Fast, Easy & Tasty Thanksgiving Side

We do both Thanksgiving and Christmas with family and friends at my place, every year. I’ve discovered over time that the best way for me (and everyone else) to enjoy the holidays is to minimize the fuss and thus, my stress level (fitting in a late morning yoga session is an extra bonus). For Thanksgiving that means making the cranberry sauce a few days early, making desserts the night before (pumpkin and apple pie and this year my Double Trouble Tart), making dressing in the crockpot to save room on the stove (delicious with a quick parmesan sprinkle and crisp in the oven just before serving), and asking others to bring the veggie sides.

But sometimes, someone forgets… or doesn’t make enough to serve the gathered hordes…. or has a side dish fail. For those moments or when looking for a tasty, healthy, ridiculously easy side I turn to green beans. Start to finish this recipe takes 15 minutes and can be made on the stove while the turkey rests.

Zesty Green Beans

Zesty Green Beans
Serves 10-12

2 lbs Green Beans
1 TBSP Olive Oil
5-6 cloves of garlic or 1 heaping TBSP if you’re using the minced garlic in jar
Juice of 1-2 Lemons (add one then taste before adding more)

  • Trim green beans and cut into bite-size pieces.
  • Add olive oil to large skillet and heat over medium-high heat (on a scale of 1-10, this is a 6).
  • When oil is hot but not smoking, add green beans and sauté for 6 minutes.
  • Add garlic and sauté for 4-5 more minutes until green beans are cooked but still crisp.
  • Splash in enough lemon juice so the green beans have a zing but aren’t saturated. Sauté additional minute.

That’s it. You’re done. Transfer into a serving dish and give thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

India and Spain Collide in this Ras Malai

 

At the end of 2008, Jim and I ventured to India to explore, eat and attend a wedding. 

Jim, who puts the P in picky eater, ate everything and LOVED IT!  (Except for the betel leave).  He managed, however, to completely avoid Indian desserts.

Back home Jim’s avoidance technique is foiled by the charming owner of our favorite Indian restaurant, who always brings us a complimentary dessert to sample after we’ve gorged ourselves on dal, jalfrezi and an assortment of curries.  The other week, on two separate occasions (once at the restaurant and once at a friend’s house) Jim was faced with his most dreaded Indian dessert – ras malai.  You see, he just can’t handle the texture of paneer. 

Liking the taste but not necessarily the texture of ras malai myself, Jim’s second encounter with the dreaded dessert started the wheels in my head turning.  How can you get the flavor of ras malai without the texture?

The substitute would have to be able to absorb the flavors of the ras malai sauce and not be too overpowering in its own right.  Hmmm . . . And then, the solution leaped into my mind, FLAN

So, yes, my spin on ras malai is an Indian/Spanish mash-up and against all odds it actually works!  Interested in trying it out for yourself?  Here’s how I did it:

First, the Flan

  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 6 large eggs (I like farm fresh eggs personally, they make a creamier custard)
  • 2 13 oz cans lowfat evaporated milk
  • 1 14 oz can regular sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 TBSP vanilla
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Pour the evaporated milk into a bowl and add the cinnamon stick.  You can proceed to the next step or put the evaporated milk/cinnamon stick combo in the fridge for a few hours to allow the milk to thoroughly soak up the cinnamon flavor. 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a largish bowl (if you have a mixing bowl with a pouring spout, that would be ideal), whisk together the 6 eggs.  Next slowly mix in the evaporated milk and condensed milk, sugar and then vanilla.  Blend until smooth.

Pour the mixture into 6-10 ramekins (number depends on size; for the size pictured here, you will need 10 to use all the custard mix). 

Place the ramekins into a large glass or ceramic baking dish and fill with 1-2 inches of hot water.  Place in the oven and bake for 50 minutes.  Check with a knife slightly off center, if it comes out clean, it’s time to take the ramekins out, cover them and pop them into the fridge for an hour.

Next, the Ras Malai Sauce

  • 3 c. whole milk
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 tsps cardamom powder
  • 1/2 c. thinly sliced pistachios for garnish (can also use slivers of dried fruit or almonds)

Pour the milk and 1/2 c. sugar into a saucepan and boil (stirring frequently) until the mixture is thickened and reduced 75%.  Remove from heat, add cardomom powder and mix well.

Remove flan from ramekins and place in a dish (I popped my flans out, by circling the edges of each ramekin with a plastic spatula).

Flan ready for the ras malai sauce

Pour the sauce over the flan, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

To serve, plate one flan in a bowl and cover with sauce.  Garnish with sliced pistachios and/or dried fruit.  Voila!

Do you have any foods you can’t eat because of the texture?  How do you work around it, or do you just avoid the foods altogether?

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Fast and Easy Weeknight Spaghetti

Fast and Easy Weeknight Spaghetti Sauce

While there’s nothing I like more than making a Bolognese sauce from scratch – except for cheese – I just don’t have the hours required for this endeavor during the week.  For instance, on Monday night I left work at 6:15 pm, headed to the computer store to see if they could fix or at least recover data from my laptop that committed hari kari last week, and painted two test patches on a wall upstairs to see if either would work for my home office (Medici Malachite I love you even if Jim doesn’t).  By 7:30 pm it was time to get dinner cooking and on the table. 

And that’s where Fast and Easy Weeknight Spaghetti comes in.  20 minutes from start to finish:

Fast and Easy Weeknight Spaghetti

Serves 4 people.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb extra lean ground beef (I use 96/4 from Trader Joe’s) or ground turkey;
  • 1/2 large onion diced (any onion will do but I like Walla Walla Sweets or Vidalia);
  • 1/2-1 TBSP garlic;
  • 1 standard size jar of tomato and basil marinara (I like Trader Joe’s organic tomato and basil marinara);
  • 1-2 tsp Oregano;
  • Pepper;
  • Fresh Basil;
  • Parmesan; and
  • 3/4 package dry Spaghetti or Vermicelli noodles (I like whole wheat spaghetti noodles).

Preparation

  • Place a large frying pan or skillet on the stove-top over medium heat;
  • Add ground beef or turkey, breaking into small pieces; 
  • Stir frequently; 
  • After 2 minutes of browning add onion.
  • Once meat is browned you can either drain the fat or if you are using very lean beef or turkey proceed to the next step;
  • Add 1/2 -1 TBSP garlic, Jim and I really like garlic so I add a full TBSP;
  • Add the entire jar of sauce;
  • Add pepper to taste;
  • Add 1-2 tsp Oregano (I use 2, but again this is a personal preference thing);
  • Stir;
  • Turn heat to simmer and cover sauce;
  • Bring water and a pinch of salt (I like Kosher or sea salt) to boil in a pasta pot or another pot deep enough to accommodate your spaghetti noodles;
  • When water is boiling, add spaghetti noodles and take cover off of sauce, if you like a thick sauce you can turn heat up to medium at this point;
  • Cook noodles for 7 minutes if you like them al dente, 8 if you like them more well done;
  • Drain noodles;
  • Dish up noodles, top with sauce and fresh basil and/or grated parmesan;
  • Serve and enjoy!

In the mood for a spicier spaghetti?  Use Newman’s Own Sockarooni sauce and add hot italian sausage to your ground beef.

In other news: I posted a new article on Examiner.com: 27 Restaurants in Seattle with Award Winning Wine Lists.  You can check it out here.

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A Few Favorite Fast, Healthy and Low-Cal Meals

Fast and Healthy Quesadilla

Fast and Healthy Quesadilla

While I love eating out, it’s a calorie minefield and requires more time then I often have.  So, I need a repertoire of super easy, fast, low-calorie meals that will keep me going and keep hunger at bay for at least 3-4 hours.

Two of my “go-to” meals are Easy Pasta with Tomatoes and Onions and Fast and Healthy Quesadilla.  Both dishes take under 15 minutes to prepare and are east enough for the cooking impaired.  Bonus, both are less than 400 calories, contain more protein than most protein bars and contain a decent amount of fiber to fill you up and keep you going. 

<h1>Easy Pasta with Tomatoes and Onions</h1> 

-1 c. whole wheat penne or spaghetti
-2 fresh tomatoes (3 if you use campari tomatoes), chopped
-1/2 onion, diced
-2 Tbsp parmesan cheese
-1 Tbsp minced or chopped garlic

Fill a medium size pot with water and bring to a boil. While waiting for your water to boil, dice your onion and chop your tomatoes.
When water comes to a boil, add whole wheat pasta. If you are using penne, boil for 9 minutes. If you are using spaghetti, boil for 8 minutes. Drain pasta once time has elapsed.
Once you add the pasta to cook, spray a medium skillet with any brand cooking spray (I use PAM) and heat over medium heat. Add onions to skillet and cook 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and garlic to skillet and cook until pasta is finished cooking.
Add drained pasta to skillet. Add parmesan cheese to skillet and stir parmesan cheese, pasta and tomato, garlic and onion mixture together.
Salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy.
Serves 1. Nutritional value is approximately: Calories: 380, Fat: 5.7 grams, Protein: 16.7 grams, Fiber: 9.6 grams.

<h1>Fast and Healthy Quesadilla</h1>

1 burrito size tortilla (I use Trader Joe’s Organic whole wheat and corn tortillas)
2 Tbsp Trader Joe’s Spicy Black Bean Dip (or an equivalent bean dip)
1/3 cup shredded Mexican Cheese
1/4 cup onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper cut into strips (I used green, but red or yellow would work too)
Cooking Spray
Optional: Tomatoes, chopped and/or salsa

Spray bottoms of small and medium skillet with cooking spray and place both on medium heat.
Dice onion and slice bell pepper and add to small skillet. Saute until onions are brown (cook longer if you do not want crunchy bell peppers).
Add tortilla to medium skillet and spread black bean dip on tortilla. Sprinkle cheese on top of black bean dip. Cook until cheese is melted and tortilla is crispy (about 4 minutes). Add bell peppers and onions to tortilla, cheese and black beans and remove from skillet. If you like, add tomatoes and/or salsa (I was out of both when I made this). Fold tortilla in half. Serve and enjoy!

Serves 1. Without tomatoes and/or salsa, nutritional value is approximately: Calories: 287, Fat: 11.1 grams, Protein: 12.8 grams, Fiber 7 grams.