Poppyseed Chicken Redux

So obviously I love me some poppyseed chicken but if you know me in real life, or on Twitter, or have just been in a 100 mile radius of me you know that I began reducing/eliminating processed foods in my diet since Thanksgiving. (You would know because I am pretty obnoxious/can’t shut up about it.)

But I wanted to make poppy seed chicken (I use the James Villas recipe but they are identical except his adds lemon juice. Which I recommend.). Fortunately I’m not alone in this “real food” craziness. I used this recipe for cream of chicken soup, and it was super easy and a perfect substitute. I used whole wheat flour; if you are not on a whole grains kick and want your cream of-soup to be totally lump free with minimal whisking I would recommend Wondra. (Even with the whole wheat flour it was pretty lump free with about two minutes, tops, of whisking.)

Whisking away.

Whisking away.

For the Ritz cracker topping I turned to this recipe. My standard all purpose to mostly whole wheat flour conversion in baking is to use 1/4 all purpose, 1/4 white whole wheat flour and 1/2 whole wheat flour and that worked well in this cracker. I don’t think I baked them long enough since they did not come out as crisp as “store boughten,” as an old teacher of mine would say. But they were tasty, and crumbled up nicely for a casserole topping. The food processor meant it was a really easy cracker to put together- the hardest part was cutting the crackers and poking holes on the top of each one but fortunately I have a houseboy a kindergartener to do that part.

Homemade Crackers, Cooling

All in all, it was marginally more difficult than making a regular poppyseed chicken casserole but not as time and labor intensive as, say, spinach lasagna  or plenty of other things I regularly make. I may experiment with a biscuit or free form pastry topping the next time I make it but will never go back to the can.

Poppyseed Casserole

Poppyseed Casserole- not the most aesthetic dish whether you use processed ingredients or not but pure comfort food either way.

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Meatless Muffuletta

I’ll let Teri weigh in on the authenticity of this sandwich; my nearest muffuletta experience involves once being on an email list ostensibly devoted to the band The Fall that spent endless emails speculating on the existence of a deep-fried muffuletta. This is about a bitrillion times more healthy than that would be. It’s a ginormous, phenomenally flavorful sandwich. It is pretty easy to make in that it only takes about 40 minutes to prepare but fiddly to make in that you do spend a good solid 10 minutes of that time chopping. The rest of the time is hands off, though, and the chopping is all well worth it.  This is another one from Bittman’s Food Matters cookbook, which really y’all need to all go ahead and buy.

Muffuletta, More Or Less

Makes 2 very filling sandwiches

  • 1 small eggplant, sliced
  • Salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil plus more for brushing eggplant
  • 1/4 cup brine cured black olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1/4 cup green olives, pitted and chopped
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 chopped celery stalk
  • 1/4 cup diced roasted red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 whole grain sandwich rolls or 1/2 of a big loaf of crusty whole grain bread cut into two pieces
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  1. Sprinkle the sliced eggplant with salt and let rest in a colander for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450. Rinse, remove from the colander, and press between two paper towels to remove excess moisture. Drizzle some olive oil on both sides of the eggplant slices and cook for 20 minutes, turning once halfway through.
  2. While the eggplant is in the oven, get to work on the salad. (I wait until then to chop everything.) Combine the olives, capers, red onion, pepper, oregano, garlic, vinegar, and 2 tbsp oil in a medium bowl. Add black pepper to taste.
  3. Slice the rolls or bread horizontally and scrape out most of the inside, you’ll need room for the fillings. Spread the olive salad over both sides of the bread, including all the oil and juice from the bottom of the bowl. Add the roasted eggplant and sliced tomato and serve at once.
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Potluck Quinoa

I’ve been on a big ice cream kick lately (thanks, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams At Home) which has meant I’ve been counterbalancing with lots of vegetables and whole grains. Which has led to a bit of a quinoa obsession. You know you’re in trouble when you have to make separate labels for your black, red and regular quinoa. One of my favorite easy lunch/dinners at home is Grains and Mushrooms, lightly scrambled- I use zucchini, asparagus or even kale instead of mushrooms for an easy way to get in a vegetable serving. And I made this salad this week and it was incredible- light but filling. So when I had a potluck to go to I figured I’d make the quinoa salad again but of course I was out of cranberries and gouda. Instead I threw in what I had on hand and it turned out amazing- I am glad I kept some behind for lunch today. A friend asked for the recipe so I figured I’d just blog it. It turned out to be the perfect potluck dish- super simple to throw together, tasty enough everyone wants to try it but also healthy. (Next time I make it I’ll probably add in some chopped red onion. Will report back.)

Quinoa With Arugula, Avocado and Feta

  • 1 and a half cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 and a half cups arugula
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 4 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix together quinoa, arugula, avocado, feta, walnuts and tomatoes in a large bowl. Whisk together the olive oil with the red wine vinegar and stir into the salad. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4 as a main course.

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Pasta With Smashed Peas and Bacon

One of the first pasta dishes I really fell in love with was spaghetti carbonara (what’s not to love? Eggs, cheese and bacon) and in particular this zucchini carbonara when it first ran in the Minimalist.

So I was drawn immediately to a recipe for pasta with smashed peas, prosciutto and scallions in the Food Matters Cookbook- I had extra bacon on hand and figured if I subbed that in for the prosciutto it’d be more carbonara-y. I used shallot instead of scallion and was amazed at how rich this “sauce-less” pasta turned out after cooking the peas in bacon fat. Don’t tell carbonara but you don’t even miss the egg.

Pasta with Smashed Peas and Bacon, adapted from Mark Bittman’s  Food Matters Cookbook

Serves 2.

  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • 4 ounces whole wheat pasta
  • Pecorino Romano cheese to grate over
  1. Bring a big salted pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, cut the bacon into pieces and cook in a large skillet over medium high heat until crisp. Remove the bacon and pour off all but a teaspoon of the bacon fat. Add the shallot, sprinkle with salt, and cook until beginning to brown. Add the peas and cook for three minutes; remove from the heat.
  2. Cook the pasta as directed. When the pasta is about a minute away from being done, return the peas to medium heat and add 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Smash up the peas a little with the back of a spoon. Drain the pasta and keep a little of the water. Put the pasta back into the pot and stir in the peas, adding extra water if needed, depending on how much of a saucy consistency you want the peas to have.
  3. Serve the pasta, grating about a teaspoon of fresh pecorino romano on top and sprinkling with the crisp bacon pieces and more black pepper.
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Greek “Nachos,” Winter Version

I am slowly trying to shift our diet further and further away from processed foods (which turns out to be easy for me but harder for the kids; all those Whole Food family bloggers GROSSLY underestimate my children’s attachment to Trader Joe’s mini sandwich crackers and toaster pastries) and reducing the amount of meat in our diet. The less-meat thing is a little harder (pork shoulder in a crockpot is my go to time crunch meal, and vegetable dishes usually require more prep) but not, so far, impossible. I have been giving Mark Bittman’s Food Matters cookbook a spin with solid results so far.

Tonight we had Greek “nachos.” Bittman had me at nacho but I didn’t want to wait until summer to try the tomato-cucumber version. Fortunately he suggested an alternative using eggplant and roasted pepper, so that is what I made. I had some roasted pimentos in the freezer but you can use jarred. I also had some leftover pickled red onion so I used that instead of slicing fresh red onion, but either works… and if you roast the pita wedges along with the eggplant you can have the whole thing on the table in 20 minutes. (Okay, maybe 25 minutes. Still not bad for a weeknight.)

Image

Instagrammed food pictures are not ideal but easy for the lazy food blogger

Greek “Nachos” With Eggplant and Roasted Pepper, via Mark Bittman

Serves 2 as a generous entree

  • 1/2 eggplant, cubed
  • 2 whole wheat pitas
  • 2 tbsp plus 2 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 oz feta
  • 1/4 cup Greek-style yogurt
  • Chopped fresh mint to taste
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon plus zest
  • Diced roasted red pepper
  • Sliced red onion
  • Handful of kalamata olives, pitted and halved

1) Heat the oven to 400; spread the cubed eggplant on a baking sheet and toss with one teaspoon of olive oil. Roast the eggplant for 20 minutes.

2)Meanwhile, split the pitas in half and cut them into triangles. Place them on another baking sheet and drizzle one teaspoon oil over them. Put them in the oven ten minutes into the eggplant baking. (And give the eggplant a little toss while you are at it.)

3)In a food processor or mini chopper combine the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil, feta, yogurt, mint and lemon until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4)Remove the pita chips from the oven when crisp (you will probably want to flip them over half way through their ten minutes of baking) and arrange on one serving plate or two dinner plates. Top with eggplant, roasted pepper, onion and olives. Top with the feta/yogurt mixture.

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Turkey Day Minus One: Caketastrophe

Just tried to invert the chocolate chocolate chip bundt cake onto the cake stand and only half of it made it out of the bundt pan.

So I guess we are having pumpkin pie, chocolate pecan pie, and trifle for dessert.

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Turkey Day Minus Three: Seating Charts

We have seven adults and five children attending and a dining table that seats six. The plan is to bring out the craft table from the playroom, set it in the hall (making an L with the kitchen table) and toss a tablecloth on it; we should have enough chairs to not have to resort to a stack of books and a pillow.

I also have a low bookshelf that can double as a sideboard but I am leaning towards just putting the serving dishes on the tables. The bookshelf is VERY low and I don’t trust turkey left within reach of the poodle.

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