Posts Tagged 'Comfort Food'

Vegetarian Chili

After enjoying glorious temperatures for the past couple of weeks, we’re back to comfort food weather here in Denver. (82° to 42° in 24 hours?  So Colorado.) Today’s recipe is one of my favorite recent discoveries: Vegetarian Chili from the May 2010 issue of Everyday Food. It’s quick and easy, but it’s also hearty and has great depth of flavor (thank you, chipotle chile powder!). I made it last month up in the mountains for a group of friends that included a vegetarian and several meat eaters. While my sassy meat-eating friends refused to call it chili since it’s meatless, one of them also said it was in his top five “soups” of all time. I’ll take it!

Vegetarian Chili
Total time: 35 min. | Serves 6

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced medium
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3/4 cup (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 can (15.5 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15.5 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes

Method:
In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and garlic is soft, about 4 minutes. Add cumin and chile powder, season with salt and pepper, and cook until spices are fragrant, 1 minute. Add zucchini and tomato paste; cook, stirring frequently, until tomato paste is deep brick red, 3 minutes. Stir in black beans, pinto beans, and both cans diced tomatoes. Add 2 cups water and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce to a medium simmer and cook until zucchini is tender and liquid reduces slightly, 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Source: Everyday Food, May 2010

Vegetarian Chili

I’ve been on the hunt for a good vegetarian chili recipe, and I have to tell you, this is IT. I love the smokiness of the chipotle chile powder (it makes the dish!), the sweetness of the tomatoes, and the crisp-tender texture of the zucchini. The chili is chunky, hearty, filling, and delicious. Since the flavor is actually better than most meat chilis I’ve tried or made, it’s perfect for entertaining vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.

My only warning: If you don’t enjoy spicy food, you’ll want to cut the amount of chipotle chile powder considerably. As it’s written, the chili is quite warm (but certainly not unbearable), and that’s if you use canned tomatoes with mild green chiles. As a person who has been working to increase my tolerance for spicy foods, it pushes my boundaries just a bit. Our friends loved the amount of heat, but they did notice that it built up as they ate. Sour cream will offer some relief if you need it.

Recipe link: Vegetarian Chili

TIPS:  I was shocked to see the cheapest option for chipotle chile powder at my usual grocery store was $8.19. Yikes. Thankfully, I was able to find a jar at SuperTarget for $4.99. Even better if you have time: Go to a local spice store (Savory Spice Shop is my favorite!) and buy an even smaller (and less expensive) quantity.

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Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats

I’m a big dessert person, but I don’t always want to make a big effort in order to have it.  When my friend Christopher came over for dinner recently, I was looking for something that would be fun, delicious, and easy.  The answer?  Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats from the October 2008 issue of Everyday Food.  I love Rice Krispies treats – they so remind me of my childhood – and the chocolate element of this recipe elevates the flavor to something adults can really appreciate. Plus, the treats came together in 10 minutes flat.  Perfection!

Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats
Makes 16

Ingredients:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1 bag (10.5 ounces) mini marshmallows
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa (spooned and leveled)
6 cups crisp rice cereal
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

Method:
Butter an 8-inch square baking pan.  Line bottom and two sides with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on both sides.  Butter paper; set pan aside.

In a large saucepan, combine butter, marshmallows, and cocoa.  Cook over medium, stirring frequently, until melted, about 6 minutes; stir in rice cereal.  Press rice mixture into prepared pan; drizzle with melted chocolate.  Let cool to room temperature; cut into 16 bars.  (To store, keep in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 5 days.)

Source: Everyday Food, October 2008

Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats

These are so good!  I’ve never really been a chocolate Rice Krispies treat kind of girl (I love the original recipe), but I’ll totally make these again.  The texture is perfect, with just the right amount of butter and marshmallow, and I love, love, love the rich flavor of the chocolate drizzle on top.  This would be such a fun dessert for a dressed-up comfort food dinner party.

TIPS:  I was always under the impression that Rice Krispies treats got pretty stale if you didn’t eat them the day they were made, but these keep beautifully.

Recipe link: Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats

Roast Pork Loin with Carrots and Mustard Gravy

A couple of weeks ago, my dear friend Christopher actually visited my blog (instead of viewing it through Google Reader) and noticed that my header was in need of a face-lift.  (He created the previous one, so he’s allowed to say that!)  He came over recently and created the new one while I prepared today’s recipe as a thank-you dinner.  Many, many thanks to Christopher for my fresh new look.  I love it!

Anyway, both Christopher and I have a thing for pork, whether it’s shredded for tacos, part of a meatball, sauteed with sauce, or – for this meal – roasted with vegetables and drizzled with mustard gravy.  This recipe has an amazing end result and is impressive enough for company; it certainly earned the C.Go stamp of approval.

Roast Pork Loin with Carrots and Mustard Gravy
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 pounds carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise if large
1/2 pound shallots, peeled and halved if large
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork loin roast
3/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons grainy mustard

Method:
Preheat oven to 450°F.   On a rimmed baking sheet, toss carrots, shallots, and 1 tablespoon rosemary with 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper.  Roast for 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, season pork with salt and pepper.  In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium.  Add pork; cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes.  Transfer pork to a plate, and reserve skillet.

Remove baking sheet from oven; push vegetables to sides.  Place pork in center; return sheet to oven.  Roast, tossing vegetables occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of pork registers 145°F, 30 to 40 minutes. Loosely tent pork with foil.  Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

While pork rests, pour off almost all of the fat from skillet.  Add wine, and cook over medium-high, scraping up browned bits, until syrupy, 4 to 5 minutes.  Add flour, and cook, whisking constantly, 30 seconds.  Gradually add 1 cup water, whisking constantly.  Add 1 tablespoon rosemary.  Bring to a simmer.  Remove from heat. Whisk in mustard, and season gravy with salt and pepper.  Serve pork with carrots and gravy.

Source: Everyday Food, March 2009

My notes:

  • The smallest pork loin I could find at my grocery store was 2.7 pounds, so I bought it.
  • Since my roast was large, I used the full 40 minutes of baking time.
  • When I tested the temperature of my pork, it was more like 138° or 139°.  I didn’t want to risk overcooking it, so I tented it then.  I’m glad I did, because the pork turned out tender and juicy, and just barely pink.
  • Peeling all those shallots was kind of a pain, though they are delicious. Christopher and I think it would be fine to use a small red onion (cut into wedges) or pearl onions as a substitute.

Roasted Pork Loin with Carrots and Mustard Gravy

I rounded out the meal with a simple side of green beans, and did we ever enjoy it all.  The pork was perfectly cooked, the vegetables were tender, and the blackened bits on the vegetable edges were over-the-top delicious.  We liked the rosemary in the vegetables but thought it was overkill in the gravy; next time, I’ll leave it out. Also, if you’re feeling a bit lazy, the meal would still be perfectly delicious if you skipped the gravy altogether.  I enjoyed the extra flavor boost, though.  This one’s definitely a keeper!

Recipe link: Roast Pork Loin with Carrots and Mustard Gravy

Chicken and Spinach Casserole

I initially hesitated to post this recipe because I knew it wouldn’t photograph very well, but what the heck?  It’s too yummy not to share.

I’m not usually one for recipe repeats (unless I’m entertaining), but I’ve made this dish twice in the past couple of weeks.  Both times, I was motivated by the need to use an excess amount of spinach in my refrigerator.  (I can’t pass up organic baby spinach at Costco since, at under $4, it’s less than the tiny containers I would get at the regular grocery store.  A pound of spinach is a lot of spinach, though!)  The first time was a test; the second time, I knew I’d be making something absolutely delicious.

What do I like about this recipe (besides the flavor, obviously)?  I like that it uses fresh spinach instead of the frozen stuff, since I think fresh tastes so much better. I like that it incorporates the convenience of rotisserie chicken.  I also appreciate that there isn’t much prep work, since the only ingredient that requires chopping is one onion.  (I used jarred minced garlic.)  I love that it can be made ahead, though I haven’t taken advantage of that option just yet.  Here’s the dish after Dr. O and I had devoured half of it:

Chicken and Spinach Casserole

Think of this dish as creamed spinach with shredded chicken and fabulous, salty toasted bread on top.  If that appeals to you (and it does to me!), you’ll love this dish.  I also enjoy that I get something super creamy that isn’t completely nutritionally devastating because the base is made with half-and-half instead of cream.

Note:  I baked this in a 1 1/2-quart Corningware dish, and I’ll admit that the amount of food the recipe produces isn’t huge.  This is perfect for Dr. O and me to have dinner with enough left over for one person’s lunch the next day.  If you wanted to serve four (or even six) adults, I would double the recipe.  Also, be generous with seasoning during the cooking process.  It makes all the difference.

Recipe link: Chicken and Spinach Casserole

Mushroom and Sausage Ragù with Polenta

Despite the fact that it really doesn’t feel like fall has arrived here in Denver just yet (and I’m not complaining – this time last year, we’d already had a significant snow storm!), I could no longer resist the urge to start cooking fall comfort food.  I love grilling and all the amazing produce summer has to offer, but I think fall – with its braised meats, soups, stews, squash, and all other kinds of warm, delicious things – might be my favorite cooking season.

I found the recipe for my first comfort dish of the season – Mushroom and Sausage Ragù with Polenta – from Cooking Light, which I suppose makes this a nice transition from summer to fall; the dish tastes incredibly rich and comforting, but it actually isn’t all that bad on a nutritional scale.  A dish with (turkey) sausage, butter, and (light) cream cheese?  Yes, please.  Here’s the recipe:

Mushroom and Sausage Ragù with Polenta
Serves 4 (Serving size is 1 cup ragù and 1 cup polenta)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces hot turkey Italian sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
2 1/2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup uncooked polenta
4 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
1 tablespoon butter

Method:
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Remove sausage from casings. Add sausage to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove sausage from pan.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms; sauté 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in sausage, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium; simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Bring broth and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add polenta, stirring well. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 20 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, cheese, and butter. Serve with sausage mixture.

My deviations:

  • My grocery store was out of hot turkey Italian sausage, so I used sweet.
  • I find that Cooking Light recipes rarely have enough salt for my taste, so I used 1/4 teaspoon of salt (1/2 teaspoon total) each time the recipe called for 1/8 teaspoon.  On this same note, I just bought a regular old can of diced tomatoes (not no-salt-added diced tomatoes).  I did buy fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth as the recipe instructed.
  • I used Bob’s Red Mill polenta.  The recipe said to cook it for 20 minutes and the package suggested 30; I was happy with the consistency (for this particular meal, at least) at the 15 – 16 minute mark.

Mushroom and Sausage Ragu with Polenta

Good heavens, this was delicious.  I don’t know how the people at Jennie-O do it, but I never would have guessed that the sausage was made from turkey (as opposed to beef or pork) if I hadn’t cooked it myself.  The spiced meat combined with the earthy mushrooms and the sweet tomatoes made a perfect sauce.  And the polenta that soaked up that sauce?  Holy cow.  I’ve made polenta with butter and Parmesan many times before but never with cream cheese; the cream cheese really took it to the next level.  I also appreciated that there was enough butter in the polenta so we could taste it, but not so much that it created a nutritional disaster. Each serving clocks in at nine Weight Watchers points so it isn’t exactly a lean meal, but it certainly tastes far more indulgent than it is.  If I hadn’t told Dr. O this was a healthy recipe, he would have thought I was fattening him up for winter.

TIPS:  Cook the polenta while the ragù simmers so everything will be done at the same time.

Printable recipe link: Mushroom and Sausage Ragù with Polenta




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