Monday, September 19, 2016

Speedy Savory Spinach Dip


For many people, eating vegetables is a chore. I once dated a guy who, when presented with a salad or crudité platter, would avoid it by childishly saying:

“My food eats that.”

Whether you’re a veggie hater or desperate to get your kids to eat more of them, there’s one way the veg will get eaten every time.

With a tasty dip.

Dips are great not only because you eat em with raw veggies thus getting most of their nutrients, but also because you can sneak even MORE vegetables into the dip itself.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep  time: 20 Minutes

Yields 1 Cup of Dip 

Ingredients


½ Cup of Frozen Chopped Spinach, Thawed and drained of excess liquid

½ Cup of Plain Greek Yogurt – I prefer the full fat variety because I find it gives a better texture, but use what you like

3 Tablespoons of Powdered Instant Cream of Vegetable Soup – People generally use onion soup mix, which is FINE, but cream of vegetable soup mix not only adds the benefit of dried veggies, but also gives the dip a delightful cheesiness

2 Tablespoons of Mayonnaise or Jarred Salad Dressing i.e. Miracle Whip

Salt and Pepper to Taste – Go easy on the salt, the soup mix has plenty

1 Clove of Garlic, minced or grated (Optional) – Gives the dip an extra zip, but if you’re worried about garlic breath, leave it out

IF YA WANNA GET FANCY

1 Thinly Sliced Green Onion and a Pinch of Paprika – For decoration

Equipment

1 Bowl

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Regular Spoon

Plastic wrap

1 Knife and Cutting Board

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge for 10 minutes to soften the dried veg.

Top with a little paprika and green onions for decoration if you wish and serve!

Enjoy!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.








Thursday, September 15, 2016

Shakshuka

Eggs Poached in a Spicy Tomato Sauce



Middle Eastern and North African food need a lot more love.

Why?

They use fresh ingredients, are often budget-friendly, and aggressively, mouth-wateringly spiced. This dish is a perfect example.

Shakshuka consists of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce. Though it often appears on breakfast menus because of the eggs, in Israel it’s a popular dinner item. No matter the meal you serve it at, it’s amazing with toast or lightly toasted pita bread cut into triangles.

This meal is also great for hangovers.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Medium - Easy
Prep and Cook Time: 15-20 Minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

6 Eggs

1 Can of Diced Tomatoes

1 Medium Onion, peeled and diced

2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon of Ras El Hanout – This is a spice mix commonly used in Moroccan cooking and is available at most ethnic grocery stores. Can’t find it? No problem! Mix equal parts ground ginger, ground cumin, ground coriander, and a pinch of ground cinnamon, a little cayenne pepper, and if you like, some ground cloves and allspice.

A Pinch of Sugar

1 Clove of Garlic, peeled, smashed, and finely chopped

½ Cup of Plain Greek or Balkan Style Yogurt (Optional) - It gives this dish some extra creaminess, but it's not necessary.

1 Green Onion, cleaned, an inch of the green part on top removed, and thinly sliced

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Hot Sauce, to taste (Optional)

2 Tablespoons of chopped Fresh Cilantro aka Coriander (Optional) - It adds great flavor and freshness but if it tastes like soap to you, don’t add it.

Toast, Toasted Pita Bread (if you're gluten-free, serve with steamed rice)


Equipment

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Knife and Cutting Board

1 Deep Frying Pan with Lid

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Regular Spoon

1 Can Opener

In the pan on medium high heat, heat the olive oil until it slides easily around in the pan.

Add the Onion and stir it around until it’s soft and translucent, about 2 minutes.

Add the Canned tomatoes, Ras El Hanout, Garlic, hot sauce (if using), some salt and pepper, and a pinch of sugar.

Stir everything around with a wooden spoon until it’s bubbling.

Taste and adjust for salt, pepper, and spiciness (via hot sauce). You want this sauce to be on the strong side because the eggs and yogurt will temper things quite a bit.

Carefully crack in the Eggs.

Cover the pan and lower the heat.

Cook until the whites of the eggs are no longer translucent – about 3 minutes. Don’t be afraid to lift the lid to check.

Spoon some Greek or Balkan Yogurt over some of the tomato sauce and sprinkle with Green Onions and Fresh Cilantro (if using).

Serve with toast or pita bread and enjoy!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.







Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Spinach Mac and Cheese Casserole


Casseroles get a bum rap for they are all too often associated with the mushy flavorless drudgery of 1960s cooking.  They were usually made with overcooked noodles and a mishmash of leftovers with no rhyme or reason. Casseroles were so dreaded at the time that in a 1968 article in The New Yorker, MFK Fisher quoted his father who begged a guest to:

 “Help me finish this for God’s sake, or she will make a casserole of it!”

But casseroles don’t have to be that way. They don’t have to be awful, and tasty does not have to mean unhealthy. There is a way to make a casserole that will allow busy people to have it all: flavor, convenience, frugality, nutrition and excitement. The keys are a little time, patience, organization and focus. Choose a flavor profile or ethnic cuisine and let that be the unifying characteristic of your dish.

Take this one: this casserole is inspired by the flavors of Italy with al dente pasta smothered in creamy spinach cheese sauce and topped with tomato or meat sauce, breadcrumbs and grated cheese before baked in the oven to bubbly gooey deliciousness. This is wonderful fresh, or reheated and will keep in the fridge for a week.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Medium - Easy
Prep time: 10-15 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour

Serves 6 same night or 1 person for a week

Ingredients

2 Cups Milk – Whole or 2% works best

2 ½ Cups Grated Cheese, Divided – I used a mix of Mozzarella and Cheddar, but you could use Mozzarella and Parmesan or whatever other cheese you like, though stay away from anything too orange or too processed as it will throw off the flavor and texture.

1 Package of Frozen Chopped Spinach, Thawed

1 Heaping Tablespoon of Prepared Basil Pesto

2 Cloves of Garlic, Peeled and Finely Chopped

1 Teaspoon of Salt + More for the Pasta Water

Pepper

2 Tablespoons of Butter

2 Tablespoons of All Purpose Flour

1 Box of Short Pasta – Rotini, Fusilli, Macaroni, or Penne

2 Cups of your Favorite Meat or Tomato Sauce

1 Cup of Flavored Bread Crumbs – Italian flavor works best, but you can always add some basil, oregano, and a little parmesan cheese to plain ones if that’s easier.

Cooking Spray

Equipment

1 Deep Baking Pan or Casserole Dish

1 Medium Pot

1 Whisk

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Box Grater – For the cheese

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Strainer

Fill the pot with water, stir in some salt, and bring the water to a boil. Put your strainer in the sink so it’s ready when you need it.

Add the pasta and cook until al-dente, meaning that when you bite into a piece it’s still a bit chewy.

Preheat the oven to 350oF and spray your baking dish with cooking spray. I recommend doing it at this stage as most ovens take a while to preheat.

Dump the pasta into the strainer and get started on your cheese sauce.

Using the same pot you cooked the pasta in, melt 2 Tablespoons of the butter on medium high heat.

Add the flour and whisk together until it’s evenly incorporated and has slightly changed colour. This mix, called a “rue” in French cooking, helps thicken cream sauces.

Add the milk and garlic and bring to a boil, whisking constantly.

Add the pesto, grated cheese, and some salt though be gentle on the salt as pesto and cheese have quite a bit – if in doubt, taste it and adjust.

Continue whisking until the sauce has thickened a bit so it lightly coats the spoon.

Turn off the heat and stir in the spinach until it’s fully incorporated.
  
Add the pasta and stir so the noodles are completely coated in sauce.

Pour everything into the baking dish.

Cover with your favorite tomato or meat sauce and top with breadcrumbs and cheese.

Bake for 1 hour.

Let it rest on a trivet on the counter for 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.