Posts Tagged ‘comfort food’

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it yet, but my husband (Stan) and his friend/coworker Mayur are going to Everest in the Spring. They will trek to North Col, at 23k feet. It is no small trip – it will take a whole month to complete!

One of their preparations involves gaining weight – 15-20lbs each! A couple weeks ago, we had Mayur over for dinner and I cooked the men a calorie-packed feast of hearty chicken parmigiana and spaghetti.

The recipe comes from “Tyler’s Ultimate” on the Food Network. The show is what it sounds – Tyler Florence travels the country, tastes variations of the same dish, picks out the best elements from each, and then assembles the “ultimate” recipe.

This dish required a good amount of preparation and ingredients. But the guys liked it, so I think it was well worth it. (Even Stan really liked it, and he’s usually not a fan of chicken parm!)

Chicken Parmigiana
from Tyler’s Ultimate

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1/2 bunch fresh basil leaves
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, drained and hand-crushed
  • Pinch sugar
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 (8-ounce) ball fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound spaghetti pasta, cooked al dente

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Coat a saute pan with olive oil and place over medium heat. When the oil gets hazy, add the onions, garlic, and bay leaves; cook and stir for 5 minutes until fragrant and soft.


cooking the onions, garlic, and bay leaves

3. Add the olives and some hand-torn basil, reserve the rest of the basil for finishing the chicken. Carefully add the tomatoes (nothing splashes like tomatoes), cook and stir until the liquid is cooked down and the sauce is thick, about 15 minutes; season with sugar, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Lower the heat, cover, and keep warm.


the finished sauce - keep warm!

4. Get the ingredients together for the chicken so you have a little assembly line. Put the flour in a shallow platter and season with a fair amount of salt and pepper; mix with a fork to distribute evenly. In a wide bowl, combine the eggs and water, beat until frothy. Put the bread crumbs on a plate, add the 1 cup parmesan, chopped parsley, and garlic powder Season with salt and pepper and stir with a fork until thoroughly combined.

5. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high flame in a large oven-proof skillet. Lightly dredge both sides of the chicken cutlets in the seasoned flour, and then dip them in the egg wash to coat completely, letting the excess drip off, then dredge in the bread crumbs. When the oil is nice and hot, add the cutlets and fry for 4 minutes on each side until golden and crusty, turning once.

6. Ladle the tomato-olive sauce over the chicken and arrange the mozzarella on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan, and remaining basil. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Serve hot with spaghetti.

right out of the oven

serves 4

Each serving has roughly 900 calories… so it’s not diet-friendly!!!

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While Stas and I were in New Zealand for our honeymoon (late November – earlyDecember 2009), Stas fell in love with Chicken Schnitzel with Mushroom Sauce. When we returned home, I set out to make my own version.

I had made chicken schnitzel before, on many occasions (it’s simply meat covered in breadcrumbs)… but never with the sauce. My goal was for it to be quick and simple, using only a few common ingredients. Afterall, I usually only cook schnitzel when I’m short on time or when the fridge is almost empty.

It was a success on the first try!

Here’s what I did:

Chicken Schnitzel with Mushroom Sauce

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (you could also use bonleless pork or turkey – but then you can’t call it “chicken schnitzel” 🙂 )
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups white mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/3 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley


1. Combine flour, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Place the egg in another bowl. Place chicken breasts on a cutting board, cover with plastic wrap, and pound until thin:

pound the chicken until thin

2. Dredge the chicken breasts in the flour mixture. Gently shake off the excess, then dip them in the beaten egg, then back in the flour. (Doing flour- egg-> flour helps it stick to the chicken, so you’ll have a nice batter when it’s cooked.)

3. In skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat; fry chicken breasts in batches, about 4-5 minutes each side. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

keep warm

4. In the now-empty skillet, fry mushrooms and garlic until no liquid remains, about 5 minutes.

5. Add reserved flour mixture and cook, stirring for about 1 minute.

fry the mushrooms and garlic, then add flour

6. Stir in stock; bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring, until thickened, about 3 minutes.

7. Add sour cream and soy sauce and stir for about 1 minute.

finished mushroom sauce

8. Pour over schnitzel and sprinkle with parsley.

Serves 4

served with fried potatoes and a salad

See the recipe for those fried potatoes here.

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Another soup, and another Martha recipe 🙂

I found this recipe a little over a month ago, and I’ve made it twice since then – that should give you an idea of how simple and tasty it is. Start to finish, it takes about 30 minutes – unheard of for soup!

The first thing that makes this recipe so quick is that it uses already-cooked turkey. Ideally, you’d use leftovers from Thanksgiving or Christmas. I did not, so I used Butterball Oven Roasted Turkey Breast Strips.

The second thing that makes the recipe quick is that it uses already-made stock. The original recipe calls for stock that you made yourself ahead of time (it is a Martha Stewart recipe, afterall). But I’ve never had great luck with homemade stocks – they take forever and they never seem to taste as good as the store-bought stuff! So I used “Better Than Bullion” Turkey Base.  It was my first time using it, and I’m a big big fan!

(I modified the recipe a bit – I added a potato and omitted a sprig of rosemary.)

Turkey Noodle Soup
adapted from Everyday Food, (month unknown) 2009

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 celery stalks, diced medium
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1 medium white onion, diced medium
coarse salt and ground pepper
8 cups turkey stock (if using Better Than Bullion: 3 tablespoons turkey base + 8 cups water)
1 large potato, cut into dice-sized pieces
2 cups wide egg noodles
3/4 pound shredded cooked turkey

1. In a 6-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add celery, carrots, onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until onion softens and slightly browns, about 3-5 minutes.

2. Add stock and bring to a rapid simmer. Add potatoes and cook 5 minutes. Add noodles, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and simmer until noodles are tender, 10-12 minutes. Turn off heat and add turkey to heat through.

Serves 6

winter is soup season

1 serving = 5 Weight Watchers points

calories: 257
fat: 6.8g (2.3g saturated)
carbs: 24.6g (fiber: 3.0g)

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I love creamy soups – but I very rarely eat them, because they’re often loaded with heavy cream (helloooooo calories!). But I was pleasantly surprised to flip through the October 2009 issue of Martha Stewart Living and see this recipe – no cream!

And what’s better than a warm, “creamy” soup on a cold fall or winter day?! You could eat a large bowl of it as your main meal, or have a small bowl with a sandwich (maybe a warm panini – yum!).

(To be honest, I made this back in October – but was just too damn busy to blog about it!)

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
adapted from Martha Stewart Living, October 2009
3 2/4 pounds butternut squash, halved and seeded (you could also use a sugar pumpkin)
1 onion, peeled and quartered through the stem
2 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps wiped clean
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 cups low-sodium vegetable stock

1. Preheat Oven to 450 degrees. Cut squash into 2-inch pieces. Combine squash, onion, mushrooms, and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet. Add oil and 2 teaspoons salt; toss to coat, then spread in a single layer. Roast until squash is tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 30 minutes, rotating pan and tossing vegetables halfway through. Let cool, then remove skins.

2. Transfer vegetables to a medium saucepan; heat over medium. Pour in 2 cups stock; puree with an immersion blender until smooth. With the blender running, slowly add remaining 3 cups stock, and puree until smooth. Bring soup just to a simmer. Remove from heat, and season with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.

Serves 4.

I served mine in my pumpkin-shaped soup tureen – isn’t it cute?! It’s from Crate & Barrel:

my pumpkin-shaped tureen

dig in!

The magazine doesn’t provide nutritional information, but I used a recipe analyzer and estimate that each serving is around 232 calories or 4 Weight Watchers points.

Calories: 232
Fat: 7.2g
Carbs: 44.2g (7.5 g fiber, 9.3g sugar)
Protein: 4g

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I had high hopes for this recipe – it sounded and looked so good in the magazine, and it received great reviews online.

But both Stas and I hated this meat loaf! It was spicy, but not in a yummy kind of way – I think it lacked seasoning. And the ketchup topping was such a bad match with that spiciness – it was too sweet and… well.. nasty. (In all fairness, I did use reduced carb ketchup instead of regular. Maybe regular would have been better).

It was painful finishing these leftovers, but we did it. And I will *not* be making this agian. Instead, I’m sticking with my tried-and-true meatloaf recipe.

… which reminds me: I haven’t blogged about my favorite meat loaf recipe yet!

Spicy Turkey Meat Loaf with Ketchup Topping
from Cooking Light, October 2009

1 tablespoon butter
2 cups chopped onion
1 (8-ounce) package presliced mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha (hot chile sauce, such as Huy Fong)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey breast
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, mushrooms, and garlic to pan; cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; cool 5 minutes.


cooking the mushrooms and onion

Combine mushroom mixture, panko, and next 8 ingredients (through egg) in a large bowl; stir well to combine.


meat mixture

Shape turkey mixture into a 9 x 5–inch rectangle on a pan coated with cooking spray. Combine ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, and nutmeg in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Spread ketchup mixture evenly over top of meat loaf.


after shaping the loaf and spreading the sauce on

Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160°. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.


cooked & ready to serve

Serves 8

(note: the information below is based on using regular ketchup. When I made it, I used low-carb ketchup)

1 serving = 4 Weight Watchers points

Calories: 184
Fat: 3.7g
Protein: 23.2g
Carbohydrate: 15g
Fiber: 1.2g

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I’ve been away from this blog for so, so long and I am so, so sorry! My excuse? I was off planning my wedding… and then getting married… then spending time with the in-laws… then catching up at work after 2 weeks off… phew!

Throughout all of this madness, I didn’t cook any new dishes – just rotated my tried-and-true recipes, many of which I’ve already blogged about. Sometime soon, I’ll post pictures and details of the wedding (it was perfect!).

Now that things are finally starting to settle down, I have time to try new dishes. My new issue of Cooking Light came in the other day and it’s packed with good stuff! (The last 2 issues were disappointing.)

Tonight, I made the cover recipe. It was the most hearty and time-consuming out of the recipes I flagged, so I thought it would be perfect for a rainy Sunday evening.

If you decide to make this, plan ahead! It is by no means a quick dish… It takes about 3 hours to cook. But it’s worth it!!! This is a new favorite for me, and I plan to rotate this recipe with my usual beef stew recipe.

Beer-Braised Beef with Onion, Carrot, and Turnips
from Cooking Light, October 2009

3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 (1 lb.) boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cubed
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup fat-free reduced-sodium beef broth
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 (12 oz.) dark beer
1 bay leaf
3 carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1/2-inch slices
9 ounces small turnips, peeled and cut into wedges
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into wedges
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

2. Place flour in shallow dish. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sprinkle beef evenly on all sides with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper; dredge in flour.

preparing the beef for browning

preparing the beef for browning

Add beef to pan; cook 10 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.

browning the beef

browning the beef

Add broth, beer, garlic, and bay leaf, scraping pan to loosen browned bits; bring to a boil.

ready for the oven

ready for the oven

Cover and bake at 300 degrees F for 1 1/2 hours. Add carrots; cover and cook 25 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, turnips, and onion; cover and cook an additional 1 hour and 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender and beef is fork-tender.

3. Remove beef and vegetables from the pan; discard the bay leaf. Cover beef and vegetables; keep warm. Let cooking liquid stand 10 minuts. Place a large zip-top plastic bag inside a 2-cup glass measure. Pour cooking liquid into bag; let stand 10 minutes (fat will rise to the top). Seal bag; carefully snip off 1 bottom corner of the bag. Drain cooking liquid into a medium bowl, stopping before the fat layer reaches the opening; discard the fat. Serve cooking liquid with beef and vegetables. Sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon parsley.

Serves 4

(1 serving = 9 Weight Watchers points)

Calories – 383
Fat- 19.7
Carbs – 21
Fiber – 3.6

the plated dish

the plated dish

I served mine alone, and served Stan’s over egg noodles (as seen in the first picture).

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Lately in the food-blogging community, schii (Russian cabbage soup) seems like “the thing” to make. Smitten Kitchen, Sassy Radish, and Yulinka all posted some great photos. Apparently, The New York Times is what set it all off.

I guess it’s fitting, with the cold weather setting in…. who doesn’t love soup when it’s cold? And Russians know soup!

While I broke from the trend of making schii, I did  continue the Russian-soup trend, with my Borsch.

I don’t like borsch (I don’t like beets), but Stas has been aching for some Russian food lately, and I like having soup available on the weekends for him – for a quick lunch option.



1/2 whole chicken, meat removed from bone and cut into nice pieces
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 head of cabbage, shredded
a few thin slices of red pepper
2 chicken bullion cubes
2 medium-large carrots, peeled and shredded
1 medium beet, peeled and shredded
1 medium onion, diced
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
1/2 stick butter
salt, to taste
sour cream, to garnish
fresh dill, to garnish
fresh parsley, to garnish

Place chicken pieces in large pot and fill with water. Put on stove over medium heat; bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that forms.

After 30 minutes, add the potatoes:


cubed potatoes

Cook for 10 minutes and add the cabbage, red pepper slices, bullion cubes, and a generous sprinkle of salt :


shredded cabbage

red pepper slices (I quarter each slice)

red pepper slices (I quarter each slice)


bullion cubes

(feel free to make your own stock. I make my own every so often, once I have accumulated enough chicken carcasses)

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for 5 minutes, until they start to brown. Add the shredded beets and carrots, and the can of tomato paste. Using a ladle, pour in some of the soup broth to make the mixture easier to work with. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

before going into the pan

carrots, beets, onion: before going into the pan


in the pan, with the tomato paste

in the pan, with the tomato paste

10-15 minutes after adding the cabbage, pepper, bullion cubes, and salt, the beet/onion/carrot/tomato paste mixture should be ready. Add it to the pot and stir. Cook for 3-5 minutes, then cover and turn off the heat.



serves a lot 🙂

A few notes about my borsch:

  • The red pepper isn’t necessary. Stas likes the little bit of sourness that it adds.
  • Again, feel free to make your own chicken stock or use cans of it, rather than using bullion cubes.
  • Use more or less vegetables, depending on your own preference. Just BEWARE that it IS possible to use too much beets. See the above picture of the beets, onions, and carrots on the plate? That’s how I typically judge how much to use: enough to fit on 1/3 of a plate. One time, I used way too much – and Stas could tell right away.
  • If you don’t have tomato paste, you can also use tomato juice. I’ve done this twice, using V-8, and I just eyeballed the amount.
  • This soup is not an exact science, so play around with it, be relaxed about it, and enjoy it!


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I haven’t always liked beef stew. In fact, up until a few weeks ago, I absolutely hated it!

Stas, on the other hand, LOVES beef stew.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I used to make him a reallllly lazy version of beef stew, using a McCormick seasoning packet and already-cut beef stew cubes. He thought it was very tasty and asked for it often, but I always felt wrong making it that way.

About a month or so ago – under a combination of guilt and the store being out of the McCormick packet (mostly the latter 🙂 ), I tried a homemade version for the first time… it was so good that I fell in love with it… ME! The girl who always HATED beef stew!!!

It’s an easy recipe – just about as easy as the packet version. It just takes a little more time and requires that you have a few more ingredients on hand. No biggie.

imgp3601what’s not to love???!

Shushka’s Beef Stew
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

3 lb. chuck-eye roast, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped coarse (1-2 cups, depending on preference)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup red wine (I used Yellow Tail Shiraz)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

Step 1: Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Place beef cubes in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in large oven-safe dutch oven. Add beef in two separate batches. Brown meat on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch, adding more oil if needed. Remove meat and set aside.


Add onions to the now-empty dutch oven and sautee until almost softened, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic; sautee about 30 seconds longer.


Stir in flour; cook until lightly colored, 1-2 minutes. Add wine, scraping up the browned bits stuck to the bottom. Add stock, bay leaves, and thyme; bring to simmer. Add meat; return to simmer. Cover and place in oven; simmer for 1 hour.

Step 2: Remove kettle from oven, add potatoes and carrot; cover, and return to oven. Cook for 1 more hour. Remove stew from oven.

Step 3: Add peas and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir in parsley and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve.

Serves 6 to 8


As with most stews, this one gets better as it sits – it’s great on the first day, but even better on the second, third, etc.

The liquid is also great over pasta or white rice!

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