Monday, August 14, 2017

Homemade Watermelon Soda Float

I love watermelon drinks, and this one is kind of the ultimate in awesome watermelon drinks.  It starts with a super pink watermelon puree, sweetened with simple syrup.  Then add seltzer to make homemade watermelon soda -- a perfectly delicious drink on its own.  But to really take it over the top, vanilla ice cream turns the soda into a float.  It's a great summer dessert -- pretty, sweet, and so delicious.  Although I made this with vanilla ice cream, I bet lime sherbet would be really tasty too.


Homemade Watermelon Soda Float (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Makes enough for a group, depending on how large you make them

For the watermelon concentrate:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 small seedless watermelon
1 T lime juice

To finish:
Seltzer 
Vanilla ice cream

1. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.  Seal and shake.  Shake periodically as you work on the rest of the recipe until the sugar is completely dissolved.  (Note: You can substitute store-bought simple syrup here if you prefer.)
2. Cut up the watermelon into cubes.  You should have around 8 cups, but you can pretty much eyeball it.  Puree using a hand blender, regular blender, food processor - whatever you have handy.  Strain through a fine-mesh strainer.  You should have around 4 cups of juice, but again, it doesn't have to be exact.
3. Add the lime juice and about half the simple syrup.  Taste, and add more lime juice or syrup to taste -- you want the concentrate to be pretty sweet and intensely flavored.
4. Chill the watermelon concentrate.  When you're ready to serve, fill glasses a little more than half full.  Top off with seltzer and scoops of vanilla ice cream.  Serve right away!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Double-Pumpkin Fettuccine

I wouldn't normally think to make a weeknight pasta recipe with two homemade sauces, but this dish is so delicious that it is more than worth it.  Plus, both sauces are super easy to prepare -- they're basically just dump and mix.  The first one is a pumpkin cream sauce flavored with Parmesan and lemon zest.  Everything just gets mixed together and then simmered a few minutes to melt the cheese and cook the egg.  The richness of the cream sauce is cut with a pepper-y, garlic-y pumpkin seed pesto made with arugula in place of basil.  You could easily substitute another green such as spinach, kale, or leafy herbs.  The two sauces are amazing together, and they pack lots of veggies into a pasta dish.  Yum!

Fair warning: the cream sauce loses some of its creaminess and doesn't look as appetizing in leftovers the next day, but it is still really tasty.


Double-Pumpkin Fettuccine (adapted from Feeding the Family)
Serves at least 4, leftovers aren't as pretty but still taste good

1 pound fettuccine

For the pumpkin cream sauce:
3-5 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup canned pumpkin (look for 100% pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie mix!)
3 T heavy cream
3 T olive oil
1 large egg
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper

For the pumpkin seed pesto:
1-1/2 cups arugula
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp salt

1. Cook the pasta according to package instructions, but stopping about 1 minute short of the final cooking time since the pasta will cook a minute longer in the sauce.  Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before draining.  Drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, whisk all the cream sauce ingredients together in a bowl, seasoning with salt and pepper.  When the pasta is done cooking, whisk in the pasta water.  Return to to the pot used to cook the pasta, and place over medium heat.  Stirring constantly, bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Return the pasta to the pot, and cook for another minute, stirring, until the pasta is al dente.
3. Combine all the pesto ingredients in a food processor, and pulse until the mixture is the texture you like.  This is a little stiffer than some other pestos, so you can add more olive oil if you prefer a looser sauce.
4. Top each portion of pasta with a spoonful of pesto.  Yum!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Wild Rice-Baby Kale Salad with Roasted Shallot Dressing

I recently picked up a copy of Mighty Salads from the library and was really impressed with the variety of different recipes!  This particular salad really caught my eye and it turned out to be delicious!  The base of the salad is kale (we picked up a bag of baby kale from Trader Joes), and the hearty greens stand up well to a variety of toppings -- roasted sweet potatoes, toothsome wild rice, salty cheese, and tart green apples.  The only part of this salad I didn't love was the roasted tofu -- it's definitely the most work/time investment, and I didn't feel like the flavor and texture was that amazing.  I ate my leftovers the next day with avocado subbing in for the tofu and preferred that version; rotisserie chicken would also be tasty if you're not vegetarian.  

The absolute best part of this salad was the dressing.  It's got all the usual things I put in a quick homemade dressing -- Dijon, vinegar, olive oil, honey -- but with one big extra.  A large shallot is roasted in a foil packet alongside the sweet potatoes, and then blended into the other ingredients.  This makes the dressing wonderfully creamy with no dairy, and just amps up the flavor.  I only wish it had made more! Next time I will definitely double this dressing -- so good.


Wild Rice-Baby Kale Salad with Roasted Shallot Dressing (adapted from Mighty Salads)
Serves 4

For the tofu: 
(Alternately, substitute cubed avocado or rotisserie chicken for the tofu)
14-ounce package extra-firm tofu
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp honey
Olive oil

For the dressing:
(I recommend doubling these amounts)
1 large shallot, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 T balsamic vinegar
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp honey (to taste)
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the salad:
1 pound sweet potatoes (2 smaller or 1 larger), peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
Olive oil, salt, and pepper
3/4 cup wild rice
4-5 ounces baby kale, or a small bunch of lacinato kale, stemmed and cut into thin ribbons
1 small green apple, cubed
3 ounces aged cheddar, cut into small cubes

1. If making the tofu, wrap in paper towels, place on a plate, and top with something heavy.  Allow to drain for 30 minutes or so.  Discard the paper towels, cut into 3/4-inch cubes, and place in a shalow dish.
2. Whisk together the vinegar, Dijon, and honey, and pour over the tofu cubes.  Marinate 30 minutes to 1 hour.  Drain and discard the marinade.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line 2 medium or 1 large baking sheet with foil.  Spray with oil.
4. Arrange the tofu in 1 layer and brush with olive oil. 
5. Place the thinly sliced shallot on a square of aluminum foil, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with a little salt.  Fold up to make a packet.
6. Toss the sweet potatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Arrange in a single layer either next to the tofu or on a separate sheet.  Tuck the shallot packet in a corner and roast for 35-40 minutes, rotating the baking sheet(s) halfway through.
7. Meanwhile, cook the wild rice according to package directions.
8. When the shallots are cooked, place in a blender with all the other dressing ingredients and blend until smooth.  You can also use an immersion blender.  
9. Assemble the salad -- toss some kale with the dressing, and top with the wild rice, sweet potato, cheddar, apple, and tofu.  Drizzle more dressing on top.  Yum!  
10. If packing leftovers for lunch, keep the cheese and dressing in a separate container until ready to eat.



Friday, June 16, 2017

Fresh Veggie Noodle Salad


This is the perfect summer meal -- fresh, light, and packed with different textures.  I used carrots, cucumber, and avocado in my salad, but you can really use any vegetable that's good raw -- snow peas or thinly sliced cabbage or kale would be great too.  What brings this salad from good to great is a healthy handful of fresh herbs -- again, a mix is ideal, but you can choose your favorites or select what looks freshest at the store.  Don't skip peanuts on top -- they add great crunch.  If you'd like more protein, some shredded rotisserie chicken on top is a great addition.


Fresh Veggie Noodle Salad (adapted from the Kitchn)
Serves 2-3

For the dressing:
3 T olive oil
2 T soy sauce
2 T lime juice
2 tsp honey
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp sambal oelek or Asian chile-garlic paste
1 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger

For the salad:
4 ounces rice noodles, prepared according to package instructions and rinsed under cold water
1 large carrot, peeled
1 medium cucumber, peeled
1 avocado
A handful of mixed fresh herbs, roughly chopped (I used Thai basil, mint, and a scallion)
1/2 cup salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Make the vinaigrette: Combine all the ingredients in a jar and shake until well combined.

Make the salad: Cook or soak the noodles according to package instructions, then drain and rinse under cold water until fully chilled.  Place in a large bowl and set aside.

Create long ribbons of carrot using a vegetable peeler, or grate.  Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and thinly slice.  Cube the avocado.  Add the vegetables to the noodles, along with all the fresh herbs, and toss to combine.

Add about half the dressing and toss to combine.  Taste, and add more dressing as desired.  Serve topped with chopped peanuts and more dressing.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Watermelon Agua Fresca

This drink is super bright and fresh -- it just screams summer!  Make sure to choose a good, flavorful melon, because it's such a simple drink.  Fresh watermelon juice is dressed up with a little sugar and lime juice, but otherwise it's just watermelon all the way -- so refreshing!  Technically you can skip the strainer if you don't have one, but personally I prefer a smoother drink.  This keeps well in the fridge for a day or two if you'd like to make it ahead.  You can also add a little tequila or vodka if you want to serve it as a cocktail.


Watermelon Agua Fresca (adapted from the New York Times)

4 cups cubed watermelon
1-1/2 cups water
1 T freshly squeezed lime juice
1 T sugar
Mint leaves, to garnish (optional)

Combine the watermelon, water, lime juice, and sugar in a blender and blend until very smooth.  Pass through a fine mesh strainer.  Taste and add more water or sugar if you like.  Pour over ice and garnish with mint.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

BBQ Chicken Salad Bowls

This is another recipe that uses the Instant Pot to good effect, although you can certainly prepare it without one (see the instructions linked below).  This salad would also be a great use for any leftover BBQ meat you have on hand.  The BBQ chicken is livened up with fresh, crunchy kale, bell pepper, and sweet corn.   This is a great way to enjoy barbecue that's a bit lighter and fresher.  Although the recipe calls for buttermilk ranch dressing, and I think that's a great combination, it doesn't happen to be my favorite -- if you're like me, a mild blue cheese dressing or another creamy dressing (or even just oil and vinegar) works just as well.


BBQ Chicken Salad Bowls (adapted from The Kitchn)
Serves 4

For the chicken:
Olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp smoked paprika
Generous pinch of salt
1 cup BBQ sauce, plus more to finish (optional)
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

For the salad:
2 ears of corn
1/2 T unsalted butter
Salt
1 large bunch of kale, trimmed and thinly sliced
Olive oil
3 carrots, peeled and shredded
1/2 bell pepper, trimmed and thinly sliced
Buttermilk ranch dressing (homemade or strore-bought)

1. To prepare the chicken in the Instant Pot, heat a generous drizzle of olive oil using the "Saute" function.  Add the onion and garlic, and saute for several minutes, until well softened and starting to brown . Add the smoked paprika and salt and stir to combine.  Turn off the Instant Pot, add the BBQ sauce, and stir well to combine.  Add the chicken thighs, stir until the sauce coats them, and arrange in a single layer. Seal the lid, and press the "Poultry" button.  Alternately, follow these directions from the Kitchn to prepare the chicken in the oven.
2. Remove the skin and bones from the chicken, and shred into bite-sized pieces.  Add more sauce as desired.  
3. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the rest of the salad ingredients.  Shuck the corn and cut it off the cob.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan, and then add the fresh corn and cook for just a few minutes, until tender.  Season with a bit of salt.
4. Place the shredded kale in a large bowl, and drizzle with olive oil.  Add a generous pinch of salt, and then massage until tender and reduced in size (a minute or two).  In a separate bowl, toss together the carrots and bell pepper.
5. To assemble the bowls, start with a base layer of kale.  Top with the carrot-pepper mixture, and then drizzle with buttermilk ranch dressing.  Add corn and shredded chicken to finish the bowl.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Lentil-Vegetable Soup


This soup is sort of like half vegetable soup (carrots, sweet potatoes, and kale), and half lentil soup (with both red lentils and brown or green lentils).  The brown lentils keep their shape better when cooked, while the red lentils almost dissolve in the soup and give it a creamier texture.  Overall, the soup is warm and comforting - perfect for a chilly evening.  I used a really tasty spice blend from Penzey's that has both lemon and orange peel, and smells amazing.  But, you can use any favorite spice/herb blend -- I think curry would be pretty fantastic too.  The original recipe calls for pureeing part of the soup for a creamier texture -- I skipped this, and still thought the soup was excellent, but you can add this step if you prefer a smoother soup.  Definitely don't skip the lemon juice at the end -- it brightens things up and really brings the flavors together.


Lentil-Vegetable Soup (adapted from Sprouted Kitchen, original recipe here)

2 T vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and minced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and minced
2 stalks celery, minced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 tsp Mural of Flavor spice mix (or any other favorite spice blend)
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup brown or green lentils
1/2 cup red lentils
3 cups chopped kale leaves
Juice of 1 lemon

To serve: grated Parmesan and crusty bread

1. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrots, sweet potato, celery, and garlic, and stir to combine.  Cook for 6-8 minutes, until softened.  Add the spice mix, Aleppo pepper, and salt, and stir to combine.
2. Stir in the chicken broth and lentils.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for about half an hour, or until everything is tender.  Turn off the heat, and stir in the kale and lemon juice.  Taste and adjust seasoning.
3. Serve topped with grated cheese and crusty bread.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Buffalo Mac and Cheese


The Kitchen is probably my favorite Food Network show, and a while back they made Buffalo chicken mac and cheese.  It looked amazing, so I adapted my usual mac and cheese recipe to include all the flavors -- blue cheese, Buffalo sauce, rotisserie chicken, and panko on top for crunch.  The sauce is super creamy and just a little spicy.  Totally addictive!


Buffalo Mac and Cheese (inspired by Food Network's The Kitchen)
Serves 4

12 ounces dried pasta
2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup crumbled blue cheese, divided
1/4 cup Buffalo sauce
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt, to taste
2 cups shredded chicken (from a rotisserie chicken)
1/2 cup panko

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Put on a big pot of water to boil. When the water boils, add some salt along with the dried pasta, and cook until the pasta is al dente. Drain and keep ready until the cheese sauce is done. (You can cook the pasta while you prepare the sauce to save time)
3. Heat the milk in the microwave until it is hot but not boiling.
4. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter in the skillet, and then add the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture turns light brown, about 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk, using a silicone-coated whisk to protect the coating on the pan.  When the milk is incorporated and the mixture is smooth, cook for another 30 seconds or so.  The sauce should be thick and just bubbling.  Remove from the heat.
5. Stir in the grated Monterey Jack cheese, half the blue cheese, Buffalo sauce, and mustard.  Taste, and add a little salt if necessary.  Stir over low heat until everything is melted.
6. Add the pasta, shredded chicken, and reserved blue cheese to the sauce, and stir until combined.
7. Scrape the pasta into a 9x13 baking dish.  Sprinkle with the panko.  Pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the panko is lightly browned.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Carbonara with Crispy Prosciutto

Carbonara is one of my husband's favorite pasta dishes, and since we had extra prosciutto and Parmesan after our recent Italian breakfast, it made for a perfect easy dinner.  Although prosciutto isn't the most common pork product you see in carbonara recipes, it ended up working really well -- the flavor is amazing and it got nicely crisp in a little hot oil on the stove top.  The key to a creamy sauce (instead of scrambled eggs) is just to work quickly as you toss the hot noodles into the raw egg-and-cheese sauce.  Make sure to save some of the cooking water from the pasta -- you can add it a little at a time if the pasta looks too dry. 


Carbonara with Crispy Prosciutto

12 ounces spaghetti or another long, thin pasta
1-2 T olive oil
3 ounces or so thinly sliced prosciutto, sliced into thin ribbons
A handful of frozen peas, thawed
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 cup (or so) finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Lots of freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with a little salt.  When it boils, add the pasta and cook until al dente.  Reserve a cup of the pasta water before draining.

While the pasta water boils, heat the olive oil in a skillet until shimmering.  Add the prosciutto and cook, stirring often, until it starts to get a little crispy.  Add the peas, stir to combine, and keep warm on very low heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, whole egg, Parmigiano Reggiano, and pepper.  

Drain the pasta, and immediately transfer it to the bowl with the egg-cheese mixture.  Working quickly, toss everything together with tongs.  Add some of the reserved pasta water as needed to make a creamy sauce.  Stir in the prosciutto-pea mixture, taste, and adjust for seasoning.  Serve hot.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Italian Breakfast and Pizza

Last year this time we were in Italy, so we decided to recreate the wonderful breakfasts we enjoyed there: chocolate and almond croissants from Trader Joe's (surprisingly good!), Prosciutto di Parma, soppressata, Parmigiano Reggiano, buffalo mozzarella, bread, jam, fruit, and espresso.  Glorious!  Definitely a splurge, but so worth it.


Because I bought far too much meat and cheese, we had plenty of leftovers.  We used some of them on the pizza below, which has homemade basil-pecan pesto, buffalo mozzarella, and soppressata as toppings -- so good!


Basil-Pecan Pesto

1/2 cup pecans
1 large garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup tightly packed fresh basil
1/4 cup + 2 T extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Pinch of salt (more to taste)

1. Place the nuts and garlic in a food processor or mini chopper, and process until they just start to break down.  Add the cheese and pulse another few times.
2. Add the basil and pulse a few times.  Then add the oil, lemon juice, and salt, and pulse until the pesto is as chunky/smooth as you like it.  Taste and add more of anything to make things taste perfect!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Mix-In Muffins


This is a really fun recipe because you get a bunch of flavors of muffin out of one recipe.  The muffins are also made for freezing, so you can stash a big bag in your freezer and thaw just a few at a time when you're ready for them.  Alternately, they'd be fun to make for a potluck or brunch party since everyone can have their favorite flavor.  I made chocolate chunk, cranberry + lemon zest, blueberry, and jam + coconut flakes, but really the sky is the limit!


Mix-In Muffins (adapted from Not Your Mother's Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook)
Makes 1-1/2 to 2 dozen muffins (depending on size)

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Your choice of mix-ins such as blueberries, cranberries, chocolate chips, jam, dried fruit, coconut flakes, cinnamon chips, raspberries, etc.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line two muffin tins with paper liners.
2. Whisk together the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, yogurt, eggs, and vanilla.  Pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined -- be careful not to overmix.
4. If you'd like to make just one kind of muffin, add about 1-1/2 cups total of your chosen mix-ins.  Otherwise, divide the batter in half.  Fill the muffin tins about halfway full, and then add in a few berries, chocolate chips, or other mix-ins, or a small spoonful of jam.  Then top with the remaining batter, and add a few more of your mix-ins on top, either keeping the muffins consistent or topping them with something different...your choice! I made blueberry muffins, chocolate chip muffins, cranberry muffins, and jam-filled muffins topped with coconut flakes.
5. Enjoy warm! Or, when the muffins are fully cooled, stash them in the freezer for quick and easy breakfasts.  Place in a single layer on a baking sheet, and freeze until just hard.  Then pack in gallon-sized freezer bags, removing as much air as possible before sealing the bag.  Thaw at room temperature overnight when ready to eat.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pisco Sour

This cocktail takes me right back to San Francisco, where pisco is much easier to find.  The frothy egg white foam on top really makes it unique, along with pisco, a type of Peruvian brandy.  The drink is tasty with either lemon or lime juice to add tartness.


Pisco Sour (adapted from Serious Eats)
Makes 1 cocktail

1/4 cup pisco (add up to 2 T more if you like a stronger cocktail)
2 T lemon or lime juice
1-1/2 T simple syrup
1 fresh egg white
Dash of Amaro bitters

Combine the pisco, lemon or lime juice, simple syrup, and egg white in a cocktail shaker -- do not add ice.  Shake vigorously for about 10 seconds, until the egg white is foamy.  Add ice, and shake again until well chilled.  Strain into a cocktail glass and top with a dash of the bitters.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Kale-Brussels Sprout Salad

Raw Brussels sprouts make for a surprisingly delicious, hearty salad along with massaged kale.  The most common way I've made Brussels sprouts is roasted, usually with bacon (yum!), and while of course that's fantastic, this lighter, fresher version of sprouts is very tasty too.  Don't skip the grated Parmesan -- and lot of it -- because all these veggies need some richness to really make them sing.


Kale-Brussels Sprout Salad (adapted from Bon Appetit, via the Balanced Life)
Serves two hungry people or 4-6 smaller side servings 

1 small bunch kale, trimmed and very thinly sliced
Olive oil
Salt
1/3 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and very thinly sliced
Grated Parmesan cheese

For the dressing:
2 T olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 T red wine vinegar
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper

Add the kale to your salad bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of sauce. Massage with your hands for a few minutes, until the kale starts to break down.  Add the Brussels sprouts and lots of grated Parmesan cheese.

Combine the dressing ingredients in a jam jar, screw on the lid, and shake well. Add about half the dressing to the salad, toss, and add more as needed.  Let sit for about 15 minutes before serving to let the flavor a combine.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Best-Ever Patty Melt

Patty melts are one of my favorite diner foods, and as it turns out, they're pretty darn good made at home too (although they take quite a bit longer on account of the caramelized onions!).  I'd suggest caramelizing the onions in a big batch and freezing the extra, because they're a pain to make but so delicious.  You can definitely make them ahead and then the rest of the recipe comes together easily.  In order to imitate the heat of a diner flat-top, the burgers are broiled, first on their own to cook the meat, and then with the onions and Swiss cheese to get the cheese all bubbly.  Then the burgers are sandwiched between slices of rye bread, buttered, and cooked similar to a grilled cheese sandwich. The result is an ultra-decadent sandwich - so good!


Best-Ever Patty Melt
Serves 4

Butter
2 medium or 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
1 to 1-1/2 pounds ground beef (depending on how large you'd like your burgers)
Thinly sliced Swiss cheese
8 slices rye bread
Ketchup, mayo, and/or other burger fixings

1. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Melt a tablespoon or two of butter, and then add the onions.  Slowly caramelize the onions until they are deeply browned.  Add more butter as needed, and turn the heat down and stir more often as the process progresses -- it should take at least 40-45 minutes, so this is a good task to do while you're working on something else in the kitchen.  Season lightly with salt, and then use immediately or store for when you're ready to make the burgers.
2. Preheat the broiler to high.  Line a baking sheet (or your broiler pan) with foil.  
3. Season the beef with salt and pepper, and divide into four portions.  Gently press each portion into a thin, oval-shaped patty (basically, as thin as you can get it while still holding together).  Arrange on the baking sheet.
4. Broil the burgers for 3 minutes, then flip.  Divide the onions among the burgers, and top with Swiss cheese.  Broil for another minute or so, until the cheese is bubble.
5. Butter each slice of bread on one side, and sandwich the burgers between the bread so the buttered sides are on the outside.
6. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the burgers (working in batches if necessary), and cook as you would a grilled cheese sandwich (i.e. on both sides until browned and crispy).  Top with whatever burger fixings you prefer, and serve hot.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Instant Pot Chicken Chili

As I've written about on this blog before, the Instant Pot is one of my absolute favorite kitchen tools.  I often use it for preparing individual ingredients (like rice, potatoes, and large cuts of meat), but it's also great for more complicated recipes like this one.  You can brown chicken, saute veggies, and cook the chili all in the same pot, meaning you also won't end up with a lot of dishes.  You can switch up the type of bean or spices as you like, but overall this is just a tasty, easy chili.  If your beans are a little on the older side, you might add a bit more time to the cooking.


Instant Pot Chicken Chili (adapted from Hip Pressure Cooking, original recipe here)
Makes lots!

2 cups dry kidney beans
Olive oil
1-1/2 to 2 pounds boneless chicken pieces, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 medium onion, minced
1 bell pepper, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp dried thyme
2 T tomato paste
15-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained
2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve: sour cream, shredded cheese, minced herbs, or whatever else you like!

1. Soak the beans for several hours or overnight.  Drain and rinse before using.
2. Heat the Instant Pot on "Saute".  When hot, add a generous drizzle of olive oil and brown the chicken pieces on a couple of sides, working in batches if needed.  Transfer to a dish and set aside.
3. Add more oil if needed, and add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Saute a few minutes until softened.
4. Add the cumin and saute for another 30 seconds.
5. Stir in the browned chicken and soaked beans, along with the thyme, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, and chicken broth.
6. Seal the lid and cook on high pressure for 25 minutes.  Let the pressure release naturally, or quick release the pressure.  Stir in the cumin, then taste and add salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for 5 minutes or so to thicken.
7. Ladle into bowls and serve with whatever toppings you like.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Slow-Cooked Fennel Salmon

I would never have thought to cook salmon at a low temperature for 40 minutes, but it actually works really well and leads to meltingly tender salmon.  Although the time is longer than a typical fish recipe, it's completely hands off so it's not a lot of work.  I am semi-obsessed with the sweet, licorice-like flavor of fennel, and here it gets used three ways-- fennel seeds and fronds on top of the salmon, and the bulb thinly sliced and cooked under the salmon.  You could also use the fennel bulb raw and tossed with a simple vinaigrette on the side, as a salad, if you prefer.


Slow-Cooked Fennel Salmon (adapted from the Bon Appetit Food Lover's Cleanse)
Servings vary based on how much salmon you cook

1 to 1-1/2 pounds salmon in one piece, with skin on
Salt and pepper
1 tsp fennel seeds (or another preferred herb or spice)
Minced fennel fronds (or another fresh herb)
Olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with oil.
2. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and place skin-down on the baking sheet.  Sprinkle the fennel seeds on top, along with the fennel fronds.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil.
3. Cook 30-40 minutes, until the salmon flakes when gently pressed.  Or, if cooking individually-sized fillets, they should take about 25 minutes.  
4. Peel the skin off the salmon and break into large chunks to serve.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Boston Beer-Steamed Mussels

This simple mussel recipe was the first one I made, and it's the one I make most often, but sometimes it's fun to change it up a bit.  This version uses beer in place of wine as the main liquid, which completely changes the flavors.  Even though I'm not a beer lover, I really like it in this dish -- it adds a nice bitterness.  Instead of the usual crusty bread, we served roasted potatoes for dipping, which turned out to be a fantastic idea.  Of course, if you want something quicker to prepare, you can always go for the usual baguette!



Boston Beer-Steamed Mussels (adapted from Sam Adams)
Serves 2-3 as a main dish with roasted potatoes

2 pounds mussels
2 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 tsp minced garlic
Salt
1 cup Sam Adams Boston Ale
A handful of fresh parsley, minced
Roasted Yukon Gold potatoes, to serve

1. Clean and debeard the mussels.
2. Melt the butter and oil together in a large pot with a lid over medium heat. Add the leek, garlic, and a generous pinch of salt.  Cook for a few minutes, until the leeks are softened.
3. Add the ale and bring to a boil.  Add the mussels, give everything a quick stir, and cover.
4. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 6 minutes.  Remove from the heat, sprinkle with parsley, and give the mussels a quick stir.  Serve with roasted potatoes for dipping in the sauce.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Instant Pot Red Curry Pork Soup

This curry has a thinner sauce than many and is very tasty all on its own as a soup.   Of course, you can serve it over rice if you prefer, but the sweet potatoes add enough of a "carb" element that it isn't really necessary.  The broth is a tasty mixture of coconut milk, red curry, and pork broth. In the broth is a combination of rich, tender pork; creamy sweet potatoes; and bright, crisp-tender green beans.   Of course, you can substitute other veggies if you have something else on hand that you prefer.  Lime juice and cilantro as garnishes make everything taste extra fresh.


Instant Pot Red Curry Pork Soup (adapted from Bon Appetit's Food Lover's Cleanse)

Vegetable oil
2 to 2-1/2 pounds bone-in country style pork ribs or 1 pound boneless pork shoulder cut into cubes
6 cups chicken broth
1 onion, chopped
Salt
1-1/2 T red curry paste
3/4 cup coconut milk (shake well before measuring)
1/2 tsp kaffir lime powder (optional)
1 pound sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 ounces green beans, sliced into 2-inch pieces
Cilantro and lime, to garnish

1. Heat the Instant Pot to sauté and add the oil. When it gets hot, add the pork and brown well, working in batches.
2. Add all the pork back into the pot and add the chicken broth. Cook on manual for 25 minutes at high pressure. Let the pressure come down naturally for 15 minutes, and then release remaining pressure.
3. Remove the pork to a plate at let cool slightly. Then remove the meat from the bones and shred.
4. Meanwhile, measure out 2-1/2 cups of the cooking liquid and set aside.
5. In a separate pot, brown the onions in a little oil over medium-high heat, about 10 minutes.  Season with a little salt. Add the curry paste and stir to combine. 
6. Add the coconut milk, kaffir lime powder, and reserved chicken broth from cooking the pork. Bring to a boil, and add the sweet potatoes.  Cover. Cook until tender, about 15 minutes.
7. Add the reserved pork to the pot along with the green beans. Cover and cook 2 minutes, until everything is tender and hot. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Homemade Ice Cream Cake

I made this ice cream cake last year for my husband's birthday, but am somehow just now getting around to posting it! Which is clearly a crime, because this cake is wonderful.  I figured out the components by combining several different recipes and ideas from around the Internet, plus our own flavor preferences.  It's very reminiscent of a Dairy Queen cake, with a bonus brownie layer because: life is always better with a bonus brownie layer.  Mint chocolate chip is my husband's favorite ice cream, so we ran with that flavor profile here.  But, of course, you can change up the ice cream flavor, cookie flavor, or even substitute a cookie or blondie base in place of the brownies.


Homemade Ice Cream Cake

In an 8-inch round springform pan, layer:

1. About half a box of prepared brownie mix (a thin layer), baked until just cooked.  Cool and freeze overnight.
2. Half a carton ice cream (I used Breyer's mint chocolate chip) -- beat in a stand mixer until smooth before adding to the pan.  Top that with chopped Oreos (I used mint Oreos) and a thick layer of hot fudge sauce (warmed until just pourable).  Freeze overnight.
3. Beat the other half of the ice cream until smooth, layer on top of the Oreo-hot fudge sauce layer, and then pop in the freezer.  Beat one cup of heavy cream with a little vanilla and a tablespoon or two of powdered sugar, and then spread on top of the ice cream cake.  Freeze until solid.
4. To serve, carefully remove the outer ring of the springform pan.  Heat up a knife under hot running water to easily slice the ice cream cake.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Orange-a-rita


This version of a margarita leans heavier toward the orange side of things than the lime side of things, but still isn't too sweet.  Because there are quite a few other ingredients besides the orange juice, the color isn't too different from a normal margarita, but you'll definitely be able to taste the difference.  You can adjust the amount of simple syrup to make this sweeter or tarter according to your preference.



Orange-a-rita
Serves 2

3 ounces tequila
2 ounces lime juice
2 ounces orange juice (strain through a fine-mesh strainer)
1/2 ounce orange liqueur
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Ice

Combine everything in a cocktail shaker and shake well. Strain into glasses over ice.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Loaded baked potato soup

I am a big baked potato fan -- one of the most memorable is from the Big E Fair in New England:


This recipe is a fun way to get all the flavors of a baked potato in soup form -- perfect for a snowy day.  If you've got an Instant Pot or pressure cooker, the recipe is also super fast to prepare (and even with a regular pot of boiling water, it doesn't take too much longer).  Once the potatoes are cooked, they're turned into soup with the addition of milk, chicken stock, and sour cream.  Of course, you can sub in vegetable stock if you want to keep this vegetarian.  We topped our with traditional baked potato toppings -- green onions, bacon, and shredded cheese -- but you could use anything you like on a baked potato.  I think minced steamed broccoli and Cheddar would be very good as well.


Loaded Baked Potato Soup (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves 4

2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup flour
2 cups 2% milk
1 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup light sour cream
Salt and pepper
Toppings: shredded Cheddar, crispy bacon, minced chives or scallions, or anything else you like on your baked potatoes!

1. Cook the potatoes -- I use my pressure cooker (4 minutes on high pressure), although a pot of boiling water will work just as well (plan on about 10-15 minutes in that case).  Drain the potatoes, return them to the pan, and mash with a potato masher until they're as smooth or chunky as you like.
2. Combine the flour with about 1/2 cup milk in a medium bowl, and whisk until smooth.  Gradually whisk in the remaining milk and then the chicken stock.  Add to the potatoes, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the soup is thickened and bubbly.
3. Remove from the heat, and whisk in the sour cream.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  
4. Ladle the soup into bowls, and top with your choice of favorite baked potato toppings.

    Friday, January 20, 2017

    Strawberry Hot Fudge Sundaes with Toasted Marshmallows

    I've unfortunately forgotten where I got the idea for this ice cream sundae -- I think I saw a photo with similar ingredients somewhere online, but can't recall where!  In any case, this sundae is super decadent and delicious -- you should absolutely make it as soon as possible! The fun element here is toasting marshmallows under the broiler in the oven -- it's really easy to do, but adds something special to the sundaes.  Fresh berries provide a needed burst of bright, tart flavor to an otherwise rich dish, and of course there's hot fudge sauce because -- why wouldn't you add hot fudge sauce?  


    Strawberry Hot Fudge Sundaes with Toasted Marshmallows

    Hot fudge sauce
    Oil spray 
    Marshmallows
    Ice cream of your choice (fudge ripple or strawberry are both favorites)
    A few strawberries, minced

    1. Heat up the hot fudge sauce until hot.  Set aside.
    2. Preheat the broiler on your oven. Line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with oil.  Set out a few marshmallows on the baking sheet, and the broil briefly until browned on top.  Keep a very close eye as the marshmallows will burn very quickly -- do not step away from the oven!
    3. Build your sundaes: a scoop of ice cream, hot fudge sauce, strawberries, and toasted marshmallows.
    4. Serve right away!

    Tuesday, January 17, 2017

    Lemongrass Chicken Noodle Bowls with Coconut Broth

    The coconut broth for this soup? It's so good it almost doesn't matter what else you add to your bowl! In fact, I think it would be a great restorative all on it's own if you're feeling under the weather.  The rest of the time, you can add in noodles, chicken, and crisp veggies to make it a meal.  Feel free to play around with the toppings here depending on what you're in the mood for or have around the house -- this would be a great way to use up extra veggies you have in the crisper.


    Lemongrass Chicken Noodle Bowls with Coconut Broth (adapted from Cooking Light)
    Serves 4

    1-1/4 cups coconut milk, divided
    3 T minced lemongrass (I buy it in a tube, because I'm a cheater!)
    2 T sambal oelek
    6 bone in-skin on chicken thighs
    1 cup chicken stock or water
    6 garlic cloves, crushed
    1 large onion, peeled and quartered
    2 carrots, scrubbed and each cut into 4 pieces
    2-inch piece of fresh ginger, scrubbed and thinly sliced
    2 T low-sodium soy sauce
    1-1/2 T fish sauce
    1 T fresh lime juice
    1/2 tsp granulated sugar

    To serve:
    8 ounces wide rice noodles or other Asian-style noodles, prepared according to package directions
    Thinly sliced cucumber
    Minced fresh cilantro
    Unsalted peanuts

    1. Combine 3/4 cup of the coconut milk, the lemongrass, and the sambal oelek in a large Ziplock bag.  Add the chicken, seal well, and turn to coat the chicken in the sauce.  Place in the fridge for at least 8 and up to 24 hours to marinate.
    2. Place the chicken stock or water, garlic, onion, carrots, and ginger in the Instant Pot.  Arrange the chicken in a single layer on top of the veggies, and pour any additional marinade on top.  Seal the Instant Pot, and hit the "Poultry" button.  Quick release the pressure.  (No pressure cooker? Cook in a slow cooker on low for 7-1/2 hours.)
    3. Remove the chicken and shred into bite sized pieces, discarding the skin and bones.
    4. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh strainer.  Skim off as much fat as possible, and then add to a small saucepan with the remaining 1/2 cup coconut milk, along with the soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar.  Simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
    5. Assemble the bowls: add a scoop of broth, along with noodles, shredded chicken, cucumber, cilantro, and peanuts.

    Sunday, January 15, 2017

    Denver Sheet Cake

    This cake is pretty much identical to Texas Sheet Cake -- I'm honestly not sure what the difference is.  But, the New York Times called it Denver Sheet Cake, so my mom and I had to try it out since my husband and I recently moved to Denver!  The cake base is tender, moist, and chocolate-y, with a glossy frosting and crunchy toasted nuts on top.  This cake travels and keeps well, and makes a lot -- so it's great for a potluck or another event with a crowd.  


    Denver Sheet Cake (adapted from the New York Times)

    For the cake:
    1-1/4 cups flour
    1 cup sugar
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    Generous pinch of salt
    8 T softened butter
    1/4 cup cocoa powder
    1/4 cup buttermilk
    1 egg, lightly beaten
    1/2 tsp vanilla

    For the frosting:
    4 T softened butter
    1/2 cup cocoa powder
    3 T buttermilk
    1/2 tsp vanilla
    Generous pinch of salt
    1/2 pound powdered sugar
    Chopped walnuts or pecans, to finish

    1. Grease and flour a 9x13-inch cake pan.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
    3. Combine the butter and cocoa with 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Whisk until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth, glossy, and beginning to bubble. Remove from the heat.
    4. Fold the cocoa mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined.  Stir in the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla.  
    5. Scrape into the pan and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  Cool completely.
    6. Make the frosting. Combine the butter, cocoa, and buttermilk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Whisk frequently until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and bubbling around the edges.  Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl (use either a stand mixer or electric mixer).
    7. On low speed, add the vanilla, salt and sugar to the chocolate mixture.  Mix until smoothed.  Pour over the cake while still warm.  Sprinkle with nuts and let cool before serving.

    Thursday, January 12, 2017

    Instant Pot Beef Curry with Sweet Potatoes

    This beef curry is fantastically flavorful, and using sweet potatoes in place of white potatoes is a nice change of pace.  The sweeter flavor of the potatoes combines nicely with a savory-sweet-spicy curry sauce.  Plus, made in the Instant Pot, this recipe is super simple to prepare.  After cooking, the beef is fall-apart tender and full of flavor.  The original recipe is "paleo," so white rice is definitely verboten, but I'm a rule breaker so I think this curry is excellent over rice.  :)  You can switch out the Massaman curry paste for another one if you prefer or if that's what you have on hand -- I think red or yellow curry paste would both be great here (green curry might be a little odd).


    Instant Pot Beef Curry with Sweet Potatoes (adapted from Nom Nom Paleo -- but warning, my version is not paleo!)
    Serves 4

    1-1/2 pounds beef chuck roast, brisket, or boneless short ribs, cut into large cubes
    1 tsp kosher salt
    Vegetable oil
    1 T Thai curry paste of choice (I used Massaman curry paste)
    1 cup light coconut milk
    1 T soy sauce
    1 T brown sugar
    1/2 T fish sauce
    1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
    1 medium onion, peeled and cut into medium slices
    2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
    Thinly sliced scallions, to serve
    Cooked Jasmine rice, to serve

    1. Sprinkle the beef chunks with the salt and set aside while you chop the veggies and prepare the sauce.
    2. Heat a generous drizzle of oil in the Instant Pot using the "Saute" function.  When it is hot, whisk in the curry paste and stir until fragrant and sizzling.
    3. Add the coconut milk, soy sauce, brown sugar, and fish sauce, and whisk to dissolve the sugar.  Cook for a minute or so, stirring, and then turn off the Instant Pot.
    4. Add the beef cubes, sweet potatoes, onions, and carrots, and stir well so that everything is lightly coated with the sauce.  Seal the lid, and press the "Meat/Stew" function.
    5. When the Instant Pot beeps, let the pressure come down naturally for 10 minutes, and then quick release any remaining pressure.
    7. Serve over rice with scallions sprinkled on top.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2017

    Pizza Night!


    Caramelized onions, fresh garlic, mozzarella, pepperoni, green harissa, and Manchego cheese!


    Monday, January 9, 2017

    Potato-Asparagus Tangle with Green Harissa

    There are a lot of recipes that I say I'm going to make again, but never get around to it -- this is one of those I really have made quite a few times.  Part of what keeps bringing me back to it is the green harissa sauce -- it's fresh, green, and a little spicy in a totally addictive way.  I recommend making more than you need because it is also fantastic anywhere you'd use a hot sauce -- on eggs, avocado toast, even pizza!  The green harissa is tossed with roasted potatoes, roasted asparagus, and fresh spinach for a hearty vegetarian salad, and then topped with an egg for protein and shaved Pecorino cheese for a hit of salt.  The combination is amazing!  The original recipe calls for poaching the egg, but any preparation with a runny yolk is good -- I've also made this with soft boiled eggs which is really pretty.


    Potato-Asparagus Tangle with Green Harissa (adapted from Bowl + Spoon)
    Serves 4

    For the Green Harissa:
    1 garlic clove
    1 cup mixed leafy herbs (a mix of parsley, cilantro, and mint is excellent)
    1/2 jalapeno (or a whole one if you like it spicier), seeded
    Juice of 1/2 lemon
    Generous pinch cumin
    Generous pinch salt
    3 T olive oil

    To complete the dish:
    1-1/2 pounds Yukon golds, cut into chunks
    Olive oil
    Salt and pepper
    1 pound asparagus
    1 cup arugula (lightly packed)
    4 or 8 eggs (one or two eggs per person)
    Shaved Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, to garnish

    1. Make the harissa.  Combine all the ingredients except the olive oil in a mini chopper and process until finely chopped.  Add the oil and process again until well combined.
    2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line two baking sheets with foil.
    3. Cook the potatoes until just tender, either in a pressure cooker for about 3 minutes or in boiling water.  Drain and let cool slightly.  Transfer the potatoes to one of the baking sheets, and toss with a generous drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast 30-35 minutes, until nicely browned.
    4. Meanwhile, cut the asparagus into 2-inch pieces.  Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Arrange in a single layer on the second baking sheet, and roast 15 minutes.
    5. Combine the roasted potatoes and roasted asparagus in a large serving bowl.  Toss with 2 generous spoonfuls of the harissa and toss to coat.  Add the arugula and toss again, adding more harissa to taste.  (Any leftover harissa will keep well in the fridge and can be used anywhere you'd use hot sauce.)
    6. Poach (or fry, or soft boil) the eggs just before serving, for about 3 minutes.
    7. Serve the potato-asparagus tangle topped with one or two eggs and a generous sprinkle of cheese.












    Saturday, January 7, 2017

    Beans and Greens Burrito with Lime and Chile


    My sister-in-law got me the cookbook A Modern Way to Cook for Christmas, and I am loving it! The photos are beautiful and the recipes are really creative and inspiring.  Below is a recipe for fantastic Mediterranean-Mexican fusion burritos -- nothing authentic about it, but these are really delicious all the same.  Warm tortillas are stuffed with lime-spiked black beans, wilted kale, and simple versions of freshly made salsa and guac.  Salty feta is the perfect complement to these ingredients, and you can optionally add steamed brown or white rice if you like to make the burritos more filling.  This dish has a lot of components, so it's a nice one to make with other folks in the kitchen (or make some of the components ahead of time) -- but, the extra work is well worth it.  Yum!


    Beans and Greens Burrito with Lime and Chile (adapted from A Modern Way to Cook)
    Serves 4, easily multiplied

    Fill warm flour tortillas with:

    Lime-Chile Black Beans: melt coconut oil in a pot, and saute minced garlic and red chile until browned.  Add a small spoonful of smoked paprika, and then stir in the juice of one lime and one or two cans of black beans, drained and rinsed.  Season with salt.  Let bubble for 10 minutes or so, smashing some beans with the back of a spoon.

    Lime-Oregano Kale: melt coconut oil in a large skillet, and add one bunch of kale, stemmed and chopped, along with a pinch of oregano, the zest of one lime, and a pinch of salt. Cook until wilted, stirring often.

    A couple of handfuls of minced cherry tomatoes mixed with the juice of half a lime, chopped cilantro, and a little salt.

    Two mashed avocados, mixed with  the juice of half a limechopped cilantro, and a little salt.

    Steamed rice

    Crumbled feta cheese