Weekly Winner:  Sometimes the best plan is no plan at all … And bacon cheese!

As my lack of entries indicate, it has been a crazy couple of weeks around here…. Work, house guests, burst pipes, new carpeting, travel….so my recipe experimentation has been relatively nonexistent. Hopefully I’ll be able to remedy that in the coming weeks but for now this is definitely the best thing I’ve made in a while.

Heading to the Green City Market this morning I had no idea what I was looking for.  I found myself in the unusual situation of only having to buy for myself and hubby and today’s lunch was all I had in mind.  But what to make?  I’m sure I have a ton of new salad recipes I’ve been meaning to try, and there’s always my famous (to us anyway) farmer’s market pizza but to be honest, I wasn’t going to have the time.  I needed to find something that could be put together quickly but obviously, it had to be tasty.

If I can just say…I outdid myself!  I thought at first I would just cobble together a salad from all the various fabulous veggies I knew would be waiting for me. But then again, there’s Bennison’s bakery which always has incredible bread.  And cheese…there’s always amazing cheese to be found there as well.  Voila!  A Veggie Sandwich!  This was great, or as hubby said “This is stupidly good”.  I’ll take that any day of the week!  Sometimes you just got to wing it.

So while there’s really no recipe for this, everything on this sandwich came from the market this morning with the exception of a gala apple that I had on hand and some Gulden’s Mustard.  So here it goes:

Donna’s Green City Market Sandwich

Serves 2

Take 2 mini ciabatta loaves and slice in half lengthwise.  Generously spread bottom halves with Bacon Cheddar Cold Pack Cheese from Brunkhow Cheese .  On top of that place gala apple thinly sliced, half a cucumber thinly sliced, one sliced heirloom tomato, red leaf lettuce and thinly sliced red onion.  Salt and pepper each sandwich.  Spread a thin layer of Gulden’s mustard on top half of bread, place on top of the glorious veggies and squish down firmly.  Cut each sandwich in half and enjoy!

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Weekly Winner: My new-found meatloaf fixation turns south…. Of the border, that is.

As this will be my fourth meatloaf entry, I guess it’s safe to say that I am no longer ambivalent about meatloaf.  I now seem to always be on the lookout for an interesting take on the everyday “loaf of meat”. This latest discovery had two major points in its favor.  One, my husband was born in Albuquerque and has a deep and abiding love of chile peppers, so when I saw that this had poblano peppers in it — score one for the meatloaf.  Then, there is the Queso Gravy. Excuse me??? Cheese Gravy????  Game, set and match – meatloaf!

South-of-the-Border Meatloaf with Lime Queso Gravy was an absolute triumph.  The meatloaf itself was great, but then you add the queso gravy and … Um, yeah…. Home run.  Another great thing about the recipe is that it is designed to make individual “mini” meatloaves.  There is something supremely satisfying about sitting down to your own meatloaf.  No sharing!  Not that you can’t turn any meatloaf recipe into individual mini-meatloaves (trust me, I have!) but it’s just nice that they start out this way so there’s no tinkering with timing or oven temperature.

If there is a problem with this recipe, it’s that I have no idea where this one came from.  I can’t seem to find the source anywhere.  Regardless, it’s a keeper!  Did I mention the cheese gravy??  I mean, seriously!!

South-of-the-Border Meatloaf with Lime Queso Gravy

Serves 6

Ingredients:

2-3/4 cups whole milk, divided

2 eggs

1 Tbsp kosher salt

1 Tbsp chili powder

2 tsp each black pepper and dried oregano

2 tsp each ground cumin and ground coriander

3 slices white sandwich bread, torn

1 cup diced white onions

1 cup diced poblano chiles

2 large cloves garlic

1 lb ground chuck

1 lb ground pork

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 Tbsp flour

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1 Tbsp fresh lime juice

Minced zest of 1/2 lime

Salt and cayenne pepper to taste

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with foil
  2. Whisk together 3/4 cup milk, eggs, 1 Tbsp salt, chili powder, black pepper, oregano, cumin and coriander.  Add bread and mash together with a fork.
  3. Mince onions, poblano and garlic in a food processor
  4. Combine ground chuck, ground pork, minced onion mixture, and bread mixture.
  5. Divide meatloaf mixture into six equal portions, shape into mini loaves, and arrange on prepared baking sheet.  Cook meatloaves until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the centers registers 165F, about 35 minutes.  Let meatloaf rest about 10 minutes while making gravy.
  6. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in flour; cook 2 minutes.
  7. Slowly whisk in 2 cups milk until smooth.  Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.
  8. Off heat, whisk in cheese, lime juice, and zest until cheese melts; season with salt and cayenne.

Weekly Winner:  Cheese! Beer! Soup!

 What’s better than soup on a chilly night?  Cheesy Soup.  And what makes cheese soup even better?  Well yes, bacon would definitely make it better but that’s a different recipe.  This time, it’s Beer!

I pulled this recipe back in the depths of winter, certain that it would get made within a week or so.  Well, life got in the way and it got tucked away – that is until a few days ago.  It was a typical chilly early spring night and the perfect time to pull this out and give it a try.  I knew we’d like it…seriously, what’s not to like?  Lots of cheese (including one of my personal favorites, smoked Gouda), beer….and a pretzel garnish.  As with many of the great recipes, this one wound up far greater than the sum of its parts.  Tasty parts for sure, but the finished product was down right decadent and luscious.  And very, very cheesy.

I’m not certain, but I think that I got this recipe from Cuisine at Home.  Regardless of where it comes from it has found a permanent home in my Soup recipe file.

Smoky Three-Cheese & Beer Soup

Makes about 8 cups

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 cup minced onions

1/2 cup minced carrot

1/2 cup minced celery

1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups whole milk

1 bottle lager beer

14 oz sharp white Cheddar, shredded

8 oz smoked Gouda cheese, shredded

1 Tbsp cornstarch

2 oz cream cheese, cubed and softened

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/8 tsp smoked paprika

salt, black pepper, and Tabasco sauce to taste

Pretzel nuggets

Procedure:

  1. Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add onions, carrot, and celery; cook until onions soften and begin to brown, 7-9 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
  2. Stir in flour and cook 2 minutes, stirring often.  Slowly whisk in broth, milk and beer.  Bring mixture just to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer until vegetables are very soft, about 20 minutes.
  3. Off heat, puree soup with a handheld blender.  Return soup to stove top over medium-low heat.
  4. Toss cheddar and gouda with cornstarch.  Whisk cheese mixture into soup, by the handful, making sure the cheese is melted before adding more, then whisk in cream cheese until melted.
  5. Off heat, stir in Dijon, Worcestershire, and paprika; season soup with salt, pepper, and Tabasco.  Garnish each serving with pretzel nuggets.

Weekly Winner: The Marriage of Two Recent Obsessions

Saag PaneerLately, I’ve been somewhat obsessed with Indian food.  I crave it.  It is a fairly new discovery with me as far as home cooking is concerned.  I’ve always enjoyed going to Indian restaurants and I do make a fairly awesome Chicken Tikka Masala (if I do say so myself), but that has pretty much been it.  Until now.  I’m now collecting recipes like mad and experimenting with Indian spices in everyday cooking.

At the same time, hubby has become obsessed with making his own cheese.  I know, I’m a lucky woman.  Mozzarella, ricotta, you name it, he’s been tinkering with it with great success.  Which brings us to a recent, cold, Sunday evening and this week’s Weekly Winner — Saag Paneer.  Indian food and homemade cheese… ding, ding!!  We have a winner!

The recipe comes from Food Network Magazine and while a bit time-consuming is actually quite easy … and most delicious.

Saag Paneer

Ingredients

For the cheese:

  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup plain 2 percent Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

For the spinach:

  • Kosher salt
  • 2 pounds baby spinach
  • 1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper (seeded for less heat)
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 3/4 cup plain 2 percent Greek yogurt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped

Directions

Make the cheese: Line a colander with a double layer of damp cheesecloth; put in the sink. Bring the milk to a simmer in a wide nonreactive pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat and stir in the yogurt, lemon juice and 2 teaspoons salt. Continue to stir gently until large curds form and separate from the whey, 1 to 2 minutes. Strain through the cheesecloth-lined colander, discarding the whey. Gather the ends of the cheesecloth and twist to squeeze out any excess whey (run the sides of the bundle under cool water if it’s too hot to handle). Tie the ends of the cheesecloth around a wooden spoon handle and lay the spoon over the colander, letting the bundle dangle; let drain, 10 minutes.

Untie the bundle and twist the cheesecloth again, squeezing out any more whey. Lay the bundle on its side on a plate. Top with another plate and weigh it down with a large can. Refrigerate until a firm cake forms, about 1 hour; unwrap and refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use, or up to 2 days.

Fry the cheese: Cut the cheese into 3/4-inch cubes. Toss in the flour until well coated, shaking off any excess. Heat about 1/2 inch vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Carefully add the cheese and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Season lightly with salt and set aside.

Make the spinach: Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Working in batches, cook the spinach until just tender, about 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of salted ice water. Drain and squeeze dry, then chop and set aside.

Pulse the ginger, garlic, jalapeno, coriander, cumin, turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor until finely chopped. Whisk the yogurt, 1/4 cup water and 1 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter and the vegetable oil in a wide pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until deep golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the ginger mixture and cook, stirring, until toasted, about 5 minutes (add a splash of water if the mixture is sticking). Reduce the heat to medium low; add 1/2 cup water and scrape up any browned bits, then add the cooked spinach and stir until heated through, about 4 minutes. Stir in the yogurt mixture and simmer gently until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the fried cheese and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 1 minute. Season with salt.