They say that your first attempt at making pasta should be an easy, basic one without any fancy flavourings. Once you get the feeling for the dough, you can try other flavour combinations. Of course I ignore that sage advice and try my hand at spinach pasta.
Making pasta is a sensory experience. While most people are intimidated by strict instructions, I need structure. I like working in grams and digital thermometers so when I’m left to my own devices to judge whether something looks/feels “right”, my heart starts palpitating.
One of the biggest misconceptions people have about me is that I must eat really well and make fabulous intricate dinners because I have a food blog. My passion for food is high, but laziness and lack of time and energy will usually win out. People will ask me eagerly, “What did you eat for dinner?” and I shamefully answer “Toast.”
I’ve been searching for easy to put together meals and this mushroom and black bean tortilla casserole are mostly made from pantry staples. This is a “throw random ingredients together” recipe where you can fool around with what’s kicking around in your kitchen and still turn out with something decent.
Mushroom and Black Bean Tortilla Casserole (Adapted from Martha Stewart)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound cremini or button mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 can (15.5 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
3 green onions, chopped
1 small red onion, diced (you can also use white, just cook them with the mushrooms)
1 tomato, diced
Juice of 1 lime, plus extra to squeeze on top
8 corn tortillas, warmed and halved
2 cups salsa
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (substitutes: cheddar, a spicy cheese like jalapeño gouda)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until browned, 7 minutes. Add garlic and cayenne; season with salt and pepper. Add black beans and stir to combine. Cook until beans are warmed through, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Combine black bean mixture with tomatoes, green and red onions, jalapeño and lime juice.
4. Arrange tortilla halves in 9×13″ pan so that they cover the bottom. There will be some gaps. Top with half the bean mixture and 1/2 cup salsa, then sprinkle with one-third the cheese. Repeat with another layer of tortilla halves, bean mixture, salsa, and cheese. Top with remaining tortilla halves, salsa, and cheese. Cover with foil and bake until center is hot and cheese melts, 10 minutes. Uncover and bake until cheese is bubbling, 5 minutes.
Cookbook Revival is where I take a look at books I used to love, but haven’t used regularly.
I was not someone who cooked back in the day, I was a frozen food junkie. I never thought I would enjoy cooking.
One day I came across the Food Network and saw Rachael Ray cooking. People either hate her or love her and I was unabashedly in the latter. I loved how she made things look so easy and her catch phrases like “Yummo” and “EVOO”. Even if you don’t like her, you have to admit she makes cooking accessible to people like (the former) me.
I have her first two books, 30-Minute Meals and Cooking ‘Round the Clock. I’ve made several dishes out of each and back then I was pleased with the results. Would I still find them “repeat worthy” or would I find them lacking?
I remember the first time R and I made the Blackened Chicken Pizza. We didn’t know how to stretch out the dough and it took forever getting it right (Rachael Ray’s meals were never 30 minutes for me). I remember that the pizza was good enough for me to make a mental note to make again. I never did make it again (since 2004!).
Making the pizza again I used my own pizza dough recipe and made my own grill seasoning by mixing up some thyme, garlic granules, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. I’d add onion powder if I had any in my pantry.
I have to say this recipe is still repeat worthy. The seasoning gave the chicken a burst of flavour and despite all the cheese I threw on there, it didn’t feel heavy as the tomato salsa lightened things up. I toned down the spice as anything remotely hot will make me break out into a sweat. Not the look I go for when I take my meals into work.
Seasoning for chicken
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon garlic granules
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
3/4 pound thin cut chicken breast
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 pound jalapeno flavoured cheese
2 small yellow tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, optional
1 clove garlic
1/2 lime, zested and juiced
Preheat a large heavy skillet over very high heat. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
1. Combine seasoning spices on a plate and coat one side of chicken with it (it’s okay if it gets on both sides). Add oil to pan and cook chicken 2 minutes on each side.
2. Remove chicken from pan and chop. Combine tomatoes, onion, jalapeno and cilantro. Make garlic paste by chopping garlic then mashing it with the flat of your knife and a generous pinch of coarse salt. Add paste to salsa. Add zest and juice of 1/2 lime and mix salsa thoroughly.
3. Scatter chicken, salsa and cheese over pizza dough leaving the edges of the dough clear for the crust. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until crisp and bubbly-brown on top.
I’m a little (okay…a lot) late to jump on the quinoa bandwagon. I wasn’t interested in eating healthier so this little superfood was never really on my radar as something to try.
My co-worker is a quinoa lover and kept urging me to try it. I caved into the peer pressure.
The first time I tried cooking it, I put in too much water. I still find it more finicky than rice to cook with all those little faux grains sticking everywhere.
I love The Kitchn’s quinoa, black bean and heirloom recipe. It’s become a weekly ritual for me to make this because it was just so simple and flavourful. I love using cherry tomatoes instead of cutting up heirlooms because of the tiny bursts of flavour you get once you bite down on them. If I don’t scarf the entire thing for dinner it makes for a great light but filling lunch.
How do you cook quinoa? I once tried it in the rice cooker to cook it ahead of time and it became mush. What is your favourite quinoa recipe?
I’ve only dabbled a bit in canning. A jam here and there and a batch of salsa. But I am mad for marmalade. I have made marmalade 3 weeks in a row. I think it’s the process of learning and trying to get it down pat that has led to this obsession. To be honest, I don’t even intend to eat all of what I made, I just like making it. If this obsession doesn’t stop soon, I will be a perfect candidate for Intervention and Hoarders.