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Meatless Meals

Ciabatta Sammies (2 Ways)

March 25, 2017

What happens when you tweak one of your favorite Ina Garten sandwiches to make it vegetarian?

Good things. Good, good things. I actually LOVE pouring through vegetarian cookbooks and visiting vegetarian cafes, because despite what your kids may tell you, vegetables are delicious. Finding new ways to use them and bring out there surprising flavors is one of my favorite kitchen adventures.

So when I started to think about some of our favorite meals, and how we could make them meat-less, I turned to one of our favorite Ina Garten recipes. I saw her make these chicken tender sandwiches on her show years ago, with sweet peppers and onions, and goat cheese for a tangy kick. Since then it has become an easy quick week-night dinner that my husband loves, but it also makes a great go-to party food recipe, since it is easy to assemble and feeds a crowd. Preparing a long sandwich and slicing it on a cutting board looks rustic, tastes delicious, and clean up is easy.

When I went to go look for the original recipe online, I couldn’t find it, but luckily it is so easy you barely need one. When I whipped it up recently for dinner for the kids, who don’t love goat cheese, I used shredded Monterey Jack Cheese instead. But my husband and I love it with goat cheese.

But it got me thinking, based on my love of portabellas to replace meat these days, wouldn’t this sandwich be delicious with sautéed mushrooms too?

For the chicken version, you just get 2 skillets heated with oil, and let them cook:

But why not make that second skillet mushrooms? They don’t love a crowded pan so two sliced portabellas should fit easily in one large skillet.

The result was super delicious. I almost prefer it to the chicken version, especially when you drizzle a little of this balsamic creme reduction on it (available in most grocery stores right next to the balsamic vinegar section. If you don’t have it you can just drizzle a little balsamic on the bread, or make your own reduction buy reducing it like this.

This was so, so good! Sometimes stores carry Ciabatta rolls instead of loaves, and they taste just as delicious, let me tell you.

Not sure a recipe can get any easier, or more flexible. But the results are always delicious!

Happy Cooking! xoxo Katie

 

 

Ciabatta Sammies 2 Ways (printer version here): 

 

1) Chicken, Peppers & Onion Ciabatta Sandwiches

 

4 T. olive oil, divided

1 package of chicken tenders (usually between 1 and 1.5 lbs)

2 peppers (I used red and orange for color)

2 onions, sliced

Salt & pepper

1 loaf of ciabatta or 4 ciabatta rolls

2-4 oz. goat cheese or other favorite shredded cheese such as montery jack

Directions:

Heat 2 T. oil in 2 large skillets on medium high heat. Season chicken with 1 t. salt and ¼ t. pepper. When hot, add peppers and onions to one skillet with 1 t. salt, and chicken tenders to the other. Cook chicken until cooked through, about 4-5 minutes per side. Cook peppers and onions until tender, stirring frequently, about 10-15 minutes.

To assemble sandwiches, slice ciabatta, and arrange peppers, onions and chicken on bread. Add cheese on top, replace top of loaf, then slice and serve.

2) Vegetarian Version with Sliced Portabella Mushrooms

Instead of cooking chicken tenders in second skillet, slice 2 portabella mushroom tops, season with salt and pepper, and saute until soft, about 8-10 minutes. Assemble sandwiches as above, and use Balsamic Reduction, or sprinkle top of loaf with ½ t. Balsamic vinegar, if desired.

Creamy Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

March 8, 2017


CREAMY STUFFED PORTABELLA MUSHROOMS

This poor food blog is so neglected you may be wondering, does she even care about us anymore? Does she even care about food?

The answer is yes, and yes. But if you haven’t heard yet, I’ve been distracted by a certain book release next month and some other news that I will share soon! We also went north for New Hampshire’s February break to go skiing and I forgot my laptop. Turns out the break was really needed – I’ve been glued to it and it was nice to take a real break, and to connect with family and friends in the flesh after we’ve been hibernating all winter.

Since the last time we’ve chatted, Lent snuck up on us, as it always does (except for the Mardi Gras part, which totally gets our attention because hello, party). The one thing I do every Lent that I usually stick with 100% is giving up meat on Friday. Because of this, I thought I would come up with a few recipes that use meatless ingredients but still feel like a meal. Today I am giving you my favorite new recipe: Creamy Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms.

I love portabella mushrooms. In the summer, I soak them in some balsamic, olive oil, s&p and diced garlic clove in a zip lock bag, and then grill them. Inside two hamburger buns, with some blue cheese or lettuce and tomato, you hardly even notice you don’t have meat in your meal.

But this recipe – I’ve made it a few times, and every time I love it more. You know how good stuffed mushrooms are as hors d’oeuvres? Well, imagine sitting down with a knife and fork to a plate of these all your own.

You start by roasting the portabellas with garlic, salt and pepper. Then you start make the filling by sautéing smaller mushrooms with garlic and butter.

You add these dairy beauties:

The ideas is to create a thick creamy sauce, and ricotta does that in a jiffy, along with the melted fontina. You can use milk to thin it out but the cream (I have made it with half and half but this time I had whipping cream) is what gives this dish its decadence, I think.  If you don’t have ricotta, you can easily make a sauce starting with a roux, which is roughly whisking 2 T. butter + 2 T. flour  for a few minutes, then mixing in 2 cups of milk, plus the cheese but it takes longer and I think the flavor is much better with the ricotta. Also this sauce would be amazing mixed with some pasta for another meal idea.

Then, you add the remaining cheese and broil it until the cheese is browned, about 5-7 minutes.

Creamy Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms (printer version here): 
Creamy Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms:

4 Mushroom Caps
2 T. olive oil
s&p
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 T. butter
½ t. tarragon
2 cloves diced garlic, divided
½ cup ricotta cheese
¼ cream or half and half (or milk)
1 cup grated fontina, gruyere, or monterey jack (good melting cheese), divided
2 sprigs of thyme (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place Portabella caps on cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, 1 t. salt and ¼ t. pepper and 1 diced garlic clove. Roast in oven for 20 minutes.

While those cook, heat large frying pan on medium high heat. Add butter and melt. Add mushrooms, garlic and ½ t. salt, ¼ t. Pepper, being careful not to crowd pan or they will steam – use two pans if needed. Saute until fragrant and soft, about 10 minutes.

Add ricotta, cream, and ½ cup shredded cheese, and stir until combined and cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.

Take mushroom caps out of oven and let cool for 1 minute.

Add creamy mixture to mushroom caps, then cover with remaining ½ cup cheese and a few thyme leaves. Broil for 3-5 minutes or until cheese is browned to preferrence. (I love the cheese when it is very cooked).

(Serve with pasta or wild rice and peas.)

Swiss Pumpkin

October 20, 2016

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Now that the leaves are starting to look like the color of pumpkins, I am so excited to share this recipe that I actually guest posted on the Ella Claire Blog last year. It is so so good.

I found this recipe in Ruth Reichl’s food memoir Comfort Me with Apples (a sequel to Tender at the Bone). I am a big fan of food memoirs at the moment since I am writing one of my own about growing up in a big Irish family in Chicago (I am one of eight) and we had a huge passion for food. In Comfort Me with Apples, one of the lasting images I had was how her husband said he wanted a divorce, and all she could do was make Cream of Mushroom soup. I just feel like food does that healing thing. She ended up being the editor for Gourmet Magazine and remarrying and having a son. So her story ends well.image

Happily, when I made this recipe it was a great story. I made it for my husband for a date night at home. The smell when you take this out of the oven is like nothing else – a mix between pumpkin pie, creamy squash soup, and French onion soup. The fragrance will transport you. After we took the first bite, we just looked up at each other, silent, the fire roaring, and then in unison went, “mmmmhhh”. Or something close to blubbering adults. It warms your insides like nothing I have ever had – the pillow soft pumpkin, creamy buttery soup, and nutmeg infused bread tastes like heaven, all mixed with the saltiness of the gruyere cheese. It is such a special dish. The best part? I wrote all this a year ago, and I can still go back to that exact moment we tasted this and I am there.

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This dish is perfect for Holiday parties or special family winter dinners. I’m not hosting Thanksgiving this year but if I was, everyone should start with a little Swiss Pumpkin on their plate. But it also seems like something you could easily bring to a family with an illness or a new baby since it has its own (disposable) transporting vehicle.

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I hope you get to taste it. Or at least read Ruth Reichl. Happy fall everyone!

xoxo, Katie

Savory Baked Pumpkin (serves 4) 

**Slightly altered from Ruth Reichl’s original recipe.

2 small pumpkins (about 6 – 8 inches in diameter)

Sliced French bread; several pieces, toasted

Grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese (about 4 oz)

Half and half, about 2 cups

2 eggs

1 1/2 t. salt, 1 t. pepper

1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg (makes all the difference)

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut the top off of your pumpkin leaving the stem intact. With a spoon, scrape out the innards of the pumpkin and discard. (You can reserve the seeds if you like for a latter use.)

Next, rinse the pumpkin both inside and out and pat dry. Place a layer of your toasted bread on the very bottom of the pumpkin cavity. If you need to break up your toasted bread to fit, that is fine. You just want a light layer; you do not need to pack it in. Over the top of your bread sprinkle a bit of your cheese; just enough to cover the bread. You will want to repeat this until you fill the cavity of the pumpkin to its rim, about 2-3 times.

Then, pour the half and half mixture over the layered bread and cheese and into the pumpkin cavity. I like to do this slowly to be sure the half and half is filling in the crevices and not ready to overflow the pumpkin filling. Place the pumpkin top you cut off back onto the pumpkin and place on a baking sheet.

Finally, place the pumpkin on the baking sheet into the center of your oven for about 2 hours. Your baking time will depend on the size of your pumpkin and how much you fill it, so I always check it after one and a half hours of baking. You want to bake it until a knife can easily pierce through the flesh of your pumpkin. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and wait about 15 minutes before serving.