Eat Me

Fall is for Frito Pie

(November 2022)

Fall means a lot of different things to a lot of different people: cooler temperatures and warmer colors, pumpkins and spice, and - of course - football (real and virtual).

A lot more baking happens in the fall while comforting soups and stews simmer on the stovetop or in a slow cooker. Chili contents are held. 

While I've enjoyed a lot of chili in my lifetime, I have never had it served on top of Fritos. I had never even heard of it. . . 

Come to think of it, I did come across it once. There was a hotdog stand on a downtown corner where I used to live - Weiner Wagon. Their menu featured three varieties of Frito Pie. Three. I cannot recall if I ever tried one. However, I remember it sounded sort of amazing and disgusting at the same time.

Imagine my surprise when - several years later - I see an Instagram post from Food & Wine with a recipe for Frito Pie. The photo shows three individual size bags of Fritos, slit open, with the chili served right in the bag. Sort of lowbrow for a foodie publication, don't you think? (Is it really food? Is there really an appropriate wine pairing?)

A quick search for Frito pie will net you a plethora of recipes. Turns out, this is not a passing fad. Another publication, Epicurious, ranks eating chili right out of a bag of Fritos as the number one way to eat chili. (For reference, they rank Cincinnati chili as the worst.)

However, while Epicurious does provide a recipe for Cincinnati chili they do not for Frito Pie. That's because it's simple: "split a personal-size bag of Fritos down the middle and pour your chili in."

That didn't keep Food & Wine from publishing a recipe for Frito Pie - a rather highbrow one at that. The first reviewer wrote: 

" Ruined the simplicity of what makes Frito pies great with the addition of superfluous, Cali-elitist ingredients. Definitely not a Texas Frito pie that so many of us Texans enjoy every Fall Friday night under the bright lights of high school football stadiums whether our team wins or loses. . . . "

 (For reference, Food & Wine also has a recipe for Cincinnati Chili.)

I decided to try it. I made a hybrid Frito Pie, meaning that I made chili from scratch but a far simpler version. I served it in a bowl (not in the bag): Fritos topped with chili (with black beans), topped with shredded cheddar cheese and chopped onion. We ate it in front of the TV in front of a football game for the whole experience.

Mind blown! I couldn't believe I had never had this before.

Consider this: I have made Cincinnati Chili. On purpose. And eaten it. On purpose. So consider your reviewer's point of view. Frito Pie may not be too lowbrow for me.

Fall Cake

(September 2022)

Hubby recently presented me with a recipe that he found in the newspaper and said, "Make this." It was from several weeks prior so I must have seen it myself and took no interest in it. I don't usually make a lot of desserts so not only did I overlook the recipe myself, I wasn't anxious to make it even with a special request.

Then one day we were invited to a Taco Tuesday pot-luck dinner. It was with a group of people who regularly gather for such an event so I figured each household probably had their own specialty. I knew there would be plenty of food even if I didn't bring anything but I wanted to contribute something. I had found a bean recipe that looked interesting but then Hubby said, "Why don't you bring this cake?"

I did. It was the only dessert there and it was a hit. It's easy to make and it incorporates fall spices making it a perfect fall recipe. (Think "pumpkin-spice" without the pumpkin.)

It's an oatmeal cake and the recipe was in the August 31, 2022, edition of The Desert Sun. It may be behind a paywall (I'm a subscriber) so I looked up other versions. The Desert Sun recipe was based on one put out by Pillsbury called Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cake with Broiled Topping. I also found this: Oatmeal Cake with Broiled Coconut-Pecan Topping. I still have the one from the newspaper so if you're interested, I'll give it to you.

Oatmeal is combined with milk, water, flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, eggs and vanilla for the cake. It's baked in a 13 x 9 pan for about a half hour. The topping is made of shredded coconut and chopped pecans combined with brown sugar and butter, heated on the stove to melt, and spread on the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. Then it goes under the broiler for about two minutes to give the topping a nice caramelized, toasty crispness. 

Even though the topping was crunchy (like a crumble), the cake was moist and sweet. Sure, a little added pumpkin - or raisins - could be added but it really didn't need any. It was perfectly sweet on its own.

We cut the cake in advance into small pieces and put them in cupcake wrappers which made it easy to serve without needing additional dishes for dessert. 

If you have a group that doesn't much like pie, think about making this cake for Thanksgiving. It could be your new tradition.

One-pot pasta with mushrooms in a creamy white wine sauce

(May 2022)

It's been a good week of cooking at home. I was quarantined with COVID so I had time on my hands. I know that not everyone with COVID feels like cooking, but I was lucky in that my symptoms were relatively mild and only lasted a few days. The rest of my time at home was practically a staycation

Last night, I made this recipe from Food & WineOne-Pot White Wine Pasta with Mushrooms and Leeks. After making the Peruvian stir-fry (see below), I was delighted to have two hits in one week.

I made a few changes:
  • Since I was ordering my groceries online, I purchased Baby Bella mushrooms instead of crimini because they were easier to find and they came in the right quantity.
  • I'm not a huge leek fan and I had a bag of Vidalia onions to use up so I sliced up about a cup and a half of the Vidalia.
  • I substituted chicken broth for the vegetable broth.
  • I left out the dill for no particular reason other than I didn't feel like buying dill.
This took about an hour to make while the recipe offers that it will only take 30 minutes. Two things slowed me down: cleaning and slicing a pound of mushrooms, and bringing the liquid to a boil after adding the pasta. Other than that, it was not a hard recipe although it does have quite a few ingredients.

You can start heating the oil while you're preparing the mushrooms. After the mushrooms are sliced and in the pot, you have have 15 minutes when you can organize and prepare your other ingredients. (Hint: if you are using fresh parsley, wash that first before you start slicing the mushrooms. That gives it some time to dry before you chop it.) 

Since the recipe calls for white wine, you might as well pour a glass for yourself. Why not?

Because of the number of ingredients, there were plenty of dishes to wash afterwards. Yes, you only need one pot to cook the meal but you need several measuring cups and spoons, small bowls for prepared ingredients, a cutting board and knife, a grater for the lemon zest, and whatever it is you use to extract juice from a lemon.

However, the effort paid off. The pasta was al dente and the sauce was a bright balance of lemon, wine, and cream. It only calls for 1/2 cup of cream which for a whole pot of pasta is not a lot. But, combined with two tablespoons of butter, it lends just enough creaminess to the sauce of wine and lemon juice.

We'll get six servings from this recipe. Fresh out of the pot, it was delicious. It's hard to say what the leftovers will be like (I'm not sure pasta reheats so well) but it would be a great meal to make for guests, especially if you can prep the ingredients in advance. It's sophisticated comfort food.

The dish pairs marvelously with white wine. I used a Sauvignon Blanc in the dish and in my glass. Both were great.

I'm done with COVID now which means I'm much more likely to dine out this week. However, I still have one more meal to make from last week's shopping: huevos rancheros. I'm looking forward to more time in the kitchen and eating some good leftovers from last week.



Peruvian beef stir-fry 

(May 2022)

I found this recipe in The Desert Sun (Wednesday, May 11, 2022). I can't find a link on The Desert Sun's website but I found it here on Food52. The recipe is from Milk Street Tuesday Nights by Christopher Kimball.

The recipe called for 1.5 pounds sirloin tips but I used about 1 pound choice cut tenderloin which was plenty of meat. I also substituted a Vidalia onion for the red onion because that's what I had on hand. Other than that, I stuck to the recipe.

It says it takes only 35 minutes to make and, for once, the timing was accurate. Usually, I double the time that's quoted for making a recipe. It seems to me that people who write recipes also have a sous chef and someone to wash the dishes. This one, however, was easy to prepare and didn't require a lot of dish washing.

The comments in the newspaper differed slightly from Food52 in that they suggested the dish be served on top of rice which is what I did. I felt like serving it on top of roasted new potatoes would be better and it turns the way the dish is traditionally served is on french fries. (I also thought it could be good on mashed sweet potatoes.)

The dish is colorful in addition to being easy to make. However, I felt it could use a little more crunch and more vegetables to balance the meat. Red, orange, or yellow bell peppers would do the trick quite nicely in my opinion. Something to add next time.

The recipe says it serves four but we'll get a total of six servings out of it even though I cut the meat by one third. (Maybe we're not big eaters.)

This might not be like any stir-fry you've made before. It does call for soy sauce, yes, but it also calls for cumin, jalapeño, and red wine vinegar. The resulting sauce is tangy with mildly warm spicing. It's the fusion of Peruvian and Chinese cuisine.

It's also delicious and worth making. Enjoy!


Two Worth Mentioning 

(February 2022)

Two recipes currently residing on open tabs in my internet browser are Cauliflower Bolognese from Epicurious and Freezer-Friendly Shepherd's Pie from The Pioneer Woman.

For me, the Cauliflower Bolognese rates a three out of five forks whereas Hubby would rate it five forks. I found the recipe after searching for dishes to make with cauliflower since I had just bought one at the local farm stand. It was fresh and local but I bought it without a preconceived idea of what I might do with it. 

You need a food processor for this recipe or you will spend a lot of time chopping 12 ounces of mushrooms in addition to the full head of cauliflower. This is a meatless bolognese but it was not flavorless. Be sure to read the comments as many thought the sauce wasn't saucy enough. One trick is to reserve some of the pasta water which can be added to loosen things up. I didn't use the rosemary or the lemon zest as called for because I didn't have it on hand but would make an effort to try them next time. 

While I think I will make this again, I only give it three forks because I don't love the leftovers. While plentiful, I don't think pasta ever really reheats well. Hubby, however, loves it. One possibility is to only use as much pasta as needed for single meal and to only freeze the leftover sauce, making fresh pasta with each re-serving.

The tab on my browser for the Shepherd's Pie reads Best Shepherd's Pie Recipe which is apt as it's the best one I've ever made. It made more than I thought would fit in the prescribed 8x8 baking dish so I put it in a slightly larger one which left it unsatisfyingly thin. Next time, I'll take my chances on the 8x8. 

I used the full two pounds of Yukon gold potatoes as called for although that seemed like a lot. I also used bison meat instead of beef because I happened to have a coupon for it.

The key to the pie's deliciousness seemed to be the gravy that's created with butter, flour, and beef stock. (I actually used roast beef flavored Better Than Bouillon which worked well.) The gravy with the meat, vegetables, and cheesy potatoes combined to make the most comfortable of comfort foods. It makes four servings so if you're planning for guests, you'll want to double the recipe and use a bigger pan.

As temperatures warm up, I am less likely to make this again in the near future but the next time I'm looking for a cozy meal, this one is near the top of my list.


(January 2022)

I make hard-boiled eggs one of two ways - although neither involve boiling eggs so much as boiling water. The first is in a steamer that stands over about an inch of boiling water in a pot on the stove. Once the water comes to a boil, I lower the steamer into the pot, cover, and reduce heat to medium or medium low. (The water should continue to boil at this temperature. If not, increase heat.)

I continue to boil the water for 11 minutes after which I remove the pot from heat while I prepare an ice bath. With tongs, I transfer the eggs to the ice bath and refrigerate until their intended use. I can make eight eggs in my steamer but six fits more comfortably in the pot that I'm using.

The other method is in my pressure cooker and the reason I put it here, on this page, is to remind myself how to do it. I usually make boiled eggs once a week but sometimes I'll use the steamer for weeks on end or I'll switch to avocado toast for breakfast and after a spell, I forget how to make the eggs in my pressure cooker.

The pressure cooker is great for when I want to make eight or more eggs at a time. I've tried various online recipes but the method that seems to be working well for me right now is this: Put eight eggs into the pressure cooker's steamer basket over two cups of water. Bring to low pressure for four minutes. Natural release for four minutes. Place eggs in ice bath and refrigerate.

Easy Weeknight Chili 

(September 2021)

It was all three. I made this on a Wednesday in about an hour with a few ingredients and it was very tasty. The recipe is from Pressure Cooker Perfection from America's Test Kitchen

To make it, first sauté an onion (chopped fine) in pressure cooker (or InstaPot). Add 2T chili powder, 2t cumin, 4 cloves garlic (minced), salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring for about a minute. Add 1 pound ground meat and brown. We used 85% lean ground beef but Hubby suggested Bison would work as well. I don't know how it would turn out with sound chicken or turkey but I imagine the result would be drier. (Maybe more broth could be added?)

Add 28oz can crushed tomatoes and 1 cup chicken broth. Cook under pressure for 10 minutes followed by a quick release. 

The recipe, I just now noticed, calls for two 15oz cans of beans to be added after the beef mixture has finished cooking. I misread it and only added one can and it turned out fine. The next time I make it, I'll add two and let you know how it turns out. I happened to have black beans already so that's what I tossed in instead of kidney beans as called for in the recipe.

The chili was a little soupy at this point (maybe the second can of beans would have helped) so I let it simmer on the stove for a few minutes while I set the table and gathered condiments. I chopped some cilantro and part of a bell pepper and got out some grated cheddar that I found in the refrigerator. 

The result was a very flavorful and easy chili. We will get five servings out of it but would have gotten more if I had added the second can of beans. Haven't had the leftovers yet but I expect they'll be good and I can already predict that I'll be making this again. Who knows? Maybe I'll make it on a weekend. 

(Are you ready for some football??)

Bison Burgers with Fig Jam and Caramelized Onion, Blue Cheese, and Lettuce on Brioche Bun

(August 2021)

I think the title says it all.

I was inspired by the recipe for Buffalo Cambozola Burgers published in the LA Times. In fact, the article was entitled "7 of Our Best Burger Recipes." I don't make burgers often. In fact, I don't even own a grill. But since my grandson is on a mission to invent the greatest burger of all time, I thought I would help with the research and make all of the burger on LA Times's list. This was first up. 

I changed things up a bit. First of all, I used ground bison since buffaloes are found in Africa and South Asia. I couldn't find cambozola cheese so used Blue. Instead of Kaiser rolls, I used Brioche Buns because they were smaller than the Kaiser rolls in my grocery store bakery. And, instead of arugula, I used salad greens that were already on hand in my refrigerator. I also ditched the dates and figs for a jar of prepared fig spread.

In essence, my burger is only distantly related to the one in the LA Times article. I caramelized the onions with the rosemary and garlic. (That might be the only resemblance to the original recipe.) To that, I added half the jar of fig spread (about 4.5 ounces) and a splash of balsamic vinegar (rather than the balsamic cream) to taste.

Since I don't have an outdoor grill, I used a portable induction  stovetop outside with my cast iron skillet and I halved the recipe so I didn't need much space.

All said, they were pretty tasty but I lost my motivation to make any of the others in the Best Burgers article. Too many ingredients, too many steps, too hot outside.

Maybe next year.

Two I liked this week (plus one I liked before)

(January 2021)

Two recipes that were a hit this week were Skillet Eggs in Enchilada Sauce from Real Simple and Tikka Masala Soup from The Modern Proper. I'm very quickly running out of coffee so my comments here may be brief.

The Eggs in Enchilada Sauce was very flavorful and would definitely serve four people (as indicated in the recipe). While our local store had tomatillos, it did not have a poblano pepper. The grocer offered a fresh pasilla pepper as an alternative which provided a little more but acceptable level of heat than a poblano would have. 

I didn't like the idea of frozen kale (simplicity aside) so opted for fresh Tuscan kale. It was worth the effort to clean and chop it, in my opinion. The recipe also called for an 8 ounce package of green enchilada sauce. I couldn't find this so I bought a 14.5 ounce can of green enchilada sauce and used it all. This made the sauce a little soupier but not to its detriment.

For tortillas, I used de mi Abuela brand Corn & Wheat Tortillas from Trader Joe's. These are the most delicious tortillas I've ever tasted. Instead of serving the tortillas as a side, I served the skillet eggs on top of the tortillas (two per serving). Since it was just the two of us, I only used two eggs but saved the leftover enchilada sauce which we reheated a couple of days later for breakfast, adding two more eggs. Flavorful, easy, and good as leftovers. A trifecta.

My coffee cup is empty which means my attention span has reached its limit. To be continued ...

... better.

The Tiki Masala Soup was not a difficult recipe but it did require some specialty ingredients and equipment. Often, if I need to buy more than one spice or can't substitute a piece of equipment with another kitchen tool, I pass on a recipe. Fortunately, I didn't have to pass on this one.

Some of the special items were:
-coconut oil (olive oil could probably be substituted)
-garam masala spice mix
-ground ginger
-an immersion blender

Not daunting yet? There are three more spices called for: cayenne pepper, cumin, and cinnamon. Combined with onion and garlic - just thinking about the aromas makes me hungry for this soup. Instead of an immersion blender, you should be able to use the margarita-style blender you have one lurking somewhere with your kitchen appliances. (I received one as a gift in 1984. It wasn't a very good one, per se, but it lasted 30 years. It was probably up for the job but I had the immersion blender.)

One item called for was unsweetened coconut cream (not cream of coconut). I had no trouble finding this ingredient in my local store but you will find in the comments after the recipe that there was considerable confusion over this item. It appears, the ingredient list has now been changed to call for full fat coconut milk however the directions still refers to cream. I purchased the cream (pictured here) and was worried that the dish would be overly sweet. However, I cooked the soup a little longer than called for and felt the spices mellowed the sweetness in a very satisfying way. (Cream of coconut, coconut cream, and coconut milk are all differing things. Be sure to not the get cream of coconut.)

You will also find in the comments that other ingredients can be added such as potatoes or cauliflower. We prepared the recipe as written and had loads of leftovers (multiple meals for two) which we served over rice garnished with golden raisins and sliced almonds. This recipe was simple to make (although the ingredient list could be a little daunting if you don't already have a lot of spices in your pantry), was delicious, and made satisfying leftovers. 

The last recipe I want to mention to you is Ham Fried Rice. As it turns out, however, I am out of coffee again. Also, I plan to make it again this week. If the rerun is as good as the original, I will let you know.

[Oh, yes, it was good. Best Fried Rice recipe as promised by its author.]

Not playing chicken anymore

(December 2020)

I have never successfully baked a whole chicken before. Even baking chicken parts have eluded me with two notable exceptions. Considering that I've been in the kitchen for 40 years, that's not a terribly good track record.

Considering that one can buy an already roasted chicken, inexpensively, at the grocery store, one wonders what the point of roasting a chicken at home really is. Good question. I can't say what prompted me to even try except that I had come across a recipe for how to do it in my pressure cooker.

The recipe came from Pressure Cooker Perfection from America's Test Kitchen. While promising to take less time, it looked more complicated than simply putting it in the oven and then waiting while the house filled with mouthwatering aromas. Don't get me wrong. I love what I can learn from ATK, however I find that most of their recipes can be time consuming and over-involved. On a weeknight, it wasn't worth the effort.

Instead, I turned to the plethora of recipes available on the internet and got lucky with Dutch Oven Whole Roast Chicken from Bowl of Delicious. There's absolutely nothing complicated about it and why such a thing should elude me for so long ... well, eludes me. It took about two hours to make*, start to finish, and cost 2-3 times that of the deli roasted variety from the grocery store (I purchased an organic chicken from Trader Joe's) but it was soooo worth it. 

Somehow, it also seemed to yield more. That's not possible, I know, but as a guest of Bill's Grill (very exclusive guest list, sorry), I've seen how a chicken can be roasted and sliced like a turkey, serve a party of 4-6, and still yield leftovers. I don't know how that works but it does. The chicken I roasted served the two of us with enough leftovers for at least another two meals. Not only that but it was far more flavorful than its deli-roasted counterpart. 

A whole roasted chicken won't be a regular weeknight recipe but I wouldn't hesitate to make one for guests on any given weekend, assuming we are able to do that ever again. Until then, I'll find comfort where I can - in comfort food.

*Working from home, I took a break to prepare the chicken in the late afternoon and dinner was ready by the time I got off work.


Just so I don't forget

(June 2020)

These are a couple of recipes I didn't want to forget:

I made the chili while we were sheltering in place due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. It was comfort food with a dose of fresh vegetables, something that was lacking in our initial pantry stocking. It was easy to make, delicious to eat, and froze and reheated wonderfully. The only downside was Hubby was our household's designated grocery shopper during that time and it called for more ingredients the his attention span allows. Three or four items are no problem for him to find in a grocery store but more than that causes a certain amount of aggravation. Plus it called for tomatillos, something he was not familiar with. I was advised that the recipe would not suffer adversely if we couldn't' find them in our local store. Luckily, Hubby asked someone asked for assistance and was able to get them. I was glad for the flavor they added.

The curry was as easy to make, as advertised. It featured a lot of flavor without a lot of complicated ingredients and reheated reasonably well. It's a good one to have in your back pocket if you need to pull something together quickly. And it has spinach in it so it's good for you.

These are two very different recipes. One is big-batch-hearty and the other is big-flavor-no-worry. Both can be relied upon.

Guest Post Review of Bistro Meatloaf

(June 2020)

Today I have a guest on Eat Me. Please meet my grandson, C.

C: hi.

[speak up] Okay, so I want to review a recipe that we made together.

C: We didn't actually make it together.

Well, you helped.

C: I called the fire department.

Ha, ha - well, I think we're getting ahead of ourselves. So, the recipe we're reviewing is from the Los Angeles Times and it was called Bistro Meatloaf and I made it because Papa loves meatloaf and he complains that I don't make it enough and your sister, as it turns out, also likes meatloaf.

C: She likes everything. I mean, she likes to eat everything.

[be nice] When I saw this recipe I thought this is perfect except everything didn't go quite as planned.

C: Yeah, I had to call the fire department.

I had to improvise a little and you didn't actually have to call the fire department. My cast iron skillet is currently in storage a thousand miles from here.

C: I don't get it.

Basically, there's butter in this meatloaf recipe which is good from a flavor standpoint but I had to cook the meatloaf on a cookie tray and when the butter melted, plus the fat from the beef, it splattered on the cookie sheet and created a lot of smoke in the oven.

C: Yeah, every time you opened the oven there was a huge cloud of smoke.

So what happened?

C: We had to eat something else.


C: We got takeout from Alps Village.

What did you order?

C: Not meatloaf.

Editor's Note: The salvaged meat made a good base for Shepherd's Pie. I sauteed the salvaged meatloaf meat with peas and carrots and topped the mixture with mashed potatoes. It was Hubby and GrandKiddo approved for dinner and for leftovers. Would definitely make again. Smoke and all.

Happy Birthday!

(April 2020)

Comfort baking has led to shortages of flour. Along with toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and bleach, flour has been hard to find on the shelves of local stores. If you're looking for flour and can't find any, I'll give you my uncle's number. He just happens to have a stockpile. Wanting to make bread, he found a source for ordering flour online. When it was delivered, however, he discovered he hadn't ordered a five pound bag as he thought he had. He ordered a 50 pound bag. He'd be happy to sell you a loaf of artisanal, organic bread for $45 a loaf. Two, for $80. Or maybe he'd just lend you a cup. You know, we're all in this together.

I heard this story from the source itself during a Zoom family reunion. It was an online gathering of the sort that's becoming more and more the norm for socializing, a substitute for human contact. It was also a time of remembrance of a special man whom we all loved. We all shared stories of one sort or another. About the man. Also, about flour.

I didn't know there was a shortage of flour. I've been blissfully comfort baking during these weeks of at-home confinement with what I already had in my pantry, unaware that I had such a precious commodity. Dear Uncle, I may need to come see you soon. (If only...)

Muffins have become my latest obsession. My latest indulgence is carrot cake muffins with cream cheese frosting. I eat them for breakfast. (Don't judge me.) But if you must save them for a special occasion (such as a birthday), just know that it's somebody's birthday somewhere. It's not like you could go to their party, right?

So go ahead. Indulge. You have my permission.

It's a good thing I don't have a scale.

(April 2020)

For future reference, this post is brought to you while quarantining during the coronavirus pandemic. For your current reference, baking.

Like many of you, I've been baking while I've been sheltered-at-home. (That's something we say in 2020, future readers - sheltered-at-home.) Besides the Banana Bread Muffins (next post), I've also made Apple & Carrot Muffins (almost sound good for you, don't they?), Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins, and Apple, Cinnamon, Oatmeal Muffins. If you're sensing a theme, you're right: It's oatmeal.  I like the heft it gives the muffins. One will last me until lunch.

More than that, these recipes utilize what's already in my pantry (or cupboard as the case may be). As I mentioned in the post below, I'm only just building my pantry. I don't have vanilla extract on hand so I left it out and didn't miss it. I never have milk in the house so I've been using vanilla soy milk (you know, that with which I make my lattes). My inspiration came from what was on hand: apples, applesauce, carrots, oatmeal, raisins, honey, and nuts. (We're all a little nuts right now.)

The internet is a wonderful thing. Enter the ingredients you have on hand and add the word "muffins" and voilà: You have a recipe for using up what you bought too much of when you were hoarding last week at Costco.

I'm sorry I didn't take pictures but seeing as we may be doing this for a little while, I'll get back in the kitchen (I think I'll do the Apple & Carrot ones this weekend to confirm they were my favorite) and get back to you.

Got bananas?

(March 2020)

I had a couple of bananas that were very ripe and it just so happened my pantry was stocked with enough ingredients to consider making banana bread. I've been traveling for about a month, so to speak, and haven't really had a base. Just settling into a new home now, I'm adding to my pantry little by little. Now, it seems, I have enough to bake.

I still don't have my cookbooks so my favorite recipe wasn't around and neither is my bread pan. However, the home we purchased came fully furnished and while it didn't come with any cook books or a bread pan, it did come with a muffin tin and paper muffin liners.

Bread was out. Muffins were in. I found this online: Sarah's Banana Bread Muffins on I only had two bananas (not the three called for) and I used sliced almonds which I had on hand instead of the walnuts. I didn't bother reading the reviews before I started and, other than as noted, made the recipe as written.

It only took a few minutes and the results were delicious. And, since there are only two of us, we can munch on them all week. If you come visit, expect these in the morning.

I'm on a roll

(March 2020)

Actually, I'm on a kitchen bar stool but rolls (or toasted cheesy bread) would be a nice accompaniment (but totally not necessary) for this: Chicken-Lentil Soup with Jammy Onions. This was a little time consuming but worth it in the end. I don’t know what makes the onions “jammy” but it was the perfect compliment to the soup. Don’t skip this step! I forgot to get a lemon but I’m not sure I missed it. I didn’t use the yogurt either because I didn’t think the soup needed cooling off (spice-wise). Hubby wanted seconds (speaks to deliciousness) but I was full (speaks to satisfying).

Plenty of leftovers for tomorrow (which makes the extra effort worth it).

UPDATED: Leftovers were delicious.

Before I forget, make this:

(March 2020)

Chicken-Asparagus Piccata from Cooking Light. The four chicken breasts seemed like a lot of food for four people so I only purchased two chicken breasts and 12 ounces of asparagus (instead of the pound called for). Even still, the chicken weighed in at 1.25 pounds so I figured there would be plenty of leftovers considering there were only two of us.

I was wrong. It was so good, we couldn't resist eating it all up. This is a company-worthy although I'm not sure how you would cook four chicken breasts, pounded thin, without using multiple pans (or two at a time) but it would be worth the extra effort for the results. If making four, don't skimp on the asparagus - get a full pound.

And, if you have to buy a new jar of capers just to make this recipe, then put this on your weekly rotation until they're all used up. That's what I plan to do.

It's that good.

Salmon Pasta Salad

(February 2020)

This was surprisingly delicious. On my scale, it scores well for ease of preparation and number of ingredients required (relatively few). It was fair with regard to cost. It calls for canned salmon which, where I live, is more expensive than fresh and fresh, again, is not cheap. But, the rest of the ingredients are easily obtainable and affordable. As for leftovers, there were none. The two of us ate all of what was meant for four. (Keep that in mind if you have a crowd.)

That all being said, the recipe was from Cooking Light. It's not something Hubby would have picked had he been choosing. However, he not only had a second helping, he helped me poach the fish. As I mentioned, we substituted fresh salmon for what was called for. He poached it stovetop in 50/50 Sauvignon Blanc and water along with the dill leftover from the small grocery store package (after reserving roughly half the called-for amount). We also used regular, gluten-ful rotini (Barilla); plain table salt; and, an English cucumber.

The result was easy, light, and flavorful. I think we were both surprised and I think, this time, we would both vote to make it another time.


(February 2020)

It's been a while since I've been in the kitchen. It's hard to say why: I've been busy with travel and other things. I've also been in the habit of making large batches of soups, stews, and sauces so that I only cook, at most, one day per week. The rest of the week, my meals are a rotating smorgasbord of leftovers from the freezer.

But then, for reasons I'll explain another time, I found myself, shall we say, displaced. All the freezer food was gone and I was separated from my kitchen tools. During this time, I cooked even less and was restricted to making things with what tools were on hand.

Fortunately, I came upon a receipt that was fairly easy to make, consisting of few ingredients, and satisfying: Butternut Squash Gnocchi from Sunset Magazine. I used black pepper instead of the white pepper called for in the recipe and it turned out fine. (I try not to buy a lot of ingredients that I'll only use a tiny amount of, relegating the remainder to the back of a cabinet to die a slow death. If I can't buy small quantities, bulk, I'll pass on the ingredient or pass on the recipe altogether.)

At the end of the cooking time, I tossed in a handful of frozen peas to the pot of water with the gnocchi and served them together with a little more butter and cheese than called for. (Fat is flavor!) We only made half the recipe and it was more than plenty for the two of us. The rest of the dough, we wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and saved in the fridge for later use. (I'll let you know how that turns out.)

I've never made potato gnocchi before - any gnocchi from scratch for that matter. This recipe from Epicurious is more complicated than the the one I made, but I'm interested in giving it a try. It should be noted that white pepper is called for again in this recipe so it may be worth picking some up this time. Also, I don't own a potato ricer and while I understand using one makes the best mashed potatoes, I noted a reviewer posted that a cheese grater could be used instead. (Great tip, if that works.)

Although my confidence is bolstered by my recent success with the butternut squash gnocchi, I'm not quite confident enough to cook naked, although The New York Times describes it as joyful. That's Florida for you. While I may be somewhere sunny, rest assured I'll be keeping my pants on when I'm cooking.

Updated: This wasn't me, btw.
The Desert Sun, February 19, 2020

Leftover Cantaloupe?

(August 2019)

Everyone knows that buying anything at Costco means buying a lot of it. Cantaloupe is one exception. Buying cantaloupe at Costco means buying two, but only two. The last pair I purchased were Tuscan-style and very ripe. Suddenly, two cantaloupes seemed like a lot when they needed to get eaten right away.

We ate the first one before it went bad and put the second one to use in a simple salad which we shared at the next potluck we were invited to. Four ingredients: Cantaloupe, English cucumber, feta, and mint. How much of each to use is entirely up to you but I used this recipe from PBS | Food as my guide. (I made the dressing from this recipe, too, but I never used it. I didn't think the salad needed it.)

It was simple and fresh, cool and easy, and is perfect for your next barbecue, picnic, or pot luck. Summer is almost over, so now's the time. Fortunately, the cantaloupes at Costco are ripe.

Moroccan Chicken with Green Olives and Lemon

(June 2019)

This recipe is similar to the Chicken, Quinoa, and Green-Olive Stew (posted somewhere here, below). It's simple (more so than the other), can be cooked in one pan, doesn't take long to put together, and makes for great leftovers. 

As written (here, at, it calls for a whole chicken, cut in parts, skin removed. That sounded like too much work and a whole chicken sounded like more chicken than was needed. Instead, I used four boneless, chicken thighs which worked just fine for four servings.

For the olives, I used a small package of mild green olives from what used to be the olive bar at our local grocery store. Since they have done away with the olive bar, they offer a selection a pre-packaged olives. I would say the package I used was more than half a cup (maybe closer to a cup) but I tossed them all in there anyway.

I served half the chicken dish over rice which served two. I mixed the remaining rice into the leftover chicken dish, shredding the remaining two chicken thighs and saved it for another night. Reheating on the stove took minutes and tasted even better than the first time around.

This is an easy weeknight meal and is impressive enough for guests. It does lack a vegetable, however, and I'm not sure what I would make with it. You could roast purple asparagus (if you can find it) which would add a nice color to the overall presentation. Or maybe a side salad. I haven't tried this yet but it looks good and might be a nice compliment: Frisée and Carrot Ribbon Salad with Za'atar-Lemon Vinaigrette.

Light the candles and set the table. This one is worth making.

Slow-Cooker Green Chicken Chili

(March 2019)

We made this last night and it was delicious. We'll get a total of 10 servings from this recipe - all for $23.52.*

This filled my crock pot to the brim. If you don't have a large crock pot, this can easily be made in a Dutch oven, or large pot, stovetop. Besides being super delicious, this recipe is super easy to make. For the most part, just dump everything in and turn it on. (To be honest, you do have to cut up the sweet potatoes first and shred the chicken after but those are the only labor intensive parts.)

A lot of recipes will tell you how long they take to cook. Some even offer "active time" - the amount of time it you're actually doing something. The active time on this recipe is 15 minutes and they aren't lying. (Okay, maybe 20, depending on how long it takes for you to shred chicken.) Cook time is 4 hours on high, 6 hours on low, or 1 1/2 hours on the stove.

I tasted it before it was done and thought it might be way too spicy but when it was all done, I thought all the flavors balanced very nicely. The avocado cools off the heat a little bit. Sour cream would cool it off even more but we left that out. I had a little Cotija cheese in the fridge so I sprinkled some of that on top of our individual servings along with the cilantro and avocado.

This meal works great for me because I like to lay in a lot of leftovers during Tax Season but this meal would be great for a gathering. It would be ideal for a Super Bowl party. (The whole thing can be made in advance and reheated so I'm planning on serving next Thanksgiving. BAM!)

It's two thumbs up for this one. Check it out on the Epicurious website here: Slow-Cooker Green Chicken Chili

*I already had chicken broth, cumin, salt, and pepper in my pantry.)

One-Pan Chicken Drumsticks with Rice and Beans

(February 2019)

This recipe from Epicurious is sexier than the name implies, though I don't know what I would call it. One-Pot Chicken Surprise? It starts with chicken but the rest is pretty much up to you from there. What do you have on hand? It's easy, inexpensive, delicious and will either feed a crowd or be enough for leftovers. It's a perfect combination of random ingredients that results in a meal you willl be sure to make again.

The recipe guides you with these choices in the ingredient list:

  • Ground cinnamon or cumin 
  • Ground turmeric, curry powder, or ground coriander
  • White rice (any type except for sticky rice)
  • Chickpeas, white beans, black beans, or other beans, drained, rinsed
  • Dried fruit, such as currants, raisins, cherries, or cranberries
  • Coarsely chopped tender herbs, such as cilantro, parsley, mint, basil, and/or dill
See what I mean? 

We used what we had on hand: cumin, turmeric, jasmine rice, chickpeas, golden raisins, and cilantro. In addition, we had some green beans, stalks of asparagus, and fingerling potatoes hanging around so we chopped those up and tossed them in towards the end as well.

This picture doesn't do it justice but it real life, it looked pretty close to the picture here.

This is a great meal at the end of the week when there are leftover ingredients in your pantry that you want to use up. One of the reasons I posted this was to remind myself of which choices I made when making this because it turned out great. But, I could just as well make different choices and try something different. In any case, this will be a regular go-to meal from now on.

Lentil and Chicken Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Escarole

(December 2018)

I served this to my in-laws recently. My mother-in-law asked for the recipe so here it is.

My mother-in-law is not a particularly adventurous eater. In fact, she is known to make a sour face whenever she tries something she doesn't like. This face will appear regardless of where we are: around the kitchen table or at a 5-star restaurant. (Thankfully, we don't go to many 5-star restaurants.)

By contrast, I'll try almost anything and I like experimenting with new recipes, something that has always frustrated Hubby. I rarely cook the same thing twice. Rather, I cook from recipes I find in a new or borrowed cookbook, or the newspaper or online. Sometimes, I'll buy random ingredients - from the farmers market or produce aisle - and toss them together with whatever's in my pantry for my own creation. "Just once," he would lament, "I wish you would just make meatloaf."

Now that Hubby is spending more time in the kitchen with me, he is more open to new things. New recipes allow him the opportunity to learn new kitchen skills and work with new ingredients. Most of our endeavors turn out good but it does present a challenge - a risk, perhaps - when entertaining. We never know whether what we serve to guests will be delicious or a total flop.

This recipe worked. While not complicated or using hard to find ingredients (both plusses), it produced a satisfying and flavorful soup without a lot of overly strong flavors. #comfortfood

I didn't think Mom would like the escarole - too bitter. (What is Escarole, Anyway? - Bon Appétit) I used one bunch curly kale instead. I might have used closer to a cup of lentils (instead of the 3/4 cup called for in the recipe). They did not overwhelm the soup so if you like lentils, feel free to toss in a little more. (I don't know what French lentils are - okay, now I do; I used Simple Truth Green Lentils.)

While 10 stalks of celery seem like a lot they didn't overwhelm. The six cloves of garlic, sliced, provided a nice contrast and a soft flavor that came through pleasantly. I also skipped the dill and lemon garnish. I though it might be too much fuss for chicken soup.

The recipe predicts it will take about a half hour to make but it took me about an hour which included washing and prepping the ingredients, plus cooking time. It also estimates it will serve 4-6 people. I would suggest it might serve 6-8, especially if you serve it with a crusty bread or grilled sandwich side.

It starts by making chicken broth from the carcass of a store-bought (or homemade) rotisserie chicken. I used the leg bones, ribs, and wings and discarded the rest (spine, skin) to make it easier to fish out the bones later. Only half of the chicken meat is called for. You could toss it all in but that would make for a very thick soup. After shredding the meat, wrap up half and freeze it for future use. Don't worry about the sweet potatoes getting mushy. They break apart and thicken up the soup.

I'm glad it went over so well with my in-laws. So well, I sent them home with plenty of leftovers for at least another meal. The only problem with making good food is they might come back!

(Just kidding; I love my in-laws!)

[The link for this recipe from epicurious is in the title (and here).]

Fruit and Stout Cake

(December 2018)

At the turn of the century (or thereabouts), I came across an article in Martha Stewart Living, to which I then subscribed, that extolled the virtues of this holiday phenomenon. Somehow, even though I had a career and two kids, I had enough time to bake all five varieties mentioned in the article. I think I liked some better than others but since I can't remember, it might be time to make them again.

The cakes are literally fermented and, therefore, must be made well in advance of when you intend to eat (or gift) them. For this reason (and the fact that I suck at managing my time), you will not be receiving such a cake this year. (Beware, I've already put it on my calendar for November to start baking for next year.)

Of the five recipes included in the article, only one can be made in less than one month's time: Chocolate Panforte. It is possible you'll get a bite of this before the year is over. However, I also found this at Martha Stewart dot com: Miniature Golden Fruitcakes so you're not entirely safe from the gift of fruitcake although it's highly unlikely that I'll get motivated enough to actually make them.

If it's the thought that counts, there you go. Merry Christmas.

Root Vegetable Pancakes With Smoked Salmon, Eggs and Horseradish Cream

(February 2018)

This one takes the (pan)cake. Listen, I love anything that comes with an egg on top so this was an easy sell for me. Plus, I love root vegetables so I was definitely interested in making this recipe as presented in The Columbian.

The recipe calls for one pound of root vegetables plus 8 ounces of Yukon Gold potatoes. I used turnips and parsnips and used a Cuisinart to shred everything. I opted to by prepared creamy horseradish sauce rather than making my own. In the end, I forgot to use it and didn't miss it for a second. (Anyone need some horseradish sauce?)

I was able to use smoked salmon but skipped the chives out of laziness. I'm sure it would have been good (garnishes really do matter) but ... lazy. I also didn't serve it with a green salad as suggested because a) why ruin a good thing? and, b) we had more than enough food.

The recipe serves four which is accurate if you end up with exactly eight pancakes. We served the meal as suggested (with the above exceptions) and found it delicious. It was just the two of us so we had leftovers which heated up well after a day or two in the refrigerator. I don't know if you can freeze the pancakes but would try that next time. It would be worth making a bunch and keeping them around for a while. They work well as "brinner," breakfast, or a side dish. And the root vegetables make it hearty without being too heavy.

For dinner, it makes for good comfort food but could be elegant as a breakfast or brunch.

Zesty Kale and Sweet Potato Bowl 

(February 2018)

This recipe from Cooking Light is worth making. It fits many of my requirements: delicious, makes leftovers, the leftovers are good, the ingredients are not obscure (except for the Cotija, depending on where you live), and no special equipment is required. It takes just under an hour to make and doesn't use too many dishes. The recipe says it serves four but I think you could serve six.

Instead of roasted almonds, we used sliced almonds that we can get from the bulk section of our local grocery store. (No chopping!) Hubby accidentally added salt rather than sugar to the almonds in Step 3 and the almonds turned out fine. Good, in fact. The sugar would have added caramelization to the almonds for a sweet and spicy, crunchy topping. As it was, however, it turned out just fine.

We used spinach instead of the kale because the packaged baby kale at our store didn't look very good. The greens are not cooked so I wouldn't substitute adult kale for baby kale but the baby spinach worked well.

This recipe is part of Cooking Light's Sunday Strategist series where they do healthy menu planning for each week of the year. (I refer to the Sunday Strategist often.) This one was from the week of January 22-26. It's meatless but flavorful. You could throw in some cooked chicken or tuna or even top it with an egg but there's plenty of protein in the quinoa. It's hearty enough, in my opinion, without meat.

The nutritional information (based on the original recipe), taken from their website, follows:

Calories 591
Fat 32g
Satfat 5g
Unsat 25g
Protein 16g
Carbohydrates 67g
Fiber 15g
Sugars 10g
Added sugars 1g
Sodium 680mg
Calcium 22% DV
Potassium 36% DV

I'm assuming this is per serving and this is also based on the recipe making four servings. Good and good for you. Even better, it's delicious. 

Winter Salad

(November 2016)

4 handfuls spinach
5 oz crumbled blue cheese
3/4 cup golden raisins or dried cranberries
1 cup chopped pecans or toasted walnuts
1 apple, chopped
Olive Oil

Makes four hearty servings.

This is the backbone for a freeform salad. I prefer spinach but I've also used mixed baby greens. Measurements are estimated since I've never actually measured. (Except for the blue cheese - 5 oz is the size of the container I buy and I toss the whole thing in.) The idea is to make it hearty. Toss in a handful. If it looks good, perfect. If not, toss in a little more.

I have a spray bottle of diluted vinegar that I use as a vegetable wash. Even though I rinse the apple, and usually rinse the spinach or lettuce (when I'm not being lazy), I don't rinse the nuts or raisins. So, after I combine all the ingredients in a bowl, I give the salad a spray with my vinegar spray and give it a toss. I will do this a couple times to make sure everything gets a light coating.

Then I drizzle a little olive oil on top and give the salad another toss. All I'm really trying to do is give the lettuce a light coating. After tossing, I'll drizzle a little more if it looks like it needs it and toss it to distribute. I don't think I use more than a tablespoon, if that. The oil conspires with the vinegar to make a light dressing.

It makes a really nice, fall lunch for four or will serve more as a side.

There'sBreakfast Cocktail

(July 2016)

A take on iced coffee, shaken not stirred.

I came upon the discovery that shaking whisky with ice will change its flavor. It not only chills the whisky but also aerates it.

Aerating releases aromatic compounds and alcohol vapors resulting in a smoother flavor and experience. Nothing needs to be added to the whisky. Just ice, shake, and pour. (Be very careful when ordering this at a bar because the bartender will invariably try to add something to it like bitters or a cherry.)

But coffee? 

I happened to taste one of Starbucks newest concoctions yesterday: Nitro Cold Brew. Adding nitrogen to coffee seems like a perfectly unnecessary idea but as I am a fan of stout as well as coffee, I had to give it a try. 

It was fantastic. Served from a keg-style tap into a plastic cup - no ice, it was cool and smooth, the coffee rich and without bitterness - qualities similar to stout but without the alcohol.

Since I don't have nitrogen at home, I aerated this morning's coffee with my ice shaker and served it in a well-chilled martini glass. Shaken, the coffee poured out with a nice crema and tasted smooth and rich in flavor despite the fact it was this morning's leftover coffee and half decaffeinated. (I plead innocent: it wasn't mine. You should know that I never have leftover coffee and never drink decaf.) I can imagine how wonderful it will be with fresh, full strength brew.

The experiment worked. Served in a chilled glass, cold-shaken coffee is my new summer coffee treat.

Pasta with Prosciutto, Cherry Tomatoes, and Asiago

(June 2016)

There's not much to say about this recipe except that you should make it. It was easy, didn't take long to make, is not expensive, and doesn't require any exotic ingredients. We used Jovial brown rice pasta because that's what we had on hand. Plus, we like the way it cooks up, al dente every time.

We doubled the crushed red pepper which gave it a nice spice. It might have been a little too bland without it.

I don't know where to get three cups of multi-colored cherry tomatoes so I bought a package of red cherry tomatoes and another of yellow ones - the kind that comes in domed plastic containers. The red ones were super ripe and delicious so I halved all of them. The yellow ones were not as sweet so I cut up roughly half of that container's worth or maybe a little more. It seemed like we had plenty of tomatoes so I didn't feel like I had to cut them all up anyway.

We happened to have a lot of parmesan cheese on hand (Hubby sometimes can't resist a Costco deal) so we used that instead of Asiago.

The result was a colorful and delicious meal. We didn't get the prosciutto distributed evenly when we served it so we didn't eat much of it until our last few bites. It added a nice salty flavor to the tomatoes but was hardly necessary. The dish can be entirely vegetarian and still be full of delicious summer flavor. If meat is desired, you could use bacon instead of prosciutto, or shrimp. You could also use basil instead of or in addition to the parsley.

We're not sure how the cooked tomatoes will do in the freezer so we plan to eat the leftovers right away. It made four generous servings and could easily be stretched to six servings by making a little more pasta.

Asparagus and Ricotta Pizza

(June 2016)

This recipe comes from The Columbian, April 26, 2016, so is not reproduced here. I can tell you this, however. It was delicious.

I've made a different version of this pizza from Real Simple Easy, Delicious Home Cooking which I didn't like as well. Both recipes call for prepared pizza dough but when I tried it with the Real Simple recipe, it came out soggy and unappetizing. When I made The Columbian version (I've made it twice already), I used a thin crust from Boboli which came out crisper.

The Columbian version calls for 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest mixed in with about half the ricotta called for in the Real Simple version. The lemon added an unexpected fresh flavor to the pizza's base which was perfect for summer.

I roasted the asparagus, sprinkled with oil, salt, and pepper, for 5-10 minutes before adding it to the pizza. (I used the same temperature that is called for on the Boboli package.) To that I added black olives, halved, a generous amount of parmesan cheese, and some fresh ground pepper before popping it in the oven. The second time I made it, I also added prosciutto and roasted pine nuts.

Sure, you could add other things like arugula or mushrooms, but it was good the way it was - a simple recipe that was simply delicious.

Risotto Primavera

(April 2016)

Easy and delicious, this meal is also low in calories, and high in protein, fiber, and calcium. It's also inexpensive, especially if you have some of the ingredients already on hand. I didn't read the upgrade option provided in this recipe which suggests you can use dried porcini mushroom in addition to the button mushrooms called for. This would have added a rich flavor punch although it had plenty of flavor as it was.

I didn't have sherry vinegar so I used what I had on hand which was Marsala wine. Instead of mascarpone or cream cheese, I used an American-style Neufchatel cheese made by Challenge, which I found at my local grocery store right next to the cream cheese. I could have used regular cream cheese but I feel so much more sophisticated just knowing the difference.

The servings are on the small side but hearty enough if you don't have a big appetite. The leftovers were almost better the next day. If you have other vegetables in refrigerator, such as asparagus, you might think about adding that in or serving it on the side.

Baked Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Cheese

(February 2016)

We made this for Super Bowl Sunday for five picky eaters. By "picky" I mean they have different tastes than I do. Cooking for other people can be tricky, especially if you're not sure what other people like. This meal is basic, yet flavorful enough, to please a varied crowd. Plus, it wasn't complicated and provided for lots of leftovers. (Serves eight.)

The original recipe can be found at My Recipes dot com but I made it with a few modifications.

First, I got the mild, rather than the hot, turkey Italian sausage links because I knew at least one person didn't like spicy food. (The cheese and basil carried the dish.) The recipe calls for a tablespoon of tomato paste but I used more - two good spoonfuls, close to half of a four ounce can. Since it's difficult to find a 1-cup package of shredded mozzarella, I used 2 cups of mozzarella in addition to a generous amount of grated Parmesan (about three ounces.)

After I got the pasta going, I cooked the sausage. Only when it was nearly cooked through did I add the aromatics - the onion and garlic, plus the tomato paste - to give them time to bloom and become fragrant before adding the salt, pepper, and tomatoes. The onion needs more time - 5-6 minutes - so that can go in first. The garlic only needs a few minutes (2-3), followed by the tomato paste (1).

We prepared the dish ahead of time and popped it in the oven during the second quarter and it was ready just in time for half time. Easy to make and easy to eat!

Cheesy Skillet Gnocchi

(December 2015)

We managed to get four servings out of this recipe but if you have big eaters or a hungry bunch, consider doubling the recipe. I used regular gnocchi because I couldn't find whole-wheat gnocchi in the grocery store. I also doubled the meat - a quarter pound wouldn't have been enough imo. The store was also out of basil so I used a couple of dollops of pesto instead, added just before broiling.

The gnocchi is prepared in a lightly oiled skillet rather than boiled. I've never done it this way before but it came out beautifully. They had slightly nutty, toasted exteriors and creamy interiors. (You might say the same thing about me but I'm more creamy on the outside and toasted on the inside. Slightly nutty, definitely.)

The second time around, I toasted a scant quarter cup of pine nuts in a small skillet while microwaving the leftovers. When the nuts were a light brown I sprinkled most of them over the re-heated dish. To the hot skillet, I added a leaf of curly kale that had been just rinsed and torn into bite-sized pieces. The water left on the kale from washing it was enough to steam it in the skillet, covered, on the burner with the heat off.

I topped the dish with the kale and the remaining nuts and served it with a fresh crack of black pepper.

If you want your kale to be really tender, try massaging it first. Wait, what? It's a thing. While the kale is still in the colander, just scrunch it up in your hands a bit. You'll feel it soften up in your hands as the color darkens slightly.

Even though I used a spicy chicken Italian sausage, the finished dish could have used a little more heat. Just a small amount of crushed pepper flakes would have been enough. (Toast the pepper flakes in the skillet until aromatic just before adding the gnocchi.)

Tasty and easy to make, a cozy meal on a December night.

Salmon, Asparagus, and Orzo Salad

(August 2015)

This recipe passed on all fronts: easy, delicious, good leftovers, few ingredients.

I didn't weigh the asparagus - I just used the bunch I bought from the store. They didn't have a piece of fish that big - 1.25 lb. - so I used the biggest piece they had. (I don't know if it was even a full pound but it was plenty of fish so I'm pretty sure 1.25 lb. would have been way too much.) I used more than 1/4 cup onion. I probably sliced up 1/8 of a small to medium onion and tossed whatever that was in. I was also generous with the feta to use up a package that was already open. The dill was delicious but I also tossed in about 1/4 cup chopped flat-leafed parsley that I already had.

I probably used less than 3 tablespoons of lemon but I didn't want to buy two lemons.

It all turned out great. This could replace my other orzo recipe for a while. Everyone likes the spicy one but it contains dairy so it's not something you want sitting out all day. I made it for our last boat trip and while everyone liked it the first day, we were pretty much done with it after the second day. It wasn't as well received at the Cornhole Tournament this year either. I think everyone is just ready for something new.

We ate the Salmon Orzo Salad twice and still had leftovers. This one could be another good one for the boat, particularly if you make it in advance. (Even if you just made the salmon in advance.) No dairy, so it might keep a little better, too. I might try making it with tuna, too.

National Burger Day is May 28

(May 2015)

Celebrate with these recipes from the Oregonian. (h/t 76003.1414)

We tried the Spicy Black Bean Burgers and we will definitely try them again.

We didn't have a food processor when we made them. We crushed the chips (Did you say chips?) in a Ziploc bag so they weren't as fine as they might have been otherwise.

We made four "burgers" but they were too big serving-wise so next time we'll make six out of the recipe.

And, we didn't serve them on buns. We served them on top of salads. The salads were southwestern-style with corn, red peppers, avocado, and salsa on mixed greens with a little more avocado and salsa on top of the burgers.

Delicious when fresh and when reheated in a skillet. I just wanted to make sure I didn't forget to make them again next year on Burger Day.

Is there a "day" for everything?

Farro Salad with Asparagus, Snap Peas, and Tomatoes

(May 2015)

I've become a fan of America's Test Kitchen Radio podcast. This podcast was suggested to me by a boating friend who has the same kind of boat as we do and also commutes between two homes in the Seattle and Portland areas. Over the years, I've met several road warriors who make the same regular trek. We frequently compare methods of relieving boredom on the two and one-half hour drive.

Since then, I've discovered the ATK TV show and website. To access the recipes, you need an account but it's not free. (I don't remember how much it is. I'd log out and check but then I'd have to remember my password.) We paid the subscription fee because we like the information they provide there (although I have, on occasion, been able to find bootleg copies of their recipes elsewhere on the internet).

Signing up also gives you access to the Cook's Illustrated website which is where this farro recipe was found. (You can also find it in the May/June 2015 print edition of Cook's Illustrated.)

When we made it, I didn't have any asparagus so I just doubled the amount of snap peas. I measured the 6 ounces tomatoes as prescribed by the recipe but there would not have been a problem using the remaining 4 ounces in the package I purchased.

I also used fresh feta. I don't remember how much it weighed (it was maybe 3 ounces) but I tossed the whole thing in. If you have more (a typical package is 4 ounces), toss it in!

I could't find fresh dill the day I went to the store so I used an equivalent amount of rosemary which provided great flavor with the dressing.

We got six dinner servings out of this recipe which we ate over the course of a week. Leftovers held up well in the refrigerator and were eaten cold.

I would say the best part about this recipe is that it's good for you but in light of Seattle's Opening Day for drinking boating season, I will tell you this is a great make-ahead meal for the boat. It will store well if you're going to be on the hook for a while and if you don't want to eat it as a main course it will be a perfect side dish to bring to any dockside get-together.

30-Minute Chicken Tagine

(April 2015)

I don't have much time to spend on this page today but I wanted to bookmark this recipe which was good the first and second times around. It's from Cook's Illustrated and says it will serve four but I think we still have leftovers in the freezer. I think we'll get a total of 6 or 8 servings out of this one.

Anyway, it was good.

Tortilla Soup

(Christmas Eve 2014)

Heather: Here's the recipe for the soup I made last night. Just bookmark this page and you'll always be able to find it. It won't always appear at the top of the page but if you scroll down or search for it, you should be able to find it.

Chicken Tortilla Soup with Chipotle and Fire Roasted Tomato

I doubled the recipe for last night's gathering with the exception of:

  • Chicken stock - I used four cups of stock because that's all that would fit in my crock pot
  • Onion - I only used one because not everyone likes onion. I can sneak one in but maybe not two.
  • Chipotles in adobo - The soup has enough heat without doubling the chipotles. So, remember, if you're not going to double the recipe you might want to consider cutting the onion and chipotles in half and using only two cups of stock for a thicker soup.
  • Toppings - I used cotija cheese and skipped the lime and red onion.

Also, I didn't poach the chicken in the stock per the recipe. I poached them separately:

  • Brown the tenders, seasoned with salt and pepper, on one side in a skillet with a little oil on medium-high heat.
  • Turn and add 1/2 cup water, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low for another five minutes.
  • Remove chicken from the pan and let cool slightly, then shred into bite-sized pieces.

I've also used a whole roasted chicken from the grocery store and skipped the poaching step altogether. Then, you might as well skip cooking the onion and garlic and just throw all the ingredients into a crock pot and let it simmer on low all day. It just depends on how much time you have. It turns out great either way.

H/T to my brother who bought me Rachael Ray 2, 4, 6, 8: Great Meals for Couples or Crowds where I first found this recipe.

(Jan 2015)

Eating leftovers without the benefit of all the toppings, I thought I would note that you could add frozen corn, black beans, and/or avocado to the soup.

Just for Reverence

(November 2014)

It's routinely requested that I bring Chocolate Fudge Pie to any family gathering. I mention that here as a way to bookmark the recipe so I won't have to look it up again when Christmas rolls around.

Too bad they didn't ask for the Hazelnut Ganache Tart With Sea Salt because that's what I'm making for the day after Thanksgiving. (Now I don't have to share.)

Wine List

(October 2014)

While we're on the subject of wine (see following post), I ran across this list:
Best wines on offer this summer | The Telegraph
Included in the list is a Cono Sur Bicicleta viognier 2013 (Chile) with the following description:
"It’s obvious why Cono Sur decided to sponsor the Tour de France, and this is a good wine to drink on a sunny day while other people exercise." 
Also, Dourthe La Grande Cuvée sauvignon blanc 2013 (Bordeaux, France):
"I taste in fear of the sweaty reek of cheap sauvignon blanc. Happily, there is none of that in either of the two on this list. I like both but they are a big style contrast. This one’s a brain-rinser . . . ."
I ask you, how do those two descriptions not inspire you to drink more wine?

The list also includes the Picpoul de Pinet which I also mention in my next post as one of our recent finds. All of the wines on the Telegraph's list appear to be relatively inexpensive (I am unsure of the exchange rate) and merit further investigation.

Fall Vegetable Curry

(October 2014)

This recipe is from Cooking Light's Sunday Strategist for the week of October 6-10. (I would point out that isn't a week but I like having a couple of nights off so why stir the pot, so to speak?)

Oxmoor Hous
I followed the recipe pretty much as written except I used fire-roasted tomatoes and I skipped the cilantro and yogurt. (I would have used cilantro had I already had some in the refrigerator but there was plenty of flavor in the dish without it.)

It was almost as easy as the recipe promised - the two of us whipped it up in about 30 minutes - and it made four hearty servings. (We ate two one night and the leftovers a couple of days later.) The vegetables reheated well and the leftovers were as good as the original dish.

We paired the meal with Picpoul de Pinet, the most reasonably priced French white wine you can get. (Less than $10!) It's a simple, easy-to-drink, uncomplicated wine that you can get at Total Wine.

Also at Total Wine is the Rose of Sangiovese from Lauren Ashton Cellars in Woodinville. It's more expensive than the aforementioned but it's still less than $20 and very good. Again, simple and easy to drink, it doesn't necessarily need to be paired with food. Just something that's nice to have in the fridge and to share the next time people drop in.

Or, you could just keep it for yourself.

Strawberry Cocktail

(August 2014)

What do you do when you've been on a boat for two weeks and the strawberries are starting to go bad? Infuse vodka, that's what!

Mash them with a fork . . .

. . . into a pulp. (The longer you were on the boat, the easier this will be.)

Put the strawberry pulp into a receptacle. At the time, the best available happened to be my french press coffee maker.

Add vodka.

Let it stew a good long while. Our leftover berries were served for breakfast and were still left over after breakfast. (That was when we knew we had to take action!) We stewed our berries until cocktail hour. (I'm not going to tell you how many hours that was. For you, it may be different.)

Take the plunge!


We served it over ice but found that just a splash of tonic - just a splash - brought out the strawberry flavor a little more and made the vodka a little less harsh. (Alternatively, you could use a higher quality vodka.)

Next boat trip make sure you have some vodka on board, and plenty of fruit.

Baked Pasta with Sausage and Cauliflower

(September 2014)

It suddenly feels like fall and the urge to nest is coupled with an urge for comfort foods. This week, I made a baked pasta dish that is perfect for the transition from summer to fall - warm and hearty but still full of fresh and crispy vegetables. This meal will easily serve four teenage boys (from what I can recall of them) or six adults when paired with a salad. We haven't had the leftovers yet so I can't be 100% certain of how many senior citizens it will serve but I would venture 4.5 - 6. (You can just figure that math out yourself.)

  • 8 ounces uncooked pasta (I used a small tubular pasta from the bulk food section. Smaller than penne, I think.) 
  • 6 ounces (or whatever sized package is available) hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • Half a cauliflower, cut into flowerets (I realize you have to buy the whole thing but you'll only need half.)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (If I could save thyme in a bottle . . . )
  • Thinly sliced onion (We used one quarter of a large white one. Use what you like but the flavor and crunch are nice.)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can fire roasted whole tomatoes
  • 1 package fresh mozzarella (you know, two big balls of the stuff floating around in brine)
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (However much you have handy. Buy some if you don't already have some.)
Mix It Up
  1. Preheat oven to 375°
  2. Cook pasta. Drain; set aside.
  3. Sauté sausage until browned, stirring to crumble. 
  4. If you need to, drain the sausage. With the heat off, add the tomatoes (including juices) and use a blunt object (such as a spatula or wooden spoon) to break up the tomatoes.
  5. Toss pasta with sausage/tomato mixture and remaining ingredients in a baking dish. (We used two 9x9 glass dishes - one for immediate consumption and one for leftovers.) 
  6. Slice up the mozzarella and distribute as evenly as possible over the top. Better yet, layer it: put in half the pasta, then half the cheese. (Layer, rinse, repeat.)
  7. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until brown and bubbly.
  8. Sprinkle Parmigiano-Reggiano over pasta before serving or put in on the table and let your favorite senior citizen do it himself.
  9. Eat, grin, enjoy.
  10. (Hubby likes to add a crack of fresh pepper, too. Good idea.)
Inspired from this recipe.

Creamy Blueberry Chicken Salad

(July 2014)

The problem with eating salads every day is is that you use up all your bowls and then have none left over for ice cream. Just in case the reason you eat salads is to justify ice cream, here's another one from Cooking Light. Don't let "creamy" fool you - there's no cream involved here. The dressing is made from yogurt. And, the blueberries have been so good this year that you can hardly pass this one up.

As in the following recipe, we used romaine because that's what we happened to have in the refrigerator but it turned out just fine. (Although, arugula might have provided a nice contrast to the sweet blueberries. Or, we might also consider adding sliced anise bulb next time.)

In any case, this one passes all four tests (below).

Grilled Chicken and Corn Salad With Avocado

Photo: Con Poulos
(July 2014)

Generally, recipes that appear on this page must pass the following four tests:
  1. Be delicious,
  2. Relatively easy to make with few ingredients (is this one or two?)
  3. In a kitchen with limited tools, and
  4. Good for leftovers.
It doesn't just have to make leftovers - you have to want to eat them. For example, I recently made Bourbon-Peach Barbecue Pulled Pork Sliders (from Cooking Light, July 2014) which satisfied the first two tests. It required a slow cooker, which I have in my Seattle kitchen but not in my Vancouver apartment, so it didn't really meet the third test, strictly speaking. And, while it made a ton of inexpensive leftovers I didn't really want to eat them. Though tasty, I didn't look forward to making more than one meal out of this recipe.

Grilled Chicken and Corn Salad With Avocado, on the other hand, fared better, passing three of four tests. The recipe is from Real Simple Easy, Delicious Home Cooking: 250 Recipes for Every Season and Occasion but you can also find it on the Real Simple website here. The recipe is heavy on the garlic and rosemary which is good as long as you like those ingredients. We used romaine lettuce instead of spinach, and grated cheese (was it Romano?) instead of shaved Parmesan, because that's what we had in the refrigerator. Otherwise, we stuck to the script.

We don't have a grill in Vancouver (yet) so this didn't pass test #3 but we ate this two nights in a row so it passed test #4. While we could have made the chicken on the stove, it was well worth grilling the corn. (Grilled corn is sweeter and more flavorful than it's frozen counterpart.)

For dessert, we made

Roasted Strawberries

from Cooking Light's Simmer & Boil. You're not going to want to make this unless it's cool enough to turn the oven on.

The two of us ate this up - no leftovers! I recommend you double the recipe if you plan on sharing (or in order to pass test #4). The strawberries continue to let off juice after roasting so you could roast them before dinner and make the glaze after you're through with dinner. You might even consider skipping the glaze and, instead, serve the strawberries in their own juices (or on ice cream) and simply drizzle some balsamic vinegar on top. It's an unusual but berry tasty treat!

Shrimp Cobb Salad

(July 2014)
Photo: Francesco Tonelli; Styling: Angharad Bailey

This really doesn't need much explanation except, perhaps, yum. It's a hearty, flavorful salad with lots of delicious ingredients. We ate it over two days and it held up well. (We kept the dressing separate.)

This might also work well on the boat - or other mobile vessel - especially, if you can prepare the shrimp, bacon, and dressing before travel. You can toss everything together except the dressing and the avocado or assemble on the go.

The recipe is from Cooking Light which you can find here.

Talenti Gelanto

(June 2014)

This website's name is temporarily changed to Talenti Sea Salt Caramel Gelato. As soon as I'm finished with the pint in my freezer (probably tonight), I'll change it back to Chocolate Chip Mint. In the meantime, I thought you should know about this and would encourage you to rush to your local grocery store and pick some up.

It's really that good.

Lemon and Olive Chicken With Arugula and White Bean Salad

(June 2014)

Photo: Sang An
Recipe from Real Simple.
We've moved into the Summer chapter of Real Simple Easy, Delicious Home Cooking: 250 Recipes for Every Season and Occasion for which we are quite relieved. Not only is summer highly anticipated as a season, we didn't like the Spring chapter of this cookbook as well as we liked the one for Winter. The first two summer recipes we tried have restored our faith in this cookbook. (Link to the recipe is beneath the photo.)

This one is as delicious as it is beautiful. We made it as written so I will make only a few comments. First, I am no expert when it comes to chicken. I always under-cook it and find that my actual cooking time is twice whatever the recipe called for. For this reason, I generally avoid chicken. Whatever your relationship with chicken, I suggest this recipe is worth the effort. Second, and finally, I didn't actually measure the pesto. I just scooped in whatever looked like a tasty amount.

Tasty it was. We made it on a night when it was not too hot to have the oven on but warm enough that chicken with lemons, olives, and pesto salad was appetizing dinner fare.

Finally (last comment for real this time), the recipe calls for 2.5-3 pounds of chicken for four servings. That seemed like a lot so I only got six drumsticks which was more than plenty (for us) for four servings.

Chorizo-Potato Tacos With Black Bean Salsa

(June 2014)

Photo: Christopher Baker
Recipe from Real Simple
This was the second sumer recipe we made from the aforementioned cookbook (see post for Lemon and Olive Chicken). Again, we stuck to the script on this one, for the most part. The only change we made was to substitute Soyrizo for the meat.

Before you gag on the idea of eating something that might be good for you with the added insult of fake meat, consider, for a moment, that it might actually be delicious.

I know, sausage made from soy? That's just gross. Well, it is, really, but so is sausage made from sausage if you really want to think about it.

Just get over yourself and click on the recipe link below the photo - and, no, this is not a sponsored website. (I wish!) I just like to eat food with lots of tasty flavors. There's a little chopping and prep involved but if you are serving wine, you might find someone to help you around the kitchen.

Go on, what do you have to lose?

Sautéed Chicken with Roasted Pepper Pasta

(June 2014)

It seems I'm developing a theme this year: pasta and veg and sometimes chicken. This recipe falls right in that category and turned out great. Click on the link below the photo for the recipe. My notes are below:

  • If you can't find mozzarella pearls, or don't want to buy fresh mozzarella, shaved or grated Parmesan would work great. 
  • Substitute plain vinegar for white wine vinegar if you don't already have some of the fancy stuff.


Photo: Jennifer Causey; Styling: Ginny Branch

Recipe from Cooking Light on My Recipes dot com

Get your ingredients ready first since there's a bit of chopping to be done. The recipe calls for 12 baby bell peppers1 which are to be halved lengthwise, divested of membranes and seeds, then roasted and peeled before cutting into strips. This sounds ludicrously laborious when you could just cut up two fully-grown peppers or buy bottled roasted peppers and save yourself a bunch of time. 

I have to say, however, that the effort was worth it. The delicious little peppers had a more intense flavor than their grown counterparts. Don't forget the foil in step three - that will definitely save on clean up time.

I saved the mozzarella for the end rather than mixing it in with the hot noodles. I was afraid they would melt and clump together. I wasn't overly happy with the result - maybe it would have been better if it was a little gooey-er. But my instinct is that it would have been better with Parmesan cheese. (Hubby thought the dish could have used more moisture so you might reserve some of the pasta's cooking water to add as needed.)

This recipe has you make the chicken last. We started it first to give it plenty of time to cook thoroughly over lower heat. If it's done too early, it's easier to keep warm than cooked noodles, in our opinion.

We happened to have some arugula for another recipewhich we used as a little bed atop which we served the pasta dish. I thought it was an outstanding addition. You might also add nuts or olives to the dish if you happen to have some handy but it was pretty tasty the way it was.

1I came across another ludicrously laborious recipe for these little lovelies. Mix together cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, and chopped cooked bacon. (I don't know the ratios so you'll just have to make that up.) Spoon the mixture into the peppers (which have been halved lengthwise and divested of seeds and membranes). Pop them onto a grill for a bit, then serve and eat. (I think if I make the cheese mixture in advance, this would be an easy appetizer to make on the boat sometime.) Yummy!

2I made this salad on a different night and I didn't make it as written. I had some leftover salad dressing that I used instead of what the recipe calls for. (My dressing was one part balsamic vinegar to two parts olive oil with some minced garlic and ground black pepper. There might have been a tiny bit of honey or Dijon mustard but I don't remember.) Anyway, someone at the office brought in kale and butter lettuce fresh from her garden so I added some of both to the arugula along with some flat leaf parsley. But that was it - no veggies, just green stuff and Parmesan cheese. It was extremely flavorful but you can't go wrong with fresh right-out-of-the-garden greens.

Garden Pasta Salad

(May 2014)

Inspired by Roasted Asparagus and Tomato Penne Salad with Goat Cheese

Part of the reason I post here is so I can remember recipes that I like. The fact is, I rarely make the same thing twice. It's a source of frustration for Hubby who would prefer that I have some regular comfort foods in my repertoire - like spaghetti and meatballs, or meatloaf - that I could bore him with on occasion. Even when I make those dishes, though, I rarely make them the same as I did the time before.

I've added a time stamp to these entries, therefore, so I can also remember approximately when I made these dishes. I wouldn't want to make meatloaf in August and salad in January, now would I?

In the interest of time, I won't post the whole recipe for Garden Pasta Salad. Rather, I'll just record my notes here for now.
  1. Use whatever pasta shape you have handy. Spaghetti or spaghetti-like pastas probably won't as well, though.
  2. I actually counted out the asparagus spears and tomatoes. I don't always do this but the balance was nice in the final product with these amounts. And, if you think you might use the asparagus and tomatoes later in the week, why not?
  3. I could't find arugula when I went to the store - they were out - so I bought a spinach/arugula mix which worked nicely.
  4. I used regular goat cheese (half a 4 oz log) which was tasty and creamy. Crumbled goat cheese might have been easier to work with and distributed better. 
  5. Get someone to help you. It goes much faster that way! We did it in about 30 minutes. Our division of labor is: one of us cleans and chops the fresh food and handles clean up while the other deals mainly with assembling the ingredients and managing the actually cooking process.
  6. Six minutes was plenty of time to roast the veg. We didn't roast the tomatoes an additional four minutes and I don't think we needed to.
  7. The tomatoes burst when you slice them after cooking so I would recommend putting them into the bowl first. You might not have to slice them at all but their warm juices mixed nicely with the goat cheese in the final mix so I thought it was worth it.
  8. The salad dressing was good. Make it.
  9. We ate it warm for dinner and cold for lunch the following day. I liked it warm better but it was a light meal and I think it would have been better with a handful of walnuts in it (warm or cold). The walnuts (or some chicken) would have made it heartier. Or, I might think about making it in advance and using as a side salad and/or as a meal/side on the boat. (You could throw in any other vegetables you have on hand - peppers (roasted or not) or thawed frozen peas.) Of course, if a light meal is what you're after, this is the ticket!

Skinny Chicken with Peppers 'n' Stuff

Inspired by Chicken Scaloppine with Peperonata

Some olive oil
A generous handful* vertically sliced yellow onion
Red and yellow bell peppers, cut into strips
3 garlic cloves, minced
A handful grape tomatoes, halved
2 oz roughly chopped basil (about half of a small package at the grocery store)
Just a little balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 (8-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Some all-purpose flour
Some butter

1. Turn on Pandora and tune in Pink Martini.

2. Get someone to help you in the kitchen by offering to pour a glass of wine.

3. Chop the onion and peppers; mince garlic. (Wash all the produce beforehand, obviously.)

3.5 Cut each chicken breast half in half horizontally to form 4 cutlets. Put two cutlets each into two large Ziploc bags. Smash them - a small heavy skillet works well - and try to get a even thickness of about 1/3 inch. (Your friend will like this job.) Add to each bag enough flour to coat the cutlets lightly plus a little salt and a little pepper. Shake the bags to coat. (Don't forget to zip the bags first.)

4. Get your friend to sauté the onions in olive oil in a pretty good sized skillet over medium heat until they begin to soften while you get to work on the garlic, tomatoes, and basil. (If you have some parsley in the fridge, chop up about a half a cup - or about the same amount as the basil.) Add the peppers; continue to sauté until peppers are warmed through but still fairly crisp. Add garlic; sauté until fragrant.

5. Add tomatoes to the pan; cook a minute or so until tomatoes just start to wilt. Remove from heat; stir in basil. Drizzle balsamic over the vegetable mixture - 2 teaspoons is about right - and add salt to your preference. (I keep a small dish of Morton's kosher salt near the stove and like to sprinkle it with my fingers. That's my preference.)

6. Melt some butter in the skillet over medium-high heat - you're not deep frying the chicken so you don't need a lot of butter. 1-2 tablespoons should do it. Add chicken; cook 2-3 minutes per side. The chicken should golden and firm but still have some give when pressed. Serve chicken atop the veggie mixture.

7. Kiss your friend and enjoy your meal.

8. If you haven't invited two more friends. Kiss your friend again the next day when you have the leftovers for lunch.

I had capers in the fridge when I made this but forgot to add them. A tablespoon or so might have been a good add. If you need a little cheese, some feta would be good if it's already handy. Kalamata olives would work too. This was a simple and easy recipe that's worthy of company. Invite two friends but don't feel like you need to kiss them (unless they help in the kitchen).

*Remember "You're in good hands with Allstate?" That's what I mean by "handful" - about the amount you could put in your hands if you cupped them together with your fingers overlapping - like this.

Hazelnut Ganache Tart with Sea Salt - Bonus Material!

I made this recipe from the same cook book as referenced in the next post (for Ravioli with Brussels Sprouts and Bacon) but you can find the recipe here. There's nothing else you need to know except this:
Ganache (/ɡəˈnɑːʃ/; from the French word for "jowl")[1] is a glazeicing, sauce, or filling for pastries made from * * *  >>>>CHOCOLATE<<< * * * and cream. 
Wikipedia [emphasis mine]
It's reasonably easy to make if you have all the required equipment. You could probably substitute a large zippered plastic bag for the food processor to make the crust although you might need a coffee grinder, mortal and pestle, or small hammer to get finely ground hazelnuts without one. You also need a nine-inch removable-bottom fluted tart pan although you could probably get away with a regular pie pan.

This one is worth sharing. But I wouldn't if I were you. It's worth keeping all to yourself.

Ravioli with Brussels Sprouts and Bacon

I made this recipe from Real Simple easy, delicious home cooking. (I also found the recipe here.) I am really enjoying this cook book and have found several recipes that are worth repeating but I liked this one especially well.

I might have called this recipe Ravioli with Bacon and Brussels Sprouts, from a marketing standpoint, because no one will read anything that comes after "bacon" and who likes Brussels sprouts? Even better, you could call it Bacon with Ravioli and Brussels Sprouts. Better still, Bacon and Who Cares?

The recipe calls for fresh or frozen ravioli. We happen to have a nice little Italian restaurant nearby that also retails various products, including fresh pasta. If you're in the area, it's worth a stop for a meal, especially on a Tuesday night when wine is 50% off.

While the restuarant had fresh, frozen cheese ravioli available, we opted for the wild mushroom stuffed spinach ravioli instead. I got fresh Brussels sprouts from the produce department which was a novelty for me. I didn't especially like Brussels sprouts as a kid. Lima beans either. The fact is I didn't like a lot of things as a kid. Fortunately, my tastes have changed. Brussels sprouts can be tasty if done right and most of the time that means by someone else. I've tried making them once or twice but without any particular success.

In this recipe, they're sliced thin and become somewhat of a slaw. They're tossed with a little vinegar at the end, for what reason I have no idea. I hesitated using the vinegar but I went along with it thinking that maybe the vinegar does something to enhance the flavor of the little cabbages or change the pH. What's more, there's no sauce to enhance this pasta dish - just Brussels sprout slaw, nuts, and Parmesan cheese. The vinegar was this dish's only sauce.

Sounds like an odd combination - which is why I definitely wouldn't call this Vinegar Brussels Slaw with Blech! - but it worked. The Brussels slaw looked like a disproportionately large mound compared to the pasta which was meant to support it. However, the slaw cooked down nicely and let off enough moisture to compliment the pasta much better than expected.

I know I didn't sell this one well but I will definitely make this one again. And, I think you should try it. I only used half the bacon called for because that's what I had already previously prepared, kept frozen for such a use.

It serves four senior citizens quite well.

(Jan 2015 made this again. Yep, still good.)

Chicken, Quinoa, and Green-Olive Stew might want to think of a more clever name for this recipe. Like, Mediterranean Stew. Or maybe, OMG Really Freaking Good Chicken Stew! Ingredients include a tasty combination of flavors including cumin, chili powder, cayenne, olives, and orange zest. (Don't skimp on the zest. It's a nice compliment to all those other flavors.)

We opted to use a 14 ounce can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes (including their juices) instead of plum tomatoes and we also added a little more than a tablespoon of capers. I only used a little more than a pound and a half of the chicken thighs (since that was the size of the package I bought). I used a whole can of garbanzo beans rather than the cup it called for because what else was I going to do with the leftover beans? Might as well throw them all in there.

I happened to have the quinoa in my pantry so I used it as directed but you could probably substitute a white rice and be okay. (You might need to add extra moisture if you just toss the rice in there uncooked.) I also threw in a carrot, in hearty bite sizes, because I thought the stew could use another vegetable.

The recipe says it will serve 4-6 which is true if you are hosting big eaters. We'll get four meals out this one so I would suggest "4-6" translates to eight senior citizens.

We made it Monday night and it took longer than the hour the recipe predicts for preparation. If you read ahead and figure out when your down time is, you can do some of the chopping and measuring during those times rather than getting all your ingredients ready in advance. Maybe then you can do it an hour. It took us closer to 90 minutes.

It was worth the effort. We had some of the leftovers Tuesday night and it was even better the second time. The rest is in the freezer to be doled out sparingly during Tax Season. ("Cook once, eat twice" is the motto this time of year.)

This one is a definite keeper. Outstanding.

We served it with a Saintsbury Chardonnay which is an easy, go-to, screw top, unfiltered wine that runs about $22/bottle, depending on where you buy it. Although, we will be buying a quantity of the 2012 Horse Heaven Sauvignon Blanc. Though young, the 2012 is easy to drink, with lots of grapefruit and light on the palate. Good as an apéritif or as a summer wine. (It will be stocked on the Double Jack.)

Spaghetti Bolognese

In need of some carbs over the weekend, we decided on vegetarian bolognese. We used this recipe and made it according to the directions with one exception: We used whole wheat spaghetti instead of rigatoni. That was only because we had whole wheat spaghetti and we didn't have rigatoni. The recipe calls for five ounces of assorted mushrooms in addition to one ounce of dried porcini. We used crimini and shiitake for "assorted."

It's not the same as a traditional bolognese, but it turned out great. Next time (and I'll definitely make it again), I'll put in the whole can of tomato paste. The recipe calls for a mere two tablespoons but the whole can isn't much more than that so why not toss in the whole thing?  You could add protein in the form of shrimp, white fish, or even *gasp* meat but it was hearty enough the way it was and (did you know?) mushrooms are a source of protein. Indeed, like every other food out there (including potato chips, it seems), mushrooms are an underestimated super food.
Mushrooms are low in carbohydrates, calories, and sodium and are cholesterol and fat free. High in fiber and protein, mushrooms are also rich in B vitamins to help maintain a healthy metabolism.
(Read more here.)
There was plenty of good flavor here (I loved the carrots) but you could add a little dried pepper flakes if you wanted a little more punch. I might add cauliflower next time, not that it would add much in the way of flavor. It just sounds good.

Recipe serves six and it certainly would have if we had served a group. As it is, we ate heartily and will have more than enough leftovers for two more meals.


Someone recently asked me where I get my recipes. I used to get a lot of recipes from magazine subscriptions: Epicurious, Real Simple, Sunset Magazine, and Cooking Light. Now, I get my recipes from the websites of these magazines (for free). I have several cookbooks but the one I refer to the most is Joy of Cooking which also has a beautiful website.

The Red Quinoa Bowl with Swiss Chard and Poached Egg recipe came from Sunset's Best of 2013. Since then I've found their Best of All Time recipes. The first one that pops up on that one is White Wine Coq au Vin. I made that one exactly as written and I thought it was wonderful. Hubby was not as enthusiastic but we have lots of leftovers so I'm hoping he'll change his mind. (It came out a little soupy so I might add some starch when reheating. That, or serve it over mashed potatoes which is a starch which would be under not in. Just saying.)

The veggie tacos (mentioned next) turned out okay. That time, however, I was more "meh" while Hubby wanted it on the "make it again" list. We'll see.

Bonus material: If you live anywhere near me, we discovered a new Indian Restaurant. It's located in an innocuous strip mall next to a chiropractor's clinic, called Bombay House. It is the freshest, most flavorful Indian food I've ever tasted. Also, you can get an emissions test for your car right next door to the mall, so if you need to renew your license plates, I suggest a stop for lunch.

Plain Old Quinoa with Green Leafy Stuff Served in a Bowl with Fried Eggs

The recipe was Red Quinoa Bowl with Swiss Chard and Poached Egg. I don't know what a red quinoa bowl is. I don't have red quinoa or red bowls so I just used what I had which was plain old quinoa. They had it at Costco so I bought a two pound bag a while ago for about  $7. It might take me the rest of my life to eat it but that'll be easier than eating a whole ham. (See next several posts.) The rest of the ingredient list was:
  • 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
  • About 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided 
  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped 
  • 1 large carrot, cut into thick coins 
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, stems chopped and leaves torn, divided
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 portabella mushroom, dark gills removed, then halved and cut into 1/2-in.-wide slices
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs 
  • Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
I already had the vinegar, oil, onion, garlic, salt, eggs, and pepper so my grocery bill came to just over $4 before tax. I omitted the chives. I wasn't about to buy garnish that I would invariably forget to sprinkle atop the completed dish. Although, if I were to buy garnish, I would get parsley or cilantro and then would diligently sprinkle it on every dish I made hereafter until it was gone. (You can use it up in a few days and it adds a nice finishing flavor on almost anything.) But, the dish was delicious without the chives so if you don't have another use for them, there's no shame in not including them here.

I have designs on making some vegetarian tacos later in the week which is why I opted for a curly-leafed kale. It holds up to heat better than spinach and I figured it would work well in both recipes. 

Since Hubby doesn't like poached eggs, I didn't heat up the water as in step one of the original recipe. That also reduced the total number of pans required for preparation from three to two. Even though I was using kale rather than chard, I chopped and sautéed the stems as directed. I've never done that before but they lent a nice flavor and crunch to the dish. I forgot to add the salt when I added the kale but the dish didn't really need it. I also forgot to drizzle oil on the top before serving but that might have only been so the chives would stick and I didn't have any chives. (It might be nice to add a nice truffle oil if you happen to have some.)

When the vegetables were done, and the cooked quinoa was mixed in, I divided the mixture into two bowls - mine were white with a blue rim but calling this White With a Blue Rim Quinoa Bowl with Green Leafy Stuff and Fried Eggs seems an extreme title - and reused the pan to fry the eggs. I made mine runny but popped the yolk on Hubby's. I put the cooked eggs on top of the bowls of vegetables and we paired it with Saintsbury Chardonnay (my current favorite, easy to drink, reasonably priced, screw top wine).

This dish is not as boring as the title might imply. It was very flavorful - more than you might imagine - and was more than enough food for the two of us. In fact, we have enough leftovers to reheat, add a couple more eggs, and eat again for breakfast or dinner. It could easily serve four as a side dish, omitting the eggs. It would be a perfect accompaniment to a filet mignon or salmon.

Best $4 I ever spent. This recipe is a keeper.


The Porcini Fondue with Ham and Ciabatta was a bust. I admit, I cheated though. I bought a pre-packed cheese fondue instead of making my own. I don't know if it would have turned out any better if I had grated and melted the cheese myself but the packaged stuff was very sharp. I don't remember the brand but it was a blend of gruyere and Swiss but the flavor was predominantly and overwhelmingly Swiss.

I didn't have a fondue pot but I was able to find a small crock pot that held about two cups, the same amount as the cheese squeezed out from the fondue kit. It cost less than $5 at Walmart. You can't really cook anything in it but it works well for keeping warm dips.

The bread went over well and, in fact, I thought the cheese tasted reasonably good with it. But the big news is I got rid of all that ham.

Get Smoked

We made the Creamy White Bean Soup with Smoked Ham Hocks for dinner last night for which we purchased smoked pork shanks (aka ham hocks). Go figure, we bought even more ham! It was entirely worth the $5 investment which was comparatively expensive considering the 10 pound ham was $10. The shanks (there were two) were a combined 1.5 pounds.

That still leaves us with 9 pounds of ham so my plan is to put it all in the fondue.


Eternity is a Ham and Two People

It's not that I've not been eating, it's that I'm eating mostly the same thing over and over. I bought a 10 pound ham because it was on sale and so there's been very little of interest - foodwise - to talk about lately. 

I used the bone and some of the ham to make split pea soup. (I used the recipe from the Joy of Cooking.) It's economical, easy, and delicious.

Last night we made scrambled eggs and ham for dinner. Had it again for breakfast this morning. Still have 9 pounds to go.

The theme at my sister-in-law's house for Christmas this year is fondue. I found a recipe that uses ham: Porcini Fondue with Ham and Ciabatta. I also found a recipe for Creamy White Bean Soup with Smoked Ham Hocks which I'll have to modify because I don't have smoked ham hocks. I'll make that in January.

Then, I'll should only have 7 pounds left to consume.

Can that be a New Years Resolution? Eat a pound of ham per month? (And don't forget to pass by the ham in the grocery aisle the next time it goes on sale.)

Leftover Scramble

Sunday is clean-out-the-refrigerator day. Eat it or toss it.

I met some guys once who were on their way back from their annual no-wives weekend. Their boat was tied up next to ours as we were going through the locks and they were eating a crazy pile of food as we waited for the locks to do their thing. It was a combination of all their leftovers from their trip, all stirred together, heated in one big pan.

I thought it looked great so a couple weeks ago, I saved all the leftovers, freezing them if necessary. These were the leftovers that wouldn't have been enough to reheat and serve on their own but combined with other leftovers could make a meal.

Last Sunday, I pulled all the leftovers out of the freezer and put the frozen chunks on my counter and looked at them. Hubby was dreading the meal all week. (The fact that I kept referring to it as Sunday Slop probably didn't help.) I still think it was a good idea although it would have been better if at least one of the leftovers was a substantial amount of soup. As it was, I couldn't bring myself to do it and ended up tossing all the leftovers out. Maybe I'll have the guts to try it again another time.

This Sunday, we had Leftover Scramble which was a lot easier to sell than Sunday Slop. This is what I had in my fridge:
  • butter
  • four eggs
  • half an onion
  • 3-4 slices bacon
  • tomatoes and basil leftover from the Pasta Primavera (below)
  • grated Pecorino Romano
  • shaved Parmesan
  • one ciabatta roll
  • a few bites of leftover Pasta Primavera
I preheated the oven to broil because for some reason, I always use my oven to toast bread even though I own something like four toasters in two cities. If you have a toaster, use that to toast whatever bread you've got around. It's probably more energy efficient than using the oven.

I melted some butter in a fry pan at medium-plus heat and added half of the half onion (which is a quarter onion, if you're keeping score). As soon as I could smell the onion, I added the bacon which was already cooked and chopped. (Whenever I cook bacon, I cook the whole package and freeze whatever I don't use.) About the time I smelled the bacon, I added the tomatoes (cut the little guys in half) and basil (chopped into large pieces)

I whisked the eggs in a bowl with about a tablespoon of the Pecorino Romano and a few cracks of pepper. Hubby is good with eggs so he finished things off by adding the egg/cheese mixture to the items already in the pan. He cooked them gently at low heat while I monitored the ciabatta toasting in the oven and cleaned up the kitchen.

We served the eggs with a little shaved Parmesan on top and another fresh crack of pepper, along with the toasted ciabatta, buttered.

Oh, the leftover Pasta Primavera? I'll have to either make it a midday snack or toss it out. I didn't have the guts to throw it in the slop.

Pasta Primavera

  • 8 ounces uncooked penne pasta or another shape that will grip a sauce like fusilli
  • 2 cups asparagus cut in 2-inch pieces
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, cut in 2-inch pieces
  • grape tomatoes, halved, about half of one of those little pint containers
  • basil leaves chopped in large pieces, about half of that little package from the produce section
  • 4 ounces pesto, homemade is nice but prepared is easier
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 ounce Parmigiana cheese, shaved (about 1/4 cup)
1. I don't have to tell you how to roast nuts, do I? Maybe I do because I over-roasted mine and ended up tossing them out. Keep an eye on them. You want yours to be golden brown, not the color of roasted coffee. (By the way, over-roasted pine nuts taste a little like popcorn only nuttier.) If you don't have roasted pine nuts, don't worry - it'll taste great even without them.

2. Prepare pasta. Again, I'll assume you know how to do this. I had no problem with this step once I extinguished all the smoke detectors. (See step one.)

3. Rinse and chop vegetables while pasta boils.

4. Toss the asparagus pieces in with the pasta in the last three minutes of boiling. 

5. Toss the peppers in the water with the pasta and the asparagus in the last minute, turn off heat, and finish that last minute on a cool burner, stirring everything together. Drain.

6. Toss aforementioned boiled and drained items in a large bowl with tomatoes, pesto (to taste), and basil. I purchased a 4 ounce container of pesto and used almost all of it. 

Serve and top with shaved Parmigiana and a crack of fresh pepper. Oh, and if you have toasted pine nuts, sprinkle a few of those on top as well and let me know if it was worth all the smoke.

Serves four. Or two, twice.

Note: I recommend buying bulk whenever possible so you don't end up with half empty packages of ingredients. Just buy what you need. This works especially when you can get to a store easily and don't have a pantry.

Recipe inspired by Spinach-Artichoke Pasta with Vegetables (with photo).

1 comment:

Kellie said...

All of these sound great! Although I think I would end up leaving out the brussel sprouts abs replace with more bacon ;)