Sunday, August 9, 2020

Rick Bayless' "Emergency" Black Bean Tacos {Perfect for Busy Weeknights}

I have been feeling very overwhelmed lately thinking about the upcoming school year and the fact that we are having "in-person" classes. I am so worried about my co-workers and the kids and I'm trying my best to be optimistic, but I know the odds are that someone will end up with the virus. Don't get me wrong, I want to go back to school. I want to see the kids. I want to have class, but it keeps me up at night. I am really hoping that someone calls it soon and we end up doing 100% virtual. With cases spiking it is really the safest option.

In addition to worrying about going back "in-person" we lost a few people to budget cuts which means a new position for me. I will no longer be teaching reading intervention, which is my passion. Instead, I will now be teach math intervention, which is going to be a challenge for me as math is not my favorite. I know it will all work out okay, but everything is going to be so new and different.

I'm not embarrassed to say that I'm struggling. In fact, I think we should admit these things more often. Everyone struggles and no one should feel alone in their struggle. I allowed myself to take a break last week, but I forced myself to get it together this week for a post. I bought myself some cute little taco stands (the link is here and there are wonderful, two-sided with options to hold either two or three tacos, depending on the side you chose- not afilliated) and searched high and low for the simplest of taco recipes. Let me tell you, I found the very simplest of taco recipes and you should give it a try.

 Rick Bayless' "Emergency" Black Bean Tacos are perfect for a weeknight when you are feeling tired and overwhelmed with everything. Simply saute some black beans in bacon grease, or oil, with a little garlic, warm up some corn tortillas, and whip up a super Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa in the blender. You've got a really quick and delicious dinner that would pair very well with a frosty margarita.

This is another economical meat-free option for your pandemic pantry. Food prices continue to be astronomical where I am, with meat prices absolutely sky-rocketing. While I have been cooking a number of things, I don't feel right sharing the bacon-wrapped pork loin I made a couple nights ago, so I'm trying to share things that anyone and everyone could make right now. These tacos are a perfect example of that.

Emergency Black Bean Tacos

Adapted from Rick Bayless Website

by Rick Bayless

Serves 4


2 tablespoons bacon grease

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 can black beans

2 tablespoons crumbled feta or Mexican cheese

1 cup Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa (see below)

cilantro, for garnish

corn tortillas, in a warmer


For the Tacos: Place the bacon grease in the bottom of a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add in the black beans. Using a potato masher, mash the beans into a coarse texture and cook for 5-7 minutes. 

 Meanwhile make the avocado-tomatillo salsa. Scoop the beans into a warm corn tortilla and garnish with cheese, salsa, and cilantro.

To make the salsa: Blend 3 chopped tomatillos, 1 chopped jalapeno, 2 cloves garlic, 1 handful cilantro, and one half of an avocado until smooth.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Ina Garten's Plum Clafouti

A clafoutis is a pancake-like batter poured over fruit and baked. It is THE PERFECT thing for you to be baking right now! Times are tough and the cost of groceries is through the roof, so I'm bringing you a clafoutis that is very frugal, very easy, and very delicious. Probably the best clafouti I've ever tried.

I am pretty sure you have all the ingredients on hand to make a version of clafoutis. I chose plums because I had them on hand and they're a favorite. I love their sweet and sour nature in baked goods. Feel free to use cherries, peaches, and any kind of berry. Beyond a little bit of fruit, all you need are: eggs, sugar, a scant amount of flour, cream, baking powder, salt, vanilla, and lemon zest.

I love how the top of the clafouti gets perfectly golden brown and crisp, especially with a sprinkling of sugar while the inside of the clafoutis is soft and fluffy. This batter is especially delicious because you can really taste the vanilla and the lemon zest. The plums begin to melt away and leave their sweet and sour juices, mingling with the fluffy batter and crispy golden brown bits... it is pure heaven! Top this off with a little bit of yogurt, whipped cream, and or vanilla ice cream. Anyone would be pleased to enjoy this delicious dessert and they'd never know you whipped it up for just a few dollars!

Plum Clafloutis
Adapted from Cooking for Jeffrey
by Ina Garten
Serves 8

1 tablespoon butter, at room temp
granulated sugar
1 cup plums, 1/2" diced
good Armagnac
3 eggs, at room temp
1/3 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
granulated sugar, for dusting

Notes: I adapted this recipe from Ina's Prune Armagnac Clafouti. I wanted to use up my plums so I subbed them in place of the prunes. I also did not have Armagnac and I'm not sure I ever will, so I wanted to try my hand at this recipe without it. The results were heavenly. The vanilla and lemon zest gives such great flavor I really didn't miss the Armagnac (even though I'm sure it's even lovelier with it). In addition, I never have extra-large eggs and Ina is always calling for them in her baking recipes. I used 3 regular large eggs with perfect results. The original recipe calls for 1 cup prunes, diced 1/2".

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 10" round baking dish (I used a square pan) with the butter and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar.

In a small bowl, combine the prunes with 2 tablespoons of Armagnac and microwave on high for 1 minute. Set aside. (I skipped this step. Instead, I chopped two plums into 1/2" pieces. They were juicy so I didn't add any liquid).

In the bowl of an electric mixer (I used a hand mixer) fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and 1/3 cup granulated sugar on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and thick. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Combine the cream, vanilla, lemon zest, and 1 tablespoon Armagnac in a glass measuring cup. On low speeds, slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter and then add the liquid ingredients, mixing well. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Distribute the prunes/plums in the prepared pan and carefully pour on the batter. Sprinkle evenly with 1 teaspoon granulated sugar. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool slightly, sprinkle with granulated sugar, and serve warm.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Curtis Stone's Spicy Sausage Breakfast Burritos...or Chimichangas

Who doesn't love a breakfast burrito or chimichanga for breakfast? We certainly never get our fill of them in my house. I find myself making them using up bits of meat, cheese, and veggies and changing them up each week, depending on what we have in the fridge.

The burrito or chimi is the perfect recipe for times such as these when you need to use what you have on hand because you DARE NOT go into the grocery since NO ONE can wear a mask. Seriously people, how hard is it? I don't want to hear the madness about being sheep. Just wear the mask.

Rant over. I love a breakfast burrito, but have you had a breakfast chimichanga? This is my new favorite thing. Not just for breakfast, but for lunch and even dinner. Take whatever filling you have on hand: beans, rice, and cheese; meat, veggies, and rice; eggs, veggies, and cheese; and stuff it into a big flour tortilla. Fold it up or roll it up. Place it in a good nonstick saute pan. You really don't need any oil or butter, maybe just a splash or a touch if you feel like it. Using tongs, turn the burrito every which way until the tortilla becomes golden brown and crispy all over. There you have it....a chimi with a crispy exterior and a toasted flavor that is sure to be a tastier version of any burrito around, and with very little to no added calories!

A chimi like this has been our new go to staple during the pandemic. Leftover taco meat and rice? Throw in some cheese and make a chimi. Leftover scrambled eggs and veggies? Turn it into a chimi. Only have beans and rice on hand? Add a touch of cheese and/or some veggies and turn it into a chimi. See the pattern here? It's easy and oh so delicious. There is only one rule: make the filling fresh or gently reheat whatever you stuff in your chimi (you don't want a cold filling). Either way, I haven't met a chimi I didn't like and it has been a very practical solution for the times we're in.

Now, I would be remiss if I didn't mention how delicious Curtis' filling is for these breakfast burritos/chimis. IT IS SO GOOD! I did change up the method a bit, but I kept the ingredients the same so I know the flavor combination is the same. Spicy from the hot sausage and jalapeno, flavorful from the sausage, green onions and peppers, and fresh from the cilantro. This is a winning combination for a breakfast burrito! Try it and see.

And whatever you do, start making chimis! 

Breakfast Burritos
by Curtis Stone
Makes 4

2 spicy Italian or Spanish style sausages*
6 large eggs*
2/3 cup heavy cream*
salt and pepper, to taste
drizzle of oil
2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 red jalapeno, finely chopped*
1/4 to 1/2 cup finely grated cheese*
4 10-inch flour tortillas
hot sauce 

Note: I am going to deviate from Curtis' recipe quite a bit, but I feel as though the end result is the same. See deviations in parenthesis below. Curtis' directions are in regular font. Mine are in bold and in parentheses. I used half a pound of hot breakfast sausage, a touch of cream (certainly not 2/3 cup), an orange bell pepper in place of a jalapeno, and I added in about 1/4 -1/2 cup grated pepper jack cheese). I also used 4 eggs instead of 6 eggs for two reasons, to conserve eggs and also to have a meatier burrito since we haven't been eating as much meat lately.

Preheat the broiler. Place the sausages on a heavy rimmed baking sheet and broil for 3 minutes on each side until they are cooked through and golden brown. Set the sausages aside until they are cool enough to handle, then cut them diagonally into thin slices. (I much prefer to have the sausage crumbled into my mixture so I used one half pound spicy breakfast sausage and cooked it in the skillet until it was golden brown, adding the jalapeno, cilantro, and green onions towards the end to incorporate).

Using a fork, mix the eggs(using only 4 so the mixture was quite meaty), cream, salt and pepper in a large bowl to blend. Melt the butter in a large heavy nonstick saute pan over medium low heat. Add the egg mixture. Once the eggs are just set on the bottom of the pan, add the sausages, scallions, cilantro, and jalapeno. Stir the egg mixture very slowly with a silicone spatula, scraping from the bottom of the pan, for 3 to 5 minutes or until the eggs are no longer runny. (Since I cooked my sausage in the saute pan I went ahead and kept the sausage and oil from the sausage in my pan for more flavor. I whipped the eggs in a bowl with a touch of cream (certainly not 2/3 cup) and added the eggs to the pan with the sausage mixture, allowing it to set before sprinkling on some cheese and slowly incorporating the cheese until the eggs were done. I then removed the sausage and egg mixture to a bowl).

Meanwhile, heat a griddle pan over medium high heat. Cook each tortilla on the griddle for 1 minute on each side or until warmed and softened. Divide the egg mixture among the hot tortillas, and wrap the tortillas around the egg mixture to enclose it completely and form a burrito. Serve with your favorite hot sauce. (I used the same pan I cooked the sausage and egg mixture in, removing the mixture to a bowl. I laid my tortilla out, filled it with a substantial amount of filling, folded it up, and sauteed the burrito in my nonstick pan, until it was golden on all sides, using tongs to turn the burrito around. Then I placed the burrito (or maybe chimichanga) onto a plate and sliced it down the middle. Burrito, chimichanga? You decide!).

IHCC: Breakfast All Day!

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Ottolenghi's Shallow-Fried Potatoes with Sumac and Garlic Scapes

Groceries, especially meats, have been at an all-time high the past month. I'm talking $40 for a choice cut roast, $35 for five mediocre pork chops, and $18 for three pounds of ground beef. That is phenomenally high when you consider those things used to cost me $12, $8, and $10, respectively. For this reason, we've been skipping the meat and eating more veg.

I've been venturing out to my local farmer's market lately as it's not crowded and I want to support the local farmers. Garlic scapes are in season right now. If you're not familiar with them, they are the flowers of the garlic plant and need to be harvested prior to harvesting the garlic bulbs. I've been wanting to work with them for a while now but wasn't sure what to do with them.

Turns out, you use them just as you would use garlic. They say the garlic scapes are not as garlicky, so you may need to use more of them if you're using them as a replacement for garlic. Start by cutting the flowery part off - it is full of seeds and you may not wish to eat it (I used mine as a garnish only). You can cut the stem however you choose. I chose to cut mine on a bias, but thin slices will also work. It felt good to try something new.

Let's talk sumac. The sumac bush is native to the Middle East and produces deep red berries that are dried and ground into a coarse powder. It can be described as tart/sour and can be used in place of lemon. It also adds a bright pop of color. I have enjoyed it as a rub, sprinkled on top of hummus, and over certain Middle Eastern salads. I love the flavor, but I don't have an opportunity to use it that much, so I'm always looking for ways to use up my jar.

So now we have potatoes, garlic, garlic scapes, sumac, and bacon fat. Yes, I save my bacon fat. Ottolenghi uses olive oil to fry his potatoes, but in my experience, bacon fat is much more flavorful and effective. First of all, you don't have to use as much bacon fat and best of all, the potatoes will never burn. Bacon fat is simply superior. Start saving it.

You now have 5 superstar ingredients and a recipe for success. You cannot go wrong here. It may seem scary to cook the garlic cloves on the stovetop for 30 minutes - I was skeptical that they would burn and become bitter. This is not the case. I cooked this dish over low heat for 30 minutes and the garlic cloves become golden brown and caramelized, little nuggets of bliss. When I realized how beautiful the garlic was I wish I had used an entire head of garlic and I most definitely will next time!

This is a DELICIOUS dish. Trust me and throw in an entire head of garlic cloves. I loved pairing a potato with an entire caramelized clove of garlic and eating them together. Total heaven! The garlic scapes contributed a subtle garlic flavor but were really much more of a garnish than anything. The generous sprinkling of sumac goes a long way in brightening the whole dish up and making your mouth do a little pucker.

This is a fabulous side dish and/or appetizer and one that I would happily make again! We loved it!

Shallow-Fried Potatoes with Sumac and Garlic Scapes
Adapted from Ottolenghi Simple
by Yotam Ottolenghi
Serves 4

10 tablespoons olive oil*
1 pound potatoes, quartered lengthwise
5 garlic cloves, peeled
salt and pepper, to taste
3 rosemary sprigs*
3 thyme sprigs*
2 teaspoons sumac
2 garlic scapes, flowers removed, cut on a bias*

*Note: I altered this recipe to suit what I had on hand. I like to fry my potatoes in bacon fat and I had some on hand, so I subbed bacon fat for olive oil. I also decided to sub the rosemary and thyme for some fresh organic garlic scapes. You can use garlic scapes as you would use garlic, but take note that they are not as garlicky as the cloves.

Get a really good nonstick fry pan or cast iron and place oil and or bacon fat over low-medium heat. Once hot, add potatoes, garlic, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Fry gently for 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until potatoes are golden brown and soft. Add rosemary and thyme and or garlic scapes and fry for another 5 minutes, until herbs or scapes are aromatic.

Use a slotted spoon - you want most of the oil to be drained off - to transfer the potatoes and herbs or scapes to a serving plate. Stir in the sumac and serve.

Farmer's Market/Local Feed Week @ IHCC

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Nigella's Mozzarella Garlic Bread

I make garlic bread often as it is a family favorite. I usually slice my loaf in half lengthwise and top both sides of the loaf with butter, garlic, herbs, and Parmesan. Slicing the bread lengthwise gives lots of surface area for the garlic butter and we love the nutty saltiness of the Parmesan cheese.

I wanted to try Nigella's recipe because she slices the bread straight down and tucks the garlic butter mixture in between the slices. Plus, her recipe uses creamy mozzarella in place of Parmesan. I added finely chopped parsley because I have to have herbs in my garlic bread.

Nigella's recipe is delicious. Everyone loved the way the bread looked, with the butter, garlic, and cheese oozing out between the slices. It is definitely very inviting. We loved the flavor and the creaminess of the mozzarella. HOWEVER, we decided that we love the flavor of Parmesan cheese more, SO I will definitely try this recipe again replacing the mozzarella with Parmesan. Either way, you can't go wrong, no matter which way you slice it, garlic bread is sooo addictive!

Mozzarella Garlic Bread
by Nigella Lawson 
Adapted from

7 tablespoons butter, softened
salt, to taste
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, finely chopped
1 (16 oz) white sourdough loaf or other chewy bread

 Preheat oven to 425F. Beat butter, salt, red pepper, garlic, and parsley in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Beat in mozzarella. (Note: I don't like getting out extra gadgets and washing them so I did this step by hand).

Cut bread loaf into 1-inch thick diagonal slices, taking care not to cut through the bottom of the bread.

Gently spread the garlic mixture generously and evenly between the slices. Rub any remaining mixture on top of the loaf.

Wrap bread loaf in foil, crimping the foil together at the top to seal. Bake loaf in a preheated oven until the top of the bread is brown and crisp and cheese has melted about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven. Lift bread out of foil and place it on a cutting board. Cut and separate the slices using a serrated knife. Serve immediately.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Ina's Lemon Spaghetti {102 Days Inside My House and Counting...}

Today marks 102 days inside my house. I hung in there with the first 90 or so and I am not ashamed to say I am coming undone. 

I cannot handle the TV, the phone, or dealing with leaving the house. The new normal? That's a big no thank you for me. It makes me feel a million different ways, none of them good.

I am thankful I'm able to stay home. Trust me, I'm not taking it for granted. However, I'm also worried about my job and the kids from school. Will we have school in the fall? How are my students doing during the protests and riots? How do they feel about everything going on? Are they ok? Have they lost anyone to Covid-19? Can we do school safely? Will the kids wear their masks? How can I keep them apart? Will we get corona regardless? Will I lose someone I love? What if school is only online? How can I do online better? Nothing but anxiety. Massive anxiety.

I'm starting to feel hopelessly restless, completely unable to devote my attention to any one thing for very long. Is the whole world on fire? It sure feels like it. 

Even cooking, something I feel passionate about, is no longer enjoyable. A handful of ingredients is all I can be bothered to deal with. 

Pasta, butter, lemons, salt and pepper and maybe some basil (Mom would be screaming at me that the basil needs a haircut so basil is a great addition here). You can do this! Does this recipe have way too much butter? Yes! Can you cut it in half? Sure. Did I? No. Did I maybe wish I did? Yes, but that's ok. Pour off whatever butter you don't need for the pasta and save it for another day.

This is delicious. This is rich. This is fresh with the lemon and the basil. This is comforting. This is easy. This is summer indulgence at it's best. This speaks to me. I can do this.

Burying your head in the sand or watch the news. Join a protest or don't join a protest. Go to work or enjoy unemployment. Wear a mask or don't wear a mask. Enjoy the new normal or stay in. Gain weight or lose weight. Do your house projects or ignore them. Read a book or watch TV. Laugh your head off or sit and cry. Share your feelings or keep them to yourself. Say your prayers or send good wishes. Do a little bit of both or do none of them. However you chose to deal with 2020, do it. Do it apologetically. When we come out of this, we will all be stronger. I am anxiously awaiting that day.

Lemon Spaghetti
Recipe Adapted from Food Network
by Ina Garten
Makes 6 servings

salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
zest and juice of 2 large lemons
1 lemon for garnish
basil, for garnish, if using*

Add two tablespoons of salt to a large pot of boiling water. Add the pasta and cook just short of package directions (it will finish cooking in the butter sauce). 

Meanwhile, heat a large 12" skillet, add the butter, and heat until the butter is melted. Add the zest and juice of the lemons. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper, or to taste, and swirl the pan to combine.

As soon as the pasta is cooked, lift the pasta out of the water with tongs, allowing some of the pasta water to drain back into the pot, and add all the pasta to the sauce. Cook for one minute, adding pasta water to the sauce with a ladle just enough to keep the pasta moist. (I'm a little confused about these directions as 2 sticks of butter keeps the pasta overly moist -in fact it could do with a little less - so use caution with the amount of water you add as you don't want it to get to watery).

Transfer the pasta to a serving platter or individual plates and garnish with more lemon zest, salt and pepper, basil, and maybe a little squeeze of lemon juice on the top. Serve hot.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Giada's Peach and Strawberry Crumble

Saturday morning I needed to get out of my head and leave the house. Our local farmer's market is a real small deal and I was happy with their safety measures. I knew what I wanted. I would be in and out in no time at all.

A flowering basket for my front porch and some beautiful strawberries and peaches from the local orchard. Fruits and veggies that grow together go together so I searched until I found a recipe that paired them together, Giada's Peach and Strawberry Crumble.

Something sweet for all the pain in this world. Kitchen therapy is happening daily in my house.

I found myself really inhaling the aroma of the peaches....the smell of summer. I caught myself smiling at how beautiful the fruit looks all cut up in the bowl, so fresh and colorful. I felt so thankful in that moment. Pleasure nowadays is in the little things.

I reach for my grandma's dishes and scoop some crumble in the bowl, topped with vanilla ice cream, of course. I take it outside on the back patio and enjoy it while looking at the flower and herb garden mom planted. I can still feel her presence out there.

I take a bite of the crumble and it is bright, fresh, delicious. I love the texture of the juicy fruit, cool creamy ice cream, and the crumbly topping with its flecks of sea salt that help to bring out the sweetness of the fruit.

I think about how much my mom would appreciate this crumble. I chuckle because I don't have to wonder what mom would say, she said the same thing anytime anyone made something fresh from the farmer's market or backyard. With the most pleasant smile and a twinkle in her eye she'd always say, "Wow, that is so fresh. It's just special. It's just so special."

Peach and Strawberry Crumble
Adapted from Food Network
By Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 6-8

butter, for pan

For the filling:
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 large lemon)
1-1/2 tablespoons arrowroot flour or cornstarch
1 pound medium strawberries, halved
1-1/2 pounds yellow or white peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup light brown sugar

For the topping:
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup old fashioned style oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, chilled & cut into 1/2" cubes

Serving suggestion: whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or gelato

Put oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter an 8x8" glass baking dish. Set aside.

For the filling: In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and arrowroot or cornstarch until smooth. Add the strawberries, peaches, and brown sugar. Gently toss until the fruit is coated. Pour the fruit mixture into the prepared pan. 

For the topping: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, oats, almonds, brown sugar, cinnamon, and sea salt. Pulse until mixed (Note: I didn't want my crumble blended up real fine so I skipped this process). Add the butter. Pulse until the butter is the size of peas. Sprinkle the mixture over the filling and bake for 40 to 45minutes until the filling is bubbling and the top is light golden. Cool the crumble for 5 minutes.

Spoon the warm crumble into bowls and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Ottolenghi's Brussels Sprout Risotto

This isn't pretty, but neither is the world nowadays. As we sink further and further into what feels like one helluva horror movie I find I'm in need of kitchen therapy.

The repetitive motion of stirring risotto is ALWAYS good therapy. Nothing but your thoughts and a wooden spoon. I can't fix the world, but I can fix risotto.

The prettiest purple brussels sprouts are the inspiration for this dish. I really wanted a recipe that would showcase them.

Needless to say, if you don't love brussels sprouts, this isn't the dish for you, but if you do....well, this is right up your alley. The sprouts are incorporated in two ways: shredded and mixed into the risotto (pictured above) and fried until golden and crispy and served on top (pictured below).

This is a hearty and comforting risotto, maybe not perfect for summer, but perfect if you're in need of comfort, which I dare say we all are right now.

Brussels Sprout Risotto
Adapted from Plenty More
by Yotam Ottolenghi
Serves 4, or more

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
2 lemons, rind shaved in long strips from one, finely grated zest the other
1-1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 pound brussels sprouts, 7 oz. shredded the rest quartered lengthwise
scant 2 cups dry white wine
scant 4 cups vegetable stock
about 1-2/3 cup oil, for frying Brussels
1-1/2 cups grated Parmesan
2 ounces blue cheese, broken into chunks
1/3 cup tarragon leaves, chopped
2 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste

Place the butter and olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and fry for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly caramelized. Add the garlic, thyme, and lemon rind strips and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the rice and shredded sprouts and cook for another minute, stirring frequently. Pour in the wine and let it simmer for a minute before you start adding the stock, 1 teaspoon salt, and a good grind of pepper. Turn down the heat to medium and carry on adding the stock in ladlefuls, stirring often, until the rice is cooked but still retains a bite and all the stock is used up.

While the rice is cooking, pour the oil into a separate large saucepan; it should rise 3/4 inch up the sides. Place over high heat and, once the oil is very hot, use a slotted spoon to add a handful of the quartered sprouts. (Take care that they are completely dry before you add them; they will still splatter, so be careful.) Fry the sprouts for less than 1 minute, until golden and crispy, then transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels. (Full disclosure: frying these sprouts made one heck of a mess in my kitchen so be prepared to clean splattered oil from everywhere!) Keep the sprouts warm while you finish the dish.

Add the Parmesan, blue cheese, tarragon, and half the fried sprouts to the cooked risotto and stir gently. Serve at once with the remaining sprouts spooned on top, followed, by the grated lemon zest and lemon juice, and a sprinkle of the cheese, if you like.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Ina Garten's Radishes with Herby Butter and Salt {seriously so good}!

My parents raised a very healthy eater. When I was a kid, there was no junk food in the house and we almost never ate out. I have a lot of stories about our healthy eating, but this is one of my favorites.

My dad and I loved to snack together while watching TV.  I remember he would go to the kitchen and come back with a bowlful of radishes and green onions in one hand and a salt shaker in the other. He would shake a little salt in the bowl and we would take turns dipping the green onions and radishes in the salt. We would eat a bowlful of radishes and green onions just crunching away, all the while thinking it was the best snack ever. Those are some great memories.

I'd love to say that I snack on green onions and radishes now, but as my mom liked to say, "those friends of yours introduced to you all that junk and there was no going back." However, I still do love radishes and green onions and think fondly of my dad every time I eat them.

So, since I can't visit my dad right now, and also because I'm trying my very best to be healthy, I got out my radishes (I almost always have them on hand) and made this dish. Once again, I expected to like this recipe. I did not expect it to blow my mind. But it did! You would never think this recipe would pack the flavor punch that it does, but it's got flavor and texture for days! It's simply incredible.

Now, this is nowhere as healthy as the snack my dad and I used to share, but I sure do wish I could share this dish with him because I know he would love it. The herby butter with the sliced green onions, parsley, dill, salt, and lemon really brings out the flavor of the radishes. This is a light, crispy, crunchy, salty, and flavorful appetizer that hits all the right notes. I think dad and I were definitely onto something all those years ago because green onion and radish really go well together!

So, this is for you, dad. I know you would love this dish as much as I do. In fact, this recipe is going to go down as one of my all-time favorites for this year!

I do have one tip: I loved this dish most when the bread was warm and toasty from the oven and the butter was starting to melt. Something about the contrast of warm bread and cold radishes with the melting herby butter was irresistible! This is going to be something that I make again and again. If you're a radish lover, run and make this dish. You will fall in love!

Radishes with Herby Butter and Salt
Adapted from Food Network
by Ina Garten
Serves 6-8

2 bunches radishes with the tops intact
sea salt
Herbed butter, see below
1 French baguette, sliced diagonally

Herbed Butter:
1/4 pound butter, at room temperature
1-1/2 teaspoons minced scallions
1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh dill
1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 350F. While the oven is preheating make the herbed butter: Combine the room temperature butter and all the herbs, etc in a bowl and mix with a spoon. Add salt and lemon, to taste. Place in a small decorative bowl and set aside.

Place the sliced baguette on a baking sheet and lightly toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, flipping halfway to toast both sides. Remove the toasts and place the toasts, the butter, the salt, and the radishes on a platter in a decorative manner.

Spread the herbed butter on the warm toast and top with a radish. Or, dip your radish in salt and take turns eating a bite of radish and then a bite of toast with herbed butter. These ingredients complement each other beautifully. 

Watch Ina's video on how to make this dish. You can be enjoying this dish in almost no time at all!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Mark Bittman's Fruit and Cereal Bars

One of my projects during quarantine has been clearing out my pantry. Trust me when I say my pantry needs A LOT of clearing out. So far I've managed to organize the food into sections, but my cereal and breakfast section was threatening a takeover. Why do I buy granola and dried fruit like it's the only thing I eat? Can someone answer me this question? I've been doing this for years and I've never seemed to learn that a person can only eat so much granola.

Thankfully I found a recipe for Mark Bittman's Fruit and Cereal Bars. I've made my fair share of homemade granola bars and they've all been ok. I suppose that's what I was expecting with these bars. Only they completely blew my mind. These dang bars are INCREDIBLE! I'd even go as far as to say THESE ARE THE BEST GRANOLA BARS EVER, homemade or in the store. I'm dead serious.

So I don't know if it was the granola I used, or the combination of fruit, or the ratio of the recipe, or what, but I'm for real when I tell you that YOU NEED TO MAKE THESE BARS!

I followed Bittman's recipe, using a lovely granola called Grandyoats Classic Granola(worth sourcing/not sponsored), full of really fresh and healthy organic non-GMO ingredients such as oats, honey, sunflower seeds, pumpkins seeds, coconut, walnuts, cashews, wheat bran, and vanilla. It was fabulous and so fresh. Then I paired that with the required 1-1/2 cups dried fruit, mainly about 1 cup of dates, 3 or 4 dried apricots and 1/2 cup dried cherries. I think this was a magical combination of dried fruits so I'd do the same ratio again.

This is so simple and perfect for the summertime because this is a NO BAKE recipe. Simply blend up the fruit with the oil and honey and a little sea salt. Make sure it forms a very moist paste and mix it into the granola, pushing and packing it into the pan and refrigerate for about a half-hour.

THIS IS ME SCREAMING FROM A MOUNTAINTOP....PLEASE MAKE THESE BARS! Assuming that you use quality granola, as well as this combination of dried fruits, these are simply the best of the best. I ate two and a half in one sitting and had to stop myself from eating more. I could see myself making these every single week for a light breakfast and/or snack. They also make a really healthy dessert. I'm not kidding. They're so good they could pass for a dessert. 

Ok, I've held out long enough. Back to the kitchen for another one.

Fruit and Cereal Bars

Adapted from The Food Matters Cookbook
by Mark Bittman
Makes 10-12 bars

1-1/2 cups dried fruit*
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons honey
fruit juice or water, as needed
a sprinkling of sea salt
1 cup ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, like granola
Optional: coconut, nuts, cocoa, etc, for sprinkling on top

Notes:  I used the most wonderful new granola called Grandyoats classic granola. The granola was full of oats, seeds, and nuts and was probably the very best granola I've ever had - very fresh. I think the granola really made the difference in these bars. You can probably use any dried fruit, but I love dates so I used 1 cup of dates, about 3 dried apricots, and 1/2 cup dried cherries (also my favorite). This turned out to be a magical combination because these bars were incredible! Also, the sprinkling of sea salt helps to bring out all the flavors, so I feel like you really don't want to skip it!

Put the dried fruit, oil, and honey into a food processor or a blender and puree until smooth, adding fruit juice and/or water a little at a time to keep the machine running. You'll need to stop once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. (Add small amounts of water or fruit juice if the fruit is dried out and is not processing.).Put the puree into a large bowl and fold the cereal into it. You may want to use your hands at first and then use a spatula.

Line an 8- or 9- inch square or round pan with foil. Spread the mixture into the pan, pushing it into the corners and evening the top. If you like, dust the top with coconut, nuts, or cocoa. Refrigerate until set, then cut into bars.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Nigella Lawson's Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

I realize I'm coming at you with a butternut squash recipe in the middle of spring. This is because I bought a butternut squash about 3 months ago with plans to make a butternut squash macaroni and cheese that was very fitting for winter, but I never got around to it, until now.

I love that this butternut squash was able to hang around my house full of life for months and months. And truly, one can never go wrong with a macaroni and cheese recipe, especially in times like these, when we need comfort food on the regular.

Does anyone else have a hard time watching the news? I really just can't or I sink into a big depression. And, I have to admit, I am NOT a fan of everything opening back up, but I do realize it is vital for the economy. In my house, we will be staying in and putting our focus on doing things at home and outdoors. Again, just because you can doesn't mean you should. The virus has not gone away, folks. Please be careful!

In the meanwhile, comfort food is in full demand and macaroni and cheese it is. Now, full disclosure, Nigella wrote this recipe as Sweet Potato Macaroni and Cheese and I'm sure that is equally delicious, BUT I think butternut and sweet potato are interchangeable and right now we use what we've got. Also, I don't have the pennette pasta she calls for, but I use orecchiette, which is one of my favorites because the shape is like a little cup, perfect for holding sauces and add-ins.

Adding the sweet potato/butternut squash allows us to use far less cheese than the traditional baked macaroni and cheese. Nigella calls for sharp tangy feta and a good mature Cheddar. I relish any chance to indulge in feta so I'm happy with that. I also have a very nice aged Murray's English Cheddar. One thing is for sure: I am almost always stocked up on cheeses.

I'm going to call this a healthy macaroni and cheese BECAUSE there is literally no other macaroni and cheese that is packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. I mean we're in a pandemic and we need to be eating healthy, right? So indulge and take comfort in a hot bubbling cheesy dish that is delicious and delivers all the goodies your body needs.

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from
by Nigella Lawson
Serves 4

1 pound sweet potatoes (or butternut squash)
10 ounces pennette (or other small, short pasta)
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon English mustard
1/4 teaspoon paprika, plus more for sprinkling on top
3 ounces feta cheese
1-1/4 cups mature cheddar, plus more for sprinkling on top
4 fresh sage leaves
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400F. Put on a largeish pan of water to boil, with the lid on to make it come to the boil faster. Peel the sweet potatoes (or butternut squash) and cut into roughly 1-inch pieces. When the water is boiling, add salt to taste, and then add the sweet potato and/or butternut squash, and cook for about 10 minutes or until soft. Scoop them out of the water into a bowl using a slotted spoon and lightly mash with a fork, without turning it into a puree. Don't get rid of this water, as you will need it to cook your pasta.

In another saucepan, gently melt the butter and add the flour, whisking to form a roux, then take the pan off the heat, slowly whisk in the milk and, when it's all combined and smooth, put back on the heat. Exchange your whisk for a wooden spoon, and continue to stir until your gently bubbling sauce has lost any floury taste and has thickened. Add the mustard and the 1/4 teaspoon paprika. Season to taste, but do remember that you will be adding cheddar and salty feta later, so underdo it for now.

Cook the pennette in the sweet potato/butternut squash water, starting to check 2 minutes earlier than packet instructions dictate, as you want to make sure it doesn't lose its bite entirely. Drain (reserving some of the pasta cooking water first) and then add the pennette to the mashed sweet potato/butternut squash and fold in to combine, the heat of the pasta will make the mash easier to mix in.

Add the feta cheese to the sweet potato/butternut squash and pasta mixture, crumbling it in so that it is easier to disperse evenly, then fold in the white sauce, adding the 1-1/4 cups grated Cheddar as you go. Add some of the pasta cooking water, should you feel it needs loosening up at all.

Check for seasoning again, then, when you're happy spoon the brightly sauced macaroni and cheese into 4 small ovenproof dishes approximately 1-1/2 to 1-1-3/4 cup capacity or one 12x8. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar over each one, dust with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of paprika, then shred the sage leaves and scatter the skinny green ribbons over the top, too.

Put the pots on a baking tray, pop into the oven and bake for 20 minutes (or, if you're making this in a larger dish, bake for 30-35 minutes), by which time they will be piping hot and bubbling, and begging you to eat them.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Mark Bittman's Lemony Zucchini Risotto with Fried Egg

People feel all kinds of ways about reopening and venturing out. I'm not one to take risks (at all) so I go by the old adage, "just because you can, doesn't mean you should," and since I work for the school system, I will continue staying at home.

I was a homebody before the quarantine and I continue to be. Staying home never gets old for me. I love to cook. I love to read. I love to cuddle with my dog and play board games with my husband the kids. I love to do puzzles. I love to binge-watch shows. Occasionally I like to clean. I'm practicing how to be a gardener. There are a million and one things I love to do at home.

I also LOVE to see what I can cook up with bare-bones ingredients. I suppose this trait comes from my dad, who loves to make a game out of just about anything. Cooking like this is much like a game.

I have a zucchini to use up, so I start with that. I pick up Mark Bittman's Food Matters Cookbook, which is one of my favorite cookbooks. Turns out he has about eleventeen zucchini recipes. I am astonished by all the inventive ways he uses zucchini.

I settle on Lemony Zucchini Risotto with Fried Eggs because it uses brown rice and I've never made risotto with brown rice, and I have some brown rice that needs using up and well... I love fried eggs on anything (how's that for a run-on sentence).

I will make a very inexpensive and glorious healthy vegetarian dinner, complete with every food group, using bare-bones ingredients and it will be absolutely fabulous. It may take an hour, but that's ok because I've got nothing better to do.

Mark Bittman says, "the grated zucchini mostly melts away, leaving behind a creamy richness that doesn't depend on tons of rice or mounds of cheese."

This risotto is a spring-time dish if there ever was one. It's fresh and lemony and tastes like a garden. Mark is right, the grated zucchini melts away - giving this a creamy richness that feels satisfying without weighing you down.

Lemony Zucchini Risotto with Fried Eggs
Adapted from Food Matters Cookbook
by Mark Bittman
Serves 4

1 cup short-grain brown rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped 
1/2 cup dry white wine or water
3 to 5 cups vegetable or chicken stock or water
4 small or 2 large zucchini (about 1-1/2 pounds), grated
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil, optional
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish, optional

Notes: Take note that many of these ingredients are optional and this could really be made with 5 very basic ingredients (using about any vegetable), not counting salt and pepper. Don't box yourself into the ingredients called for -use what you have. This is a base recipe that can have many variations. The most important thing is enough liquid and constant stirring.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt it. Stir in the brown rice, adjust the heat so that the water bubbles steadily, and cook, without stirring, for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well. 

Put the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. When it's hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and coated with oil, just a couple of minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then add the wine or water. Stir and let the liquid bubble away.

Begin to add the stock, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition and every minute or so. When the stock is just about evaporated, add more. The mixture should be neither soupy nor dry. Keep the heat medium to medium-high and stir frequently.

After about 15 minutes of adding stock, stir in the zucchini and cook, stirring, until it releases its liquid and the mixture again becomes dry. (You definitely DO NOT want to wait too long before adding the zucchini because it will give off A LOT of moisture and it will take a while to cook off). Begin tasting the rice about 5 minutes later; you want it to be tender but with still a tiny bit of crunch. It could take as long as 45 minutes to reach this stage. When it does, stir in the lemon zest and juice, add the Parmesan, butter, and basil if you're using them. Meanwhile, if you'd like to top with fried eggs, go ahead and fry your eggs however you like. Taste and adjust the seasoning for the risotto. Serve immediately, garnished with your fried eggs, and additional basil if you like.