Cooking with Erica: Thai Basil Tofu Stir-Fry

I love Thai food, and I’m always trying to make Thai dishes, despite not having very much success. Edible yes, but ending up more American than Thai. (This is what I get by being spoiled with good Thai food and my friend Nares who’s done an excellent job at giving me an education in this with the added bonus of being able to order most dishes without fearing mispronunciations.)

I’m also proud to say that this is really the first Erica-original recipe I’ve done. And it’s awesome.

Thai Basil Tofu Stir-Fry
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Cooking with Erica: Lentil and Veggie Nachos

These are extremely yummy and healthy for you. Way healthier than say nachos from a bar. This is based on a recipe from The Better Homes and Gardens: The New Cookbook. Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures before they were devoured by me while I was watching House.

Lentil and Veggie Nachos

1 3/4 cups water
3/4 cup lentils, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
tortilla chips
2 cups assorted chopped vegetables (I used tomatoes, zucchini, and carrots.)
3/4 cup (3 oz) shredded cheese (I used mozzarella.)

In a medium saucepan stir together water, lentils, onion, salt, and cumin. Bring to boil and then reduce heat. Simmer covered for 15-20 minutes or until lentils are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Use a fork to mash the cooked lentils.

Place tortilla chips on a large baking sheet. Spread lentil mixture over tortilla chips and top with veggies and cheese. Broil 3 to 4 minutes or until the cheese melts.

Cooking with Erica: Baked Macaroni and Cheese

No, this is not the kind that comes in a box. This is the homemade kind. I’m slowly convincing Jason to love it.

Mac n' Cheese

From Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Serves 4

1 1/2 cups 1% cottage cheese (I went with full-fat here.)
1 1/2 cup skim milk or buttermilk (I used buttermilk.)
1 tsp dried mustard or 1 tbsp prepared mustard (I used prepared.)
pinch of cayenne
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated onions
1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
1/2 pound uncooked elbow macaroni
2 tbsp finely grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese (I used Parmesan.)
1/4 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375°. Prepare a 9-or-10-inch square baking pan with a light coating of cooking spray or oil.

In a blender, combine the cottage cheese, skim milk or buttermilk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg, salt, and pepper and puree until smooth. In a large bowl, combine the pureed mixture with onions, cheddar cheese, and uncooked macaroni. Stir well. Pour the mixture into the baking pan. Combine the grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese and the bread crumb and sprinkle over the top.

Bake for about 45 minutes, until the topping is browned and the center is firm.

Cooking with Erica: Flower Power Strawberry Cake

Also for Jason’s birthday, I broke down and made a cake. I almost ended up not making it when I knocked my mixer’s large glass bowl off the counter and it crashed on the floor, breaking into a thousand pieces. I guess it was better that I didn’t have anything in the mixer yet…

Flower Power Strawberry Cake

This cake came out really well. It’s very moist and delicious. The original recipe is from Favorite Brand Name’s Cake Mix.

Flower Power Strawberry Cake

1 package (18 1/4 oz) white cake mix without the pudding in the mix
2 containers (12 oz) strawberry yogurt
4 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 package (4-serving size) strawberry gelatin
1 container (8 oz) thawed frozen whipped topping

Preheat over to 350°F. Lightly grease 13×9-inch baking pan.

Beat cake mix, yogurt, eggs, oil, and gelatin in large bowl with electric mixer at low speed for about 1 minute or until blended. Increase speed to medium and beat 1-2 minutes until smooth. Pour in pan.

Bake 38 to 43 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan.

Spread whipped topping over cake. The recipe calls for strawberries on the top of the cake. I ended up with strawberry banana gelatin, and I later put bananas on top of it. It was yummy. Make sure to refrigerate cake.

Cooking with Erica: Cheese Manicotti

Okay, I know this is my portfolio, marketing, prosumer blog; however, I thought I’d branch it out a little into something I’m learning to love or loving to learn: cooking. I’m a vegetarian with a host of food allergies and have sometimes felt that food has been an upwards struggle throughout my life.

Last week was Jason’s 28th birthday and on Monday, I made him his favorite dish, manicotti. The following recipe is a mix from Golden Grain’s box, Jason’s mother, and my own improvisation.

Cheese Manicotti

8 oz large manicotti
2 cups marinara sauce*
3 cups (24 oz) ricotta cheese
1 cup (4 oz) shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp parsley flakes
1 tsp basil
1/4 tsp salt

*Due to my food allergies, I always make my own tomato sauce. I use canned tomato sauce, which only has water, tomatoes, and salt in it. Then I add Italian seasoning, basil (fresh basil from my plant too), oregano, salt and cayenne pepper. I do it to taste, mostly with the first three herbs, and sometimes I stick other things in it as well such as rosemary or cumin. Depending on my time, I will sometimes cook it on the stove for about 15 or so minutes or cook it in a crock pot for an hour or so. It definitely helps bring out the flavor.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Do not cook pasta. It goes a lot better and is easier if pasta isn’t cooked, despite what most recipes say to do.

Pour 1 cup sauce over bottom of 13×9 inch glass baking dish.

For filling, combine everything, except rest of sauce and noodles, and mix well. Carefully fill each manicotti and arrange in a single layer on the baking dish. I found that my shrimp forks worked really well.

Pour rest of sauce on top of manicotti. Make sure to cover noodles entirely. This is how they cook. Any noodles not covered can burn or will stay hard.

Cover tightly and bake for 35 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with additional mozzarella cheese. Cook for about 10 more minutes. It’s very hot when it comes out the oven so don’t let the deliciousness burn your tongue.

Manicotti is very filling, and I’m sure this cheese extravaganza is not the most healthy dish I’ve made. Despite that, Jason and I both had two empty plates.