Tag Archives: cooking

Low-guilt Nachos

I love me some junk food and nachos are near the top of the list. They are quick, cheap and can pile on the calories if you’re not careful. I like to justify mowing down on nachos by using healthier ingredients.

Here’s what I had for dinner:

Low-guilt Nachos | Alaska Knit Nat

And here’s how I made them.

 

Low-guilt Nachos

Serves 1 hungry person

Ingredients:

A few handfuls of Food Should Taste Good Multigrain Tortilla Chips

1/2 cup low-fat grated cheddar cheese

2 green onions, chopped

1 Tbs. Neufchâtel cheese

1/2 of an avocado

1 Tbs. low-fat sour cream

2 Tbs. salsa

Chopped cilantro

Low-guilt Nachos | Alaska Knit Nat

Here’s my no-brainer secret to making perfect nachos in the oven — bake them, don’t broil them. Broiling sometimes burns the chips before the cheese has melted. So, preheat an oven or toaster oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the chips on a foil-lined baking sheet. Top with green onions and cheddar. Dot the Neufchâtel all around the chips. Bake for about 7 minutes, or until the cheddar is gooey.

Remove from oven and top with sour cream, avocado, salsa and cilantro.

This is just a guideline, of course. You can add whatever toppings you like. Jalapeños, black beans, chicken, tofu — the world is your nacho!

If you’re in the mood for a fiesta, try some of my other recipes, such as:

Chicken Taquitos with Spinach & Wild Rice
Chicken Taquitos with Spinach & Wild Rice
Guacamole à la Moña
Guacamole à la Moña

Banana Cupcakes with Dulce de Leche Icing

We never seem to consume an entire bunch of bananas. There’s always those sorry two or three sitting in the bottom of the fruit bowl, waiting to be make into banana bread. I don’t even like banana bread all that much, but I hate to waste the darn things.

I decided to spice things up a bit and use my overripe bananas for something a little more decadent than sliced bread.

I basically just made regular banana bread but put it in cupcake liners and topped it with a sweet and salty icing.

My recipe was inspired by this one from Culinary Couture.

Banana bread cupcakes with dulce de leche icing -- an alternative to boring banana bread

Banana bread:

1/2 cup softened coconut oil

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1.75 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. all spice

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

3 overripe bananas, mashed

Banana bread cupcakes with dulce de leche icing -- an alternative to boring banana bread

Icing:

6 oz. softened cream cheese

3 Tbs. softened butter

3 Tbs. Nestle’s La Lechera (sweetened condensed milk)

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

pinch of salt

coarse sea salt for garnish

Banana bread cupcakes with dulce de leche icing -- an alternative to boring banana bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With an electric mixer, combine the coconut oil and sugar. Add the eggs and mix well. In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and nutmeg. Add the flour mixture and mashed bananas in intervals to the wet ingredients.

Pour batter into a muffin tin filled with liners or greased well. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely.

For the icing:

with an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese, butter, La Lechera, vanilla and salt. Beat until smooth and aerated. Frost the cupcakes with a knife or with a pastry bag. Sprinkle coarse sea salt on top of each cupcake.

Banana bread cupcakes with dulce de leche icing -- an alternative to boring banana bread

Braised Red Cabbage

Around my birthday last month I went to the garage to find something in the chest freezer only to see it full of Omaha Steak Company boxes. Turns out my mother-in-law sent us five meaty meals to cook up with very little prep. One hunk of meat was corned beef brisket. Mmm…corned beef with mustard and cabbage.

I prefer red cabbage not only for its vibrant color, but it’s packed with tons more vitamin A than green. I once had Thanksgiving with a Hungarian guest. She brought a red cabbage dish that was tangy and sweet. She said it was a traditional recipe in her country.

I never got the recipe, but I decided to use Bon Appétit’s as a guideline. The dish was tender, tangy and sweet, just as I anticipated. The julienned granny smith apple rounds out the flavors. This braised red cabbage went perfectly with our corned beef and mashed potatoes.

Braised Red Cabbage | Alaska Knit Nat

Braised Red Cabbage

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Braised Red Cabbage | Alaska Knit Nat

Ingredients:

2 Tbs. olive oil

1/2 head red cabbage, cored and sliced

1/2 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic

3/4 cup chicken broth

1/4 tsp. allspice

2 tsp. sugar

2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar

1 granny smith apple, cut into matchsticks

salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

Heat olive oil over medium-high flame in a large pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook till onions are soft and starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the cabbage, salt, pepper, allspice, and sugar and toss to evenly coat with oil. Cook till cabbage is wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the stock, cover and turn down the heat. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add the apples and vinegar, recover and simmer another 15 minutes.

Braised Red Cabbage | Alaska Knit Nat

How to Make Marinara in Bulk

I never thought I’d be a label reader. But then I had a child and started feeding him. I quickly realized there’s a lot of extra stuff in store-bought food. I could be making a lot of that food myself and it would probably be cheaper.

Then again I am pretty lazy. I’ll make homemade marinara every once in a while, but when I’m in a pinch, I just go buy the jarred stuff. If I want the good jarred stuff it usually costs about $4.

Here is where I take a lesson from good ol’ dad. My entire life he has cooked sauce in bulk and freezes jars of it for later. I’ve been saving quite a few pickle and sauce jars so why not give it a try?

How to Make Marinara Sauce in Bulk

It was easy and in the end cost less than half as much as store bought; and it’s probably twice as good.

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 GIANT 106-oz. cans of crushed tomatoes – $2.99 apiece at Costco

25 cloves of garlic, smashed

about 1/3 cup good olive oil

1/4 cup dried basil

2 Tbs. dried oregano

2 Tbs. sugar

8 dried red chilis

salt and pepper to taste

6-7 large 40-oz. jars with lids

 

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in an extra large stock pot over medium-high. When oil is heated, toss in the garlic and turn heat to medium. Stir frequently and sauté till garlic is golden, about five minutes. Add all the other ingredients and turn heat to high. Cover and bring to a simmer. Turn heat to med-low and simmer for about two hours, stirring every once in a while so sauce doesn’t burn.

Let cool and spoon into jars. Do not fill right to the top because the sauce will expand in the freezer and then you’d have a sauce bomb to clean up later. If sauce is still hot enough, the jars might self seal as once they cool on the counter. Freeze up to six months.

To thaw: Defrost in microwave according to your microwave settings or leave out on the counter during the day. Once it’s slightly thawed and can be loosened into a sauce pot, thaw the rest of the way over medium-low flame.

How to Make Marinara Sauce in Bulk

Quick Vegetable Soup

I’m home sick today. During my two-hour pity party in bed this morning, I lamented over the fact that no one can bring me soup and my cabinets were bereft of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle.

It is a scientific fact that chicken soup is good for colds; but I’m not well enough to drive to the store and buy some, so I rolled my sick self out of bed, I took what I had on hand and made some delicious vegetable bean soup with a chicken broth base. Way better than store bought. And guess what? I’m feeling slightly better. Up from 61% to 68%. Not bad!

Quick Homemade Vegetable Soup | Alaska Knit Nat

Cast of Characters:

Quick Homemade Vegetable Soup | Alaska Knit Nat

1 Tbs. olive oil

3 Tbs. finely chopped onion

1 carrot, chopped

1/2 celery stalk, chopped

3 crimini mushrooms (or one giant baby portobello mushroom) sliced

1 sprig fresh thyme

4 cups chicken stock

1 can white beans, drained

salt and pepper to taste

Serves 2

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, mushroom, salt and pepper and sauté until most of the liquid evaporates, about five minutes. Add the thyme and stock and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, until carrots are tender. Add the beans and bring back to a simmer. Simmer another five minutes or so until beans are heated through.

The fresh veggies add more depth to the chicken stock so it doesn’t taste bland. The mushrooms create a wonderful richness and depth to the broth.

Enjoy!

Quick Homemade Vegetable Soup | Alaska Knit Nat

Asian Meatballs

I’m thinking about doing the South Beach Diet. The problem is, I love pasta and noodles. I had a hankering for gyoza tonight, so I thought I’d just make the filling in the form of meatballs and ditch the noodle.

Turned out I didn’t really miss the won ton wrapper after all. This meal is quick and uses common fridge ingredients. Put whatever veggies you prefer in the stir fry. I happened to find a tasty edible mushroom in my yard right before dinner, so I tossed that in at the last minute.

Asian Meatballs

Ingredients (I eyeball everything):
1 lb. ground beef
1 egg
2 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup panko flakes (not South Beach friendly, so omit if needs be)
2 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. fish sauce
1/2 tsp. ginger powder
2 green onions, finely chopped
salt and pepper

For the sauce:
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbs. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. fish sauce
1/2 tsp. ginger powder
1/2 tsp. corn starch (again, not South Beach friendly)
1 Tbs. oyster sauce (optional)

Broccoli, tofu, zucchini, and other stir fry veggies

Directions:
If using tofu, drain it and cover in paper towels. Place a heavy pan on top to get more liquid out. Mix together the meatball ingredients thoroughly, cover and let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Form meatballs and place on a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet so the fat is allowed to drain away while they cook. Bake for 30 minutes or until they are browned and cooked all the way through. Set aside.

Whisk together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

Meanwhile, cut the tofu into cubes and cut your stir fry veggies up into bite-sized pieces. Heat 2 tsp. cooking oil in a wok over high flame until the oil shimmers. Add the tofu and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Set aside. Add another teaspoon of oil to the wok and reheat. Add the veggies and half the sauce. Mix well, cover and let cook for about seven minutes or until veggies are tender.

Uncover, add the rest of the sauce, the tofu, the meatballs and toss till everything is thoroughly coated.

Serve alone or with brown rice or farro if you aren’t in Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet.

Asian Meatballs

Shepherd’s Pie — Comfort Food at its Best

I love easy recipes, especially if I can use leftovers. Shepherd’s pie is no exception. If you have ground meat and leftover mashed potatoes, you are just a few steps away from a delicious, filling dinner the whole family will love.

Shepherd's Pie -- Real Comfort Food

Ingredients:

1 lb. combo of ground beef, pork, veal or lamb

4 cups or so of leftover mashed potatoes (or make some fresh)

1 egg yolk

1 tbs. olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large carrot, chopped

1 cup frozen peas

3 Tbs. fresh herbs such as parsley, thyme and rosemary, chopped

Salt and pepper

1 Tbs. tomato paste

1 cup chicken stock

Worcestershire sauce or red wine (optional)

 

Shepherd’s pie is versatile. Throw in whatever veggies you love. Use whatever meat you prefer.

Directions:

Season your mashed potatoes to your liking with milk, butter, salt and pepper. Heat up in the microwave if cold. Stir in the egg yolk. This makes the pie have a nice crust. Preheat oven to 375. In a sauté pan, heat some oil and add the meat, onion and carrot. Season with salt and pepper. Cook till meat is browned, about 10 minutes. Drain fat and add stock, tomato paste, herbs and a swig of red wine or Worcestershire sauce. Heck, I bet soy sauce would even make it pretty good. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the peas.

Grease a casserole dish and add the meat filling. Top with dollops of mashed potatoes. Spread the potatoes across the top, trying to create a seal around the edges. I recommend putting a cookie sheet under the dish when you bake it in case anything bubbles over.
Bake for 30 minutes and let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Shepherd's Pie -- Real Comfort Food

Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce

We recently spent two and a half weeks in Mexico where I spent a good deal of time watching the housekeeper cook. She used to run a restaurant from her home and one of her specialties is a dish called chilaquiles. It’s fried corn tortilla strips steeped in a red chile sauce. I thought the sauce would transfer well to an enchilada dish. I made a few twists and it turned out almost as well as Moña’s in Mexico. I wasn’t able to find the exact same dried chiles she used, but I used the kind from the Hispanic food section of the grocery store and it worked just great. Add in a little bit of slow-cooked beef, some rice, black beans and cheese and you’ve got yourself some amazing enchiladas.

Oh, and if you’re totally lazy, you could buy the sauce and just follow the enchilada recipe below. That’s what I did to obtain this pathetic photo. Trust me, it’s waaaaay tastier than it looks.

Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce with Slow-Cooked Shredded Beef

Ingredients:

3 plum tomatoes

4 medium-sized dried red chiles

3 cups water

2 cloves garlic

2 Tbs. olive oil

1/2 onion, chopped fine

3 Tbs. flour

2 cups chicken stock

1 Tbs. chile powder

salt to taste

1 Tbs. chiles in adobo sauce, chopped finely

Directions:

Break the tops off the dried chiles and toss as many of the seeds as you can. Bring the water, tomatoes and chiles to a boil in a saucepan. Boil for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover and let sit for 20 minutes.

Place one clove of garlic in a blender. With a slotted spoon, add the tomatoes and chiles, cover the blender and start blending. Slowly add the water from the saucepan and blend on high for a minute or so.

Mince the remaining clove of garlic. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook till onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and mix into a paste. Cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes.

Turn down the heat and add the blended mixture, chicken stock, chile powder, chiles in adobo sauce and salt. Bring to a simmer, turn to low and let bubble for 10 minutes or so. The sauce will be thinner than gravy.

If you prefer it thick, make a slurry with 1/2 cup chicken stock and 1-2 Tbs. flour and pour it in. Stir and let simmer for five minutes or so till it thickens.
Store in a jar in the fridge for up to a week.
Recipe for beef enchiladas
Ingredients:
1 thin, cheap cut of beef; about 1/2 lb.
olive oil
salt & pepper
dried oregano
smoked paprika
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1 can black beans, partially drained
2 chiles in adobo sauce, seeded and chopped fine
leftover brown rice (optional)
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated (for the top, optional)
tortillas (flour or corn)
Directions:
Coat the beef in olive oil and sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper, paprika and oregano. Place in a slow cooker and add the onions. Cook on low for 5 hours or so. It’ll be so tasty you might have a hard time getting it into the enchiladas. Shred the beef and set aside.
When it’s near dinner time, preheat the oven to 375′. Add the beans to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Mash with a potato masher and add the chopped chiles and some salt. Cook for five minutes or so. Heat up your leftover rice, if using. Coat the bottom of a square or rectangular baking pan with enchilada sauce.
Pour about a cup of sauce in a pie pan. Set up a little assembly line with the tortillas, sauce, work surface, beans, beef, rice, cheese and baking pan.  Soak a tortilla in the sauce and place it on your work surface. Add small amounts of all your ingredients, roll up the tortilla and place it seam-side down in the pan. Repeat till the pan is full. Pour a cup or so of the sauce all over the enchiladas. I never put enough and they end up drying out on the edges, so really saturate the baking dish. The tortillas suck up a lot. Top with remaining cheeses. Place, uncovered, in the oven for 30 minutes, or until it’s all bubbly.
Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving, or, if starving, risk lava-hot amazingness.

 

Mexican Pot Pie

Have you ever envisioned a meal and had it turn out better than you expected? This was one of those dishes. I had some leftover ground pork and a can of black beans in the cupboard, so I did a Google search for those two ingredients and found this recipe for mexican pot pie. I had everything the recipe called for, but I didn’t need to feed an army, so I halved it for just me and my husband and tweaked a couple of ingredients.

This casserole had deep flavors and just the right amount of spice and cheese. The cornbread topping was crusty on top and creamy underneath. A dollop of sour cream and this became an instant dinnertime favorite in our household.

Since the full recipe called for one egg, I just beat an egg and eyeballed half of it.

Mexican Pot Pie -- Alaska Knit Nat

Feeds 4-6

Ingredients:

1/2 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/3 cup diced bell pepper, color of your choice

2 Tbs. jarred jalapeños, chopped

3/4 lb. ground pork (or beef)

olive oil

1, 8-oz. can of tomato sauce

1 Tbs. tomato paste

5 oz. frozen corn, thawed

1/2 can of black beans

1.5 tsp. cumin

1/4 tsp. allspice

1 Tbs. chili powder

1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp. Tabasco sauce

2 tsp. yellow cornmeal

salt and pepper to taste

 

Cornbread crust:

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1.5 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1/8 tsp. salt

2 Tbs. melted butter

3/8 cup milk

1/2 egg

1/2 cup grated cheddar

1/2 can green chili peppers (4 oz. can)

Mexican Pot Pie -- Alaska Knit Nat

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a small baking dish (mine was 1.5 quarts). In a large skillet, heat up a couple of tablespoons of oil. Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper and jalapeño and cook for about five minutes.

Add the pork and cook till the pork is no longer pink, chopping with a wooden spoon as you go.

Stir in the tomato sauce, paste, corn, beans, cumin, allspice, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, cornmeal, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

For the cornbread batter, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add the butter, milk and egg. Stir until just combined. Add the cheese and chili peppers.

Place the filling in the baking dish and dollop the cornbread on top of the filling, spreading it out as you go. If you can’t cover the whole top of the pie, then fill in the holes with grated cheese.

Bake for 35 minutes or until the crust is baked and the filling is bubbling.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a cold beer.

Creamy Tortellini, Sausage and Mushroom Soup

Winter’s a-coming and that means it’s soup and stew season. Gotta stay warm, especially when we’ve been having these unusually early El Niño-like windstorms lately. Here’s a great recipe to hunker down with. I found it on Pinterest and as usual, added my own little flair (i.e., meat).

I wasn’t sure what the blogger meant by “white sauce mix.” Normally, I’m averse to using prepackaged stuff in my cooking, but I thought I’d try it out and I used one dry packet of alfredo sauce mix. It turned out to be a delightful soup base and boosted the other flavors quite well.

Image

Creamy Tortellini Sausage and Mushroom Soup

Serves a whole bunch of people — like 12?

Ingredients:

1 packet of dry alfredo sauce mix

4 cups water

2 cups chicken broth

1.5 cups crimini or baby portobello mushrooms, sliced

1/2 an onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp. or so dried basil

1/2 teaspoon or so dried oregano

some sprinkles of cayenne powder

salt and pepper

one 8-oz package of dried tortellini

1/2 package of frozen spinach

4 Italian sausages

1 12-oz. can evaporated milk

Directions:

Combine the sauce mix, water and chicken stock in a large Crock Pot. Add the mushrooms, onion, garlic, basil, oregano, cayenne, salt and pepper and set Crock Pot to low for 4-5 hours.

Stir in the dried tortellini. Cook on low for another hour. Meanwhile, heat the frozen spinach in a small pan with water till it’s thawed. Strain and squeeze out the water. Set aside. Cook the sausage thoroughly and slice up.

Add the spinach and sausage and continue cooking till tortellini is al dente. Add the evaporated milk and cook till soup is hot again. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan and crusty bread.