"easy" news and stories
The quesadilla is perhaps the sturdiest of staples in my roster of go-to meals. Lately, my favorite combination is the one you see here: flour tortillas with Monterrey Jack cheese, spinach, black beans, chicken and sweet potatoes. Really, all you need for a satisfying quesadilla is tortillas and cheese, but taking the time to get a few quality components together yields something far more satisfying. As a bonus, the following recipes for black beans, sauteed spinach and mashed sweet potatoes are all great side dishes on their own. I usually wind up using leftover roasted chicken, but grilled or sauteed shrimp are also a great substitution. The assembly is pretty simple, regardless of the fillings you choose, but we'll get back to that later. The following proportions should be enough for two large quesadillas. All of the ingredients can easily be multiplied.
After watching an episode of Chef at Home, I've been experimenting with chef Michael Smith's recipe for salmon and potato cakes. The Food Network Canada website has his recipe here, but it looks like they've jumbled a few of the steps around or perhaps left a step out. Step two reads, "Meanwhile heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat and when it's hot, add oil." Step three: "Using a potato masher, mash them together." Obviously something is amiss. At any rate, if you have salmon leftovers (not to be confused with these guys), this is a good way to use them up. Let's assume we're starting from scratch, however. Smith suggests pan-frying a salmon fillet, which I did the first time I made this recipe. The second time, I broiled it, which I think is more convenient and I didn't notice too much of a difference in the taste of the final product. So, either pan-fry or broil a skinless 1 pound salmon fillet until it's just cooked through and flakes easily. When I broiled the salmon, this took between 15 and 20 minutes.
On nights when you don't really feel like cooking, pasta is always an easy fallback. Now that people seem to be less terrified of having a few carbs in their diets, pasta is slowly returning to its position as a pantry staple. It only takes a few minutes to cook and you can make an infinite number of sauces, from 5-minute light tomato sauces to rich, slow-cooked ones. If you have an extra few minutes in your evening, it doesn't take too much more work to turn a regular bowl of pasta into a comforting baked pasta dish, with an oozy topping of cheese than gets browned and ever so slightly crusty on top. Just about any baked pasta dish is a welcome meal on a cold winter day.
Chocolate pudding cake is an intensely satisfying, yet simple, dessert. As it bakes, it separates into two layers - a tender chocolate sponge-type cake and a very rich chocolate sauce/ pudding base - so the cake needs no accompaniment unless you want to throw a scoop of vanilla ice cream into the bowl, too.
The second best thing about this cake (the flavor is the first, of course) is that it is incredibly easy to make because it is mixed in the pan that you bake it in. This means that cleanup is minimal and that you can have a delicious, from-scratch dessert on even a very busy weeknight. Not that you shouldn't have it at other times, as well. Any excuse is a good one for chocolate pudding cake.
Even people who aren't big fans of artichoke seem to enjoy artichoke dips. The mild flavor of the vegetable and is tender texture blend perfectly with cream cheese, mayonnaise or sour cream - at least one of which is almost always a component of artichoke dip. The dips are usually served hot, enhancing the smoothness and the overall flavor.
Hot dips require a little more maintenance than cold dips. You will either need to head back and forth to the kitchen to reheat them, serve them in a chafing dish or try to motivate your guests to eat them really quickly. I like to use two or three smaller bowls, that way one will be ready to go if I need to switch them out. I also try to choose dips that will still taste good at room temperature - and this one definitely does.
The recipe comes from Eating Well magazine and is a little lighter than most artichoke dips, with most of the flavor coming from the artichokes themselves and a generous amount of Parmesan cheese, which is among the lower-fat cheeses out there. Some mayo is included to enhance the consistency of the final dip, which is heated in the oven to produce a slightly crisp top and creamy interior.