April 25, 2018

Pea Shoot Macaroni Salad

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon pepper seasoning
1 tablespoon ground mustard (ground, like Colman's)
1 medium red onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
3 tablespoons dill pickle relish
1/2 lb pea shoots, blanched and chopped
16 oz warm, slightly over-cooked macaroni*

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, celery seed, vinegar, lemon pepper, mustard, salt, and pepper. In a large bowl, stir together the onion, pea shoots, pickle relish, and macaroni. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving, but overnight is best.

*When I was making the Hawaiian-style Mac Salad, I found that slightly overcooking the macaroni and stirring the dressing in warm makes for a much more flavorful macaroni salad, the dressing really seeps into the noodle.

My thoughts:
I always enjoy a good macaroni salad. I think it is because growing up we very rarely ate any food that my mom did not prepare herself and macaroni salad was one of the few things she didn't make and would pick up at the deli counter or better yet when from the seafood takeout place we'd get fried oysters once a year. YUM. I've recreated what I enjoyed as a child before so this time when the yen hit, I thought I'd go classic with a twist.

It's pea shoot season again and I just happened to have some on hand from my produce delivery and I thought rather than going with carrots and celery, I'd add that for a bit of color and crisp texture. Not to mention the subtle pea flavor and added vitamins or whatever. It looks a bit pale and bland but I also really packed in the flavor with plenty of mustard powder, celery seed and lemon pepper seasoning--no bland salad here!

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April 23, 2018

Green Bean Salad with Speck and Hearts of Palm


for the salad:
1 lb green beans, blanched and cooled
6 oz (drained) hearts of palm medallions, quartered*
1/2 red onion, cut into thin quarter moons
1 tablespoon nonpareil capers

2 tablespoons prosecco white vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Dijon
freshly ground black pepper

2 oz speck, torn into bite-sized pieces (could also use prosciutto)


Place the salad ingredients in a bowl. Toss. Set aside. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Toss over green bean mixture. Serve immediately or refrigerate one hour. Garnish with speck prior to serving.

Serves: 4-6 as a side dish

*I found these in a pouch in brine at Trader Joe's, canned slices are fine as well. The medallions hold their shape and the slices will separate into rings.

My thoughts:
Local produce! Finally! I ordered my first all local box of the season last week. It's a little pricey but worth it when it has fruit and vegetables I actually want to eat. I don't get even the mixed (local and not) boxes in the winter unless it is something special like an unusual squash because I can find most of what's in them at Aldi or a regular supermarket. But finally, things are growing here! My guess is these green beans were grown in a greenhouse or some sort of shelter because it is still getting pretty close to freezing here at night. 

Anyway! I had actually gone to Trader Joe's, which I am not a fan of, because I was at that shopping center going to a Daffodil show  and thought why not and while there I saw these odd hearts of palm medallions. They are from a bit of the plant that is further down on the stem (?) so it doesn't split into rings like regular hearts of palm which is a little odd but fine by me. I am all for reduced food waste. Plus they came in a nifty resealable bag which convenient because I actually only made a half batch of this salad for the two of us. They added a slightly pickled flavor and some texture interest. I always stock up on speck when it is on sale during Aldi's German week. I just love the texture and the salty, smoky richness it gives to everything. It is a truly fancy-seeming side that comes together very quickly and can be made ahead a bit. Honestly, I say to refrigerate it up to an hour but the leftovers I had the last day were just fine. Simply add the speck when ready to serve. 

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April 19, 2018

Garlic Chive & Dill Shrimp Pasta Salad

1  lb freshly steamed, peeled large shrimp, cut in half
2/3 cup chopped garlic chives
1/4 cup diced green onion
8 oz cooked, small pasta (I used regular old macaroni)

for the dressing:
3-4 tablespoons mayonnaise
2-3 teaspoons minced dill
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

Place the shrimp, chives, onion, and pasta in a large bowl. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients.

Pour the dressing over the mixture and stir to coat.

My thoughts:
I made this shrimp and pasta salad a couple of weeks ago as a planned cold lunch for the day after I used shrimp in another dish for dinner to use up not only the shrimp but some green onions and garlic chives. It was really good but I didn't think about posting it until someone who saw it when I made it on Instagram sent me a message asking when I was going to post the recipe. Luckily I had been playing around with my camera that day and happened to have a picture of it.

The recipe is super easy but also very flavorful thanks to bold ingredients like dill and garlic chives. Garlic chives have become much easier to buy over the years, now pretty much any supermarket I go into sells them. I'm glad because they add such a nice garlicy flavor to dishes like this salad that you would not want to add raw garlic too.

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April 16, 2018

Crispy Pork Chop Sandwiches with Pickles and Coleslaw


1 lb thin-cut boneless pork chops (about 1/4 inch thick)
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup breadcrumbs

spice mixture:
1 1/2 tablespoons ground mustard (powder, like Colman's)
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
2 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
freshly ground black pepper

to serve:
1 1/2 cup prepared coleslaw
1/2 cup (drained) dill hamburger pickle chips
4-6 seeded buns



Whisk together the spice mixture.

Place half of the spice mixture in a resealable bag, reserve the rest for the breadcrumbs. Add the buttermilk, mustard powder, paprika, salt, pepper, and granulated garlic squish the bag around to evenly distribute all ingredients. Add the pork, seal. Refrigerate 4-8 hours.

When ready to cook:

Heat 1/2 inch canola oil in a large, heavy pan.

 Pour the breadcrumbs into a shallow bowl or plate, whisk in remaining spice mixture. Dredge the pork in the crumbs. Fry, turning once until golden brown and fully cooked about 2-4 minutes. Drain on paper towel-lined plates.

Place 2 chops on rolls, top with pickles and coleslaw. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
The prolonged cold weather is really bumming me out. It's mid-April and still, none of my favorite spring vegetables are available locally. Sigh. So I've been trying to make more warm-weather-y foods like this sandwich while making do with cold weather hearty vegetables like cabbage and carrots. At least it tastes fresh and springy!

This is super easy to make, the buttermilk really clings to the pork so there is no need to dip it in egg--it can go straight into the seasoned bread crumbs and into the oil. Thin cut pork chops cook in literally 2 minutes so while it seems like a weekend recipe, you can totally make this on a weeknight.

I made the coleslaw but picked up some potato salad at the German deli to serve as a side to make things easier. Super flavorful sandwiches that are a little more fun than the typical. Pro-tip: place the pickles on top of the pork, then top with coleslaw for minimal mess when eating.

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April 11, 2018

Ras el Hanout Spiced Cauliflower with Tomato, Beans and Couscous

6 oz dried couscous
1 medium-large cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 onion, cut into half moons
10 oz canned tomatoes with green chiles
14 oz canned Great Northern Beans, drained
1 tablespoon ras el hanout
1 tablespoon nonpareil capers
freshly ground black pepper
fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish


Cook couscous according to package instructions*.

Meanwhile, saute the onion and cauliflower until both are soft and starting to brown, in a large skillet. Add the beans, tomatoes, spices, and capers and saute until warmed through. Stir in cooked couscous and cook briefly, until all is heated through and the liquid had evaporated. Garnish with parsley.

*I normally toss some lemon zest or lemon pepper seasoning and some dehydrated onions into the recommended broth or water.
My thoughts:
I've been off couscous for about a decade. I've made pearl couscous a few times but the tiny couscous? No thank you. I've even avoided it in restaurants but really, that has more to do with the fact that it often has other things, like raisins,  in it that I would prefer not to eat.

Anyway, I've decided to end this self-imposed embargo when inspecting a package of it at Aldi, I was reminded of how quickly it is to make, much quicker than pasta and rice. So I've been experimenting with it again.

Moroccan flavors are the obvious choice for this sort of couscous so I pulled out my trusty jar of ras el hanout (how awesome is it that McCormick makes it now and you can find it in the regular supermarket?) which always reminds me of Ra's al Ghul of DC Comic fame but isn't a supervillain but rather a mixture of a ton of aromatic spices and is popular in Northern African cuisine. I guess chickpeas would have been a natural choice but I'm a rebel and went with one of my old favorites, the Great Northern Bean but you could use chickpeas or cannellini beans if you wish. I used canned tomatoes with green chiles (i.e. Rotel, although I used a generic version) for some flavor and spice and my old friend cauliflower. The result was a well-spiced side or even main dish that was oddly tasty and satisfying.

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April 09, 2018

Buttermilk & Mustard Brined Pretzel Fried Chicken Bites

1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (could also use breasts)
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon ground mustard (powder, like Colman's)
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon paprika
freshly ground black pepper
6 large sourdough hard pretzels (I used these)



Cut the thighs in half or bite-sized pieces. Place in a resealable bag. Add the buttermilk, mustard powder, pepper, and granulated garlic squish the bag around to evenly distribute all ingredients. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day:
Heat 1/2 inch canola oil in a large, heavy pan.

Break the pretzels into small pieces. Place in a food processor to pulse into crumbs. Pour into a shallow bowl or plate. Dredge the chicken bits in the pretzels crumbs. Fry, turning once until golden brown and fully cooked about 5-8 minutes. Drain on paper towel-lined plates. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
I had these chicken thighs in the fridge for awhile and I had no idea what to do with them. To be honest, I don't love chicken. Creating recipes for my cookbooks, especially the healthier focused ones made me a bit tired of it. But it chicken thighs are exceedingly affordable and a lot more flavorful than chicken breasts so I find myself making them with some regularity. 

I had some leftover buttermilk from making cornbread to go with this soup so I thought maybe I'd make fried chicken but that seemed a bit dull. Then I thought I could spike the buttermilk with mustard to jazz it up then that made me think of pretzels and the rest was, well this recipe. 

It is as simple as making any breaded chicken but has the distinctive taste of pretzels and is surprisingly well-flavored throughout thanks to the mustard-buttermilk marinade. 

Another fun pretzel-mustard-chicken recipe: Pretzel & Mustard Spiked Chicken Burgers.

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April 05, 2018

Spinach Asparagus Smoked Salmon Quiche with a Crumb Crust


for the crust:

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cup fresh breadcrumbs*


8 oz baby spinach (chop up any large bits)
1/2 cup chopped green onion
5 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 lb asparagus, cut into bite-sized pieces
3/4 cup shredded Gouda
2 oz smoked salmon, chopped
freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 400.

In a medium bowl, stir together the crumbs and oil until the mixture sticks together

Press the mixture to form a crust in a pie plate or quiche pan or tart pan (I just use a Pyrex pie plate).  Bake 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp. Cool on wire rack.

Reduce oven to 325.

Meanwhile, saute the onion and greens in a small amount of oil or butter until the greens are wilted. Allow to cool to room temperature. In a medium bowl, whisk together* the milk, lox, cheese, asparagus, and eggs. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into the pan.

Smooth it out and/or gently stir if you have any asparagus peeking up like I do above. Bake 45-50 minutes or until fully cooked. If there is water on the surface of the quiche when it is fully cooked, carefully blot it with a cloth or paper towel. Cool on wire rack.

*Well, they were fresh at one point, I made them and frozen them a while back from a loaf of locally made bakery cheese bread and defrosted them to make this.  Add 2-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan to your breadcrumbs if you'd like them cheesy as well.

**I love my hand egg beater to get it really fluffy and well mixed.

My thoughts:
Quiche is a great way to use up vegetables to make something entirely new and perhaps even more interesting than the initial dish. I had some lox from the "everything bagel" deviled eggs and some odds and ends of vegetables to use up so why not make quiche? I didn't want to make a fussy crust so I used some fresh breadcrumbs to make a quick crumb crust.

I admit it, I was skeptical of the crust. However, now I am a total convert! It was dead simple and held together beautifully. It even seemed a bit rehydrated from the juicy filling. Who knew? I love a traditional crust of course but this was so tasty and so easy, I don't know if I will go back. Way less clean up and effort too. And it sliced like a dream! The first slice to the last came out absolutely perfect. I honestly think this might be the only way I make quiche from now on, it was that much of a game changer. The flavor was amazing too.

This is a super moist quiche thanks to the spinach and asparagus but it didn't get soggy--I did blot it when it came out of the oven to remove some water that had appeared on the top but the crust stayed crisp and firm. No soggy bottoms here, Mary Berry! The quiche had a fresh, springy taste and just a hint of smoke from the smoked salmon. Perfect for a spring picnic or lunch.

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April 03, 2018

Double Turnip Soup with Ham


2 purple-topped turnips, cubed
1 1/2 cup cubed Russet potatoes (1-2 potatoes)
1 cup 1/4 inch dice garlic chives
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
2 cups large cubed ham*
2 quarts ham or chicken stock
freshly ground black pepper
fresh thyme
1 lb chopped turnip greens

Saute the turnips, potatoes, garlic chives, garlic, onion, and ham in a large pot until the onion is translucent. Add stock and seasoning. Simmer the stock until the potatoes and turnips are tender. Stir in the greens and simmer for 20 minutes.

Serves: about 8

*I used this boneless ham.
My thoughts:
I love turnip greens! I was so excited to see pre-chopped turnip greens in the supermarket the other day. I prefer buying turnips with the greens attached but it isn't quite turnip season here yet and to be honest, cut greens are so much quicker when cooking on a weeknight and taste the same. I did have to buy my turnips separately but pretty much any supermarket sells them. The garlic chives are surprisingly easy to find as well but regular chives could be subbed in. If you can find them though the garlic chives add a subtle garlic flavor that pairs really well with the turnip greens.

For some reason, I don't think turnips are very popular. It's a shame because they have such a fresh peppery flavor and hold their shape in soups but also are great mashed. The greens have a peppery bite too and you can cook them pretty much as you would collards but you don't have to take the rib out before cooking them. They are milder than mustard greens too and can be used in any recipe that calls for them.

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April 01, 2018

"Everything Bagel" Deviled Eggs


12 hard-boiled eggs, halved lengthwise

for the filling:
12 yolks
3 tablespoons-1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

"everything" seasoning mix:
1 1/2 teaspoon dehydrated minced onion
1 1/2 teaspoon dehydrated minced garlic
1 teaspoon  mixed black and white sesame seeds
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
pinch kosher salt

2 oz smoked salmon (lox), cut into 1/4 inch squares
2 tablespoons nonpareil capers, drained
thinly sliced red onion, cut into small triangles

Use a mini prep (I used this), food processor or blender to thoroughly mix together the filling ingredients until fairly smooth. Spoon an equal amount into each of the egg halves.

In a small bowl, mix together the everything seasoning mix.

Divide the toppings between the eggs, pressing the capers into to egg mixture so they don't roll away. Sprinkle with everything seasoning.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Use leftover everything seasoning in another recipe.

Yield: dozen eggs (so 24 halves)
My thoughts:
This year Easter and Passover overlap. While Chrismukkah and even Thanksgivukkah get a lot of press, I've heard nary a peep about this holiday. We celebrate both and as neither of us is religious in the slightest, its really all about the food. As such, I thought it was time to bridge the gap and make some fusion food. It's a nod to the fact that is is also April Fool's Day, decorating an egg as if it was a bagel seemed to fit right in. The deviled potatoes I made a few years back would fit right in too.

Nothing says Easter like hardboiled eggs and by extension, deviled eggs. I have nearly 20 deviled egg recipes here on the blog (although oddly, not any from the last 3 or so years) but one can never have too many!

This recipe takes its flavor from one of my all-time favorite foods: the everything bagel and lox platter. While bagels are not acceptable for Passover, the flavors are (unless you follow the prohibition against sesame, mustard and poppy seeds which is a bit debated). It's a little labor intensive to cut up the lox and onion and mix together the seasoning (or you can buy it ready made in some stores) but it is worth it! I was tempted to use cream cheese in the filling but it was a little too thick and rich. Sour cream provided a similar tang and made for a creamier, softer egg filling.

Oh, I have to reccomend this deviled egg transporter. I picked it up on a whim at the grocery store and I love it!It holds a full dozen eggs (so 24 halves) and clicks apart so you can also only transport a half dozen. Since it is a double decker container, it takes up a lot less space than my old container which held them all flat.
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March 29, 2018

Dulce de Leche Chocolate Chip Coconut Macaroons


4 cups sweetened flaked coconut
14 oz dulce de leche (prepared or make your own)
2/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla


Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients thoroughly. Form into small balls (or use a medium-sized cookie scoop) and place 1/2 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Slide the macaroons out ON the parchment paper onto the wire racks. Cool completely.

Yield: about 2 dozen
My thoughts:
Macaroons are a Passover classic! I haven't made them in years (since 2007, apparently!) but I do like them quite a bit. I have a hard time resisting coconut treats!

The other day I was perusing the kosher for Passover section at the grocery store the other day and saw kosher for Passover prepared dulce de leche! I immediately thought that it would make a great macaroon. I've always made the kind that uses egg whites to stick the coconut together but I know there is another method that uses sweetened condensed milk (which I have also seen in kosher for Passover cans and there are a ton of DIY recipes for it online) so why not dulce de leche? It's a bit thicker and caramelized but you can use it in similar ways. Since we are not religious, I just use whatever I have on hand but there are options out there if you are more strict. I don't want anyone to miss out on these delicious treats!

They are quite sweet, of course, but the sweetness is tempered slightly by the dark chocolate chips and the dark caramel notes of the dulce de leche. They also take only maybe 15 minutes to make so they are a perfect last minute dessert or gift.

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March 27, 2018

Smashed Potato Salad with Asparagus

2 lb whole baby Yukon gold potatoes
1 cup small dice thin asparagus
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup diced red onion
3 tablespoons dill relish
1 tablespoon dry mustard (mustard powder)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped green onion

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the potatoes until fork-tender.

Meanwhile, place the asparagus in a large bowl. Place the hot potatoes on top of the asparagus. Use the back of a spoon or a potato masher to crack and slightly smash the potatoes. Stir to distribute the asparagus. Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayo, onion, dill relish, mustard, paprika, cayenne, and pepper until a dressing forms. Pour over the potatoes, stir to evenly coat the potatoes and asparagus. Fold in green onion.

My thoughts:
Is it finally potato salad season? We've had a lot of snow for late March and I am done with it. While I love hot potato dishes nothing signals the return of warm weather more than potato salad. This one uses asparagus instead of celery for a bit of crunch. It lightly steams under the potatoes but retains a bit of a bite. Then I smashed the potatoes lightly for a super creamy texture. The dressing is full-bodied as every potato salad dressing should be and gets a pickle punch from the dill relish--a great alternative to having to chop up kosher dills.The result is a tangy, creamy potato salad that has just enough vegetables that you don't feel like you have to make a second side dish.

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March 22, 2018

Sweet & Salty Popcorn Marshmallow Treats


3 tablespoons butter
10 oz mini marshmallows
1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
5 cups Popcornopolis Organic Nearly Naked Popcorn
2 tablespoons multicolored nonpareils


Coat 8-inch pan with a thin layer of butter. Set aside.

Melt butter over low heat in a large, tall pot. Add marshmallows and vanilla and stir until nearly completely melted over low hear. Remove from heat and stir in popcorn. Use the back of the spoon to press it firmly into the pan in an even layer. Cool until easy to handle and shape into balls using lightly butter hands or cool completely and then cut into 9 squares. Store at room temperature loosely covered in foil up to 24 hrs.

Note: Double this recipe to make in a 9x13 inch pan.

My thoughts:
I love popcorn so much! I have an air popper that I use a ton but I also stock up at Costco on both flavored and lightly salted popcorn to have on hand for recipes and days I just want a little snack, not a huge bowl. This "Nearly Naked" popcorn is just slightly salted which makes it perfect for this recipe: it is just salty enough to cut the insane sweetness of the marshmallow. The sprinkles are for fun but they add a nice crunch and tint the marshmallow a nice shade of pink. Leave them out or vary the color for a different look. The trick to soft treats is to cook the marshmallow on low heat so resist the urge to turn it up to melt the marshmallows more quickly.

This post was sponsored by Popcornopolis Organic Nearly Naked Popcorn but the recipe and opinions are my own. Organic Nearly Naked Popcorn will be in Costco stores right now selling for $5.39 a bag but from April 19 – May 13, the cost will drop to $3.49 so plan ahead!

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March 19, 2018

Mozzarella-Stuffed Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

1 lb ground chicken breast
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons mixed Italian dried herbs (I used this)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
freshly ground black pepper
6 mozzarella pearls, halved

breadcrumb coating:
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

olive oil
1-quart marinara sauce
1 lb cooked, hot spaghetti
grated Parmesan for sprinkling


Place the breadcrumb coating mixture in a shallow bowl and whisk to combine.

In a medium bowl, combine the ground chicken, 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, egg, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan and spices until well combined. Remove about 1 1/2-2 tablespoons of the mixture. Place half a pearl in the middle, roll into a small ball, taking carefully cover the mozzarella. Roll in breadcrumb mixture. Repeat for remaining chicken mixture to form approximately 12 meatballs.

Meanwhile, heat the sauce in a saucepan.

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan and carefully brown the meatballs on all sides--about 5-8 minutes. They should be nearly fully cooked if not actually cooked through. Add to the pan with the sauce and simmer until fully cooked. Serve over hot pasta.

My thoughts:
I was thinking about making Chicken Parmesan the other day but it is quite an undertaking: frying chicken, making sauce--none of that is difficult but it is time-consuming, especially since there is a limit to how many chicken filets you can fry at a time and I always end up having to do at least two batches. I've been making a lot of meatballs lately for some reason and it occurred to me that I could totally reimagine the dish as meatballs!

It comes together a bit faster, making mozzarella-filled meatballs isn't any more difficult or time-consuming than regular meatballs and you can brown a full dozen at once in a large pan.

I have never done this before but I cheated and used a quart of freshly made marinara sauce I bought at our local Italian grocery instead of making my own sauce and that made making meatballs on a weekday night way less daunting. Feel free to make your own sauce if you'd rather!

I loved the results, it really had the spirit and flavor of Chicken Parmesan but in a more fun (and easier to eat!) way. It was also much lighter than the original. The melty mozzarella in the middle of the meatballs really made the dish, it was unexpected and went a long way to making it feel like Chicken Parm versus just chicken meatballs.

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March 15, 2018

Crispy Old Bay Fried Catfish


2 lb catfish fillets, cut in half length-wise if needed
Old Bay for sprinkling
1 1/3 cup self-rising cornmeal mix
1/4 cup Old Bay (low sodium okay)
1-2 tablespoons lemon pepper seasoning
canola oil for frying


Rinse the fish. Place fish in single layer in a shallow bowl or tray, sprinkle a good amount of Old Bay over the fish and rub it in on both sides. Heat 1-2 inches of canola oil in large, heavy-bottomed skillet. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the cornmeal mix, 1/4 cup Old Bay, and lemon pepper. Do not add extra salt! Dredge the fish in the mixture to thoroughly coat.

Fry fish fillets in the oil, for about 4 minutes on each side, depending on thickness.

Make sure the fish is cooked through. Drain on paper towel-lined plates and serve immediately.

My thoughts:
Years ago, someone told me that the secret to super crispy fried fish was self-rising cornmeal mix. I had never bought such a thing before and always made my own mix of flour and cornmeal to make fried fish (like this) but when I saw some self-rising cornmeal mix on sale at Aldi, I picked up a bag. And you know what? It really does work! I don't know if it rose any but it really stuck to the fish while it was frying and when removing it from the pan and dishing up. Maybe it was partially the Old Bay rub that helped too? Who knows? All I know that this was some of the crispest, tastiest catfish I've had ever. And I am a catfish connoisseur.  I will say it was slightly salty (self-rising cornmeal mix has some salt in it, as does lemon pepper and Old Bay) so if you want to use low sodium Old Bay and/or lemon pepper, this is one recipe that they would work perfectly in.

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March 13, 2018

Salisbury Steak Meatballs with Mushroom Gravy


1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 1/4 lb lean ground beef
1 small onion, grated
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 onion, chopped
8 oz  crimini mushrooms, large dice/quartered
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups beef stock
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2-3 tablespoons superfine flour (like Wondra)
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt


In a medium bowl,  mix the breadcrumbs, spices, meat, grated onion, 2/3 of the garlic, salt, and pepper. Form into 3/4 inch meatballs. Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pan. Cook the meatballs until quite browned on both sides and nearly cooked through.

Remove the meatballs to a plate and cover with foil. Add the chopped onion, remaining garlic and mushrooms to the pan and saute until the onions are translucent. Add the stock, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper 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.

My thoughts:
The other day someone mentioned they were going to make Salisbury Steak meatballs but when I looked at the recipe they were thinking of using, it looked...not good. Lots of ketchup, which really should never be in Salisbury Steak (it is not a tomato-y dish) and which is disgusting in general. Besides the ketchup, the recipe looked really bland.

I haven't made Salisbury Steak in ages (last year when I made this hipster Salisbury Steak with kale)  so I thought I'd try my hand at creating a tastier, more Salisbury Steak-y recipe with proper brown gravy and mushrooms. It was a little more hands-on than making traditional "steaks" and I couldn't use my mini-meatball technique because I didn't want to coat them in breadcrumbs but it the time it took to form the meatballs was made up by the fact that tiny meatballs cook up a lot faster than patties the size of my palm. My husband said he felt like they were a little moister too but who knows?

The end result was well, Salisbury Steak but in meatball form. Very savory, it hits all the nostalgic "American" food notes and is a bit quicker to make and maybe even more fun to eat than the original. If you didn't serve it over potatoes, it could even be an appetizer. I wanted it to be a full meal so I served it over a mash that was half potato and half cauliflower so I didn't feel like I needed to make a second side dish. It would also be good over egg noodles, I suspect. Or even just mashed cauliflower if that is your thing.

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March 09, 2018

Peanut Butter Irish Potato Candy

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup cocoa
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon


In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter, butter, vanilla and confectioner's sugar, until a thick dough forms. Set aside.

Whisk together the cinnamon and cocoa in a small shallow bowl. Set aside.

Use your hands to form 1 1/2-2 inch long ovals out of the peanut mixture. Roll in the cocoa mixture to coat. Repeat for remaining peanut butter mixture. It's okay if they are a little unevenly shaped, they are supposed to look like dirty potatoes!

Store in an air-tight container up to 4 days.

Yield: about dozen candies (recipe can be doubled)

My thoughts:
Three years ago I posted a recipe I created for Irish Potato Candy a treat made in Philadelphia to coincide with St Patrick's Day. The candy isn't made with potatoes but rather is a coconut candy that is formed to look like freshly picked new potatoes. It is rarely found outside of the Philadelphia/New Jersey/Deleware area so if you live further afield, it is great to be able to make your own at home.

While I love coconut (obvi) and that candy is really delicious (especially if you took my suggestion and mixed cocoa in with the traditional cinnamon coating), at the time and in the years since I've had a few people ask if there was a coconut-free version available. Without coconut, the candy would just be a plain buttercream, which while tasty, would make for a pretty bland candy, in my opinion.

Anyway, I was thinking about making a batch of the original version when it came to me that I could easily make a peanut butter version. It was just as tasty as the original recipe but with a more crowd-pleasing peanut butter and chocolate flavoring.  I chose to keep a bit of cinnamon in the mix as a nod to the original candy but straight cocoa would work as well. Very peanut buttery and the sweetness is tempered by the dusting of cocoa and cinnamon.

Serious Eats has a behind the scenes look at the original Irish potato candy factory that is worth a read.

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March 07, 2018

Corned Beef and Cabbage Buns


3 1/2 cups bread flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 oz dry yeast
3 tablespoons cold butter, small dice
1/4 cup lukewarm water
3/4 cup lukewarm milk
2 eggs, at room temperature

1 lb corned beef*, small dice
1/2 small cabbage, chopped
1 small red onion, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons yellow mustard seed

to serve:
wedges of Irish cheddar
grainy mustard


Whisk together the flour, salt, yeast, and sugar in a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer. Add the butter, water, and milk and using a dough hook, mix until a thick dough forms. Remove to a greased bowl, cover with a tea towel and allow to rise 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

Meanwhile, saute the filling ingredients until the onion and cabbage are soft. Allow to cool. Remove dough from bowl and place on a clean, floured surface.

Roll the dough out in a large, 1/4 inch thick rectangle about 9x13 inches.

Sprinkle the corned beef and cabbage mixture evenly over the dough to the edges.

Roll dough into a tight log. Cut into approximately nine 1 1/2 inch thick slices. Discard the end slices if they are very small.

Place in a buttered 8x8 inch pan about 1/2 inch apart. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise again for one hour or until doubled in bulk. The buns should be touching each other.

Preheat oven to 400. Bake 20 minutes or until baked through. The edges touching the pan should be lightly browned. Cool in pan 2-5 minutes then cool on wire rack. Serve with grainy mustard for dipping. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

*I purchased an uncooked corned beef brisket and cooked it, in water for 8 hours in a slow cooker. I then cooled it and cubed it for this dish.

Note: I made the corned beef and cabbage expressly for this recipe but if you had leftovers from a previous meal, dice and saute it before rolling it into the dough.

My thoughts:
Every year when corned beef goes on sale, I stock up and freeze it to use in sandwiches (like Baltimore's own Cloak and Dagger or Reuben Sliders) and other dishes the rest of the year. I love making homemade corned beef but it takes a couple of weeks and a lot of real estate in the fridge. 

I also love making creative things out of corned beef and cabbage. It is a staple here in the US for St. Patrick's Day but not in Ireland where the holiday is also celebrated so why not make something different? My favorites have been corned beef and cabbage bao and corned beef stuffed cabbage,  but I've made a few other things over the years

We had watched a Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood Christmas special and in it, Paul Hollywood made a leftover Christmas dinner Chelsea bun with turkey, cranberry sauce and even stuffing. I loved the idea but it seemed sort of heavy what with the stuffing. I mentally filed it away and then this year, it hit me that I could make a corned beef and cabbage version! I'm so glad I did. It turned out so good, I'm already thinking of other savory buns I could make. 

Corned beef and cabbage wrapped up in a soft dough? Yes, please! Super flavorful and while time-consuming, very simple to make. It traveled very well for a workplace lunch the next day.

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March 02, 2018

6-Ingredient Chocolate Chip Cookies


1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cup self-rising flour
1 1/4 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment. In a medium-sized sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and combine thoroughly. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until a very thick dough forms. Fold in the chips. Form cookies by dropping 1 heaping teaspoon of dough two inches apart (I used this scoop). Flatten slightly then bake until light brown, about 14 minutes. Slide them out on the parchment paper on to a wire rack and allow them to cool 1-2 minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring the cookies to cool directly on the wire rack.

Yield: about 1 1/2-2 dozen cookies

My thoughts:
There is an insane wind storm out today and while normally I love my trusty Toyota Matrix, I do not love driving it out in extremely windy conditions. It's a small yet tall car and the wind really makes it feel like I am driving a toy. So when I thought I'd stay home and bake cookies today, I was momentarily flummoxed when I realized I was out of flour in my canister and my backup flour had bugs in it! Ew! It hadn't even been opened. Gross. Anyway, I thought my chocolate dreams would have to wait but then I found a bag of self-rising flour that I must have bought for some forgotten project.

I honestly don't think I've ever made anything with self-rising flour before so I thought I'd give it a try in cookies. As it turns out, it works pretty well! I feel like the cookies are a little fluffier than when I use baking powder myself but they taste basically the same! I don't know why I am so surprised but I kind of am. I've always thought it was used in savory things like biscuits but if it can be used in cookies, a whole world has opened up. These cookies came together so quickly and needed so few ingredients. Perfect for a cookie emergency!

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February 27, 2018

PB&J Hamantaschen


1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 cup peanut butter powder (I used PBFit)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

 jam (I used elderberry jam)


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

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla 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.

Do not re-roll dough. Cut scraps into small shapes and bake as-is, if desired.

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

Yield: about 2 dozen cookies

My thoughts:
Happy Purim! Another year, another kind of hamantaschen!

This year was a little fraught because I just got back from the IACP conference in NYC which was fun but tiring and my rolling pin broke while I was rolling out the cookies! Oy! I didn't manage to make a whole batch unfortunately but the ones I made were really good. What is a more classic combination than peanut butter and jelly? Of course, for hamantashen, you need to use jam not jelly but the results are just as tasty as the classic sandwich, I promise.

I used peanut butter powder (which is available nearly everywhere now!) instead of prepared peanut butter because I wanted the cookie to have that butter cookie taste and texture and it is hard to do that when using peanut butter as your fat. Peanut butter powder works more like flour so you can have that butter cookie but with the peanut butter flavor.

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, and double orange hamantaschen.

Quick note: peanut butter dough is a bit more crumbly and finicky to work with than other rolled cookie dough. Roll to  1/4 inch thick and cut just once. Re-rolling the scraps is not advised. If desired, simply cut out shapes with the scraps.  Do not make the cookies too thick or they will split when you shape them.

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February 22, 2018

Weekday Ramen

4 cups mushroom, chicken, pork or veggie stock
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 knob ginger
1 jalapeno, sliced
6 oz ramen noodles*
1 cup snow peas, halved
2/3 cup chopped green onion
8 oz enoki mushrooms
2 6 1/2 minute soft boiled eggs, halved
3/4 cup cooked pork or chicken** (warmed if desired)
shichimi togarashi

Bring the stock to a boil with the garlic, ginger, and pepper. Add the noodles, snow peas, mushrooms and green onion and cook until the noodles are finished. Discard the ginger. Divide into two bowls. Top with meat, eggs and shichimi togarashi to taste.

*I used noodles from two packets of this buckwheat-mushroom rice ramen but any ramen would do.
**I cooked an applewood smoked flavored pork roast from Aldi in a slow cooker over a bed of onions for 8-10 hours and then sliced/shredded it. We had the leftovers on rice for lunch the next day.

My thoughts:
I bought these interesting buckwheat-mushroom rice ramen noodles weeks ago and then didn't do anything with them. Matt made an Indo-Chinese feast over the weekend and bought some snow peas and mushrooms he didn't use so I thought it would be the perfect time to use the noodles and the produce before they spoiled. I quite liked the noodles. They really didn't taste too assertively of anything but were pleasant and I would think fairly good for you what with the whole grains and all. I had defrosted a pork roast I had bought at Aldi weeks ago and decided to pop that in the slow cooker to cook all day so all I had to do when I got home was make the eggs and heat up the ramen and veggies. Perfect for a weeknight! Is it as transplendent as the ramen I've had in good ramen shops? No. Is it very satisfying? Yes! Very flavorful and very, very quick to make. Since I made the meat in the slow cooker it didn't need anything more than slicing and the rest of the meal took literally 10 minutes to make. Plus it was an excuse to use my ramen fork. I really can't ask for more than that!

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