A Year Of... interesting things

Pasta with Spinach-Avocado Sauce

This is an adaptation of a wonderful-looking recipe for Spaghetti with Spinach-Avocado Sauce.

In my case, I didn’t have the requisite amount of spaghetti and on top of that my family is a fan of pasta, so to fix the former I enlisted all the unfinished pasta bags I had around the house and for the latter I doubled the quantities of everything.

That was a mistake.

Pasta with Spinach-avocado Sauce

The sauce is good, however it tends to over-power the dish.

If I were to do it again, I’d double the pasta of the original recipe, and only 1.5x the ingredients, and even then, instead of mixing the sauce with the pasta before serving, I’d allow each person to mix to their own taste.

The recipe below follows this advice.

Recipe

Recipe is quick to make - maybe 10 minutes tops of hands-on time, 15-20 total.

That is provided you have a food processor - not even sure how to make the sauce without one.

The original recipe also calls for cannellini beans, however I had a hard time finding them. Good news, according to Cook’s Illustrated Great Northern beans is a reasonable substitute.

Ingredients

  • 16oz whole-grain spaghetti
  • 1 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cups cannellini beans
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 ripe avocado, peeled
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted

Preparation

  1. Prepare the pasta according to the package.
    Save 1/2 cup of cooking liquid before draining;
    drain pasta.
  2. In a food processor combine the 1/2 cup liquid from cooking the pasta and the next 8 ingredients through avocado.
    Process untile smooth.
  3. Combine the pasta with 2/3 - 3/4 of the sauce, toss to coat.
  4. Serve sprinkled with tomatoes and almonds and additional sauce to taste.

Serves: 8 (4 if they really like it)

  • Calories 374
  • Fat 15.2g Satfat 2g Monofat 10.1g Polyfat 2.1g
  • Protein 10g
  • Carbohydrate 50g
  • Fiber 6g
  • Cholesterol 0.0mg
  • Iron 3mg Sodium 502mg Calcium 46mg
  • Sugars 2g

Cheesy Hasselback Potatoes

Hasselback Potatoes are of Sweddish origin, although not a traditional Swedish meal, one created by Chef Leif Elisson at the Hasselbacken restaurant in Stockholm.

The gist of the recipes is cutting potatoes in thin slices, while still leaving them connected, baking them, stuffing it with cheese, and then baking them again to melt the cheese.

Cheesy Hasselback Potatoes

It wasn’t bad, wasn’t great either.

Maybe my cheddar was not strong enough.

Recipe

The base or the recipes comes from Just A Taste, however based on Reddit recommendations I added bacon bits on top.

Ingredients

  • 4 Russet potatoes - medium (? about 6” long)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 4-8 ounces of sliced cheddar, further sliced into 1-inch squares
  • 1/3 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2-4 tablespoons of bacon bits
  • 1/8 - 1/4 cup of chopped fresh chives or green onions.

I’m intentionally vague on the cheese quantities because it’s dependent on the number of cuts made in the potato (1 cut - 1 square of cheese).

Mathematically speaking, if we cut the potato in 1/8 inch slices, that’s 8 slices per inch * 6 inches potato = 64 slices; divide that by 4 typical quarters per big slice of cheddar, you end up with 16 big slices of cheddar per potato.

At 1 oz per cheddar slice, sliced #2 at the deli, or 1 oz per 2 slices, if sliced #1, that’s a good 16 or 8 ounces of cheddar per potato, which is not only ridiculous and also, likely, heart-attack inducing.

So obviously math is useless, check-mate mathematicians…

Instead I would say that 8 ounces is probably enough for all 4 potatoes.

The bacon bits and the chives are more according to taste. I like bacon.

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 450F.
  2. Don’t peel the potato – this is important – we want that skin.
    The trick here is to place two wooden chopsticks on either side of the potato, as we make cuts every 1/8-inch from one end to another.
    The chopsticks are going to keep the knife from going all the way through and thus keep the bottom of the potato slices connected.
  3. Put the potatoes on a baking sheet and brush them with the melted butter.
    I don’t know if necessary, but I tried to get the butter into the cuts as well.
    Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Bake for 55-60 minutes (until tender).
  5. Remove from the oven, but don’t turn the oven off.
    Insert the 1-inch squares into the cuts.
    Sprinkle the top with the shredded Parmesan and half of the bacon bits.
  6. Bake for 3-5 minutes until the cheese is melted.
  7. Remove potatoes from oven, sprinkle the rest of the bacon and the chives/green onion and serve immediately.

Serving size: 1 potato, serves 4.

  • calories: depending on the amount of cheese, but probably 200-400 per serving.
  • fat: way too much
  • cholesterol: I don’t even wanna know.
  • carbs: potato - need I say more?

Variants

Using less cheese (or even not stuffing them with cheese but only sprinkling on top), sprinkling bread crumbs or even roasted almond slices on top. Sour cream on top was good too.

Cape Malay Curry

Cape Malays are an ethnic group from South Africa with one of the most interesting backgrounds, which is properly reflected in their cuisine.

Owing to some their Southeast Asian roots and blending Arab influences by way of their Muslim identity, the food contains harmonious artifacts of those origins: turmeric abd cinnamon, ginger and beef, bell peppers and apricots all combine in this recipe in a delicious mix.

Cape Malay Curry

The recipe is delicious and exacly what you imagine a curry with African and Middle-Eastern influence would taste like.

Recipe

Takes a couple of hours, most of which is waiting for the beef to cook.

Serve with rice.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 garlic clovet minced
  • 1 pound beef stew meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 1/4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium beef broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper (about t medium)
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/3 cup apricot spread
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 cups cooked long-grain rice

Preparation

  1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well
  2. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
    Add oil; swirl to coat.
    Add spice mixture; cook 15 seconds, stirring constantly.
    Add onion; sauté 2 minutes.
    Add ginger, bay leaves, and garlic; sauté 15 seconds.
    Add beef; sauté 3 minutes.
    Add broth and next 5 ingredients (throughvinegar); bring to a boil.
    Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1.5 hours.
  3. Uncover; discard bay leaves, if desired.
    Simmer 30 minutes or until beefis very tender.
  4. Remove from heat; stir in buttermilk.

Serve over rice.

Serves 4 (serving size: 1.25 cups of beef mixture and 1/2 cup cooked rice)

  • calories 349;
  • fat 11.5 g;
  • protein 257g;
  • carb 353g;
  • cholesterol 71mg;
  • iron 43mg, sodium 396mg; calcium 77mg

Cucumber Mango Salad

Most of the salads I make are some sort of variations of things on top of lettuce. Not that I like lettuce much – it’s just that it doesn’t have many calories so it’s a good filler.

I did make a few salads that were not lettuce-based:

All of which more or less I liked.

Time for another one, a bit of a sweet version.

Cucumber Mango Salad

It’s an interesting balance and maybe more of an acquired taste. I didn’t love it and also didn’t hate it.

The onion and mango make for an interesting interplay, while the cooked tomato counters the freshness of the mango.

Recipe

It takes about 30-35 minutes to make, most of it waiting for cooked ingredients to cool down.

The ingredients below serve 6 assuming you serve it as a side to something. If by itself, I am not sure it works as the serving size is 2/3 cup - like who eats by the small measure?!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups thinly sliced English cucumber (about 1 cucumber)
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon peanut oil
  • 2 cups chopped seeded tomato (about 1 pound)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped seeded red jalapeöo pepper (about 1)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped seeded green jalapeöo pepper (about 1)
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • Dash of ground cinnamon
  • Dash of ground cloves
  • 1 3/4 cups diced peeled ripe mango (about 1)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Preparation

  1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a colander; toss gently. Let stand at least 20 minutes.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high head.
    Add oil to pan; swirl to coat.
    Add tomato and next 8 ingredients (through ground cloves) to pan;
    sauté 5 minutes or until tomato is tender.
    Remove from heat; cool to room temperature (about 20 minutes).
  3. Combine drained cucumber mixture, tomato mixture, and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl;
    toss gently to combine.

Serves 6 (serving size: 2/3 cup)

  • calories 95;
  • fat 349 (sat 0.5g, mono 1.5g, poly 1.1mg);
  • protein 28g;
  • carb 15.9g;
  • fiber 2.9g;
  • cholesterol 0mg;
  • iron 0.7mg; sodium 204mg; calcium 31mg

Shredded Beef with Root-beer Sandwiches

Short of regular sandwiches, this is quite possible the simplest recipe I can think of.

You take beef, rootbeer, and BBQ sauce and combine them in a slow cooker. Put on bread. Eat.

With that out of the way, the beef ends up quite tasty - even though I couldn’t really taste the rootbeer’s sarsaparilla, but it feels as if it requires more. I think something slightly acid makes a good side or additional topping; coleslaw probably works great, pickles do too - as long as they’re not too dill-y.

For my taste, I threw together some onion with salt and vinegar. Some of us added pickled banana peppers - those worked great too.

As far as the bread goes, I would (and did) use something other than regular hamburger buns. My local HEB bakery makes these great hamburger rolls - a bit larger and softer than regular burger buns and quite tasty too. While I love pretzel buns, I don’t think they would work. Garlic bread might. Sourdough definitely would.

The limited ingredients and ease of preparation makes this a great recipe for social gatherings; where burgers are appropriate, this is an upgrade.

Recipe

Pierce the raw meat a few times with a fork - it’ll help the juices go in.

Select a delicious root beer - preferably something craft that uses real sarsaparilla root. Do not use diet rootbeer

Ingredients

  • 3-4 lbs extra lean beef roast
  • 1 can or bottle of 12 oz root beer (get 2 - I’ll explain)
  • 1 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce (get a bottle of at least 16 oz)
  • 6-pack of hamburger buns (see above)

Preparation

The ingredients, as stated above are for a smaller 3.5–4 quart slow cooker. If you have a 6 quart one, you will need more liquid.

I would increase the quantity by 1.5x or maybe even 2x: instead of a can of rootbeer, use 2, instead of a 1.5 cups or BBQ sauce use 2 or even 2.5. Save some BBQ sauce for serving.

You want the meat completely covered in liquid, preferably with a bit on top to allow for evaporation.

  1. Puncture the beef with a fork.
    Lay in greased cooker.
    Mix rootbeer and BBQ sauce; add to cooker. Cook on slow for 8-10 hours.

When done, shred the beef with two forks - it’ll come apart really easy. Scoop on buns with BBQ sauce and some sort of side.

Serves 6.

  • calories: 690;
  • fat: 11g;
  • cholesterol: 202mg;
  • carbs: 68g;
  • sugar: 36g;
  • protein: 70g;
  • sodium: 2000mg; potassium: 2600mg;