Nacho Sauce

Years ago some Vermont friends made this wonderfully filling and surprisingly healthful spin on nacho sauce for us. We've been hooked ever since. The cheese-laden original (3 or 4 cups Cabot Extra Sharp!) is still a favorite, but a few years ago I adapted the recipe to accommodate our less dairy-centric diet.

Nacho Sauce
adapted from Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook, New Revised Edition
serves 4 to 6

2 T olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
cayenne pepper, to taste (or a fresh jalapeno if you prefer)
1 large bell pepper, diced
1 or 2 tomatoes, diced (fresh or canned)
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 cup corn (I almost always have frozen on hand, but fresh or canned work just as well)
1, 16 oz. can refried beans
6 oz. beer
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 cups brown rice
1, 15 oz. can black beans, drained

Place rice and three cups of water in a medium saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil. Once the rice is boiling, turn heat down to low and cook, covered, for 45 minutes.

While rice is cooking, heat oil in a medium-sized, thick-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add onion and salt and saute 5 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, bell pepper, and tomatoes and stir well. Lower heat to medium low, cover pot and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the sauce begins to stick, turn heat down a bit and stir more frequently.

After 25 minutes the vegetables should be very tender and bubbling contentedly in their juices. Add the garlic, corn, and refried beans. Stirring well at this stage will remove most of the lumps of refrieds. Add the beer (and drink up those remaining 6 ounces, if you haven't already done so) and stir well. Cook over medium low heat until the sauce bubbles. Remove from heat, carefully stir in the cheese, and set aside for just a moment while you turn your attention back to the rice.

The rice should be done at this point, so turn off the heat, uncover, and stir in the drained black beans.

To serve, spoon rice and bean mixture onto a pasta plate and ladle nacho sauce over the top. Scoop it up with your favorite tortilla chips and wash it down with an ice-cold bottle of beer.

Turkey Bundles

Everyone has a favorite recipe for leftover Thanksgiving turkey. As a kid, this was mine. Mom also made these at other times of the year, usually with chicken.

Turkey Bundles
serves 4

2 packages refrigerated crescent rolls (a total of 16 crescent rolls)
2-3 cups diced, leftover turkey
1/2 c minced sweet onion
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix turkey, onion, cream cheese, salt and pepper in large bowl. Divide mixture into 8 reasonably equal parts.

Remove crescent rolls from packaging. Pinch together two of the triangles to form a rectangle. Spoon 1 part of turkey mix into the center of the dough and gather the four corners on top of the spoonful of turkey. Pinch together the four seams to form a bundle and place on baking sheet. Repeat for the remaining 7 bundles.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until crisp and golden on the outside.

Kale, Garlic & White Beans

If you don't like greens, try them this way. They might surprise you.

2 bunches kale, any type, carefully washed
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 T olive oil
1, 14 oz. can small white beans, drained and rinsed

Remove the stems from the kale and coarsely chop. Saute garlic in olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet with high sides (I use my dutch oven) and add the kale and salt to taste. Stir well to ensure the garlic doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.

After the kale has wilted, turn heat down and add a bit of water if necessary. Cover and let steam for 10-20 minutes depending on type of kale. I used Lacinato kale tonight and it takes longer to cook than most other varieties. Add small amounts of water if necessary so kale doesn't stick to pan.

Add the beans, stir, cover, and heat until beans are warm. Serve immediately.

Mashed sweet potatoes and multi-grain bread make excellent side dishes.

Chickpeas & Rice

It's been a long time, and who knows when I might post another simple supper, but this is one of my favorites, a vegan variation on Jeanne Lemlin's Rice with Chickpeas, Herbs, and Sun-dried Tomatoes (Quick Vegetarian Pleasures).

It has 4 ingredients--
rice, chickpeas, parsley, and sundried tomatoes--but it tastes way more sophisticated than that.

1/2 cup dried tomatoes
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, washed, stems removed, and leaves minced
1, 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 1/2 to 3 cups cooked brown rice rice, cooled
olive oil
salt & pepper

Soak the tomatoes in approx. 1/2 cup of boiling water. While tomatoes are soaking, prepare the chickpeas and parsley and set aside. When tomatoes are softened, drain, reserving water, and chop.

Heat enough olive oil to cover bottom of non-stick skillet. When oil is heated, add chickpeas, parsley, and tomatoes,
sauteing for a few minutes.

Add rice, reserved water from soaking tomatoes, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir well and heat over medium heat until rice is hot, 8-10 minutes, then enjoy with your favorite steamed vegetable.

Groundnut Stew

A variation on groundnut stew—because we bought a pound of fresh spinach at Costco and I'm putting it in everything.

Groundnut Stew
serves 4-6

1 1/2 cups brown rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 medium sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and diced
1, 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 quart vegetable or chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1 cup pre-cooked chicken, diced (optional)
1/2-3/4 cup peanut butter
salt, to taste
6 ounces fresh baby spinach

Bring rice and 2 1/4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan covered with tight fitting lid. Once the water boils, reduce heat to low and cook, without lifting lid, for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, turn off heat and let rice sit until ready to use.

While rice is cooking, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pan. Add onions and saute until onions begin to turn translucent. Add nutmeg, chili powder, and cayenne and continue to saute. Add sweet potatoes and stir to coat thoroughly with spices and onions. Stir in tomatoes, broth, garlic, and chili garlic sauce. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are tender. Stir in chicken (if using). Once the chicken is hot (about 5 minutes), stir in the peanut butter. This will thicken the stew. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

To serve, place a scoop of rice in the bottom of a bowl. Cover rice with 1 ounce spinach and ladle the stew on top.

Note: This is another completely adjustable dish. So you don't want to deal with rice or spinach tonight? Just ladle the soup into a bowl and dig in. No pre-cooked chicken in your house? Leave it out and go vegan. Add more veggies (pimento, red pepper, cabbage, carrot). Or substitute chopped peanuts for the peanut butter (in which case, you'll likely want to puree some of the soup to thicken it).

Broccoli Soup

As with all meals that begin with, "What can I make with ____," the measurements below are approximate, and infinitely substitutable. This soup can be vegan, vegetarian (with the addition of some Parmesan or cheddar cheese), or it can make a bacon lover happy. You choose. (I happen to like bacon.)

Creamless Cream of Broccoli Soup
serves 3-4

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 pound broccoli crowns, diced
1 fist-sized potato, diced
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
6 ounces bacon, diced (optional)

Fry bacon in skillet over medium heat until crispy. Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towel covered plate. Set aside.

While the bacon is cooking, heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and saute until onion turns translucent, 5-8 minutes. Add diced broccoli and potatoes, stir to thoroughly coat with oil and mix in onions, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Broccoli will begin to turn bright green. Stir in broth, garlic, and salt. Partially cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until broccoli and potatoes are tender, 10-15 minutes.

When vegetables are tender, use a blender to puree soup. Return soup to pot add pepper. Taste to correct seasoning and reheat if necessary. Serve immediately with bacon (or cheese) sprinkled on top.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Your eyes are not deceiving you--we eat Tuna Noodle Casserole, and we like it. In fact, Flip actually asks for this dish if I haven't made it in awhile. It doesn't quite fit in the "simple" category, but if you've got the time, it makes a satisfying winter meal.

Tuna Noodle Casserole
adapted from The New Best Recipe from the editors of Cook's Illustrated
serves 6-8

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, minced
8-ounce package sliced mushrooms, diced
2 tablespoons, margarine or butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken stock, warmed
salt and pepper to taste
pinch thyme
1 1/2 tablespoons dried parsley, or 1/4 cup fresh, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
10-12 ounces pasta (I'm partial to those tiny shells, but I use whatever I have in the pantry)
1/2 pound frozen peas
2, 7-ounce foil pouches tuna, packed in water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook pasta according to package directions, adding the frozen peas for the last 5 minutes of cooking time. Drain pasta and peas thoroughly, then place in a large baking dish and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet (non-stick is great if you have it) over medium heat. When oil is hot, saute onions, stirring occasionally, until they being to soften, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms have released their juices and are beginning to brown, 5-8 minutes longer.

When the mushrooms are cooked, melt the margarine in the skillet. When melted, whisk the flour into the onion mix and whisk continuously until the flour turns golden, 1-2 minutes. Continue whisking constantly while gradually add the chicken stock. After all the stock is incorporated, cook until the mixture thickens, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in salt (try a 1/2 teaspoon to begin with and add more if needed), pepper, thyme, parsley, lemon juice, and tuna. 

Pour sauce over pasta and peas. Stir until pasta is completely coated. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.