Recipe Roundup: Closet Cooking Part 2

Closet Cooking has become one of my major go-to sites when it comes to online recipe resources. I’ve made so many different meals based on author Kevin Lynch’s site that I’m thinking about picking up one or many of his cookbooks. Here’s a few of the recipes I’ve attempted and what I thought about them. For a similar Closet Cooking Recipe Roundup post, click here!

Taco Stuffed Shells

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I’ve been a stuffed shells fan for years, but never really thought about separating that delivery system for fillings from the Italian ingredients I’m used to. I was pretty excited to give this new version of an old classic a shot and it turned out really well. But, I did discover that my mouth and brain kept getting confused BECAUSE I’m so used to these kinds of shells being stuffed with Mexican flavors instead of Italian ones. It was a strange experience because that almost never happens. My brain just couldn’t get past the shape and the presentation the first time around. Maybe I’ll be more ready for it next time, though.

Thai Peanut Chicken Noodle Soup

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Lynch’s Thai Peanut Chicken Noodle Soup is actually very similar to the Thai Chicken Soup I’ve made several times from The Ultimate Soup Bible. I’m becoming a huge fan of Thai flavors and figured this one was different enough to try. The major differences are that you cook the chicken in the boiling soup, add in sweet potato (I used by box grater to shred it up good), there’s more curry paste and I used less lime.  This actually combined for a similar, but different enough dish to add to the collection. Sometimes if I eat too much of the version from the Bible, my stomach gets a little topsy turvy, but that wasn’t the case with this one.

Cauliflower Pepperoni Pizza Casserole

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I’ve had this particular recipe saved in my Pocket for quite a while and finally gave it a shot last week. There’s a version on the site that uses pasta instead of cauliflower, but I was trying to go for a healthier version. The only ingredient change I made came about because I forgot to buy black olives, but otherwise, I put this together pretty much by the book and thought it was a great little dish that combined the greatness of cheese and pepperoni with cauliflower, which I assume is healthy. Plus, it’s super easy to put together. Next time I’d like to make it with homemade sauce and maybe a better pepperoni to see if that makes it even better.

Recipe Roundup: Smitten Kitchen

baked-pasta-with-broccoli-rabe-and-sausage2As I said in a recent post compiling various recently attempted recipes from the site Closet Cooking, I’ve tried a lot of recipes in the past several months and done very little posting, so it’s time to go through the images, write down my spotty memories and get these things out there into the internet where they will hopefully jog my memory later on and encourage other people to give them a try. This batch of three all come from the cooking site I’ve been following the longest: Smitten Kitchen!

Chicken Tacos

I’m always interested in checking out a new recipe for tacos and this certainly fit the bill. I don’t think I’d ever made chicken ones before and the flavor on these were pretty solid if memory serves. I especially like the way you cook the chicken which is fairly hands-off and super easy. Combine all ingredients in a pan and boil for a half hour. This gives you plenty of time to chop up the rest of your taco fixins. I don’t quite remember why I didn’t make the salsa fresca that’s also mentioned in the post. Instead I whipped up a crema (sour cream combined with avocado, salt, oil, onion and some green Tabasco). One of these days I’d like to give this one a shot with bone-in chicken because I understand there’s more flavor there.

Baked Pasta With Broccoli Rabe & Sausage

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Apparently I only snapped a few pictures when I tried out this recipe. I remember this being a pretty easy thing to put together and the results being a kind of sausage-y, rabe-y mac and cheese and there’s nothing wrong with that. Actually, seeing this recipe again makes me want to give it another try in the next few weeks.

Pasta With White Beans

While I only snapped two pictures of the previous meal, I can’t seem to find a single image from either of the two times I made Pasta with White Beans (I skipped the rosemary oil because my wife is not a fan of that particular herb). Another easy meal to put together thanks to all the food processing, I really enjoyed the flavors combined for this recipe, but will note that all those beans can lead to some evenings punctuated by the most musical of fruits.

Recipe Roundup: Closet Cooking Part 1

As any regular readers will know, it’s been a looooong time since I’ve posted here on Monkeying Around The Kitchen. Unfortunately, with work and all kinds of other things going one — raising our two year old and prepping for a new little baby — MATK can fall to the wayside. But, I’m still cooking almost every night which means I have a huge backlog of meals to talk about going back to last fall. So, in an effort to try and document the good recipes I’ve tried out in the last few months, I figured I’d implement a new kind of a post called Recipe Roundup that will gather a bunch of meals from different places, throw in a few pics and do my best to remember how they turned out.

Today’s subject is one of my favorite new cooking sites, Closet Cooking which is great because there’s tons of older recipes on there and the site gets updated constantly. I also appreciate that Kevin Lynch seems to be cooking in a kitchen even smaller than mine which is no small feat. So, without further ado, hit the jump to check out the first batch of CC recipes I’ve tried out in the past few months!  Continue reading

Cooking Nigella Lawson’s Beer-Braised Beef Casserole

A month or two back I sat down with my usual stack of cookbooks and wound up walking away with several recipes from Nigella Kitchen. I had about an equal number of hits as misses, but this one, more fully titled Carbonnade a la Flamand (a.k.a. Beer-Braised Beef Casserole, page 330) was a home run. This recipe is super easy to make, but you do need several hours for it to cook. Since I work from home, this wasn’t such a big deal, but if you’re working full time and like to cook, I’d recommend giving in a whirl on a nice fall or winter weekend.

You might be wondering about that first photo above. That’s molasses in some sugar because I realized just as I was about to make this dish that we didn’t have any brown sugar. I’ve since remedied this, but after looking up what brown sugar actually is (sugar mixed with molasses), I figured this would be a good workaround. I think it worked out pretty well.

Anyway, I wasn’t familiar with this recipe by name, but it’s pretty similar to others I’ve made. You start off by cooking bacon in your Dutch oven. When it’s done to the crispness of your liking — we like ours nice and crunchy — you then cook onions in the bacon fat. This infuses not only the pungent veggies, but the whole dish with a rich fatiness that plays well with the right ingredients. The beef and spices go into the pot after that followed by flour and then the beer and beef broth. I happened to have a Brooklyn Brewery sampler pack on hand, but I can’t tell exactly which kind I used because that pic is so blurry.

And then you just let it cook for three hours. The recipe suggests putting it in the oven, but I just let it simmer on the stove top and thought the results were delightful. The beef takes on a sweet, tangy quality that made this dish a delight both fresh and as leftover. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the entire opening story before this recipe because if I had, I would have noticed the part about serving this meal over egg noodles which would have really soaked everything up. I’m definitely keeping that in mind for a nice winter meal.

Cooking Giada De Laurentiis’ Tomato Vegetable Casserole

In addition to mixing up our protein intake when coming up with a weekly menu, I like to usually throw in a vegetarian meal. I came across Giada De Laurentiis’s Tomato Vegetable Casserole and liked it because it’s pretty simple but also involves one of my favorite aspects of cooking: prep. Since this recipe includes potato, yam, tomato, bell pepper, carrots, onion and zucchini, I got to spend a good deal of time with my knife and cutting board chopping veggies up into slices and tiny cubes.

Once you’ve got that done, you’re basically done making dinner. All you need to do then is arrange the veggies in the order suggested — like a lasagna — cover with bread crumbs (I had panko on hand) and pop into a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes. When your cook time is done you’re left with a sweet and somewhat tangy vegetable dish that balances the candylike yams with the  tomatoes. You could probably really mix things up when it comes to the actual vegetables included in this dish and I can only imagine how much better it would taste with super fresh ingredients all around. I’m looking forward to the farmer’s market kicking back up so I can try this with yams, carrots and potatoes fresh from the ground and maybe some heirloom tomatoes. Just thinking about that is making my mouth water.

Cooking Alton Brown’s Curry Chicken Pot Pie

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’ll write down the ingredients for a recipe without really processing them beyond the yes/no “do we have this in the house” stage. That was kind of the case when I decided to make Alton Brown’s recipe for Curry Chicken Pot Pie which I came across in Good Eats Volume 1 (page 380), but is also available on Food Network’s website. It’s not that there was anything wrong with this particular recipe, in fact the results were quite good, but I realized while thawing out both puff pastries and a vegetable medley that the intent for this dish probably wasn’t making from ingredients you purposefully bought for this dish, but instead of things you had around the house either partially or in full. Why else would a fresh food proponent like Brown suggest such a recipe?

Anyway, like I said, I still walked away with a wonderful dinner to feed my family, but I’m sure there was a fresher alternative — maybe that’s what his Chicken Biscuit Pot Pie is supposed to be, now that I think about it, there’s no reason you couldn’t throw some curry in that dish.

I followed the recipe as written, but also had to cook a few bone-in chicken breasts which made for a bit more work than I originally thought. Aside from that, though, this dish requires some prep and then lots of throwing the next batch of ingredients in the pot before putting everything in a baking dish, topping with puff pastry and cooking in the oven.

The curry really makes this dish something special, turing the pot pie-esque dish of poultry, veggies and gravy into something that feels a little exotic and deeper tasting.

Cooking Herbed Turkey And Wild Rice Casserole

Turkey and bacon make a great combination. Really, anything and bacon is super tasty, but these two proteins work especially well together. This idea was tested and proved once again when I made Herbed Turkey And Wild Rice Casserole from Betty Crocker’s Slow Cooker Cookbook  (p 120). This recipe isn’t as easy as some of the “throw everything in the slow cooker, flip the switched and wait, but it was definitely worth the effort.

First up, you cook the bacon. Instead of cooking the whole strips, I like to dice it up. Saves on time and effort down the line. While that cooked, I chopped up the turkey breasts, carrots and onions and also mixed together chicken broth and a can of condensed cream of chicken soup. I don’t usually use cream of anything soup, but I had already written down most of the ingredients on my list and was in it enough.

Once the bacon is removed, you through the turkey and veggies into the pan. When that’s done, the rice goes in the slow cooker bowl as do the cooked meat and vegetables. At this point you get to put the lid on and cook on low for six or seven hours.

This turned out to be a pretty enjoyable recipe thought brought a few things into our meals that we don’t usually eat: wild rice and turkey. Oh, also that soup. There’s got to be a good substitute for that, though right? Anyone have any suggestions?

Cooking Fantastic Taco Casserole

Last week wound up being super hot so I wanted to try and make dinners that wouldn’t heat up the house too much. I also decided to cook things at different times of the day than normal to try and avoid all that heat all at once. I stumbled across this recipe for Fantastic Taco Casserole on Food.com and while it still involved cooking with a 375 degree oven, it didn’t take too long. I also cooked the ground beef in the taco seasoning around noon while my daughter ate lunch. I just let it cool down and eventually popped it in the fridge and got it out later on when constructing the casserole.

The only big change I made to the recipe was using garbanzo beans instead of refried beans. I thought I had the latter in my pantry, but only had the former and decided to just go with it. How’d that work out? Gimme a paragraph and I’ll let you know.

So, you basically just put tortilla chips on the bottom of an oven safe bowl. You then mix the beans with half the cheese and a cup of salsa. Since I didn’t use refried, there was no cooking involved right there. Anyway, you basically just layer everything in the dish and then pop it in the oven. While that’s in there, I cut up the tomatoes and those went on top when it came out. Boom, you’re done. And you know what? It was great.

I loved how the chips got a little mushy and turned into an actual salty crust that I dug. Everything else is pure taco, but in a bowl and you don’t have to set up a whole huge spread just to make tacos. Don’t get me wrong, I like making tacos, but this is about a billion times earlier. Oh, and the garbanzo beans? I really liked them. My wife noted that using them actually kept the dish a little lighter than it would have been with the refried variety. I think she nailed it. While you get the added protein of a bean, it’s not the thick gooey kind you get with refried beans. And, hey, it only took a little bit of time and not a lot of heat, so I’m very cool with it.

Cooking Sausage & Egg Casserole

After my exploits with pierogies I was left with a pound of bacon and no real plans for it. On a trip to the grocery store after that I procured some sausage. I think I was going to do breakfast for dinner or something along those lines just simply making eggs with a side of bacon and sausage. However, after making Alton Brown’s Shepherd’s Pie I had an idea to make an egg casserole. I had eggs, sausage, cheese and vegetables so I actually combined two recipes, Alton’s and Robert Irvine’s Egg Casserole Recipe and wound up with something pretty tasty. My idea was to do a pretty simple egg casserole by cooking onions, carrots, peas and corn and then adding the de-cased sausage before tossing that into a baking dish, adding Irvine’s egg mixture and covering with cheese and bacon.

The first step involved cooking the bacon. I had heard about baking it in the oven instead of in a skillet or pan, so I found this recipe on About.com’s food section and went with that. I think it would have worked awesomely except I hadn’t completely defrosted the bacon and had to run hot water over it just to get the pieces separated. It was kind of a mess and cooked unevenly, but I’m guessing that’s all on me.

Anyway, after that, I got to cooking the onions and garlic then the carrots in olive oil. The Shepherd’s Pie recipe called to add frozen corn and peas after putting the mixture in the dish, but I tossed them in now so the flavors could mingle a little better. After that, I got the sausages out of their casings, mashed them up and cooked them with the vegetables. Once that was all done, I put the whole mixture in a baking dish.

For the eggs, I didn’t completely follow Irvine’s recipe because I didn’t have everything in the house. I just mixed five eggs in a bowl and added some milk, then added that to the baking dish. I had shredded some cheddar cheese and chopped up the good pieces of bacon and topped the meat, vegetable and eggs with that. The dish then went into the oven and cooked for 30 minutes or so.

I was pretty proud of whipping this together and having it come out pretty tasty. You can’t really go wrong with eggs, bacon, sausage and cheese in my opinion, especially all in one simple package, but actually combining two recipes and figuring everything out without explicit directions was nice, made me feel like I actually know what I’m doing in the kitchen.