Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Lentil and Rice Cabbage Roll Soup

One of my more popular posts is my recipe for Lentil and Rice Cabbage Rolls. The filling is hearty and tasty, wrapped in tender cabbage leaves topped with one of my favorite foods in the world: Z.'s red sauce.

I wondered if I could take this labor-intensive recipe and turn it into a meal that still had all the same flavors of the original but was much simpler. For me, of course that meant a soup. I must say, while the original recipe was delicious, I think this soup is even better.

A soup version of lentil and rice cabbage rolls has several advantages:
  • The sauce/broth simmers for about 20 minutes creating a rich base for the rest of the ingredients. 
  • This soup is a good use of leftovers, especially if you prefer to cook your lentils and rice separately.
  • Meat-eaters and vegetarians alike will be happy. My recipe is vegetarian but meat can easily be added. For my last leftover meal, I browned up about 1/4 pound of hamburger and included that in my soup. 

Lentil and Rice Cabbage Roll Soup

by Ace Nation
Keywords: soup/stew beans/lentils cabbage rice tomatoes
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red chile pepper, such as Fresno, seeds removed and minced
  • 1-2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 head cabbage, chopped
  • 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 12 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 6 cups stock, chicken or vegetable
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1-2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 1/2 cups lentils, cooked
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, just beginning to brown, about 10-12 minutes.
Add garlic, chile pepper, and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots and garlic are tender, about 5 minutes.
Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, stock, smoked paprika, and Italian seasoning, stir until combined. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer 15-20 minutes.
Add lentils and cabbage. Simmer until lentils are heated through and cabbage is tender, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve, place about 1/4 warm rice in bowl, top with desired about of soup.
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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ensalada Caribeña Recipe

The other day I shared a bit of information about ensalada caribeña. Well, here is the recipe. Enjoy!
Ensalada caribeña: Caribbean Cabbage Salad

by Ace Nation
Keywords: raw vegan cabbage citrus Caribbean
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
  • 1/2 green cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1/4 red or purple cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1-2 red chile peppers such as New Mexico or Fresno, or 1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped (don't skimp!)
  • Juice from 1 orange, about 1/4-1/2 cup orange juice
  • juice from 1 lime, about 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt, to taste
In a mixing bowl, whisk together, orange juice, lime juice, olive oil, and kosher salt. Taste for seasoning. In a large mixing bowl, combine vegetables with desired amount of vinaigrette. Enjoy!
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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ensalada Caribeña: Cuban Cabbage Salad

Besides winter squash, my current obsession is cabbage. It all started with my frugal rice salad. Then I became interested in expanding my knowledge of Latin cuisine. So far this year I've made ensalada de remolacha (Cuban beet salad) and ensalada de repollo (Latin cabbage salad). Both recipes feature vegetables that are available year round without a noticeable different in quality. The ensalada de repollo was a great addition to my fall line-up of soups. It was bright, fresh, and raw. Qualities that I probably wouldn't use to describe many of the side dishes found on the table this time of year. I wanted to continue to experiment with the possibilities.

Z.'s favorite salad from Pambiche is their ensalada caribeña, or Caribbean salad. It's a red and green cabbage salad with carrots and herbs dressed with a refreshing citrus vinaigrette. I tried creating my own version of ensalada caribeña. 

I have enjoyed this recipe several ways. First, I enjoyed my Caribbean salad as its own meal, making a healthy lunch. I also a small plate of the salad as a side dish to my Fall Squash Soup. The bright, citrus flavors will complement all of fall's most popular dishes. Come back soon for the recipe!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fall Squash Soup Recipe

I've shared a recipe for Acorn Squash Soup before. Tasty but it didn't become a regular in the rotation. I even tried a variation I never posted that used substituted half the the acorn squash with yams to see if I could get it right. Still didn't become a repeat recipe.

I was inspired by a recent visit to Les Caves. I thoroughly enjoyed their Autumn Squash soup. I don't have confidence that I figured out every ingredient in the Les Caves soup, I have a few ideas why their soup was so good:
  • it was simple
  • different types of squash were used to give a complex, nuanced flavor
  • lots of browned onions or shallots
  • and the biggest surprise to me, thyme.
I thought I would give squash soup another try with these ideas in mind. What I created was a delicious soup. While I used only acorn, this would be a great place to use different varieties of winter squash. I will definitely be making this again. Enjoy!

Fall Squash Soup

by Ace Nation
Keywords: soup/stew winter squash fall
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion or 2 small onions, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 acorn squash, roasted and peeled
  • 3 cups water (or vegetable or chicken stock)
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a soup pot, heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil with 2 tablespoons butter over low to medium-low heat. Add onions, stirring occasionally, cook slowly until onions are very browned, about 25 minutes.
Add garlic and saute until cooked, about 5 minutes.
Add roasted squash, stock, thyme, salt, and pepper.
Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer about 15 minutes.
Very carefully blend until smooth. Return to a clean pot and add half-and-half. Heat to a gentle simmer. Serve and enjoy!
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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fall Squash Soup Teaser

Soup is one of the best and easiest ways to highlight winter squash. I've made acorn squash soup before but this is the best by far. Check back soon for the simple recipe to this delicious soup!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Delicata Squash with Spicy Miso

Delicata squash won't be around for much longer so enjoy it while you still can! I love using delicata squash with strong flavors. Here are a couple of my own favorite recipes that use delicata squash:
Delicata is versatile because of its mild flavor and delicate texture, which combines the best of winter and summer squash. Hands down, the best way to highlight the flavor and texture of delicata squash is roasting. I love the squash cut fairly thickly with a little color.

I did a little research and first found a recipe for a Roasted Delicata Squash Salad from 101 Cookbooks. Making a salad from roasted vegetables? Why, yes, that is right up my culinary alley. Millet Salad with Orange Vinaigrette, perhaps? I think a lentil salad with roasted winter vegetables will be in near future. 

What caught my eye in the roasted delicata squash salad post was the mention of the inspiration of the recipe: delicata squash with spicy miso. I found Delicata Squash with Spicy Miso Butter from The Dinner Files. I love miso and I love harissa, both of which are quite at home in my refrigerator. I never would have thought of combining them! I have no other way to word to describe miso than with funky. Delicata squash is the perfect canvas for miso's funkiness balanced with harissa's fieriness. I added a few whole cloves of fresh garlic to my second creation of this recipe and loved it even more. Enjoy!

Roasted Delicata Squash with Miso and Harissa

by Ace Nation
Keywords: bake vegan delicata squash miso harissa
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil (more if needed to coat the squash)
  • 1 delicata squash
  • 1 tablespoon miso
  • 1-2 teaspoons harissa (more or less depending on taste)
  • Kosher salt,, to taste
To prepare the squash, cut the ends off and cut length-wise down the middle. Scoop out all the seeds and membrane. Place cut-side down on a cutting board and cut into 1/2 inch slices.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large bowl, whisk together oil, miso, harissa, and salt until smooth (this will separate and the miso might have a grainy texture, this is normal).
Add squash to the oil-miso-harissa mixture. Toss until all the squash is coated on all sides with the oil.
Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake about 10 minutes, then turn. Continue baking another 3-5 minutes, until the squash is tender but not overcooked.
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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pantry-Friendly Pie: Vegan Acorn Squash Pie with Crust

Since I made my first vegan acorn squash pie two years ago, I have been experimenting with different recipes and different squashes. I haven't posted any of them because they didn't turn out in taste or looks or both. This whole vegan baking thing is tricky.

My latest attempt at vegan pie even looks like a pie!
Today, I thought I would share my most recent experiment, my attempt at creating a pantry-friendly acorn squash pie. My biggest accomplishment was making a pie crust. I have an unreasonable aversion to making pie crust. I make the biggest mess when trying to roll out a pie crust and have a tendency to crack the crust. I found a tip: roll the crust between two sheets of wax paper. As long as both sheets of the wax paper are floured, this worked much better for me. I could easily move the crust around or flip it over. When the time came to place the crust in the pie pan, I used the invert method (see step 6) from the Pie Maven. I made sure to blind bake the crust before adding the filling.

Here is the recipe I used for the crust. Very simple and Grandma would approve.

I used my original vegan acorn squash pie recipe as the base of my recipe. After making several failed squash pies, one important lesson I have learned is to blend all the ingredients in the blender, especially if using fresh winter squash. My ingredients for this pie were:
I omitted the apples since I had a crust and I wanted to see what would happen without the cornstarch. Turns out, these kinds of pies need at least a bit of cornstarch or arrowroot powder to form the proper texture. I also made sure not to overcook the pie! Do you have a favorite recipe I should try? What are your suggestions???

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Blend

With all the ideas I have for upcoming recipes, finally making my own pumpkin pie spice blend seemed like a good idea. I've been pulling cinnamon, ground ginger, and nutmeg out of the cupboard every time I make a fall desert. In all the pumpkin pie recipes I have read there are always a bit of clove. I wondered if I was missing out on something. 

I don't particularly like cloves unless they are used to scent rice. Turns out, when combined with other spices, clove really does bring something to the party. If you're like me and have no intention of using clove again, I bought just enough for this recipe from the spice section.

I borrowed the Old Farmer's Almanac recipe (I left out the all spice for no other reason than I forgot to get some). I plan on adding the nutmeg when I use the spice blend so I can grate it fresh.

Why make your own pumpkin spice blend? The cheapest jar at the supermarket would have cost $2.99. We all have cinnamon in the cupboard. The ginger came from a jar that I bought at 40% off. Ground ginger can be used both in desserts and savory dishes so I thought that was a worthwhile investment. The cloves I bought a small amount from the bulk for about $0.50. Not such a bad deal!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ensalada de Repollo: Latin Cabbage Salad

I know next to nothing about Latin food and have been trying to change this. My journey started with ensalada de remolacha. A bright, refreshing salad of tender beets dressed with a citrus dressing. Then I moved on to piccadillo, which Z. and I have enjoyed over pasta and I have used the leftovers in several creative ways. The next recipe on my Latin food adventure was my take on migas.

Now I am on to ensalada de repollo. What do I like so much about this recipe?
  • It's cheap. Cabbage is the cheap/poor person's best friend.
  • All the vegetables are what I consider year-round veggies. Of course, this time of year, the cabbage is going to be particularly sweet and flavorful. 
  • There is room for variation. I added many different veggies but if you just want cabbage, carrots, and cilantro, then go for it. Just make sure you invite me over for dinner. Jalapeno vinaigrette doesn't sound appealing to you? Leave it out or use 1/2 jalapeno. The sharpness and spiciness from a spicy chile pepper isn't for everyone.

Latin Cabbage Salad

by Ace Nation
Keywords: raw gluten-free vegan Cuban
Ingredients (serves 6-8)
    For the dressing
    • 1/2 cup vinegar, such as white vinegar
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1/2-1 whole jalapeno, seeds removed and chopped
    • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt, more or less depending on taste
    For the salad
    • 3/4 small head green cabbage, finely diced
    • 1/4 head purple cabbage, finely diced
    • 1 carrot, peeled and grated
    • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
    • 1/2 cup diced red pepper, such as red bell pepper, Italian sweet pepper, or New Mexico chile
    • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
    Combine all the dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.
    Try to cut the vegetables all the same size. Combine the vegetables and dressing in a large mixing bowl. Taste and add more salt if needed.
    May be served immediately but is best when refrigerated for at least 1 hour. This salad gets better and better with time.
    Serve as a side dish or as a condiment to a variety of meals, such as tacos or sandwiches.
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    Wednesday, October 16, 2013

    Delicata Squash Idea

    I do love my involved, time-consuming recipes. There are times, when the best way to enjoy an ingredient is as simply as possible. I feel very silly. It's taken me three years of cooking with delicata squash to even try it simply roasted. Oven-roasted with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper is my favorite way to enjoy this seasonal favorite!

    To make:

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a mixing bowl, combine squash with enough olive oil to coat. Season liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast about 10 minutes, then mix, turning the squash. Roast an additional 7-10 minutes, until the squash is tender. Enjoy!

    Sunday, October 13, 2013

    Quick Remake of Acorn Squash with Chickpeas

    Winter squash are beginning to appear in the markets! What's that mean for Cheap not Frugal Eats? Winter squash obsession begins! 

    I used my recipe Acorn Squash with Chickpeas and Adobo as inspiration for a quick dinner. I sauteed delicata squash that I then simmered in a spicy, peppery tomato sauce (Z.'s red sauce he made with New Mexico chilies) with chickpeas and a few spices. I served my squash and chickpeas over couscous. If you can measure and boil water, you can make couscous. 

    I sauteed 1 cup of delicata squash about 5 minutes in a large, high-sided pan. I then toasted 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and 1 teaspoon smoked paprika for 30 seconds then added 1 cup tomato sauce and about 1/2 can of rinsed and drained chickpeas. I put a lid on the pan and let simmer about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the squash was tender. Meanwhile, I prepared my couscous. This meal was spicy, flavorful, and just right for a dark, overcast evening. 

    What are your favorite leftover quick meal ideas?

    Wednesday, October 9, 2013

    Dessert for One: Pumpkin Pie for One

    I am genuinely proud of my pumpkin pie for one. What's so special about this pie?
    • Delicious! I love pumpkin pie of any variety, make, or model. There is truly something special about a homemade pie. 
    • Simple! People take their pie crusts seriously, for good reason. For most of us mortals, pie crusts are a pain. My solution anymore: pie without the crust!
    • This is a real pumpkin pie. Don't get me wrong, try my vegan acorn squash pie if you are avoiding eggs or dairy. It's delicious, too! This pie was creamy and custardy. In other words, just right.
    Here's a glimpse of the second! pie I made turned out of the pan.

    Why, yes, I did take one of the most traditional pie recipes in America and cut it in half. Enjoy!

    Pumpkin Pie for One

    by Ace Nation
    Keywords: bake dessert winter squash
    Ingredients (1 small pie)
    • 1/4-1/2 cup sugar (depending on your taste)
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice blend (or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, and 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten
    • 1 cup pumpkin puree
    • 3/4 cup milk
    • Non-stick cooking spray
    Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
    Spray a small pie pan or a 2-cup casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.
    In a mixing bowl, stir all ingredients until well combined. Batter will be very thin.
    Pour into prepared baking dish. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake 35-45 minutes longer, until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.
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    Sunday, October 6, 2013

    Dessert for One: Traditional Pumpkin Pie Teaser

    Warning: The following statement just might be hipster-overload. Please don't leave me.

    I have had a package of pumpkin puree sitting in the freezer that I made myself from roasting an heirloom pumpkin which came from my local farmer's market.

    Look, it's so cute!

    I used the buttercup on the left for my pie. The pumpkin on the right is called a baby bear.

    I wanted to do something special for myself. What's more special than pie! I was craving a creamy, custardy, traditional pie but knew I would be the only person enjoying this pie. Boyfriend only enjoys pumpkin in beer form. So, I kept it simple. Come back later in the week for the recipe!

    Wednesday, September 25, 2013

    Recipe Review: Peperoni Ripieni con Tonno

    Source: Lidia Bastianich on Cookstr

    I have an abundance of sweet Italian peppers on hand. I've made plenty of pasta meals, scrambles, and stir-fries. I wanted to do something a little different with these once-a-year treats. 

    I came across this recipe from Lidia Bastianich and made half the recipe since it was just for myself. The ingredients are very simple and pantry-friendly:
    • peppers
    • olive oil
    • salt
    • tuna
    • capers
    • vinegar
    • mustard
    • mayonnaise
    • fresh herbs

    I made a few adjustments to suit what I had in my pantry. Instead of capers, I added green olives. I used to hate green olives; I still don't care for them on their own but green olives really do add a special briny touch. I had a few leaves of basil left so I used those, instead. These little rolls would make tasty appetizers but I had a plateful for dinner. Given them a try and enjoy!

    Monday, September 23, 2013

    Wednesday, September 18, 2013

    Almost Migas

     Migas, especially migas of Tex-Mex origin, features eggs scrambled with onions, peppers, tomatoes or salsa, and...corn tortillas. Migas can be a great way to use up corn tortillas. In my case, I had a brand new package of corn tortillas, so I layered some scrambled eggs I made with onion, sweet Italian pepper, greens, and some basil. Delicious! Migas is a much better name than scrambled egg taco, don't you think?

     My Almost Migas were so good that I had to have them again. This time I topped them with a bit of leftover Cuban red sauce. Enjoy!

    Sunday, September 15, 2013

    Leftover Power: Harira-Style Stew

    My obsession is back! I have soup on the brain. The temperatures drop slightly, we have a serious rain storm, and look what happens. Three soup posts in a row! Let me try to explain. This blog documents new recipes I come up with (or try creating, in some cases), as well as provide a place for me to share whatever I'm cooking lately.

    Z. made his delicious chana masala and even after enjoying some the next day, we still had some chana masala left but no rice. What to do? my case, I create soup.
    Z.'s chana masala provided the perfect foundation for this soup, providing a flavorful tomato and onion base. What I love about harira (here's my version) is the combination of chickpeas with lentils and the spices. I include ginger, cumin, turmeric, smoked paprika, cinnamon, a hint of nutmeg, and harissa paste.

    I transformed my leftovers adding as many of the same vegetables from the original recipe as I had on hand and the same spices, just scaled down. Delicious!

    I began by heating a few teaspoons of oil in large sauce pan and sauteed garlic, carrots, and zucchini, until tender. Then I toasted two tablespoons of all-purpose flour for about 1 minute before toasting the spices. I added 3 cups broth, 1 generous cup leftover chana masala, 1/2 cup cooked brown lentils. I brought this to a boil, reduced the heat, let simmer for 15 minutes, and tasted. I added a dash more salt and a generous dollop of harissa paste.  Enjoy!

    Wednesday, September 11, 2013

    Recipe Review: Here's Some Recipes I'm Interested in Trying

    I have been browsing recipes and I'm feeling inspired! I thought I would share some of the recipes I would like to try.

    Cuban cabbage salad 
    Vegan acorn squash pie
    Stovetop Tuna Noodle Casserole
    •  I only discovered homemade ravioli last fall. I would love to learn to make more. And I found this sauce that would be great with my pumpkin ravioli. 
    Pasta with Bechamel Sauce
    Cabbage Rolls
    I am definitely interested in trying some new recipes! Do you have any favorites or suggestions???

    Sunday, September 8, 2013

    Work in Progress: Beet Soup

    I love, love, love beets. One of my other loves is the soup served at Les Caves in Corvallis, my favorites being their beet soup and anything that includes parsnip. And, the chicken paprikash...and... Ok, let me get back to my soup.

    I had some lovely beets and thought I would use Les Caves as inspiration. I made a roasted beet soup with parsnips, onions. garlic, and spiced with garam masala and fresh ginger.

    Note: The beets on the left are golden beets, while the other beets are traditional red.

    Something isn't quite right in my combination. I added a trio of strong flavors: parsnip, ginger, and garam masala. Three is too many, I need to cut one out; I have a feeling the ginger doesn't belong. I would like to try this soup again with just the parsnip and garam masala, or perhaps a different type of curry that isn't so cardamom-heavy. 

    Do you have a favorite beet soup recipe I should try? Or any ideas of how to make this recipe work???

    Monday, September 2, 2013

    Leftover Power: Cuban Minestrone

    A good tomato sauce provides the basis of many meals in the Cheap not Frugal Eats household. I was trying to think of the reasons why:
    • canned tomatoes and tomato products are a great deal (when on sale, of course) for how much flavor and substance they provide
    • I love tomato based sauces. With a little attention and time, I can create something special.
    • Most importantly, I travel the globe through tomato sauce.
    Z.'s red sauce takes me to Italy. A few peppers and some heat takes me to Louisiana while some turmeric, garam masala, and chickpeas brings the Punjab region to mind. Who knew that I could go on an adventure to western Africa by including a bit of peanut butter and yams?

    With a few additions to Z.'s red sauce, I can visit Cuba in my mind. For my Cuban adventures I add peppers, such as bell peppers or mild, flavorful chile peppers. This time of year, I am able to get a variety of chile peppers from my local farmer's market, like pimento but use what you enjoy and what is available. I add plenty of oregano and a generous handful of chopped pimento-stuffed olives. If you are feeling extra adventurous, try including 1/4 cup raisins. 

    I have enjoyed this delicious sauce two different ways. The most simple meal Z. and I had was pasta with this Cuban tomato sauce. The olives provide a mildly bright yet briny counterpoint to the slow-simmered tomatoes and onions.

    Then, I used about 1 cup of leftover sauce as the base of what I'm calling Cuban minestrone. Since my Cuban tomato sauce is so hearty, I only added a few additional ingredients:
    • zucchini
    • dark greens (in my case, beet greens)
    • black beans
    • small pasta
    • water or broth
    • sherry vinegar, to garnish
    I just heated up some olive oil in a soup pot, and sauteed the zucchini and greens. Then I added the tomato sauce, about 4 cups of water (I was only making a meal for myself), and 1/2 can of black beans. Meanwhile, I cooked the amount of pasta I wanted separately. After letting the soup simmer for about 15 minutes, I combined the soup and pasta. I garnished the bowl with a few splashes of a good-quality sherry vinegar.

    What other ways do you use tomato sauce? I would love to know!

    Sunday, August 25, 2013

    Red Beans and Rice Revamped

    I have always assumed that the definitive Cheap Not Frugal Eats recipe for red beans and rice was posted. I think I was fooled by thinking this because I have so many recipes that involve beans, tomato sauce and rice. Well...I've shared something that comes close to a recipe for our version of Cajun red beans and rice. Goodness, I have come a long way.

    I love meals like red beans and rice because it's so easy to create a new meal depending on your mood or what's available in the pantry. In this case, this is the most simple version we make. Just cook some onions and garlic then everything else gets thrown in the pot, simmer until done. Enjoy!

    Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice

    by Ace Nation
    Keywords: saute entree vegan vegetarian beans/lentils tomatoes
    Ingredients (serves 3)
    • 1 tablespoon oil, such as canola
    • 1/2 onion, diced
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
    • 1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
    • 1/4 cup water (about as much needed to rinse out the tomato cans)
    • 1-2 red chile peppers, such as Fresno, pimento, or Italian (bell peppers can be substituted)
    • 1 15 ounce can of red beans, rinsed and drained, or about 1 3/4 cups of cooked beans
    • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
    • 1/2-2 teaspoons of Cajun seasoning (amount depending on the brand and your taste)
    • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    • Kosher salt, to taste
    In a large sauce pan, heat oil over medium-low to medium heat.
    Add the onions, cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and just beginning to brown.
    Add the garlic, cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes.
    Add all the remaining ingredients, stir to combine. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce will thicken as it cooks. Be careful, bubbling tomatoes will splash. If you need to put a lid on the pot, make sure the steam can escape.
    Serve over rice.
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    Sunday, August 18, 2013

    Belated National Cheesecake Day Celebration

    In case you weren't aware, National Cheesecake Day 2013 took place on July 30. As part of the celebration, my dear friend, Chef Steph, was on the local news in Colorado Springs. I've mentioned Chef Steph before for her help in perfecting caramel and suggesting making a cardamom glaze for my Orange Bread.

     I had to share her clip discussing Boonzaaijer's Cakes and Pastries, the bakery she works at, and the beauty that is cheesecake. One of the things I love about Chef Steph is her witty one-liners. My favorite is her response to the news anchor's comment about calories. You will just have to watch to know what I'm talking about. Enjoy!

    Thursday, August 15, 2013

    Improvisatory Moment in the Kitchen: Frugal Rice Salad

    When it's hot, I don't always feel like cooked food or anything very warm, for that matter. Rice has become one of my favorite foods and a meal with rice almost always sounds like a great idea. The other night, after working outside all day in the park, I wasn't very inspired. Z. was bound and determined to make stir-fry. I looked at the fresh veggies and thought they would also be great raw. I chopped a bunch of vegetables, gave half to Z. to cook, and created a rice salad with the rest. I splashed the rice and veggie mixture with a bit of rice vinegar, olive oil, salt, and red pepper flakes. A great improvisatory moment in the kitchen. Use whatever veggies you have on hand. Since I had it, I used:
    • cooked jasmine rice
    • red bell pepper
    • green bell pepper
    • red onion
    • purple cabbage
    • basil
    • cilantro
    What vegetables would you use?


    Sunday, August 11, 2013

    Recipe Review: Grape Clafouti

     Recently, I found myself with a bounty of grapes (they were on sale, of course). I have a very limited repertoire of grape recipes: grapes in my lunch or this great lentil salad with grapes, apples, and walnuts. I did a little research and came across Heidi Fink's blog, Lip Smacking. She has a recipe for Coronation Grape Clafouti that I just had to try. (Here is a little more information on clafouti if you would like to know a bit more.)

    I still can't get over how pretty this desert looked.

    The ingredients are very simple:
    • butter (or in my case, nonstick cooking spray)
    • seedless grapes
    • eggs
    • sugar
    • flour
    • light cream (I used milk and it turned out just fine)
    • salt
    • vanilla
    This was delicious and elegant! Z. the boyfriend was skeptical but eventually tried my clafouti and was won over. The grapes transformed into little warm globes of juice that burst in your mouth and the cake was light and not too custardy. I don't have a pie pan, so I used two small pyrex glass dishes. As an experiment, I put grapes into only one pan with just enough batter to reach the top of the little spheres. In the other pan, I poured the remaining batter. When baking, clafouti puffs up, creating two layers. Once the clafouti was cool, these two layers came together into a tasty treat. Enjoy and try this recipe!

    Add caption

    Monday, August 5, 2013

    Recipes and Adventures in the Works

    Good evening!

    I have not abandoned you, dear readers! I have some delicious recipes to share, including grape clafouti. I am very proud of this recipe. It's amazing. And I will have some adventures to share with you. Z. competed in a home edition of Chopped with some friends and very peculiar ingredients. Check back soon to see the dishes and hear about his trials and tribulations.

    Wednesday, July 24, 2013

    Applebee's Oriental Chicken Salad Dressing

    Z. and I occasionally receive gift cards to various restaurants. One of these restaurants is Applebee's. I always get their Oriental Chicken Salad. A base of lettuce is topped with cabbage, crispy noodles, sliced almonds, chicken, and their Oriental Vinaigrette.

    The vinaigrette is sweet and sour with a hint of toasted sesame. I did a little research and found a blog dedicated to copying popular restaurant recipes: CopyKat. Here is their recipe for Applebee's Oriental Chicken Salad Dressing.

    The ingredients (from top moving clockwise): mayonnaise, rice vinegar, arrowroot powder, salt, toasted sesame oil, Dijon mustard, sugar, and canola oil.

    I made a couple of changes to suit my taste and pantry. I used arrowroot powder in my second batch of this dressing to try to make it slightly thicker. I would suggest leaving it out. I substituted canola oil for the refined sesame oil. I love the flavor of toasted sesame oil. I started with 1/8 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil then would taste the dressing and keep adding a drizzle at a time until I had the flavor I was looking for. The last change I made was to add a pinch of salt. Always season your food and enjoy!

    Wednesday, July 17, 2013

    Ensalada de Remolacha: Cuban Beet Salad

     Here is my attempt at creating one of my favorite dishes from one of the best restaurants on the planet: Pambiche in Portland. Z. and I always get primera vuelta, which is a great way to try many several different dishes without a huge commitment. You have a choice of an empanada, croquetas, or frituras which is served with tostones, fried green plantains. The third dish, and for me, the pièce de résistance is the salad. Like Z., you can order their organic cabbage salad, or a chayote salad, or you can have good taste, and try Pambiche's organic beet salad, ensalada de remolacha. 

    I have no idea what Pambiche uses in their ensalada de remolacha but I do know there are beets, watercress, extra-virgin olive oil, and a sour orange vinaigrette. Simple, light and fresh are the keys to the success of this salad. I created a dish that emulated Pambiche's salad. I think I came pretty darn close. Enjoy!

    *The key to the sour orange flavor is one part tart/sour to two parts orange juice. I used white balsamic because I love the flavor of orange and the balsamic but lemon juice or lime juice would be great alternatives.

    Ensalada de Remolacha or Cuban Beet Salad

    by Ace Nation
    • 2-3 large beets or 5-6 small beets
    • 1/2 bunch parsley
    • zest and juice of 1 orange
    • 1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
    • Kosher salt, to taste
    To prepare the beets
    Clean and wash beets. Bring a pot of water to a simmer. Add beets. Cook until a knife can be inserted easily, about 15-20 minutes. Drain and allow to cool. Trim the shoots and root end off. The skin should peel off easily. Carefully, with a small knife, trim off any remaining skin.
    For the salad
    Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Season to taste with kosher salt. Allow to rest for at least 30 minutes before serving.
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    Tuesday, July 16, 2013

    Dipping Sauce

    In a recent post, I shared a simple recipe for oven-baked zucchini fries. In the picture, you might be able to see a small bowl.

    This sauce is a favorite dipping sauce of mine. I think it's great with zucchini fries, as well as with roasted root vegetables. The only ingredients are mayonnaise and mustard. I love Trader Joe's Dijon mustard. It's spicy, flavorful, and not very expensive. My favorite ratio, for a zippy sauce, is two parts mayonnaise to one part mustard. If you are looking for something a little more creamy without being overpowering, I would try three parts mayo to one part mustard. Enjoy!

    Sunday, July 14, 2013

    Zucchini Fries: Baked and Fried

    When you are cheap and it's summer, you eat a LOT of zucchini. If you grow zucchini yourself, you just might have a gluttony of home-grown zucchini. Or in my case, I buy the largest zucchini I can at the Corvallis Farmer's Market for $0.50 each.

    I have a few different recipes that use zucchini:
    I have a new recipe, Zucchini Fries. The other day I shared my first attempt at zucchini fries. I thought the crunchy outside was just too much for the simple zucchini. I made a small adjustment, omitting the flour coating and adding a splash of water to the egg to make it less goopy.

     Z. and I then cooked the zucchini fries, baked and fried. The breading didn't entirely stay on the fried version but that batch had a nice, almost smoky flavor the baked fries lacked. I do have to say, baking the zucchini was super simple and required minimal attention. Feel free to add your favorite seasonings to the breading. I kept it simple with Italian season, salt, and pepper. Enjoy this easy and tasty side dish!

    Baked Zucchini Fries

    by Ace Nation
    • Nonstick cooking spray
    • About 2 cups zucchini sticks
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • 2 tablespoons water
    • 1 cup dry fine bread crumbs, or more as needed
    • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
    • Cayenne pepper, to taste
    • Kosher salt, to taste
    • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and spray baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
    In a bowl, combine egg and water. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Set aside.
    Pour bread crumbs into a second bowl and season with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Set aside.
    Dip zucchini sticks into egg wash and coat. Shake excess egg off before placing in the bread crumbs. Coat the sticks with the bread crumbs, carefully shaking off excess. Place in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Spray the top of the zucchini with a thin layer of nonstick cooking spray.
    Cook until brown and tender, about 10-12 minutes. Serve warm with dipping sauce of your choice.
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    Friday, July 12, 2013

    Recipe Testing Failures

    Creating new recipes is full of surprises. Sometimes my meals are better than I could have imagined. Such as, Coconut Curry, Pappa al Pomodoro, and Pasta with Béchamel Sauce and Spring Vegetables. Other times, it takes me a couple of tries to get things right. That's why I do not have a new recipe today.

    Let's see, I've tried warm pineapple compote several times.

    I enjoy pineapple compote over French toast but it's not quite good enough to share on here.

    Yesterday, I tried breading zucchini with an old-school recipe and bake them. I first dredged the zucchini in flour, then dipped into an egg wash, then covered the zucchini sticks with fine dried bread crumbs that I had seasoned. It was overkill. And...I overcooked them. I have an idea of how I need to change the recipe to make it work. Zucchini is in abundance and cheap at the farmer's market. I'll be trying this again.