Sunday, April 11, 2021

Ina Garten's Baked Cod with Garlic & Herb Ritz Crumbs


When you're landlocked in central Kentucky, it's a next to impossible to get quality fish and seafood. I have looked high and low for center cut fillets of cod that look worthy of Ina's Baked Cod with Garlic and Herb Ritz Crumbs.

Then one day I was ordering produce from Imperfect Foods (of which I'm a big fan) and I noticed that they carried wild-caught Alaskan cod fillets, so I ordered them. I had my hopes up, but they arrived quite thin and small. What's a girl to do?

I went ahead and made the fish anyway. I will tell you that this dish has the opportunity to be outstanding as far as fish dishes go, but you really need the center cut fillets with some thickness to stand up to all the Ritz crumb topping. My fillets were thin and while it was good, they didn't really stand up to topping. So, if you can get your hands on some quality fresh fish, then go for this recipe and do yourself a favor and roast the asparagus right in the pan with it. Asparagus love crumb topping and they pair most excellently with this fish!

Baked Cod with Garlic & Herb Ritz Crumbs

Adapted from Modern Comfort Food

by Ina Garten

Serves 4

good olive oil

4 center-cut bonesless, skinless cod fillets (6 to 8 ounces each)

salt and pepper

1/2 cup Ritz cracker crumbs (15 crackers)

1/3 cup panko

2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley

2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1/4 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400F. Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil in a 9x9 dish (or a cast iron skillet) and tilt the dish to coat the bottom with oil. Place the fish fillets in the dish and turn to coat both sides with the oil. Sprinkle the fish with 1-1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the cracker crumbs, panko, parsley, garlic, lemon zest, and 1 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Add the melted butter and stir until evenly moistened. Set aside.

Remove the fish from the oven and pour the wine and lemon juice directly on the fillets. Pat the crumb mixture evenly onto the fillets, pressing gently to help them adhere. 

Return the pan to the oven for 12 minutes, until the fillets are just cooked through in the center, depending on the thickness of the fish. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with the pan juices and lemon wedges. 


Sunday, April 4, 2021

Ina's Easy Peasy Pea and Parmesan Risotto {The Perfect Spring Side or Main}

I'm coming at you with another recipe for peas, because when it's cook with peas. This recipe is an easy one! In fact, it's so easy a grade school kid could do it.

Simply put chicken stock and Arborio rice into a dutch oven and bake it for around 45 minutes, then stir in Parmesan, more stock, some wine if you have it, peas, butter, then season to taste with salt and pepper and you're all done. Who knew risotto could be so easy? Leave it to Ina.

The rice doesn't have the al dente texture of risotto made on the stove, but it does pretty much melt in your mouth and it is oh so creamy and dreamy against the pop of the peas. Might I say that this would be a tasty main dish, but also pairs well with just about any meat and/or possibly fish to make for an easy peasy weeknight meal. I would definitely make this again! In fact, I can guarantee that I will be making it again, and soon!


 Easy Peasy Pea and Parmesan Risotto

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa

recipe by Ina Garten

Serves 4-6

1-1/2 cups Arborio rice

5 cups simmering chicken stock, preferably homemade, divided

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 tablespoons butter, diced

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup frozen peas

Place the rice and 4 cups of the chicken stock in a Dutch oven, cover, and bake for 45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente. Remove from the oven, add the remaining cup of chicken stock, the Parmesan, wine, butter, salt, and pepper, and stir vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes, until the rice is thick and creamy. Add the peas and stir until heated through. Serve hot!



Sunday, March 21, 2021

Giada's Pasta with Peas and Carrots {A Perfect Springtime Mac and Cheese}!

I had an absolute abundance of veggies on hand so I decided on a dish I've made a handful of times before, Giada's Pasta with Peas and Carrots. This is such a delicious dish and I think of it every spring because it is THE PERFECT springtime macaroni and cheese! If you are a macaroni and cheese fan and you love peas and carrots this is one recipe you simply MUST MAKE!

You need a pasta that is good for cupping peas and carrots, like orecchiette, shells, or farfalle. Any of those shapes will work, maybe even rigatoni. Then you need a bag an onion, a bag of frozen or fresh peas and lots of chopped up carrots. The cheeses of choice: cream cheese and Italian Mascarpone. You're well on your way to one delicious springtime meal.

I mean does it get anymore springtime than peas and carrots? This would also make a wonderful accompaniment to an Easter ham. Just saying.

If you love peas and carrots and are looking for another way to get them into your diet, try this recipe. highly recommend it! I've made it at least a handful of times and it's a hit each and every time! If you chose to use a veggie stock, you can make it vegetarian.

Pasta with Peas and Carrots

Recipe Adapted from Food Network

by Giada De Laurentiis

Serves 4-6

1 pound pasta (small shapes like farfallini or orecchiette)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, finely diced

4 medium carrots, peeled and diced into 1/2" pieces

1 cup chicken stock

2 cups frozen petite peas, thawed

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temp

8 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temp

salt and black pepper

chopped fresh basil leaves, to garnish*

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the carrots and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add the peas to the pan and cook for 2 minutes until the peas are warmed through and the carrots are tender. Stir in the cooked pasta. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheeses. Stir until the mixture is incorporated and forms a sauce. Season with salt, to taste. Transfer to a large serving bowl and garnish with chopped basil.


Sunday, March 14, 2021

Mark Bittman's Roasted Asparagus with Bacon and Parmesan


 When I think of spring I think of three veggies: peas, carrots, and asparagus. Asparagus was my mom's favorite and it always reminds me of her. She used to say that it just made her feel so good to eat it. When I came across a beautiful bunch of fresh asparagus, I couldn't refuse it. 

While searching online for recipes, I found Mark Bittman's article titled, Asparagus, 12 ways. While they all sounded delicious, particularly Grilled Asparagus with Red Pepper Glaze, I opted for Roasted Asparagus with Bacon and Parmesan because, let's face it, bacon and parmesan. I'm trying to be good, but springing forward isn't my favorite, ya know? Why does the time change affect us all week?

This dish was so unbelievably good! The asparagus was still fresh with a bit of a snap to it and the roasting really brings out the flavor. The little bit of bacon and parmesan really go a long way in building flavor and I found that this veggie dish was somewhat addictive. I wanted to go back for more!

This is perfectly delicious by itself, but I'm thinking I would really enjoy it for breakfast with a crispy fried egg on top! Yum! I will be making this easy and delicious veggie many more times in the future! 

Recipe per Mark Bittman's, article linked above. Recipe is for one pound of aspargus, serves 4.

Heat the oven to 450F. Toss the asparagus with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 4 slices bacon, chopped (I wanted my bacon to be crispy and I knew the thin asparagus would only take 5-6 minutes so I cooked some chopped bacon until it was almost done in a skillet then added it to the asparagus) in a roasting pan. Roast, turning the asparagus once or twice, until done. Garnish with grated Parmesan. Serve immediately.

My asparagus was thin so it only took between 5-6 minutes, but thick asparagus would take longer. Best to check on it while it's roasting.

Spring Forward @ IHCC

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Ottolenghi's Balilah {The Perfect Healthy Snack}

Ottolenghi writes, "In Jerusalem, Balilah is a popular Palestinian street food consisting of fresh chickpeas seasoned with cumin and lemon juice and it makes the most gratifying snack." He also states, "On the corner of the souk in the Old City stood the very popular balilah man. He had large piles of freshly cooked chickpeas on his stall, steaming and beautifully decorated with parsley and lemon. Like a magician, he used to whip the balilah into a newspaper cone in a flash and serve it to the eager customer."

I don't know about you, but I am a bean lover and that sounds heavenly. I have wanted to make this recipe forever and I am so glad I have finally got around to it! It is the perfect snack!

This balilah is so quick and easy to whip together, especially with canned chickpeas. Simply drain the beans, add chopped parsley, sliced green onions, chopped lemon, olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper. Give it all a mix and you are good to go. Of course, I feel this is better even the next day when the flavors have had a chance to meld together. You can even add chopped tomato or cucumber, or even feta cheese. You can eat this as a snack on its own, or served in pita or with pita chips. You can eat it warm, room temp, or cold straight from the fridge. It is also great served over chicken or fish or thrown into a salad. It is so versatile and delicious and it certainly won't last long!



Adapted from Jerusalem

by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi

Serves 4, or more

1 cup dried or 2 (15oz.) cans  chickpeas

1 teaspoon baking soda, if using dried beans

1 cup chopped parsley

2 green onions, thinly sliced

1 large lemon

3 tablespoons olive oil

2-1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

salt and freshly ground black pepper

If Using Dried Beans: The night before, put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with cold water at least twice their volume. Add the baking soda and leave at room temp to soak overnight. Drain the chickpeas and place them in a large saucepan. Cover with plenty of cold water and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, skim the surface of the water, then decrease the heat and simmer for1 to 1-1/2 hours, until the chickpeas are very soft but still retain their shape. 

If Using Canned Beans: Use two 15.5 oz. cans! Drain the chickpeas and place in a large bowl.

To Make The Balilah: Put the parsley and green onions in a large mixing bowl. Peel the lemon by topping and tailing it, placing on a board, and running a small sharp knife along its curves to remove the skin and white pith. Discard the skin, pith, and seeds and coarsely chop the flesh. Add the flesh and all of the juies to the bowl.

Once the chickpeas are ready, drain and add them to the bowl while they are still hot (If you are using canned beans you can heat them up if you like). Add the olive oil, cumin, 3/4 teaspoons salt, and a good grind of pepper. Mix well. Allow to cool down until just warm, taste for seasoning, and serve.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Ina Garten's Baked Sweet Potato Fries

It's been one heck of a week. We went back to in person classes after not having school for two weeks due to Snowmageddon. Going back to work after you've been off for any length of time is so difficult, you forget the routine, you forget what you were doing, you just can't get into the swing of things. 

Then on Friday we had the day off so that all staff could get their 2nd dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. I was starting to feel achy and tired a few short hours later, so I was going to have a light meal and go to bed, but then I broke my molar eating grapes. Yes, I know. I have no idea how that happened. I didn't get to go to bed early though.

Instead I was up half the night feeling achy with a low grade fever and chills and although I was unbelievably tired I couldn't sleep because I was stressed out about my broken tooth. I thought I'd feel better the next day, but no. In fact, I ended up feeling the worst the next night, shivering and laying under tons of blankets all night. Don't get me wrong, I am grateful to have had the vaccine, but I will warn you, almost everyone I work with was feeling pretty bad all weekend. If you get the vaccine, plan to have a couple down days.

I am feeling a little better today, but I'm going to go right back to resting after I share this recipe for Ina's Baked Sweet Potato Fries. I had this recipe set aside to make this week because I had two huge sweet potatoes that I've had for sometime and this recipe is less than 5 ingredients, which is my favorite kind of recipe to make. Even though I'm not feeling well, I can definitely put together this recipe which is about as easy as they come. Plus, as a bonus, you can totally chew these sweet potato fries with one side of your mouth, which is required when one is in need of a dentist.

I'm not reinventing the wheel here, but if you have some sweet potatoes lying about then these make a fun and delicious side. I've seen a lot of savory sweet potato fries, but Ina goes the sweet route, using light brown sugar. The fries get a coating of olive oil, brown sugar, salt and pepper and I have to say I do love how the brown sugar caramelizes on the sweet potato fries creating this rather sweet and sticky goodness. If you like sweet potato recipes that are on the sweet side, then this are worth a shot!

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Adapted from Food Network

by Ina Garten

Serves 4-6

 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled

2 tablespoons good olive oil

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450F. Halve the sweet potatoes lengthwise and cut into 3 long spears. Place them on a sheet pan and toss with the olive oil. Spread the potatoes in one layer. Combine the brown sugar, salt, and pepper and sprinkle on the potatoes. Bake for 15 minutes and then turn with a spatula. Bake for another 5 to 0 minutes, until lightly browned. Sprinkle lightly with salt and serve hot. 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Ina Garten's Hot Chocolate {Perfect for Snowmageddon 2021}

As I write this, I'm listening to the sound of icicles fall from the roof and plunge to the ground. It's not a sound I'm used to hearing around these parts. We're coming off of a pretty huge winter storm for Kentucky, several inches of snow and ice. Enough to close the schools for two weeks!

I am in no way complaining. I grew up in northeast Ohio, in the snow belt, and I really miss a good snow like this. Plus, I was perfectly warm and safe in my home for the duration. The people of Texas weren't as lucky. God Bless Texas!

A month or so ago, Deb and I chose Hot Chocolate Celebration for this week's theme at our cooking club, I Heart Cooking Clubs. Innocently enough, we thought it would be a good time to enjoy hot cocoa simply because it's always so cold in February. Little did we know that Snowmageddon 2021 was coming! It ended up being the perfect time for a warm and comforting cup of hot chocolate.

Ina's hot chocolate is delicious. I mean I knew it would be. Of course, I altered the recipe somewhat because in typical Ina fashion it was a little over the top. Ina uses whole milk and half and half and two kinds of chocolate: bittersweet and milk chocolate. She flavors the hot chocolate with vanilla extract, sugar, coffee, and then garnishes the hot cocoa with a vanilla bean and/or a cinnamon stick.

I was okay with the whole milk and half and half since this is my one and only splurge for the week. I was okay with the two chocolates and the vanilla extract. In truth, I was okay with all of it except the coffee, because truthfully I don't care for coffee and never have. But then I added the vanilla beans to my cart and realized they were $9.99 a piece! Nope, not okay with a $10+ cup of hot chocolate. Sorry, Ina.

So, I changed the recipe to suit my needs and it basically amounts to whole milk, half and half, bittersweet chocolate, milk chocolate, sugar and vanilla extract. You know what? It was thick and creamy and oh so delicious. I didn't even miss the $10 vanilla bean garnish. I ended up garnishing it with a healthy dose of whipped cream and grated chocolate, which I think is a much better garnish than a vanilla bean.

Of course, I had to drink my hot chocolate in my one and only coffee mug that I inherited from my Aunt Jenny, my mom's sister. Aunt Jenny was my idol and funny enough, she never swore, always saying "oh sugar" when something went wrong or she got upset. I'm not entirely sure how she ended up with this mug, but I do love it.


Hot Chocolate

Adapted from Food Network

Recipe by Ina Garten

Serves 4

2-1/2 cups whole milk

2 cups half and half

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped

1 tablespoon sugar

1teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder*

4 to 5 vanilla beans or cinnamon sticks, for garnish* 

Heat the milk and half and half in a saucepan on medium heat to just below the simmering point. Remove the pan from the heat and add both chocolates. When the chocolates are melted, add the sugar, vanilla extract, and espresso and whisk vigorously. Reheat gently and serve immediately. Use a vanilla bean or cinnamon stick to garnish each serving.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Chicken Patties with Garlic, Ginger, Scallions and Soy Dipping Sauce

On Tuesday, January 26th our school district held a Covid-19 vaccine clinic for all employees who wanted the first dose of the Moderna vaccine. Just in case you're wondering, I got mine. The very next day we returned to in person school. For one day. Then we had 4 snow days in a row.

We returned to school for our 2nd day in person on Wednesday, February 3rd. Again, for one day. We were then out another 2 days for snow days due to an ice storm. It is now Sunday, Feb. 14th and we still have ice. Another winter storm is coming and then another one after that. We may not have school this week at all. Not even for one day.

I'm starting to feel like Mother Nature agrees with me and wants us to be virtual. If we get the snow and ice that we're projected to get this week then it will be one of the biggest snow and ice storms I've ever seen since I moved to Kentucky about 18 years ago.

Naturally you are compelled to do a stock up grocery haul when an impending snow and ice storm are on the way. Gotta get the bread and milk! So I ran out this morning and got a massive haul. I am now ready for Snowmageddon 2021, or whatever the news is calling it. 

After freezing my tail off running around to 4 stores and going in and out with the groceries, I wanted something quick and easy. These chicken patties fit the bill nicely. A simple mix of ground chicken, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, scallion, chili powder, and black pepper and you are well on your way. While those are shallow frying in a saute pan, mix together a quick soy dipping sauce. The sauce comes together in no time:  soy sauce, garlic, scallion, chili powder, vinegar, and sugar and you are all set. In about 20 minutes total you can be dunking one of these delicious chicken patties into that soy dipping sauce and swooning in delight. 

And, in case you are wondering, there are still no chicken wings and now there is no cheddar cheese.


Chicken Patties with Garlic, Ginger, Scallions & Soy Sauce Dipping Sauce

Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey

Recipe adapted from Stirring the Pot

Makes 6 patties & 1/2 cup dipping sauce

1 scallion

1 large garlic clove

1 pound ground chicken

1 tablespoon sesame oil

freshly ground black pepper

1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1-2 tablespoons oil

fresh cilantro sprigs or green onions, for garnish

 Cut the scallion crosswise into very fine rounds along its entire length, including the green section. Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and mince garlic  Peel and finely grate the ginger. Put the chicken in a bowl. Add the scallion, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, black pepper, and chili powder. Mix thoroughly.

Shape the mixture into 6 patties, each about 3" diameter. Put them in a single layer on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Set the patties aside until you are ready to eat. Prepare the dipping sauce.

Lightly oil a large non-stick frying pan with the oil and set over a medium-high heat. When hot, add the patties and cook for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown underneath. Turn the patties over and cook the other side for the same time. To test, pierce the center with the point of a sharp knife - if meat is no longer pink inside, the patties are cooked. Serve hot, garnished with cilantro and/or green onions.

Dipping Sauce

 1 small garlic clove

1 scallion

4 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Peel and mince the garlic. Cut the scallion into very thin rounds. Combine the garlic, 1 tablespoon sliced scallion, the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, and chili powder in a small serving bowl and mix well. 



Sunday, February 7, 2021

Giada's Buffalo Shrimp {A Delicious and Healthier Option!}

For about three weeks now there have been NO CHICKEN WINGS in the markets. Zero. Zilch. Not even in the next town over. Not in a 50 mile radius. I have to wonder, has everyone been hoarding chicken wings for Superbowl weekend? 

What do you do when you can't have the classic chicken wing for Game Day? You make buffalo shrimp! Then you realize you can't find JUMBO tail on shrimp ANYWHERE within a 50 miles radius so you have to make do with small sized shrimp that are masquerading as large, and with the tail off! IT IS WHAT IT IS you say. After all, IT IS WHAT IT IS happens to be our new motto, right?

So, while we wait for jumbo shrimp and chicken wings to make their return to the market, we will make do with little tail off shrimp marinated in hot sauce, minced garlic, lemon zest, olive oil, and salt then sauteed (or grilled) in the pan before being doused in more hot sauce and served with ranch, celery, and carrots. And guess what? We will enjoy it because IT IS DELICIOUS and let's face it, way more figure friendly than chicken wings.

So, Buffalo Shrimp, no matter their size, are delicious in my book and I will definitely be making this recipe again as soon as I can get my hands on some good jumbo sized shrimp. Giada includes a recipe for a Goat Cheese Dip to serve alongside the shrimp, but personally that doesn't sound too appealing to me and I think it's just an extra step you don't need. Ranch is a great alternative, but really I prefer no dip because I simply like to enjoy the taste of the shrimp. I reserve the ranch dip strictly for dipping the veggies in. I will warn you that the shrimp have a healthy amount of hot sauce on them and are quite spicy, so if you are a spice lightweight, then you may need to have a sauce alongside to help cool things down.

Buffalo Shrimp

Adapted from Food Network

By Giada De Laurentiis

Serves 2-4

1 pound jumbo shrimp, tail on (peeled and deveined)

1/4 cup hot sauce, such as Frank's (plus 2 tablespoons for serving)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

4 cloves garlic, smashed and coarsely chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

Note: This recipe on the Food Network includes goat cheese dipping sauce (click the food network link above to be directed to that recipe). That might be great for some who need to temper the heat. These are somewhat spicy. I prefer to use ranch. Also, I didn't have a grill pan and my shrimp were on the small side so I sauteed mine, but the recipe calls for grilling. I think grilling would be much better. Perhaps on a day when there is nicer weather and I have bigger shrimp.

In a medium bowl, toss the shrimp with the hot sauce, olive oil, lemon zest and garlic. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Preheat a grill or grill panto medium-high heat. Sprinkle the shrimp with the salt and grill for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until opaque at the center. Remove to a clean bowl and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons hot sauce. Serve with ranch and veggies.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Ina Garten's Creamed Spinach & Eggs

I am a big fan of spinach and eggs combined in about any fashion. They just go so well together! One of my favorite breakfasts is taking leftover spinach and artichoke dip, slathering it on some crusty bread, then topping it with a fried egg. Trust me, If I can put an egg on anything, I will!

 So, with that in mind, I figured Ina's Creamed Spinach and Eggs would be an awesome breakfast that I would love. The bonus, there is over ONE POUND of spinach in this recipe and eating leafy greens is SO HEALTHY, right? I think it cancels out all the cheese and cream in this recipe. 

This comes together so easily, tastes great, looks gorgeous, and would be perfect to serve at a brunch if and when we can ever entertain again. However, this is also something different to make for your family and/or just for yourself, because it does reheat well, if necessary. We really enjoyed this one, but next time I will definitely be adding some artichokes because I think that would make it even better!

Creamed Spinach & Eggs

Adapted from Modern Comfort Food

By Ina Garten

Serves 4

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup minced shallots (2 shallots)

1-1/4 pounds fresh baby spinach, washed and spun dry

1 (5.2 ounce) package Boursin Garlic and Fines Herbs Cheese

 1/3 cup heavy cream

pinch of ground nutmeg

salt and black pepper

4 extra-large eggs

1/3 cup grated Gruyere cheese

1 tablespoon freshly grated Italian Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender. Add the spinach in large handfuls, tossing with metal tongs to wilt each batch before adding another. After all of the spinach has been added and completely wilted, crumble the Boursin into the spinach and add the cream, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring often, until the cheese and cream form a sauce.

Transfer the spinach mixture to a 9x9" square or 8x10" oval baking dish. With the back of a wooden spoon, make four indentations in the spinach. Place an egg in each indentation. Sprinkle the eggs with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the spinach and eggs with the Gruyere and Parmesan. Bake for 12 to 13 minutes for runny yolks or 13 to 14 minutes for yolks that are just cooked. Serve hot from the baking dish.









Sunday, January 24, 2021

Yogurt Bar Charcuterie Board {and my thoughts on Charcuterie Boards}


Charcuterie boards are all the rage lately and people are putting ALL KINDS of food on their boards and calling it charcuterie. To me, charcuterie is classic antipasto, like meats and cheese, maybe some olives, and/or roasted veggies. However, all the rules are now broken. Literally everything is served up as a charcuterie board, even hot foods like breakfast and dinner. So, since all the rules are broken, here is my Yogurt Bar Charcuterie Board inspired by Ina Garten's tips and what I had on hand. 

Now before I tell you how I put this together I have to tell you that I love the way a charcuterie board looks, but there are several things I DON'T LIKE about a charcuterie board.

1) Way too time consuming and artsy. I do not like spending tons of time artfully arranging anything in my life so this just feels like torture. I can appreciate a pretty board, but personally it feels way too pretentious to me! Sorry, Ina. I will NOT be going to my florist for some greenery.

2)People spend way too much money on boards, fancy dishes, serving utensils, and also fancy ingredients. According to Ina, we do NEED focal points, but I say we don't need to spend exorbitant amounts on fancy things. 

3)People are now putting hot food on charcuterie boards and I'm sorry but I like my food hot. By the time you move all that around and decorate the board IT IS COLD! It literally makes me crazy when I see this.

So, now that I've discussed my issues with charcuterie boards let me tell you about my Yogurt Bar Charcuterie Board. First of all, it is not fancy whatsoever! I simply used what I had on hand and what was seasonal. I bet if you go look right now, you have all the ingredients to put something together. We do not have to reinvent the wheel here or go buy a bunch of out-of-season berries to be fancy. All we need is some seasonal fruit, some dried fruit, nuts, honey, maybe some chocolate chips, and granola. Let's be simple, folks.

Next, find a board that you have at home. Think outside of the box. The board doesn't have to be fancy because YOU ARE GOING TO COVER IT UP! Yes, I said it! According to Ina, all you need is a flat board! Next, you and I both know you have an array of mismatch dishes in your cabinets that you can use to create focal points and some height. I just used some ramekins I've had forever, a recycled yogurt glass that I washed out and kept, and an old wooden bowl that was cracked. I don't really do fancy.

Finally, I refuse to try and serve anything hot on a board and I also didn't have any typical charcuterie (antipasto) ingredients on hand, so I went with a yogurt board. As I mentioned earlier, I don't believe these boards have to cost tons of money to be pretty or pleasing.

My board came together with some Greek yogurt topped with honey, sliced almonds, candied walnuts and dried cranberries, granola, chocolate chips, dried mango, sliced banana, fresh slices of orange, and some dried dates. I resisted the urge to run out and buy a ton of beautifully colored berries because THEY ARE NOT SEASONAL, nor are they necessary.

Ina says that you should place down all the larger items first, leaving spaces, and then fill in those spaces with "large block of color."  She says to group like things together and your board will look "simple and elegant." 

Following Ina's rules I got out my cutting board and set the larger bowl of yogurt as the focal point. I put dried mango slices in an old recycled glass jar to create height. Then I put the sliced almonds, chocolate chips, candied walnuts and dried cranberries, and dried dates into the small ramekins. I sliced one orange to create a large block of color, added a banana to the board, spilled some granola down the middle, and filled in the empty spaces with sliced banana. Lastly, I drizzled the yogurt with some honey and stuck an old wooden spoon in the yogurt. It was easy peasy and I think it turned out well.

I made a yogurt parfait with candied walnuts and cranberries, sliced banana, a few chocolate chips, and a squeeze of orange over the top, then grabbed some dried mango to enjoy on the side. The kids made theirs with granola and chocolate chips with orange slices on the side. I made a few parfaits with the rest of it, stuffed some dates with yogurt and nuts, and stored it all in the fridge for a later time. Everyone was pleased.

Keep it simple. Life is hard enough!

If you'd like to read more about Ina's tips for building a charcuterie board, please click here.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Split Pea Soup with Crispy Kielbasa {And A California Tale}

Imagine this, it's the very early 00's and me and my husband are visiting California. We're leaving L.A and driving "the 5" all the way to San Francisco. Now, I don't know what we were expecting, but I can tell you this experience did not end up anywhere near anything we had dreamed up in our east coast minds. I don't know if "the 5" has changed much in the last 20 years, but at the time it was a lot of nothing: Six Flags, some brown mountains, nothing but brown dirt and maybe mountains, aqueducts, signs for orchards, windmills, thousands upon thousands of cows, and then a pea soup restaurant called Pea Soup Anderson's. Now, if you're gonna be making this drive you're gonna get hungry and you're probably not gonna be craving pea soup, but that's all you're gonna get. So pea soup it is!

Now, in all of my 45 years, I've never felt more like I was in an episode of The Twilight Zone more than the day we made that drive. So, in the middle of nowhere, we drove up to a pea soup restaurant thinking, "what in the absolute world is going on?" I can remember inhaling dust while walking into the restaurant, everything was so brown and so dry, and when we walked inside I was taken aback. The inside of the restaurant was pea green too! Mind blown. Still is. I remember being totally tripped out. I know we ate the pea soup and some bread. I just can't remember the pea soup because everything else was so darn out of place that day. I'm thinking I must've liked it because I remember buying pea soup and eating it at work in the years that followed.

Fast forward 20 years and me and my husband still laugh about our ride down "the 5". Then I came across Ina Garten's recipe for Split Pea Soup with Crispy Kielbasa and I thought, "why the heck not?" It took me weeks to find a ham hock and the rest was easy peasy.

I have to say we were not overly impressed. Don't get me wrong, the soup is good and if you love split pea soup then you would love this recipe! The crispy kielbasa is really great and the soup is A LOT better the second day, but it's just not something that we crave or feel we need to eat on a regular basis. So, if split pea soup is your jam, then you'd probably love this recipe and a drive up "the 5". But if split pea soup is not your jam, then you might wanna drive up the 101 if you're ever in California, and skip this recipe.


Split Pea Soup with Crispy Kielbasa

Adapted from Modern Comfort Food

by Ina Garten

Serves 6

olive oil

2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts, spun dried (2 leeks)

1-1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (1 large)

2 cups 1/2" diced, scrubbed carrots (3 large)

1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)

1 pound dry green split peas

8 cups good chicken stock (preferable homemade)

1 smoked ham hock

8 fresh thyme sprigs, tied with kitchen twine

2 large fresh bay leaves

salt and pepper

12 ounces smoked kielbasa, halved lengthwise and sliced diagonally in 1/4" thick pieces

minced fresh parsley, for serving

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large (11 to 12") pot or Dutch oven, over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, onion, and carrots and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and starting to brown. Stir in the garlic and cook for one minute. Stir in the peas to coat with oil and cook for one minute. Add 8 cups of the chicken stock, 2 cups water, the ham hock, thyme bundle, bay leaves, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 1-1/4 hours, stirring occasionally, until the peas are very tender and falling apart. After 45 minutes, stir more frequently, scraping the bottom of the pot to be sure the soup doesn't burn.

Discard the thyme bundle, bay leaves, and ham hock. Transfer 2 cups of the soup to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and puree. Return the puree to the pot, adding more chicken stock or water if the soup is too thick.

To serve, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium (10 to 11") saute pan over medium heat. Add the kielbasa and saute for 5 to 6 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the kielbasa is browned. Serve the soup hot with the kielbasa and parsley sprinkled on top.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

A Whole-Grain Breakfast Bowl To Start Off The New Year!

Let me just say that I LOVE working at home virtually! There are just so many perks. Since I don't have to focus so much attention on getting ready (packing lunches, gathering supplies, commuting, working the car rider line, etc.) I have way more time to focus on breakfast! This is great for me because breakfast is my favorite meal of the day!

This is NOT your ordinary bowl of oatmeal. In fact, it's not really oatmeal at all. It's two parts pearl barley and one part oatmeal, so if anything it is truly a barley bowl...and it is THE BREAKFAST BOWL! The chew and pop of the barley with the sweetness of the fruit and maple syrup is definitely something worth waking up for! Trust me when I say that there is no going back to regular oatmeal after you have this! You will be adding barley to all of your breakfast bowls from here on out. 

This is one of those recipes that grows on you. You make it and eat it the first time and thinkingy, "well that was pretty good, but I don't know if I'd spend an hour cooking it again." Then later on in the day you find yourself thinking about it and so happy you leftovers for the next morning. When the next morning comes you've been thinking about that warm comforting breakfast bowl with the pop of the barley and the slight fruity sweetness from the raspberries. You imagine the maple syrup glistening and making the berries shine. You can hardly wait to warm up your breakfast bowl and you are so thankful that you made enough for today. You suddenly love this hearty comforting breakfast bowl that is warming your soul.  You are sad there are no more leftovers and you are sad it will take an hour to cook it again. But, this time, after craving it all week, you will not mess around and make half of the recipe. You will make the WHOLE batch!

That is the story of how I came to love these breakfast bowls. I made the recipe again today. The whole batch. I am so happy I can look forward to eating this for breakfast for the next few days. 

Whole-Grain Breakfast Bowl

Adapted from Modern Comfort Food

by Ina Garten

Serves 4

1  cup pearled barley (see note)

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup whole milk, plus extra for serving

1/2 cup medium-diced pitted, dried dates (6 to 8 dates)

1/3 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts*

6 ounces raspberries, or more to your liking

Pure maple syrup, for serving

Note: Make sure you buy "pearled" barley, which has been processed so it cooks faster. Also, I don't care for hazelnuts so I subbed them for sliced almonds. In my opinion, the raspberries really make this recipe pop, so I opt to use a little more than the recipe calls for.  

 Combine the barley, salt, and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Add the oats plus 2 cups water, return to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer covered for 20 minutes, until the barley is tender and the oats are creamy. Off the heat, stir in 1/2 cup milk.

Spoon the barley and oats into four shallow bowls. Sprinkle with the dates, raspberries, and hazelnuts, drizzle with maple syrup, and pour on some milk. Serve hot.

Welcome 2021 @ I Heart Cooking Clubs!

Welcome 2021 @ I Heart Cooking Clubs!