Easy Pea and Potato Samosas

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I call them easy because I used store-bought puff pastry sheets.  You don’t even have to roll it out! Did you know that oil-based puff pastry, such as Pepperidge Farms is vegan? Ras El Hanout is a Moroccan spice blend that contains a variety of aromatic spices, such as cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger.  If you can’t find it, you can go for an Indian yellow curry powder. These will take a while to make, there are several steps, but none of them are difficult.  You can do this in stages- bake the potatoes and put the puff pastry into the fridge to thaw the night before to make the assembly go faster. Be sure to pick up a good jar of chutney to serve with these flaky beauties. Makes 12 samosas.

  • 4-5 medium-sized yellow potatoes
  • 1 package puff pastry, thawed
  • 1/4 C. melted butter, Earth Balance, or olive oil
  • 1 t. sumac
  • 1 t. Ras El Hanout, or curry powder
  • 1/2 t. Kosher salt
  • 1/4 t. cayenne pepper
  • 1 C. peas, thawed.

First, bake or microwave the potatoes until tender. Cool until you can handle them. Cut in half and scoop out the cooked potato into a large mixing bowl. Mash the potatoes with a fork and stir in the melted butter and spices.  The mixture can be a bit lumpy.  Gently stir in peas.

Cut each of the thawed puff pastry sheets into 6 squares. Have a little bowl of water ready.  Scoop out about 1/4 C. of the potato mixture onto each puff pastry square. Wet your finger in the bowl of water and draw a line of water around the edges of one square.  Take one corner of the puff pastry and pull it a little- it stretches!  Stretch it up and over the filling and seal the corner with a pinch.

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Use your wet finger to smooth out the filling so that you can get a good seal on the edges.  Finally, crimp the edges with a fork to seal. Place the samosas on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze until ready to bake, or at least 30 minutes. They need to be very cold before baking so the pastry doesn’t melt into a puddle.

To bake, heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Put the frozen samosas right into the oven. Bake about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot or at room temperature with chutney for dipping.

 

 

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Rice Salad with Roasted Grapes

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Rice salad is an old idea, but for some reason it’s taken me a long time to embrace it.  I’m so glad I have!  It’s the perfect side dish to go with pretty much any entrée. The premise: toss cooked and cooled rice with vinaigrette and some herbs and serve at room temperature.  As with a green salad, the flavor and texture combinations are endless.  This one in particular gets a rich sweetness from roasted grapes and a nutty crunch from toasted almonds.

  • 2 C. long grain rice such as basmati
  • 4 C. water
  • 2 C. red grapes
  • 1/4 C. olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 C. slivered, blanched almonds
  • 1 large lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 C. loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1 C. loosely packed fresh parsley leaves

Rinse the rice under cold water and place in a pot with the 4 C. of water.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Remove the pot from heat and let the rice steam, covered for about ten minutes.  When the rice is done, fluff with a fork and transfer it to a large bowl to cool.

While the rice is cooking, roast the grapes and toast the almonds.  Place the grapes on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with 1 t. of the olive oil.  Roast at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until they are just beginning to split and bubble. Remove from the oven and toss them in with the rice to cool. Toast the almonds in a dry pan on the stove or on a clean rimmed baking sheet at 350 degrees for about five minutes.  Watch them carefully- they will go from brown to black in a matter of seconds.  Remove them from the heat when they are just beginning to become a rich golden brown. Once you’ve toasted almonds a few times you get to know when they are done by the smell of them!

To assemble the dish, combine the cooled rice, grapes, almonds, and herbs in a large bowl.  Toss gently, you don’t want the rice to clump. Drizzle the rest of the olive oil and squeeze the lemon juice over the rice.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Toss well to combine.  You can garnish with a few extra herbs on top. Serve at room temperature.

 

 

 

 

 

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Tikka Masala Chickpeas with Spicy Green Rice

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I love the spice combinations and creamy sauces of Indian cooking. This delicious vegan dish is fragrant with coriander and cumin and gets a rich creamy texture from the addition of coconut milk. The green rice is a revelation! I’m excited to try lots of different variations to this one in the future.

For the rice:

  • 6 green onions, white parts only
  • 1 serrano pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger root
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 C. water
  • 1 ½ cups basmati rice

Put all the ingredients, except the rice in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Rinse the rice with cold water and place into a saucepan.  Stir in the green mixture and add another 1 1/2 C. water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 minutes.  Stir, and remove from heat. Leave the rice covered and allow to steam for ten minutes. Fluff with a fork. Meanwhile, rinse out your blender to make the tikka masala.

For the chickpeas:

  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 large shallot, quaterted
  • 1 T. water
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. ground coriander
  • 2 t. ground cumin
  • t. ground turmeric
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 can plain tomato sauce
  • cans (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • cup full fat coconut milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 diced avocado

Puree the ginger, garlic, and shallot with the water until smooth. Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Scrape the ginger puree into the heated oil and stir to cook until the mixture starts to brown, about three minutes.  Quickly add the spices and stir for one minute more. Pour in the tomato sauce, the chickpeas, and the coconut milk.  Be sure to scrape up all the brown bits in the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for about thirty minutes. Season to taste. Serve over the rice with a garnish of cilantro and avocado.

 

 

 

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Instant Pot Secret-Veggie-Packed Turkey Bolognese

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My family loves pasta.  My youngest son doesn’t like “things” in the sauce.  By “things” I mean all the flavorful additions that a good tomato sauce needs, like onions, garlic, carrots, celery, and herbs.  He doesn’t want bits of onions or herbs, he wants it to be smooth and red, and God forbid there should be a chunk of tomato! I could argue with him about it, but I know that as he gets older his tastes will change, as almost everyone’s taste does.  In the meantime I pack all the veggies into my sauce that I want by pureeing them in my smoothie maker! Mom: 1, Kid: 0.  In your face Kid!

In the summertime I try to set aside a few days to prep a large quantity of freezer meals to get us though the fall and winter.  I aim for one meal a week that I don’t need to cook- just throw something in the oven or the slow cooker. It really helps on those days with late football practices, or after-school meetings.  Now that it’s January, my freezer meal stockpile is rapidly dwindling!  In an effort to restock- I give you Instant Pot Turkey Bolognese.  You can do this on the stove in about two hours, or in the slow cooker on low for 8 hours. This recipe makes enough for three meals for a family of four (Just serve it over cooked pasta.  Did you notice I didn’t say zoodles?  That’s because they are yucky).  I’ll store one in the fridge for this week and the other two can go into the freezer for later!

  • 3 large carrots
  • 3 large stalks of celery
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 lbs. ground turkey (or beef, pork, or chicken)
  • 3, 15 oz. cans of plain tomato sauce- I like Hunts Sauce because it’s not sweet.
  • 2 t. Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 t. black pepper
  • 1 t. red pepper flakes
  • 2 t. dried oregano

If your family doesn’t mind the “things” in the sauce then you can just dice up the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic, and throw them into the Instant Pot.  Otherwise, cut the carrots, celery, and onion into chunks, the garlic cloves can go in to whole, and puree them all until smooth in a blender with a splash of water to get things moving.  I don’t have a fancy blender, I have a Ninja.  One awesome feature that I use almost daily is the smoothie cup.  Somehow the smoothie cup gets things way smoother than the regular blender pitcher. To quote my 5th grade students: IDKY. When I use it for this though, I need to puree the veggies in two batches since the cup is smaller than the blender pitcher.

Add the ground meat to the Instant Pot along with the pureed veggies, the cans of sauce, the salt and pepper, and the herbs. Stir to combine and lock the lid.  Don’t forget to close the vent.  I cooked this on high pressure for 35 minutes. Once it’s cooled it can be ladled into storage containers.  This sauce will keep in the fridge for about three days and in the freezer for about three months.  Just reheat it in the microwave, or gently on the stove top, and serve it over cooked pasta or creamy polenta.

 

 

 

 

 

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Peppermint Oreo Truffles

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So easy, these are not really even a recipe, more of a method.  You can mix and match Oreo flavors with your favorite spices and extracts. Done in 20 minutes, start to finish!

  • 1 package of regular Oreos
  • 1 brick of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 t. mint extract
  • 12 oz. bag of chocolate chips
  • a few candy canes for garnish

Pulse the cookies in the food processor until they are coarse crumbs.  Mix in the cream cheese and extract until you see no more white streaks and a dough forms.  It may be a bit sticky, that’s ok.  Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and set on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Freeze for about ten minutes while you melt the chocolate and smash the candy canes.  Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl in 30 second increments, stirring in between to prevent scorching. A fondue pot or chafing dish is a great way to keep the chocolate melty while you are working, but if you don’t have one, that’s ok- you just might have to stick it back in the microwave if the chocolate starts to thicken up on you. Dip each Oreo ball in melted chocolate to coat, and sprinkle with some crushed candy canes. Set them back on the parchment-lined baking sheet to set up. Store these in the fridge for up to a week.  They also freeze well. These taste best at room temperature.

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Sicilian Almond Cookies

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Anything almond flavored is nostalgic for me.  The smell of almond extract transports me back to my childhood summer visits to Sicily.  Once, when visiting my Nonna’s house in Siracusa, my dad arrived with a platter of bakery-bought almond cookies.  They were crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, and studded with red and green candied cherries.  Nonna was pleased by the fancy cookies and we all enjoyed sampling them.  Soon, we heard a knock on the door- it was the neighbor coming to greet Nonna’s American visitors. “Presto! Nascondi i biscotti! Quick, hide the cookies!” Nonna hissed.  They were too good for company.

  • 2 1/2 C. finely ground almond flour, I used Bob’s Red Mill
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 egg whites
  • more of each sugar for rolling
  • candied cherries

Heat the oven to 300 degrees.  In the food processor, pulse the almond flour and sugars until combined.  Add the extracts and egg whites and pulse until a dough forms.   The dough will be sticky- that’s ok.  Roll the dough into 1 inch balls. Dampening your hands with water helps to keep the mixture from sticking to your hands. Roll the balls first in white sugar, then in powdered sugar.  Place the dough balls about an inch apart on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Press a candied cherry into the center of each cookie. Bake for about 18 minutes.  Let them rest for a minute before removing them to a wire rack to cool.  You can keep these wrapped at room temperature, but they also freeze very well.  Don’t forget to hide them when your neighbors come by.

 

 

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Almond Apricot Amaretti

My favorite Christmas cookies!

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Hands down, my family’s favorite holiday cookie! Amaretti are traditional Italian cookies made with almonds, sugar, and egg whites.  If you buy amaretti they are usually quite crispy and crunchy.  These amaretti are soft and chewy on the inside and a bit crisp around the edges.  In Sicily these would have a candied cherry in the middle.  The dried apricots give them a really nice fruity flavor and chewy texture.  Adapted from Eat The Love.   They are also naturally gluten free!

  • 2 1/2 C. almond meal or almond flour (the ingredients should list only almonds)
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 chopped dried apricots (mine were soft and chewy, not too dry)
  • More sugar and powdered sugar for rolling

Heat the oven to 300 degrees.  In the food processor, pulse the almond meal and sugars until…

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