Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mushroomy Meat Sauce atop Roasted Eggplant with Spicy Cottage Cheese Puree

Mission empty the fridge/freezer/pantry continues, and it's got my creative juices flowing.

I also may be slightly obsessed with pureeing cottage cheese.  But, hey, there are worse obsessions.  

As are the rules of the emptying the kitchen game, last night's creation was constructed only of ingredients I already had.  If I were to make this same sort of thing some other time, I would likely modify a few things: add garlic cloves, use crushed tomatoes instead of jarred sauce (and then add more of my own seasonings), make the cottage cheese puree with roasted garlic, maybe add some fresh basil...  I'm going to write down the ingredients for what I actually did, which turned out great, but you might want to keep these modification ideas in mind. 

This'll make about four servings.

What you need:

Mushroomy Meat Sauce:
1 pound lean ground beef (I used 96/4... if you can't find that, just make sure to drain out the grease after browning)
1 medium onion, chopped
8 ounces cremini or baby bella mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup red wine
1 1/2 cup pasta sauce, no sugar added if possible (I used arrabiata)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (or your own mixture of dried oregano, basil, thyme)
salt and black pepper

Spicy Cottage Cheese Puree:
1 1/2 cups low fat cottage cheese
2 tablespoons pickled hot crushed peppers*
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

*If you don't have hot pickled crushed peppers, you could sub a bit (definitely not 2 tablespoons) red pepper flakes and a splash of vinegar.  Or use chili-garlic sauce.  

Roasted eggplant:
Olive or coconut oil spray
2 medium eggplants, cut into 1/2-3/4 inch thick rounds
salt and pepper

Start by making the sauce:  Brown the ground beef in a large saucepan or pot over medium-high heat.  Drain if necessary.  Add the onions and mushrooms.  Saute for a 3-4 minutes.  Add the red wine and scrape up anything that was sticking to the bottom.  Add the pasta sauce, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning.  Stir, bring to a boil, and then reduce to low heat.  Cover.  Let simmer for AT LEAST 30 minutes, and up to an hour or so.  If sauce is too watery, remove cover to let it reduce.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Make the cottage cheese puree:  Add all ingredients to a small blender or a food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down and stirring as necessary.  You may need to add a small splash of water to get things going, depending on the power of your blender.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Roast the eggplant:  Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a baking sheet with olive or coconut oil spray.  Arrange eggplant rounds on the sheet so that they are not overlapping (touching is fine).  Lightly spray the tops with oil.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Roast for 30 minutes, or until eggplant is lightly browned and soft.  

To serve:  Arrange a few slices of eggplant on plate, top with meat sauce, and drizzle the cottage cheese puree over the top.  Enjoy!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Blueberry Salsa with Cilantro and Jalapeno

We've got just a few days left here in Florida, and I'm still trying to empty out my fridge/freezer and resist buying anything new from the store.  And there was a bag of frozen blueberries that I bought for smoothies, but I'm a creature of habit and always go for the frozen banana instead.  I already knew I was making fish for dinner, and figured a blueberry salsa would go nicely.  Whipped this up real quick with a few other pantry staples.

As mentioned, I used frozen blueberries, and I think these would be preferable to fresh because they get all juicy when they thaw.  However, fresh would still work, you just might want to do a little extra muddling and maybe cut in half if you have larger berries.  You could also try cooking fresh berries for 10 minutes or so on the stove to break them down a little more.

I also really wanted to use lime or lemon juice in this, but didn't have any.  So I made do with a little rice vinegar, and I think it turned out great. If you have lime or lemon juice, though, you might want to give that a try!

I served this on top of broiled flounder fillets seasoned with salt, pepper, and cumin.  Thought about adding cumin to the salsa as well, but went with it just on the fish.  If I were serving this with something like plain chips, I'd probably add the cumin to the salsa to boost the flavor.

What you need:

1 1/2-2 cups frozen blueberries, thawed (I recommend Trader Joe's wild Boreal blueberries... they are so much better than any other frozen blueberries I've ever bought!)

1/2 cup packed chopped cilantro, thickest stem end removed

2 jalapenos, diced, seeds and pith removed

2-3 tablespoons diced onion

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

salt and pepper to taste (I probably added somewhere around 1/2 teaspoon of each)

Simply mix all ingredients together, mashing lightly to help the blueberries break down a little.  Let sit for at least 30 minutes, and preferably for a couple hours, before serving to allow flavors to meld.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Spinach, Tomato, and Jalapeno Curry with Broiled Salmon and Dill-Cottage Cheese Puree

We've got a week left in Florida, so I'm starting to rummage through the groceries I've bought and get things used up.  It's a fun little game of piecing together different ingredients so I can avoid buying anything new.  I get to play pretty often due to our nomadic lifestyle.  This is last night's outcome.  It's great for anyone else who doesn't feel like going to the store, too, as it primarily uses pantry staples.  

If you're looking at the title and thinking "cottage cheese puree... umm, ewww...", just trust me on this one.  Cottage cheese actually makes awesomely creamy and super healthy sauces.  You can also make dips for veggies out of it.  It's the same idea as substituting Greek yogurt to make creamy dressing or sauce, but minus the tangy flavor.  Sometimes I use Greek yogurt for such things, sometimes I use cottage cheese.  Actually, more specifically, I use Greek yogurt for such things when I'm lazy and cottage cheese when I want my husband to like it better.  Or when I'm trying not to go to the store and we only have cottage cheese and no Greek yogurt.  I made the sauce for the salmon, but ended up using a little on the veggies too, just because.  

This whole dinner takes less than an hour from start to finish, and part of that time in just the curry simmering on the stove sans (much) supervision.   This makes enough for 3-4 servings, depending on your appetite and whether or not you choose to make some sort of grain to round things out.

What you need:

1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
~10 garlic cloves, roughly chopped (or less if you're not a garlic fiend)
2 jalapenos, seeds and pith removed, sliced
10 ounces frozen spinach
1 14 ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes 
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1/2 cup water or broth of choice
1 teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste

16 ounce fillet salmon (I used Coho, Sockeye would also be delicious)
1 teaspoon coconut oil
Salt and pepper

Dill-Cottage Cheese Puree:

1 cup low fat cottage cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
~1/2 cup packed fresh dill OR 2 tablespoons dried dill (or basically to taste, but that is roughly what I used)


Start by heating the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno.  Saute for a few minutes, or until they are lightly browned.  Add the spinach, tomatoes, bay leaves, coriander, and black pepper.  Stir around for another minute or two, until the spinach is thawed.  Add 1/2 cup water or broth reduce heat to medium.  Cover partially and let simmer for 30 minutes (or if you don't have a cover, just add a little more water if things start sticking).  Season with salt to taste.


After the curry has been simmering for about 15 minutes, preheat oven to a high broil. Grease a baking sheet with coconut oil.  Place salmon on the baking sheet.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Broil for 10-15 minutes, or until salmon is cooked through.  Time will vary depending on how thick your salmon is and how hot your broiler gets, but you can test it by seeing if it flakes easily in the thickest part of the fish.  If you have a large piece of salmon, you may want to cut in half before cooking so that the thinner edges do not overcook.

Dill-Cottage Cheese Puree:

While the salmon is in the oven, make the puree.  Simply add all puree ingredients to a food processor or blend and blend until smooth.  If your blender is struggling, add a little water and a pinch of salt to get things going (the salt is so that the water doesn't make it too watery tasting).

And enjoy!