Category Archives: recipes

Homemade Saag Paneer

Saag Paneer, an Indian spinach dish with fresh cow cheese, is one of my favorite foreign dishes. It’s creamy and spiceful (as opposed to spicy) and it’s got my favorite food — cheese!

My friend Mat loves to cook. Sometimes he lets me eat his delicious meals. Tonight we made this traditional Indian dish and it was fantastic. The cheese is surprisingly easy to make. I’ll provide the recipe. I’ll have to ask Mat to give me his recipe for the saag, but from what I watched him add, it seems pretty similar to this recipe by Tyler Florence, although Mat omitted butter and regretted it. :o( So below is a conglomeration of both paneer recipes.

Homemade Paneer 
Saag Paneer with Basmati Rice

Serves 4

Ingredients for the Paneer:
1 gallon of whole milk
3 Tbs. salt
juice of 1 lemon
up to 2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
Cheesecloth

For the Saag:
2 tbs. butter
2 packages of frozen chopped spinach
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1 cup cream
2 teaspoons garam masala, or curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
salt to taste
3 cups basmati rice

Directions:
Pour all of the milk into a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add the salt. While the milk heats up, skim off any large amounts of foam (otherwise you won’t be able to tell if it starts boiling). Meanwhile, thaw out the spinach and squeeze out some of the liquid. Set aside. Place a large piece of cheesecloth in a colander.

When the milk starts coming to a simmer, turn down the heat and add the lemon, stirring constantly. If it doesn’t start to curdle in the next 30 seconds, add a swig of vinegar. Small curds should start developing rapidly. If the milk is still clear of curds, add another swig of vinegar. When you see lots of curds, it’s time to drain the milk into the cheesecloth. Let the liquid filter out and loosely gather up the edges of the cheesecloth so none of the curds escape. Do not squeeze the curds or the cheesecloth will stick to it and you won’t get as much cheese. Just let it rest for about 10 minutes. When it’s slightly cool, place the cheesecloth between two rimmed baking sheets and place a couple of cans of soup on top to weigh it down. Just leave it there till you’re ready to prepare the dish.

Prepare the rice according to the bag’s directions.

For the saag, heat the butter in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add the onions and saute a couple of minutes, then add the ginger and garlic and cook till onions are translucent. Sprinkle in the garam masala and cinnamon and cook about one minute. Add the spinach and mix well. Cook for about 5 minutes then add the cream. Give it a good stir and transfer to a blender. Blend till blended. Ha!

Cube up the cheese and add it to the pan, browning slightly on all sides. Return the saag to the pan. Serve over basmati rice.

Chicken Sandwich

Another dinner thrown together with leftover Costco roast chicken. I never measure, so the amounts are of course approximate.

Ingredients:
3/4 cups cooked chicken, diced
1 tsp. yellow mustard
1 Tbs. sweet relish
4 Tbs. light mayo
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
a dash of smoked paprika
salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients together and serve on wheat toast with lettuce and your favorite cheese.

Cheesy Broccoli and Quinoa

What’s a girl to do when she’s craving mac & cheese but is out of mac and is already in her PJ’s and doesn’t feel like going to the grocery store? Why, rifle through the cupboards till she finds something resembling mac & cheese, of course!

I feel better though that I made quinoa instead of pasta because it’s healthier overall; but I guess the cheese part cancels that all out. But there’s broccoli in it!

Serves 3, or 1 with lunch for tomorrow and Tuesday

Ingredients:
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 small broccoli crowns, cut up
1/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar
a couple of tablespoons of grated pecorino romano cheese
a couple of tablespoons of grated pizza cheese
1 tbs butter
1/3 cup milk
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbs Wondra flour
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Cook quinoa according to package. I make mine in the rice cooker and overfill the water past the “1” line. Meanwhile, steam broccoli in a covered saucepan till bright green and tender, about 8 minutes?
In a serving bowl, combine the butter, milk and garlic. Microwave for 40 seconds or until butter is melted. Whisk in the flour and microwave another 30 seconds. If sauce is too thick, add more milk. If it’s too thin, add a bit more flour and microwave another 15 seconds. Add the cheeses, salt and pepper. Stir in cooked quinoa and broccoli. If sauce is too thick, add a bit more milk. Serve with a big glass of milk. I’m trying to use up my milk before tomorrow, can’t you tell?

Breakfast Skillet

This is supposed to be a weekend breakfast skillet, but it’s so dang tasty and easy I’ve started making it during the week.

Serves 2
Ingredients:
4 eggs
6 Tbs. milk
2 slices of bread, cut into cubes
2 green onions, chopped
2-3 slices of bacon, cut into small pieces
4 baby portobello or crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 Tbs. butter
salt and pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. In a small frying pan melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and saute till they are lightly browned on all sides. Set mushrooms aside. In an oven-proof medium skillet, cook the bacon over medium-high heat till crispy. Set aside the bacon and reserve about a tablespoon of bacon grease in the pan. Add bread cubes from only one slice of bread and brown on all sides. Set aside with the untoasted bread cubes. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and milk in a mixing bowl. Add the salt, pepper, green onions, bacon, mushrooms and cheese. Add the egg mixture to the now empty pan and stir around for about a minute, till eggs are just starting to set. Fold in all the bread cubes and pat everything down with a spatula. Place in oven and cook for 7 minutes.

Asparagus with Cheese Sauce

I don’t love asparagus. I don’t hate it either. So I thought I might like it more if I smother it in cheese sauce. Cheese sauce makes every vegetable super delicious and totally less healthy.
This recipe is based on one from Cooks Country Magazine April Edition. After starting the recipe, I realized I was lacking half of the ingredients, so I improvised. I really like what I came up with.

Serves Two

Ingredients:
1/2 pound asparagus
3/4 cup water
pinch of salt
1/4 cup chicken stock
pat of butter
1 tbs Wondra Flour
1/2 cup sharp cheddar
pepper

Trim about 2 inches off the ends of the asparagus. Reserve the trimmed ends. Boil the water in a saute pan and add the trimmed ends. Cover and boil for 5 minutes. Remove the trimmings with a slotted spoon and throw them away. Add the asparagus to the pan with a pinch of salt, recover and cook for 4 minutes. Set asparagus on some paper towels to drain and dry. Reserve the asparagus liquid in a measuring cup and add enough chicken stock to make 3/4 cups of liquid. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour. Whisk over medium-low heat for about a minute. Add the liquid and whisk for another few minutes till thick. If it’s too thick, add more chicken stock. Too thin, sprinkle in more flour while whisking vigorously (this may create lumps). Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese till melted. Add pepper to taste. Pour over asparagus. Yum!

Stuffed Baby Portobello Mushrooms

I love Costco, but when there are only two members in your family, it’s difficult to use Costco quantities without everything spoiling. That’s why I buy carefully — I buy foods that last a long time, such as mini bell peppers, olive oil and chicken stock. But yesterday I just couldn’t resist the baby portobello mushrooms in the refrigerated produce room. Also too delectable to avoid — the Costco rotisserie chicken. Such heavenly flavor for only $5 and there’s so much you can do with the leftovers.
This recipe I threw together in about 20 minutes. It uses some chicken leftovers and makes good use of my perfect mushrooms. These make colorful appetizers, but I was craving them as my main meal. They were delish!

Ingredients:
3 mini bell peppers (red, yellow and orange) or 1/4 of a bell pepper
1/8 of an onion
1 clove of garlic (I was out, but I would normally add this with the onion)
about 12 mini portobello mushrooms (crimini or buttons would work too), stems removed and saved
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tbs fresh chopped oregano
2 tbs bread crumbs
2 thick slices of roasted chicken breast
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Carefully remove the stems from each mushroom and with a melon baller, scoop out some of the flesh inside each mushroom so there’s room to stuff. Save what you scoop.

In a mini food processor, pulse the peppers, onion and mushroom stems and innards till finely chopped. In a small frying pan, heat up about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the peppers, onion, garlic, mushroom innards, oregano, salt and pepper. Saute till everything is softened, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, finely chop the chicken.
Transfer the cooked ingredients to a bowl and combine the chicken, bread crumbs and half the cheese. In a small baking dish, fill each mushroom cap with the mixture so it mounds up on top. Top with shredded parmesan cheese and bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

Pink Champagne Cake

By far my most successful cake to date. Modified from a recipe in Booze Cakes, a cookbook Rosey gave us for Christmas. Since I was making cake for two, I made a single layer round cake in a 10-inch pan. I bought a four-pack of inexpensive Californian Champagne, the tiny bottles, so I didn’t have to waste a whole bottle. The other bottles I saved for dinner.
The cake turned out really short, but I loved the look of it after I added the frosting. Since my frosting skills are terrible, I called up my sister-in-law and asked her to give me a frosting lesson. Lesson learned!

Ingredients:

Cake:
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoons salt
1 stick of butter, room temp
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 egg whites
2 drops red food coloring
1 cup Champagne

Frosting:
12 oz. cream cheese (like a brick and a half)
1/2 stick of butter
About a cup of powdered sugar
Fresh strawberries for decoration

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and butter cake pan and place parchment paper in the bottom. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugar and butter till light and fluffy, about four minutes. Add the egg whites one at a time. Mix in the food coloring.

Now add the flour in four parts and the champagne in three, alternating starting and ending with flour. This will prevent the batter from curdling. Pour batter into pan and bake for 35 minutes or until a knife pulls out clean when inserted into the center.

Let cool for about 30 minutes and remove cake from pan. Let cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter till fluffy. Start adding the sugar and taste it once and a while till it’s to your liking.

Frost the cake Slice the strawberries and place them around the sides of the cake. Add a pretty strawberry design on top.

Oliver’s Marinara

This simple marinara sauce is the backbone to many of my father’s recipes. He would make a far larger quantity than the recipe I’m providing so he could freeze it and use it anytime. I have fond memories of my dad standing over the stove and instructing me to stir in the corners of the pot so none of the sauce would burn. My sister and I would bring small cups to him, which he’d fill with piping hot sauce, and we’d sip on it like soup.

To this recipe you could add several ingredients. I sometimes saute some chopped onion and mushroom in butter and toss that in. My dad adds reconstituted porcini mushrooms that we pick in summertime. I have porcini powder right now, so I sprinkled about 1/2 teaspoon into the sauce. For a putanesca sauce you could add fried up bits of pancetta and kalamata olives. Add a splash of red wine to give it some depth. Add fresh chopped herbs at the end of cooking such as oregano, basil or thyme.

Ingredients (most are eyeballed):
2 large cans of crushed tomatoes
2 tbs. olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 dried chili pepper, or 1 tsp. dried pepper flakes
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tbs. dried basil
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp. sugar

Directions:
In a saucepan, heat up olive oil over medium flame. Add the garlic, and cook till golden brown on all sides. Be sure not to burn the garlic. If you do, just start over. Garlic is cheap. Add all of the other ingredients. When sauce is bubbling, turn heat to med-low, cover and cook for at least 30 minutes. Stir frequently so the sauce doesn’t burn. Freeze leftover sauce in jars.

Spicy Ground Pork

Add spicy ground pork to any italian dish or marinara sauce to give it zing!

Ingredients:
1 pound ground pork
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1-2 tsp. cayenne powder (depending on how spicy you want it)
1 tsp. dried pepper flakes
ground pepper to taste

Directions:
Mix together all of the ingredients. Fry up a small sample to taste how spicy it is. Add more cayenne if you want it spicier.

Lasagna with Spicy Pork, Spinach and Mushrooms

I call this lasagna “Babysitter Lasagna” because I went to babysit a couple of boys once and the mother had made this ahead of time for me to pop in the oven. The use of cottage cheese instead of ricotta makes the lasagna less watery and more creamy. I love fresh, authentic ricotta, but it’s not available where I live and the grocery store kind just isn’t my style. Hiding spinach in the recipe adds a little more nutrients. I used to use fresh mozzerella, but after making this so many times, fresh mozz just becomes really chewy and watery. I find the storebought pre-grated stuff works better.

This recipe will be followed by two more recipes. One on how to prepare spicy ground pork at home and the other is my homemade marinara. Both of these you can sub storebought, but I love to make it all myself.

Serves 9-15

Ingredients
1 pound of spicy ground pork (storebought it fine)
1/2 package of frozen chopped spinach
1 box of no-boil lasagna noodles (Barilla works)
1 2-cup container of 2% milkfat cottage cheese
1 egg
3 cups marinara sauce (about 1.5 jars of storebought)
6 crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbs. butter
dash of dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper
2 cups pre-grated mozzerella and asiago blend cheeses
1 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven according to the lasagna noodles’ packaging. Usually 350-375 degrees.
In a microwave-safe bowl, add the spinach and a splash of water. Cover bowl with saran wrap, leaving a space for air to get out, and microwave for about 5 minutes. Let cool.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the cottage cheese, egg, oregano, basil and salt and pepper to taste.
In a frying pan, brown the pork. Set aside. Drain some of the fat, but leave a little in the pan. Add the butter and the mushrooms and saute till mushrooms are soft and slightly browned. Set aside.
Transfer the spinach to the center of a clean dishtowel and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
Usually I refer to the lasagna noodles’ box for layering instructions.
In a 13x9x2 baking dish, add about 3/4 cups of sauce and 1/3 of the meat. Add three noodles. Add 1/3 of the cottage cheese mix, some spinach, and sprinkle with some of the cheeses. Top with more sauce. Add some meat and mushrooms. Place 3 more noodles on top. Add some cottage cheese, some spinach and cheese. Do this layering one more time, top with the last 3 noodles, sauce, meat, mushrooms, or any other ingredient that’s left. The last thing you add is cheese.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes or according to noodles’ packaging. Take off the foil and bake another 10-15 minutes or until it’s all bubbly. Remove from oven and let sit about 5 minutes before serving.