Category Archives: I Cooked: The Main Course

Shrimpy Biscuits

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Shrimp Puffs

Confession:  normally when I see a recipe starting with a tin of biscuit dough, I quickly turn the page.  They just don’t taste like real biscuits in my opinion, and many of them contain trans fats and ingredients I can’t pronounce.  But I saw this recipe for Shrimp Puffs in Food Network Magazine on two occasions, and I kept thinking about how much my daughter Samantha would like them.  And I seem to have a weakness for recipes that call for fresh dill.  Once I tracked down a tin of biscuit dough without any funky ingredients (Pillsbury‘s Simply brand), I decided to give it a go.  I had a larger tin of biscuits than the recipe called for, so my youngest kitchen helper Lauren broke eight pieces of dough into thirds and then we pressed them into all 24 mini muffin tins (the recipe states 20).  Even with this change, there was a ton of the shrimp-cheese filling, so we didn’t need all of it.  I had chives on hand (and thought they would go over well with the kids) so I used those instead of scallions.

As expected, Samantha loved these cheesy shrimp-topped biscuits.  So did my husband.  Lauren adores plain biscuits and was not happy about having shrimp stuck to the top of them…she was looking around for her usual strawberry jam.  And not surprisingly, I thought they were “okay”.  They would be a good party snack, but we had them with a big salad for a quick weeknight dinner.  Even though they weren’t my favorite creation to date, I will make these again since Samantha enjoyed them so much (and Lauren had a lot of fun “helping” with the dough).

Just For Me: Taleggio Truffle Flatbread

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I recently found myself cooking for one — this hasn’t happened in at least seven years (the age of my oldest child).  I figured I should take advantage and make something that would drive my kids to tears if I ever served it to them.  Let’s see…lots of vegetables, extra strong cheese, and more vegetables on top:  perfect.  The lovely White Truffle Oil I picked up at Oil & Vinegar has been burning a hole in my pantry waiting to be used, so I decided to create a new version of the mushroom and taleggio cheese flatbread that my Mom has made for us in the past.

 

Ingredients:

2 whole-grain Naan flatbreads (or other flatbreads/pizza crust of your choice)

1-2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups mixed sliced mushrooms (I used cremini, oyster, and shiitake)

1 10-oz container cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes

Salt & pepper, to taste

4-oz piece of taleggio cheese, rind removed

2 cups fresh baby arugula

2 tsp white truffle oil

Coarse sea salt (I like Maldon)

Preheat over to 400F.  Toss mushrooms, tomatoes, and EVOO on a cookie sheet; sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven until the tomatoes start to burst, about 12 minutes, turning half way through.  Place flatbreads on a second cookie sheet and top with cooked mushroom/tomato mixture.  Dot taleggio cheese over the vegetables and return to the oven until the cheese melts, about 5 minutes.

Toss arugula with truffle oil and place on top of cooked flatbreads.  Sprinkle sea salt on top (this is the best part).  Serves 2-3.

Taleggio Truffle Flatbread

Fat Tuesday Pumpkin Pie Pancakes

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Pumpkin Pie Pancakes

In addition to it being Fat Tuesday, apparently today is also National Pancake Day.  As if I needed a second excuse.  When I was looking for the perfect pancake recipe for our Valentine’s dinner last week, I came across these “Pimped-Out Pumpkin Pie Pancakes” from my Looneyspoons Collection Cookbook, courtesy of Janet & Greta Podleski.  It seems that everything I have made from this cookbook has me delving into the pumpkin pie spice, but there are certainly no complaints about that.  This recipe uses half whole-wheat flour (I always use whole-wheat pastry flour as it seems to result in a fluffier texture) and half all-purpose flour, plus a cup of pumpkin — so a pretty healthy and hearty pancake.  I did cut back on the pumpkin pie spice a bit as my kids found it to be strong in the granola bars we made recently.  As expected, the kids were thrilled with another “pancake breakfast for dinner” night.  And this recipe made a ton of pancakes — we’ll be eating the rest for breakfast for sure.

Pimped-Out Pumpkin Pie Pancakes (adapted from Janet and Greta Podleski’s “The Looneyspoons Collection” cookbook):

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 to 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp each salt and baking soda

1 can (14 oz) 2% evaporated milk (note, I used a 12 oz can plus 2 oz of milk)

1 cup canned pure pumpkin

1/4 cup brown sugar (not packed)

2 eggs

2 tbsp melted butter

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat griddle to medium heat.  Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl — flours through baking soda.  Combine all wet ingredients in a medium bowl, whisking well.  Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir until just combined.  Spoon batter by 1/3-cupfuls onto preheated griddle that has been lighted coated with cooking spray.  Gently spread batter to about a 4-inch diameter.  Cook 1-2 minutes per side, until cooked through (this batter is pretty thick, but be careful not to burn them).  The recipe suggests serving with vanilla yogurt and pure maple syrup (we skipped the yogurt, although that sounds good too).

Fish Piccata and Lemony Pasta

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Flounder Piccata with Angel Hair Pasta

This would be a perfect dish to serve to a family that is trying to eat more fish — it is extremely mild with lemon and butter (I skipped the capers), and you can make it with whatever thin white flaky fish looks good at the store.  I used wild flounder, but tilapia, snapper, sole, and catfish would also be good.  I wouldn’t recommend a thick fish like halibut or cod for this recipe.  I had never actually cooked fish using this process of dredging in flour and then lightly pan frying in olive oil before, and it turned out so well.  The sauce was initially very strong with lemon, because I accidentally put the butter into the green beans instead of the fish sauce.  Those were some really delicious green beans (since I had already tossed them in olive oil and lemon juice!).

Both the Fish Piccata and the Angel Hair Pasta recipes are from Melissa d’Arabian.  You really want to serve them together as all the flavors combine so well (lemon, butter, olive oil, parmesan).  And if you keep some fish fillets in the freezer, this is a super easy dinner to throw together with things you already have on hand.  With the ingredient lists so short, these aren’t as much recipes as they are methods of cooking, but I’m thrilled to now know how to cook fish this way and the kids loved it.

Sweet Hearts for my Valentines

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Mini Heart Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce

My kids have been pretty good guinea pigs through all this recent cooking of mine, and so it felt great to cook up their favorite for dinner on Valentines Day:  pancakes.  With NO vegetables.  Plain, buttermilk pancakes made with healthy whole wheat pastry flour, and nothing hidden inside.  They were thrilled.  I was inspired by the fun Nordic Ware pancake pan I found at Target, which makes 7 mini heart-shaped pancakes.  On the side I made a delicious strawberry dipping sauce, which tasted more like a smoothie (and it might as well have been a smoothie, as the kids ended up drinking it with straws…).  Both recipes are from Ellie Krieger.

My girls loved the mini hearts.  I don’t consider myself to be the most coordinated person, and I wasn’t sure how I would flip those little guys back into their exact spots in the pan.  So I flipped them into a second skillet, which also allowed me to have twice as many pancakes on the go.  Ellie’s advice to keep the first pancakes warming at 200F while you cook the rest was perfect.

The strawberry sauce was amazing, and so fitting for Valentines Day.  I’ll admit that 2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup to a whole pound of strawberries wasn’t going to do it for our taste, so I probably used about 1/4 cup to make it sweeter.  I could eat this sauce with just about anything — fruit, toast, maybe an old sneaker.  And while this was the perfect and much needed change from routine, it will be back to vegetables tomorrow!

Creamy Bowties with Salmon

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Bowties with Salmon & Peas

My kids (like many kids I know) are happiest when the components of their meals are all separate from one another — protein, grains, fruit/vegetables are mixed together at your own risk.  I prefer the exact opposite:  easy one-pot meals that incorporate everything into one dish.  I’m especially happy when the recipe calls for lots of vegetables, herbs, and spices (a nightmare to my children).  This kind of cooking makes for easy leftovers too.  Every now and then I will see a recipe that incorporates everything in one dish but features ingredients the kids actually like to eat, and this Creamy Farfalle with Salmon and Peas from Self Magazine fit the bill.  Well, I take that back — they would happily pass on the peas, but you can’t get everything you wish for.

This meal turned out really well.  The sauce was thick and creamy (save some of the starchy pasta water to thin it out if necessary) and the smell of cream cheese with fresh dill was fantastic.  It was a mild, “kid-friendly” combination.  For the pasta, I used Barilla’s “Piccolini” Mini Farfalle.  When my girls first eyed their bowls, they made faces about all those peas, but after a bite of pasta I heard lots of, “Mmmm, this is actually pretty good”.  The recipe could easily be modified to use cubed chicken or ham instead of salmon, and you could switch out the peas for another favorite veggie.  I will definitely be keeping this one on hand for an easy one-dish meal that everyone at my table will eat.

It’s a Monday Night Miracle

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Bethenny's Pesto Lasagna

I rarely cook a “real” dinner on Monday nights.  The timing of the kids’ activities means there is about a 15 minute window to sit down and eat — sometimes together, sometimes not.  I’ve been wanting to try Bethenny’s Pesto Vegetarian Lasagna for a while, and hoped that with just six ingredients, I could quickly prep this ahead of time and then throw it in the oven during the mad dash activities that tend to occur in our house on any given Monday.

I decided to cut the recipe in half, and I added a seventh ingredient – shredded parmesan cheese on top.  I covered the lasagna with foil for most of the cooking time.  While this was a delicious dish, mine did not turn out anything like the picture in the original recipe!  After it came out of the oven, the bubbly cheese settled, and the lasagna was less than an inch thick.  so I would recommend this as a side dish, not a main course.  The good news — my kids really liked it.  The pesto was the main flavor and you just can’t go wrong with basil and cheese.