like usual – a meal was born of the other ingredients I had handy: lemon, goat cheese, parsley & pasta.  Oh – and some dried up old Parmesan.

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This is the easiest kind of dish & comes together really fast.  The ratio of lemon or goat cheese I list here is just a suggestion.  You might like less lemon & more cheese or visa versa.  Feel free to tweak it to suit you.  Also – the collard green could be replaced with any other leafy green – Swiss chard or spinach or even asparagus or something.  This is a really healthy dish, too, as pastas go – so try it!

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Creamy Goat Cheese Spaghetti with Lemon & Collard Greens

INGREDIENTS (for 2 servings)

8 oz pasta or your choice

5 oz goat cheese

1 bunch collard (or other) greens

Juice of 1 lemon

Lots of chopped parsley

S&P

Parmesan as garnish

DIRECTIONS

Boil water in the pot you will cook the pasta in.  Remove the ribs from the collard greens as is depicted above.   Roll the leaves & slice them.

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My greens had already gotten a 2 minute soak but that isn’t necessary.  The collard greens will need about 5-7 minutes in the boiling pasta water.  My whole wheat spaghetti had a 7 minute cooking time so – had I not pre-soaked the greens for my failed wrap endeavor – I would have put them in the water with the spaghetti at the same time.   The greens are forgiving so do not sweat the timing.  Just drop them into the water with the pasta when your pasta is about 7 minutes from being done.

While the pasta cooks, scoop maybe 1/4 cup of the pasta water out & heat it in another pan.  Melt the goat cheese in that until it is nice & creamy.  I used an herbed goat cheese – hence all the flecks in it.  Add the parsley & lemon juice.

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When the pasta is al dente, drain it & toss with the goat cheese.  Add S&P to taste.  Serve with additional lemon and/or parsley and/or Parmesan & plenty of fresh cracked pepper.

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Cheesy Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna Rolls with Feta & Homemade Ricotta Smothered in Marinara Sauce

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

~

All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

~

I was inspired to make these because I had a shit-ton of fresh spinach that was about to go bad.   Once I was well into the process here – I got the spinach out to steam it & realized some of it had already wilted to the point that I didn’t want to use it but I was able to save enough that I could still pull this recipe off.  I added mushrooms to the filling to make up for the lost spinach.  I also used some leftover feta because the homemade ricotta quantity was smaller than I felt this dish needed.

This is not a difficult dish to pull off.  In fact, I’d call it easy – if you used a jarred sauce & a store-bought ricotta.  I have no life & my boyfriend lives in Arkansas – so I have nothing but time.  So – I made the ricotta from scratch (which takes about 10 minutes – I swear) and I made the marinara (also pretty easy).  I used fresh spinach – not frozen – but frozen would work, too.  I would like to have added some sliced, fresh Buffalo mozzarella to the top at the end of the baking process but, alas, all I had was this ghetto pizza cheese.

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It seemed a bit of a crime to bother to make the ricotta & then top these guys with processed cheese food.  Especially as I had sprung $14 (yes – FOURTEEN DOLLARS!!!) on these two cans of San Marzano tomatoes.  WTF?  But, shit happens so I just went with it.

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As an aside – I have recently discovered the joy of buying whole peeled tomatoes & squishing them by hand.  I cannot explain why I find it so satisfying – but I do.  Maybe I feel more Italian?  Maybe I get out some buried aggression?  I don’t know – but I suggest trying it – even though I felt I had to finish this sauce by punishing it with an immersion blender – to break up the bits I’d missed.

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But let me promise you – these lasagna rolls are delicious!  You could really roll anything up in lasagna noodles – a meat sauce or – you know – anything you would put in a traditional lasagna.  Try them.  You won’t regret it.

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Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna Rolls with Feta & Homemade Ricotta Smothered in Marinara Sauce

INGREDIENTS

For the ricotta

1/2 gallon milk

2 cups buttermilk

1 tsp salt

2.5 TBS white vinegar

(or just use about 1 1/2 cups or so of store-bought ricotta)

For the Marinara

2 28 oz cans or tomatoes (crushed – or you crush them by hand)

1 small onion – diced finely

6 cloves garlic – minced

Olive oil

1 packed cup fresh basil – chopped

1/2 cup fresh parsley – chopped

1/4 cup fresh oregano – chopped

1 tsp dry oregano

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 TBS good quality balsamic vinegar

For the lasagna rolls

12 (or so) lasagna noodles (more if you fear tearing some)

1 egg

12-16 oz spinach

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese – grated

1 cup feta cheese – crumbled

1 small onion – diced

1/2 lb mushrooms – sliced

4 cloves garlic

1 TBS crushed red pepper

S&P to taste

Extra Parmesan & basil or parsley as garnish

DIRECTIONS

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For the ricotta

Heat the milk & the buttermilk in a pan.  When it just begins to bubble in the corners – turn off the heat.  Add the salt & the vinegar & stir.  With a slotted spoon – scoop out the curds that form until all that is left is the yellowish whey.  Alternatively – CAREFULLY pour the curdling milk through a cheesecloth-lined colander.  In either case – let it cool a bit & then wrap it up in cheesecloth and squeeze out as much moisture as you can.  Unwrap the ricotta from the cheesecloth & put in a bowl & set aside (or chill).  There is video of this process in my Lasagna Cupcakes post.

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For the marinara

Heat about 1 TBS olive oil in a large stock pot.  Saute the onion until it is soft.

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Add the chopped herbs, dry oregano & minced garlic & saute another minute or two – or until the spices become aromatic.  Add the two cans of tomatoes & the S&P.  Simmer a few minutes (or more).  Add the balsamic & stir to get it fully incorporated.  Allow to simmer on a very low flame until you are ready to assemble the rolls.

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For the lasagna rolls

Heat your oven to 350.

Cook at least 12 lasagna noodles (I cooked the whole box & threw away the extra) until just al dente.  Rinse in cool water & set out to dry.

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Bring some water to a boil.  Submerge the spinach until it just wilts.  Drain & run under cold water.  Squeeze out all the moisture & chop the spinach finely.

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Heat 2 TBS olive oil in a large frying pan.  Add the chopped onion & the sliced mushrooms. I used  a red onion – which is why these images look kind of pink.

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When the mushrooms are just about done to your liking – add the garlic & saute another minute or two.  In a bowl – mix the mushrooms, egg, ricotta, feta, Parmesan, crushed red pepper, spinach and some S&P.

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Spread a bit of the mix on a lasagna noodle.  Roll it VERY loosely – applying no pressure – so that the filling doesn’t squeeze out.

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Put a thin layer of marinara on the bottom of a baking pan.  Then place your lasagna rolls on that – SEAM SIDE DOWN.  You might need two pans to fit all your rolls in.

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Top with some sauce & a bit of additional cheese.  If you are using buffalo mozzarella – add that about 10-15 minutes before the rolls are done cooking.

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Wrap tightly in foil & bake for about 40 minutes.  Serve with more sauce, additional grated Parmesan & some fresh herbs.  Yum!

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Shrimp & Tortilla Cheesy Lasagna in a Pink Sauce

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

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Once again – a make-shift invention born of the need to not waste ingredients I already had.  My recent homemade tortilla fixation nets me twelve tortillas at a time.  I eat two meals a day.  Even if I eat NOTHING but quesadillas (and that is what I have been doing – just ask my growing arse) – that is still 6 days of eating.  The tortillas have a three day shelf life – I am discovering.  So – out of desperation not to throw away more unused & stale tortillas – I came up with this guy.  I had everything in it already.  I used a frozen batch of my Roasted Tomato & Garlic Pasta Sauce which I recently tried on pizza & found it too acidic.  I had heavy cream left over from my Vegetable Pot Pie Cupcakes – and I plotted to curb the acid of the sauce with the smooth silkiness of the dairy.  I had a lot of grated cheese (a mix of cheddar & mostly mozzarella).  I also had frozen shrimp.  I know that cheese & seafood are an ill-suited pairing (some Italian restaurants even stating on their menus that they will not comply with any request to cheese up a seafood dish) – but these were some BS frozen shrimp in a two pound bag in danger of dying a second death due to advanced freezer burn so I decided to risk the arrival of the food police and blend them up in a recipe with a HEAVY dose of cheese.  My shrimp had tails – which I had to remove post-cooking.

I just took this thing out of the oven & tasted the slice you see in the photos.  HOLY CRAP!  This is one of the most delicious things I have ever made.  It was all I could do not to just inhale the whole piece – even though I had just eaten a quesadilla.  Outrageously delicious & undeniably, flat out out AWFUL for you!  SO much fatty cheese & cream & tortillas & yum!   I bet this would go over very big with kids or at football parties.

This is a very easy dish to prepare – especially if you use a jarred sauce (but try not to!  Try this easy 5 minute arrabiata sauce – if you possibly can) & pre-made tortillas.  You could cut the heavy cream entirely, too, to lessen the devastation to your waistline.  Maybe use cooked chicken or cooked sausage rather than shrimp?  But whatever way you make it – you gotta try it!  Trust me!

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Shrimp & Tortilla Cheesy Lasagna in a Pink Sauce

INGREDIENTS

5 flour tortillas

3 TBS butter

30 shrimp or about 1 lb – peeled & cleaned

1 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground pepper

6 cloves of garlic – chopped coarsely

2 cups tomato sauce

1 cup heavy cream (optional)

2 cups (or to taste) grated cheese (mozzarella or a mozzarella blend)

fresh parsley – chopped

Pico de Gallo – as garnish

DIRECTIONS

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter in a frying pan & cook the shrimp with the garlic (I left mine whole – but you can use chopped garlic), salt, pepper & crushed red pepper (if using).  When they are pink – remove from heat.  Err on the side of under-cooking because they will cook more in the oven.

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Blend the two cups of tomato sauce with the heavy cream (if you are using it).

Grease (with olive oil, butter or cooking spray) a deep pie dish.  Put a tortilla on the bottom.  Layer with 1/4 of the shrimp, 1/5 the sauce, 1/5 the cheese & some parsley. Add another tortilla, press it down & continue in the same manner until the last tortilla which you only top with sauce & cheese.

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Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown.  Remove from the oven & let rest a good ten minutes before cutting into it.

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Make a promise to yourself not to step on the scale for a few days – and serve this baby hot with more chopped parsley & pico de gallo (if using).

Enjoy!

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FOLLOW UP!!!!  This tastes great at room temperature, too!  And here is how it looks sliced up – cold out of the fridge:

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Shrimp & Cheesy Grits – My Way & On the Highway at Brenda’s French Soul Food in San Francisco

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

Last weekend, I went to San Francisco with my parents for a wedding.  Our first breakfast in SF was at a place I found (by Googling terms like “best breakfast in SF”) called Brenda’s French Soul Food.  It was a Friday morning, probably around 9:30am & there was a wait for a table.  Again, I loathe waiting but trying to find another spot in an unfamiliar city & then drive there & park – etc etc – would take longer -so we waited.  The interior of the room was really cool.  High ceilings, a collection of mirrors on one wall & a huge mural of a crawfish (or a lobster?) on the other.

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The wait wasn’t long and, as it happened, we were seated just beneath the mural.  We were quickly served delicious coffees and we perused the menu.  Beignets seemed to be a house specialty & they had a savory one (made of crawfish) that intrigued me.  Still – I am not much of a pastry person & I very seldom eat sweets – so – I opted for the shrimp & grits.  My stepdad got the beignets, however, and they were gloriously huge & very tempting.

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That front one is the crawfish beignet & it was, in fact, quite tasty.  Still – it could not hold a candle to the insanely delicious shrimp & grits – which I ordered sans bacon.

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These were piping hot – too hot to eat, in the beginning.  The grits were very thin, too thin to eat with a fork (which I liked) but there was more cheese involved than I thought was ideal.  The shrimp were amazing – and I am not a crazy shrimp person.  In fact – sometimes I get a bit weirded out by the texture – as it really must be very much the same as giant grubs or some other sick thing that most of us would not dare sample.  Shrimp are really just giant ocean insects, no?  Why are we cool with eating them but not, say, THESE?   Anyway – this shrimp & grits definitely ranks as one of the finest combo of breakfast flavors I have ever experienced.

Yesterday, my newest son, a rescued pug now named Memphis, had to have a little dental surgery & got two VERY stinky teeth removed.

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He is guesstimated to be three – which is quite young to have teeth in the condition his were – but a life in the sex trade as a backyard breeding dog (poor Memphis’ sad past) can take its toll.  You will be happy to know that his teeth are restored to a sparkling white & he no longer has that “what died in your mouth?” breath.  I picked him up after his surgery & brought him home.  I was supposed to head right back out & see one of my favorite musicians, Mr. William Elliott Whitmore (check out his awesomeness HERE), at the Roxy with some friends – but, as I feared, Memphis was pretty groggy & disoriented when I got him.  So – I stayed home to observe his recovery.  Look – he looks drunk even just sitting there:

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So – last night I stayed in with my kids, watched a lot of bad news for Romney on MSNBC & chatted with my Arkansas-bound boyfriend on the phone like a teenager.  And – I made my first attempt at Shrimp & Grits!  And – I am happy to report – it was a 5 star success.  Do not be intimidated by the steps required.  Each step is very easy & this comes together very quickly & elegantly – once you’ve roasted the stuff that needs roasting.  This recipe should feed 4 people fairly generously.

Also – as an aside –  if you are an inexperienced cook & want to develop confidence – not only should you cook more often (duh) but do things like – put a measured teaspoon of salt or a measured tablespoon of sugar in your palm & try to get used to eyeballing what those quantities look like.  Pour a measured cup into a pan & see what that looks like in there.  I very seldom use measuring devices & it is the hardest part of this blog for me.  I am continually forgetting to measure accurately as I add things & taste & adjust – so reporting to you how I did it gets tricky.  Furthermore – we all have different tastes.  Some hate garlic others love extra spice – etc etc.  Most of my recipes have a lot of wiggle room for you to adjust things to your own palette.  In fact, MOST recipes out there in the world can, and often should, be adjusted.  The only time measuring becomes critical is in baking.  Baking is a precision thing.  So – anyway – practice eyeballing quantities & start weaning yourself off the two cooking crutches – the measuring spoons & the measuring cups.  You will learn to trust yourself far more quickly this way.

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Shrimp & Cheesy Grits

Preheat the oven to 400

INGREDIENTS

1 large tomato cut into big chunks.  I used half an enormous heirloom tomato

1 red tomato – diced (for garnish)

10 tomatillos, papery skin removed & halved

2 small red onions – one sliced thickly, the other sliced thin

6 garlic cloves (I used more like 15 – but this is your call)

6 oz (or more) of grated smoked cheese – cheddar or gouda work well

1 LB (or more) of the jumbo shrimp – peeled & deveined.  Any shrimp will work – but the bigger the better.

Olive oil

Smoked Paprika

S&P

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Sliced scallions for garnish (optional)

2 cups Grits

3 cups vegetable (or chicken) stock (I had leftover vegetable broth in my freezer from when I made the tortilla soup.  It was very handy in this recipe.)

3 cups half-and-half (I used fat free)

Extra grated smoked cheese as a garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS

IMPORTANT NOTE – I used the fancy polenta corn grits that I bought at Figueroa Produce yesterday!  These grits required a ratio of 1 cup grits to 3 cups liquid.  The ones you use may differ & have different cooking instructions.  THOSE instructions should replace mine here on how to cook the grits.  Also – these grits (as I outline) came out fairly thick & I added a cup of more of water at the end to thin them.  You might like yours thick – or thinner than I did.  This is a personal call so use your own judgement.  Lastly – the grits – like most starches – will get thicker as they sit hot on the stove & you don’t want to remove them from the heat or they will cool too much before you use them.  So make the grits dead last after everything else is done & ready to go.  They cook pretty fast so this doesn’t add a lot of time to the process.

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LOOK at the awesome heirloom brainy tomatoes I got a Figueroa Produce! 

Heat the oven to 400.  Line a roasting pan with parchment paper.  Or don’t.  All the parchment does is keep your pan clean & the roasted veggies won’t stick.  It is pretty useful –  but not totally necessary.  Anyway – once you have your roasting pan lined (or not) – put the large chunks of tomato (not the diced red tomato), the halved tomatillos, the THICK sliced red onion (reserving the thinly sliced one) & all but two cloves of garlic in the pan.  Drizzle with olive oil & sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Toss to coat & put in the oven for 50-75 minutes – or until the vegetables are softened & begin to char a bit on the edges.

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Blend these roasted delights in a food processor or blender and add the lemon juice and some S&P.  Set aside.

Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a pan & saute the thinly sliced onion & the two remaining garlic gloves (smash the cloves with the flat side of a large knife) until the onions are caramelized.  This takes between 5-10 minutes.  Remove them from the pan & set aside.

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Toss your cleaned shrimp with some olive oil, a pinch of the smoked paprika (very different stuff than regular paprika – so try to use the smoked variety) and some S&P.  Cook these shrimp in the onion pan a few minutes on each side until they are pink.  Try not to OVER cook the shrimp.  You can stop cooking & set them aside – even before they are cooked through thoroughly – as they will continue to cook from their own heat for several minutes.  Once you think they are nearly done – remove them from the heat & set aside.

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Heat the vegetable stock and half & half until nearly boiling.  Add the grits & bring to a boil.  Lower heat to medium-low, cover the grits & set them aside for as long as your package directs.  In fact – cook the damned grits the way your package directs – just substitute a half veggie stock & half half-n-half mix for however much liquid they suggest you add to two cups of grits.  Once the grits are done, stir in the cheese and a solid teaspoon of smoked paprika.  Here is where you decide on the thickness.  If they are still too thin – cook them over medium-low heat until they thicken to where you want them.  Conversely – if they are too thick, add water & stir in over low heat until they thin to the point you desire.

Assembly:

Spoon a good amount of grits into each bowl.  Place some of the caramelized onion-garlic mix on top of that.  Arrange the shrimp atop that, spoon some of the tomatillo puree into the center & garnish with chopped red tomato, scallions & extra grated cheese – if you are using them.  Individuals can add more S&P to taste.  Serve immediately!!!

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