Monday, December 31

Healthy New Year's Recipes

A healthier take on a breakfast hash that uses bulgur wheat instead of potatoes. Pictured: Bulgur, Kale & Squash Hash with Fried Egg

New Years always bring resolutions and for many people it's a goal to eat healthy and lose weight. It's also a great time to detox from the holiday excess and get yourself back on track with a normal routine. In that spirit, I've shared some of my favorite healthy recipes to start 2013 off right (that is, after I complete my New Year's Day tradition of eating two double-double cheeseburgers from In-N-Out).

The raw carrots in this salad are full of nutrients and look as good as they taste. Pictured: Indian Carrot & Lamb Salad
These cakes are full of nutrient-packed salmon and vegetables. Pictured: Salmon Cakes with Chive-Yogurt Sauce
This vegetable soup uses Greek yogurt instead of cream and can be made in thirty minutes. Pictured: Asparagus Soup 
Grilled chicken is the quintessential high-protein low-fat meal, but this version is anything but ordinary. Pictured: Grilled Chicken with Salsa Verde

Friday, December 28

Marsala Mushroom & Artichoke Pasta

Words and photos can't describe how good this pasta is, but I'll try. Inspired by this recipe, pasta is tossed with a meaty marsala mushroom sauce, artichoke hearts, and a generous amount of Parmesan cheese. The slightly sweet, creamy marsala sauce is reminiscent of the classic chicken marsala dish but with even more flavor since the mushrooms soak it up like a sponge. Since the mushrooms are diced finely it's easy to get a perfect bite of pasta, vegetable, and sauce every time. We had it for two dinner two nights and already can't wait to eat it again.

Marsala Mushroom & Artichoke Pasta:
  • Heat 3 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add in 1 diced onion and soften for a 1-2 minutes, then add in 1 lb. diced cremini mushrooms.
  • Season with salt and cook for 10 minutes, or until vegetables have cooked down and softened.
  • Add in 1 c. dry Marsala wine and scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Let the wine reduce until nearly all liquid has evaporated, about 3-5 minutes then turn heat to a simmer.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt, and cook 1 lb. pasta* until al dente.
  • Drain pasta and add to the skillet with the mushroom sauce.
  • Add in 8 oz. thawed artichoke hearts, 3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese, and 1/2 c. heavy cream.
  • Stir until artichokes have warmed and pasta has absorbed most of the sauce.
  • Stir in a large handful of minced fresh parsley and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  • Divide onto plates and serve.

Serves four - six
*I used farfalle, but any small and short variety will work.

Thursday, December 27

Crispy Pancetta Brussels Sprouts

Crispy Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite side dishes and are so easy to make. This version only requires three ingredients but tastes like it came from a restaurant kitchen. The pancetta fries up into nice crunchy bits and the rendered fat adds a great salty bite to the sprouts, which I like to caramelize until the outer leaves get dark and charred. This recipe makes a lot of food, so make sure you use a large skillet or the vegetables will steam instead of getting crispy. It makes a great side dish for a crowd but I like to top some with a fried egg for a light meal. Leftovers reheat really well too.

Crispy Pancetta Brussels Sprouts:
  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook 1/2 lb. pancetta, diced into small cubes, until crispy, about 5 minutes.
  • Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon and increase the heat to high.*
  • Add in 1 lb. halved brussels sprouts and cook for 5 minutes on one side.
  • Flip the sprouts and cook for another 3-4 minutes, or until darkly caramelized. Season with salt and pepper.**
  • Transfer to a 425F oven and cook for another 5 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
  • Remove from the pan and stir in the cook pancetta bits and the zest of 1/2 a lemon.
  • Serve and enjoy.

Serves six (side dish)
*Leave the fat in the pan. If not much fat is rendered, add in a little oil.
**The pancetta will add some salt, so make sure to taste.

Friday, December 21

Malaysian Black Pepper Clams

The cold weather had me craving a warm bowl of steamed clams, so I decided to use this recipe for a Malaysian black pepper version. The manilas I used are much smaller than other types of clams, but I love their colorful shells and delicate flavor and texture. They get quickly steamed in a little water and then tossed with a sweet-spicy-tangy sauce and topped with bright fresh herbs. Make sure to have a lot of toasted crusty bread on hand for mopping up the sauce - we nearly went through a whole loaf!

Malaysian Black Pepper Clams:
  • Place 2 lbs. of manila clams* in a colander and run under very cold water for 5 minutes, or until clams have released all their grit and sand.
  • Meanwhile, mix 2 tbsp. soy sauce, 2 tsp. oyster sauce,** 1/4 c. brown sugar, 1 tbsp. coarsely ground black pepper, and the juice of 1 large lime in a bowl.
  • Heat 2 tbsp. canola oil in a large pot and add in 2 tbsp. minced garlic and 2 tbsp. minced ginger.
  • Cook for 2 minutes, or until fragrant but not brown, then add in the clams.
  • Pour 1/4 c. water into the pot and cover with a lid.
  • Allow the clams to steam open for 5 minutes, then uncover and turn off  the heat.***
  • Immediately stir in the soy sauce mixture and 2 tbsp. butter until melted.
  • Divide clams into bowls and top each with a handful of cilantro and torn basil leaves.
  • Serve with bread for dipping.

Serves two (main course)
Serves four - six (appetizer)
*If you can't find manilas, any variety of clams will do but cooking times may vary.
**Available in the Asian section of most grocery stores.
***If you listen carefully, you will actually be able to hear the clams opening. Wait til the majority of clams have opened, then discard any that didn't.

Thursday, December 20

Homemade Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

As I get older and my social circle continues to expand, I feel like I have more and more people to get gifts for over the holidays. I love spending time shopping for things that I think my family and close friends will really enjoy, but for others it's just nice to give them a little something. Homemade gifts are a great option for the latter, since they are relatively inexpensive and a sweet way to let people know that you're thinking of them. My go-to gift around Christmas is this peppermint bark, but I changed it up this year with homemade nutella. It's super quick and easy to make, and one batch can make four to eight gifts. I had to save a little for myself, which tasted great on a warm croissant.

Homemade Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread:
  • Place 10 oz. of hazelnuts* on a baking sheet and roast in a 350F oven for 5-10 minutes, or until lightly toasted.**
  • Let nuts cool, then place in a food processor and puree on high speed until a smooth paste forms, about 1-3 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, place a heat-proof bowl over a simmering pot of water and add in 1 lb. high-quality bittersweet chocolate.***
  • Stir chocolate until melted, then turn off the heat and stir in 1 stick of room-temperature butter.
  • Once butter melts, stir in 1 c. heavy cream and 3/4 tsp. salt.
  • Whisk in the hazelnut paste until smooth, then transfer into jars.
  • Nutella will get thicker as it cools.

Makes 4 cups
*Preferably without skins. If nuts have skins, rub them off before transferring to the food processor.
**Be careful, nuts can burn very easily.
**I used Scharffen Berger.

Tuesday, December 18

Mashed Celery Root

There's something very nostalgic about serving mashed potatoes with a holiday meal, but there are many ways to upgrade the classic without sacrificing the dish's integrity. I've done mashed sweet potatoes in the past, but this celery root (also known as celeriac) version is even closer to the original. It can be intimidating to work with celery root since the big, gnarly heads are one of the uglier vegetables I've seen, but after you slice away the outer peel it very much resembles the white flesh of a potato. I just boil it until tender, drain off all liquid, and then mash it with butter and milk. The end result looks exactly like mashed potatoes but with a nuttier, more pronounced taste. It's a great way to sneak extra vegetables into a meal, and you might even like it better than the traditional dish.

Mashed Celery Root:
  • Trim the ends off of 1 large head of celery root, cut off and discard the outer skin, and dice into uniform pieces.
  • Place into a pot, along with 1 peeled and diced Russet potato, and cover with cold water.
  • Bring pot to a boil and cook for 10-20 minutes* or until vegetables are tender.
  • Drain all water out of the pot and return to the stove over very low heat.
  • Allow vegetables to dry out for a minute on the stove, then mash with 1/2 c. milk and 1 tbsp. butter.
  • Season with salt and pepper and add more liquid if necessary until you have a smooth, flavorful mash.

Serves three-four (side dish)
*Cooking time will depend on how large the vegetables are diced.

Monday, December 17

Christmas Menu

Roast beef is a Christmas classic, but this recipe is so simple that you'll want to make it year round. Pictured: Roast Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Cream Sauce

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. The holiday is just a week away, and with gifts purchased and made(more on that soon), parties attended, and trees decorated, it’s almost time for the big event. This year is extra special for me because it’s the first year that my fiancé and I will be spending the day together. I’m so excited to share my family’s traditions with him and to start creating some of our own. This year we’re expecting twenty people at my parent’s house – our biggest crew yet – and will be creating a huge family-style feast. Here are some dishes that are perfect for celebrating, no matter how big or small or party is.

A rich side dish is a great way for vegetarian guests to indulge. Pictured: Mushroom Risotto
Cocktails always make the holidays a little merrier and kids will love the non-alcoholic version. Pictured: Bourbon-Spiked Hot Apple Cider
Add some festive color to your table with a beautiful make-ahead salad. Pictured: Roasted Beet, Arugula, & Burrata Salad
Tis the season for chocolate. Pictured: Chocolate-Hazelnut Espresso Mousse

Friday, December 14

Mushroom Chicken & Buttered Egg Noodles

Winter weather is in full effect, and most nights I can't wait to change into my flannel pajamas, cozy up with my fiance, and enjoy a hot meal. This recipe is just the type of warm, comforting food I crave but it doesn't require any low and slow cooking. Sliced chicken and mushrooms get bathed in a quick, light gravy (adapted from this recipe) that's full of deep umami flavors. I like to serve it over buttered egg noodles - always a comfort food for me - so that they absorb some of the sauce.

Mushroom Chicken & Buttered Egg Noodles:
  • Microwave 1 c. chicken broth until warm, then add in 8 dried porcini mushroom pieces. Let sit for at least 20 minutes.
  • Heat 1 tbsp. canola oil in a large skillet over high heat and add in 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts.*
  • Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook for 4-5 minutes per side, or until golden.
  • Transfer chicken to a sheet pan and place in a 375F for 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through.
  • Meanwhile, add a little more oil to the skillet and toss in 6 oz. sliced mushrooms.**
  • Season mushrooms with salt and pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until soft and starting to caramelize.
  • Remove mushrooms from the pan and set aside, and lower the heat to medium-low.
  • Add 1 1/2 tbsp. of butter and 1 minced shallot to the pan.
  • Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until softened, then add in 1 1/2 tbsp. flour and stir until thickened, about a minute.
  • Remove the porcini mushrooms from the stock and finely chop, then strain the liquid to remove any grit.
  • Pour the strained stock into the pan with the shallots and stir to avoid any lumps.
  • Add in 1/4 c. heavy cream, 2 tbsp. soy sauce, a splash of Sherry, and 1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves.
  • Cook for another minute, then check for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  • Slice the chicken and add to the gravy, along with the dried and fresh mushrooms.
  • Let chicken and mushrooms simmer for a few minutes to absorb flavors.
  • Toss 2 c. cooked egg noodles with a pat of butter and season with salt.
  • Divide noodles onto plates, then top with the chicken, mushrooms, and gravy.
  • Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley, if desired.

Serves two - three
*About 6 oz. each.
**I used cremini mushrooms.

Thursday, December 13

Horseradish Steak Sandwich

The great thing about making a roast beef tenderloin for two people is that you get to feast on the leftovers for days. Some people might think it's absurd to make a sandwich out of filet mignon (and maybe it is), but you can definitely still appreciate the tenderness of the meat. I used some leftover horseradish cream sauce so the prep work for this dish was nearly non-existent. I like my sandwiches to be simple but flavorful, and a toasted ciabatta roll, some baby greens, and balsamic caramelized onions are the only extras needed. The sandwiches were so good that we had them twice, and I can't wait til the next time I make too much steak so that we can do this again.

Steak Sandwich with Horseradish Sauce & Balsamic Onions:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. canola oil in a small skillet and add in 1 thinly sliced red onion.
  • Cook over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until soft and starting to caramelize.
  • Stir in 1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar and cook for another 5 minutes, or until dark and soft.*
  • Meanwhile, slice two ciabatta rolls in half and and toast until golden.
  • Top the bottom half of the rolls with a handful of baby spinach, a layer of warm thinly sliced steak, a drizzle of horseradish cream sauce,* and some of the onions.
  • Top with the other half of the bread and serve.

Serves two
**This should make enough onions for four sandwiches. Leftovers can be covered and kept in the fridge for a few days.
**To make the sauce, combine 1/4 c. creme fraiche with 1 heaping tbsp. prepared horseradish and 1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper.

Wednesday, December 12

Beef Tenderloin & Creamy Horseradish Sauce

Christmas is less than two weeks away, and I'm really starting to get into the spirit. I've already finished most of my gift shopping but there’s still a ton of things I want to do: make a gingerbread house, drive around our neighborhood looking at Christmas lights, and enjoy some festive meals. This is really the best time of year to break bread with friends and family, and such celebration should come with outstanding food. This beef tenderloin is a special-occasion cut of meat (after all, it’s basically a huge filet mignon) that’s still super low maintenance to prepare. The horseradish cream sauce adds more elegance (especially served in a silver bowl) and gives the meal a great steakhouse quality. It’s fancy enough to be the star of your Christmas dinner but easy enough to prepare on your busiest weeknight.

Beef Tenderloin & Creamy Horseradish Sauce:
For Sauce
  • Whisk 1/4 c. creme fraiche in a small bowl until thickened, about 3 minutes.
  • Stir in 1 tbsp. prepared horseradish* and 1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper.**
For Beef
  • Let a 1 1/2 lb. beef tenderloin sit at room temperature for an hour and generously season with salt and pepper.
  • Meanwhile, melt 1 tbsp. canola oil and 2 tbsp. butter in a large heavy skillet until very hot.
  • Sear beef on all four sides until deeply brown, about 2-3 minutes a side, then transfer to a baking sheet and place in a 400F oven.
  • Cook the meat for 15-20 minutes, or until cooked to your liking.
  • Let the meat rest for 15 minutes, then slice and serve with horseradish sauce.

Serves four - six
*Or more, depending on how spicy you like it.
**Sauce can be made a day ahead and kept covered in the fridge.

Tuesday, December 11

Delicata Squash Rings with Pomegranate & Feta

This is a festive, easy side dish that looks as good as it tastes. The sweet delicata squash gets complimented with the salty feta cheese and acidic pomegranate and lime and is a nice change from the overly-sweet yam dishes that show up on tables this time of year. The squash doesn't need to be peeled, just thinly sliced into rings (I love the way it looks) and crisped in a pan. It's a dish that bursts with flavor, texture, and color despite its simplicity.

Crispy Delicata Squash Rings with Pomegranate & Feta:
  • Wash 1 large delicata squash and trim off ends.
  • Cut squash into thin 1/4" rings and scoop out any seeds.
  • Season squash with salt and let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.*
  • Meanwhile, coat the bottom of a large heavy skillet with canola oil and heat until very hot but not smoking.
  • Wipe the salt and moisture off the squash and, in batches, add some of the rings to the pan.
  • Cook for 3 minutes per side, or until squash is golden brown and tender.
  • Remove squash to a paper towel and repeat until all squash is cooked.**
  • Arrange squash on a plate and top with the zest of 1 lime, 1/4 c. crumbled feta cheese, and 1/4 c. pomegranate arils.

Serves four (side dish)
*This will draw some of the moisture out of the squash and make it easier to crisp during frying.
**You may need to add more oil to the pan.

Monday, December 10

Salmon Tacos

I ate a lot of fish tacos during our trip to Costa Rica last month and it reminded me what an easy, delicious meal they can be. Generally fish tacos are made with some sort of white fish (see here), but I switched it up and used salmon. The weather here has been pretty chilly (at least by L.A. standards) so I roasted mine in the oven instead of grilling it, although this would also be a great way to use leftover salmon from the night before. The topping possibilities are endless, but I kept it simple with some avocado, pico de gallo salsa, and lime.

Salmon Tacos:
  • Place one 2/3 lb. salmon fillet on a foil-lined baking sheet (skin-side down), 
  • Brush fish with oil and season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Roast fish in a 400F oven for 12-15 minutes, or until just cooked through.
  • Heat 4-6 corn tortillas* and divide onto plates, then top with some of the salmon** and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
  • Arrange a couple thin slices of avocado on each taco and top with pico de gallo salsa.

Serves two-three
*I like to heat mine by placing each one directly on top of a burner on my stove for 15 seconds a side.
**You should be able to easily break the salmon into pieces with a spatula. The skin will stick to the foil on the baking sheet and should be discarded.

Friday, December 7

Teryiaki Sauce

Teryiaki sauce has always been a favorite of mine (I used to live on Hapa's teryiaki chicken bowls during my freshman year at CU), but I never realized how easy it was to make until I came across this recipe. It takes just a few ingredients to create that familiar sweet-salty flavor and a batch can keep for weeks. The consistency is pretty thin, so it works well as a quick marinade and for drizzling and brushing on cooked meat and vegetables. The sugars in the sauce help to caramelize and create a nice crust on everything when it hits the heat. I made some and used it on grilled flank steak one night and to liven up some boneless skinless chicken breasts (pictured) another night.

Teryiaki Sauce:
  • Combine 1 c. brown sugar and 1 c. water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
  • Stir to dissolve the sugar and boil for 3-4 minutes, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
  • Add in 1 c. mirin, 1 c. soy sauce, 1/2 c. peeled and roughly chopped fresh ginger, 5 whole black peppercorns, and 1 tbsp. ground coriander.
  • Simmer sauce for 1-1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, or until sauce has reduced and thickened.
  • Let cool, then pour into a jar or tupperware and cover with a lid.
  • Store in the fridge and use as needed.

Makes two - three cups

Thursday, December 6

Soy-Lime Roasted Rockfish & Bok Choy

I’m all for embracing seasonal flavors, especially now that the weather is matching up, but I can only take so much squash, cider, and greens before I need to change it up. This recipe provides a nice respite with a light citrus vinaigrette and delicately roasted rockfish over bok choy and brown rice. Usually I must have a crispy skin on my fish, but quick roasting it keeps the texture firm and meaty and plays nicely with the slightly-crunchy vegetables. It’s a quick, easy meal that will remind you of warmer weather and healthy enough to keep around for New Year’s resolution time. P.S. Can’t find rockfish? Any delicate white fish will do – try subbing flounder, sole, or halibut.

Soy-Lime Roasted Rockfish & Bok Choy:
  • Combine 1 minced scallion, 1 handful chopped cilantro leaves, 1 1/2 tbsp. fresh lime juice, 1 1/2 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tbsp. rice vinegar,  and 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger in a small bowl.
  • Whisk in 3/4 tbsp. canola oil and set aside.*
  • Meanwhile, add 1 tbsp. canola oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add in 5-6 halved heads of bok choy, cut side down, and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until starting to brown.
  • Turn bok choy over, season with salt and pepper, and turn off the heat. Pour in 1/4 c. sake.**
  • Lay 2 fillets of boneless rockfish on top of the vegetables and season fish with salt and pepper.
  • Transfer skillet to a 400F oven and roast for 8-12 minutes, or until fish is just cooked through.
  • Spoon some of the soy-lime sauce over the fish and bok choy, then divide onto plates.
  • Pass around more sauce as needed.

Serves two
*Can be made a day ahead and kept in the fridge.
**Can substitute with a dry white wine, if needed.

Wednesday, December 5

Five-Ingredient Bacon Hash

I make a lot of hashes since they’re a great way to use up any random ingredients I have in the fridge. Sometimes I don’t have much at all lying around, but it’s still possible to make a satisfying one-skillet meal. This recipe only calls for five ingredients (and small amounts of them): potato, eggs, bacon, scallions, and garlic. It’s a perfect meal for a single cook, or really any cook who’s dining alone, but it can easily be doubled or tripled to feed a crowd. And such is the beauty of a hash, feel free to add (or take away) ingredients as your fridge allows – see here, here, here, and here for inspiration.

Bacon-Scallion-Potato Hash:
  • Dice 4 slices of thick-cut bacon and place in a skillet over medium heat.
  • Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until fat has rendered and bacon bits are crisp.
  • Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside, leaving fat in the pan.
  • Add in 1 large peeled and diced potato* and cook for 5 minutes, turning occasionally, or until potato is starting to brown.
  • Add in a 1/4 c. of water and cover skillet with a lid.
  • Cook potato for another 5 minutes, or until nearly tender, and all liquid has evaporated.
  • Uncover and stir in 4 sliced scallions.
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until scallions have softened, then stir in 1 clove of minced garlic.
  • Stir in the bacon to combine then transfer hash to a plate.
  • Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel and cook an egg to your liking.
  • Serve egg on top of the hash and enjoy.

Serves one-two
*I used a Russet potato.

Tuesday, December 4

Sesame Chicken Tenders

This recipe is an elevated, healthier spin on chicken fingers that kids and adults will both enjoy. The tenders get quickly marinated in a ginger-soy mixture (that does double duty as a dipping sauce) before getting lightly coated in a panko-sesame seed topping. Unlike most breaded chicken tenders, there is no extra egg or flour used to adhere the breadcrumbs, which means a thinner, crispier crust and less cleanup. The chicken then gets quickly sautéed in a pan until golden brown and then served alongside the extra sauce. It’s a fun finger food that makes a great weeknight meal when paired with a green salad or veggie.

Related Recipes:
- Sesame Peanut Chicken Satay
- Mustard Chicken Milanese
- Chicken Picatta

Sesame Chicken Tenders with Ginger-Soy Dipping Sauce:
For Sauce
  • Whisk together 1/4 c. soy sauce, 1 tbsp. rice vinegar, 1 tbsp. sesame oil, 1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger, 1 tsp. sugar, and 1/2 tsp. red chili flakes.
For Chicken Tenders
  • In a bowl, combine 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken tenders with 3 tbsp. ginger-soy sauce mixture.
  • Let chicken marinade for 15 minutes at room temperature. Reserve remaining sauce for dipping.
  • Meanwhile, combine 1 c. panko breadcrumbs with 1/4 c. sesame seeds in a large, shallow bowl.
  • Heat 1/4" of canola oil in a large non-stick skillet until very hot but not smoking.
  • In batches, add chicken into the panko mixture and roll around to adhere as much topping as possible.
  • Shake off any excess panko and place in the hot skillet.
  • Cook for 3 minutes a side, or until golden brown and cooked through.*
  • Repeat with remaining chicken, adding more oil as necessary to the skillet.
  • Serve with soy-ginger sauce and enjoy.

Serves two-three (main course)
Serves five-six (appetizer)
*To keep tenders warm and crisp before serving, place them on a wire rack over a baking sheet and keep in a 300F oven.

Monday, December 3

Cheddar Cauliflower Soup

We've had rain for five consecutive days now and I'm actually enjoying it. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I hate anything but blue skies, but after so many months of above-average heat it feels good to get some winter weather. I have a long list of soups I've been wanting to try, but this cheddar cauliflower recipe (taken from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day) was at the top of my list. I was able to track down  orange cauliflower at my farmer's market in between the storms - hence the color of the final product - but regular white cauliflower works too. Make sure to be generous with the garnishes; I think they really make the dish sing.

Cheddar Cauliflower Soup:
For Croutons
  • Whisk together 1 tbsp. melted butter, 1 tbsp. olive oil, 3/4 tbsp. Dijon mustard, and a pinch of salt.
  • Toss butter mixture with 1 1/2 c. baguette, torn into bite-size chunks.
  • Cook croutons in a 350F oven for 10-15 minutes, turning once with a spatula.*
For Soup
  • Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a large dutch oven and add in 2 chopped shallots and 1 chopped yellow onion.
  • Cook onions for 5 minutes, turning occasionally, and season well with salt.
  • Add in 1 peeled and diced Russet potato, cover the pot, and cook for 4 minutes.
  • Add in 2 chopped garlic cloves and give the mixture a stir.
  • Pour in 4 c. low-sodium vegetable broth and bring to a boil.
  • Cook until potatoes are almost tender, then add in 1 large head of cauliflower that has been cut into very small florets.
  • Cover the pot and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender.
  • Let mixture cool slightly, then transfer to a blender and puree til smooth.
  • Return back to the pot at low heat and whisk in 1/2 c. grated aged cheddar cheese** and 2 tsp. Dijon mustard.
  • If necessary, thin soup out with some more stock or water.
  • Check soup for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.
  • To serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with more grated cheddar and a handful of croutons.

Serves four-six (main course)
Serves eight-ten (appetizer)
*Optional, you can omit or use store-bought croutons. Leftover croutons can be cooled, then stored room-temperature in a jar or bag for up to a week.
**Use the sharpest, most aged cheddar you can find - it will add a lot of flavor to the dish.

Friday, November 30

Red Curry-Miso Roasted Squash, Tofu & Kale

One week later, we finally finished up our Thanksgiving leftovers and are getting back on track with our normal weeknight cooking routine. With all the turkey we just ate, something healthy and vegetarian is a nice way to balance things out. This recipe, which is adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day, has unique flavors that manage to be both seasonal and comforting and also new and exotic. Some of my favorite winter produce (squash and kale) get tossed with a powerful Asian spice paste and roast in the oven until caramelized. Adding in the tofu and sunflower seeds provides more substance and protein, making it a really well-rounded and satisfying vegetarian meal. It’s also worth noting that delicata squash has surpassed the butternut as my favorite variety, since the skin can be eaten and it takes only a minute to prep.

Red Curry-Miso Roasted Squash, Tofu & Kale:
  • Combine 1/4 c. olive oil, 1/4 c. white miso paste, 2 tbsp. red curry paste, and 1/2 tsp. Sriracha hot sauce in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.
  • Meanwhile, scrape the seeds out of 2 small delicata squash and slice into thin half moons.
  • Add the squash to a large mixing bowl, along with 4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, and 8 oz. diced extra-firm tofu.
  • Pour 1/3 of the miso-curry paste over the squash mixture and toss gently to coat.
  • Arrange the squash in one layer on a large baking sheet* and place in a 400F oven.
  • Roast for 20-30 minutes, tossing once with a spatula, until vegetables are tender and brown on the edges.
  • Whisk 1 1/2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice into the remaining miso-curry paste and toss with 1 bunch of diced kale.**
  • Add in the roasted squash mixture, 1/3 toasted sunflower seeds, and 1 bunch roughly chopped cilantro leaves.
  • Toss everything together, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Serves three-four
*I needed to use two baking sheets, which I rotated in the oven halfway through cooking.
**Remove ribs from kale before tossing. I like using the black/lacinato/dinosaur kale here.

Thursday, November 29

Potato Latkes

Growing up, I remember always being jealous of my friends who were celebrating Hannukah. Besides the eight days of presents and gold chocolate coins, I love Jewish food. My favorite dish is latkes (crispy crunchy potato pancakes), which I've made several times over the years. This recipe is super simple and requires only a few ingredients. They make a great side dish served with sour cream or apple sauce, but try mini versions as appetizers at your next holiday party or larger latkes topped with smoked salmon for a light meal.  I served them to my fiance and friends for a substantial football-watching snack that paired great with beers.

Potato Latkes:
  • Peel 5 large Russet potatoes and 1 large yellow onion and grate using the large holes of a box grater.*
  • Place the grated vegetables in a large kitchen towel and squeeze out all the excess water.**
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 eggs, 1/4 fine plain breadcrumbs, 2 tsp. baking powder, salt, and pepper.
  • Add in the grated potatoes and onion and stir until well combined.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp. canola oil and 2 tbsp. duck fat*** in a large, preferably cast iron, skillet until very hot but not smoking.
  • Roll the potato mixture into golf-ball size balls and place in the skillet.
  • Use the back of a spatula to form the latkes into disks.
  • Cook for 3-5 minutes per side, then flip and cook for another 3-5 minutes, or until cakes are brown and cooked through.
  • Remove cakes with a spatula and place on a wire rack over a baking sheet.
  • Keep the cakes warm in a 325F oven while you finish cooking the rest of them.****
  • Remove latkes from the oven and serve with sour cream, applesauce, or both.

Serves six - ten
*Or use a grating attachment on a food processor.
**This is extremely important to making sure your latkes are crispy.
***Optional, but gives great flavor to latkes.
****You will probably need to add more oil and fat in between batches and repeat at least two more times before all the batter is done.

Wednesday, November 28

Turkey & Cheese Enchiladas

My recipe for chicken enchiladas is a real favorite among my family and friends, and I've been making it the same way since college. I finally got the courage to change it up with an even quicker and easier version utilizing the last of my Thanksgiving turkey leftovers. I usually prefer using a green sauce in my enchiladas, but I tried Trader Joe's red enchilada sauce this time and it had a great, restaurant-quality taste. It completely transformed my leftovers and took just a few minutes to put together. Make a big batch and reheat leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day.

Turkey & Cheese Enchiladas:
  • Combine 2 c. cooked, shredded turkey* with 1 tbsp. cumin, 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, and salt.**
  • Pour a thin layer of enchilada sauce*** into the bottom of a large shallow baking dish.
  • Pour more sauce into a large shallow bowl and dip a flour tortilla in the sauce to coat both sides.
  • Add in 1/6 of the chicken and a small handful of a grated Mexican cheese blend and tightly roll up the tortilla.
  • Place the enchilada, seam side down, into the baking dish and repeat five more times.
  • Pour the remaining sauce on top of the enchiladas and sprinkle with remaining cheese.****
  • Bake enchiladas in a 375F oven for 20-30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbling.
  • Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Serves four
*I used both white and dark meat. Can substitute for chicken.
**You may not need to salt depending on how salty your leftover turkey is.
***From a 12-14 oz. bottle.
****You should use about 1 1/2 c. of cheese total.

Tuesday, November 27

Turkey Noodle Soup

One of the best parts of Thanksgiving (besides the Black Friday sales) is the leftovers, which can be stretched and re-used in several exciting ways. Not wanting to waste anything, I used the carcass from our turkey and leftover herbs and veggies to make a super rich turkey stock. I froze half the stock for future meals and used the rest for the base of this simple turkey noodle soup. I'd ran out of veggies so this is a noodle, turkey, and broth-only version, but the soup is so flavorful that it really doesn't need much else. It's a nice, light meal after such a gluttonous weekend and leftovers can be frozen and reheated all winter.

Turkey Noodle Soup:
For Broth
  • Heat 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil in a large pot and add in 1 quartered onion, 3 halved stalks of celery, 1/2 head of garlic and several sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary.*
  • Cook for 5 minutes, or until softened, then add in a roasted turkey carcass and cover with water.
  • Add in a 4-5 whole black peppercorns and season with salt.**
  • Bring stock to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for at least 3 hours.
  • Pour the stock through a fine mesh strainer and discard the solids.
  • Spoon any fat off the top of the stock and place in an airtight container for storage.
For Soup
  • Add 8 c. turkey stock*** to a pot and bring to a boil.
  • Add in 1 1/2 c. wide egg noodles and cook for 6 minutes, or until noodles are almost tender.
  • Add in 1 c. shredded cooked turkey and cook for another 2 minutes.
  • Ladle soup into bowls and serve.

Serves three - four
*Feel free to add in whatever leftover vegetables and herbs you have on hand.
**If turkey has been brined, add less salt. Salt flavor will intensify as stock reduces.
***In a pinch, store-bought turkey or chicken stock will be fine.

Monday, November 26

Thanksgiving Turkey

I'm finally back after a super relaxing and indulgent trip to Costa Rica and a whirlwind holiday week. My fiance and I drove up to my parents' house for Thanksgiving, arriving early so that I could help my mom make the meal. I was so excited about the turkey that I insisted on cooking a seventeen pound bird so that there would be tons of leftovers (recipes coming soon). This is the same recipe that we've been doing for years, and it comes out great every time. The skin gets crispy and slightly sticky-sweet from my the maple syrup, while the meat stays tender and juicy. It's the ultimate Thanksgiving turkey, although it makes a great meal for Christmas, too.

Maple-Roasted Turkey:
  • Brine a 16-17 lb. turkey overnight,* rinse with water, and dry completely with paper towels.
  • Transfer turkey to a roasting rack on top of a roasting pan and tuck wings under the body.
  • Stuff the cavity with several sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme, 1 quartered onion, 1 quartered lemon, and 1 halved head of garlic.
  • Tie the legs together with twine.
  • Use your fingers to rub 1 1/2 sticks of room temperature unsalted butter over the entire skin of the bird, season with salt,** pepper, and 2 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves.
  • Add 2 c. chicken stock to the bottom of the roasting pan to prevent the drippings from burning.
  • Roast in a 400F oven for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325F, cover pan with aluminum foil, and cook for another 3 to 3 1/2 hours, basting every thirty minutes.
  • Remove the foil from the turkey and brush the skin with maple syrup.
  • Roast turkey for another 30 minutes, or until golden brown and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reaches 165F.
  • Remove turkey from the oven, cover with foil, and let rest for 45-60 minutes.
  • Carve the turkey and serve on a platter.

Serves fourteen+ people
*Optional, but I think it makes a more flavorful, moist turkey.
**If bird is brined, you might not need any more salt.

Friday, November 9

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Classic stuffing is the ultimate Thanksgiving side and my personal favorite. Pictured: Ciabatta Herb Stuffing
Skip the marshmallow-topped casserole and go for a fluffy, creamy mashed version instead. Pictured: Rosemary Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Put a few greens on your plate and you'll feel less guilty about having two slices of pie. Pictured: Lemon & Pecorino Roasted Brussels Sprouts

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. I've been spending the holiday on vacation the past few years, but this year my fiancé and I are travelling before (leaving for Costa Rica tonight!) so that we can come back and be at my parents’ house for a more traditional celebration. I’m extremely excited to spend the day in my family’s kitchen and cook all the dishes with my mom like we've done so many times before. My favorite part of the meal is the sides, so it's only fitting that I listed some of my favorite recipes to accompany the turkey.

Homemade bread is a crowd-pleasing side dish and leftovers are great for making turkey sandwiches. Pictured: Buttermilk Rye Bread
Gravy can be the most stressful part of the meal. This recipe is fool-proof and tastes good on everything. Pictured: Mushroom-Thyme Gravy
Soups can be made ahead and quickly re-heated before serving. They'll keep your vegetarian guests happy, too.  Pictured: Carrot Soup

Thursday, November 8

Whole Wheat Mushroom-Lentil Flatbread

This dish is an adaptation from a Ottolenghi recipe I've been meaning to try out for the last year. Flatbread can have a lot of different interpretations, but this version is similar to a pita or naan bread. Making your own bread might seem like a lot of work, but this is super easy and requires very little time to make. The mushroom-lentil ragout is super hearty and has a great depth of flavor from using both fresh and dried mushrooms. The combination makes an interesting, filling vegetarian meal but both components are certainly good enough to stand on their own.

Whole Wheat Mushroom-Lentil Flatbread:
For Bread
  • Combine 1 c. and 1 tbsp. whole-wheat flour, 3/4 c. Greek yogurt, 3 tbsp. minced cilantro, 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder, and 1/2 tsp. salt and in small mixing bowl.
  • Knead the dough for a minute, or until it forms a ball, adding more flour if the mixture is sticky.
  • Flatten dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap.
  • Keep dough in the fridge until read to use.*
  • Divide the dough into six pieces and roll each into a ball.
  • Roll each as thin as possible, dusting with more flour as necessary.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. canola oil in a large skillet until hot.
  • Add in the bread, one at a time, and cook for 1-2 minutes a side, or until golden brown.
  • Repeat, adding more butter and flour as needed,** until all breads are cooked.
  • Top with mushroom-lentil ragout, a dollop of Greek yogurt, and serve.
For Ragout
  • Add 1 oz. dried mushrooms*** to a bowl and cover with 2 1/2 c. hot water.
  • Meanwhile, add 1/4 c. lentils to a pot, cover with water, and cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes, or until al dente.
  • Drain lentils, rinse with cold water, and set aside.****
  • Melt 2 tbsp. butter with 1 tbsp. olive oil in a hot pan.
  • Add in 1/2 diced white onion and 3/4 lb. halved crimini mushrooms.
  • Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the vegetables have softened and are starting to caramelize. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add in 2 cloves of minced garlic and stir, then pour in 1/3 c. dry white wine.
  • Let the wine reduce for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Fish the dried mushrooms out of the water and roughly chop.
  • Add the mushrooms and 1 1/2 c. soaking liquid to the pan and lower the heat medium-low.*****
  • Cook mushroom mixture for another 8-10 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed, then stir in the lentils, the zest of 1 lemon, and the juice of 1/2 lemon.
  • Season ragout with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves three- four
*The dough can be made a day ahead of time. I recommend chilling for an hour or so before rolling it out, but you can pop it in the freezer for 15 minutes if you're in a rush.
**I found that I needed to add more after every 2-3 breads.
***I used shiitakes, but porcini would be great too.
****Can be done a day in advance and kept in the fridge until ready to use.
*****Be careful not to pour any grit from the mushrooms into the ragout. I like to pour the liquid through a paper towel to catch any.

Wednesday, November 7

Scotch-Glazed Shrimp

Dinner doesn't get much easier (or tastier) than this five-ingredient recipe for Scotch-glazed shrimp. I generally like to buy already peeled and de-veined shrimp, but it's worth taking a few extra minutes of prep work here by buying extra-large shell-on shrimp. The shells toast in the hot pan while the meat stays moist and succulent. At the last minute, a knob of butter and a few splashes of Scotch Whisky get added and form a rich, smokey sauce. I like to pile the shrimp on a platter or serve it family-style right out of the skillet for a fun (and messy) meal. Crusty bread must be served alongside to mop up any extra sauce.

Scotch-Glazed Shrimp:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. canola oil in a large, preferably non-stick, skillet over high heat.
  • Meanwhile, use the sharp tip of a knife to slice through the shell and down the back of 3/4 lb. of large shrimp and pull out the dark vein.*
  • Add the shrimp to the hot pan and season with salt and pepper.** 
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until shells are golden brown and shrimp is starting to turn opaque.
  • Flip the shrimp to the other side and turn the heat down to medium-low.
  • Add in 2 tbsp. butter and 3 tbsp. Scotch.***
  • Let the sauce reduce for 2-3 minutes, or until the alcohol has absorbed.
  • Serve with crusty bread.

Serves two
*Or buy it this way, if you can find it. Often called "easy peel shrimp".
**I used course sea salt flakes.
***Remove pan from the stove before adding in the alcohol or it could flare up.

Tuesday, November 6

Lentil, Squash, & Goat Cheese Salad

A hearty winter salad full of roasted squash, lentils, and goat cheese

Butternut squash is one of my favorite winter vegetables and shows up in my cooking at least a couple times a week during the chilly months. Peeling and dicing one can be a pain, so I like to prep it once and use it in a bunch of meals (sometimes you can buy cut-up squash at the grocery store, too). I had a little leftover raw squash from this meal - and I was close to throwing it since it wasn't enough for a full side dish - until I stumbled upon this simple salad recipe. The squash gets roasted with a few savory spices, which helps to balance out its sweetness, before getting tossed with black lentils, baby kale, and goat cheese. If you have more squash than I did, I’d recommend roasting it all in the spices and then saving it for a quick side dish another night. The recipe is super versatile and makes a great use of leftovers, so any nuts, cheese, herbs, or greens you have on hand can be substituted and added. 

Lentil, Squash, Arugula, & Goat Cheese Green Salad:
  • Toss 1-2 c. diced butternut squash with 2 tbsp. olive oil and sprinkle with smoked paprika, ground cumin, and kosher salt.
  • Place squash on a sheet pan and roast in a 400F oven for 30 minutes, tossing once, until tender and caramelized.*
  • Add 1/4 c. sunflower seeds to the pan and roast for another minute, or until seeds are lightly golden.
  • Meanwhile, add 1/2 c. black lentils** to a sauce pot and cover with several cups of water. Season with salt.
  • Bring pot to a medium simmer, cover partially with a lid, and cook for 25-35 minutes, or until al dente.
  • Drain lentils, rinse with cold water, and add to a large bowl.
  • Add in the squash and any spiced oil from the sheet pan and toss with the squash.
  • Add in a handful of baby kale,*** 1 tbsp. olive oil, 1 1/2 tbsp. red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper and toss to combine.
  • Crumble in 2-3 oz. fresh goat cheese and lightly toss again.
  • Divide salad onto plates and serve.

Serves two - three (side dish)
*Can be done one day in advance and re-heated before adding to the lentils.
**Green lentils would work too.
***Or any other hearty green.

Monday, November 5

Squash Ravioli with Shrimp & Bay Scallops

Halloween was a pretty low-key event for me this year - my fiance and I dressed up as a 1920's bootlegger and flapper for our work party but came home in time for trick or treaters. We had a couple friends over for a casual dinner, and since I knew we'd be raiding the candy bowl, I wanted to make something light but still festive. I was hoping for pumpkin ravioli, but the butternut squash tastes great and pairs really well with the seafood and brown butter-sage sauce. The squash cubes can be roasted in advance so that putting the whole thing together is as simple as boiling water after guests arrive. It's a great, easy meal to enjoy on a chilly evening (at least until you get sick of pumpkin).

Squash Ravioli with Shrimp & Bay Scallops:
  • Toss 1 c. diced butternut squash with 2 tbsp. olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Place in a 400F oven for 30 minutes, tossing once or twice with a spatula, until tender and caramelized in some places.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt, and add in 1 lb. pumpkin ravioli.*
  • While ravioli is cooking, melt 1/2 stick unsalted butter in a large skillet and add in 6 fresh sage leaves.
  • Add in 1/2 lb. rock shrimp and 1/2 lb. bay scallops and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook seafood for 5 minutes, until just cooked through, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  • Turn up the heat on the butter and let it get lightly brown and nutty.
  • Drain the ravioli and add it to the butter, along with the seafood and roasted squash.
  • Toss to combine, then divide onto plates and serve.

Serves four
*Or butternut squash. Fresh or frozen is fine, but look to the package for accurate cooking time.

Thursday, November 1

Black Sesame Green Beans

These green beans are one of those all-purpose sides that work well hot or cold, so definitely make twice as much and eat some for leftovers. The beans get blanched and then tossed with a sweet and spicy black sesame paste (seen here) that coats the vegetables and adds tons of flavors. I like to keep the beans a little bit al dente, so that they hold their shape and have a little crunch left. It's a great accompaniment to a piece of fish (like this, this, or this) and both the paste and the beans can be made far in advance of serving.

Black Sesame Green Beans:

  • Toast 1 tsp. chopped walnuts and 1 tsp. sunflower seeds in a skillet for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add in 1/2 c. black sesame seeds* and continue to toast for about 1 minute, being careful not to burn anything.
  • Transfer the mixture to a mortar and pestle** and pound until a sand-like consistency.
  • Stir in 1 1/2 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 1/2 tbsp. sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. mirin, 2 tbsp. rice vinegar, 1 tbsp. sesame oil, and 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt, and add in 10 oz. trimmed green beans.
  • Cook beans for 5-7 minutes, or until al dente, then drain in a colander.***
  • Toss beans with the sesame paste and serve.

Serves four (side dish)
*Can substitute with regular sesame seeds if necessary.
**Or use a food processor.
***If you want to serve the beans as a cold salad, immediately transfer drained beans to a bowl of ice water.

Wednesday, October 31

Asian-Marinated Pork Chops

Asian Marinated Pork Chops

I do a lot of meal prep for the week on Sundays, which usually includes grocery shopping, making a big meal that can be broken down into leftovers, and creating marinades. Marinades are a great way to impart flavor into food ahead of time, so that when the time comes to cook, all you need to do is pop the meat into the oven or onto the grill. This one contains lots of ginger, garlic, and soy sauce and tastes great on pork or chicken. I prepare it the night before so that when I get home from work it takes less than thirty minutes to put food on the table. Try serving it with this simple green salad (make the dressing the night before, too) and you’ll be able to serve a hearty, well-rounded meal any night of the week. 

Asian-Marinated Pork Chops:
  • Combine 4 tbsp. soy sauce, 2 tbsp. brown sugar, 4 tsp. freshly grated ginger, 2 cloves minced garlic, and 2 tsp. sesame oil.
  • Pour marinade in a large resealable bag and place in 2 boneless pork chops.*
  • Close bag, squeezing out all the air, and place in the fridge overnight.
  • When ready to cook, remove chops from the fridge and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Heat a grill to high and cook for 5 minutes per side, or until just slightly pink.
  • Let rest for 10 minutes, then slice and serve.

Serves two - three
*You can use bone-in chops but they will take longer to cook.

Tuesday, October 30

Miso Asian Pear Salad

I have a few go-to salads that I throw together for easy sides throughout the week, but I'd been missing a simple one to go with Asian food until I came across this recipe. The real star is the miso-ginger vinaigrette, which adds a huge punch of flavor in this three-ingredient salad. I tossed it with a mix of Asian greens (tatsoi, pea shoots, and two types of mizuna) I got from the bulk bins at my farmers market, a thinly sliced Asian pear, and some toasted walnuts. If those ingredients are hard to come by, you can use whatever mix of similar ingredients (such as baby spinach, apples, and cashews) you have on hand or just add the dressing to a little arugula. Feel free to make extra vinaigrette - it will keep in the fridge for a few days.

Asian Pear & Walnut Salad with Miso-Ginger Vinaigrette:
For Dressing
  • Combine 4 tbsp. rice vinegar, 1 tbsp. white miso paste,* 1/2 tbsp. sugar, 1/2 tsp. freshly grated ginger, 1 small clove of grated garlic, and 2-3 drops of Sriracha hot sauce.**
  • Slowly whisk in 1 1/2 tbsp. sesame oil and set aside.
For Salad
  • Add 6 oz. mixed greens, 1 handful of toasted walnuts,*** and 1 thinly sliced Asian pear into a large bowl.
  • Pour in 1/2 of the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Continue to add more vinaigrette until salad is dressed to your liking.
  • Divide onto plates and serve immediately.

Serves two (light main course)
Serves three - four (side dish)
*Can be substituted for darker miso paste but flavor will be more pungent.
**Or any hot sauce of your choice.
***To toast nuts, place in a hot dry skillet for 5 minutes, or until fragrant.

Monday, October 29

Mozzarella & Italian Sausage Queso Dip

A meaty Italian spin on traditional queso cheese dip

Being a football fan for an out of state team is tough and usually requires a trip to a sports bar in order to watch them play because local cable won't show the games on television. This past Thursday, however, the Vikings played the only NFL game of the night and we were finally able to watch them from the comfort of our living room. We had some friends over, so I set out some store-bought snacks and whipped up this mozzarella and Italian sausage queso dip. Unlike the standard Velveeta queso, this version is made up entirely of melted mozzarella and studded with caramelized onions and crispy Italian sausage. It's denser and chewier than the liquid orange dip you might be used to, but it packs a lot more flavor and texture. It's sure to be a hit at your next football party or tailgate.

Related Recipes:
- Queso Fundido Dip
- Baked Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese Sauce
- Baked Potato Bites

Mozzarella & Italian Sausage Queso:
  • Heat 1 tsp. canola oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Crumble in two large spicy Italian sausages, casings removed, and cook for 5-6 minutes, or until browned and just cooked through.
  • Transfer sausage to a plate with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pan.*
  • Lower the heat to medium-low and add in 1/2 diced onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic.
  • Cook for 7 minutes, or until soft and lightly golden, then turn off the heat and stir in the cooked sausage.
  • Add 1 c. grated mozzarella cheese in the bottom of a small baking dish or oven-proof skillet.
  • Top cheese with half the sausage mixture, then cover with 1 more c. of cheese and the rest of the sausage.**
  • Bake in a 375F oven for 20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling.
  • Serve immediately with chips.

Serves six
*If sausage pieces are a little on the large size, you can dice them more finely.
**Can be assembled and left at room temperature a few hours before baking.

Thursday, October 25

Kale Coconut Farro Salad

This salad is another genius Heidi Swanson recipe that pairs together seemingly unusual flavors to create a dish unlike any other. I was hesitant that the coconut would overpower the kale, but after roasting in the oven it has a nice nutty flavor and slight sweetness that pairs really well with the kale and farro. I generally stick to Italian flavors when cooking kale (garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes) but the soy-sesame dressing is really delicious and stands up nicely to the strong greens. If you like a little heat, adding a few drops of Sriracha to the dressing would add a nice kick (I’m planning on doing that next time). The grains keep it pretty filling, so this certainly works as a full meal or great potluck dish. I’d imagine that leftovers would taste good too, if you can keep any around that long.

Kale Coconut Farro Salad:
  • Rinse 1 c. farro under cold water, place in a saucepan, and cover with cold water.
  • Bring farro to a boil, season with salt, then lower to a simmer and cover with a lid.
  • Cook farro for 25-30 minutes, or until al dente. Drain and place in a large bowl.*
  • Meanwhile, whisk together 1/3 c. olive oil, 1 tsp. sesame oil, and 3 tbsp. soy sauce in a small bowl.
  • Remove the center ribs of two large bunches of kale** and chop into bite-size pieces.
  • Transfer kale to a large mixing bowl, add in 1 1/2 c. large flaked unsweetened coconut,*** and toss with most of the soy sauce dressing.
  • Spread kale mixture onto 2 baking sheets and place in a 350F oven.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, turning with a spatula once, or until coconut is nicely browned.
  • Add kale mixture to the bowl of farro and pour over the remaining dressing.
  • Toss to combine and serve warm.

Serves two (main course)
Serves six (side dish)
*Can be made a day ahead and kept in the fridge. Some farro brands suggest soaking the grain in cold water for several hours before boiling it.
**I used purple kale, but any variety will do.
***Must be unsweetened. If you can't find flakes, you can use unsweetened shredded coconut and reduce the amount by half.

Wednesday, October 24

Lemon Asparagus Risotto

It’s been cool and drizzly the last few days - a sure signal that fall is finally here - but our markets are still selling summer produce rather than winter squash and greens. I’d been craving something comforting, so I decided to make a cold-weather classic but using bright, fresh flavors. This risotto (loosely based on this recipe) is still super creamy and warming, but the lemon and asparagus keep it from feeling too heavy. It’s the perfect thing to eat while transitioning the seasons and a nice introduction to many upcoming cozy nights. If you love risotto but don’t feel like spending an hour at the stove, try this easy weeknight version.

Lemon Asparagus Risotto:
  • Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a small dutch oven and add in 1 diced onion.
  • Cook over medium heat for 7-10 minutes, or until soft but not brown.
  • Add in 1 c. aborio rice and stir so that each piece of rice is coated with butter.
  • Add in 1/3 c. dry white wine and cook for another few minutes, or until most of the wine has been absorbed.
  • Begin adding in a ladle from 1 qt. warm chicken stock* into the rice, stirring often.
  • Wait until most of the stock has been absorbed, then add in another ladle.
  • Continue adding in stock until rice is half-way cooked, then add in the zest of 2 lemons, salt,** and pepper.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add in 1 bunch of trimmed asparagus.
  • Cook asparagus for 5 minutes, or almost tender, then transfer to a bowl of ice cold water to cool.
  • Cut asparagus into 3/4" pieces and set aside.***
  • Continue cooking rice until nearly done, then stir in the asparagus and continue adding stock until rice is al dente.
  • Stir in 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese, the juice of 1 lemon, 1 heaping tbsp. Greek yogurt,**** and any more salt and pepper.
  • Divide into bowls and garnish with minced scallions and more cheese.

Serves two- three
*It's easiest to keep it simmering in a pot next to the risotto. Can substitute for vegetable stock.
**Be modest with the salt because the chicken stock and cheese will also add saltiness.
***Can be done a day ahead of time and kept in the fridge. Leftover cooked asparagus would also work.
****Optional, but I like the tang and extra creaminess it provides.

Tuesday, October 23

Chicken & Green Bean Stir-Fry

I'm always looking for new stir-fry recipes and love the balance of sweet and heat in this latest version. The chicken gets a simple four-ingredient marinade before cooking in a hot wok with green beans and bell peppers. I also added in a red chile for some heat and some peanuts for extra crunch and flavor. There's a lot of brothy sauce from the chicken stock, but if you like your stir-fry sauce a little thicker you can add in a little bit of cornstarch to make it come together. It's a versatile weeknight dinner that can easily be adapted based on whatever meat, vegetables, and nuts you have on hand.

Chicken, Red Pepper, & Green Bean Stir-Fry:
  • Whisk together 3 tbsp. fish sauce, 1 tsp. oyster sauce,* 1 scant tbsp. sugar, and 2 tbsp. peeled and minced fresh ginger.
  • Add in 1 lb. diced boneless, skinless chicken thighs and toss to coat.
  • Let chicken marinate in the fridge for an hour, or at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp. canola oil in a wok or skillet until very hot.
  • Add in 1 thinly sliced red bell pepper and 8 oz. trimmed green beans.**
  • Cook vegetables for 3-4 minutes, until softened, and add in 2 cloves of minced garlic and 1 minced, seeded, red chile.***
  • Add in the chicken and cook for another 3-4 minutes, or until chicken starts to brown.
  • Add in 3/4 c. low-sodium chicken stock, cover wok with a lid, and cook for 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and chicken is cooked through.
  • Add in 1 large handful of roasted, salted peanuts and check for seasoning.
  • Divide onto plates and serve with steamed rice.

Serves three - four
*Fish sauce and oyster sauce are available in the Asian section of most grocery stores.
**I like to use thin haricot verts because they cook faster.
***I used a Fresno chile, but you could add a spicier chile, such as Thai, depending on your heat tolerance.