Broccoli and Cheese Baked Potatoes

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Broccoli Cheese Potato
I’ve been working on this one for awhile, and I’m happy to say I’ve got it right where I want it. As someone who doesn’t often eat meat, broccoli-cheddar potatoes are one of my go-to dishes (particularly in jacket potato-loving Great Britain). It always seems to be missing something, though, so to make it a full meal, I’ve added black lentils and I’ve perfected the cheese sauce.  Mmm.

The cooking time looks daunting, but that’s really just waiting for the potatoes to bake.

[Prep: 5min / Cook: 1hr]

Ingredients

– 2 baking potatoes
– 1 broccoli crown (or 220g pack of tenderstem)
– 3.5oz (100g) Red Leicester or sharp cheddar cheese
– 3.5oz (100g) Emmental or Swiss cheese
– 1Tbsp butter
– 1 Tbsp flour
– 1/4 cup milk
– 1 tsp yellow mustard
– dash of paprika
– about 1/2 cup (or 125g) pre-cooked black Beluga or Puy lentils
– salt
– more butter

Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/175C and bake the potatoes for 45min – 1hr (see: Perfect Potatoes).
  2. When the potatoes are nearly done, chop the broccoli into bite-sized pieces and coarse-grate both cheeses.
  3. Whisk together the butter and flour in a saucepan over low heat (essentially making a Roux). Then, whisk in the milk, cheese, mustard and a dash of paprika. Stir softly until melted through. Be patient, melted cheese likes low, slow heat.
  4. When the cheese is nearly finished, stir in the lentils and pop the broccoli in the microwave on high for about 2 minutes (stirring around halfway through).
  5. When all is ready, carve open the potatoes, mixing in some salt and butter. Add the broccoli on top and then pour over with the cheese and lentil mixture. Ready to eat!

[Serves 2]

Broccoli Cheese Potato

Notes

  • It’s all about the cheese melting method in this one, so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t turn out perfect the first time and definitely try mixing up your own mixtures and types of cheese.
  • Actually, one of the only differences between this cheese sauce and fondue cheese is that fondue typically has wine or beer added between the Roux and the cheese. I wanted my cheese sauce to be thicker, so I left that out and went light on the liquid in general, but obviously fondue sauce would be awesome here too.
  • I highly encourage you to take the 5 extra minutes to grate fresh cheese instead of buying pre-shredded. You can get better/finer cheese and most importantly, pre-shredded cheese often has preservatives in it that hinder the melting. Besides, it’s the only prep-work this recipe has …
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Triple Cheese Tuna Melt

Despite a predominately non-meat diet, I do try to eat fish when I can. Something about Omega-3 fish oils in things like salmon and tuna and mackerel being good for you …

Anyway, this is a recipe originally from Jorge Cruise’s 3-Hour Diet Cookbook – that was one of my first cookbooks and one that I’ve always been a fan of because, being a diet cookbook, the recipes are all quite simple. Of course, I perfected the art of un-healthifying his recipes, which is how my take on his tuna melt came to be …

Triple_cheese_tuna_melt2

[Prep: 10min / Cook: 15min-ish]

Ingredients:

– 1 can of tuna
– 1/2 cup of cottage cheese
– 1/4 cup of mayonnaise
– 2-3 normal sized pickles or 2 spears
– 1/2 a red onion
– salt and pepper
– sliced swiss cheese
– lots of shredded cheddar
– bread/toast/bun of choice

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to about 350f/175c.
  2. In a bowl, combine the tuna, cottage cheese and mayonnaise.
  3. Dice the pickles and onion and mix them into the tuna mixture with a dash of salt and pepper.
  4. Lay two slices of bread out on a cookie sheet, layer a couple slices of swiss on top and divide the tuna mixture across it. (There may be extra … it depends how thick you like your tuna melt.) Top with the cheddar and put in the oven for a few minutes along with the remaining slices of bread on the side.
  5. Once the cheese starts to melt (about 5-10min), squish the remaining slices on top and bake for about 5 more minutes until it’s nice and toasty.

[Serves 2 sandwiches]

Triple_cheese_tuna_melt1Notes:

  • I make this in the oven (obviously). Unless you make this super thin (which I do not like to do), this sandwich is not very conducive to being grilled and flipped. A sandwich press would be the best and most efficient way to make this, but I haven’t owned one in quite some time, so the oven method works for me.
  • Worth noting is that the original recipe was for an open-faced sandwich – which is how I prepared it for a long time. Personally, this is a lunch food for me and I just find it easier to take to work in normal sandwich form. However, if you go open-faced, stick with 4 slices of bread, but divide the tuna and cheese across all 4 evenly.

Variations:

  • The original recipe also had a lot more in it – like chopped celery and shredded carrots. That was really good and can bump this sandwich up into a meal of its own. Really the only reason I don’t prepare it that way anymore is because I don’t feel like chopping and shredding any more than I have to.
  • As we probably all know, traditional tuna melts can come with all sorts of things in them. A slice of tomato, a bit of lettuce, some avocado … Have a ball. You just might want to be conscious of whether you want your additional toppings toasted in the sandwich, or added separately in the end before you top it off with the bread.
  • Ricotta can be used instead of cottage cheese if you prefer. You can also play with other cheeses and combinations, like mozzarella, Parmesan, etc.
  • Finally, as a little secret, I like to make this with really nice artisan bread. Particularly bread with olives baked into it (pictured). It just raises the game on what is traditionally a very basic sandwich.
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Parmesan-Crusted Butternut Squash

This is a really simple side-dish that comes across as a lot more fancy that it is. Get your hands on pre-diced squash and fresh grated Parmesan and you can cut the prep time to practically nothing.

Parmesan-Crusted Butternut Squash[Prep: 10min / Cook: 25min]

Ingredients

– 1 butternut squash
– 1/2 cup of fresh Parmesan cheese (after grated)
– 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
– hefty dash of dried rosemary
– (smaller dash) garlic powder
– salt & pepper

Steps

  1. Carefully slice, peel and chop the squash into cubes.
  2. Microwave on high for 10min.
  3. Meanwhile, grate the Parmesan and mix with the breadcrumbs, rosemary, garlic, salt & pepper.
  4. Transfer the squash to a baking dish and sprinkle with about 3/4 of the breadcrumb mixture. Mix throughout and then top with the remaining mixture.
  5. Bake at 425F/220C for 15min until golden brown.

[Serves 4 sides]

Variations

Did you know, if you wanted to be crazy-healthy, you could ground up almonds in a blender and substitute them for the breadcrumbs? I have no interest in being crazy-healthy but I just saw this in a magazine and it seemed intriguing. If you have a lot of almonds, of course.

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Orecchiette Napolitana

Orecchiette Napolitana

[Prep: <5 min / Cook: 20min]

Ingredients

– orecchiette (ear) or conchiglie (shell) pasta
– 1 – 2 cups fresh spinach* (1/2 cup frozen chopped)
– 2 cloves of garlic
– 1/2 onion
– 1 8oz can tomato sauce
– dash of crushed red pepper flakes
– salt & pepper
– breadcrumbs
– rosemary
– grated Parmesan
– olive oil

 

Steps

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Add the spinach during the last minute or two.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the onion and the garlic and heat in a large skillet over medium heat.
  3. Once the onions start to soften (2-3 minutes), add the tomatoes, pepper flakes, salt & pepper.
  4. When the sauce starts to bubble and the pasta is finished, drain the pasta and mix in the sauce.
  5. Top with breadcrumbs, rosemary and grated Parmesan.

[Serves 2]

Notes

  • *If using frozen spinach, de-frost the spinach in the pan first before you add the onions and garlic.
  • I derived this recipe from a basic orecchiette rapini recipe, which is often served with sausage. If adding sausage, use hot italian sausage and remove the casings before adding it to the sauce.
  • Also, the traditional dish uses broccoli rabe/rapini (which looks eerily like kailan) rather than spinach, but I find spinach a much more close-at-hand alternative.
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Vegetarian Chili

Like any good Texan, I love a good chili and it’s one of the dishes I miss most since going veggie. It’s hard to vegetarianize a dish that gets so much of its flavor from stewing meat into a sauce, but this version I like for the vegetarian style that it is. It’s overflowing with vegetables and makes a tasty, healthier alternative to the traditional southern dish.

*Update* I recently made this dish for my mom and when the grocery store didn’t have any chilies in stock (I KNOW!!) I substituted chipotle chili paste with amazing results. The chipotles brought a great smokey flavor to it, so I have tweaked the recipe accordingly.

vegetarian chili

[Prep: 10min / Cook: 30min]

Ingredients

– 1 onion
– 1 red chili
– 1 chipotle pepper (or 1 tsp chipotle paste)
– 3 garlic cloves
– knob of fresh ginger
– 1 carrot
– 1 red pepper
– 2-3 celery stalks
– ground cumin
– ground coriander
– chili flakes
– chili powder
– salt & pepper
– 400g (14oz) can of chopped tomatoes
– 400g (14 oz) can of red beans
– 1 cup vegetable stock
– fresh coriander/cilantro

 
Steps
  1. Chop the onion, chili, chipotle and garlic. Heat with plenty of olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Peel the ginger and then grate it directly into the pot so all the lovely ginger juice will drip into the pot.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the carrot, pepper and celery. Add to the pot once the onions start to get nicely golden and a little soft (about 3min). Season with a hefty dash of each of the spices and cook for 5 minutes more.
  3. Add the tomatoes, beans and stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer with the lid on for about 20 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Top with chopped cilantro to serve.

[Serves 2 and then some]

 
Notes
  • Of course, you can turn up and down the heat of the chili to suit your taste by altering the amount of fresh chili(s) and spices you use.
  • Want more protein? Throw in some black lentils to ‘beef’ it up a bit (I’m a fan of the pre-packaged, pre-cooked Beluga ones).
  • This is the ‘fast’ version of this chili and like many stew-like foods, the flavors in this get better with time. If you have the time, it’s worth turning the heat down low and letting the chili cook on the stove for a full hour or two, like a soup. Alternatively, the flavors also amplify well after sitting in the fridge over night …
  • You can also achieve the slow-cooked flavor by actually cooking it in a slow cooker. Follow steps 1&2 on the stovetop as above, but then move all ingredients to a slow cooker for 2-4 hours to finish it off.
Suggested Sides
  • I like to make a very simple side dish of cottage cheese mixed with chopped cucumber and topped with coarse ground pepper to go with this to offset the heat.
  • With all it’s vegetables, this chili is best eaten out of a bowl with a nice slice of bread or a roll on the side to soak up some of the sauce.
  • Of course, no one is going to stop you from plopping it on a baked potato either.
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