Thursday, September 24, 2009

Spicy Gumbo

This is the dish I make when Abe's having the guys over for football or some other sporting event. It's super flavorful and a crowd pleaser.

It makes a lot, so if it's just for dinner, I'd cut it half; although the leftovers are great the next day (and the day after...). I've also had success freezing the leftovers, but only after the shrimp was taken out.

Cajun seasoning can be found in the grocery store, but make sure you get a brand that doesn't have a lot of salt in it.

A roux is a mixture of fat and flour and it adds a lot of flavor to the dish. Make sure you spend the time browning it, making sure to constantly stir it so it won't burn. It may take longer than I listed(it also has taken less time, it all depends on the day). The color should be close to coffee with cream.

If I'm feeling lazy (and there's a good chance of that), I don't bother with the roma tomatoes and maybe will throw in an addition can of plain diced tomatoes.

Serve with rice and corn bread.

I got the recipe from and adapted it a bit.

Boudreaux's Zydeco Stomp Gumbo
Serves 10

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup skinless, boneless chicken breast halves- chopped
1/2 pound pork sausage links, thinly sliced (I use andouille).
1 cup olive oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons minced garlic
5 cups chicken broth
1 (12 ounce) can or bottle beer
6 stalks celery, diced
4 roma tomatoes, diced
1 sweet onion, sliced
1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chile peppers, with liquid
2 tablespoons chopped fresh red chile peppers
1 bunch fresh parsley
1/2 cup frozen okra, thawed
1/4 cup Cajun seasonings (make sure it's salt-free)
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

1. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat and cook chicken until no longer pink and juices run clear. Stir in sausage and cook until evenly browned. Drain chicken and sausage and set aside.

2. In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, blend olive oil and flour to combine a roux. Stir constantly until browned and bubbly (about 10-15 minutes). Mix in garlic and cook about 1 minute.

3. Gradually stir chicken broth and beer into the roux mixture. Bring to a boil and mix in celery, tomatoes, sweet onion, diced tomatoes with green chile peppers, red chile peppers, parsley, okra and Cajun seasoning. Reduce heat, cover and simmer about 40 minutes, stirring often.

4. Mix chicken and sausage into the broth mixture and cook an additional 20 minutes. Add shrimp for the final 10 minutes.

Lentils and Rice with Fried Onions (Mujadarrah)

This is what we are having for dinner tonight. It's a classic Arabic comfort food and is so simple, yet so good. Don't be turned off by the lack of ingredients; its beauty is in its simplicity.

The dish gets a lot of its flavor from the onions being caramelized, so don't worry about cooking them too long. You want them dark and almost burnt. The yogurt topping is a must, too. The Arabic yogurt has an extra tang to it and can be found in Middle Eastern markets, but plain yogurt can be used just as easily.

Some people add a bouillon cube to the pot, but I never do. If you worry that it might be too bland by the description, go ahead and add a veggie or chicken one, but traditionalists would shake their heads.

This recipe will make plenty, and leftovers taste even better the next day for lunch!

Lentils and Rice (Mujadarrah)
Served 4

6 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 large white onions, sliced into rings
1 cup uncooked green or brown lentils
1 cup uncooked white long-grain rice
One healthy pinch of ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup or more leban (Arabic yogurt) or plain yogurt

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onions and cook until they are very brown and caramelized, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. Place lentils in a medium saucepan with enough lightly salted water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 15 minutes, making sure the water doesn't cook out.

3. Stir rice and enough water to cover into the saucepan of lentils. Season with salt, pepper and cumin. Cover saucepan, reduce heat to low, and continue to simmer 15-20 minutes until rice and lentils are tender. If water cooks out before rice is done, just add a little more.

4. Mix half the onions into the lentil mixture. Top with yogurt and remaining onions to serve.

Spinach Lasagna

A simple, yet satisfying meal that can be made ahead of time and frozen. This is my go-to recipe when I'm making a meal for one of the ladies in my playgroup that just had a baby.

Even though he swore he wouldn't like it because of the spinach, Jimi actually likes it and has requested it. It's a tasty way to sneak in some veggies into your kid.

Spinach Lasagna
Serves 12

20 lasagna noodles
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
1 chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups fresh spinach
3 cups ricotta cheese
2/3 cup grated Romano cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 egg
3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
3 cups tomato pasta sauce, divided

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add lasagna noodles and cook for 8-10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

3. In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook mushrooms, onions and garlic in olive oil until onions are tender. Drain excess liquid and cool.

4. Combine ricotta, Romano, spinach, salt, oregano, basil, pepper and egg in a bowl. Add cooled mushroom mixture. Beat with a fork until well blended. Spread a bit of pasta sauce on the bottom of a 9X13 baking dish and then lay 5 noodles in the bottom. Spread 2 cups of cheese mixture over noodles. Layer some of spinach, along with 1 cup of mozzarella and 1/3 cup parmesan on top. Spread 1 cup spaghetti sauce over the cheese. Repeat layering 2 times.

5. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated oven for 1 hour. Cool 15 minutes before serving.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Broccoli and Cheese Calzones

I made this for dinner tonight and it was shockingly easy and delicious!  I took less than 30 minutes from fridge to table, perfect for a worknight.

This is sort of a "grown up" calzone with the Gorgonzola and broccoli.  Abe and I decided that this recipe can be mixed up so many different ways.... Italian, with salami and mozzeralla, Mexican with chedder, jalapenos and cilantro... the possibilities are endless.

I made the recipe as is, but did add some chopped sun-dried tomatoes, which I think made it even better.

I got this out of my The Big Book of Vegetarian cookbook.


Broccoli and Cheese Calzones

One 10-ounce package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
3 green onions (white and light green parts), chopped
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola or other blue cheese
1 cup packed grated fontina cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Flour for sprinkling
One 10-ounce tube refrigerated pizza dough

1. Preheat oven to 425.  In a medium bowl, mix the broccoli, green onions, ricotta, Gorgonzola and fontina.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Sprinkle a large baking sheet with flour.  Unfold the dough on the prepared baking sheet. Gently stretch and/or roll the dough to an 11-inch square; cut the dough in half diagonally, forming 2 triangles.  Place half of the filling in the center of each triangle.  Fold one side of each triangle over the filling, forming 2 triangular calzones.  Press the edges of the dough to seal.  Cut 3 slits in the top of each to allow steam to escape.

3. Bake the calzones for about 15 minutes, until golden brown.  Serve hot.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Moroccan Lentil Soup

Another old standby.... I can count on this recipe when I'm stumped about what to make. It's hearty and flavorful, filled with fiber and protein. It's also cholesterol-free!

This can be made as is or spiced up even more. Personally, we love spicy food in this family, so I fire it up by adding a spoonful of Indian red curry paste. But it's just as tasty as is.

Red lentils are sometimes called Indian dals. They aren't too hard to find, especially at Indian or Middle Eastern markets. I've seen them sometimes in the international section of grocery stores. Green lentils could be used in a pinch, but the red lentils really make the recipe unique.

The garam masala is a very special Indian spice mixture that is necessary for the dish. This can also be found at most Indian markets or sometimes the gourmet section of grocery stores.

Don't feel tied to the exact amounts and types of beans in the recipe; I unusually just throw in whatever I have in my pantry. I'd stick to the "white" beans, though.

Serve with warm pita.

I got this recipe off of and added some modifications.

Moroccan Lentil Soup
Serves 6

2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (don't use dried)
6 cups water or veggie broth
1 cup red lentils
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained
1 19-ounce cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 large yukon potato, diced (or any type of potatoes you have on hand)
2 teaspoon garam masala
3/4 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (add red curry paste for added spice)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste (start with 1 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 bunch cilantro, sliced thin crosswise (optional)

1. In a large pot, sauté the onions, garlic and ginger in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes.

2. Add water or broth, lentils, chick peas, white kidney beans, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, celery, garam masala, cardamom, cayenne pepper and cumin. Bring to a boil for a few minutes, and then simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or longer, until lentils are soft.

3. Puree half the soup in a food processor or blender and stir into soup (optional step).

4. Top with cilantro (optional).

Chicken Souvlaki Gyro Style

This is a dish that Jimi requests quite frequently. He especially loves the sauce and always asks me to save the leftovers so he can dip pretzels in it.

I have found thick Greek bread at my local markets, which really adds to the flavor and authenticity of the dish, but if you can't find them, regular pitas will do.

I make mine vegetarian by using cut up pieces of vegetarian chicken patties. With this yummy sauce, anything will taste good!

The recipe calls for grilling the chicken, but it can be pan fried too.

I've just started buying the thick Greek plain yogurt that stores seem to be carrying now, and I think it would make a good and healthy replacement for the yogurt/sour cream combo in the recipe.

I got this recipe from


Chicken Souvlaki Gyro Style

Serves 4

Souvlaki Marinade:
3/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

Tzatziki Sauce (cucumber sauce):
1/2 cup seeded, shredded cucumber
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced (if you're a garlic lover, feel free to use more)
1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill, or 2 teaspoons dried
1/2 teaspoon Greek seasoning (found in the spice section of grocery store)
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

4 large pita bread rounds (or Greek bread)
1 heart of romaine lettuce, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tomato, halved and sliced
1/2 kalamata olives
1/2 pepperoncini
1 cup crumbled feta cheese


1. In a small bowl, mix the balsamic vinaigrette, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, oregano and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Place chicken in a large resealable plastic bag. Pour marinade over chicken, seal and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

2. Preheat grill for high heat.

3. Toss the shredded cucumber with 1 tablespoon kosher salt and allow to sit for at least 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, mix the yogurt, sour cream, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, rice vinegar and olive oil. Season with garlic, dill and Greek seasoning. Squeeze the cucumber to remove any excess water; stir into sauce. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.

4. Remove chicken from marinade and place on preheated grill (or oiled pan). Discard excess marinade. Cook chicken until juices run clear, about 8 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from heat and allow to sit about 10 minutes before slicing into thin strips.

5. Place pita rounds on the grill (or pan) and cook for about 2 minutes until warm, turning frequently to avoid burning. Arrange warmed pita, sliced chicken, lettuce, onion, tomatoes, olives and pepperoncini on a serving platter. Serve tzatziki sauce and feta cheese in separate bowls on the side. Stuff pita pockets with chicken and toppings to serve.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fattoush Salad

As requested, I'm posting one of my favorite Arabic recipes- fattoush salad.  It's a refreshing and healthy salad that I could eat every day. 

The ingredients come together very quickly and the dressing can be made ahead of time (and you can make extra to serve another day).  The sumac is a unique spice that is crucial for authentic taste.  It can be found in any spice shop or Middle Eastern market.  The pita chips that you can buy in a bag can be used to replace the pita in the recipe.

If you want to make this salad without the lettuce, just add more of the veggies and make them a larger dice.  This salad is called a Village Salad and usually has feta added.  The fattoush also tastes fabulous with feta crumbled into it.  Chicken can also be added to really make it a meal.

I got this recipe from  Enjoy!

Fattoush Salad
Serves 6

2 cups of shredded lettuce (romaine and/or iceberg)
1 large or 2 small cucumbers, small dice
2 medium tomatoes,chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley, leaves only, no stems
1/4 cup chopped mint, no stems (2 tablespoon dried mint can be used, but fresh tastes best)
1/2 to 1 green pepper, diced
1 bunch green onions, finely sliced
1/2 teaspoon sumac
2 pieces pita bread, toasted until golden brown, broken into pieces the size of quarters

1/2 cup lemon juice 
1/2 olive oil
2 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of pepper

In a small bowl, mix dressing ingredients together.

Put salad ingredients in large bowl and toss with 1/2 to 1 cup of dressing.  Top with pita pieces and serve immediately.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Russian Mushroom and Potato Soup

This is one of our favorite soups.  It's not a creamy mushroom soup, nor a thick potato soup.  It's a simply delicious broth that has mushrooms and potatoes in.  Abe raves every time I make it, so it's made at least monthly, especially when mushrooms are on sale.

I've made it without the potatoes when I've realized too late that I don't have any, but it's really better with them.  If you can, make sure to use the leeks.  Onions can do in a pinch, but the flavor of the leeks really make it tasty.

Serve this up with a nice green salad and french bread.

I got this recipe off of

Russian Mushroom and Potato Soup

Makes 12 servings (seems like a lot, but it is good for lunch the next day)

5 tablespoons butter, divided
2 leeks, chopped
2 large carrots, sliced
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 teaspoon dried dill weed
2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
2 pound potatoes, peeled and diced (when I'm lazy, I don't peel them)
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cup half and half (I've also used skim milk or a combo of milk-half and half to save on calories)
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Fresh dill weed, for garnish (optional)

1. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Mix in leeks and carrots and cook 5 minutes.  Pour in broth.  Season with dill, salt, pepper and bay leaf.  Mix in potatoes, cover and cook 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender but firm.  Remove and discard bay leaf.

2.  Melt remaining butter in a skillet over medium heat, and saute the mushrooms 5 minutes, until lightly browned.  Stir into soup.

3. In a small bowl, mix the half-and-half and flour until smooth.  Stir into the soup to thicken.  Garnish each bowl of soup with fresh dill to serve.

Baby Beef Stew Classico

This is what's on the menu for Abe tonight.  I've made it before and he loves it.   He liked it so much that he asked me to make it for family before.

It's a very classic beef stew, a real comfort food.  You can add which ever veggies you like, but the ones in the recipe are spot on.  It's simple to make and basically foolproof.

I got this from my Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes for Two by Beth Hensperger.

Baby Beef Stew Classico

Serves 2

Cooker: 1 1/2 to 3 quart
Setting: High for 4-5 hours. or Low for 7-8 hours; peas added during last 30 minutes

1 lb. lean, boneless chuck roast, trimmed of fat and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground white or black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1/4 lb. baby carrots
1 small parsnip, peeled and diced
6 ounces baby red potatoes, halved or quartered
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or marjoram
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup frozen petit peas, thawed

1. Sprinkle the cubes of beef with some salt and pepper.  In a medium-size saute pan over medium heat, heat the oil until very hot.  Add the meat cubes and brown on all sides, 4-5 minutes.

2. Spray the crock with nonstick cooking spray and add the onion, carrots, parsnip and potatoes.  Add the meat, broth, wine, tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes and thyme; mix well.  Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 to 5 hours (or LOW for 7 to 8 hours), until the meat is fork-tender.

3. When there is about 30 minutes of cooking time left, knead the butter and flour together in a small bowl with a fork.  Add the butter-flour ball (known as a beurre manie) to the crock and stir until melted.  Add the peas to the crock.  Cover and cook another 30 minutes.  Season to taste and serve hot.

Where Recipes Call Home

I'm realizing more and more that I'm just a digital person, so a traditional recipe book just won't cut it.  I spend too much time looking for recipes, scattered between recipe books, print off, and those collected in my favorite places on my computer.  If I wanted to share one, I had to take the time to type it out or link it to an email.

Now, I will post my favorites.... well, I should say my husband Abe's favorites... since many aren't vegetarian friendly, so I've never actually tried them.  But I have my favorite recipe tester to tell me if they are blog-worthy or not.

My other recipe tester, our boy Jimi, will give me the "kids-friendly" angle.  And he doesn't hold back.  There's no mistaking the face of disgust he makes when something doesn't pass the muster.

My future recipe tester, our baby Adam, has just ventured into the wonderful world of food, so he will be contributing to my baby-toddler food recipes soon.

I'm not a cook, so none of these are my own creation.  These all come from somewhere else and will be credited.

So, I hope you try a few of these and come back to let me know what you think!