creamy veggie spread

Creamy veggie spread

on mini bagels...not that you can tell from this picture

on mini bagels…not that you can tell from this picture

I’ve mentioned my index card before.  That’s where I kept the information for my favorite Everyday Food recipes back before this blog.  Well, this is another one that’s on the card and has been since 2007.  It’s a very satisfying recipe even though it’s just low-fat cream cheese/Neufchatel, chopped veggies, salt and pepper.  I’ve never messed with the ingredients or the proportions.  It’s just too good.  Normally, I mess with everything.  Not this.  Make it exactly as you’re told.  One downside is that it gets weird if you hang on to it too long.  It really is only good for a couple days.  The veggies start to break down and release water into the spread and that, in turn, makes the parsley kinda limp.  Oh, and a tip for when you definitely make this: take the cream cheese out and put it into the bowl as your very first step, then do all the rest of the prep into the bowl to give the cheese a little time to soften.  A metal spoon and your arms will be enough fire power.  Otherwise, you’re in for quite a workout trying to mix cold cream cheese and veggies together.

Creamy veggie spread

*adapted from Everyday Food Issue #47 November 2007 p. 52

  • 1 8 oz packaged Neufchatel cheese
  • 1 carrot, peeled then grated with a box grater
  • 1 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper (ribs and seeds removed), finely chopped
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced.  Keep the white part, the light green, and just a bit of the green green
  • 2 T chopped fresh parsley

Set the cheese in a medium bowl.  Prep the rest of the ingredients into that bowl, giving the cheese time to soften.  Season with coarse salt and fresh ground pepper.  Stir it together with a metal spoon.  Spread on bagels or crackers.  Use it within 3 days.  Everyday Food says 5.  I’ve never been lucky enough to get it to last that long.

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Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Beef and scallion “rolls

Sauteed bok choy and broccoli

Unrolled and unconcerned

Unrolled and unconcerned

Slice a pound of beef tenderloin or sirloin into 8 slices.  Place each slice between pieces of plastic wrap, being careful not to let the plastic wrap do the thing that it ALWAYS does where it sticks to itself, pound lightly until 1/8 inch thick.  Place delicate, little slices of bell pepper and green onion on to the slices, roll them tightly and secure with a toothpick.  Brown them on the stove.  Still with me?  I’m not.  I didn’t do any of this.  I took that beef, the bell pepper, and the green onion, chopped it into pieces and stir fried it in a non-stick skillet.  Then I added the soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar, made an awesome sauce and tossed it all together.  You know what?  It was good enough for me.

The bok choy and broccoli was probably a bigger hassle than the beef just because of all the prep it takes to cut up those vegetables.  I also overcrowded the pot and wound up jamming things down in there haphazardly.  It has a wonderful flavor and goes perfectly with the beef and scallion stir fry.

French cut green beans with dill butter

Know why most of the entree is gone?  Because we got tired of waiting for the beans to be done.

Know why most of the entree is gone? Because we got tired of waiting for the beans to be done.

What’s French for tedious?  Apparently, “fastidieux.”  Haricots vert et fastidieux.  That’s what these are.  Listen to these instructions and you’ll wish you were pounding little pieces of beef to 1/8 inch thick.

  1. Trim both ends of beans with a paring knife or snap off
  2. Cut beans in half into approximately equal-size pieces (really?)
  3. With a paring knife, carefully split each bean in half lengthwise
  4. Ask yourself why you ever decided to start this blog in the first place

The last step might not have been strictly necessary.  Yeah, they were tasty.  Yeah, they have a nicer texture than cooked green beans normally do.  Yeah, the dill and the butter are great additions.  It’s just…well…as a wise woman once said…

Zucchini fish dish

Steamed Flounder with Vegetable Couscous

Bachelor chow?  Not bad.

Bachelor chow? Not bad.

This recipe explains a lot about why I love(d) Everyday Food.  The issue B and I chose is one of the issues that went with my husband, D, during our brief academic separation.  Let me back up.  I went back to school in the fall of 2009 to get a master’s degree.  D stayed in Chicago while I went downstate because we thought it would only be a year and why uproot two lives.  So we had to divide up our stuff.  Lots of it went in my parents’ basement, lots into his parents’ basement, then the truly essential things were split between my new place and his new place.  Which brings me to Everyday Food.  Our collection of the magazine was split between us so that neither one of us would have to be without it.  I’ve been a subscriber since my mom transferred her subscription to me the fall that I started law school.  It was the fall right after I got married and the fall when I first moved to Chicago with that husband and got our cats.  This magazine is as old as my adulthood.  It taught me how to cook something besides macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, and 2-mustard chicken (a delectable dish involving…wait for it…two mustards).  So it’s important, ok?!?!

Because this recipe is from an issue that was in D’s custody during that year, he is the one with all of the experience cooking it.  In fact, he cooked it again this time.  I asked him for his thoughts about the recipe as someone who has made it so many times.  I asked him why he made it so often back in his semi-bachelor days.  He told me that it was a good choice because it is quick (that’s true, this dish really only takes maybe 15-20 minutes.  Not cookbook 15-20 minutes.  Real 15-20 minutes), and it gives you a lot of chunks of hands-off cooking time when you are free to unload the dishwasher, set the coffee for the next day, and clean up after yourself.  Plus, it is delicious.  He’s definitely right about that one.  It has a real Mediterranean flavor to it with the selection of vegetables, the couscous, and the oregano.  That makes it wonderfully light, but flavorful.  It is also nicely moist.  One does not think of things cooked in the microwave as being particularly moist, but this fish was perfect.  He also noted that this recipe uses pantry staples (dried oregano, olive oil, couscous) and things that store well for a long time (bell peppers, zucchini, and, if frozen, fish).  That makes it a good one for a semi-bachelor who doesn’t always have time to make it to the grocery store on a regular basis.

Another reason why D likes this recipe so much, he said, is because it does well with substitutions.  You’ll note that the recipe calls for flounder.  D always makes it with tilapia.  Why?  Because that’s what they sell in the big bags at Aldi.  You can also swap in other steaming-friendly vegetables without losing much.  I can imagine green beans in this dish.  This time around, D also substituted whole wheat Israeli couscous for the usual couscous.  This was completely delicious.  This did require one change to the cooking time.  You need to steam the veggie and couscous mixture for another minute if you’re using Israeli couscous.  That’s it!

A family classic worthy of becoming a staple long after we’ve reunited.