31 December 2016

a breakfast sandwich in casserole form

Now you know I like a good, fatty brunch at least as well as I like drinking the night before...this may be the best way to kick off what may be an otherwise sketchy year.  The first time I tried it, I had 2/3 of several bagels that my cat had gnawed on before remembering he prefers meat, and I didn't want to waste the parts of each bagel that had not been tainted with cat spit.  In the process I realized that it very much reminded me of a gooey, cheese breakfast sandwich. Bonus: make it the night before and all you've got to do is sit around and wait in the morning while it cooks.  

Breakfast Sandwich Casserole

Serves 6-8

1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
8 large eggs
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons grainy mustard
6 kalamata olives, chopped
Kosher salt
1 pound day-old everything bagels (3 large), cut into 1-inch pieces 
1 small bunch of kale or other cooking green, stemmed and chopped
½  pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons minced rosemary
2 scallions, thinly sliced
8 ounces  shredded cheese of your choice

Lightly grease a 2-quart oval baking pan. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk, mustard, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Stir in the bagel pieces and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the kale and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and wilted, about 7 minutes. If you had bits of leftover vegetables in the fridge, you could cook those here, too. Stir in the cherry tomatoes, garlic, rosemary and cook until the tomatoes start to soften, about 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the scallions; season with salt and pepper. Let cool slightly.

Fold the vegetables and shredded cheeses into the bagel mixture, then transfer to the prepared baking pan. You could cook this now, or you could cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to cook in the morning.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Cover the baking pan with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, remove the foil and bake for 35 minutes more, or until the top is puffed and golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (cooking times will be longer if you pull this directly out of the fridge before baking). Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Melvin, who made this meal possible with his
fine bagel-hunting skills. 

23 December 2016

Christmas Eve-Eve preparations

'Tis the night before the night before Christmas, and you need to take it easy so you can get through this dumpster fire of a holiday.  Perhaps you are already inundated with visiting relatives who don't like your food, house, or local entertainment. Perhaps your kids have now been home from school for just enough days to make you consider "accidentally" leaving them in a faraway aisle of the nearest Toys R Us for someone else to rescue. Perhaps you have just whipped yourself into such a grocery-buying, food-prepping frenzy that you feel dizzy and your feet ache. Tonight is the night you can dispense with the ambitious need to eat a balanced meal or do something productive.  Think of he chart, below, as a handy little choose-your-own-adventure for Christmas Eve Eve. From me to you.

What to Wear (choose one or none)
What to Drink (choose two)
What to Eat (choose two, plus chili-cheese Fritos)
What to Do (choose no more than one)
Egg nog (with or without rum)
Tuscan White Bean Dip with chips or toast
Netflix, with or without chill
Yoga pants and sweatshirt
Strap on snowshoes and take out the garbage
Swimsuit (for our California fans)
Groom your pets
Green corduroys and a cat shirt
Hot chocolate
Lay on the couch and stare at the ceiling

17 December 2016

Simple green chile and potato stew

Now that the majority of the country is fully in a deep freeze, I think we can all agree that gazpacho and a leafy salad sounds like a terrible idea for a meal.  It's time for some heavy, spicy soups, ammiriiiite?

Having grown up in the Midwest in the 80s, I did not know the magical perfection of Hatch green chiles until I moved to the Rocky Mountains in the early 00s. I don't think geography is a problem anymore, though; you can buy perfectly respectable roasted chiles in freezer sections of grocery stores all over the country now. And so that means you can also make this ridiculously simple, tasty stew, which jars well and also keeps in the freezer for a month of so if you make too much (but you won't).

It's a little spicy if you choose hot chiles, so this is best served with a cerveza, parked at a window while the snow comes down.

Green Chile Stew with Potatoes

Serves 4

1 1/2 cups green chiles or poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, and diced
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil or other vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
1 teaspoon teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon teaspoon ground cumin
1 garlic clove, minced
4 medium Russet potatoes peeled and chopped into 1 1/2-inch chunks
Salt and pepper
2 cups vegetable stock or water
Sour cream (or Greek yogurt), chopped cilantro, and lime wedges for serving

Heat the oil in a wide pot; add the onion and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin, garlic, and potatoes, followed by the chile, along with 1/2 teaspoon salt and give a stir. Cook together of a few minutes, then add the water or stock. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.
Cook and cover until the potatoes are completely softened, about 25 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. At this point you can mash the potatoes, or at least a few of them to give the stew a thicker texture, if desired.

Pour into a bowl; add a dollop of sour cream and the chopped cilantro and squeeze lime over the top.

09 December 2016

12 Days of holiday Inspiration, the non-Pinterest edition

I keep getting this post popping up on my Pinterest page as something I might like: "12 Days of DIY Craft and Decor Ideas". Have any of you seen this?  It has some pretty serious bullshit on there, like making your own printable board games, templates for letters to Santa, and holiday pet photos. Given that my pins are dominated by abstract art, photos of cats falling into things or misusing furniture, and graphic tees with swear words on them, I really don't know what the Pinterest bot was thinking. But OK, challenge accepted.  I have come up with my own 12 days of blah blah blah, but I think mine are way easier to maintain. You know what? We're all busy.  Let's be overachievers and get it done in six.

1. Have some people over for wine and snacks.  Roast some packaged gnocchi for the snack.
2. Plan your wintry dream vacation for after the holidays.
3. Make some big batches of soup and freeze or can for later.
4. Get some eggnog (the pumpkin spice of December) and make some drinks!
5. Infuse some vodka and get rid of that chemical-flavored shit in your cupboard (also a great gift idea for your alcoholic friends).
6. Make this insanely good orzo casserole for brunch, with or without friends.

 You can drink on the rest of the days until Christmas. 

02 December 2016

Ode to Japchae

Because it's cold, and noodles...but it's only an "ode" because I like to add gojuchang and can't usually find sweet potato noodles at my local store. Sorry to the purists out there!

Ode to Japchae

Serves 4

1/4 cup soy sauce low sodium, or tamari
1-2 gojuchang
1 cup firm tofu diced, (7 ounces)
8 ounces sweet potato starch noodles or bean thread noodles
4 ounces spinach fresh
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup yellow onion thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic minced
6 shiitake mushrooms stems removed and thinly sliced
1/2 cup carrots shredded
2 scallion stalks cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons Sesame oil
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

In a medium sized bowl whisk together soy sauce and gojuchang. Add in tofu, gently stir to coat and allow to marinate while you prepare other ingredients.

Bring a large pot of water to boil, enough to fit the noodles. Cook noodles in boiling water for 5 minutes. Do not discard water. You will use it for blanching the spinach. Use tongs to transfer to a colander and rinse noodles under cool running water. Cut the noodles into 6-inch long pieces with scissors. Set aside.

Blanch spinach in the same pot of water that you cooked the noodles for 1 minute, until wilted. Drain the water and rinse under cold running water. Roll spinach into a ball and squeeze out excess water. Use a knife to cut the spinach ball in half. Set aside.

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and allow to heat up. Add onion, garlic, mushrooms, and carrot, saute for 2 minutes. Add scallion and saute 1 minute. Add tofu and cook 1 minute to warm (do not discard sauce). Turn heat to low and add noodles, spinach, sesame oil and sauce. Gently stir to combine until noodles are coated with the sauce. Serve topped with sesame seeds.

25 November 2016

Forget the food, let's drink!

How was everyone's Thanksgiving?  Good? There are so many reasons to drink these days, and it is best done with your close friends and allies with a carby snack nearby (I like popcorn, which can be made with a drink in your hand).  These are a little fussy and require some work in the kitchen (not too much, don't worry!), so they make a great distraction from real life and serve as a fun group activity.

Tangerine-Cranberry Old Fashioned
Makes 1 drink
2.5 oz. bourbon (I used Bulleit rye)
1 tsp. cranberry simple syrup*
5-6 fresh cranberries
2 slices autumn tangerine or satsuma
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Sugared cranberries* and cinnamon stick to garnish

Muddle tangerine or satsuma and fresh cranberries in the bottom of an old fashioned glass. Add cranberry simple syrup, bitters, and bourbon. Stir briefly and add one large ice cube. Garnish with sugared cranberries on a pick and a cinnamon stick.

*You can make the sugared cranberry garnish and the cranberry simple syrup together. Combine 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup sugar and simmer to dissolve the sugar. Add about 1/2 cup cranberries. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Strain, reserving both the cranberries and the syrup. Arrange half of the cranberries on parchment paper on a wire cooling rack and let sit for one hour; these will be your sugared cranberries. Return the rest to the pot with the syrup and muddle. Let sit for another 10-20 minutes and strain again, discarding the muddled berries. Once an hour has passed, pour 1/4 cup sugar onto a plate and roll the remaining cranberries in it to coat.

The Dirty Chai Nightcap
Makes 4 drinks
4 chai tea bags
1 cup filtered water
4 ounces espresso
1 cup almond milk
4 ounces whiskey
1 tablespoon maple syrup
star anise, garnish

Heat the water to almost boiling and steep the tea bags in it for 5 minutes. Discard the tea bags and cool the chai concentrate.

Make 4 ounces of espresso and cool.

Combine in a shaker the chai, espresso, milk, whiskey, and maple syrup. Strain and pour into 4 martini glasses, and top with star anise.

Apple-Ginger Martini
Makes 1 drinks
2 oz vodka
2 oz apple-ginger-lime juice (recipe below)
1 teaspoon maple or honey simple syrup (made by mixing equal parts of maple syrup or honey with filtered water until fully dissolved)
Crushed ice
1 large tart green apple, cored and cut into slices (ex. granny smith)
¼ cup water
1 tablespoons grated ginger
The juice of 1 large lime
Apple slices for garnish (optional)

Make the Green Apple and Lime Juice:
Add the apple slices to a high speed blender along with the water, ginger, and lime juice and blend on high until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer pressing on the pulp to get all of the juice and set aside.

Make the Green Apple Ginger Martini:
Add the juice, the vodka and the maple syrup to a cocktail shaker. Fill the shaker halfway with ice and shake vigorously until the shaker turns frosty. Strain into the chilled glasses. Garnish with the reserved apple slices if desired

22 November 2016

Pre-Thanksgiving bonus: holiday flavors remix

I have posted many times over the years with my favorite traditional and slightly alternative recipes for Thanksgiving (here's last year's if you're into that sort of thing). But to be honest, I don't usually make this stuff anymore.  It's a short holiday and our families live far away, so we usually choose to spend it quietly at home eating a normal amount of food and catching up on grading and practicing.  That being said, I can't shake the annual nostalgia I feel around this time for certain flavors: wild rice, ginger bread, sage, pumpkin... So here are some ways to sprinkle some Thanksgiving dinner into your regular meals this week, or add a little variety to your big feast.

Curried Squash Galette
adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 6

1 refrigerated roll-out pie dough
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 pound Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch-thick slices
1 red onion, cut through the core into 1/2-inch wedges
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons curry powder
salt and pepper
1/2 cup sour cream or thick plain yogurt
1/2 cup shredded Manchego, plus more for serving

Allow the pie crust to warm up slightly on the kitchen counter while you do this step:
Preheat the oven to 425°. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the butternut squash and the onion with the olive oil and curry powder. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the squash is tender but not falling apart. Let cool.

Increase the oven temperature to 450°. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 14-inch round. Carefully transfer to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Spread the sour cream over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheese on top. Arrange the squash and onion, as well as the apple slices, over the sour cream and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese on top. Fold the pastry edge up and over the vegetables to create a 1 1/2-inch border.

Bake the squash galette for 30 to 35 minutes, until the crust is browned; let cool slightly. Sprinkle with shredded cheese, cut into wedges and serve warm.

Wild Rice and Veggie Gratin
Serves 4-6

1 bunch black kale, stemmed and washed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
8 oz. button mushrooms, washed and sliced
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 large garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
3 eggs
½ cup unflavored milk
1 cup cooked wild rice mixture
3 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (3/4 cup)
¼ cup breadcrumbs

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add a generous amount of salt and add kale. Blanch for 2 to 3 minutes, remove from the water with a deep fry skimmer or a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of cold water. Drain and, taking the greens up by the handful, squeeze hard to expel excess water. Chop medium-fine or cut in thin ribbons.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add onion. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes, and add mushrooms. Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms begin to soften. Add salt to taste and continue to cook, stirring often, until the fennel is very tender and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and kale, stir together for another minute, then stir in dill. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 2-quart gratin or baking dish. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Whisk in milk and salt to taste (I use about 1/2 teaspoon). Stir in kale mixture, rice and Gruyère, and combine well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Scrape into baking dish. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top if using, and drizzle on the remaining tablespoon of oil. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until set and the top and sides are beginning to color. Remove from oven and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. This is good hot, warm, or room temperature.

Melissa Clark's Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread
Serves 8-10

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup granulated sugar
1 stick/4 ounces unsalted butter
⅔ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup milk
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup molasses
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together cranberries, granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon water. Stir the cranberries over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and cranberries form a sauce that is syrupy and bubbling thickly, about 10 minutes. Aim to have about half the cranberries broken down, with the remainder more or less whole.

In a separate saucepan, stir together the butter, brown sugar, milk, maple syrup and molasses over medium heat. Bring it to just barely a simmer and then remove it from the heat. Do not let it come to a boil, or the mixture may curdle.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, baking soda and black pepper. Beat in the butter-maple syrup mixture and then beat in the eggs. Stir in the ginger.

Scrape the batter into the pan. Drop fat dollops of cranberry sauce onto the surface of the cake batter. Drag a long, slender knife through the batter in a swirly design, as if you are marbling a cake. Transfer the cake to the oven and bake it until the top is firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire baking rack and let the cake cool completely before eating it.

I just realized these are all carb-heavy dishes.  Oh well. It's winter.

18 November 2016

When in Rome...or Arkansas

I traveled with my trio to Southwest Arkansas last weekend.  The continuous deciduous forest everywhere I looked was pretty, and all the people I met were extremely nice.  I was staying in a town with a college, but no coffee shop (but three donut shops), in a county that had just gone from dry to wet in the past year, in a state that fries everything.  So, it wasn't like my usual haunts, but I nonetheless managed to eat some tasty stuff.  (I am still detoxing from the alt intake, but I hear you body needs salt, so...)

In Magnolia, AR:
Backyard Barbeque was way too much food, but crazy good. I had the pork sandwich (sliced rather than pulled, but the equally good brisket is pulled rather than sliced) with coleslaw and beans that came heaped with sausage, pepper and onions. They also keep mugs frosty in the chest freezer for one of the three beers on tap: Bud, Bud Light, and Goose IPA (?!) Apparently the pie is very good, but I don't know how I possibly could have digested it.

We went to Flying Burger several times, because they were often the only restaurant open, and they had salads.  Fried catfish, tilapia, crawdads. and shrimp can be put on salads, in po' boys or tacos, or served up on a platter with sides like greens, grilled squash, fried broccoli, beans and rice, etc. And everything comes with hush puppies, so no need to order extra.

I never made it to Marlar's Cafeteria. which gets high ratings on Yelp but was never opened when I wasn't working.  But I would have liked to have tried their chicken and dumplings with black eyed peas and greens. Another time, perhaps.  Also, the first Yelp review is a perfectly charming summation of my time in Magnolia.

Shreveport, LA:
Sadly, many restaurants, even in this booming metropolis, were not open for lunch Sunday on my way back to the airport. I can tell you that locals recommend the boudin at Bergeron's. We did manage to find an absolutely beautiful Indian buffet at Indigo Bistro, and it was heaven. The vindaloo was quite spicy and flavorful (pretty brave for a buffet, but maybe they're more hip to that sort of thing in Cajun country), tikka was surprisingly tomato-y but good, and the aloo saag was a surprising symphony of flavors. The service was welcoming and the restaurant itself was this glorious mix of Gothic Southern architecture and classic Hindu style, all cleverly disguised by its boring facade (see below) in a suburban strip mall. It's right off the loop that gets you to the airport. Go there.

PS--The staff at the Hampton Inn were so helpful that when we bought beer at Walmart because there were no bars and discovered we didn't have a bottle opener, they let us use their's for, like, three days.  Also the breakfast waffles were pretty good.

11 November 2016

Rhymes with cider

Oh. haha, it IS cider!  I love fresh apple cider in the fall, and I love to taste it in everything.

Apple Cider Chicken  

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch wedges
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups apple cider

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, add to pan and sear until golden, about 4 minutes each side. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Add onion, apple, garlic, thyme and bay leaves. Saute until apple begins to get color and onions soften, about 6 minutes. Add flour and stir 2 to 3 minutes. Nestle chicken back into pan, add cider, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until chicken is cooked through, about 12 minutes.

Cider-Glazed Brussels Sprouts

Serves 4 as a side

2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 tablespoon olive
1 teaspoon salt
2 minced garlic cloves
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup apple cider

Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Add the Brussels sprouts, oil, salt, and black pepper to a bowl and mix well. Place the Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet, cut side down. Roast for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour the apple cider and garlic into a skillet over medium heat. Stir occasionally for about 10 minutes, or until the cider has reduced (do not boil). Once it coats a spoon it’s done.
Add the roasted sprouts to the skillet and serve.

Bourbon Apple Cider  
Makes one drink

2 ounces bourbon
2 ounces apple cider
¼ ounce lemon juice
Dash bitters
Orange peel, for garnish
½ ounce cinnamon simple syrup
For the simple syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half

Make the simple syrup: In a small sauce pan, bring the water, sugar, and cinnamon sticks to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool. The syrup can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge.

To make the drink: Combine the bourbon, cider, lemon juice, simple syrup, and bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until chilled then pour over ice in a glass and serve.

04 November 2016

Pumpkin lasagna is not gross!

What do you do with pumpkins besides bake them into a delicious pie?  My neighbors grow enough stuff I don't really want that I could probably make a sub-category in this blog: "recipes that were the result of unwanted produce". And so it goes with the following recipe, but I have to tell you, I am hooked now. The flavors are great, it's healthy, and like traditional lasagnas, it's very easy to make ahead and freeze (either cooked for future desk lunches are uncooked for future cooking, as directed below). 

Pumpkin Lasagna

Serves 6
8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
2 crumbled Field Roast or other vegetarian sausages, optional
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt, divided
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
1/2 cup plain almond milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
black pepper
9 no-cook lasagna noodles
1 cup reduced-fat ricotta cheese*
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

In a small skillet, saute the mushrooms, sausages, onion, spinach, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in oil until tender; set aside. In a small bowl, combine the pumpkin, cream, lemon juice, garlic, sage, pepper and remaining salt.

Spread 1/2 cup pumpkin sauce in an 11x7-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with three noodles (noodles will overlap slightly). Spread 1/2 cup pumpkin sauce to edges of noodles. Top with half of mushroom mixture, 1/2 cup ricotta, 1/2 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers. Top with remaining noodles and sauce.

Cover and bake at 375° for 45 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake 10-15 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting. 

Freeze option: Cover and freeze unbaked lasagna. To use, partially thaw in refrigerator overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 375°. Bake as directed, increasing time as necessary to heat through and for a thermometer inserted in center to read 165°.

*For a vegan option, replace the shredded cheeses with dairy-free options (obvs.) and ricotta with 1 block silken tofu blended with 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast and a dash of salt.  It will be more like a white sauce in consistency, so use sparingly to avoid a runny lasagna, but leftovers can be refrigerated for up to one week and used as an Alfredo sauce over pasta!

28 October 2016

Recipe review: Food & Wine's grilled eggplant involtini

I buy eggplant because they look fantastic at the store, and then I have to do something kind of special with them to convince people to eat them (ahem). So, this Food and Wine recipe from their August issue sounded great, because 1) we are grilling every weekend the weather allows it until the snow starts to fly and 2) it sounds delicious. It WAS delicious, but be forewarned, it's a bit labor intensive, especially if you weren't already going to grill and just happened to have room to throw some sliced eggplant on there at the end. But if you're trying to do something special, and if you already like eggplant Parmesan, you should keep this  in mind.

My slight alterations are built into the recipe below.

Grilled Eggplant Involtini

Serves 4

6 pounds tomatoes
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
1 cup cooked long-grain white rice
2 medium Italian eggplants, sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick (about 36 slices)
1 cup shredded fresh mozzarella cheese (8 ounces)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Using a paring knife, core the tomatoes and mark an X on the bottom of each one. Add half of the tomatoes to the saucepan at a time and blanch until they begin to soften and the skins are wrinkled, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the hot tomatoes to a work surface and let cool slightly, then peel and coarsely chop. Working in 2 batches, puree the tomatoes in a food processor; you should have about 9 1/2 cups of puree.

In the saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and beginning to brown, 8 minutes. Add the tomato puree and the red wine bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the tomato sauce is thickened and reduced to 5 1/2 cups, 5 minutes. Discard the basil and season the sauce with salt and pepper. Let cool slightly.

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush the eggplant slices with oil and grill over moderately high heat, turning once, until tender and lightly charred, about 4 minutes per batch. Transfer the eggplant to a work surface and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large bowl, combine the rice with 1 cups of the tomato sauce. Fold in the 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, chopped basil and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan. Season the filling with salt and pepper.

Spread a thin layer of the tomato sauce in the bottom of each of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Dollop about 2 tablespoons of the rice filling near one end of each eggplant slice and roll into a tight cylinder; arrange in the prepared baking dish, seam side down. Spoon 1 cup of the tomato sauce over the involtini and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozarella and a little more Parmesan. Bake the involtini until the filling is hot and the sauce is just ­bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

21 October 2016

The easiest (guest-worthy) pasta dish you will ever make

This is one-pot pasta at its best: in the amount of time it takes to cook the pasta, you end up with a creamy, comforting dish that rivals any crappy take-out you're considering picking up on your way home from work.  Last-minute drop-ins? It works for that, too. 

Creamy Pasta with Mushrooms
Serves 4
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons sliced sun-dried tomatoes
4 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/2 pound fettuccine pasta

Bring a pot of well-salted water to boil.  Cook the fettuccine according to package directions together with the sliced mushrooms. 

When pasta is al dente, drain the pot, reserving about a ½ cup of water.  Stir in the garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and cream cheese, along with about 2 tablespoons of the pasta water to start.  You should have a creamy sauce; if it’s too thick, keep adding more pasta water, one tablespoon at a time.  Then stir in the Parmesan cheese and chopped thyme and serve.

14 October 2016

Fall edition: favorite blogs

You can keep your pumpkin spice, I love me some cider in October!  Tried-and-true Sunset magazine has a lovely little post on how to cook with cider. I especially love   the sparkling root vegetable smash.

The First Mess (besides having an adorable set of sketches), has my current favorite recipe for squash, which I grow every year to please others, but often struggle to eat happily. The crispy squash bowl with dill cream is perfect and easy in every way, and it is my go-to lunch whenever I'm home to cook it.

It's from last year, but this one-one chicken autumn chicken dinner is the easiest way to throw all the best of fall in the oven at once (and the most comforting, and the best for last-minute entertaining...)

One can dream...here's 20 beautiful European destinations for fall travel. And since it's post-tourist season, I hear the housing's cheaper...

Closer to home, the Rockies offer some pretty spectacular views, too, as does the Midwest!

07 October 2016

Last-ditch summer recipes

I don't know where you all are coming from as you read this, but here in the Rockies, it's still (sort of) summer, and I am scooping up every tomato, squash, and peach I can!  If you're in the same boat, or you're able to get your hands on some discounted, imperfect produce nearby, here's what I'm making this weekend:

Tomato Pie: a Southern favorite lightened up a bit here with the removal of all the mayo (?!?!) There's still a ton of cheese, though...

Serves 6

1 whole wheat pie crust, prebaked
4 large tomatoes
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons green onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut the end of the tomato off, and scoop out the seeds (this will keep your pie from being too watery). Once the seeds and the majority of the juice have been removed, cut the tomatoes into disks. Next, combine the cheddar, mozzarella, green onions, salt, and Greek yogurt in a bowl. Line the tomatoes directly on top of the crust. Sprinkle the basil on top of the first layer of tomatoes. Layer any leftover tomatoes on top of the basil. Top with the cheese, Greek yogurt mixture. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. Bake at 375 until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 30-35 minutes.

Allow to cool about 10 minutes before cutting.

Happy Hour Snacks
Zucchini Rounds

Makes 8 servings

2 zucchini
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil (about 24)
3 ounces goat cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Slice zucchini into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. (You should have about 24 slices.) Lay out on large platter; season with salt and pepper.

Place a sun-dried tomato on each slice, then top each tomato with a pinch of goat cheese. Sprinkle tops with chopped chives, and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil; serve.

Super Quick Peach Galette    

Serves 6-8

1 whole wheat crust (refrigerated roll-out variety)
1 lb peaches, about 4 medium, not overly ripe
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon butter

Slice peaches into 1/2″ thick slices. Place peaches in a medium bowl and sprinkle with flour, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Stir gently with a spatula just until combined.

On a sheet of parchment paper, roll the dough into a 12″ circle. The parchment paper makes transferring and cleanup a cinch! Place the parchment paper and dough into a rimmed baking sheet.

Arrange the peaches in circles over the dough working from the outside in. Leave a 1.5″ to 2″ dough border. Discard any excess juices from the peaches, or your galette may overflow. It will be plenty juicy without the extra syrup. Dot the top of the peaches with small chunks of 1/2 tbsp butter.

Fold the edges of the gallette up and over the peaches, pinching the overlapping edges together to form a nice seal. Try to patch up any cracks in the dough. Bake for 18-22 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the peach juices are syrupy. Let sit 15 minutes before serving.

30 September 2016

Four days and 1835 miles in Montana

I spent several days driving around Montana to teach little (and some not so little) fluties of all ages, and while I definitely spent more time in the car than I did eating and drinking, I can tell you about a coupla good places...

BOZEMAN seems nice, but I only stopped for coffee at Cold Smoke, and it was amazing. It was also very necessary at that point in the day.

The campus is sweet, and historic downtown is beyond charming.  Had an espresso and nabbed some free WiFi at ZooTown Brew and a super delish pear and bleu cheese monte cristo at Plonk.

Jakers had great waffle fries with gorgonzola sauce, and they bring pico and chopped bacon to pour over the whole mess. They're also open late(ish) and the bartenders will cater to your every need. 

OK, you're probably never going to go here, but there was a randomly amazing Southern-style BBQ place that I cannot stop thinking about. It's called Ray J's, it's beautiful inside, and it is the real deal. The service was also very fast, which is handy, because you might be trying to get out of Malta quickly (I'm teasing, you guys were great...) Here is my weird but perfect pulled pork salad:

I did not have nearly enough time in this quaint little city, but I did enjoy a caprese panini at Bistecca, authentic Hungarian goulash and a tasty Red Lodge Oktoberfest at, of all things, Oktoberfest, and HOMEMADE STROOPWAFELS and coffee at Caramel Cookie Waffle. OK, I needed a lot of coffee on this trip 

The best meals, of course, were spent with kind people and their snuggly dogs all across the state, including the juiciest burger I have ever had (stuffed with gorgonzola, mayo, and chives), and the last of the summer's corn on the cob right off the grill.  Thank you, Montana, for a great stay!


23 September 2016

Trying the Trends: Peanut Butter Powder

This stuff made a big splash a while back, but I was too cheap to buy it until I saw a marked-down jar at Ross.  Hey, you can't say I'm not honest with you. Why did I get it? a) I fucking love peanut butter b) I am ambivalent about smoothies with spinach in them and c) I FUCKING LOVE PEANUT BUTTER!!!!! Let's get to work.

Quick PB-banana smoothie for one
Place in your blender or Vitamix, in this order:
1 banana, broken up a bit
1 tablespoon PB powder
2 tablespoons yogurt, any flave (if unsweetened, throw in a teaspoon or so of honey, too)
handful spinach leaves
1/4 cup almond milk
dash cinnamon
3-4 ice cubes
This was not only totally delicious, but it kept me full until lunch time, all by itself.  If you want something heartier, you could throw in a couple tablespoons of rolled oats, too.

I also stirred some into plain, Greek yogurt (1 tablespoon powder in 1 cup yogurt) and added granola, nuts, and berries one morning for breakfast. Also delish, though a bit pasty and not very sweet.

I added it to some breakfast muffins to pump up the protein content, thereby helping me last until lunch when I'm eating breakfast on the road:

Peanut Butter-Pumpkin Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
15 oz. canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/3 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 cup brownsugar
2 tablespoons peanut butter powder
2 tablespoons flax seeds
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
Combine all wet ingredients in a mixing bowl: yogurt, eggs, pumpkin, and sugar. Add all remaining ingredients and combine thoroughly. Pour into muffin cups and bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Finally, some brownies, adapted from skinnytaste.com:

2 eggs
1 cup PB2
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp water
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray a nonstick 9 x 9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, making sure there are no clumps. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and bake about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool, then cut into 12 bars.

I guess the bonus of using the powder for baking instead of the real thing is the lack of fat? The brownie recipe calls for enough PB2 that you might not want to use up that much of the jar on an unnecessary dessert item (then again, maybe it makes you feel less terrible about eating said dessert.  I never do, so I can't relate). But the bottom line for me is that this stuff is delish and I will buy it again when it's on sale.  Because I am very cheap.