April 17, 2017

Ham & Spring Vegetable Pasta Salad


Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups cubed ham
1/2 lb asparagus, cut into bite-sized pieces
12 oz small pasta, cooked and cooled
1 cup fresh or frozen peas*
1/2 red onion, diced
1 baby cucumber, diced
1 (loose) cup baby arugula

dressing:
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4-1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons Dijon


Directions:
Heat a small amount of oil in a large skillet. Saute the ham and asparagus until the ham is lightly browned and the asparagus is tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl until well combined. Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss together the peas, onion, cucumber and arugula. Add the pasta, ham, and asparagus. Stir to evenly distribute. Gently stir in the dressing until the ingredients are evenly coated. Refrigerate up to one day or serve immediately.



*if frozen add the peas to the pasta while it cooks for the last 5 minutes




My thoughts:
Matt's been off on spring break so I haven't had to make my usual cold dinner for him to take on the night he goes directly from work to class. He goes back tomorrow so I thought why not kill two birds with one stone and use up the ham we bought on sale (my mom hosts holidays so we never have leftovers) and some vegetables we had on hand and make a packable dinner? I love getting my farm box delivery (although I don't get it every week until the growing season really picks up), the arugula from last Tuesday was still super fresh! I tossed that in along with some asparagus, peas, cucumbers (which aren't quite in season here yet) and red onion for crunch and bite. I wasn't sure about ham in pasta salad but it was actually really good; just resist any temptation to add salt. I'm adding this to the rotation for next spring, it is a great way to use up spring and Easter odds and ends.

We also made a great spring vegetable matzo ball soup for Passover this year if you are interested!


 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

April 14, 2017

Egg Salad with Ham and Watercress


Ingredients:
6 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1-2 tablespoons Dijon
2/3 (loose) cup watercress
4 oz cubed ham
3 scallions/green onions, chopped
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt
freshly ground black pepper


Directions:

Slice eggs in half and remove the yolks. Place the yolks in a small bowl. Set aside.

Chop up the egg whites. Place in a medium-sized bowl. Add the ham, greens and scallions. Stir.

Place the mayonnaise, mustard and spices in the small bowl with the yolks. Mash with a fork until smooth. Pour over the chopped egg mixture. Stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


My thoughts:
I love watercress. I don't know why it isn't more popular here in the US. When we were in England nearly every grocery store (we went to a lot) and sandwich shop had something with watercress (or its cousin "cress" aka "garden cress") for sale (or as they said "on offer"). It is light, crispy and has a pleasant peppery-mustardy bite that complements creamy dishes like this one quite well. I am not a huge lettuce on sandwiches person (I always remove half of the "spring mix" that is on my beloved smoked salmon BLT) but the leaves of watercress are so small that they can be left whole and mixed into the egg salad rather than lining the bread. Adding the ham made the sandwich more satisfying and filling than egg salad normally is and added a smoky note. This recipe is a great way to use up any leftover ham or egg you might have hanging about in a satisfying (packable!) lunch.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

March 30, 2017

Somewhat Classic Meatloaf



Ingredients:

2 lbs 90-93% lean ground beef
2 hot dog rolls, torn into tiny pieces
1 egg, beaten
1 small onion, diced
1 carrot, small dice
1 stalk celery, small dice
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chili sauce (like Heinz)


Directions:

Preheat oven to 400. In a large bowl, mix together the beef, egg, rolls, onion, carrot, celery, and spices. Form into a loaf. Place in a loaf pan (or, preferably, a meatloaf pan). Brush the top with the chili sauce to coat. Bake for 40 minutes or until fully cooked. Wait a few minutes before slicing for best results.


My thoughts:
To be honest, I didn't want to make dinner today. In fact, I was sort of hoping the ground beef was spoiled so I'd have an excuse to not make dinner. I didn't have a plan on how to use it but since I had 2 lbs of it (normally I buy the 1 lb packages but the store was out) I thought I might as well make meatloaf and use it all up at once. I read a post about meatloaf in some e-newsletter that mentioned celery as being a "typical" meatloaf ingredient. That didn't sound right to me but whatever, I had some so I tossed some in my new chopper along with some carrot chunks and tossed it in the mix. I had some squished hot dog rolls so I used them instead of slices sandwich bread as the binder. They were soft and melted right into the meat mixture.  I loathe tomato ketchup (I only like ketchup made from fruit or other vegetables lol) so I always use chili sauce on mine which is like ketchup's less sweet, less coying, zestier cousin. I really slather it on so it seals the meatloaf so doesn't dry out while the pan takes care of any extra grease. Anyway! I am glad I went ahead and made the meatloaf, it came out really good! Tender, juicy and full of flavor. I'm glad I added the celery, I think it added some moisture and flavor without being overpowering or watery. It made a good meatloaf sandwich too. So, if you are in the mood for a classic meatloaf with a little extra veggies, try this one. You won't be disappointed.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

March 28, 2017

Collards with Smoked Turkey



Ingredients:
2 lb collard greens, shredded*
2 quarts chicken or turkey stock
4 cloves garlic, sliced
3 smoked turkey legs
2 onions, diced
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 lb bite-sized baby potatoes


Directions:

In a large (at least 8 quart) pot, heat the oil. Saute the onions, garlic, and bay leaves until the onions are soft but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add the broth, vinegar, turkey legs, salt, pepper, pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, skimming off anything that rises to the surface. Reduce heat and simmer 1 hour. Remove the turkey legs and pick off all of the meat. Reserve the meat, discard the bones.

Add the greens, return to a boil. Stir so all of the greens are coated in broth and starting to wilt. Reduce heat, add the turkey meat back in and the potatoes. Cook for 1 hour or until the potatoes are fork-tender.

*I buy mine pre-shedded. If this is unavailable to you, cut them into 1/4 inch wide strips, spine (ribs) and all.

Yield: approximately 10 servings. Extras freeze well. (Honestly! I made this and wrote up the post a couple of weeks ago and just had some for dinner yesterday--I just put the frozen greens in a pan and simmered until warmed through. Tasted the same as the day I made them.)




My thoughts:
We made these greens the other day and when I Instagramed it, someone asked for a recipe. I directed her to an earlier recipe I had made and then realized that I had made so many changes to it (different greens, different seasonings etc) that it really only made sense to post a new recipe showing what we did. Plus that recipe was from July 2008, if you can believe it, so it seemed way overdue for a makeover. We still use smoked turkey legs instead of the more traditional ham hock because they are meatier and I think easier to deal with than hocks. I always would get some bit of bone in my greens (somehow! I am the princess and the pea but with bones and rocks when it comes to food) when I use ham hocks but never with turkey legs. Plus turkey legs (perhaps oddly?) seem easier to find here in Baltimore than ham hocks. We just pick out the meatiest ones we can find. Sometimes they are so meaty, you can serve these greens and have a complete meal. I also love using turnip greens but since I found pre-shredded collards, I've made the switch. It is just so much easier, especially if you are making a bunch of other foods to serve with the greens. No more removing the spine (ribs), chopping and washing repeatedly in the salad spinner to remove the grit. We just boil the meat, remove it, dump in the greens then the meat and potatoes and we are done. Only about 5-10 minutes hands-on time to pick the meat off the bone and chop the onion. Super satisfying. I love to serve it with my favorite catfish or Maryland Style Fried Chicken but it really goes with anything.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

March 25, 2017

Chocolate Belgian-Style Waffles



Ingredients:
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tablespoon sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup canola oil



Prepare and heat your waffle iron according to manufacturer's instructions.

In a large bowl or bowl of a standmixer, beat eggs until fluffy. Beat in remaining ingredients until smooth. Pour the manufacturer's recommended amount of batter onto center of the hot waffle iron. Close lid of waffle iron. Bake about 5 minutes or until steaming stops or the iron beeps. Carefully remove waffle. Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200° oven. Repeat with remaining batter.

Yield: about 8 Belgian-style waffles (two batches on a 4-square waffle iron)


My thoughts:
Today is waffle day in Sweden and while these aren't Swedish style waffles, it seemed fitting to share a new waffle recipe with you. (If you are interested in making traditional Swedish waffles, check out my recipe for Våffel here.) We have recently gotten back on the waffle train after our last waffle iron (not the cute heart one but another Belgian-style waffle iron.) broke and we couldn't find a new one that we liked. I hate cleaning waffle irons (I know, use a toothbrush. Whatever.) so when I found this one with detachable plates, I knew I had to have it. It is huge, making 4 squares at once (I freeze the extras and the squares can fit in a wide-opening toaster to reheat) and makes the best waffles. They are moist inside and crisp outside like a good waffle should be. And the clean up is so easy, I don't regret making waffles like I used to when I had a traditional waffle iron.

As for this recipe, if you are looking for a dose of not-too-sweet chocolate in the morning or a dessert waffle, this is the waffle for you! Chocolatey, moist and crispy, they hold up to butter, syrup and ice cream.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

March 22, 2017

Orange Crush Bundt Cake



Ingredients:

for the cake:
1 1/2 cups 7UP
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
zest from 1 orange (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 cup canola oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

to decorate: confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325. Spray with baking spray or grease and flour one Bundt pan. Set aside. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the 7UP, juice, oil, zest and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Slowly beat in eggs. While the mixer is running, stream in the dry ingredients. Mix until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour or until a thin knife inserted into the cake comes out with clean or with just a few dry crumbs.



Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.


Carefully loosen the cake from the pan and turn it out onto the rack. Cool completely. Sprinkle with a fine dusting of confectioners’ sugar.



My thoughts:
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of 7UP®. The opinions and text are all mine.

Who doesn't love a Bundt cake? It is hard to believe that Bundt cakes only became popular in the 1950s and '60s when Nordic Ware trademarked the Bundt pan and when the "Tunnel of Fudge Cake" won the Bake-Off. They are so simple to make and don't really need frosting beyond a sprinkle of sugar or a light glaze. This cake is an homage to 1950s and '60s baking by incorporating an unusual ingredient in the cake: soda! That era was full of recipes that had a "secret ingredient" and in this case, 7UP is what makes the cake light and fluffy and provides a touch of lemon-lime. The flavor of this cake was inspired by the popular Mid-Atlantic cocktail, the Orange Crush, which supposedly originated on Maryland's Eastern Shore. It is named after the orange "crusher" that extracts fresh orange juice from the oranges for each drink. To make the drink, you pour the pulpy freshly squeezed juice into a glass full of ice, stir in vodka and then top it off with 7UP. Perfect for sipping on a hot day on the beach or when having some steamed crabs. To turn it into a cake, I eliminated the vodka, kept the freshly squeezed orange juice and increased the ratio of 7UP. The result: a light, fluffy cake bursting with citrus flavor. Oranges are in season now, so the orange flavor is extra bold. If it isn’t citrus season when you go to make this, add 1/4 teaspoon of pure orange extract to up the orange flavor. Everyone will love this light, freshly flavored, citrusy cake! #7Waysto7UP





I bought my 7UP at our local Giant Landover using a coupon to save $1.00 when you buy two 7UP 2-Liter bottles located in their Savory Magazine “New Flavors” edition (available until 3/30). 7UP is also available in Stop & Shop and Giant Carlisle
 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

March 18, 2017

The Cloak and Dagger Sandwich




Ingredients:
1 lb sliced corned beef (preferably hot/warm)
8 slices seeded rye or pumpernickel bread (or rye and pumpernickel swirl)

Coleslaw:

1 cup shredded cabbage
1/2 carrot, shredded
1/2 small onion, shredded
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
salt
white pepper

Russian dressing:

3 tablespoons minced dill pickle
1 shallot, minced
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon tomato paste
1/2 tablespoon prepared horseradish
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
white pepper


Directions:

Stir together the dressing ingredients. Set aside. To make the coleslaw: In a small bowl, whisk together the mayo, mustard, vinegar, and spices. In a large bowl, toss together cabbage, onion, and carrot. Pour the dressing over the vegetables, toss to evenly distribute.

Spread the dressing on all 8 slices of bread.

Top 4 slices with a layer of corned beef then coleslaw. Top with the remaining slices of bread. Slice and serve.

My thoughts:
The Cloak and Dagger is a lesser known Baltimore dish. Attman's, the last remaining original deli on Corned Beef Row, claims to have invented it and it still is available on their menu as 'The "Original" Cloak & Dagger'. It now shows up on a number of local delis and restaurant menus around the area. Not to be confused with the vaguely similar (and attractively named) "Rachel" sandwich, it is simply a corned beef sandwich topped not with mustard but with Russian dressing and coleslaw. I take it to the next level by making everything (but the bread!) from scratch. This time of year you might have some corned beef leftover from St Patrick's Day to use and if you, it should be on sale cheaply to pick some up. Of course, you can make your own if you are feeling ambitious and have time to wait. It a messy sandwich but so worth it! The contrast between the warm, salty corned beef and the cool, creamy coleslaw is sublime.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

March 16, 2017

Bangers and (Turnip-Potato) Mash




Ingredients:

for the mash:
2 large turnips, cubed
1 1/2 lb Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup milk
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

for the onion gravy:
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cup beef stock
minced thyme (optional)
salt
freshly ground black pepper

6-8 Irish bangers

Directions:

for the turnips:
Bring the turnips and potatoes to a rolling boil. Continue to boil until both are fork-tender. Drain. Add remaining ingredients and mash until desired smoothness is obtained. Cover and keep warm as needed.


for the gravy:
Melt the butter in a large skillet. Saute the onion until well caramelized but not burnt, about 10 minutes. Add the flour. Stir. Cook 1 minute. Add the stock and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened.

for the sausage:
Prepare according to package instructions.

to serve:
Place 2 bangers on top of a mound of turnip-potato mash. Spoon gravy on top. Serve immediately.



My thoughts:
We went to England last May and spent a few days in London and Bath with Matt's family. Due to various reasons, we did not get to do a lot what we wanted and saw none of the major tourist attractions! No Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Tower of London etc. We did go to Windsor on a dreadfully cold, rainy day so we did see one castle but we missed out on quite a bit of the stereotypical British experience. We made it to the Jewish Museum, the V & A Museum of Childhood, the British Library and the Foundling Museum which were all excellent and when in Bath and Windsor we did (finally!) make it to a few pubs. In Bath, I had some Cumberland sausages and mash in a hipster-y pub that were very good. I also had a tuna and sweetcorn stuffed baked potato (they were everywhere!) which was oddly good, a Sally Lunn bun and a full English breakfast at our hotel. So Bath was pretty good for British-y foods. We did not make it over to Ireland (which was my suggestion for the family trip!) which is a shame. The trip did, however, cement my love of sausages, mashed potatoes and gave me a new found appreciation for onion gravy.

Irish sausages are not something we often see here but near St Patrick's Day bangers are often available at Costco and Aldi so I picked some up. Straight bangers and mash is a wonderful thing,  but if I am making gravy from scratch (for the second time this week!) I didn't want to make a second side dish. So into to the mash went the turnips. You really can't tell they are there but they are providing some nice Vitamin C and fiber for you. Since St Patrick's Day is tomorrow, this is a more authentic (and easy!) dish to make than corned beef and cabbage, which I love but that they do not actually eat in Ireland.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

March 14, 2017

Chorizo Sausage Gravy with Cheddar Biscuits



Ingredients:

for the biscuits:
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons cubed butter, at room temperature
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 cup milk
1 egg, beaten

for the sausage gravy:

1 pound bulk Mexican chorizo
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

chives or garlic chives for garnish

Directions:

for the biscuits:
Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. Flour a clean, flat surface.

In a bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the cheese and butter and slowly mix until the butter is in small, pea-sized pieces. Slowly pour in the milk and mix just until a dough forms. Place on the floured surface and roll the dough until it is 1/2 thick. Cut 3-inch rounds out with a biscuit, cookie or doughnut cutter. Place on lined baking sheet. Brush with beaten egg (optional). Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.


for the sausage gravy:

Melt about a tablespoon of butter to a skillet. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up large chunks with the back of a spoon, until browned. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup flour and spices and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in the milk. Cook, stirring continuously until the mixture thickens. Pour over biscuits. Garnish with chives or garlic chives if desired.



Yield: about 8 biscuits

My thoughts:

Let's be honest, sausage gravy doesn't look appetizing on a good day, no matter how tasty it is, and throw in chorizo which turns the whole mess an "interesting" shade of orange, well it isn't going to win any beauty contests. I garnished it with some garlic chives but really, nothing is saving this. Luckily, food does not have to look pretty to be delicious!

I've had the idea of making it with chorizo for ages now but never got around to actually making it. I saw a perfect square of bulk chorizo in the supermarket last week so I popped it in the cart thinking I'd freeze it for later use. Then this freak March storm came and we are stuck here so I thought now is my chance to make the sausage gravy of my dreams. I will say, this is a special treat sort of breakfast (or lunch, in our case) what with the sausage, the gravy, and the cheddar-spiked biscuits but it is worth it! It is also surprisingly easy to make, while the biscuits are cooling, make the gravy and the whole thing from starting the biscuits to making the gravy only takes about 40 minutes. Depending on how spicy you like it and how spicy your sausage is, feel free to add some cayenne to the sausage as it is cooking. The end result is great: spicy sausage gravy tempered by the sharp cheddar-spiked biscuits. A feisty, fiery twist on a Southern classic.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

March 11, 2017

Double Orange Hamantaschen



Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon orange extract

orange jam/marmalade (I used Seville Orange Fiordifrutta)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, extract and egg. Add the remaining dry ingredients. Mix until smooth.

Roll the dough out onto a clean, floured surface. When the dough is about a 1/4 inch thick, cut 2 1/2-3 inch circles out of the dough using a cookie, biscuit or doughnut cutter. Place them on the prepared pans.

Spoon some jam into the middle of each circle. Fold three sides towards the center and press down to form a triangle.



Bake 12 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Yield: about 3 dozen cookies
My thoughts:
Happy Purim! Any holiday where you have an excuse to make cookies is a good one to me!

I love hamantaschen and the story behind why we make these cookies this time of year.  I wrote an article about Purim and hamantaschen for NPR a while back and since then, I've created recipes for a rugelach-inspired cream cheese based hamantaschen, chocolate hamantaschen, pareve/vegan hamantaschen filled with kiwi jam,  orange ginger hamantaschen, and pareve/vegan fig-orange hamantaschen spiked with butternut squash. As you can tell, I really like the favor of orange in my hamantaschen! It is one of the few fruits that are in season this year and although this recipe uses extract and jam, it is a flavor that really fits into this time of year. Plus orange juice is a common addition to hamantaschen that do not use butter (some people who keep kosher prefer a butter-less pareve/vegan version) so this gives you that flavor but also the richness of butter. Since we do not keep kosher, using butter isn't a concern.

While we have made hamantaschen several times, I really this might be our best batch yet! The dough was easy to work with (no refrigeration needed) and every cookie held its shape--no jam escaping or unfolding! Plus the cookie was super tender and flavorful. Hamantaschen win!

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

March 01, 2017

"Caesar" Chicken Thighs



Ingredients:

8 chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 lb)
zest of one lemon
1-2 tablespoons granulated garlic
superfine flour (like Wondra)
salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 medium onions, cut into large wedges
3-4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan


Directions:
Preheat oven to 375.

Heat a small amount of oil in a large skillet.

Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with lemon zest, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Flour the top (skin-side) of the chicken. Place the chicken skin-side down in the pan.


Cook about 10 minutes or until the skin is crisp, lightly browned and much of the fat has rendered into the pan. DO NOT FLIP THE CHICKEN!

Meanwhile, arrange the onions in single layer in an 8x13 inch baking pan. Drizzle with Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice.  Top with the chicken, skin-side up.


Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked. Sprinkle with Parmesan and return to the oven until melted. Serve immediately.



My thoughts:
For this version of chicken thighs, I was inspired by the Caesar salad. The salad is made with lots of garlic,  lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce (or anchovies), all things that go great with chicken. For the chicken I used good quality granulated garlic (not garlic powder--I like Costco brand), lemon zest and lots of freshly grated pepper and throughly caramelized the skin so it would be nice and crispy even after baking. Then I placed the chicken on a bed of onions liberally dressed with lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. The lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce infused the chicken from beneath with the flavors I hoped for making the chicken really taste like the chicken version of Caesar salad! I then topped it with a bit of Parmesan for a bit of flair and to further tie in with the flavors of the original salad. Feel free to leave it off if you would rather, it is really more of a nod to the salad then a neccesity.


I served these thighs with a  Dole Organic Caesar Salad kit featuring baby Romaine, Parmesan pita chips, shaved Parmesan  and Caesar dressing. This kit is a lifesaver when I am making our main meal of the day to be served at 10:30 AM in order to accommodate my husband's school schedule and is tasty. I love the baby Romaine!


 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

February 13, 2017

Portuguese Style Tuna Salad





Ingredients:

1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained
1 1/2 lb potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces (I used Yukon Gold)
4 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
1/2 red onion, diced
1/3 cup Kalamata olives in oil, drained
12 oz good quality canned tuna (drained if in water--see thoughts)
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


Directions:

Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Add the potatoes and cook until fork-tender. Drain and place in a large bowl. Allow to cool to closer to room temperature. Add the chickpeas, eggs, tuna, onion and olive and toss to combine. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar; sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 24 hr prior to serving.

My thoughts:
When we were in Portugal (where I wish I was right now, I torture myself by checking Lisbon's weather every day) we ate at two different restaurants that specialized in canned seafood. Both were amazing! The Portuguese take their canned fish very seriously and what they do with it is amazing. I'm still dreaming of the octopus croquettes I had at Can de Can. Like here, canned tuna (alum in Portuguese) is very popular and sold either in slices or in salads like this one. It is normally tuna packed in olive oil, but that can be more difficult to find here so for ease of replication, I used wild-caught skipjack tuna I bought in pouches (Safe Catch Elite) and added olive oil. If you do have access to good, Portuguese (or Italian) tuna, feel free to use that and skip the extra olive oil. I actually still have a few cans of seafood I brought back from Portugal thanks to the long expiration dates of canned goods that I'm still hoarding. I'll be sad when they are gone.

Nearly every meal we ate in Portugal consisted of a. seafood b. boiled potatoes c. some sort of green vegetable. Before each meal, they bring you bread, canned seafood spreads, cheese/butter/oil, croquettes and olives that you have to refuse if you don't want but are cheap (a euro or so) if you keep them. This is sort of the salad version of that: tuna, boiled potatoes, olives and hard boiled eggs. Simple yet very satisfying. It is a lovely dinner and the leftovers make a great lunch as it is good slightly warm (if the potatoes are freshly cooked) or chilled. I actually like it better after it has been chilled as the flavors meld.



 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

February 10, 2017

Vaguely Mediterranean Shrimp Pasta Salad


Ingredients:
2 lb freshly steamed, peeled shrimp, halved
1 carrot, diced
1/4 cup halved Kalamata olives
1 seedless cucumber, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup crumbled feta
10 oz cooked, small pasta

for the dressing:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss. Whisk together the dressing ingredients.

Pour the dressing over the mixture and stir to coat and evenly distribute all ingredients. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 1 day prior to serving.

My thoughts:
My husband's class schedule changed this summer and he is now working from home two days a week which means we are eating an early lunch before he goes to an afternoon class, then he is back for a while and we have dinner before he heads out to another class. One day a week he goes to class directly from work and packs both lunch and dinner. All of this school really poses some challenges when it comes to meal planning! This semester is working out the best, I've been making a "big" meal for lunch (with leftovers for the next day lunch) and then something lighter for dinner that preferably can be taken for the next day's dinner. Since he has limited time and can't heat any food for dinner, we've been having a lot of fun sandwiches with goodies from the Italian market or cold salads like this one.

I've made a ton of pasta salads over the years so I am always trying to mix it up a bit. This time I went vaguely Greek. No tomatoes because they are out of season (and make pasta salads soggy) but yummy cucumbers, red onion, Kalamata olives and feta for a vaguely Mediterranean twist.  I added the celery and carrots for extra crunch and to make it more of a complete, one-bowl meal. It was delicious the first day and just as good the next day after being refrigerated. Just take care to thoroughly drain the pasta and olives to avoid soggy salad.


 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

February 08, 2017

Spicy Old Bay "Popcorn" Cauliflower


Ingredients:
1 small to medium head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 cup panko
3-4 tablespoons Old Bay
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs
2-3 tablespoons hot sauce

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Beat the eggs together with the hot sauce until fluffy.

Place the cauliflower in a small bowl. Pour the beaten eggs over the cauliflower and toss to thoroughly coat. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the panko and spices. Dredge the cauliflower in the panko mixture and arrange in a single layer on the lined baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes or until crisp.



My thoughts:
If you can have popcorn shrimp and popcorn chicken then why not popcorn cauliflower? It is a fun change from the regular steamed or roasted cauliflower and it is nearly as easy. I served it as a side dish but it would also make a great snack or appetizer. We like spice so I made the eggs extra spicy with lots of very hot, hot sauce and loaded the breading with Old Bay. Feel free to tone down the spice for tamer palates.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

February 06, 2017

Guava Cream Cheese Thumbprint Cookies


Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 oz (brick) cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
10 oz guava paste (goiabada)
1/4 cup water


Ingredients:

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Whisk together dry ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Beat cream cheese and butter with a mixer until smooth. Add sugar, and continue to beat until fluffy and well incorporated. Add egg and vanilla paste, and beat until incorporated. Stream in dry ingredients, and mix until combined.

Scoop tablespoons of dough and roll in your hands to form into balls, and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. If the dough is very sticky, refrigerate it 10-15 minutes prior to rolling into balls.


Bake until cookies are puffy, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the guava paste in a small pot with water, stirring occasionally until the guava paste is of preserves-consistency and smooth. This should take about 10 minutes. Keep on very low heat until the filling of the cookies is completely finished.


Remove from oven, and make indentations in centers by pressing with your thumb or use the back of a spoon. Fill with guava. Return to oven, and bake an additional 5-8 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the cookies on the parchment paper sheets to wire racks, and let cool completely.


My thoughts:
I had some leftover guava paste (easily found in the "Latin" or "International" section of the grocery store either in plastic or in a tin) that I had served with cheese for one of our "snackies" dinners and didn't know what to do with it. It is super tasty also very thick and sticky so it wasn't like I was just going to spread it on bread and call it a day. Guava paste and cheese is a classic combination and one of my favorite uses of it, pastelitos, combines cream cheese and guava paste in a flaky turnover. So good but a little fussy and trickier to pack for lunches which was one of my goals. So I took that idea and transformed it into these easy, very portable thumbprint cookies. The cookie is very tender (and slightly craggy) thanks to the cream cheese. The guava paste took forever to melt (okay, like 10 minutes) but when it did, it was the perfect consistency for spooning into the cookies. Pro-tip: the guava paste is basically molten sugar at this point so use two spoons (one to scoop and one to scrape the guava goo off the other spoon) to fill the cookies if it doesn't drip off the spoon easily--I had to do this for the second batch because even on low, the paste started to thicken up again. The end result is a not-too sweet cookie that is full of juicy guava flavor and mellow cream cheese cookie.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

February 01, 2017

Buffalo Chicken Macaroni & Cheese



Ingredients:

2 cups whole milk, at room temperature
2 cup shredded Buffalo wing flavored cheddar*
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons superfine flour
1/3 cup bread crumbs
5 oz crumbled blue cheese
12 oz small pasta like macaroni or cavatappi, cooked
8 oz sliced, cooked chicken breast
Buffalo wing sauce

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray a 2-quart baking dish.


In a medium pan, melt the butter. Add the flour along with salt and pepper and stir until smooth. Add the milk and evaporated milk and whisk together until slightly thickened. Whisk in the cheddar until smooth.

Meanwhile, toss the chicken with wing sauce if desired. Stir into the cheese.


Pour over the drained pasta; stir to evenly distribute all ingredients. Spoon in half of the pasta mixture into a lightly oiled 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle half of the blue cheese over the pasta in an even layer. Add remaining pasta mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining blue cheese in an even layer.


Top with bread crumbs. Bake covered 20 minutes, then uncover and cook until hot and bubbly, about 15-20 additional minutes. Serve with additional wing sauce, if desired.

Yield: about 4-6 meal sized servings, 8-10 side dish sized servings



*I used an 8 oz brick of Cabot Hot Buffalo Wing Cheddar Cheese

My thoughts:
After writing my cookbook, Cooking with Frank's RedHot Cayenne Pepper Sauce: Delicious Recipes That Bring the Heat, I really haven't made anything Buffalo wing related. After making 6(?) different types of wings in a single afternoon, I've been a bit winged-out. Then I saw this Cabot Buffalo Wing cheddar and knew I had to break my Buffalo wing fast and make not wings but mac and cheese!

The cheese is rubbed with sauce so while it is spicy, it isn't so crazy spicy like it could be-the inside is regular cheddar. You can, of course, up the spice by adding some cayenne to the flour when you stir that in, or swirling some wing sauce in when you add the milk.

In some areas, I think people serve wings with ranch but we are firmly in blue cheese dressing territory so I layered in some blue cheese crumbles and then topped it with more blue cheese and bread crumbs for the topping. This way you get a hit of blue cheese flavor but the macaroni and cheese is still super creamy and smooth.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

January 30, 2017

Watermelon Radish and Cara Cara Orange Salad





Ingredients:

1 large (like tennis ball sized) watermelon radish, thinly sliced
2 Cara Cara oranges, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1/4 cup crumbled feta
2 tablespoons Prosecco vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Toss the radish, orange and feta together in a small bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to evenly distribute. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
I love getting the local box in our weekly produce delivery. Winter can be sort of depressing produce wise in the mid-Atlantic but this week they had my favorite kind radish: watermelon! I admit, the pretty color is a good bit of the appeal but as my husband pointed out, it starts out sweet and then has that peppery radish bite. This makes them a great candidate for salads like this one. The favor is a wonderful contrast with the sweet Cara Cara oranges and the dressing and cheese add a salty, savory note. A great winter salad that stands up to richer foods.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

January 26, 2017

Za'atar Chicken Thighs with Potatoes and Onions


Ingredients:

8 chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 lb)
2-3 tablespoons Za'atar
1 1/2 lbs Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes
2 medium onions, cut into large wedges
superfine flour (like Wondra)
salt
freshly ground black pepper


Directions:
Preheat oven to 375.
Heat a small amount of oil in a large skillet. Lightly oil or spray with cooking spray a 8x13 inch baking pan. Set aside.

Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with Za'atar, salt and pepper. Flour the top (skin-side) of the chicken. Place the chicken skin-side down in the pan.



Cook about 10 minutes or until the skin is crisp, lightly browned and much of the fat has rendered into the pan. DO NOT FLIP THE CHICKEN!

Meanwhile, arrange the potatoes and onions in single layer in the baking pan. Top with the chicken, skin-side up.



Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked and the potatoes are tender. Serve immediately.


My thoughts:
I am so excited I came up with this method of cooking chicken thighs last year. I love Maryland-style fried chicken but that is a bit much for every day. This method gives me crispy chicken that is still very moist and flavorful without the hassle of frying. The trick is cooking it skin-side down to crisp the skin and render most of the fat (the "bottoms" are virtually fat-free)--you can even crowd the pan because you don't have to flip the chicken! You end up with way crispier chicken then you can hope for with simple baking and since most of the fat has rendered, no greasy vegetables on the bottom.

I've made Crispy Chicken Thighs with Cauliflower, Artichoke and Olives and Crispy Chicken Thighs with Portobellos, Zucchini and Potatoes in the past but this time I veered away from making it a total one dish meal and just cooked the chicken over potatoes and onions.  I served it with a simple salad.  The best part is that since you seasoned the bottom of the chicken, you don't have to season the potatoes and onions, it just naturally coats the potatoes. The result is succulent chicken, flavorful potatoes in just about 10 minutes of hands-on time. You can't beat that!



 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

January 13, 2017

Hipster Salisbury Steak



Ingredients:
1 slice of bread (I used sliced brioche)
1/3 cup milk
1 1/3 lb lean (93%) ground beef
1 small bunch kale, finely chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 small onion, grated
3 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 onion, chopped
8 oz sliced button mushrooms
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 2/3 cup beef stock
2-3 tablespoons superfine flour (like Wondra)
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


Directions:
Soak the bread in the milk in a small, shallow bowl. When fully soaked, squeeze out the excess milk and then break into small pieces. Mix with the meat, grated onion, kale, 2/3 of the garlic, paprika, salt and pepper. Form into 4--6 small, flat patties. Heat oil in the pan. Cook until quite browned on both sides and nearly cooked through. Remove to a plate and cover in foil.

 Add the remaining onion, garlic and mushrooms and saute until the onions are translucent. Add the stock, spices and whisk in the flour. Return the patties to the pan and cook until the sauce has reduced and the patties are fully cooked. Serve immediately over potatoes or noodles.



My thoughts:
Why "hipster"? I snuck some kale into the meat. Why? Simply, I hate making side dishes. This recipe is relatively quick and certainly easy but it does require a bit of chopping and multiple steps and I just couldn't bring myself to make anything else. So my husband chopped the kale up super fine and I mixed it in. It added a bit of a peppery bite and alleviated my side-dish guilt. I also served it over turnip-potato mash so that added some extra veg to the meal. Besidesthe kale, the Salisbury steak is fairly traditional, ground beef patties swimming in onion and mushroom gravy. So homey, retro and satisfying!


 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

January 10, 2017

Broccoli "Stamppot"


Ingredients:
2 carrots, in 1/8 inch coins
1 medium-large turnip, small dice (I used a purple top turnip)
1 large broccoli crown, cut into florets
2 lb Russet potatoes, small dice
1/2 onion, sliced thinly
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons milk

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the vegetables and cook until fork-tender, 10-20 minutes. Drain. Return to pot. Add butter and milk and mash until mostly smooth. Serve immediately.



My thoughts:
Stamppot is a Dutch mashed potato dish. Normally leafy things like endive, kale or cabbage OR carrots and onions Or sauerkraut are mashed into potatoes. Who doesn't love mashed potatoes? For this version, I decided to toss broccoli in instead. I used turnips for a bit of texture.

Normally stamppot is served with sausages but since it is January and people are looking for leaner dishes, feel free to serve vegetarian-style. It is a great way to use up all those seasonal vegetables left languishing in the fridge.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg