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Cauliflower and Sausage Casserole This casserole is healthy, filling, and surprisingly delicious for a dish with cauliflower as a main ingredient. Sausage, tomatoes, and the aforementioned cauliflower make for a warm and comforting casserole that is even better as leftovers the next day. 1 medium head cauliflower, about 2 pounds
1 teaspoon fine table salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound uncooked herbed chicken sausage OR spicy Italian sausage, removed from casings
1 medium onion, about 1/2 pound, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 stems fresh thyme, leaves only
One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and liquid reserved
1 can diced tomatoes
2/3 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with olive oil.

Cut the cauliflower head in quarters. Slice away the leaves and stem, and with an angled cut cut away the core from each quarter of the cauliflower head. Chop cauliflower roughly into bite-sized florets, each about 1-inch across.

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil over high heat. Stir in the salt. Add the cauliflower florets and boil for 2 minutes. Drain into a colander set in the sink. Run cold water over the florets to stop the cooking process and shake the colander to drain any excess water. Return the cauliflower to the cooking pot and set aside.

Place a 10-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and then, when the pan is quite hot, add the sausage. Use a spoon to break up the meat. Cook for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the sausage is cooked through and beginning to get crispy. If using chicken sausage there should not be a great deal of fat in the pan, but if using Italian sausage, drain all but 1 to 2 tablespoons of fat.

Turn the heat to medium-low and add the onion, garlic, and thyme to the pan with the sausage. Sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Scrape up any brown bits as you sauté. Crush the tomatoes, and add them to the sausage. Stir thoroughly, then add the reserved tomato sauce and cook for about 5 more minutes. Turn off the heat and taste the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Toss the sauce with the cauliflower in the cooking pot. Spread the cauliflower and sausage mix in the prepared baking dish and distribute evenly. Mix the bread crumbs and Parmesan and sprinkle them evenly over the cauliflower. Drizzle lightly with olive oil.

Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until breadcrumbs have browned and the sauce is bubbling. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

original recipe

Black Bean and Corn Salsa Easy, delicious, and the perfect side dish with Cuban or Mexican food. 1 can black beans 1 can corn 1 pepper, chopped 2 tomatoes, chopped 1 bunch chives (optional) 1 tbs. chopped jalapeno ½ tsp. cumin 1/3 c. fresh cilantro (optional) ¼ c. lime juice 1 tbs. olive oil salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients
Italian Chicken Stew This chicken stew is hearty fare with tomatoes, kidney beans, carrots, celery, onion, and basil. You may want to add more broth for a more soup-like consistency. 2 tbs. olive oil
2-3 stalks celery, cut into bite-size pieces
1-2 carrots, peeled, cut into bite-size pieces
1 onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can can low-salt chicken broth
½ c. fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
1 tbs. tomato paste
1 bay leaf
½ tsp. dried thyme leaves
2 chicken breast with ribs (about 1 ½ pounds total)
1 can organic kidney beans, drained

Heat the oil in a heavy 5 1/2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the celery, carrot, and onion. Sauté the vegetables until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, chicken broth, basil, tomato paste, bay leaf, and thyme. Add the chicken breasts; press to submerge.
Bring the cooking liquid to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently uncovered until the chicken is almost cooked through, turning the chicken breasts over and stirring the mixture occasionally, about 25 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the chicken breasts to a work surface and cool for 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Add the kidney beans to the pot and simmer until the liquid has reduced into a stew consistency, about 10 minutes.
Discard the skin and bones from the chicken breasts. Shred or cut the chicken into bite- size pieces. Return the chicken meat to the stew. Bring the stew just to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Ladle the stew into serving bowls and serve with bread

Derived from Giada De Laurentiis (food network)
BLT Salad (Bacon, Lentil, and Tomato) Crispy bacon and fresh tomatoes made healthy in a lentil salad with balsamic dressing and fresh thyme. Perfect for summer lunches. Yay for not having to turn the oven on! 4 pieces bacon, preferably thick slices
2 cups green or black lentils
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or fresh)
1 pound small tomatoes

Slice the bacon into strips. In a medium skillet cook the bacon pieces until crisp, then reserve. Save a tsp or so of the bacon drippings for the dressing. Meanwhile cook the lentils about 15 – 20 minutes, or until tender.

Carefully add the balsamic vinegar, salt and thyme to the bacon drippings, adding a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Whisk the dressing, making sure to loosen any bits stuck to the pan. Remove from the heat and reserve.

Drain the cooked lentils and place into a large bowl. Pour the hot dressing over the hot lentils, and mix well. Let the lentils cool to room temperature.

Halve or quarter the tomatoes, depending on the size. Once the lentils are cooled, stir in the reserved bacon and the tomatoes. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.

Original recipe
Veggie Peanut Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Collard Greens A hearty, satisfying vegetarian curry with tons of vegetables - red pepper, potato, sweet potato, tomatoes, chickpeas, and (a new one for me) collard greens. All in a wonderful not-from-a-mix peanut curry sauce that tastes kind of Thai, kind of Indian. Can be served over rice or as a stew with pita or naan bread.

2 tsp. canola or vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated (optional: I omitted it)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. whole mustard seeds
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground tumeric
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, or more to taste
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into bite size pieces
2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 14-ounce can lite coconut milk, or more to taste
2 tbsp. smooth peanut butter
1 large bunch collard greens, stemmed and coarsely chopped
1 14-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped


Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  When it's hot, add the onion and cook until softened and starting to brown, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add all the spices and cook for another minute, then add the red pepper, the potatoes, the sweet potato, and the tomatoes.  Cover and let simmer over medium-low, until the potatoes have cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Stir in the coconut milk and peanut butter.  Add the collard greens and the chickpeas and stir well to combine.  Cook until the collard greens have wilted down enough to be soft, about 15 minutes.  If the curry seems to thick, add more coconut milk or water to thin it. Great with: pita or naan.

Original recipe
Arugula and Tomato Salad with Balsamic dressing Perfect for summer tomato season, this salad is a strong mix of flavors - tangy balsamic vinegar, peppery fresh arugula, and sweet ripe tomatoes. Crumble in some cheese to bring it all together and serve with grilled meat for a full meal. Salad:
arugula
fresh tomatoes, chopped or halved if small
optional: crumbled mozzarella, feta or goat cheese
Dressing:
1/2 cup tomato juice
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 T maple syrup
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary or basil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 tablespoons extravirgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients except oil, stirring well. Gradually add oil, stirring constantly with a whisk until well combined.
Note: Refrigerate dressing in an airtight container for up to five days; stir well before using.
Original recipe
roasted_salsa_mexican_casserole.jpgThis is definitely best Mexican casserole I have ever had. Fresh summer corn, zucchini, and red pepper are sauteed in green enchilada sauce with precooked shredded chicken, layered with corn tortillas and homemade smoky tomato salsa, then topped with a mix of cheeses and baked until the flavors meld. It is, however, also a lot of work - and although the casserole is well worth the effort, but I do advise planning ahead before tackling it. I think we ate at around 9:30pm the night I decided to make it. But it makes a ton - would be great for feeding a crowd, and has so many veggies that it doesn't leave you feeling greasy like most cheese and sour cream casseroles.

Salsa:
8  plum tomatoes, halved and seeded
3  garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1  small onion, peeled and chopped
1  seeded jalapeño pepper, quartered
Cooking spray
1/3  cup  chopped fresh cilantro
3  tablespoons  fresh lime juice
1/8  teaspoon  black pepper
Casserole:
1  cup  chopped onion
1  cup  fresh or frozen corn kernels
1  cup  diced zucchini
1  cup  chopped red bell pepper
3  cups  shredded cooked chicken breast
1  tablespoon  minced garlic
2  teaspoons  chili powder
1  teaspoon  ground cumin
1  (10-ounce) can green chile enchilada sauce
1  (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles
12  (6-inch) corn tortillas
1/2  cup  (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
1/2  cup  (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese or queso fresco

Preheat broiler.

To prepare salsa, combine first 4 ingredients on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Broil 20 minutes or until charred, stirring once. Remove from oven; cool slightly. Place tomato mixture in a food processor; add cilantro, lime juice, and pepper. Process until smooth. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare casserole, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly coat pan with cooking spray. Add 1 cup onion, corn, zucchini, and bell pepper; sauté 6 minutes or until tender. Add chicken and next 5 ingredients (through green chiles); sauté 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat.

Spread 1/2 cup salsa over the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange half of tortillas over salsa. Spoon 2 cups chicken mixture evenly over tortillas. Top with 3/4 cup salsa. Repeat layers, starting with remaining tortillas. Finally, sprinkle the cheeses on top. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes until bubbly

Original recipe

This is one of those recipes that is easy, delicious and can be done without a lot of forethought. I've started keeping cans of chickpeas and tomatoes around just so I can make this dish (and others like homemade falafel) when we run out of groceries and don't want to make another run. Of course that means that we usually make this when we don't have a lot of time. So even though I've made this at least twice, no pictures yet. But take my word for it - it's worth a try.

olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin seeds (or coriander seeds)
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground ginger (I usually omit)
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cardamon (or 3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed)
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1 Tbs cilantro leaves, roughly torn, plus more for garnish
A pinch of cayenne, or to taste
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6-8 Tbs plain yogurt, optional
A few lemon wedges, optional

Film the bottom of a large saucepan or Dutch oven--preferably not nonstick--with olive oil, and place the pan over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until it is deeply caramelized and even charred in some spots. Be patient. The more color, the more full-flavored the final dish will be.

Reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic, stirring, and add a bit more oil if the pan seems dry. Add the cumin seeds, coriander, ginger, garam masala, and cardamom pods, and fry them, stirring constantly, until fragrant and toasty, about 30 seconds. Add ¼ cup water, and stir to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the water has evaporated away completely. Pour in the juice from can of tomatoes, followed by the tomatoes themselves, using your hands to break them apart as you add them; alternatively, add them whole and crush them in the pot with a potato masher. Add the salt.

Raise the heat to medium, and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the cilantro and cayenne, and simmer the sauce gently, stirring occasionally, until it reduces a bit and begins to thicken. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Add the chickpeas, stirring well, and cook over low heat for about five minutes. Add 2 Tbs water, and cook for another five minutes. Add another 2 Tbs water, and cook until the water is absorbed, a few minutes more. This process of adding and cooking off water helps to concentrate the sauce's flavor and makes the chickpeas more tender and toothsome. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Stir in the yogurt, if you like, or garnish with lemon wedges and cilantro. Serve.

Yield: About four servings

Original Recipe

spinach_tortellini_soup.jpgGwendolyn's was my favorite cafe in Panama City, serving sandwiches, homemade ice cream, and a beloved rotation of homemade soups. They closed a year or so ago and I've moved a couple times, but I still have cravings for their best soup: Spinach Tortellini. This is my attempt at recreating it, done by feel since the owners have yet to release their secret recipes. Tip: cook bone-chicken breasts (using for example this stovetop recipe) the night before making this soup and use the bones to flavor the broth. It really helps intensify the flavor if you don't have time to make homemade stock (I never do).

1 onion, chopped
5 stalks celery, chopped
1 bunch chard or other leafy green, chopped
4-6 c. chicken broth
leftover chicken bones - with some meat attached
1/2 package frozen chopped spinach
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 lb. cheese tortellini
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped fine
1 tbs fresh oregano, chopped fine
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a little olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, celery, and chard stem pieces. Saute until the onion turns translucent and just begins to brown, then add the chard leaves. Saute until wilted (just a few minutes) and then add the chicken broth, chicken bones, frozen spinach and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then simmer around an hour or so until the broth becomes flavorful from the chicken bones. Remove chicken bones, add tomatoes and tortellini, and bring to a boil. The soup is done when the tortellini is cooked through.

chickenmilanese_sm.jpgPan-fried breaded chicken topped with a salad of arugula, corn, tiny potatoes, and cherry tomatoes in a light lemon honey vinaigrette. One of my absolute favorite summer dishes, with a very pretty presentation.

For the salad:
5 to 6 fingerling potatoes
1 ear corn
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 large handfuls of baby lettuce or arugula (or a mix), washed and dried
optional: 3/4 cup sliced hearts of palm
juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
2-3 tablespoons honey
salt and pepper
2 ounces ricotta salata or fresh mozzarella, cubed
For the chicken:
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin (about 1/4 inch)
salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
juice of 1/2 lemon
For the salad:
Bring a small pot of water to boil. Have a bowl of ice water off to the side. Add the fingerling potatoes to the pot and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until one can be sliced in half easily. Remove the potatoes from the pot with a slotted spoon and put in the ice bath until cool. Remove, pat dry, and slice into 1/4-inch rounds.

Cook the ear of corn, in its husk, in the microwave- on high for 3 minutes. Remove, allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes, then shuck. Cut the kernels off the cob and add to a bowl with the potatoes, tomatoes, lettuces, and hearts of palm. (note: can use canned or frozen corn)

Make the vinaigrette. Combine the lemon juice, vinegar, and mustard in a bowl and whisk to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Slowly stream in the olive oil while whisking vigorously. Add honey to taste. Set aside until the chicken is cooked (you'll dress the salad and use the ricotta salata when you plate the food).

For the chicken:
Season the chicken breasts generously with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a very large (14-inch) skillet over high heat. Pour the beaten eggs into a shallow pie plate. Pile the breadcrumbs onto a plate or in another pie plate and season with salt and pepper (mix the salt and pepper in with your fingers).

Working with one chicken breast at a time, dip it into the eggs, then allow the excess to drip off. Place it in the breadcrumbs and coat on both sides, then gently lay the chicken breast into the pan. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts. Cook the chicken for about 4 minutes on each side, flipping carefully with tongs, until the breadcrumbs are a deep golden color and crispy. Remove the chicken from the pan, set on a plate, and squeeze the lemon juice over them.

To serve, toss the salad with the vinaigrette. Place one chicken breast on each plate and top with the salad. Crumble the ricotta salata on top of each salad and season with salt and pepper.

Original recipe
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