Chicken Enchilada Casserole

enchiladasWhole-wheat tortillas, lean chicken, black beans, a flavorful sauce and low-fat shredded cheese come together for a healthy, low-calorie casserole that’s going to wow your guests. The enchilada sauce, which comes from the blog Skinnytaste, is what makes this recipe sing. The adobo chilies, available in the International aisle of your supermarket, in the enchilada sauce are a must – they give the whole dish a smoky, addictive flavor that shouts Mexican. You can go heavier on the chilies for more of a kick – this version is mildly spicy. You’ll have enough enchilada sauce to make a second casserole. Adrienne demoed this at Brookside and Us Botanic garden in February 2015 for our “Hearty Casseroles” series. Thanks to Skinnytaste for the basic recipe, with some adaptations by The Cook Sisters.

For the enchilada sauce:
1 T olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 T chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, pureed chipotle
3 C plain tomato sauce
1 t chili powder
1 t ground cumin
1 C chicken or vegetable broth
kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste

For the chicken:
1 t olive oil
1 C diced onion
2 large clove garlic, minced
9 oz (2 breast halves) cooked shredded chicken breast
½ – 1 whole can black beans, drained and rinsed (15 oz)
1/4 C cilantro
kosher salt
1 tsp cumin
1 t dried oregano
1 t chili powder
1/3 C chicken broth
1/2 C plain tomato sauce
8 (7-inch) whole wheat flour tortillas, cut into half-moons
1½ – 2 C enchilada sauce
1 C shredded low fat Mexican cheese
½ C chopped scallions or cilantro for topping

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil and sauté garlic. Add chipotle chiles, chili powder, cumin, chicken broth, tomato sauce, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Set aside until ready to use.

Heat the vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté onions and garlic on low until soft, about 2 minutes. Add chicken, black beans, salt, cilantro, cumin, oregano, chili powder, tomato sauce, chicken broth, and cook 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a 13×9 inch casserole dish, spread about ½ C enchilada sauce; dip six tortilla halves into the enchilada sauce so they are well coated and arrange on top of sauce in casserole dish; spread half the chicken mixture on top of the tortillas; sprinkle with ½ C shredded cheese. Repeat with remaining tortillas (you may us only six of the eight tortillas), chicken and cheese. Cover eith aluminum foil and bake in 400 degree over 15 minutes; remove foil and bake another 10 minutes until bubbly and golden. Remove from oven and let the casserole sit for 15 minutes before cutting and serving. Garnish with scallions and serve with sour cream.


Butternut Squash, Tomato, Fennel and Orzo Casserole with Sage

orzo casseroleOrzo is the rice version of pasta – it’s a bit bigger than rice when it cooks up, but you get the idea. Definitely under cook the orzo when assembling this dish or you’ll have gooey pasta in your casserole by the time you bake it with all the added ingredients. Butternut squash is the star in this dish – as it should be. We love butternut squash in all sorts of winter dishes. That and the sage just seem to go together like Ginger and Fred and in this dish they do quite the dance.  Oh, and if you’re not a fan of orzo – not everyone is – substitute one of those darling mini pastas, like baby penne or tiny bowties. This dish, by the way, is supremely child-friendly.  Danielle demoed this at US Botanic Garden and Brookside in February 2015, when our month’s theme was “hearty casseroles.” Adapted from the original by Martha Stewart.

1 C orzo pasta
1 small (about 1 pound) butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½-inch wedges
1 small red onion, slices into half moons
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 T olive oil
1 small bulb (¼ pound) fennel, rinsed and trimmed of stalks and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 (15-oz.) can diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
1 T fresh sage, chopped
1 C Monterey jack cheese, shredded
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Topping:
1 C Panko breadcrumbs
1 T olive oil
1 T parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of water for the pasta to a boil. Add orzo and cook for 5 minutes, until slightly firm to the bite; drain and transfer to a medium-sized bowl.

While the pasta is cooking, spread the butternut squash in an even layer on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Roast until tender, 12 to 15 minutes then add to the bowl with the orzo.

Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and garlic and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Lastly, add the tomatoes and sage and increase the heat. Bring the mixture to a boil for 2 minutes, then transfer to the bowl with the orzo and squash. Mix everything well, season with salt and pepper. Add the shredded cheese and mix again.

Transfer orzo mixture to an 8×8 baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes, until cheese is melted. While the casserole is baking, mix together the panko, chopped parsley and olive oil. Remove the foil from the casserole and sprinkle the top with panko mixture. Bake, uncovered, until panko is toasted, about 10 -15 minutes more. Serves 6.


Quinoa

There are literally hundreds of varieties of quinoa. This nutrient-packed seed from Peru has a high degree of diversity. In this country though we generally see just three types — red, white and black. They are virtually indistinguishable in taste and also in the way they cook up. For best flavor and fluffiest texture, dry-toast the quinoa before adding the water: rinse the quinoa according to the package directions, then put it in a medium pot without oil or butter. Let the grains dry out a bit and toast until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the water, bring to a boil and cover with a lid. Simmer  10-15 minutes-do not stir the quinoa while it is cooking. This will allow it to cook evenly and steam holes to form. The quinoa is cooked when you see the grains form a little white spiral tail. This is the outer germ of the grain that twists as it cooks, but stays attached to the kernel.


Mexican-Inspired Quinoa Casserole

quinoaQuinoa is one of those slightly mysterious ingredients that nonetheless is becoming a staple in America’s kitchens. Hailing from its native Peru, quinoa’s tiny seed is packed with complete protein, anti-oxidants, fiber, anti-inflamatory agents, a whole range of essential enzymes, while still gluten and fat free. The grain, or seed, rinsed first to extract the bitter-tasting film it naturally secretes – then toasted dry and finally cooked until it corkscrews like a miniature fiddlehead – has a nutty, cereal-like flavor that becomes a canvas for anything from spicy hot peppers to sweet strawberries and everything in between. This dish borrows flavors from another South American country – Mexico. You don’t need much quinoa – here a scant half-cup, loaded with beans and corn and other ingredients, is transformed into a hearty dish that will fill the bellies of six to eight diners. Feeding the multitudes you might say. Danielle demoed this as part of a class at Brookside and another at US Botanic Garden in February 2015 when our topic was “hearty casseroles.” What a great turnout on a couple of very cold days.

½ C quinoa, cooked in 1 C vegetable broth or water (see below)
1 ½ C frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
1 T olive oil
1 red bell pepper, diced small
1 (15-oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 C frozen corn
5-6 scallions, trimmed and sliced, white and green parts
½ C salsa – your favorite brand, mild, medium or hot
1 ½ T chili powder or chili seasoning
2 t oregano (Mexican preferred)
1 T fresh lime juice
1 ½ C shredded Mexican cheese blend, Fiesta blend or Cheddar – divided

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook the quinoa according to package directions. When the quinoa is cooked, transfer it to a large mixing bowl. Put the hash browns in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the hash browns to the bowl with the quinoa.

In a medium-sized skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add the diced bell peppers. Sauté until tender crisp, about 3 minutes. Add them into the bowl, along with the black beans, corn, sliced scallions, salsa, chili powder and oregano. Mix well, add the lime juice and ¾ cup of the shredded cheese. Mix well again. Transfer the mixture to an 8×8 baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover with (non-stick) aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 20 minutes, until cheese has melted. Serves 6.

Cooking Quinoa

For the best flavor and fluffiest texture, dry-toast the quinoa before adding the water: rinse the quinoa according to the package directions, then put it in a medium pot without oil or butter. Let the grains dry out a bit and toast until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the water, bring to a boil and cover with a lid. Simmer  10-15 minutes-do not stir the quinoa while it is cooking. This will allow it to cook evenly and steam holes to form. The quinoa is cooked when you see the grains form a little white spiral tail. This is the outer germ of the grain that twists as it cooks, but stays attached to the kernel.


Winter Slaw of Fennel, Carrots, Cucumber and Orange

A crispy, crunchy bite in every mouthful — and packed with Vitamin C to boot — this slaw makes a great side or even a condiment on a bbq pork sandwich or turkey burger.

1 large fennel bulb (about ½ lb), stalks and fronds removed, bulb cut into large chunks and rinsed
2 large carrots
1 small cucumber, peeled, quartered, seeded and very thinly sliced
1 orange (navel, Cara or blood if available), peel removed with a knife and segmented,
OR peel removed with a knife, sliced into rounds and rounds cut into quarters
½ C golden raisins
¼ C apple cider vinegar (for a sweeter taste, use ½ C fresh apple cider)
½ C olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Fresh dill or fresh mint, chopped – for garnish (optional)
½ C walnuts, chopped – optional

Put the raisins and the apple cider vinegar in a small bowl and let soak while you prepare the slaw. In a food processor fitted with the shred blade, drop the chunks of fennel one at a time to grate. Transfer to a salad bowl. Do the same for the carrots and add them to the fennel. Thinly slice the quartered, peeled, seeded cucumber either with a knife or on a mandolin. Add them to the salad bowl along with the orange segments.

Whisk the olive oil directly into the raisins and vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the slaw and mix well. (Note: if your vegetables are quite large, you may need to double the amount of dressing.) Let the slaw sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours and toss every now and again. Serve chilled, garnished with fresh chopped dill or mint and/or walnuts. Serves 4-6.


Creamy Winter Greens au Gratin

creamy greensEven though both spinach and kale (and you could actually add or substitute frozen turnip greens in this recipe also) are plentiful fresh this time of year – winter greens, after all – we are using frozen today because first, freezing tenderizes kale and second, you need an awful lot of fresh greens to get to the equivalent of two pounds of frozen chopped greens. Besides, when you’re making a dish this healthy – nothing beats winter greens for iron, fiber, vitamins, etc. – it’s not difficult to justify buying something frozen even when it’s in season. Pound for pound, I’ll wager the cost is going to be about the same, especially when you factor in cooking and, of course, waste – how many of us actually use kale ribs after we remove them? Another plus: The dish will go together lickety split when using a couple of bags of frozen greens, so stop beating yourself up. And feel better by making your own breadcrumbs – we may love our panko, but in this dish you want larger crumbs for texture and crunch.

1 large bag (16 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 large bag (16 oz) frozen chopped kale, thawed
1 T unsalted butter
½ t ground nutmeg
1/4 t hot pepper flakes (optional)
2 T olive oil
1 C fresh breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 C heavy cream
4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 C freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Heat the oven to 400°F. Have ready a large gratin dish or casserole dish (any shape is fine as long as it’s shallow). Drain thawed greens in a large strainer, pressing down to expel as much moisture as possible, then squeeze them in paper towel or dishtowel to extract more moisture; heat butter in a large saucepan and add greens; cover and saute gently about 3 minutes until heated. Add nutmeg and pepper flakes if using and toss to mix well; reserve. In a small bowl, combine olive oil and breadcrumbs, 1/4 t salt and a few grinds of pepper.

In a medium saucepan, bring the cream and garlic to a boil over medium-high heat (watch that it doesn’t boil over), immediately lower the heat, and simmer vigorously until the cream reduces to about 3/4 cup, 4 to 8 min. (Don’t over-reduce.) Take the pan off the heat and remove and discard the garlic cloves. Let the cream cool slightly, stirring occasionally to keep a skin from forming. Season with 1/4 tsp. of salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper.

Put warmed greens in the gratin dish, spreading them out; sprinkle with cheese; pour over reduced cream and top with breadcrumbs. Bake until the gratin is brown and bubbly, about 25 min. Let rest for 10 to 15 min. before serving.

For a change, serve these gratins individually. Just divide ingredients among four small gratin dishes and bake as directed above.


Winter Salad of Root Vegebables with Lemon-Tahini Dressing

If yroastedou’re sick of roasted vegetables you can take a pass on the veggie ingredients in this salad but you shouldn’t skip the lemon tahini dressing which is delicious on nearly everything it touches, though I confess I have not tried it on chocolate icecream. I bet it would be fantastic on orange or lime sorbet. Just a thought, in the middle of winter when I’m longing for the beach. Meantime, as they say, slather the vinaigrette on a nice piece of fish – say halibut or striped bass or mahi – and pan fry or do what hubby is doing these days, madly using the Cuisinart electric panini grill, a great modern invention; he puts everything on it including the dish towels. One of those fish fillets would be awesome cooked on that baby and you’ll want to drizzle more of the lemon tahini sauce on the fish when you serve. Nuff said about that. I do not tire of anything that includes oven-roasted potatoes so here you’ll have those plus matchstick carrots and parsnips, which we always overlook when we roast vegetables, why I can’t say but there’s no explaining a lack of imagination. And if you’re up to here with cauliflower and you already have divined the dirty little secret about roasted broccoli – don’t ask me, you’ll need to discover it for yourself – then just leave it at that and toss your roots with some fresh greenery and have at it. Or just make a big jar of the tahini dressing and drink a cup for breakfast – you think I’m kidding. I, Adrienne, demoed this in January at Brookside and at US Botanic Garden. Adapted from Fine Cooking. 

16 small potatoes
3/4 C olive oil, divided (more as needed)
1 t salt, divided
fresh ground pepper
½ head cauliflower, curt into ½-inch florets
3 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 clove garlic
1 1/4 C fresh parsley leaves, divided
1/4 C lemon juice
2 T tahini (International foods)
1 t honey (optional)
1/4 t ground cumin
1/4 t ground coriander
4 C sturdy lettuce greens, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces as necessary
½ C chopped fresh dill
4 oz crumbled goat cheese

Preheat oven to 400. Quarter potatoes, place in plastic bag or bowl; toss with 1-2 T olive oil, scant 1/4 t salt, several pepper grinds. Spread potatoes on rimmed baking sheet and roast in oven until golden, about 30 minutes, turning them halfway through. Place cauliflower plastic bag or bowl, add 1 T olive oil, 1/4 t salt, several pepper grinds; toss until well coated. Spread on one side of rimmed baking sheet. To plastic bag or bowl, add carrots and parsnips, 1 T olive oil, 1/4 t salt, several grinds pepper. Toss and spread root vegetables on baking sheet next to cauliflower. Place baking sheet in the oven and roast until golden, about 20 minutes. Remove potatoes and vegetables when done and cover to keep warm.

Place garlic and 1/4 C parsley in a food processor and process until minced; add remaining ½ C olive oil, 1/4 t salt, lemon juice, tahini, honey if using, cumin, coriander; process, adding more olive oil as needed, until smooth and creamy.

In a large bowl, toss together the remaining parsley, lettuce and dill with 1/4 C salad dressing. Place on a serving platter, top with warm vegetables, drizzle with remaining dressing and sprinkle with goat cheese. Serve immediately, or hold at room temperature for up to two hours.