Well that lasted. I want to blame the belated post this week on the newest addition to the household. Everybody, meet Geoffery. A new dog meant that my free time suddenly went *poof*. So, here we are.
A strata is a savory breakfast bread pudding made with alternating layers (or “strata”… get it?) of cubed bread, filling and egg. Because this kind of recipe needs to rest in order to set fully, it is best to make it night before. That means that, of course, I almost never get around to making one because, lets face it, who wants to do breakfast dishes right after finishing cleaning up from dinner? I first came across this dish at my first trip up to visit Will’s parents and it quickly rocketed to the top of my preferred breakfast food list.
Despite the pre-planing required to make a good strata, it can easily give two people a week’s worth of breakfasts or (made ahead, of course) can be easily re-heated to feed a crowd
Spinach and Mushroom Strata:
(makes 12 servings)
- 1 Loaf Crusty Bread (such as a baguette), cut into 1″ cubes
- 12 Large Eggs
- 2 Cups Soy Milk or Lactaid(or regular milk if you are not lactose-impaired)
- 3/4 Cup freshly grated Parmesean or Pecorino Cheese
- 1 8 oz package Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced
- 1 10 oz package Fresh Spinach
- 1 clove Garlic, crushed
- Olive Oil
- Kosher Salt
- Black Pepper
Saute mushrooms (in batches, if needed) in 1 tsp oil over medium heat in a heavy bottomed pan until well browned and almost cooked through. Add spinach and garlic along with a bit of salt and pepper (~1/8 tsp each) and lower the heat to medium-low. Continue cooking until mushrooms are finished and spinach is fully wilted. Set aside
Beat together eggs and milk in a large bowl until fully combined. Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper (~1/4 tsp each)
In a greased baking pan, layer 1/2 of the vegetable mixture over 1/2 of the bread and pour over that 1/2 of the egg mixture. Repeat. Refrigerate overnight.
The next morning, preheat the oven to 350 F and bake for 45 minutes or until strata is fully set and the top is well browned.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Be sure to set the strata out at room temperature while the oven is heating. The temperature shock of moving directly from the fridge to the hot oven ( a difference of ~315 F or 157 C) could cause crack propagation in your Pyrex. This means a gross mess all over your oven and a distinct lack of yummy breakfast. Don’t lose your breakfast. Let the glass warm up a bit.
Oof. One week in and classes are already in full swing (and with four grad level classes, full swing means homework due Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights). Nevertheless, I am back in the kitchen almost every night, even if it does mean that I don’t start cooking until 9:15 most nights of the week. Of course, those nights when I don’t quite make it into the kitchen are usually filled with pizza and beer, so I need to be especially careful to eat healthy the other six nights. And, as everyone knows, pizza always tastes better if you have been subsiding on soups and salads).
With that in mind, I made a delightfully light (and totally filling) arugula salad for dinner the other night. White beans and wild rice provide enough protein that it doesn’t feel like rabbit food, while a light Dijon vinaigrette gives it an elegant flavor.
Arugula Salad with White Beans and Wild Rice
- One box baby Arugula (5oz)
- ½ cup dried or one can Cannelloni Beans
- ½ cup Wild Rice
- 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. Olive Oil
- ¼ cup Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
- ¼ tsp. each Dried Basil and Garlic Powder
- Salt and Pepper to taste
If using dried cannelloni beans, soak for 8-12 hours and then cook for ~45 minutes in simmering water (enough to cover the beans by one inch) or until a bean can be easily smooshed between your fingers without feeling grainy. Drain and allow to cool completely. Add salt about 40 minutes add a pinch of salt to the water. If using canned beans, they do not need to be cooked, just drained and rinsed.
Simmer the wild rice for 45 minutes in a tightly sealed pot or until rice is tender. Use a 2:1 water to rice ratio. Allow to cool completely before use.
In a cup, combine oil, vinegar, mustard, basil and garlic in a small bowl (I used a measuring cup, fill the balsamic to the ¼ cup mark, then use the oil to fill to the ⅓ cup mark) and whisk with a fork (or whisk if that floats your boat) until all ingredients are well combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.
Combine dressing, drained beans, rice and arugula in a large bowl and toss to combine. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Hey all. As you may have noticed I have flown under the radar this past semester. Apparently, when you are directing a greatly abridged version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream
while acting in a mainstage production of Murdered to Death (not, of course, to be confused with the hit movie Murder by Death with Peter Sellers)
and taking a full credit load all during the same semester, you have very little time to cook, much less to create new and exciting recipes for you all to enjoy. But after a holiday break of friends and family loudly wondering when I was going to blog once more, I made myself a new year’s resolution. Now, as I sit here on this lazy Sunday evening, with a pot of French onion soup simmering away, baguettes baking in the oven and a glass of cheap white wine in my hand, I am finally ready to act. From next week on, I will supply you with at least one exciting recipe a week. Who knows? I may even get around to finishing Legume Week. The world is a crazy place.
Well, it seems that I am still a completely unreliable blogger. Some things may never change. Since my last apology for not posting often enough, my wonderful boyfriend and my almost as wonderful best friend and cooking partner have gotten an apartment together. Which leads to the introduction of a new series here at Engineer Food, Dinner for Three, in which me and Larry and sometimes Will prepare a recipe (often from Bon Apetite or the NY Times) and tell you what we think. This being the first installment, however, I feel no need to stick to an established pattern. I’m funny like that.
This time I am going to tell you about a fantastic birthday present that Larry gave me:
That’s right folks, a very fancy, Williams-Sonoma cheese making kit. I meant to take pictures the whole way, but I was completely occupied with the whole making mozzarella thing. Sue me. While I was separating my curds and whey and slowly cooking in the microwave. Larry sliced up some tomatoes and bread and retrieved basil from the fridge.
Anyway, about 50 minutes after that horrific picture of me was taken, one gallon of whole pasteurized (but not ultra-pasteurized) milk was turned (with the careful addition of citric acid, rennet and some cheese salt) into one pound of mozzarella cheese.
For Caprese Salad:
- 2 Ripe Jersey Tomatoes, sliced
- 1 Loaf of Bread, sliced
- 1 Sprig of Basil
- 1 lb Mozzarella Cheese (Making it at home optional)
- Kosher Salt and Pepper, to taste
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Balsamic Vinegar
Difficulty Level-Extraordinarily Easy
Before eating, generously salt and pepper the tomato slices.
Cut each slice of bread in half, if they are significantly bigger than the tomatoes. On each half, place several small pieces of mozzarella, a tomato slice, some basil and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Eat with a fork and knife or be a savage and just dig right on in. Enjoy with a light white whine (chilled Chardonnay pictured above).
Whelp…it looks like I chose the exact wrong week to experiment with beans. My wonderful boyfriend just graduated from college which means I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off the last couple days. So, sorry about that and Legume Week will start up again on Sunday.
Hello, and welcome to day two of my semi-annual Week on the Cheap! This year the ingredient is Legumes!
- Each meal must come in at under $3 a serving
- Each meal must be bean based
- Each meal must be healthy (This one is easier with beans than it was with Ramen.)
Today’s adventure is Bowties with White Beans and Carrots at $0.60 a serving. This is a fast recipe because I had all of an hour to get home from class, cook, eat and get back to class. At the same time, it would be a great lunch for kids because the beans give it a nice buttery texture and the carrots give it a nice sweetness.
For Bowties with White Beans and Carrots:
- 1/2 Box of Farfarelle (Bowtie) Pasta-$0.88
- 1 Carrot, peeled and diced-$0.15
- 1 Can White Beans, drained-$0.75
- 1 tbs Olive Oil, and a pinch each of garlic powder and salt-$0.2
Total cost for 3 Servings-$1.80
Difficulty Level-Junior High Student
Time required-20 minutes
Start boiling water for pasta. Put the white beans in a pot with some salt, olive oil and garlic powder and heat over medium heat. In a microwave safe container, nuke the carrot bits for 5 minutes or until tender. Add the carrots to the beans and allow to cook until the pasta is finished.
Tune in tomorrow for Day 3-(Almost) Vegan Chili
So as some of you are aware, I am a college student. Finals week has just passed. This means, for those of you who don’t remember, that I have spent the entire last week eating at pizza and burger joints. because studying had left me with neither the time nor the energy to cook. That means that this week, I am a poor college student! That’s right kiddies, it’s my Week on the Cheap. Last semester I did Ramen Week. This time, it’s Legume Week!
For those of you who don’t remember, I have 3 rules:
- Each meal must come in at under $3 a serving
- Each meal must be bean based
- Each meal must be healthy (This one is easier with beans than it was with Ramen.)
My first foray (my warm-up, if you will) was a delicious and hearty Lentil Barley Soup coming in at a whomping $0.75 a serving.
For Lentil Barley Soup:
1 cup Lentil Beans-$0.60
1 cup Barley-$0.50
1 (large) can Spiced Crushed Tomatoes-$1.79
1 Small Onion-$0.35
3 Celery Stalks-$0.20
3 Sodium-Free Beef Boullion Packets-$0.75
Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder and Red Pepper Flakes-~$0.02
Total Cost for 6 Servings: $4.50
Difficulty Level-College Student
Time Required-60 minutes
In the heaviest pot you have, heat 2 tbs Olive Oil and as much of each of the spices as your little heart can bear over medium heat.
Now chop up those vegetables
By the time you finish chopping, those spices should be turning a nice golden brown. Throw them veggies in on top. While you are waiting for them to cook, boil some water for your barley.
Go back to your veggies, are they soft yet? Awesome. Throw some canned tomatoes and about two cups of water all up in there.
Let that come to a gentle simmer. Then add not one, not two but three whole beef boullion packets. and mix that shit in.
Meanwhile, look: your water is boiling! Measure yourself a cup of barley, dump it in, cover it, turn it to low and go do something else for 20 minutes.
Now measure yourself a cup of lentils and dump that in to the soup. Go ahead, don’t be shy, mix it in! Now go back to what you were doing for another 20 minutes.
Once you are drawn back by the tantalizing scents coming from your kitchen, throw the barley in the soup and suddenly:
Tune in tomorrow for Pasta with Canneloni Beans!
So, I’m at the supermarket, lamenting the lack of good brussels sprouts when I get a text from my awesome boyfriend: “Ugh, feeling sick…”
For many that would have been a call to sympathy but to me it was a call to action. I needed to make him chicken soup! I quickly dropped my forlorn tomatoes and scurried around the store in a newly energized frenzy! Four hours later, the end result was quite tasty.
For Chicken Soup:
- 1 lb Bone in Chicken Parts (I use just legs, but you can use any cut you want)
- 2 Carrots (Trimmed, peeled, halved and sliced)
- 4 Celery Stalks (Rinsed, trimmed and sliced)
- 8 oz (1/2 box) Sliced Mushrooms
- 1 med Onion, halved and quartared
- 1 med Zuccini (Rinsed, trimmed and sliced)
- The green part of 1 bunch of scallions, chopped
- 1 sprig Parsle
- Leaves from 1 sprig Rosemary
- 4-5 Basil leaves
- 2 Cloves Garlic
- 2 tbs Salt (I thought it ended up being too salty, but Will loved it so YMMV)
- 1 tsp Pepper
- 1 box Bow Tie Pasta (not used until way later)
Now here comes the part that requires finesse. Put everything EXCEPT the pasta in a 4 quart pot and add in 3 quarts of water. Put it on high heat and allow to simmer for about an hour.
After an hour, fish out the chicken (tongs are useful here) and put it on a cutting board. Once it is cool enough to be handled (but not more than 5 minutes or so to avoid it cooling too much) pull the meat off the bones (should be easy) and gently shred. (Vegans may want to skip over the next picture.
(A note to vegans and vegetarians, this soup would be equally delicious sans chicken).
Cook for as long as you have, but at least for another hour. About 30 minutes before serving, put on water to boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta according to box instructions and ladle soup and broth over the top. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer until they become freezer burned.
Who doesn’t love cookies? Me, after my remarkably brief stint with Group-Free Weight-Watchers. The amount of calories involved was mortifying. Add to that my natural distaste for butter and you have a good recipe for me looking for alternates. That is, until I found this Oatmeal Chocolate Chip recipe over at All Recipes.
Some more extensive research and some wild guesses lead me to the most delicious cookie I have ever tasted:
They may not be much to look at but by replacing the butter with equal parts applesauce and peanut butter, I took a pretty good cookie and turned it into (with all due modesty, of course) a masterpiece.
First thing’s first, a quick glance at my mise en place. The seasoned baker will notice that I have no white sugar out. There is a very simple explanation for this: I ran out of white sugar. I am also never going back, just try and make me. Besides it is one less white powder to worry about keeping straight (And as someone who has accidentally substituted salt for sugar the fewer similar looking ingredients, the better).
For those unfamiliar with the term, a mise en place is simply a laying out of all of the materials that will be needed as well as prepping all necessary equipment (ie, getting mixing bowls out and ready, preheating the oven, etc). When you are setting this up it will feel like a massive waste of time (Why can’t I just get the flour out when I need it?) but once you get started, it will make your life a million times easier. Doing it for a cookie recipe is like showing your work in third grade math. Yes, the teacher knows how you got there but you really need to be able to do it well once you get to differential equations. Think of it as practice for Boeuf Bourguignon.
Anyway, back to cookies!
For Delicious Cookies:
- 1/2 cup Unsweetened Applesauce
- 1/2 cup Smooth Peanut Butter
- 1 1/2 (or 3/2 if you don’t mind improper fractions) cups Packed Brown Sugar (Or 1 cup Packed Brown and 1/2 cup White)
- 2 Large Eggs
- 2 tbs Vanilla
- 1 3/4 (7/4) cups Flour
- 1 tsp Baking Soda
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 3 cups Instant Oats
- 1 cup Chopped Walnuts
- 1 cup Dark Chocolate Morsels
Take two bowls: a big one and a small one. Put the flour, salt and baking soda in the small one and gently mix them a little bit. I don’t have a picture of this because it looks remarkably like a large bowl of cocaine and I do not need to go through that again. Besides, its less interesting than the other bowl, which gets the applesauce, peanut butter and brown sugar (and white sugar if you insist).
Thoroughly mix the three together and add the two eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Then mix in the vanilla extract.
A bit at a time (because, believe me, the last thing you want is for the cops to barge in on you when you have what you swear is flour all down your front) add the dry mix, making sure that all of the flour is combined before moving on to the next bit.
Fold in the nuts, chocolate and oats.
Drop that into vaguely cookie like shapes and cook for 10-12 minutes or until just browned. And suddenly,
What substitutions have worked for you? Have any not worked? Let me know in that pretty comment section!
I have some very exciting news for those of you who have been silently bemoaning how completely shitty my photography is. I (finally) got a Cannon DSLR! So now I can take pictures like this:
Anyway…for the past few months, I have been searching high and low for the perfect pesto recipe. Last night, I found it. If you haven’t made Ina Garten’s (aka The Barefoot Contessa) Pesto, you need to. It is a religious experience. Words simply can not describe.
All you do, is take some basil, salt and pepper, nuts, cheese and garlic
And process them for a few mintes in ye-olde food processor.
After I made this wonderous dish, I thought to myself: “Self,” I thought, “you should throw some of that deliciousness down on some chicken.”
And then I remembered something that everyone on the internet knows. Bacon is awesome, so I wrapped it all up in bacon and threw it in the oven.
Chicken with Pesto and Bacon:
- 1 1/2 cups Basil, packed
- 1tbs Walnuts
- 1tbs Pine Nuts
- 1/2 cup Olive Oil
- 3 Cloves Garlic, chopped
- 1/3 cup Grated Parmesean Cheese
- 1 pinch each Salt and Pepper
- 3 Chicken Breasts, halved
- 1lb Bacon
For the Pesto:
Combine nuts in the food processor and process for 15 seconds. Add Garlic, Basil and Salt and Pepper. While processing, slowly add the Olive Oil and blend until the basil pieces get as small as they are going to. Add the Cheese and blend until combined. Makes 1 Cup.
For the Chicken:
Preheat the oven to 400F. Spread about 1tbs of Pesto over each piece of Chicken. Wrap in two to three strips of Bacon, and bake until bacon is browned and chicken is cooked (~45 minutes).