Christmas · Holidays · Recipes

Scalloped Potatoes

As promised, here’s my recipe for scalloped potatoes from Christmas Dinner! Usually, I serve mashed potatoes at the holidays using this make-ahead recipe, but I wanted to change things up. This is simpler because it doesn’t require peeling or boiling, and it can be made the day before. In fact, next year that’s what I plan to do in order to save myself some stress on Christmas morning.

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SCALLOPED POTATOES WITH ONION & CHEDDAR

also known as Potatoes Gratiné en Français 🙂

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 or 6 medium baking potatoes (about 2.5 lbs.)
  • 1.5 C grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, sliced thin
  • 4 C whole milk
  • 3/4 C light cream
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt & pepper

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 375F and grease a large casserole/baking dish.

Slice the potatoes very thin. I am terrified of the mandoline and don’t own a large food processor, so I did this by hand, very carefully with a large, freshly-sharpened chef’s knife. Do not rinse. Set aside.

Prep the onions and garlic: slice the onion thin and smash the cloves of garlic with the side of a knife and your fist, or a meat pounder or heavy mug (I put mine in a plastic bag to contain the splatter).

In a good-sized Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium (medium-low if using a cast iron or enameled cast iron pot). Add the onions and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the milk, garlic and Dijon and bring to a boil over medium. Add a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Add the potatoes and allow to simmer until they are nearly tender, about 10 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, and discarding the milk once you’re done, transfer half the potatoes and onions to your greased baking dish, then cover with half of the cheese. Repeat, seasoning generously with salt and pepper, then spoon the potatoes and onions into the dish in a second layer and top with the remaining cheese. Season again, then pour the cream evenly over the top.

Bake uncovered for 50 minutes to one hour, or until the cheese is crispy and golden. Let cool a few minutes and serve!

Recipe inspired by thekitchn

scalloped potatoes 1

scalloped potatoes 2

This is actually easy enough to do for a regular weeknight dinner, and would definitely give you enough to use a second time in one week (unless you have a family of teenage boys, in which case, I can’t help you! And hats off, my friend). I used packaged shredded cheddar this time around, but you could grate fresh — I just can’t deal with that stress on my wrists, which still battle some carpal tunnel syndrome left over from my pregnancy. And, of course, another type of cheese (gruyere? hmm) will do just fine.

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If you prefer, you can use another kind of milk — almond, soy, etc. — and you can substitute 2 cups of milk and 2 cups of water for the full 4 cups of whole milk called for. Many recipes also call for heavy cream in scalloped potatoes, but I don’t find that to be necessary. You can still get a very rich effect by using light cream as I did here. Some recipes also call for cooking the potatoes on lower heat for longer in the oven, but I like how this recipe recommends par-cooking on the stove top before you place them in the oven to ensure they are adequately and evenly seasoned. You can always save the discarded milk for another culinary use. And, if you’re interested, I used russet potatoes here; I was looking for yukon gold, but they weren’t available so I decided to try my luck and I’m pleased with the result. These held up very well structurally. If you want a tremendously thick sauce in the dish, you could thicken your milk with flour at the par-cooking stage.

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I really hope you like this recipe and that it broadens your taste buds if you grew up accustomed to the boxed version! These made great leftovers with some of the spiral ham and casseroles we had on Christmas. Georgia ate them enthusiastically, but then again the main ingredients are cheese, milk and potatoes, so I’m not surprised. The onion and garlic lend a visible flavor but don’t overwhelm, making them perfect for picky eaters while still being a little more interesting than mashed potatoes. Enjoy!

Recipes

Baked Egg Noodles with Cheese

I got this easy recipe from Jessica Seinfeld’s new book, which was excerpted in an interview with her family for In Style Magazine. I whipped it up on a weeknight after work last week, and it was a hit! Leftovers were tasty, too. Pair with a nice salad for a healthier meal.

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Baked Egg Noodles with Cheese

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 package (1 lb.) egg noodles
  • 1.5 C sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1.5 C sharp yellow cheddar cheese, grated
  • 3/4 C milk
  • 1/2 C sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 C bread crumbs
  • cooking spray

Notes: I used almond milk, reduced-fat block cheese and light sour cream, and organic eggs. I did not make my own bread crumbs, but would have if I had more time. I think this would turn out fine with packaged pre-shredded cheese if you are really in a rush. 1.5 cups of cheese is about 6 oz., or nearly an entire block of cheese from a brand such as Cabot’s.

DIRECTIONS

Prep a large baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. Pre-heat the oven to 425 and put a large pot of water on to boil.

Grate the cheese, place in a medium bowl, and mix together. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and sour cream. (Make sure you whisk instead of just mixing so the liquids take on the right consistency when baked).

When the water starts to boil, add in the noodles and cook for just 3 minutes. Drain immediately in a colander and rinse under cold water to stop them from cooking.

Transfer the nooldes to the large bowl with the sour cream mixture and stir. Add 2 cups of the shredded cheese and mix well.

Using a silicone spatula, pour and scrape into the prepared baking dish. Add the bread crumbs into the remaining cup of cheese and toss together with your hands; sprinkle over the noodles.

Bake until golden and crispy on top, about 15 or 20 minutes.

Recipes

Shortcut Chili

Talk about easy! This is like “cheater chili” because it has so few ingredients and doesn’t have to cook for very long. You can use real beef or vegetarian meat crumbles. (I like MorningStar Farms vegetarian meat substitute).

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Shortcut Chili

INGREDIENTS

  • 1lb (approx.) lean ground beef or vegetarian crumbles
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 16-oz fresh salsa (from the refrigerated section of the store)
  • 1 15-oz can kidney beans

DIRECTIONS

Brown the ground beef or vegetarian crumbles with 2 teaspoons of chili powder in a saucepan (I used my favorite, the Le Creuset dutch oven).

Stir in the 16-oz container of salsa (mild or medium; I chose mild) and the kidney beans with their liquid. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes.

Optional: mash some of the beans with a spatula to thicken the chili. Season with salt and pepper and serve with sour cream or Greek yogurt and shredded cheese.

Thanks to Peg for the recipe!

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Back to work

Well. I went back to work this week. The parts I thought would be difficult were a piece of cake; conversely, I was blindsided by things I hadn’t anticipated.

She's usually asleep at drop-off AND pick-up :(
She’s usually asleep at drop-off AND pick-up 😦

I thought I would cry when Mark dropped me off at the train. I was actually fine, and getting back to the office felt like I’d just been on vacation for a couple weeks. But finding clothes that fit and are flattering every morning has been difficult, and Georgia has been waking up at different times every day — anywhere from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. — which makes it hard to figure out when to shower, blow dry, do my makeup, etc. I know it’s been hard on Mark to get up and play with her while I’m getting ready, since he’s used to sleeping in after working late at night. I know we will figure it out in time.

How I prepped

Getting lunches, dinners, snacks and breakfasts ready ahead of time was essential. Thankfully my Mom came over the Sunday before I went back (since Mark works weekends, often until very late at night) to help me prep. She did my laundry, helped me clean my house and do the dishes, and just generally served as a second brain so I wouldn’t forget to pack anything. Even better, she played with Georgia when she wasn’t napping, so that I could focus a little bit on getting one thing done without any interruptions.

My friends at work offered to bring me breakfast that first day, which I thought was very sweet 🙂 And I had a couple presents waiting for me when I got back to my desk — check them out in my office! Pretty, right?

Two colleagues treated me to welcome back plants on Monday-- a Christmas tree and a bunch of blooms!
Two colleagues treated me to welcome back plants on Monday — a Christmas tree and a beautiful bunch of blooms!

My dad & stepmom also helped out by dropping off some pre-made dinners the day I went back, and by subtly checking in on my husband during his first day home at what he calls “Daddy Day Care.” He did great, actually. I left him detailed instructions and prepped all the bottles, bibs and toys he would need that first day, and he took it from there. I’m so blessed to say they they are getting on great together every day, which makes it easier for me to be back at work even though I miss her so much while I’m gone. In fact, I stayed home on Thursday, and found to my dismay that she already prefers his style of eating and going down for naps. I was nothing but a huge disruption!

I’ll be posting the recipes for what I made myself to eat for breakfast for the week very soon.

Since I’m pumping midday, to facilitate better nursing success and to help keep my milk supply up, I did the following:

  • Brought instant oatmeal, which helps maintain milk supply
  • Carried a reusable water bottle everywhere, for the same reason
  • Packed clementines, cheddar cheese, yogurt, granola bars and dark chocolate to snack on, since breastfeeding makes you famished (and you need the extra calories to produce enough milk).

I made myself my favorite Tropical Smoothie also, and I pre-made some Risotto for Mark to have around the house for lunches and early dinners before work every night. I know how hard it is to make yourself lunch at home when the baby is there. When it’s just me, I eat these awesome Campbell’s Go Soups — you heat them right in the bag and can pour them into a bowl one-handed — and for this upcoming week I am going to make Mark a Shepherd’s Pie. All he’ll have to do is reheat it, and it’s nice and filling. You can make it meat-free, too. (The soups are great for me because they help keep up your milk supply).

Pumping at work

This has been a challenge. Between remembering the ice pack and the Pump, to figuring out when to charge it and how to clean it, I’ve been juggling a lot of logistics. And that’s before having to beat people away from my desk with a stick in order to get to the privacy room in our office! I feel lucky that we have a dedicated lactation room, and so far I’ve been able to get there every day by 1 p.m. to pump. My yield has, unfortunately, been going down a little bit every day, so I may have to go twice a day or just make sure I’m eating and drinking (and minimizing stress) enough, as all those things can affect supply.

This breastfeeding thing is no joke.

Georgia at 16 weeks

She is amazing. Still so sweet, so fun to be with, and a pretty good sleeper (though not every night is a breeze to be sure). These shots were taken on Thanksgiving Day at Mark’s grandfather’s house in New Bedford. We also got some great pictures with her two cousins! My sister-in-law is due with their third baby in early January, so by the New Year Georgia will have three little cousins to grow up with. To think that less than three years ago there were no babies in the family! Life is amazing sometimes.

Recipes

Healthy Baked Spaghetti

This is my lightened-up version of a comfort food favorite.  Chock full of seasonal vegetables, this dish features reduced-fat cheese as well as vegetarian crumbles instead of ground beef or sausage. And by using gluten-free rice pasta, you reduce that “bloated” feeling you get after eating a heavy pasta meal. I served it with a tasty mixed greens salad tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Enjoy this heart-healthy dinner and treat yourself to a glass of white wine with all the calories you’ve saved!

Ingredients

  • 1 package whole wheat or rice pasta
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • olive oil
  • cooking spray for your casserole dish
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • vegetarian meat crumbles (such as Morningstar meal starters)
  • 2 green bell peppers, diced (you could use any color)
  • salt & Italian seasoning to taste (about 1 tsp.)
  • 1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups mushrooms or another seasonal veggie (I used up a zucchini)
  • 1/2 cup shredded part skim mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup torn basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup water

Directions

Set a large pot of water on to boil. Cook pasta until it’s a few minutes away from being done, as it will continue cooking in the casserole dish and you don’t want it to fall apart. Drain and set aside.

In a frying pan, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onion once it’s hot, stirring frequently until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for another minute, until fragrant, and then the vegetarian crumbles. Stir in the bell peppers and the mushrooms (or zucchini, like I did) and Italian seasoning & salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softening (about another 5 minutes).

Add the crushed tomatoes, water, and basil, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and cook, simmering, another 10 to 15 minutes until the sauce thickens.

Preheat the oven to 375 and spray a casserole dish or 9×13 glass baking pan.

Add the pasta to the skillet and toss to combine with the sauce.

Spoon half the spaghetti mixture into the casserole dish, then sprinkle half the cheese on top. Repeat with the other half of the spaghetti and cheese.

Cover loosely with foil sprayed with cooking spray and cook 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly. (Don’t let the foil touch the cheese!)

Let stand for five minutes and serve hot.

What makes this healthier:

  • Not using butter to grease the pan or cook any of the ingredients.
  • Substituting lower-fat cheese without sacrificing flavor.
  • Replacing ground beef or sausage with my favorite vegetarian crumbles, by Morningstar (these have not only great flavor but believable texture, which is key for recreating dishes you may have grown up with).
  • Whole wheat or rice pasta (which I prefer because it’s gluten free, keeping my stomach pain-free with the added bonus of preventing bloat).
  • Serving with a side salad instead of outdoing your pasta portion!

I really hope you enjoy this. It’s adapted from a Bobby Deen recipe I found in Food Network Magazine, and has made its way into our regular meal rotation.

Recipes

Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chili

It’s been raining a lot this week, and work these days is a ball of stress wrapped in a germ-infested box…cue the comfort food and a night on the couch watching Friday Night Lights.

This recipe is a set-it-and-forget-it speciality, inspired by something I saw in Real Simple Magazine (love). You can leave it in the slow cooker all day on low and come home to a cozy vegetarian meal that is hearty enough to leave carnivores satisfied, too. Personally? I liked serving it with a dollop of low-fat sour cream and some multigrain tortilla chips, like these.

Other good topping ideas include shredded sharp cheddar, scallions or chives, a splash of hot sauce, sliced radishes, and even a drizzle of some high-quality olive oil. Do your own thing with it.

Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chili

Ingredients

  • 1 large  sweet potato, peeled and diced into medium chunks
  • 1 onion, diced (I used yellow; next time I’d definitely do red)
  • 1 can of kidney beans (15.5 oz)
  • 1 can black beans (15.5 oz), rinsed
  • 1 28-oz. can of fire roasted diced tomatoes (such as Muir Glen Organic)
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 TBSP chili powder (or, sub red pepper flakes or hot sauce)
  • 1 TBSP cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder (I had a small piece of stone-ground chocolate from Taza hanging around, so I used that instead!)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

*Note: Mark really hates kidney beans, so I subbed cannellini beans plus a handful of lentils to replicate the flavor and heft.

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a large (4 to 6 quart) slow cooker, including the liquid in the cans of tomatoes and beans, and heat on low for 7 or 8 hours (or on high for 4 or 5 hours to shorten cooking time). When it’s done, serve warm with your favorite chili toppings.

Did you buy a bag of sweet potatoes for this recipe, and now you’re not sure what to do with the leftover spuds? I love this recipe from Aggie’s Kitchen for Burritos with Black Beans & Roasted Veggies. This gal roasts everything together then slaps it into a sprouted tortilla with melted cheese, and YUM.

Recipes

Fat Kid Mac N’ Cheese

There is nothing healthy about this, whatsoever. Even if you use Smart Balance butter blend sticks or soy creamer, you are still loading up on tons of carbs and artery-clogging dairy here. Because those are the ingredients for traditional mac n’ cheese, and that’s what I made: Full-on, comfort-food, double-the-recipe “Fat Kid” Mac n’ Cheese. Enjoy.

Nostalgic, much?

Ingredients

  • 1 (16 ounce) package macaroni
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 8 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cup milk
  • 2 cup cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 cups cheese, shredded (I used a blend of cheddar & smoked gruyere)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs, buttered

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook and drain macaroni according to package directions; set aside.

In a large saucepan melt butter. Add flour mixed with salt and pepper, using a whisk to stir until well blended.

Pour milk and cream in gradually; stirring constantly. Bring to boiling point and boil 2 minutes (stirring constantly). Take care not to let it burn.

Reduce heat and cook, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes.

Add shredded cheese bit by bit. Simmer an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese melts. Add macaroni to the saucepan (or another bowl) and toss to coat with the cheese sauce.

Transfer macaroni to a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs (I mixed mine with a bit of melted butter to moisten). Top with a few dollops of butter before putting in the oven. Bake 20 minutes until the top is golden brown.

This recipe was inspired by the old favorite, Fannie Farmer’s Classic Macaroni and Cheese. 

Modifications: Add peas and/or carrots to the mix; halve the recipe instead of using the whole pound of macaroni; add dijon mustard and/or hot sauce to the mix for a kick; add in crispy bacon pieces if you eat meat.