Monday, July 16, 2018

Radish Toast

This blog.  It started as my companion through many years of cooking for one on a vintage stove in a tiny house in the heart of a perfect city.  Then, it challenged me to not forget about it during the early days of my marriage and the birth of our two babies in a slightly bigger house that needed lots of updating in the 'burbs.  Now I'm in another kitchen.  Hopefully one I'll stay in for awhile.  We moved even further into the 'burbs and we're on a freaking cul-de-sac.  But, the kitchen is lovely!    It has color and character.  It's got a DISHWASHER, people.  And it makes me happy to cook in it.

We've lived here about a month, and the kitchen is a constant source of joy for me.  So, while I don't have a whole lot of time to whip up exciting new recipes, I wanted to drop by and remind myself of my old friend bloggy and share my delicious lunch.

This is radish toast.  The radish spread has 3 ingredients:  radishes, goat cheese, chives (and salt and pepper of course).  I plopped it on top of a piece of seedy toasted bread with some smooshed avocado.  This is not necessary, but I'm glad I did it.  I served it with some refrigerator pickles, tomatoes, and snap peas.

It was a good lunch.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Italian Chopped Salad with Creamy Garlic Dressing

Tucci Benucch is a restaurant in the Mall of America.  I LOVED Tucci Benucch when I first lived in the metro after college.  My good friend and former roommate Lindsey worked there for years.  They have great happy hour specials and tasty, inexpensive food.  Marney and I would go mall walking in the winter when it was too cold to be outside, and afterwards we always rewarded ourselves with a glass of wine and small plates from Tucci. 

I am sure I've celebrated multiple birthdays and special occasions at Tucci.  Their tiramisu (circa 10 years ago) was heaven on a plate. Tucci Benucch is closing next week after 25 years and I'm so sad to see it go, although I understand that the restaurant industry needs to be changing to keep up with the market.

The last two times I ate at Tucci, I had their Italian Chopped Salad, which is everything a chopped salad should be: crunchy, cheesy, tangy, pickly, savory, and everything cut into tiny little pieces. Since the restaurant is closing, I had to create an at-home version of the recipe.  I found a great dressing on another blog and it's perfect with these ingredients. 

And, not related to anything else, my sweet little Lucy has finally figured out how to eat from a spoon and is now a master at eating winter squash (and avocado, and bananas, and green beans, and oatmeal).  It took her a couple months longer than Frankie to get the hang of it, but now her belly is full of new exciting calories every day. 

Italian Chopped Salad with Creamy Garlic Dressing, inspired by Tucci Benucch, dressing from The Kitchn
1 head romaine lettuce
1 small head cauliflower
1 large bunch green beans
1 red bell pepper
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup pepperoncinis
1 can hearts of palm, drained
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, finely shredded or grated
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
seasoned croutons, crushed

Chop the lettuce, cauliflower, green beans, bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, hearts of palm, and pepperoncinis into tiny pieces and mix in a big bowl.  Add garbanzo beans and parmesan cheese.

In a blender, mix garlic, vinegar, egg yolk, sugar, and mustard.  While blender is running, stream in olive oil.  Mix dressing with chopped vegetables and season with salt and pepper.

Right before serving, mix in crushed seasoned croutons.

Quick Refrigerator Dill Pickles

I found these pictures in my phone from last August, when I was still on maternity leave with a 6-week old baby.  It's fun to think of August right now, after a month of below zero temperatures and a recent blizzard! 

Anyways, these pickles are freaking awesome.  They are not sweet like this version I did a few years ago.  They're tart and crunchy and perfect with grilled foods.  They are so good that A) I actually left a comment on the original blog to let the author know how good they are, and B) I've given the recipe to others who have made them successfully.

So, even though the pics are 5 months old and we won't have farmer's market cucumbers or dill for a loooooonnnngggg time, I'm posting so that I have the recipe readily available to me forever!

Quick Refrigerator Dill Pickles, from Mountain Mama Cooks
2 heads garlic, cloves separated and peeled
10 cups water
5 cups distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp salt (pickling or kosher or sea salt)
several sprigs fresh dill
1 Tbsp mustard seed
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
Lots of fresh small cucumbers, sliced on mandolin or cut into spears

Boil water and garlic together for 5 minutes, add vinegar and salt and boil until salt dissolves.

In mason jars, evenly distribute fresh dill sprigs, mustard seeds, black peppercorns, and boiled garlic cloves.  Add sliced cucumbers until tightly packed.  Pour boiled water/vinegar mixture over cucumbers to cover.  Cool and refrigerate.  You can eat them after a few hours, but they taste best after sitting overnight.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Homemade SpaghettiO's

Wow, I blinked and 18 months flew by since last I posted here.  Life has been very, very good.  I had the best summer of my life, staying home July through September with sweet little Lucy.  I had grand plans for my maternity leave, to cook and prepare amazing summer meals from the garden or market.  In reality, I was lucky to get myself showered every other day.  Evenings with two little ones under two years old is no joke.  One or the other always has my attention.  It's exhausting and exhilarating, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Lucy isn't quite ready for baby food (that will come soon enough, since the little squirt just sprouted 2 teeth already!).  And Frankie is generally a pretty good eater.  His absolute favorite food is cottage cheese.  But he'll also gobble up most fruit, raisins, carrots, peas, pasta, pizza, rice, potstickers, corn, toast, oatmeal, applesauce, yogurt, and of course anything sweet.  He mostly avoids or ignores meat and potatoes.

He loves to help make smoothies.  He'll eat most soups.  We do homemade pasta every now and then and it's always a huge hit.  I won't say he never gets processed food - animal crackers and goldfish are a standby snack.  But I've really tried to stay away from it.  At the lake this August, my mom tried to give him a microwave single serving cup of macaroni and cheese for the first time, and I was proud that he looked at it suspiciously for a long time before he tasted it.  Naturally, he loved it.  That stuff is like crack to kids.  For his 2nd birthday I made a pseudo-homemade baked macaroni and cheese (it had a Velveeta and cheddar sauce) just to ensure the kids would eat it and it totally worked.

Frankie hasn't yet tried that old kid favorite canned SpaghettiO's yet, and I hope he never does.  But Smitten Kitchen posted this dead simple recipe the other day that is PERFECT for families who need to get dinner on the table quick.  I have no idea if it tastes like SpaghettiO's, but it looks like them and it is yummy.  I liked the addition of chickpeas to amp up the nutritional value of the meal, but I can't lie to you...Frankie picked them all out.  Next time I'll blend them into the boiling water sauce so he won't even know it's there.

I didn't have round circle pasta, but I had a bag of alphabet pasta that had been sitting in my cupboard since Frankie was in utero.  In the past week, I've used that bag in this recipe, and two different soups.  He loves picking out the letters.  There seems to be a lot of "L - LUCY!" letters in this bag.

I recommend serving this with good bread and cheese (I had levain from Rustica and fresh smoked mozzarella), or a green salad, or both.

Homemade SpaghettiO's, adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 4

2 Tbsp olive oil
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 can tomato paste
1 tsp salt
fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup small pasta shapes (orzo, alphabets, circles, etc)
5 cups boiling water
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Boil your water in a teapot or small pot.

In a large deep skillet, heat oil until shimmering over medium high heat. 

Cook garlic for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fragrant and lightly browned.  Add tomato paste, salt, and pepper and cook for 30 seconds more.  Add chickpeas, pasta, and boiling water.  Stir and reduce heat to low. 

Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until pasta is soft.  Taste and add more salt or pepper if needed.  Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve immediately. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Steel Cut Pumpkin Oats

If there's one recipe I've made over and over and over again since becoming a new mom, it's this one.  The restorative powers of a hearty, healthy breakfast can not be overstated. 

I generally have a pretty good little sleeper monkey, but some nights there are more wake ups than others, and a warm filling bowl of pumpkin oats is a great way to start a new day.

Since returning to work, I love having a grab and go serving of oats so this continues to be on rotation in my house while the weather stays cool! It's a simple, straightforward recipe that is delicious every time I make it. 

I've tried a dairy free version with coconut milk, and I've tried it in the slow cooker.  While both variations are edible, I found the pumpkin flavor muddied by the coconut milk, and the slow cooker gave the oats a somewhat less appetizing gummy texture.  I recommend the baking option.  Easy as (pumpkin) pie!

Steel Cut Pumpkin Oats, adapted slightly from The Kitchn
Makes about 8 servings

2 Tbsp butter, divided
1.5 cups steel cut oats
1 can pumpkin, or 2 cups pumpkin/squash/sweet potato puree
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
2 cups whole milk
2.5 cups water
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 cups toasted pecan pieces
Optional: Maple syrup, cream, or whipped cream for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In large oven safe pot, heat 1 Tbsp butter and sauté oats for 3 minutes until they smell toasty.  Move oats to outside of pan and melt the other Tbsp butter in the middle.  Add pumpkin puree and fry in butter for another 3 minutes.  The mixture might get dark brown and stick to pan, that's OK.

Add sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and stir it all together.  Then whisk in milk, water, vanilla, and salt.  Scrape those brown spots off the pan and stir it all together.

Put a lid on the pot and bake for 35 minutes.  Carefully remove lid and stir in toasted nuts.  Eat immediately topped with a little drizzle of maple syrup and milk/cream or whipped cream.

I portion out individual servings into Tupperware for grab and go breakfasts throughout the week.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Crunchy Balsamic Slaw

There is a lot I could write here about what has happened in the last 10 months, but I really don't want to take the time to do it.  I had a baby 5 months ago.  He is happy and healthy and I love him to pieces.  I could write 10 posts just about the past 2 weeks and how much fun we have had introducing him to sweet potatoes, yogurt, and avocado.

But time is precious and I'd rather be somewhere other than on the internet in my free time now.  My lunch hours are spent on a mad dash through the grocery store to grab ingredients for dinner. My evenings are filled with giggles and snuggles, baths and bedtime stories.  Our dinners are often eggs or soup or (if I'm completely honest) delivered pizza or Thai takeout about once a week.  Staying healthy with distractions in your life is no joke and I really haven't been as successful at it as I hoped I would be.  I look back at some of my earlier blog posts and remember how much time I had to be creative in thinking up recipes, shopping, preparing everything, taking pictures, and writing about it!  Ain't nobody got time for that now!

I will, however, take a few minutes to enter this great salad into the record!  I've been spending way too much money on pre-packaged salad mixes from the grocery store to get my vegetables.  I bought four bags of different flavor mixes last week (Asian, Sunflower Mix, Southwest, and BBQ Ranch).  They were super simple to make and tasted fine, but they cost about four bucks each and I kept thinking that I could make it better.

Today I had a few free hours in the afternoon and I chose to spend them chopping vegetables!   It was a luxury to leisurely tear the kale leaves from their stems and use a mandoline to slice carrots!  I added in a few toasted seeds and a basic balsamic vinaigrette, and this was 10 times better than the bag mix.  The best part is that it is prepared and ready to eat after work this week so I have more time to sing songs about frogs and bicycles to my little boy!

Crunchy Balsamic Slaw
Serves 4

1 bunch lacinato kale, stems removed and leaves julienned
2 carrots, sliced thin on a mandoline
1 stalk of broccoli, head chopped fine and stem sliced thin on a mandoline
1/4 head red cabbage, sliced thin
1/4 cup toasted sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds
salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp honey
4-6 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Put prepared vegetables in a large bowl.  Shake dressing ingredients in mason jar or whisk together.  Taste for seasoning and add more vinegar if you like it acidic, or more honey if you like it sweet.  Toss dressing and veggies together and let sit for 5-10 minutes to let the flavors merge.  It gets better the longer it sits.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Greek Turkey Burgers with Tzatziki

Time is marching on, and regardless of the fact that we want to travel and finish fixing up our house and prepare a nursery and sleep in and do all kinds of other childless things, yesterday marked the halfway point of my pregnancy.  This bun is officially half baked.  On one hand, I'm very excited to meet this body roommate of mine; yet on the other hand, I do not wish to rush into an entirely new life. 

But really, life hasn't changed much around here.  The biggest difference I can point to is the fact that I've traded my daily glass of wine for an almost daily scoop of ice cream.  We are gearing up for another Memorial weekend camping trip and hosting dinner parties and doing yardwork and just living a happy newlywed life.  I am enjoying every minute.

Frank had his good friend Mead over Saturday to help him with some work on our basement.  I spent the lovely day running errands while they measured and hammered and sawed and Lord only knows what else down there.  I went to Bill's Imported Foods for the first time in a long time to get some fresh kalamata olives, feta cheese, and pita bread.

When I returned home, it took merely minutes to throw together these simple burgers, and we all agreed they packed a giant flavor punch. 

Greek Turkey Burgers
Serves 4

1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cups spinach or kale, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 package lean ground turkey (1.25 lbs)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives (or less to taste)
2 Tbsp chopped sundried tomatoes
2 Tbsp fresh dill (optional)
1 tsp dried oregano (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil

Tzatziki Sauce
1 cup Greek yogurt
Juice of 1 lemon
2-3 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 English cucumber, grated on box grater
2 Tbsp olive oil

Mix together and let sit for flavors to combine.

In a medium skillet, saute your onion in 1 Tbsp olive oil until softened.  Add chopped spinach or kale and cook until wilted, about 1 minute.  Cool.

In a large bowl, combine turkey, sautéed onion/spinach, feta, olives, sundried tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper, and 1 Tbsp olive oil.  Mix well and form into 4 patties.  Refrigerate until ready to cook.

Grill 5-6 minutes on both sides, or until center is no longer pink.

Serve on pita or bun with cucumber, spinach, tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce.