April 03, 2020

Dandelion & Dill Chicken Salad


2 cups cubed (cooked) chicken breast
3/4 (loose) cup dandelion greens, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
1/4 cup chopped red onion
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1 1/2 teaspoon dill pickle relish
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
freshly ground black pepper


In a medium bowl, stir together all ingredients until evenly distributed. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Yield: about 4 servings

My thoughts:

Another day (day 22, actually) of making all our meals from scratch! I roasted a chicken yesterday. It was pretty small but I had enough to make chicken salad with it. When my husband went to the store Wednesday he picked up some fresh dill. He used some in rice but we made sure to have some leftover. It's too early in the year to grow herbs outdoors and I don't get enough sunlight for indoor herb gardening so I want the dill to last. Dandelion greens are some of my favorites, they have a light peppery herbal bite that is so good in creamy sandwich salads like this one. I got mine in my weekly local produce delivery (I signed up for again now that things are actually in season in our area) but if ever there is a time to forage, it's now. If you don't have dandelion greens, try arugula or watercress. It's so tasty and satisfying and good way to sneak in a little extra vegetables at lunch time.

March 31, 2020

Borscht with Pot Roast and Cabbage


1 lb leftover pot roast, chopped (or other cooked stew/roasted beef)
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 onion, diced
2 cups (loosely) coarsely chopped cabbage
2-3 cups cut up roasted beets
2 bay leaves
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon black caraway (aka nigella, charnushka, kalonji) or try caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
8-9 cups beef stock*

sour cream to serve


Heat a small amount of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Saute the celery, carrot, onion, and cabbage until the onion is translucent and the cabbage starts to wilt. Add the remaining ingredients. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes. Divide into bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream.

*I used a mix of the juices/leftover broth from making pot roast and water because I don't have more beef stock and we are here under quarantine.

My thoughts:
It's getting a little late in the year for hot, meaty soup but it's actually quite chilly and damp out and self-quarantine lends itself perfectly for soup. 

Sunday I made pot roast and rather than add flour to thicken the gravy, I sliced up half the meat and served with a drizzle of juices and all of the solid vegetables. Then I saved the rest of the meat in the broth/juices that were left and used them as the base of this soup. No better time than a pandemic than to make the most of what you have! 

There are a ton of borscht recipes out there from all over Eastern Europe and they vary quite a bit. Years ago I made summer chilled borscht that was very good but I realized when looking in my fridge trying to make a bunch of disparate ingredients come together into something, and noting that i had a ton of beets and cabbage that I had never made a meaty borscht. If not now, then when? The seasonings in borscht seem to vary a bit so I used what I had on hand. Feel free to use whatever herbs you have on hand. I think it was delicious as-is. It was very filling but not heavy feeling thanks to all of the vegetables. I had flavored the pot roast very simply so it added a deep beefy flavor but no jarring spices.

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March 25, 2020

Marble Cake for an Anniversary under Quarantine


for the cake:

2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
1/2 cup olive oil (or canola or vegetable)
1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup water
1 tablespoon cocoa

for the icing (optional)
4 oz brick cream cheese, at room temperature
1 oz butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners sugar


Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour an 8x8 inch baking dish. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Pour in the wet ingredients, whisk until the batter is smooth. Scoop out 2/3 cup batter. Place in a small bowl. Whisk in the cocoa.

Pour the vanilla batter into prepared pan. Scoop spoonfuls of the chocolate batter on top in a polka dot pattern and swirl with the tip of a knife.

Bake 35 minutes or until a toothpick in the middle of the pan comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes then turn out on a wire rack and cool completely.

If icing:

Mix together the icing ingredients until smooth. Spread on cooled cake. Decorate as desired.

Alternatively, sprinkle with confectioners sugar, glaze or make a simple buttercream using all butter instead of cream cheese.

My thoughts:

We are spending our 15th wedding anniversary at home on our 13th day of self-quarantine for the coronavirus/COVID-19. We got married at a courthouse in front of no witnesses so I guess it is sort of fitting to celebrate alone together! We had plans to go out for a seafood dinner but as Maryland has closed all restaurants and businesses and we have already been avoiding contact for the past two weeks (we haven't been anywhere but our own house in 13 days) we don't really have any choice but to be at home.

I've already made one cake from pantry ingredients last week that was very good so I was inspired to make another. I'm trying to ration out our butter and eggs so making a "wacky" or "crazy" cake that doesn't use dairy or eggs and minimal other ingredients made sense. I had cream cheese leftover from making a cake for my parents' anniversary last month so I iced it but it would be great with just powdered sugar or a simple glaze.

I had made "wacky" cake a few times before last week, it's an old fashioned concept from days of rationing and Depression that's incidentally vegan and we seem to know more than our share of vegans but I had always made a chocolate version like the one I posted last week. I wasn't sure how it would be in a vanilla cake. To make it a little more festive, I made it a marble cake. I'm super pleased with how it came out. It's very moist with a light crumb yet very flavorful. It's simple to make and am 8x8 square cake is perfect for small gatherings.

March 19, 2020

One Bowl Pantry Chocolate Snack Cake


1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup light brown sugar (can sub regular or dark)
1/3 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
1/2 cup olive oil (or canola or vegetable)
1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup water
2 tablespoons cold brew coffee concentrate (optional or replace the water with brewed coffee)


Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 8x8 inch baking dish. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Pour in the wet ingredients, whisk until the batter is smooth. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick in the middle of the pan comes out clean. Cool, in pan,  on a wire rack. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar. Slice and serve.

My thoughts:
This is a riff on Depression and wartime era "wacky" or "crazy" cakes that were made without eggs or butter as a cost and resource cutting measure. They rely on acidic ingredients and baking soda to make the cakes rise. Snack cakes were pretty popular in that era when a lot of baking was done at home. Snack cakes aren't mean to be fancy, decorated celebration cakes, they are a simple cake meant to be tucked into lunch boxes and served at casual get-togethers. They were the precursor to the packaged Hostess and Tastykakes we are familiar with today.

Since we are all stuck at home thanks to Covid-19 and many people are cooking from their pantries I thought an easy no butter, no eggs, no skill, no perishables cake was in order. The cake has a surprisingly rich flavor thanks to a high cocoa ration and a splash of coffee. Perfect for a little pick-me-up and who doesn't need that right now? It's pretty adaptable--I listed some substitutions above--normally I make it with canola oil but our reserves are getting low and I have lot more olive oil on hand. Feel free to add some spices and make it your own!

It's so moist and rich tasting, no one would know you made it with odds and ends off the shelf.

Check out what else I've been making during self-isolation on my new blog, Cooking in Isolation.

March 16, 2020

Peanut Butter Reese's Pieces and Peanut Butter Cup Cookies


1 2/3 cup flour
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 1/2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
8.5 oz Reese's Baking Peanut Butter Cups and Reese's Pieces Candy
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, cream the butter, peanut butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla extract 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.

Flatten slightly then bake until light brown, about 14 minutes. Slide them out on the baking mat on to a cooling rack and allow them to cool 1-2 minutes on the baking mat/parchment on the wire rack before removing them to cool directly on the wire rack.

Yield: about 1 1/2-2 dozen cookies
My thoughts:
If there is ever a time I needed a cookie it's now. We have been self-quarantining since Thursday thanks to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and I'm trying to look it as a chance to become even more creative with my cooking. I've been stocking up the last few weeks and organizing what we already have. While I bought the usual canned goods and frozen vegetables, I also made sure to stock up on butter, flour, and sugar so I could give us a treat. We had picked up these chips back in the fall at HersheyPark (they are also available online and in stores) and never did anything with them. What better time than now? If you don't have the chips on hand, you could sub in Reese's Pieces and chopped peanut butter cups or even M & Ms or just chocolate chips. It's very versatile! Make do with what you have.

If you'd like to follow along with what I'm making while in quarantine, check out my new daily blog, Cooking in Isolation, where I'm sharing what I'm making, recipes and tips.

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March 13, 2020

Steelhead Trout Salad with Horseradish and Arugula


1/2 lb cooked steelhead trout
1 hard-boiled egg
1/4 cup minced arugula
1/4 teaspoon prepared horseradish
3 tablespoons mayo
3 tablespoons minced red onion
3 tablespoons minced celery
1/2-1 tablespoons nonpareil capers


In a small bowl, mix all ingredients until evenly distributed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

My thoughts:
I made the steelhead trout recipe I posted earlier this week when my husband wasn't feeling well and basically just eating bananas and yogurt so I had a lot leftover. I'm trying not to waste food (even more so as we are clearly heading into quarantine of some sort (check out my getting-ready-for-quarantine cart here)  so I repurposed the leftovers into this salad. I love what I call "sandwich salads" (see also: tuna salad, fake crab salad, smoked salmon salad, chicken salad, egg salad etc) and they are a great way to jazz up leftovers. I stretched the trout a bit by adding a hard-boiled egg and was delighted by the results. It added some welcome flavor and texture interest. The arugula added some sharpness and made me feel like I was eating some vegetables and the horseradish gave it some assertive heat. All in all, a delight.

March 10, 2020

Steelhead Trout with Fennel and Cara Cara Oranges


1 small bulb fennel, very thinly sliced
1 small onion or shallot, thinly sliced
1 Cara Cara orange, thinly sliced
1 lb steelhead trout filets
1/4 teaspoon fennel pollen
freshly ground pepper
fennel fronds

Preheat oven to 325. Lightly oil a 1 1/2-2 quart baking dish (I used a 8x8 inch baking dish). Toss together the fennel, onion/shallot and orange slices on the bottom of the dish. Top with the trout.

Rub the trout with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with fennel pollen, salt pepper, and fronds. Bake for 30 minutes or until cooked through and flaky.

My thoughts:

Transition into spring with this delicious trout dish. Fennel is mostly a fall and winter vegetable but it feels springy and fresh to me. Cara Cara oranges are some of my favorites (and not just becuase they are pink!) and they come into their peak at the end of winter. The flavors really seep into the fish in an amazing way.

Steelhead trout is a wonderful, sustainable alternative to salmon. Despite being from the same family as rainbow trout, it looks very similar, has a familiar meaty texture and is just as easy to cook as salmon. It is a bit lighter and softer in texture and not quite as oily thanks to a lower fat content. I haven't found many recipes for it but I would think that you could sub it in most salmon recipes. Aldi has it pretty frequently for a good price.

Take care to really thinly slice the fennel, I had a few thicker pieces and they werent' quite tender when the fish was completed. I like using fennel pollen to kick the fennel flavor up a bit but it can be left out (or sub fennel seeds) if you don't have any on hand.