Tag Archives: bechamel sauce

Creamy Sour Cream Stuffed Mushrooms

4 Apr

I love to buy produce at Costco… but lately I’ve discovered “el pulguero”… yeah, the Flea Market. It doesn’t sound like the name of the place you would like to buy produce. And produce is only about 10% of what they sell there, but the prices and the bargaining power is amazing. Go with $10 bucks on hand, and you’ll fill a few canvas bags full of produce.

I learned about El Pulguero through Tania… she lives around the same area. She started going there to buy produce for the Yoga Center. You find bags of anything and everything for $1. It’s similar to The Boys Farmer’s Market near my sister’s house with their $1 bags.

The catch… most of the produce is ready to be used RIGHT NOW. Some things may have little blemishes or have a few leaves that need to be thrown out. This is usually not produce that you can allow to hang in your fridge or pantry for a long time. But the price is exceptional… way better than any grocery store. It’s like going to Marshall’s. You need to see what’s there and allow the produce “speak to you”.

My mom found the other day some great looking mushrooms, and coming from El Pulguero I didn’t want them to linger too much. That’s when I came across this stuffed mushroom recipe from Alex Guarnaschelli. Of course, I changed it up a bit to make it easier on me to make and to dirty less pots and pans.


10 white button mushrooms stemmed, reserving the stems
3-4 additional mushrooms to use for the filling, chopped finely
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup savory béchamel sauce, recipe here
½ onion, chopped finely
2-3 sprigs of thyme
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Handful of shredded parmesan cheese
2 handfuls of whole-wheat panko breadcrumbs
Aged balsamic vinegar – optional, but highly recommended
  1. Clean the mushrooms well using a damp paper towel. Remove the stems and chop them into small pieces and set aside. Reserve the caps for later use.
  2. In a medium skillet, pour a little olive oil and sauté the onions and the mushrooms stems you already chopped. Cook until the mushrooms are browned. Season with the thyme, stripping the leaves from the stems, salt and pepper. Add the béchamel and sour cream. Remove from pan into a bowl and allow cooling a bit.
  3. Mix together the cooled mushroom stem/onion/creamy mix with the parmesan and panko breadcrumbs.
  4. Preheat oven to 425F.
  5. Place all stuffed mushrooms in a large baking dish drizzled with a bit of olive oil. Don’t push the stuffing too much into the mushrooms cavity, but do heap any additional stuffing generously on top of mushrooms.
  6. I usually drizzle a a bit of olive oil and sprinkle some additional salt and pepper to season the raw mushrooms themselves.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the mushrooms are cooked and the top is golden brown.

Serve immediately…

A drizzle of balsamic vinegar at the table. It adds a really nice tang that finishes the dish.

I served this with Spinach Polenta and a side avocado salad…  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Spinach Crepes Revisited

11 Aug

I love spinach crepes… they’re my favorite savory combination of crepes. 

I used to eat a spinach crepe every Saturday as lunch at the Alliance Française…  I had a spinach crepe too for lunch when we visited Versailles last year.   When given the choice, a spinach filling usually wins for me.


Crepe epinard 1

When I did the Gateau des Crepes for the Fête de la Bastille celebration, the recipe yielded more spinach filling and more crepes than we actually need for the crepe stack.   And if it’s just me eating, the same components can be assembled differently in a more single dish friendly format.



2 spelt crepes
About 2 tbs of spinach béchamel filling
2 tbs grated gruyere cheese
1 small handful of toasted walnuts, chopped


  1. Pre-heat toaster oven to 350F.
  2. If crepes have been refrigerated, we’ll need to reheat them slightly.  In a small non-stick skillet over medium heat, place crepe individually for a few minutes until they’re warm and pliable.
  3. Take each crepe and spread about 1 tbs of filling into each one.  Sprikle with half the walnuts into each crepe.  Roll crepe onto itself and place in a buttered dish.
  4. Spread some extra spinach filling over the crepes and sprinkle with a bit more walnuts.  Add the grated gruyere on top to finish.
  5. Place in oven for about 10-15 minutes until the filling heats up and the cheese on top melts well.


Two crepes is, to me, the perfect serving for one person.  You can drizzle a bit of honey or agave nectar on top if you’d like a different sweet touch to the crepe…  I highly recommend it.

Broccoli Lasagna

29 Jul

Broccoli is in season, because it’s on sale in every supermarket I visit… the bunches looked so green and healthy I wanted to do something different with them.

Is lasagna something different Madelyn, really??  Well, it’s different for me because I have never done lasagna with broccoli before, but lasagnas are a big part of my dinner repertoire.  I used some inspiration from the delicious filling I did last year using broccoli and cauliflower.  Broccoli is on sale, Cauliflower not… so we are using broccoli alone on this one.



9 whole-wheat lasagna sheets
1 whole bunch of broccoli
1 tbs olive oil
¼ cup red onions, chopped finely
2 cups of milk
3 ounces of cream cheese
¼ cup parmesan cheese
1 cup Italian Blend shredded cheeses, divided in half
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
A pinch of red pepper flakes
½ cup of petite diced tomatoes
½ tsp Italian Seasonings
A drizzle of olive oil
2 tsps balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste


It seems like a lot of ingredients, but let’s break it down so you can see it’s not that complicated…


  1. Prepare the broccoli by cutting up the florets into small pieces so they cook faster.  I also use the stems…  just peel the tough exterior and cut the stems very small so they will cook at the same time as the delicate florets.
  2. I use a steamer to boil the water for the pasta and steam the broccoli at the same time.  I set up the steamer with as much water as it can accommodate in the bottom.  I place the steamer on top and steam the broccoli until it is cooked completely and almost mushy.  This will take about 10-12 minutes.
  3. While the broccoli steams, we make the white sauce…  in a medium sized pan over medium heat add a bit of olive oil and the red onion.  Cook a few minutes to remove the raw taste.  Add the milk and the cream cheese and stir every so often to melt the cheese and start to thicken the sauce.  When the cream cheese is incorporated into the milk, add 1/2 cup of the Italian shredded cheeses, the parmesan cheese and remove from heat.  Whisk all together to melt and blend the cheeses and thicken the sauce.  Set aside.
  4. When the broccoli is done, take the steamer off and place the broccoli in a medium sized bowl.  Add the ricotta and season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.  Mash all the ingredients in bowl using a potato masher.  Set aside.
  5. Using the water still boiling from the steamer, add salt and boil the lasagna noodles for about 8-10 minutes.  I leave them slightly underdone so they do not break on me when assembling the lasagna.
  6. While the pasta cooks, season the diced tomatoes with salt, pepper, Italian Seasonings, drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Mix well and set aside.
  7. Now let’s assemble the lasagna…  In a 9” x 13” glass baking dish sprayed with olive oil spray, place some ladles of the white sauce to prevent anything from sticking.  Place 3 lasagna noodles at the bottom.  Add ½ of the broccoli mixture, add ½ of the diced tomatoes, add a few ladles of white sauce, and sprinkle about 1/3 of the shredded cheeses left.  And we start over again, another layer of noodles, the rest of the broccoli mixture, the rest of the tomatoes, more white sauce and shredded cheeses.  Lastly, top with the last layer of noodles, pour enough white sauce to cover the noodles and allow it to seep into the rest of the lasagna.  Finish off with the remaining shredded cheeses you may have left.
  8. Place the glass dish on a baking sheet to prevent any spilling in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes at 350F, until the filling/sauce is bubbling and the top gets golden brown. 
  9. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving. 

Gateau des Crepes

14 Jul

I got this recipe idea from a Martha Stewart’s magazine… since I saw it, I have been meaning to make it myself.

We got together a few friends from my French group to celebrate la Fête de la Bastille – France’s  National Holiday – and it seemed only fitting to make one of this gateau to celebrate.

I modified the recipe a bit to make it more vegetarian – particularly made spelt crepes without any eggs.  The results are fabulous and extremely delicious.  The filling is basically the same exact filling as the mixture we made for our Spinach Croquetas, but added some gruyere cheese to make it more French and decadent.


½ medium onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, smashed lightly
2 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
2 tbs spelt flour
2 cups plain soy milk
2 ounces of cream cheese (optional)
1 ½ cups Gruyere cheese, grated and reserving ¼ cup for garnish
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 cups frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
12 egg-free Spelt Crepes
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the butter and olive oil.  When the butter has melted, add the chopped onion and the 2 smashed garlic cloves.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until the onions cook and look translucent.
  2. Take out the garlic clove pieces.  Add the spelt flour to the onion mixture and stir to become a paste.  Cook the paste moving it around for a few minutes to make sure there will not be raw flour taste later on.
  3. Slowly add the soymilk to the flour/onion paste and whisk it all while adding the milk.  The sauce will thicken once the mixture boils a few minutes. 
  4. After the sauce has thickened, take off from the heat and add the cream cheese, gruyere cheese.   Mix well together to make sure the cheeses melt.  Take out about ¼ cup of white sauce and place it aside.  Add the dried spinach.  Mix well to incorporate the spinach well into the sauce.  Set aside.  The sauce will thicken while standing, and this is a good thing.
  5. After the spinach sauce has cooled, we’ll assemble the crepe stack…
  6. Pre-heat oven to 450F.
  7. On a rimmed buttered baking sheet, place one crepe.  Slather with about 1 tbs of spinach sauce until almost the edges.  Place another crepe on top, slather again with spinach sauce.  Repeat this same thing 11 times and finish off the gateau with the 12th crepe. 
  8. Top the last crepe with about 2tbs of the reserved white sauce.  Place the reserved gruyere cheese on top.
  10. Place gateau on the oven for 10-15 minutes until the cheeses melt and create a golden lovely top.


Allow the gateau des crepes to cool off a bit before slicing into wedges, just like any other cake.  I served this alongside a green salad with a mustard vinaigrette.



When I made this, the oven was not fully at 450F and the gateau slid out of place and the filling spilled a bit out into the baking sheet.  I have asked if someone else had this same issue, but no replies so far.  I think the oven was too cool still and instead of just heating the filling and making the top golden, it just melted the cheese all over again.  Maybe using the broiler would be a better alternative.

The next few times I have used my leftover crepes, I have rolled them up and served them individual style.  This makes more sense to eat alone or for just two people… and it’s just as delicious.

Spinach Croquetas

8 Jul

I love croquetas… when I was little, my dad used to take us to La España to eat ham croquetas.  It was the treat while we were waiting for our Media Noches or Sandwiches Cubanos.  And the croquetas needed to be eaten with a squirt of lemon to taste in their prime.

But now that I am vegetarian, I miss eating croquetas.  So, in good vegetarian fashion, we need to start making them ourselves.

We got together in my friend Angie’s house to enjoy a whole Spanish feast to celebrate the start of San Fermín – among all the dishes we made, we made these croquetas.  Not to worry… you’ll be seeing the rest of the dishes we had in the next few days. 

We even got out our Spanish aprons for the ocassion…

We mixed a few techniques…  what my aunts in Miami have told me, a few recipes I had found on the internet, the fork-frying technique from Angie’s Cuban mother-in-law Graciela and our daringness to not give up on the first try if things did not turn our exactly as planned.  The results were delicious…


1 cup of frozen spinach, measured frozen, thawed and squeezed dry
½ yellow onion, diced small
1 garlic clove, smashed
1tbs olive oil
1 small pat of butter
2 tbs spelt flour
About ¾ to 1 cup of milk
Salt and Pepper to taste
About 1 cup of whole-wheat breadcrumbs
Canola Oil for frying


We will be basically making a thick béchamel that we will mix with the spinach, breading and then frying.

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil, butter, onions and garlic.  Sautee them until they become softened.  Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Remove the pieces of garlic and add the spelt flour and stir all together to form a paste.  Move around the saucepan a bit to cook the paste as much as you can to avoid having a raw flour taste afterwards. 
  3. After about 1-2 minutes of cooking the onion/flour paste, slowly add the milk while whisking.  Whisking will prevent lumps from forming.  Continue whisking once in a while until the mixture starts to bubble.  It’ll need to bubble to know how thick the sauce will really be.  Add more milk if you believe the sauce is too thick, but it needs to be on the thick side to withstand the frying later.
  4. Take off the heat and add the dry spinach.  Season with salt and pepper again.  Mix together well to avoid having big lumps of spinach.
  5. Take the mixture off the sauce pan to help it cool off.  You can place in the refrigerator, if you’d like.
  6. After the spinach béchamel has cooled, we can start making the croquetas…
  7. Place the breadcrumbs in a shallow container.  Set aside.
  8. In a large skillet, pour about ½ inch of canola oil and allow it to become hot enough for frying.  We always check using a wooden spoon.
  9. While the oil heats up, we take about 1 tsp of spinach mixture and roll it in our hands to make a ball. 
  10. Drop it on the breadcrumbs and roll around to coat it well on all sides.
  11. Place breaded balls in the hot oil to fry.   It’ll take about 5 minutes to cook on all sides until they’re golden brown. 
  12. The croquetas are delicate so the best way to handle them while frying them is using 2 forks.  Use the forks to roll them from one side to another to ensure they cook well on all sides and to take them out of the oil.
  13. Make sure the first side has cooked enough and is crispy to withstand being moved.  If you move them too soon, they will just break and form a sloppy mess on the frying pan.
  14. Take them off the frying oil and drain them on some paper towels while they cool off a bit.


The croquetas were a real success – we ate them all up before the husbands ever arrived.  We had such a great time frying and eating as they came out of the skillet.

Natalia and Mariana tried the croquetas for the first time and I think they were a hit – more with Natalia than with Mariana, but I feel confident I can make these again at home and they will both eat them all up.


These Spinach Croquetas may not be the ones I originally learned how to eat in La España.  But, with a little rearranging of the letters, these are also as Spanish as they can be.  And a squirt of lemon will not hurt these either…

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