Thursday, August 28, 2014

Gnocchi with Tomatoes, Vegetables, Mushrooms, Chicken Sausage, and Basil

I really don't cook with gnocchi enough and I don't know why.  They're made with one of my favorite foods (potatoes) and they're like lil pillows of heavenly goodness.  Well problem now solved because I found my perfect gnocchi recipe!

This dish is super flavorful, adaptable, and quick to make.  I did most of my prep work on Sunday, as usual, and then on Thursday of that week I just had to cook up the gnocchi and throw everything else in the pan.  Makes for a great weeknight meal when you want something easy and yummy to make after a long day at work (and boy have I been having some long and terrible days at work lately).  And while I added my current favorite vegetables and mushrooms here you can add almost whatever vegetable you have handy.  If you'd like a drier dish you can leave out the can of diced tomatoes, but I like the extra sauciness it adds.

This is definitely getting added to my regular meal rotation because it's yummy and easy.  While I love all the recipes I post here, I definitely favor the easy and fast ones in my day-to-day cooking because that leaves more time for lounging with my pugs, and believe me I need a lot of that with the past few weeks I've been having at work.

Servings: 2-4

Ingredients:
1 pound gnocchi
12 ounces chicken sausage (I like a spicy kind with jalapenos), sliced
12-16 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 small/medium zucchini, chopped into half or quarter moons
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
10 ounces of baby bella mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, julienned
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
Shaved or grated parmesan for topping (optional)

Instructions:

  • Boil salted water and cook 1 lb gnocchi for 2-3 minutes until the gnocchi just start floating to the top.  Drain well and toss with drizzle (or spray) of olive oil (this will prevent them from sticking together).  Set aside.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat and spray the pan or drizzle some olive oil.  Add 12 oz chopped chicken sausage and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the sausage starts to brown.
  • Push the sausage to the side of the skillet and add 12-16 oz halved grape/cherry tomatoes and cook on high heat for 1-3 minutes.
  • Stir the tomatoes and sausage together and add 10 oz chopped mushrooms, 1 chopped bell pepper, and 1 chopped zucchini to the skillet.  Stir together and cook for 2-4 minutes.
  • Add the gnocchi, the can of diced tomatoes, and 1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper (optional) to the skillet and stir together.  Cook for a couple more minutes.
  • Remove skillet from heat and stir in 1/2 cup of basil.  
  • Salt and pepper to taste and top each bowl with some grated or shaved parmesan and enjoy!
And now time for the pictures!

I'm never without my two sous chefs, Sunny and Rosy.  Though it looks like one's sleeping on the job!
This dish was so yummy and flavorful but I also loved how bright and colorful it was.  I would've added more basil but most of my basil had already gone bad by the time I made this late in the week. Darn you perishables!  I really wish I had a nice garden with some fresh basil.
Basil is a nice topping and all but nothing really compares to cheese.  CHEESE.
And a nice sprinkling of coarse salt and black pepper and some crushed red pepper!  Rosy's tail was doing its happy helicopter twirl as soon as I got out the cheese.
Rosy put your licker away!
As soon as Rosy smelled the pepper the bowl lost all temptation.
Instead Rosy and Sunny patiently waited for me to finish taking pictures so that they could get their own lil pepper-free parmesan slivers as treats.
"Take that away human and place some fresh and clean parmesan stamps on our tongues!"
Adapted from The Kitchn.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer Bean Salad with Chicken Sausage

Sigh.  We're at that time of the year when I forget the horrid winter and start looking forward to fall.  Oh DC, why must I live here and why must your summers be so brutal and disgusting?

With a generous seasoning of salt and pepper, a crazy amount of Tabasco sauce splashed on it, and a nice ice cold drink, this is one of my regular standby summer dishes that I make repeatedly throughout summer.  While you do need to use the stove for this, it's just to heat up some sausage.  The rest is so simple and easy, you can throw this together at the end of a workday as you try to ignore the sweat dripping down your back from the lovely commute in an un-air conditioned packed metro car and walk home in an atmosphere that can best be described as hot jello.  Better yet, make this the day before and refrigerate it so that you can dig into a nice and cool dish as soon as you get home.

Servings:  Original recipe says 10 servings and I laugh and laugh at that.  No, this is more like 3-5.  But it can be more servings if you use this as a filling for a sandwich or wrap.

Ingredients:
1 15-oz can corn, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 orange bell pepper, diced
4 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
12 oz chicken/turkey sausage, quartered lengthwise and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooking spray or extra olive oil
Tabasco or hot sauce (optional)

Instructions:

  • In a large bowl combine a can of corn, a can of black beans, a can of kidney beans, a chopped orange bell pepper, and 4 chopped scallions.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together 3 tbsps olive oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, and the juice from one lemon (if you want this extra flavorful, be very generous with the balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard (adding maybe up to an extra 1/2 tbsp)).
  • Heat a large pan or skillet over medium heat and coat with cooking spray or a tbsp of oil.  
  • In the pan/skillet, cook 12 oz chopped chicken/turkey sausage for 5-9 minutes, or according to package instructions (choose a spicy sausage for some extra heat and flavor - I like Trader Joe's jalapeno chicken sausage).
  • Add the sausage and the oil/vinegar dressing to the corn and bean mixture and combine all ingredients until everything is well coated with the dressing. 
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste and add some splashes of Tabasco sauce or other hot sauce if you'd like more spice, which I always do!  Adds an extra vinegary punch too!
Now time for the pictures featuring my sad begging pugs!  Look at those sad twinkling lil eyes. 
Sorry girls, but this is not dog-safe.  Please don't cry Sunny!
A good sprinkling of fresh cracked pepper makes such a difference on so many dishes!  I also add Tabasco sauce to so so many of my dishes.  I am seriously addicted.
Put away those lil tongues girls!
You may sniff, but don't touch.  Or lick.  Or eat.
Ok ok I'll get a dog treat for you girls before I dig into this deliciousness!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Lighter Tuna Casserole with Vegetables


I love old school comfort foods even though I didn't grow up with most of them.  My family mostly ate Korean food for dinner with occasional take-out/delivery foods, spaghetti, and burritos.  My mom never made any of the old school casseroles; they're something I discovered as an adult.

One of the downsides to cooking is that you realize what goes into all those delicious dishes.  And butter, fat, and salt make everything taste good!  So this is a healthy spin on the classic tuna casserole dish.  It doesn't use canned soup and incorporates more vegetables.  It doesn't quite taste the same as the old school dish but it's really good in its own way.  And you can eat this satisfying and filling dish without any guilt (or at the very least minimal guilt)!

Servings: 3-5 (for me this is a 3 mealer, sometimes 2)\

Ingredients:
1/3 cup low-fat (or nonfat) sour cream
2 tablespoons reduced fat mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried dill (or 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh dill)
8 ounces dried pasta (I used a whole wheat fusilli)
10 ounces tuna (drained and flaked)
1 large or 2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced (I cut mine a bit smaller)
2 large tomatoes, diced
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Cooking spray or oil for greasing casserole dish

Instructions:

  • Cook 8 oz noodles according to its directions until al dente.  Drain and set aside.
  • Spray or grease a casserole dish and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a small bowl combine 2 tbsps mayonnaise, 1/3 cup sour cream, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp dried dill until well mixed.
  • In a large bowl combine 1-2 chopped zucchini, 3 chopped celery stalks, 10 oz tuna, and the cooked pasta.
  • Pour in the sour cream sauce and stir together until pasta mixture is well coated.
  • Pour pasta mixture into the casserole dish and bake uncovered for 25 minutes.
  • Take out the dish and top with 2 chopped tomatoes and 1 cup shredded cheese.  Put back in oven for an additional 5-7 minutes.
  • Season each dish with salt and pepper to taste.
And now for the pictures!

Any recipe here on Grubbin Pugs starts with pathetically sad begging pugs.  Here's one.
 And then there were two (and my shoes).
Anytime I bring out the cheese, Sunny and Rosy get really excited and hopeful.
Because of course I have to give them a teensy bit of cheese!  Rosy always does a little hopping dance as she waits for a sprinkle of cheese in her bowl.
Pop it in the oven and out comes some gooey cheese.  GOOEY!
"Psst!  Sunny she's done something magical to the cheese!  It smells even more amazing now!"
Lil beggars.
Life is all about perspective.  Two of my favorite things are pugs...


And food!
And with a little sprinkling of salt and pepper I'm ready to chow down!  None for the girls but they did get some cheese as I mentioned before and a tiny bit of leftover tuna from the cans.

Mmmm!
No licks Sunny!
Put those tongues away!  Ok, time to take the bowl away before one of the girls manages to get a lick in.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lemony Couscous with Chicken and Spring Vegetables

Now that the warmer weather is here I've been at a bit of a loss as to what to make for dinner lately.  I don't want anything that will take too long, but it's not quite summer so I'm not really wanting any salads or cold dishes.  I find spring to be the hardest time to come up with interesting and satisfying dishes. Winter dishes are my favorite, but as the temperature and humidity goes up and my holiday weight gain is still reluctant to completely go away (argh!), I try to embrace some lighter meals around April-May.  This is right around the time when I start making a lot of grain-based or couscous-based dishes. 

The spring vegetables and lemon juice here turn a regular chicken and couscous recipe into a springtime meal and this is so quick and easy it's great for weekday dinners.

Servings: 2-4

Ingredients:
4 scallions, chopped (you can separate the white and green parts, but I don't)
1 lemon (a few wide strips of zest and juice from the entire lemon)
12-16 oz asparagus, green beans, or haricot verts, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup frozen peas
1-2 tsp minced garlic
1 cup couscous
1-2 cups chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 1/4 cup water
Butter or olive oil for greasing pan
Parsley, chopped (optional, for topping)
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:
  • Spray a large saucepan or heat 1 tbsp of butter or olive oil over medium-high heat.
  • Add chopped scallions, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes until the scallions are softened.
    • If you don't like wilted green scallion parts, then  you can separate out the white and green parts and just cook the white parts at this stage and add the green parts later. I'm lazy and don't care so I just dump them all in at this point.
  • Add 1-2 tsp minced garlic and 1/4 tsp thyme and cook for 30 seconds until garlic is fragrant.
  • Add a few strips of lemon zest and 1 1/4 cups of water.  Season with salt and pepper and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Add 12-16 oz chopped asparagus/green beans/haricot verts and 1/2 cup peas and bring back to a boil.  
  • Stir in 1 cup couscous and add in 1-2 cups of chopped/shredded chicken. Cover pan, remove from heat, and let sit for 7 minutes.
  • Remove lid and add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with a sprinkling of parsley on top.

Now for some pictures!  Anytime I cook anything with chicken, Sunny and Rosy promptly make their presence known in the kitchen. It's really hard to ignore their begging faces and sad uncurled tails.
Could they get any closer to the stove?  Sometimes I have to nudge them away with my feet because there's nowhere for me to stand while I'm cooking!
 
Scooch! Scooch!
Yeah...I usually add a lot more salt and pepper after I take photos. But I don't think you want to see a pile of salt and pepper so I focus on the actual food for the blog. But with this recipe, a good seasoning of salt and pepper and lots of lemon juice really makes this dish!
Sniff sniff. None for the pugs of course but I always put aside some plain chicken when I'm cooking for a treat after taking photos! Pugs are very very food oriented in case you didn't know.
Pose for me! Smile! Look happy!
And there goes Rosy's tail.
I am always torn between focusing on the food or my pugs, which is silly because we all know what's most important on this food blog...PUGS.

But here's one focused on the food just for giggles.
Adapted from Martha Stewart.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Coconut Banana Bread

There's some sort of banana gene that runs in my family on my dad's side.  My dad, my sisters, my nephew, and I all love bananas and eat them regularly.  To see the amount of bananas that my mom buys for my dad and my sister buys for herself and her son on a weekly basis, you would think they worked at a zoo or lived with Curious George.

While I love bananas, I don't always manage to eat them all before they start browning (and I'm not talking about some slight browning and freckling - I actually love bananas when the peels are a bit brown because that means it'll be sweeter and soft inside).  I wish I had taken a picture of the bananas I used for this recipe so you could see how far gone they were.  So even if you think your bananas are too brown and mushy for use, have no fear, they'll just be easier to mash and will make your bread even more banana-y in flavor!

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm a coconut addict and I have a huge bag of shredded coconut sitting in my pantry that was just asking to be used in this recipe.  Bananas and coconut = yum!  If I'd had coconut milk I might have considered using that instead of regular milk to intensify the coconut flavor, although maybe that would overwhelm the banana flavor.

Banana bread also freezes very well, so there's never a good reason to throw out your brown bananas. Make some banana bread and then eat it or freeze it for later!  Nothing better than freshly baked bananas and some coffee (or in my case and with the warmer days approaching, iced coffee).

Servings: 1 loaf made in a 9x5 loaf pan.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
2-3 medium very ripe bananas
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup shredded coconut (plus some extra for topping the loaf)
Cooking spray (I used a coconut oil spray from Trader Joe's)

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven at 350 degrees. For ease of removal later, line the loaf pan with parchment paper, letting the edges stick out over the sides so  you can grab onto them later. Spray the pan and paper. 
    • (I have a love/hate relationship with parchment paper - love its nonstick properties but trying to keep the curling paper straight and out of the way was a pain. If you don't have any parchment paper, just make sure to grease the pan well.)
  • Melt 1/2 cup butter in the microwave over low heat and then whisk together the butter with 3/4 cup white sugar in a large bowl until combined.
  • Add 2 large eggs to the batter and whisk until smooth.
  • Add 2-3 bananas to the batter and mash with the whisk or a fork (or, if you don't want any banana lumps, mash the bananas in a separate small bowl and then add the mush into the batter).
    • If your bananas are very brown then the banana flavor will be stronger and you can get away with 2 bananas. If they are just a little brown and freckly, maybe consider going up to 3. I used 2 since my bananas were completely brown. 
  • Add 2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt to the batter and, using a spatula, stir everything together until just mixed and there is no more dry flour visible.
  • Fold in 1/2 cup shredded coconut (this is the stage where you can add other ingredients based on preference (e.g., nuts, chocolate)).
  • Pour batter evenly into the pan and smooth the top.  
  • Optional: sprinkle the top of the loaf with some extra shredded coconut. I did this mainly to look nice with some toasted coconut on top, but then afterwards when cutting the bread it was kinda a pain crumbling all over the place (which Rosy LOVED cleaning up).
  • Bake for 50-65 minutes, depending on your oven. Start checking at 50 minutes and then every five minutes after until the loaf is dark brown and cracked on top. Toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean.
  • Place pan on a cooling rack and let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
  • After the first cooling period, remove bread from pan (if you used the parchment paper method, simply lift the bread out by grabbing onto the paper's edges) and cool another 10 minutes before slicing.
  • Keep bread covered  for several days (if the loaf lasts that long!) or wrap in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and keep in freezer for up to 3 months.

And now time for the pictures!

Stupid parchment paper. Hate trimming it to fit the pan while it's curling all over the place and getting in the way. But gotta love the benefits of using it while baking!
Since I had 4 super duper ripe bananas, I simply doubled the recipe above and made two loaves.

Love that crack!
Peek-a-boo, I see you!
Anytime I bake anything, Sunny is never intrigued and just stays on the couch or her bed. But Rosy loooves baked goods and sweets! She came trotting over as soon as I opened the oven and my apartment was filled with delicious banana bread smells!
"Excuse me, are you sure you don't need a taste tester? I'd gladly offer up my services!"
Sunny finally realized something was going on in the kitchen and came to join us after the cooling periods were over. She didn't necessarily want any crumbs, she was just hoping that all this kitchen activity meant I'd open the fridge so she could wedge herself in there and beg for her beloved carrots.
Slicing into the loaf!
Rosy's totally focused on the bread! Sunny's in her own little world, probably dreaming of carrots.
When it was time to sample the bread I decided to enjoy my afternoon snack with some iced coffee. I used to only drink my coffee black, but my sister has ruined me by introducing me to fun flavored non-dairy creamers, like Girl Scouts cookie-flavored creamers! Now I can't stop! Today I used the Samoa flavored creamer (I also have a Thin Mint flavored one). Sunny and Rosy got REALLY close to the bread for some good sniffs. 
Look at Rosy's begging shiny eyes!
Hope you enjoy!

Adapted from The Kitchn.