Dinner Recipes

Portobello Stroganoff

Happy Friday!

I hope you have super exciting plans for the weekend. I know I do; I plan on spending the least amount of time possible being awake. My life is very exciting. Adventures every second!

So I must say, after becoming a de facto vegetarian, I really do miss a few select dishes since red meat no longer rests lightly in my tummy. Beef stroganoff is one of these dishes. Steak is another but I wouldn’t touch that one with a 10 foot pole these days. I’d be out of commission for a week if I did.

I love the creamy texture of the sauces that envelop the tender beef strips and the general coherence of a plate of stroganoff. It’s perfect.


The sauce is great on its own and you can pour it over any casserole or pasta dish that you want, but what’s truly fantastic is that thick cuts of portobello mushrooms create the perfect chewyness needed in a proper stroganoff.

So here we go! I present to you…


Portobello Stroganoff

About 1/2 lb rigatoni, al dente
2 caps portobello mushrooms
1/2 medium onion
1/2 cup carrots
1 small clove garlic
1/2 cup yogurt
1/3 cup evaporated milk
Plenty of salt
Pepper to taste


1. Get your pasta to cookin’! Cut your portobellos into 1/2″ strips. I know it seems thick but have faith!


2. Set your saucepan on the stove to medium-high heat with about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and cook the portobellos until brown on each side. Sprinkle with salt and pepper as you flip.


3. Set aside the cooked portobellos.


4. Now, into the same saucepan, add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and add a crush and peeled garlic clove to the oil. This will make the oil all garlicy without being overpowering. Lower the heat to medium.


5. Remove the garlic when it browns and looks like this.


6. Next, throw in your sliced onions and carrot. Let them sweat a bit, undisturbed. Then, throw on a good amount of salt and pepper and let them cook some more, until transparent and limp and so deliciously caramelized.


7. At this point, your pasta should be cooked to perfection.


8. In a bowl, measure out your yogurt and evaporated milk. Mix well.


All my dishes were dirty, okay? Don’t judge me. (Btw, thanks for the mug Eric!)


9. By the time you’ve done all that, you should be ready to assemble! Get out those lovely mushrooms you cooked before, and throw ’em right over the onions and carrots. Let them hang out in there for a few minutes, just to warm them up.


10. Now, Drizzle all the yogurty goodness. Salt and pepper to taste.


11. Throw on the pasta and mix, allowing all the juices to seep into the pasta and make everything wonderful.


12. Make a mess.


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Oven Chimichangas

Have you ever had a chimichanga?? It’s a fabulousity.

A chimichanga is a fried burrito. Duuude. Burrito’s are already awesome. Fry ’em up and they become your one and only.


However, seeing how I have very clearly earned the reputation of cooking full-fat meals, I decided it was time to calm things down a bit. Give my hips and thighs a break for once. These lovely chimichangas are indeed baked and, get this, may actually be healthy!

Another disclaimer, we eat vegetarian normally in this household. So you will see that the recipe is vague for this reason. Replace my vegetable-y, non-meat-containing nonsense (aka “schmoosh”) with the meats of your choice my friends. You won’t hurt my feelings.

Let’s get started.

Oven-baked Chimichangas

1-½ cup cooked schmoosh of your choice (ground beef, cubed chicken, or in my case, leftover lentil “meat”balls and some mushrooms)
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoons black pepper
5 scallions, finely chopped (I love all things oniony so you can reduce the number if you’d like)
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
¾ cups salsa (see, this was my plan, but I was all out. So I substituted with a large tomato and a good dash of lemon juice)
1/2 cup (or more!) sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Flour tortillas
Oil for brushing
Optional: garlic salt and smoked paprika


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Start off by heating your pan with a drizzle of vegetable oil. Or, if you’re being snooty today, olive oil. It honestly doesn’t matter that much.


2. Toss in your “schmoosh” of choice and cook to desired done-ness.


For me, that included drowning my schmoosh in stock to redistribute the seasonings throughout. I added all my spices here because I felt like it.


3. When the schmoosh is ready, drop in your scallions and cilantro.


4. Next, add your salsa. Or, if you’re like me and constantly unprepared, your big ol’ tomato and a generous dash of lemon juice. Let it incorporate with the schmoosh for a minute or two. I left it in a bit longer since I wanted the tomatoes to soften up a bit.


5. Because you’re awesome, throw in your cheese, disperse them throughout your filling and turn off the heat. My grater was dirty so I diced up my cheese. Again, be more prepared than I am.


6. Now, take out your tortillas and add a good dollop of filling right in the center and fold ’em up. I will microwave my tortillas for maybe 30 seconds next time. They’ll be less cracky. But hey, who’s judging!


7. Set out, seam side down,  on a baking pan sprayed with your favorite oil sprayer.


8. Brush the tops of your chimichangas with olive oil or melted butter. I’m awesome and used melted butter.


9. If you want, you can sprinkle the tops with smoked paprika and a bit of garlic salt. It adds a little somethin’ somethin’ to the end outcome.


10. Set in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.


Yes, I take awful pictures when I don’t have natural light anymore. I promise I didn’t burn the tops of these. They were actually very delicious thank you.

Serve warm with guacamole!

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Roasted and Stuffed Butternut Squash

Neither Neil nor I have ever had butternut squash before. I didn’t really think I was missing anything but you know, there’s always room to expand your palate. And squash seems like something that everybody should be eating anyways. Also, in honor of October being Vegetarian Awareness Month, I felt that I should make something vegetarian. Because it’s not like I make that on a regular basis or anything, it’s Vegetarian Awareness Month silly.

When I went to Sprouts early in the week, it took all my willpower not to buy one of everything. Everything looked so fresh and beautiful and colorful! So I decided I would buy something new everytime. This week, it was butternut squash.

After doing some extensive research on the internet, I opted to roast whole halves of the squash and stuff it with couscous. Why? Because I can.


But really, I wanted to be able to taste the true squashyness of it without dousing it in excessive butter and brown sugar. What exactly is this butternut squash who I have been missing from my life these past 22 years??

To tell you the truth Mr. Internet, I think I might dice them and douse it in something next time. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, oh but I did, but I think it would be a nicer side dish than a stuffing platform.

Is that even a cooking term? “Stuffing platform”. Oh my.

There really isn’t a set recipe for this, there are so many different stuffings you could make and roasting it doesn’t really require a recipe so here’s a walk through on what to do:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. This is a good place to start.


I always like to wash my vegetables fully. My mom taught me that and that is what I do.


Now lob off your squash’s head. And give a menacing laugh as you do it. Muhahaha.


Now you want to split the squash right down the middle. And holy balloon animals, this was quite hard to do. My knife got stuck halfway through!


Be persistent and wahoo! Success!


Now scoop out the seeds and that stringy stuff with a spoon. You can toast those or toss ’em. I tossed them today but I may try toasting them later on.


Ok, now that they’re nicely cleaned, set them on a foil lined baking sheet. I’m lazy and the foil catches all the remnants and makes cleaning so much easier. And you’ll see later on that for this particular dish it’s a very good idea to line your favorite sheet with foil!


Now drizzle the entire thing with some olive oil.


Sprinkle on some brown sugar and dot with a bit of butter. There’s about a tablespoon of brown sugar and a teaspoon of butter on each half. I looked at some recipes that required total coverage of the squash half with brown sugar, but like I said, I wanted to keep it pretty close to the original flavor of the squash so I didn’t drown it in sugar.

Set in the oven and roast for anywhere from 35 minutes to 1 hour. I kept checking on it so mine took about an hour to roast completely. You’ll know it’s ready when a fork prick shows it to be tender.


Next, prepare your favorite stuffing mix. I made about two cups of couscous with a handful of fresh parsley and some oregano.


Remove your squash and scoop out the “flesh” from the long part of it. I put those bits right into my couscous mixture.

Do you see the black spots on the lower left hand corner of that picture? That’s the reason why you want to line your baking sheet! Some of the buttery sugary goodness ran off the squash and burned on the sheet. Can you imagine cleaning that?? I shudder at the thought.


Stuff your squash as desired and place it back in the oven for another 20 minutes or so. Just enough for your stuffing to become a little more incorporated with the squash and all the flavors to get to know eachother better. Remove and enjoy!

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Lasagna Roll-Ups

On my last visit to the grocery store, I had an incredible find: baby portabello mushrooms. And lemme tell you, am I obsessed with babies. Baby spinach, baby carrots, baby corn, baby kitties, baby babies, and now baby portabellos.

Throw it all in

The fabulous thing about them is that they don’t shrink nearly as much as regular button mushrooms. No sir. You cook and cook and cook ’em and they stay nice and firm and “meaty”.

Now, there’s only two people who live in my apartment. Well, not including the cats, but they’re cats so that doesn’t count. Anyways, you can always tell that I buy in bulk, because for about 2 or 3 consecutive days, the same ingredients will show up time and time again. We ate the one package of baby portabellos in two meals. The first was this lasagna roll up and the other was a hearty mushroom filling on a hoagie that I will post about later.

You may also notice that the chives, oh the lovely chives, show up again in this dish. They would have gone bad if I’d left them in the fridge any longer! Oh the woes of a small family.

Lasagna Roll-ups

6 pieces lasagna, cooked to al dente
1 tbsp butter
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 tbsp minced garlic
5-6 caps baby Portabello mushrooms, sliced and diced*
2 tbsp fresh minced chives
1/4 cup heavy cream
Alotta cheese… as much or as little as your heart desires

Boil the lasagna

1. Start by boiling your lasagna until al dente in boiling water with a pinch of salt. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Lay out flat

2. Run the noodles under cold water and lay out flat on a baking sheet. You may want to spray them ever so lightly with cooking spray to ensure that they don’t dry out. Drying out your lasagna would be disastrous. Don’t do it.

Carmalize onions and garlic

3. Meanwhile, melt a tablespoon butter over medium heat and add the minced garlic and onions. Let them hang out for 4-5 minutes or until the onions are translucent.

Baby Bellas

Now take a few caps of these babies and wash them well. There’s a whole bunch of hate from way better cooks than me about washing mushrooms. They say it makes them soggy and takes away from the flavor, etc etc. They recommend just wiping them down with a damp paper towel.

HOWEVER, my mama taught me about germs and the like so I will not partake in any of this gently wiping shananigans. Nope, I will wash my mushrooms thoroughly in cold water. Not hot water, c’mon.

Separate stems from caps

Separate the caps from the stems.

Dice and slice

*You will want to dice the stems since they are tougher than the caps and just slice the caps into approximately 1/8″ slices.
4. Throw in the mushrooms in with the onions and then add the chives right on top. Let them cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Heavy cream

5. Now here’s the fun part, just drizzle in the heavy cream all over your mushroom and onion mixture. Mmmmm.

Say cheeeeese

6. Grate up some cheese. You know I love me some cheese. I used the rest of my sharp cheddar and swiss. Drop into the mushroom mixture and turn off the heat and stir. You don’t want to cook the cheese because they’ll become tough.

Spoon out

7. Spoon the mixture onto the lasagna strips.

Roll up

8. And roll them up. Make sure you’re not pushing the mixture out till the end.


9. Lightly spray your favorite baking pan with cooking spray. I used my trusty 9″ pie pan.


10. Lay your rolls, seam down, into the dish. I had some leftover pasta sauce from earlier in the week so I coated the bottom of the pan with that. I have no regrets on doing so! Coat with some Parmesan cheese. Set in oven for about 20 minutes.


Remove and enjoy with garlic bread!

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Easy Breezy Mac and Cheesy

When I asked Neil what he wanted as his birthday dinner, he only had one suggestion to offer: mac and cheese.

Now, as everyone probably knows, I absolutely love cheese. All kinds of cheese. However, I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to macaroni and cheese. See, my freshman year in college, my mom bought me a Sam’s size package of about 36 boxes of Kraft mac and cheese. I only lived 15 minutes away from my parents but I was being independent. So I taught my roommates to use the full amount of butter for maximum yummy-ness for this delectable dish and well, we did… and we probably ate more than 36 boxes of mac and cheese that year.

Ever since then, I can’t really bring myself to eat too much mac and cheese. The yellow cheesiness and strange powder-cheese smell are disturbing to my psyche (how’s that for a psychoanalysis?? I knew that Psychology degree would payoff one day!)

So you see, I was a bit hesitant to make this dish for The Husband’s birthday. But, I’m happy to report that even though this meal isn’t as straightforward and easy as the Kraft version, it is the best macaroni and cheese I have eaten to date. And that’s sayin’ something.

Zahra’s Mac and Cheese

1/2 lb short pasta (I used elbow macaroni)

1 tbsp butter
1/2 small onion, diced
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk (I used 2%)
pinch of cayenne pepper if you’re feeling daring
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: Few sprigs of chives
About 3-4 cups grated sharp cheddar (or a combination of cheeses you have on hand)

Boil water for pasta

1. Bring water to a boil and add in some salt for the pasta. You want to cook the pasta until al dente.

Melt one tbsp butter

2. Turn on the heat to medium and melt a tablespoon of butter in a saucepan.

Dice half an onion

3. Dice the 1/2 of your onion.

Carmalize onion

4. Add the onions to the saucepan and let it caramelize, about 4-6 minutes.

Add in flour

5. Add in 1/4 cup flour.

brown the onions and flour

6. Stir the mixture around until golden brown and about the texture of cooked oatmeal.

Add in milk

7. Pour in 2 cups of milk and whisk to combine.

Throw in some cayenne

8. As the mixture is coming to a boil, add in a pinch of cayenne pepper if you’re feeling daring.

boil until thick

9. By this point, the milk should be bubbling. Add in the last cup of milk and bring to a boil. Then, turn down the heat to a simmer until the mixture thickens.

get out some chives

10. Take your chives and mince ’em.

mince some chives

Like so.

Get out some cheese

Also, take your cheeses and grate ’em. I had some leftover swiss as well as my sharp cheddar so I used both.

Add in cheese

11. Add the whole shabang into your saucepan. Turn off the heat and stir until incorporated.

pour cheese mixture over pasta

12. Pour cheese sauce over your pasta and stir until all the macaroni is covered in cheesy goodness.

Dish out and enjoy

Dish out and serve! I also had some vegetarian meatballs that I heated and coated ever so lightly in the same cheese sauce.

Happy Birthday Neil!

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