Thursday, May 17, 2018

Cheesy Baked Lentils

This is only the second lentil recipe I've posted on my blog in almost 8 years!  Lentils are just kind of hard to love.  They're dull with a sort of mealy texture.  I don't hate them, but my response to a recipe featuring them is not usually, "Lentils?  Ooh, baby, I'm there!"  Don't get me wrong, I've tried many lentil recipes over the years (and have given up on ever finding a lentil soup more than just passable), and this is a gem among, uh... less appealing rocks.
I know it may not look super fantastic from the ingredient list, and I have no explanation for why exactly it is so good, but really, it is.  I also have no explanation for why the cumin goes so well in it, but I stirred it in after baking the first time I ever made it (pre-cheese) and it added exactly the flavor boost that was needed.  Since that first time (it was one of the first meals I made for my now husband, then boyfriend in his college apartment kitchen back in 2006), I've made this several times and it's so incredibly easy, delicious, and healthy.  We like it best served over quinoa.  It also freezes well, just leave the cheese off whichever portion you want to freeze. 
If you're super pressed for time, you could chop up some baby carrots, use maybe 1/2 tsp each garlic and onion powder instead of the real ones, and an undrained 16 oz can of diced tomatoes instead of fresh ones.  You can also add an additional 8 oz can tomato sauce if you'd like, as written this recipe doesn't have much sauce, but my husband likes it that way so I leave it alone.  It has plenty of flavor regardless!
Oh, and this recipe originally comes from the More with Less cookbook.  It has been pretty heavily edited by me, though.
Cheesy Baked Lentils
1 can V8 or tomato juice, or alternatively one 8 oz can plain tomato sauce and 1/2 C water
2 1/4 C water
1 lb lentils, rinsed and looked over for stones and other weirdies
3 medium carrots, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 C chopped fresh tomatoes
1/2 Tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp marjoram
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp sage
2 1/2 C grated cheddar
Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9 by 13 baking dish.  Add all ingredients to baking dish except cheese, and mix together.  Cover tightly with foil.  Carefully place it in the oven so it doesn't slosh.  Bake 50 minutes, remove foil, stir, and bake another half hour, or until lentils are cooked through and completely tender.  Sprinkle with cheese and bake until cheese is melted.
Serve over quinoa or rice if desired, or just have by itself with salad, fruit, or veggies on the side.
Yield: 8-10 main dish servings

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Pumpkin Fettuccine Alfredo

Oh, this recipe is so good!  I'm a lifelong fettuccine alfredo lover and this is among the best.  It's thick, rich, creamy, amazingly delicious, and is less bad for you than traditional fettuccine alfredo.  It's so good that I would serve it to guests with a nice side salad and garlic bread.  This is seems like it would be geared solely towards autumn or winter, but we make it year round.  It's always a good choice for my husband to make because it's so straight forward.  If you're skeptical about the pumpkin flavor, do know that it's pretty mild.  Mostly it adds bulk to the sauce and offers just a little bit of pumpkin deliciousness.  You could add more pumpkin if you felt so inclined, and a little grating of fresh nutmeg.
If you have leftovers, unlike regular fettuccine that turns into a horrifying greasy mess, this pumpkin version reheats very well.  Just reheat it in the microwave and stir in a little milk so it isn't dry.  

Pumpkin Fettuccine Alfredo

4 Tbsp butter
4 cloves minced garlic
15 oz can pumpkin
8 oz cream cheese
2 C milk
1 C freshly grated parmesan, plus more to sprinkle on top
salt to taste
1 lb dry fettuccine noodles
Cook the fettuccine in salted water while you make the sauce.

Saute garlic in butter over low-medium until it barely gets golden, this will take 3 minutes or so.  Garlic burns quickly, so watch it carefully and have the pumpkin ready to add in right when you need it.

Add pumpkin and cream cheese, whisk until smooth.  Whisk in milk and salt.  Heat over low until well combined.  

Add to drained fettuccine, and serve!

Yield: 6 servings

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Garlicky Enchilada Sauce

I will be very upfront and say this is not an authentic Mexican enchilada sauce.  It is, however, quite a tasty Americanized version- definitely the best homemade enchilada sauce I've ever had.  It's flavorful, not too tomatoey, and quick and easy to make, too.  Just use it whenever you need enchilada sauce.  It would even be good on pasta with other enchilada or taco-like ingredients.
This recipe is a slightly tweaked version of one from Taste of Home.  I cut back on the flour substantially the second time I made it, as written below.  Even so, it's a little thicker than most enchilada sauces.  Feel free to reduce the flour to 1/4 cup if you want it more like enchilada sauce from a can.
Quick Note:  How much chili powder you need will entirely depend on how strong your chili powder is and what your preferences are.  Start with 1 Tbsp and go up from there.
Garlicky Enchilada Sauce
1/3 C butter
5 cloves garlic, minced 
1/3 C flour
16 oz chicken broth
16 oz can tomato sauce
1-2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic and saute for a minute, but don't let it get browned.  Make a roux by adding the flour and stirring for a minute or two.  Stir in the broth a little bit at a time, stirring it smooth between additions.  Add the tomato sauce, 1 Tbsp chili powder, and the rest of the sauce ingredients.  Taste and add more chili powder or salt if needed. Let sauce simmer, stirring constantly, for 2 or 3 minutes, until thickened.  Remove from heat and use in your favorite recipe!
Yield:  About 4 1/2 cups

Monday, April 30, 2018

Cheeseburger Pasta

This recipe isn't life changing or anything, it's just yummy and cozy and easy.  It's a modified version of one from  I've made it a couple of times and we like it.  Next time I'd like to add some halved cherry tomatoes, but I'm a tomato lover.  Note that you can use a different kind of pasta, but the type of pasta definitely has an impact on how long it takes to cook!  Fusilli takes about 20 minutes in this dish, penne is closer to 30.  I personally prefer quicker so will go with the fusilli!  You can also use a diced onion and 3 cloves minced garlic instead of the onion and garlic powders, just saute the onion with the ground beef and then toss in the garlic with the seasonings.
Cheeseburger Pasta
1 lb ground beef
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
4 Tbsp ketchup
2 Tbsp yellow mustard
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
6 C beef broth
1 lb fusilli pasta
1/2 C milk
2 C grated cheddar
Saute ground beef until cooked through, drain if necessary.  Add seasonings, ketchup, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce, and saute for another minute.  Add beef broth.  Bring to a boil, stir in fusilli, cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until pasta is tender, stirring every 10 minutes or so, about 20 minutes total.  Remove from heat, add milk, then stir in cheese until melted.
Yield: 6-8 servings

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Instant Pot Rice Pudding

 A while back, I had a sudden craving for rice pudding.  This was odd because I'd never had rice pudding before.  I went ahead and made it though and it was exactly as good as I'd hoped!  You should try it, too.  It's good hot or cold, but we both preferred it hot.  You could add raisins at the end if you want, but I am in general not an "add raisins" kind of person.
Instant Pot Rice Pudding
1 C rice, rinsed (I used jasmine)
2 1/2 C milk
1 1/4 C water
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
sprinkle of cinnamon
In Instant Pot, stir together rice, milk, water, and salt.  Put on lid, seal, and push Porridge button.  It will cook for 20 minutes.  When the 20 minutes are up, do a 10 minute Natural Pressure Release, then quick release the rest of the pressure.  Stir in the butter, sugar, and vanilla.  Spoon into serving bowls and sprinkle with a little cinnamon.
Yield: 6 servings

Monday, April 16, 2018

Chicken & Veggie Fajitas

This is just a nice chicken fajita recipe, complete with lots of veggies.  It seems that most recipes like this use lime juice, which is of course good, but the lemon juice here is a tasty change.
The recipe is from Taste of Home.  I changed it quite a bit and added a lot more vegetables.
Chicken & Veggie Fajitas

for marinade:
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp canola oil
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cleaned and sliced
canola oil
2 onions, halved and sliced
2 bell peppers, cut into strips
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
pint cherry tomatoes
for serving:
desired toppings (cheese, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, etc)
Stir together marinade ingredients, add to sliced chicken and refrigerate 1-6 hours.
Heat 2 tbsp canola oil over medium in large skillet and add onions.  Saute 2 minutes.  Add bell peppers and mushrooms, saute until veggies are cooked to desired tenderness.  Remove to large bowl and keep warm.
Add an additional tablespoon of oil to skillet.  Add chicken and marinade.  Cook until chicken is cooked through.  Add tomatoes and cook until about half of the tomato skins have popped open.  Add reserved veggies back to skillet and heat through.  Serve in tortillas with desired toppings.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Ham & Cheese Biscuit Sandwiches

This recipe's name pretty much explains what it is.  It isn't anything fancy, but very tasty and could be made for any meal.  The recipe is from Budget Bytes and I thought it was genius to bake the biscuits with the ham and cheese inside instead of adding it later.  This way the cheese gets bubbly and perfectly melted, and the ham gets a little browned.  Yum!  You could add a little mustard if you wanted, but they're very good as is.
The toothpicks keep the top biscuits from falling off and the ham from sliding off.  Go on and leave the toothpicks in until you're ready to eat the sandwiches because you'll probably end up with major "drift" if you take them out too soon.
Ham & Cheese Biscuit Sandwiches
2 1/2 C flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
about 1 1/3 C cream
6 slices cheddar cheese
1/2 lb of your favorite ham from the deli, I used Boar's Head Tavern Ham, sliced
Preheat oven to 400.
Stir together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.  Pour 1 C cream over top and mix together with a spoon.  Add additional cream as needed (only a tablespoon or so at a time) until you have a dough that holds together nicely and isn't too dry.  Form into a ball.
Dust a clean surface with flour and place the ball on top.  Squish with your hands to make a rectangle, then dust with more flour and roll out into a half inch thin rectangle approximately 8 by 11 inches.  Cut into 12 biscuit squares, in 3 rows of 4.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and put half of the biscuit squares on the sheet.  Top each with a slice of cheese (broken to fit as needed), then evenly divide the ham among them.  Top with the 6 leftover biscuit squares, then secure with a toothpick so the tops won't slide off.
Bake until the top biscuit is golden, about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your oven.
Serve immediately, but remember not to eat the toothpicks!