Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Roasted Eggplant "Lasagna"

This recipe is a cross between eggplant Parmesan and lasagna, so it's pretty much one of the tastiest things ever.  Roasted eggplant subs in for the noodles in a typical lasagna, which adds an extra step --but it's totally worth it!  I've used ground turkey here, but you can definitely substitute in ground beef or meatloaf mix if you prefer, or even leave the meat out all together for a vegetarian version, since there's plenty of cheese for protein.  Leftovers reheat just as well as traditional lasagna, so this is a good one to take in for lunch and be the envy of your office!

Roasted Eggplant "Lasagna" (adapted from Ambitious Kitchen, original recipe here)
Serves 6

1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
Olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, minced
1 small bell pepper, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground turkey
15- ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
6 ounce can tomato paste
1/2 cup water
A large bunch of fresh basil, divided
1 T dried oregano
3/4 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 egg
2 T grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces fresh mozzarella or burrata, diced

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with foil. Spray with oil.
2. Arrange the eggplant in a single layer on the baking sheets.  Spray with a light layer of oil, and sprinkle with a little salt.  Roast 15 minutes, and then set aside.
3. Meanwhile, start on the turkey sauce.  Heat a generous drizzle of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes, until softened.  Add the bell pepper and garlic, and saute for another 3-4 minutes.  Finally, add the turkey and cook until it is no longer pink.
4. Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and water.  Mince about 8 basil leaves, and add them to the pot, along with the oregano, salt, and fennel seeds.  Bring to a simmer, and simmer 10 minutes or so.
5. In a separate bowl, stir together the ricotta, egg, and Parmesan. 
6. When the turkey sauce is done, remove from the heat and stir 1/2 cup into the ricotta mixture.  
7. Assemble the lasagna.  Spray a 9x13 baking dish with oil.  Spread half the turkey sauce in the bottom of the dish.  Top with half the eggplant slices, and then spread with half the ricotta mixture.  Sprinkle half the diced mozzarella evenly on top.  Then repeat the layers (meat sauce, eggplant, ricotta, fresh mozzarella).  
8. Spray a piece of foil with oil, and cover the lasagna (foil side down).  Bake 40 minutes.  Remove the foil, and place the lasagna under the broiler until the cheese is golden and bubbly.  The timing for this will depend on how hot your broiler is -- the original recipe suggests 5-10 minutes, but mine would have become blackened lasagna if I'd left it longer than a couple of minutes, so check early and often!
9. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Scalloped Potatoes and Butternut Squash

This is a great holiday dish that makes the typical scalloped potatoes (already one of my favorite-ever dishes) a little extra special with the addition of thinly sliced butternut squash.  Cooking the potatoes and squash together before layering them in the baking dish ensures that they're fully cooked with no crunchy bits where there shouldn't be.  This makes a big baking dish, so it will serve a crowd and would be great to take to a potluck.  You can change up the cheese if you like, but I highly recommend using smoked paprika here -- it adds a lovely depth of flavor.

Scalloped Potatoes and Butternut Squash (adapted from Fine Cooking)
Serves 8

For the potato-squash mixture:
1-1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled if skins are thick, and very thinly sliced (we used a mix of russets and red-skinned potatoes)
1 pound butternut squash, peeled and very thinly sliced
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
Salt and pepper

For the filling:
1 T butter
1 pound minced alliums (we used a mix of leeks, shallots, and onions)
3 ounces grated sharp Cheddar cheese
2 T minced fresh parsley
1/2 tsp smoked paprika

For the topping:
1/2 cup panko or breadcrumbs (optional - omit for gluten free)
1/3 cup minced walnuts
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 T melted butter

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and spray a 9x13 baking dish with oil.
2. Combine all of the potato-squash mixture ingredients in a large soup pot.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer 8-12 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender.
3. Meanwhile, melt the butter for the filling in a large skillet.  Add the alliums, and cook over medium heat until nicely softened and browned.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
4. In a separate bowl, toss together the Cheddar, parsley, and paprika.
5. Layer half the potato-squash mixture into the baking dish. Scatter the browned alliums and cheese mixture on top, and then add the remaining potato-squash mixture.
6. Stir together the topping ingredients in a small bowl, and sprinkle over the top of the potatoes.
7. Bake until bubbly and browned, uncovered, 25-30 minutes.
8. Let the dish sit, uncovered, for at least 10 minutes before serving. This allows the liquid to thicken slightly.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Aperol Spritz

My husband and I had our honeymoon in Italy, and one of our favorite parts of the day was sitting in a cafe for an afternoon Spritz.

Although most parts of Italy are hard to bring back to the states, the spritz is easy to make and the flavor totally transports me back to our trip.  You can use any number of bitter orange aperitifs in a spritz (for many, many options, check out this excellent little book), but I've found that Aperol is fairly easily available and affordable.  Aperol's bitter flavor and bright color are what make the spritz distinctive, while Prosecco and soda water add bubbles.  The alcohol content is lower than many other liquors, making this a great afternoon or pre-dinner drink, or for anytime when you're more interested in something that feels a bit fancy than in something that will get you tipsy.

Aperol Spritz (serves 1)

2 ounces Prosecco
1-1/4 ounces Aperol
Splash of club soda
Orange slice

Start with a few ice cubes in your glass.  Add the Prosecco, top with Aperol, and finish with a little soda.  Garnish with orange.  Of course, you can adjust the ratio of ingredients to taste.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

North Indian Baked Eggs

I got the Seven Spoons cookbook for Christmas last year, and this is one of my favorite recipes from it.  It's very similar to shakshuka, but with Indian flavors in the sauce and a bright chutney on top.  Simple canned tomatoes are spiced up with cumin, garam masala, and chili flakes, and then swirled with creamy yogurt and goat cheese.  You can cook more or less eggs in the sauce depending on how hungry you are and how saucy you'd like the final dish to be.  The chutney is easy to make and definitely necessary to brighten up the richness of the eggs and sauce.  

You'll want something carb-y on the side to soak up all the sauce -- while rice or pre-made naan will do the job just fine, this dish is really something special if you make your own naan, and it's easier than you might think.  The recipe linked to below is more authentic, but you can also cheat with no-knead naan, as I often's still miles better than anything you can get pre-packaged.

North Indian Baked Eggs (adapted from Seven Spoons)

1 T ghee (or butter)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
3/4 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp Aleppo chili flakes
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (not non-fat)
4-8 eggs (depending on appetite)
2-3 ounces creamy goat cheese crumbled (optional)
Green chutney, to serve (see below)
Naan, to serve 

1. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-low heat.  Melt the butter, and then add the cumin seeds.  Saute, shaking the pan often, until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the onions and cook until golden brown, 10-15 minutes.
2. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes, stirring often.  Sprinkle with a bit of salt, and then add the garam masala, coriander, turmeric, and chili flakes.  Stir constantly and toast for 30 seconds.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
4. Pour in the tomatoes and add the bay leaf.  Raise heat to bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.  Let simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Taste and season with more salt as necessary.
5. Dollop the yogurt into the sauce and use a spoon to marble the two together slightly.  Crack an egg into a small bowl.  Use the edge of the bowl to make a depression in the sauce, and carefully slip the egg into the gap.  Repeat with the remaining eggs.  Top with crumbled goat cheese.
6. Move the pan to the hot oven.  Bake, uncovered, for 12 minutes for a set white and fluid yolk.  Be careful not to overbake, as the eggs will continue to cook a bit in the hot sauce even after you remove the pan from the oven.
7. Serve with green chutney and naan.

Green Chutney (adapted from Seven Spoons)
Makes about 1/2 cup

1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove, peeled
1/2 jalapeno (use a whole one if you want it spicier)
1/2 tsp salt, more to taste
Pinch of brown sugar
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh parsley
Juice of 1/2 lime, more to taste
1 T olive oil

Combine the ginger, garlic, jalapeno, salt, and sugar in a mini chopper.  Pulse until everything is finely chopped.  Add the cilantro, parsley, and lime, and pulse again to chop the herbs.  Finally, add the olive oil and process until everything is finely chopped and comes together into a sauce.  Taste and add more salt and/or lime juice as needed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Pav Bhaji

This dish sort of reminds me of a vegetarian, Indian version of sloppy Joes.  It's got that same savory, rustic quality, although the vegetable filling does take a little longer to cook.  The time is totally worth it though -- the filling is rich and perfectly spiced, and pairs wonderfully with buttered rolls.  Lemon juice and cilantro brighten up the dish and really make it sing.  Leftovers reheat well.

Pav Bhaji (adapted from Made in India)

7 ounce Yukon Gold or white potato, peeled
3 T butter, plus more to finish
2 large onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1-3/4 inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
1 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
14 ounces strained or crushed tomatoes
1/2 head cauliflower (about 9 ounces), chopped into small pieces
1 T tomato paste
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp turmeric

To serve:
Soft white bread rolls
Minced cilantro
Lemon wedges

1. Chop the potatoes into chunks, and boil until tender (10-15 minutes).  Drain, mash, and set aside.
2. Melt the butter in a large skillet.  Add the onions, and stir until softened and golden, around 25-30 minutes.  Add the garlic and ginger, and cook for a minute or so.  Add the eggplant and cover.  Stir occasionally for about 10 minutes, until softened.  Add the tomatoes, cauliflower, and tomato paste.  Cook for 5-7 minutes, covered, until everything is nicely combined.  Add more water if needed to get the mash to a loose consistency.
3.  Add the spices (cumin, coriander, salt, garam masala, and turmeric), along with the reserved mashed potato.  Stir everything together and cook, covered, for 10 minutes or so.
4. Use a potato masher to mash everything together, adding more water to get the consistency you want -- up to your taste, but you want something between mashed potatoes and thick pasta sauce.  Finally, add a pat of butter and stir into the mash.  Taste and adjust seasoning.
5. To serve, toast the rolls and spread with butter.  Add a scoop of the mash, and then top with cilantro and squeeze lemon juice over everything.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Fennel Salad

This is another great winter salad.  It's not the prettiest to look at, since all the ingredients except for some fresh herbs are either white or beige.  But, what it lacks in curb appeal, it more than makes up for in flavor!  Slightly spicy chickpeas, super cream goat cheese, and crunchy fennel are an awesome combination.  And, since fennel keeps much better than lettuce, this is a perfect make-ahead lunch.  I'd keep the fennel in one container and the rest of the toppings in another, and then combine right before serving.    

Fennel Salad with Toasted Chickpeas (adapted from The Kitchn)
Serves 1, easily multiplied

1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
1-2 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
Minced fennel fronds
Minced parsley
Toasted Chickpeas, recipe below
Dressing of your choice (I recommend a creamy balsamic or Annie's Goddess dressing)

Toss the sliced fennel with the lemon juice -- this will help avoid browning, if you want to slice the fennel ahead and have it ready to go when you want to eat.  When you're ready to serve, toss everything together -- you can adjust the proportions as you like (more chickpeas for more protein, extra goat cheese if you like a creamier salad, more herbs if you like a bit more green in your salad, etc.).

Toasted Chickpeas (adapted from The Kitchn)

Generous drizzle of olive oil
15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
Generous pinch of Aleppo chili flakes (or other chili flakes)
Generous pinch of salt

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the chickpeas to the skillet.  Cook without stirring for a few minutes, until lightly browned on the bottom.  Add salt and chili flakes, and shake the pan to combine everything.  Cook, stirring as needed, until the chickpeas are nicely golden brown all over.  Cool slightly before serving, or store in the fridge in an airtight container.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Roasted Whole Chicken Breast with Sweet Potatoes

This recipe uses my favorite technique for cooking whole chicken -- rubbing a flavorful butter mixture under the chicken skin -- but with chicken breast on the bone.  When it comes to chicken on the bone, I tend to be more of a white meat person, plus everything is done a little faster.  Of course, you could also do this with drumsticks or thighs if you're a dark meat person.  The other nice thing about this recipe is that sweet potatoes cook in the same time and on the same baking sheet as the chicken, so you don't get too many dishes dirty!

Roasted Whole Chicken Breast with Sweet Potatoes
Serves 3-4

2 whole chicken breasts on the bone
2 T soft butter
1 T whole grain mustard
1 tsp minced garlic 
1 tsp kosher salt
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 435 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with oil.
2. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel.  Very gently separate the skin from the meat.
3. Stir together the butter, mustard, garlic, and salt. Rub half the butter mixture under the skin of each chicken breast.
4. In a small bowl, toss together the sweet potatoes, oil, salt, and pepper.
5. Place one chicken breast on each side of the baking sheet, and arrange the sweet potatoes in a single layer.
6. Roast 30-35 minutes, until the chicken is 165 degrees.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Bacon and Eggs Kale Salad

Hello again! I haven't posted in quite a while -- I started a new job in the fall and suddenly had no time for blogging (not to mention, my husband took over a lot of the cooking and we also fell back on a lot of repeat, super easy dinner recipes).  But, now that classes are on winter break, I have a little more time and wanted to post some of our favorite recipes from this fall (as well as some new ones going forward!)  

This salad is easy and delicious.  It's great for dinner, but also packs well for lunch because the greens hold up well in the fridge (in that case, store the croutons and bacon separately from the veggies).  The salad feels like a real treat with bacon, eggs, and cheese, but you also get plenty of tasty veggies in your bowl.  If you are short on time, you can also prep everything ahead and just assemble when you're ready to eat -- although, I think this is even yummier if all the toppings are warm!

Bacon and Eggs Kale Salad (adapted from The Kitchn)

Thinly sliced kale
Olive oil
Thinly sliced radicchio or fennel
1-2 slices of thick-cut bacon, per person
1 egg, per person
Parmesan croutons, see recipe below
Salad dressing of your choice (or make a simple oil-and-vinegar dressing)

1. Add the kale to a salad bowl along with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt.  Massage the kale for a minute or two, until it begins to break down.  Add the radicchio or fennel and toss to combine.
2. Cook the bacon in a skillet until cooked but not too crispy.  Blot with paper towels, and cut into small pieces.
3. Soft or hard boil the eggs, according to your preference. If you like soft-boiled eggs, I highly recommend the technique in this recipe in which the eggs are steamed rather than boiled.  If you're planning to pack this salad ahead for lunch, you might want to lean closer to hard boiled.
4. Toss the greens with the dressing of your choice, and then top with bacon, egg, and croutons.

Parmesan Croutons (adapted from The Kitchn)

1/4 cup finely grated hard cheese, such as Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, or similar
Generous pinch of salt and pepper
Generous drizzle of olive oil
About 3 cups white bread cubes (I usually buy one or two individual rolls from the bakery at the grocery store, but day-old or leftover bread would work just as well)

1. Mix together the cheese, salt, and pepper in a bowl large enough to hold all the bread cubes. Set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a skillet large enough to hold the bread, over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the bread cubes in a single layer, tossing occasionally, until the cubes are toasted and nicely browned.  Immediately transfer to the bowl with the cheese mixture.
3. Toss well and serve warm or let cool and store in an airtight container for a week or so.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

One-Bowl Chocolate-Peanut Butter Brownies

I will rarely say no to one-bowl desserts, peanut butter, or brownies, so when all three are involved I'm definitely going to be happy.  Unlike many peanut butter brownies, in this recipe the peanut butter is stirred right into the batter instead of swirled on top, so you save an extra bowl and extra step, and still get plenty of peanut butter flavor.  These brownies are soft and fudge-y, just like I like them.  They're great on their own, but even better with a scoop of ice cream on top.

One-Bowl Chocolate-Peanut Butter Brownies
(adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe, original recipe here)
Makes a 9x13 pan of brownies

12 T softened butter
3/4 cup peanut butter
2 cups (15 ounces) sugar
4  large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup (2 ounces) cocoa powder
1-3/4 cup (8.75 ounces) flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
12 ounces chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13 baking pan with oil.
2. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter and peanut butter together until smooth and creamy, 1-2 minutes.  Beat in the sugar, followed by the eggs (one at a time) and the vanilla.  Beat in the cocoa powder until the mixture is smooth and homogeneous.
3. Beat the flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir in the chocolate chips.
4. Scrape into the pan and try to get the batter as even as possible.
5. Bake 20-24 minutes, until a tester comes out slightly wet (you don't want completely raw batter, but also don't want the tester to come out clean -- go for somewhere in between).

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Udon with Kale and Peanut Sauce

My husband recently requested something with kale for dinner, and I found this recipe which was both tasty and super easy.  Everything except the noodles and kale was already in my pantry, so shopping was quick too - double win!  Sriracha, peanut butter, and fish sauce make for a flavorful, creamy sauce -- the amount here makes a fairly mild dish, but you can double the Sriracha (or more) if you like it spicy.  The sauce clings to slippery udon and ribbons of lightly cooked kale to create a light dinner.  Don't skip the peanuts on top -- their crunch really adds a lot.  

Udon with Kale and Peanut Sauce (adapted from Food 52, original recipe here)
Serves 2-3

1 T plus 1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp Sriracha
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp fish sauce
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 bunch Lacinato kale, ribbs removed and leaves cut into ribbons
6 ounces udon noodles
Minced scallions, to serve
Chopped peanuts, to serve

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
2. While the water is boiling, combine the soy sauce, Sriracha, sesame oil, and fish sauce in a skillet and whisk to combine. Heat over medium low heat for a minute, and then whisk in the peanut butter.  Turn off the heat.
3. When the water boils, add the kale and blanch for 15 seconds.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the kale to the peanut sauce and stir well to combine -- the kale and the water clinging to it should melt the peanut butter and thin out the sauce.
4. Return the pot of water to a boil, and cook the udon according to package directions.  When cooked, drain and add to the skillet with the kale.  You may want to reserve some of the cooking water and add it in if the sauce looks too thick or the noodles are dry.
5. Transfer the udon to bowls and top with scallions and peanuts.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Nectarine Limeade

The hot weather has still not let up here in Boston, which means there is a definite need for more delicious cold drinks.  This one is a little more labor intensive than I would normally recommend, but on the other hand it is really refreshing and delicious.  The annoying part here is that the nectarines are blanched in boiling water to make peeling easier -- you could potentially skip this step, but then the peeling part would be more time consuming.  In any case, once those nectarines are peeled, they're combined with lime juice and sugar for a lovely pink, perfectly sweet-tart summer drink.  

Important note: we found that the flavors were best after they had some time to combine and chill in the fridge -- right after mixing the drink was a little too sharp, but it had mellowed out perfectly when we tried more the next day.

Nectarine Limeade
(Serves 4 or so)

3 nectarines
4 limes
1/4 cup superfine sugar
2 cups water

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Cut an X in the bottom of each nectarine, and then boil for 60 seconds.  Run until cold water, and then peel.
2. Chop the nectarines into chunks and add to a blender.  Squeeze the limes over the nectarines, and add the sugar and water.  Blend until very smooth.
3. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a pitcher.
4. Chill for several hours before serving over ice.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Instant Pot Potato Salad

I'm a definite Instant Pot addict, and recently learned how to make potato salad using pressure cooking as a shortcut for cooking the potatoes and eggs.  Chopped potatoes and whole eggs go into the cooker together and are perfectly done with just 4 minutes of pressure.  While everything cooks, whisk up a quick dressing -- I have instructions for both creamy and vinegar-based options below.  Of course, you can also fancy things up with more fresh herbs, small-diced veggies, or dried spices.  Both versions were really tasty, and I'll definitely be using this short-cut again in the future.

Instant Pot Potato Salad

2 pounds waxy potatoes, trimmed and cut into bite-sized chunks
2 eggs
2 T cider, rice, or wine vinegar
1 tsp salt

For a creamy dressing:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
2 scallions, thinly sliced

For a vinaigrette:
2 T cider, rice, or wine vinegar
1 tsp whole grain mustard
1/2 tsp Aleppo chili flakes
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup olive oil

1. Put the potato chunks into the Instant Pot, and carefully place the eggs on top. Pour one cup of water on top.  Cook on high pressure for 4 minutes. Quick release the pressure.
2. Carefully transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water.  Drain the potatoes, place them in a large bowl, and sprinkle with the cider vinegar and salt and gently stir to combine.  Let cool.
3. If you want a creamy dressing, whisk together the mayo, sour cream, and Dijon mustard.  Season with a generous pinch of salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.  If you want a vinaigrette, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, chili flakes, paprika, and garlic.  Whisk in the olive oil gradually.  Season generously with salt and pepper.
4. Peel and dice the eggs.  Add them to the dressing along with the potatoes and scallions, and gently stir to combine everything.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Bittersweet Brownie Drops

These cookies have a super-intense chocolate flavor -- definitely an adult chocolate cookie packed with both melted bittersweet chocolate and chocolate chips.  My mom and I made them for a picnic on the Boston Harbor Islands, and they were so tasty (even if they got a little smushed in our pack).  They're really delicious on their own, and in my opinion even better crumbled up over ice cream! 

Bittersweet Brownie Drops (adapted from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts)
Makes about 30 cookies

4 T butter, cut into chunks
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Scant 1 cup (6.5 ounces) sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup plus 1 T flour
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with foil or parchment.
2. Melt butter and chocolate together.  Stir in sugar, vanilla, and salt.  Beat in each egg one at a time, stirring well until incorporated.
3. Whisk together the flour and baking soda in a separate bowl, and then stir into the chocolate mixture.  Stir vigorously until the batter is smooth, glossy, and comes away from the side of the bowl.
4. Make sure the batter is cool, and then stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
5. Scoop rounded tablespoons of batter onto the lined cookie sheets.  Bake 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are puffed and crackled on the surface, but slightly soft to the touch.
6. Cool on wire racks, and then store in an airtight container for up to 2-3 days.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Pork Cutlets with Cantaloupe Salad

I've really been feeling melon this summer, and this cantaloupe-focused dish is a really interesting way to enjoy it.  Pork cutlets are marinated in grated cantaloupe and lime juice, which makes them extra tender and flavorful.  And the salad on top really makes this dish special. I did find that at least with my melon, a julienne peeler was useless for making thin strips of cantaloupe -- it just turned it into mush.  If that's the case for you as well, just thinly slice the melon to get nice thin strips.  The cantaloupe is tossed with fresh herbs, fish sauce, and spicy jalapeno -- I would never have thought of this combination but it really works! Yum.

Pork Cutlets with Cantaloupe Salad (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Serves 3

For the pork:
1 cup grated cantaloupe
2 T fresh lime juice
2 T olive oil
Generous pinch of salt
Several grinds of black pepper
6 thinly sliced pork cutlets

For the salad:
2 cups thinly sliced cantaloupe
3 thinly sliced scallions
1/4 cup fresh mint, minced
1/2 jalapeno, minced
2 T fish sauce
2 T fresh lime juice
A handful of coarsely chopped peanuts

1. Combine the grated cantaloupe, lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl.  Prick the pork all over with a fork, and then add to the bowl.  Marinate about 1 hour.  
2. Meanwhile, make the salad. Combine all the ingredients except the peanuts in a container, mix well, and stash in the fridge until ready to serve.
3. Remove the pork from the marinade and pat dry.  Heat a large skillet over high heat.  Add oil, and once it's hot, add the pork.  Cook for just a couple of minutes on each side.
4. Serve the pork topped with the cantaloupe salad and chopped peanuts.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Day-Glow Honeydew Agua Fresca

If you're also melting from the current heatwave, let me suggest this fantastic fruity drink.  It's super easy -- just puree honeydew melon with a little sugar, water, and lemon juice, and then strain out the solids (if you like a smoother drink).  Chill and drink in large quantities!  It's so refreshing, and I won't tell if you add a little something stronger (psst...pisco is really tasty!)  Plus -- the color is amazing!

Day-Glow Honeydew Agua Fresca

4-1/2 cups chopped honeydew melon
3 cups water (approximate)
1 T sugar (preferably superfine, but regular is fine too) 
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Combine the melon with 1-1/2 cups water, the sugar, and the lemon juice, and puree until smooth. Add it about a cup of the additional water, then taste and add more water, sugar, and/or lemon juice to taste.  Chill well, and then serve over ice.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumber and Avocado

I made this recently when my parents came to visit me, and then again for another group of guests -- it's easily doubled or tripled for a big group.  It makes a great summer meal because it's fast to prepare and won't weigh you down.  The sauce is super delicious, and you can basically add whatever green veggies you like here.  Definitely don't skip the fresh herbs -- we used mint, but I think parsley or cilantro would be delicious too.  

The one trick to this recipe is that you need a julienne peeler or something similar to make long thing "noodles" out of the cucumber -- although you could do cubed cucumber, I think having the shape match the soba noodles really makes this dish more fun.  Luckily you can get one of these peelers very cheaply on Amazon -- I have this one that is currently under $10.  If you don't have a cucumber on hand, I think julienned carrots or zucchini would also be tasty!

Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumber and Avocado (adapted from Sprouted Kitchen, original recipe here)
Serves 4 as a light meal

For the sauce:
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1-1/2 T low sodium soy sauce
1 heaping T peanut butter (creamy or crunchy, your choice!)
1 T toasted sesame oil
1 T sesame seeds
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp grated ginger
3 scallions, minced

To serve:
6-8 ounces soba noodles
1 cup frozen edamame
1 large English cucumber, cut using a julienne peeler
1 avocado, cubed
A few fresh mint leaves, for garnish

1. Whisk together all the sauce ingredients in a serving bowl and set aside.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the soba noodles according to package instructions.  In the last minute of cooking, add the frozen edamame to the pot.  Drain well and rinse with cold water until the noodles and edamame are cool.
3. Add the noodles and edamame to the sauce, with the cucumber and avocado.  Toss everything together until well combined.  Divide among serving bowls and garnish with a few mint leaves.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Asparagus Risotto in the Instant Pot

I've mentioned my Instant Pot before, and it really is a genius appliance (and they don't pay me to say that!)  Risotto in the Instant Pot might just be one of its best uses, because it turns risotto from a standing-over-the-stove dish to set-it-and-forget-it on a weeknight.  There are a few minutes of sauteing onions and toasting rice at the beginning, but then everything gets sealed in and pressure cooked to perfection.  The texture is fantastic, and I found that the rice was perfectly cooked in 5 minutes at high pressure.  The flavors here are great for spring and summer -- fresh asparagus and parsley brighten up the rich risotto.

The recipe below can be easily adapted to fit with whatever vegetables or proteins you prefer. Just roast or otherwise cook your add-in ingredients while the risotto is cooking, and then stir them in at the last minute.  You just want to make sure that whatever you choose is fairly "dry" -- if you try to use a very liquid-y addition, it will water down the risotto.  

Asparagus Risotto in the Instant Pot (adapted from The Kitchn)
Serves 4

1 bunch asparagus
2 T vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white or blush wine
Large pinch of saffron (optional)
2 T butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for the table
A handful of minced fresh parsley, plus more for the table

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Trim and wash the asparagus.  Cut into bite-sized pieces.  Toss with the oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven until browned and tender (timing will depend on the size of your asparagus spears).
3. Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a microwave or small saucepan until hot.  Set aside.
4. Press the "Saute" button the Instant Pot and add the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the onion and saute for a few minutes, until softened but not brown.  Add the garlic, and stir for another minute. 5. Add the rice to the pot, and continue stirring for 2-3 minutes, until slightly toasted.
6. Add the wine and saffron to the pot, and stir until absorbed, 1 minute.
7. Add the hot stock, stir well, and secure the lid.  Use the "Manual" function to cook for 6 minutes at high pressure.  
8. When the timer beeps, quick release the Instant Pot, being careful to avoid the steam.  Stir well, and set the Instant Pot to "Saute."  If needed, cook the risotto further, stirring well (I was able to skip this step).  Stir in teh butter and Parmesan cheese.  When it is melted, turn off the Instant Pot and stir in the roasted asparagus and minced parsley.
9. Scoop into serving dishes, and top with more Parmesan and parsley.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Salmon in a Packet with Smoky Red Pepper Oil

Fish in a packet is always an easy, tasty dinner, but this version is even better than usual with the addition of a red pepper-smoked paprika sauce.  I love the combination of the anise flavor of the fennel with sweet corn as the base for this dish, and tender salmon goes well with both vegetables.  While the fish is in the oven, blitz up a quick red pepper oil -- everything just goes in a mini chopper until smooth (or you can use a hand blender).  The sauce would also be awesome on other fish or on chicken.  This makes a delicious light dinner on its own, but if you're hungrier you can add some crusty bread and butter or a green salad on the side.

Salmon in a Packet with Smoky Red Pepper Oil (adapted from Food Network Magazine)
Serves 2

1 cup thinly sliced fennel (about 1/2 large fennel bulb)
1 cup corn kernels (from about 2 ears)
1 T minced fennel fronds
Salt and pepper
Two 6-ounce salmon fillets
Olive oil

For the smoky red pepper oil:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 T minced roasted red peppers
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 small garlic clove, minced
A pinch of ground cumin
A pinch of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and lay out two large pieces of foil on a baking sheet.
2. Toss together the fennel, corn, and fennel fronds with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Divide among the two pieces of foil.
3. Arrange the salmon on top of the vegetables, and season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with a little olive oil.  Fold up the foil and pinch closed.  Place in the oven for 14 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, place all the ingredients for the smoky red pepper oil in a mini chopper or a small bowl.  Blend with a stick blender or mini chopper until smooth.  Set aside.
5. Let sit for 5 minutes, then open the packets. Transfer to a plate and drizzle with the smoky red pepper oil.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Cook Once, Eat 3x: Homemade Chorizo Three Ways

I've become a huge fan of the Cooking Light feature Cook Once, Eat 3x.  The idea is that you make one base recipe, and then use it in three different dishes throughout the week.  It definitely makes leftovers more fun, and also makes meal planning super easy since three meals are already figured out!  This particular set of recipes all focuses on a homemade chorizo mixture.  The mixture is half turkey and half pork, although of course you could substitute in 2 pounds of prepared chorizo if you're feeling pressed for time.  The chorizo gets incorporated into three recipes: savory stuffed sweet potatotes, decadent nachos (ours were definitely waaaaay less healthy than the Cooking Light instructions, as per usual, but you can check out their version if you want to make this "light"), and shakshuka-style baked eggs with a Tex-Mex twist.  All the meals were really tasty, and different enough that it didn't feel like eating the same thing all week long.  Yum!

Chorizo Mixture (adapted from Cooking Light)

1/4 cup white vinegar
2 T olive oil
2 T smoked paprika
1-1/2 T ground cumin
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
10 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground turkey
1 pound ground pork

Combine everything but the meat in a bowl, mix, and set aside.  Add the ground meats to a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and cook, stirring often and breaking up the meat, until no pink remains, about 7 minutes.  Drain any excess liquid from the meat mixture, and then return to the heat.  Add the vinegar mixtures, stir, and cook 2 minutes or until the liquid is almost all cooked off.

Transfer 1-2/3 cups to a container for the nachos, and another 2 cups to a container for the eggs.  Stash those in the fridge for later in the week, and then use the remaining chorizo mixture for the sweet potato dish.

Chorizo and Chard-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

4 sweet potatoes (about 8 ounces each)
Olive oil
Chorizo mixture, from above
1 bunch Swiss chard, trimmed and leaves chopped into ribbons
1/4 cup golden raisins
1-1/2 tsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper
3-4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub the potatoes well, pierce with a fork, and wrap in foil.  Bake for one hour.

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chard and cook 4 minutes, stirring often.  Stir in the reserved chorizo mixture, along with the raisins and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper, and cook until everything is combined and hot.

Cut open each potato, and divide the chorizo-chard mixture between them.  Top with crumbled goat cheese.  Serve with a light salad on the side.

Loaded Chorizo Nachos

1-2/3 cups reserved chorizo mixture, from above.
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
Tortilla chips
Sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Thinly sliced green onions
Cubed avocado
Minced cilantro

Preheat the broiler and line a large baking sheet with foil.

Combine the chorizo and beans in a small pot and heat, stirring often, until heated through.

Create a layer of chips on the baking sheet, and top with half of the chorizo-bean mixture, shredded cheese and green onions.  Repeat, to create a second layer of chips and toppings.  Broil one minute, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  Top with the salsa, avocado, and cilantro, and serve right away!

Saucy Chorizo and Egg Skillet (aka Tex-Mex Shakshuka)

Olive oil
1-1/2 cups sliced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
2 cups Pomi strained tomatoes
2 cups reserved chorizo mixture, from above
4 large eggs
2 T minced cilantro
Garlic bread or tortillas, to serve

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute 5 minutes.  Add the minced garlic and bell pepper, and cook for another 5 minutes.  Stir in the cumin, salt, and crushed red pepper.  Stir for about 30 seconds, and then add in the tomatoes and chorizo.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.

Uncover, and for 4 indentations in the sauce using the back of a spoon.  Crack each egg into a small bowl, and gently slip into each indentation.  Cover, and cook 8 minutes or until the whites are set.  Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with garlic bread or tortillas on the side for dipping.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Bacon-Onion Lentils with Baked Feta

This super-savory dish hits all the right notes, even if it's not the prettiest thing I've ever made. The bottom layer combines sweet caramelized onions, smoky bacon, earthy lentils, and golden raisins for a little pop.  This takes a while to make mostly because onions take for-ev-er to caramelize properly, but it's so worth it! The bacon is awesome, but you could definitely skip it for an all-vegetarian version (maybe add some smoked paprika?)  Tangy baked feta goes on top - I haven't made feta this way before, and it really transforms the ingredient! Make sure you buy feta in a block, rather than the pre-crumbled type, for this to work properly.

Bacon-Onion Lentils with Baked Feta (adapted from Nigel Slater's Eat)
Serves 4

For the lentils:
2 yellow onions, sliced
1 cup lentils de Puy or small green lentils
3 slices bacon, cut into small squares
1/4 cup golden raisins

For the baked feta:
1 block feta (cut in half if large)
A few sprigs fresh thyme
Olive oil
Aleppo chili flakes

To serve: lemon wedges

1. Melt a big cube of butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often and reducing heat as needed, until nicely caramelized (30-45 minutes).  When the onions are getting close, push them to the side of the skillet and add the bacon pieces, cooking until crispy. Then add the raisins and stir everything together. Cool for a few more minutes to combine everything.
2. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil, and add a generous pinch of salt.  Rinse the lentils well, and add to the pot. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until tender, 30 minutes or so. Drain and add to the onion mixture. Stir everything to combine.
3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. Spray with oil. Lay the feta in the middle, and top with the sprigs of thyme. Drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with chili flakes. Fold up the edges of the foil around the cheese.  Press or crimp the edges together. When the onions/lentils have about 10 minutes remaining, pop the feta in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes.
4. To serve, scoop the lentil mixture into bowls and top with the baked feta. Squeeze a little lemon juice over each portion.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Bachelorette JoJo Cocktails

It's that time again, time for the Bachelorette! I have my fantasy team drafted, the DVR set, and Chad is pretty much the most hilarious villian in Bachelor/Bachelorette history.  Below: a couple of cocktails I've made in recent weeks. The JoJo is a super tart, super pink blackberry-limeade number that I made a couple of weeks ago.  The Evan celebrates our favorite doomed ED specialist's epic tattle tale-turned-into-rose moment from last night with blueberries, lemonade, and bubbles.  Both are just-sweet-enough (add more simple syrup if you like a sweeter drink), and combine juicy summer berries and citrus.  You can easily switch out the alcohols for anything clear (gin, vodka, or pisco would work in both cocktails), swap lemon and lime juice, or try a different berry for a new drink.  Either way, this season demands pink cocktails!  

The JoJo (serves 2)

A few blackberries
A few leaves of basil
3 ounces gin
3 ounces lime juice
2 ounces simple syrup

Muddle the berries and basil in a cocktail shaker. Add the gin, lime juice, simple syrup, and a few cubes of ice. Shake until super cold, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer into two coupe glasses.

The Evan (serves 1, adapted from Summer Cocktails)

1/4 cup blueberries
2 ounces vodka
2 ounces lemon juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
1/4 cup seltzer

Muddle the blueberries in a cocktail shaker. Add the vodka, lemon juice, and simple syrup, along with a few cubes of ice. Shake until cold, and then strain over ice. Top off with seltzer and a few more blueberries.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Lolita Squeeze

One of my bridesmaids got us the cookbook Tacolicious as part of our wedding gift, and this week I tried one of the cocktails.  It was both pink and delicious, which makes it a winner in my book!  It reminded me a lot of the cocktails at Comal, my favorite Mexican restaurant in Berkeley, California.  I love the combination of sweet watermelon with herbal cilantro in this cocktail - they balance each other really well.  Yum!  

Note: If you want a boozier cocktail, the original recipe had half the amount (2 ounces) of watermelon juice -- I doubled it because I tend to like a fruitier drink, and it was perfect for my taste!

Lolita Squeeze (adapted from Tacolicious)
Serves 1

A couple of sprigs of fresh cilantro
Pinch of salt
4 ounces watermelon juice (puree watermelon chunks and strain through a fine-mesh strainer)
2 ounces tequila
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup

Muddle the cilantro and pinch of salt in a cocktail shaker.  Add the watermelon juice, tequila, lime juice, and simple syrup to the shaker, fill with ice, and shake until very cold.  Strain over ice.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Kalua Pork Brown Rice Bowl

This recipe goes firmly in my often-used category of "Cooking Light recipes that I have made completely unhealthy" -- in this case, by replacing pork tenderloin with country-style ribs and by eating multiple servings because it was so good.  Although this bowl has quite a few components, it's actually pretty easy to put together with the help of an Instant Pot.  You can definitely make this recipe without one -- the kalua pork can be made in a slow cooker or in the oven, instructions here -- and of course you can make the rice on the stovetop.  But, the Instant Pot does make things a lot quicker and dirties less pots.

In terms of flavors, you've got super rich pork that's crisped up to perfection in the oven, sweet-and-tart roasted pineapple, tender roasted veggies -- I did zucchini and red onion, but you could easily switch those out for whatever you like -- and nutty brown rice.  A honey-soy sauce pulls everything together -- adjust the chili flakes to make things as spicy or not-spicy as you prefer.  So yummy!

For the Kalua Pork (adapted from Nom Nom Paleo, original recipe here with variations for slow cooker or oven if you don't have a pressure cooker):

2 slices bacon
2 pounds bone-in country-style pork ribs (about 4 large ribs)
3 peeled garlic cloves
1/2 T kosher salt
1 cup water

1. Place the two pieces of bacon in the bottom of the Instant Pot. Press the saute button, and cook until the bacon is crispy, flipping it as needed to get both sides cooked.

2. Cut a couple of slits in each rib.  Cut each garlic clove in half and stuff into the slits in the pork. Rub on the salt.

3. Place the pork on top of the bacon, in a single layer. Pour over the water.

4. Cover and lock the lid.  Hit the "meat/stew" button.  When the timer has finished, allow the pressure to release naturally (about 15 minutes).  Check that the pork is fork-tender, and if not, cook for another 5-10 minutes on manual.  Transfer the pork to a bowl, and carefully remove all bones.  Use two forks to shred any remaining pieces.  Taste, and add a little of the cooking liquid if the pork needs salt.

For the bowls (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves 2 or 3, but easily multiplied

1 cup brown rice
Olive oil
Several thick slices of fresh pineapple (from about 1/4 of a fresh pineapple)
1/2 red onion, cut into medium slices
1 small zucchini, cut into thick coins
Kalua pork, from above
2 T lower sodium soy sauce
1 T rice vinegar
2 tsp honey
2 tsp vegetable oil
Generous pinch Aleppo chili flakes

1. Rinse the rice, and add to the Instant Pot with 1-1/4 cup water, a pinch of salt, and a drizzle of olive oil.  There is no need to rinse out the pot between making the rice and the pork.  Cook on high pressure for 22 minutes, and then allow the pressure to release naturally (about 15 minutes).  Note: You can also strain the cooking liquid from the pork and use it to replace some or all of the water.  In this case, omit the olive oil and salt.

2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Toss the pineapple, onion, and zucchini in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.  Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet, along with the kalua pork at one end.  Roast 20-25 minutes, flipping everything halfway through.

3. While the rice and vegetables are cooking, prepare the sauce.  Whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, honey, oil, and chili flakes.  Set aside.

4. Build your bowl!  Start with brown rice on the bottom, then pile on the roasted pineapple, onion, and zucchini.  Top with kalua pork, and then drizzle with the sauce.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Pineapple Margarita

Another delicious tequila drink in keeping with our recent obsession with Mexican food.  Here, a margarita is sweetened up with fresh pineapple -- it's a little less tart than a classic margarita because orange juice replaces the traditional lime juice, but it's equally delicious! And it will definitely make you feel a little tropical without being as sweet as some pineapple drinks (like pina coladas).  We definitely need that with all the cold weather we've had lately -- come on spring, it's time to arrive!

Pineapple Margarita (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves 2

2 cups fresh pineapple
1/4 cup orange juice
2-1/2 ounces tequila
1/2 ounce orange liqueur 
1 T simple syrup

Purée the pineapple in a blender or food processor. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to yield about 3/4 cup.  Add to a cocktail shaker, and strain the orange juice into the shaker as well. Add the remaining ingredients and shake until cold. Strain into glasses.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Carnitas Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa

I heart tacos!  And I especially heart carnitas tacos.  I used my usual carnitas recipe (linked to below), but made it in my Instant Pot using about 2 pounds of bone-in country-style pork ribs and scaling down the rest of the ingredients accordingly (this makes enough for about 3-4 people). Just add all the ingredients to the Instant Pot, hit the meat/stew button, and let the pressure come down naturally once the cycle finishes.  It will still make your house smell amazing but in about a third of the usual cooking time.  You'll need to turn on your oven to crisp up the pork at the end, but it's still a major time savings and with delicious results.  Here, the rich pork is paired with a super-tart raw tomatillo salsa, scallions, and sour cream for simple yet super-tasty tacos.  The salsa is medium spicy, so feel free to add more jalapenos or sub in a spicier pepper if you want it super hot.

Carnitas Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa 

Warm tortillas
Carnitas, recipe here (or make in the Instant Pot using the "meat/stew" function to speed things up!)
Tomatillo salsa, recipe below
Sour cream
Minced scallions

Top warm tortillas with carnitas, tomatillo salsa, sour cream, and minced scallions. Fold and enjoy!

Tomatillo Salsa (adapted from Cooking Light)

4 medium tomatillos
1/2 cup coarsely chopped white onion
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 jalapeno chili, coarsely chopped (leave in or remove seeds to adjust heat)
1 cup lightly packed cilantro

Remove the husks from the tomatillos and rinse well under cold water.  Quarter them, and place in a blender or food processor.  Add everything except the cilantro.  Process until well blended.  Add the cilantro and process again until well blended.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Cantaloupe Margarita

We have been eating a lot of Mexican food lately, which has meant I've been experimenting with fruity margaritas.  This one from the latest issue of Cooking Light looked especially tasty -- cubes of cantaloupe are pureed and strained, and then combined with the usual suspects for a margarita: lime, tequila, and orange liqueur.  I found a fun blood orange liqueur, but you can use whatever you have on hand (Cooking Light recommends Grand Marnier, which I'm sure is delicious in this recipe, but is too pricey for me).  The result is a really tasty drink -- definitely one of those that does not taste too boozy, so it's good you have to mix it yourself so you know how much you're drinking! Yum!

Cantaloupe Margarita (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves 2

2 cups cubed cantaloupe
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2-1/2 ounces tequila
1/2 ounce orange liqueur
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 mint leaves

Purée the cantaloupe in a blender or food processor until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to yield about 6 ounces (3/4 cup).  Combine everything but the mint in a cocktail shaker and shake until cold. Strain into two glasses over ice and garnish with the mint leaf.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Ginger-Sesame Cod with Asparagus

I came up with this recipe when I wanted to try something a little different with fish and rice.  We often make this meal with paprika, lemon, and garlic, which of course is very tasty! But this twist uses Asian pantry ingredients to create great flavor.  I think of fish and rice as comfort food, and this dish definitely fits that bill -- none of the flavors are too intense, and everything feels warm and comforting.  Asparagus cooks in about the same amount of time as fish and adds green to the plate, so it's the perfect pairing.  Bonus: this dish will get dinner on the table quickly.  I start white rice in the Instant Pot first, and by the time it's cooked and the pressure has come down naturally, the fish and asparagus are finished cooking and everything is ready to combine.

Ginger-Sesame Cod with Asparagus

For the sauce:
2 T olive oil
2 T soy sauce
1 T sesame seeds
1/2 T sesame oil
1 tsp grated ginger 
Pinch of salt
Steamed rice, to serve

To finish:
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 small cod fillets

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Whisk together the sauce ingredients. Rub some of the sauce on the fish, and toss the remaining with the asparagus pieces. Arrange everything in a single layer on the baking sheet.
3. Let rest for about 10 minutes for the flavors to combine. Then roast 12 minutes on the top rack of the oven.
4. Serve over steamed rice.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Two tasty main-dish salads

Rotisserie chicken, crispy bacon, spinach, Boston lettuce, pepitas, green grapes, Gorgonzola, and creamy balsamic dressing

Thinly sliced steak, roasted asparagus, escarole, tomatoes, avocado, lime juice, blue cheese, and creamy balsamic dressing

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Steak Fries with Cheddar Sauce and Bacon

And now for something completely unhealthy...but very delicious!  Football season may be over, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy some cheesy bacon fries while watching the Golden State Warriors CRUSH IT.  Or, you know, while watching Ben completely devastate some poor woman on the Bachelor finale next week. ("I love you" to two women?! Really?! Does he not know how this show works?)  Or while watching those primary results roll in.

Whatever your poison, these fries are amazing.  The potatoes are crispy and salty and super tender on the inside, the cheese sauce is rich and gooey, and the bacon is, well, perfectly bacon-y!  What more can I say -- definitely worth the work to put this dish together when you're in the mood for an over-the-top indulgent treat.

Steak Fries with Cheddar Sauce and Bacon
Serves 4 (or less if you're really hungry)

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
Vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
Several slices of bacon
1 cup milk
1-1/2 T unsalted butter
1-1/2 T flour
1-1/2 cups Cheddar cheese
Generous pinch of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line two sheet pans with foil.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
2. Wash the potatoes and trim off any odd bits (no need to peel).  Cut into large wedges.
3. Add the potatoes to the boiling water, and cook 8-10 minutes, until just tender.  Drain well.  Add to a large bowl and toss with a generous drizzle of oil, as well as salt and pepper.  Arrange in a single layer on one of the baking sheets.
4. On the other baking sheet, lay out the bacon in a single layer.
5. Roast the potatoes for about 50-60 minutes, until nicely browned, flipping once halfway through.
6. Add the bacon to the oven with about 20 minutes left, but check it early (at around 10 minutes), especially if you're using a thinner cut bacon.  As with the potatoes, flip the bacon about halfway through cooking.  When the bacon is done, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
7. While the potatoes and bacon are cooking, make the cheese sauce.  Heat the milk up in the microwave until hot, and set aside.  Meanwhile, heat a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Melt the butter in the skillet, and then whisk in the flour.  Cook for a couple of minutes, and then slowly whisk in the milk to form a smooth sauce.  Let the sauce bubble for a few minutes, and then remove from the heat and whisk in the cheese.  Season with a generous pinch of salt, to taste.
8. To assemble the fries, pile up the fries in the middle of a serving platter.  Top with the cheese sauce.  Crumble or chop up the bacon, and sprinkle on top.