CHEESY BRUNCH POTATOES: They’re Delicious All Day Long!

cheesy brunch potatoes textI’m a fan of potatoes – dressed up or dressed down, they’re pretty much always good. I’m, also, a fan of brunch….only for dinner. So CHEESY BRUNCH POTATOES is an Antonini family favorite evening meal.

Served with a vegetable, salad, and a yogurt shake, you’ve got yourself a fast, filling, and kid-friendly meal.

CHEESY BRUNCH POTATOES – serves about 6 (unless you have teenagers – then it’s 2)

  • 1½ lbs red potatoes (Yukon gold potatoes are fine, too – just not russet)
  • 3 T butter
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1¼ cup jalapeño jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup medium cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2-3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup avocado, cubed

Get a pot of salted water boiling. Cut unpeeled potatoes into 3/4″ cubes. potatoes choppedWhen water reaches boil, drop in potatoes and cook about 5 minutes – just to par-cook them. potatoes boiled(You don’t want them completely cooked or they’ll start to mash when fried.) Pour into sieve to drain.

In a large nonstick skillet (at least 12″), melt butter over medium-high heat. Add potatoes, flipping them with non-metal spatula every few minutes. After about 5 minutes add in the onions (they cook faster than the potatoes – you don’t want to burn them). potatoes onions friedContinue flipping until the potatoes are browned. potatoes onions fried2Turn off flame.

Stir in salt and cheeses to blend. Gently fold in tomatoes and avocado. Add salt and pepper, if desired.brunch potatoes beauty

JICAMA-MANGO SALAD: A Winter Fruit Salad!

jicama-salad-textOne generally associates fruit salads with summer. But sometimes a heavy winter meal needs the fresh sweetness that fruit provides.

What to do? JICAMA-MANGO SALAD, that’s what. Not only is it simple to make, but it’s brightly colored with a bit of a kick to it (thanks to red pepper flakes).

JICAMA-MANGO SALAD – makes 4 cups

  • 3 T lime juice
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1/4 tsp lime zest
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 jicama, peeled
  • 2 mangoes, peeled
  • 1 orange, peeled

NOTE: Cube the jicama one layer at a time. Slicing through a stack can cause the top layer to slip, possibly yielding a nasty cut.

Cut jicama into 1/4″ pieces. Cut mangoes and orange into 1/2″ pieces.

Into a saucepan combine lime juice, sugar, lime zest, pepper flakes, and salt. Over medium flame, bring to simmer, stirring just until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add in the jicama. Cover (off heat) and set aside for 20 minutes to soften a little.

After 20 minutes, combine all ingredients in a bowl. Refrigerate, at least, half an hour.

TOMATO-SPINACH TIMBALES: A Festive Side Dish!

tomato-spinach-timbale-textDuring the holiday season it’s always fun to make festive foods. I created TOMATO-SPINACH TIMBALE with a little trepidation since December is NOT tomato season. While supermarket tomatoes generally lack flavor, even during peak times, my worry was for nothing, since the cooking process plus the flavors of the other ingredients brought out the best in these red beauties.

TOMATO-SPINACH TIMBALE – makes 4

  • 2 round tomato,  at least 2″ in diameter
  • 6 oz fresh spinach
  • 1 T butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup milk (any kind)
  • 6 T seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp dried minced onion
  • 2 egg
  • 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled

Peel tomatoes by submerging them in boiling water for about 1 minute – until skin starts to split. Remove from water and let cool until the skin can be peeled off without scalding your fingers. Discard peel. Slice tomatoes in half along the equator.

Steam spinach for about 5 minutes, until wilted. Wrap spinach in a paper towel and squeeze out excess water. (I wrap a terry cloth towel around the paper towel – the terry towel maximizes absorption, and the paper towel protects the spinach from lint.)

In a medium sized bowl, beat eggs.eggs-beatenAdd butter, milk, bread crumbs, salt, and dried minced onion.timbales-mixing1Remove spinach from paper towel and chop.spinach-choppingStir into egg mixture.timbales-mixing2Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.

Butter 4 custard cups or small ramekins.custard-cup-butteredPlace a tomato half, cut side up, in each. Using your fingers, spread open the tomato so it touches the cup sides.tomato-in-custard-cupSprinkle on feta cheese.timbales-fetaTop with spinach mixture to the brim, patting down to get rid of air pockets.timbales-spinachPlace cups in a baking dish and fill halfway with boiling water.timbales-bakingBake at 350º F for 25-30 minutes, until spinach layer starts to brown. Remove from oven. Take cups out of the water bath and place on a rack to set for 15 minutes. To remove the TOMATO-SPINACH TIMBALES, run a rounded knife around edges, then invert, removing cup.

 

What’s Up Doc? CARROT FETA SALAD!!!

carrot-feta-salad-textIn our house we have broccoli nearly every night. It’s fast, it’s tasty, and it’s healthy. But sometimes one has to shake things up a bit.

So I came up with CARROT FETA SALAD to expand our horizons. No cooking is involved and can be made ahead of time. BTW, this recipe is a success at potlucks.

NOTE: Shred the carrots yourself rather than buying pre-shredded. If you have a food processor, it can be done in seconds. If you don’t have a food processor, the holidays are coming up so put it on your list. I use mine nearly everyday!

CARROT FETA SALAD – makes about 3 cups

  • 1½ cups carrots, shredded
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup canned mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 T red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 T honey
  • 1/2 T Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 T lemon juice
  • pinch salt

Put carrots, feta, oranges, and cranberries in a bowl.

Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, honey, mustard, lemon juice, and salt. I use a mini-whisk for this – a spoon just won’t blend the dressing as well. Pour dressing over carrots and mix.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

ORZO ASPARAGUS AMANDINE – A Creamy Delight!

orzo asparagus text

Orzo is a pasta (yes, a pasta!) that I love, but rarely use – mostly because I forget about it. When I want a rice-like ingredient, my mind goes to…rice.

Orzo has the same chew as white rice, and is only slightly bigger. The benefit is it cooks much faster – about 9 minutes. So if you want to make a risotto – which takes a lot of time and attention – consider using orzo. It will be found in the pasta section of the market, of course.

ORZO ASPARAGUS AMANDINE, like many dishes, can be tweaked to your desires and what you have in the house. Switch the asparagus for red pepper, peas, or mushrooms. Cashews can be exchanged for the almonds. And the orzo can be traded for barley, sorghum, or…rice. The possibilities are endless.

NOTE: If you decide to use mushrooms, cook them until most of the liquid evaporates. This will be longer than the 3 minutes for asparagus.

ORZO ASPARAGUS AMANDINE – makes about 2½ cups

  • 3/4 cup uncooked orzo
  • 1 T butter
  • 6 stalks asparagus, sliced into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk (see NOTE below)
  • 1/2 cup fontina cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted

NOTE: 3/4 cup evaporated milk is half of a 12 oz can. You can freeze the unused half, double the recipe and use the whole can, OR use a 5 oz can and add 3 oz of milk to it (even nonfat).

Boil about 2½ water (it doesn’t need to be exact) and pour in the orzo. Cook until it’s slightly underdone (check after 7 minutes) – it will continue to absorb liquid when mixed with the evaporated milk, so it doesn’t need to be completely cooked. Strain out the excess water using a colander or hand strainer.

While the orzo is cooking, wash and slice the asparagus. Melt butter in a skillet and sauté asparagus for about 3 minutes over medium flame. Add in garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Remove from heat to prevent scorching the garlic.

Add the cornstarch, salt, and pepper to the asparagus, blending well. Pour in the evaporated milk and return to medium flame. Stir until thickened – about 3 minutes. Add in cheese.

When cheese is melted, stir in the cooked orzo. Taste for seasoning, correcting, as needed.

When ready to serve, mix in the almonds. Don’t do this ahead of time or they won’t be as crispy.

 

BROCCOLI-CASHEW PASTA SALAD

broccoli cashew salad text

BROCCOLI-CASHEW PASTA SALAD is one of my all time favorites. Not only is it visually appealing, but it’s one of those “I’ll just have a little bit more” dishes.

The orecchiette pasta (which means ‘little ears’) is a perfect shape to capture all the goodies, so each mouthful is a tasty combination of crispy broccoli and red pepper, subtle mushrooms, salty cashews, all coated with a savory dijon dressing. If you use a spoon, you might be able to finagle everything in one bite.

This salad can be prepared in the time it takes to boil the water, then cook the pasta. It can be served warm, but I prefer to chill mine for about 20 minutes.

BROCCOLI-CASHEW PASTA SALAD – makes about 5-6 cups

  • 1/2 lb orecchiette pasta
  • 3 cups broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onions, chopped
  • 6 oz mushrooms (about 8), chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup salted cashews, lightly toasted (do this even if you buy them roasted)

Put a large pot of salted water to boil.  When it reaches a full boil, add in the pasta and cook until done. Drain immediately, but don’t rinse or shake.

While pasta is cooking, put the broccoli in a steamer basket (don’t forget the water!). The goal is to break down the fibers enough to eat, but still leave a little crunch. Turn heat to high, cover, and set timer for 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and take off lid. Let sit in pot while you do the next step – this allows the broccoli to complete cooking.

Heat oil in a skillet and add the onions and mushrooms. Sauté 2-3 minutes, then add in the red pepper. Continue to cook another 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, and vinegar until smooth. Cool in refrigerator.

When pasta is done, combine it with the mushroom mixture and broccoli. If you’re serving the dish warmish, stir in the dressing and then the cashews. Serve.

If you want the salad a little chilled, place the pasta mixture in the fridge for about 20 minutes. Then stir in dressing and cashews. Serve.

QUINOA STUFFED EGGPLANT – Get Ready For Summer!

quinoa stuffed eggplant text

Last week I wrote about CHOCOLATE WACKY CAKE after being asked to use and critique a coconut balsamic vinegar. I know vinegar, particularly balsamic, sounds like a crazy ingredient for a chocolate cake, but it’s amazing – try it, and thank me later.

This week I’m posting about about QUINOA STUFFED EGGPLANT, which also calls for vinegar. It’s an easy recipe, and excellent to add to your repertoire for when your friends come calling with bags of eggplant from their garden.

NOTE: You can substitute rice or sorghum for the quinoa.

QUINOA STUFFED EGGPLANT

  • 1 large eggplant, or 2-3 smaller ones
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 c quinoa, raw
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 3 garlic, pressed
  • 1 T fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup hard cheese (such as Parmesan, Romano, or Pecorino-Romano), grated
  • 2 T pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 T parsley, chopped

Slice eggplant in half lengthwise. Score each half by making slashes diagonally through pulp, half an inch apart. Do the same going the opposite way. MAKE SURE YOU DON’T CUT THROUGH THE SKIN! Brush a liberal amount of olive oil on cut sides, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place the eggplant cut side down. Bake on lowest rack at 400º for 40-50 minutes, until softened. Drain by laying the eggplant cut side down, on a terry cloth towel that’s topped with a couple of layers of paper towels.

Cook quinoa according to package directions.

Sauté onion in the 1 T olive oil. Add garlic, basil, cinnamon, cayenne, and 1/2 tsp salt. Cook 30 seconds only, then stir in cooked quinoa, tomatoes, 3/4 cup cheese, pine nuts, and vinegar.

Turn eggplant cut side up, and smash down pulp with a spoon to make eggplant into a bowl. Divide the quinoa filling between the eggplant halves, compacting and mounding it.

Top with remaining cheese and return eggplant to parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 400º in the upper third of oven for 5-10 minutes, until cheese browns.

Sprinkle on fresh basil and serve.