December 29, 2016

Roasted Kabocha and Mushroom Risotto

5 1/4 cups chicken stock
1 red kabocha squash, peeled and cubed
1 sweet onion, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
16 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup Grana Padano cheese, grated
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 oz diced pancetta
3-4 sprigs' worth of thyme
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Arrange the squash in a single layer on a parchement-lined baking sheet. Bake until fork-tender, about 30 minutes.

In a saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer. Heat oil and butter in a large saucepan. Add the pancetta and saute 1 minute. Add the onion and saute until the onion is translucent. Scrape into to a large, heavy bottom pot. Add the rice, salt and pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring continually. Add the broth a 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, and waiting until the liquid is absorbed before each addition.

Meanwhile, saute the mushroom in the pan the pancetta was in until fully cooked. Toss in the squash and thyme. Stir to evenly divide ingredients.

When you are about two-thirds of the way through the broth, add the squash, thyme, and mushroom mixture n to the rice. Continue to add broth and stir. When the risotto is creamy and the rice is al dente remove from heat and stir in the Grana Padano.

My thoughts:
I love getting the local produce boxes from our produce delivery service. I admit I do skip them occasionally in the winter because so few things are in season locally but I always get them when they have fun varieties of squash like this pretty red kabocha squash. It has a super-thin skin and the bright orange flesh is so fun and a bit sweeter than pumpkin. I like to roast it to caramelize the sugars a bit and deepen the flavor. It makes a great addition to risotto because it holds its shape well but still turns the dish a delightful shade of orange. I added mushrooms and thyme for some earthiness and the pancetta adds a salty, savory note.

December 24, 2016

Gingerbread Sufganiyot (Doughnuts)

3/4 cup lukewarm whole milk
1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/4 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

for the filling:
8 oz (brick) cream cheese, at room temperature
1  cup confectioners' (powdered) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

canola oil (for frying)
Powdered sugar (for sprinkling)

Place the milk and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer and lightly whisk. Allow to stand until frothy and yeasty smelling about 3 minutes.

Place the flour, sugar, spices and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly mix the flour mixture, using the hook attachment, into the yeast mixture.

Add the yolks and mix, until a rough dough forms, about 1-3 minutes. Add the butter, increase the speed, and mix until the dough is smooth, shiny, and elastic, about 5 minutes. It should be tacky, sticking to the bottom of the bowl but not to the sides or dough hook.

Coat a large bowl with oil. Form the dough into a ball, place in the bowl. Roll the dough around the bowl to coat it lightly in oil. Cover with a damp tea towel and let rise in a warm place (or cold oven) until doubled in size, about 1-1 1/2 hours.

Lightly flour a platter. Set aside. Punch down the dough, transfer to a lightly floured work surface (I used a rolling mat), and roll until about 1/4 inch thick. Using a 2-inch round cutter, cut out dough rounds and place on the prepared platter 1/2 inch apart. Roll the scraps into a ball and roll out again, cut into rounds.

Cover loosely with a tea damp towel. Let rise in a warm place/cold oven until doubled in thickness, about 30-45 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat together the vanilla, cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Set aside.

Pour about a quart and a half of canola oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and heat until the temperature reaches 350. Meanwhile, line a second baking sheet with paper towels and place a wire rack over the paper towels. Set aside.

Use a large, flat spatula to lift the doughnuts into the oil, taking care not to over crowd the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side.

Drain on wire rack over paper towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat for remaining dough.

Puncture the side of each doughnut with the tip of a small, sharp knife and pipe in the cream cheese mixture. Dust doughnuts with powdered sugar on both sides.

Bonus Points: Add gingerbread spices to the powdered sugar before sprinkling for extra flavor. I like to use my dusting wand to get an even amount of sugar on each doughnut.

Yield: about 18 doughnuts
My thoughts:
Sufganiyot are super popular Hanukkah snacks in Israel. While we are over here frying potatoes like chumps, they are chowing down on doughnuts! Unfair! I love yeast doughnut so I will take any excuse to eat them so why not make my own? Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah and Christmas overlap this year and we celebrate both at our house so I thought it would be fun to combine a fried Hanukkah treat with a classic Christmas dessert. Gingerbread sufganiyot seemed like the logical choice. Rather than just making plain sufganiyot with a gingerbread filling, I made the doughnut gingerbread flavored and filled it with sweetened cream cheese. Traditionally sufganiyot are jelly doughnuts but neither of us really like jelly doughnuts ( #teamcustardfilled)  and the combination of jelly and gingerbread did not seem appealing. If it does to you feel free to use jelly instead, of course! I've read that fancy sufganiyot with unusual flavor pairings are all the rage this year in Israel so I think these would fit in very well!

The cream cheese is a bit thick so you really have to use some musel to get it into the doughnut but it is worth it to have every bit filled with gingerbread-doughnutty-cream cheese excitement. Also, these doughnuts take a while to make so be prepared to get up early if you want to have them for breakfast. Snack time might work best!

These are super flavorful, nice and spicy and full of gingerbread flavor but with the light texture of a yeasted doughnut.

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December 22, 2016

Kielbasa Potato Bread Herb Dressing

1 1/2 lb sliced potato bread, cubed
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
1 tablespoon minced rosemary
1 tablespoon minced sage
1 tablespoon minced thyme
1 lb fresh kielbasa, casing removed
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups turkey or chicken stock
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
butter for baking dish

Preheat oven to 325. Arrange the bread on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until toasted. Place in a large bowl. Set aside.

Meanwhile, saute the onion and celery in the butter in a large skillet until the onion is translucent but not browned. Scrape onto the bread in the bowl. Add the kielbasa to the same skillet and saute, breaking up any large chunks, until fully cooked. Drain the grease. Add the sausage to the bowl.

Add the eggs to the bowl. Stir until all ingredients are evenly distributed. Add the salt, pepper and stock. Stir until it is an uniform mixture. Set aside.

Grease an 9-inch pan (I used a deep dish pie plate) with butter. Spoon in the dressing. Cover in foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and turn oven to 350. Bake 30 minutes or until fully cooked and the top is crispy. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
We are a house divided. I love my "un-stuffing"-stuffing balls cooked around the turkey and loosely in the exposed cavity, and my husband likes what I'd call "dressing", bread stuffing that basically comes in no contact with the turkey (or other poultry or meat) at all. It makes me sad. However, we made a turkey breast this year and in the spirit of good will, I made a pan of kielbasa laced dressing. Well, a pie tin anyway, which turned out fine because we could cut wedges of it, which, I admit was kind of fun. He likes it with sausage and still talks of the Thanksgivings they couldn't serve it that way because it wasn't kosher for his grandfather. Kosher is not a concern for us, so sausage it is! I like a good, smoked kielbasa from the Polish market but a fresh sausage works best here so you can get a meaty chunk in nearly every bite. It is very tasty, although I missed the flavors of the turkey. It is the best dressing I've ever had and since it is cooked in its own pan, it is a great side dish for any kind of meat, not just turkey! If you are a dressing person, love sausage and a ton of herby flavors, this will be perfect for you!

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December 21, 2016

Janssons Frestelse


1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, halved and sliced
8 cups Russet potatoes, cut into 2-inch long, 1/2 inch wide, 1/4 inch thick sticks
1-4.4 oz tin ABBA Grebbestad Ansjovis original (anchovy-style spiced, marinated sprats)
1-pint heavy cream
white pepper

Preheat oven to 400.

Grease a 2 1/2 quart baking dish. Set aside.

Saute the onion in butter in a medium pan until soft and translucent but not browned. Sprinkle with pepper.  Place a layer of potatoes in the bottom of the baking dish. Layer with onions, then potatoes, then sprats until all is gone, ending with potatoes. Pour the juices from the tin over the potato mixture if desired. Pour the cream over the top until you can just begin to see it through the potatoes.

Top with bread crumbs. Bake until the potato is tender, about 1 hour. Check at about 30 minutes and if the top is browning, cover in foil until fully cooked, removing to brown if needed for the last few minutes.

My thoughts:
I've been wanting to make this for years! I've had it at various smörgåsbord but the key ingredient-the sprats-aren't super available here in Baltimore as we do not have much of a Swedish population. Luckily, this year when we went to the Swedish holiday bazaar, a man was there selling not only the usual candy, jams and mixes but tins of sprats! Score!

Side note: you can buy them online on Amazon and on various Swedish/Scandinavian online groceries but they are pretty pricey to ship as they need to be kept refrigerated. Or try Ikea, where they sell their own version under the name skarpsill, seasonally.

Janssons Frestelse (translated as Jansson's Temptation) is most often served at the julbord, the Christmas smörgåsbord but from what I can tell, it is also popular at other holiday celebrations like Easter. It is a homey casserole, similar to scalloped potatoes but with one major addition: salty, sweet, spiced, lightly pickled sprats! It sounds a little nuts but it really is good; lightly sweet but very savory. If you can find the ansjovis (remember--it is sprats, not anchovies!) it is well worth making and a welcome addition to any holiday table.

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December 20, 2016

Spaetzle with Mushrooms, Spinach and Chèvre

10 oz dried spaetzle
1 lb fresh flat-leaf spinach
16 oz sliced crimini mushrooms
5 oz log fresh chèvre, crumbled
1 onion, halved and sliced
1-2 tablespoons butter
1/4-1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the spaetzle. Cook according to package instructions, about 10-12 minutes until the spaetzle is tender.

Meanwhile, saute the onion and mushrooms until the onions are nearly caramelized. Add the spinach and saute until wilted. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Add the drained spaetzle, saute 1 minutes until well combined. Remove from heat and stir in chèvre. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
This has been a rough year in general and the last nearly two weeks has been dreadful as we both have had the actual flu, a stomach flu, and in my husband's case, a throat virus that makes it difficult to swallow and to eat acidic foods. Oy! My plans to make tons of festive food this month really went out the window after those brownies. Holiday season indeed! Luckily, Hanukkah and Christmas are at the same time this year so we can knock them out at once (or nearly, Hanukkah continues) while we are feeling marginally better.

I love spaetzle any time of the year but it is especially easy to find during the winter months. I stock up on bags and keep them to have throughout the year. Frequently, spaetzle is served rather plain or under a sauce but I like to use the sturdy noodle in more of a starring role. This could be a vegetarian main dish or hardy side for a weeknight meal but it is special enough thanks to the chèvre to serve at the holiday tables.

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December 08, 2016

Candy Cane Peppermint Pattie Brownies


12 oz semisweet baking chocolate squares
8 tablespoons (aka 1 stick, 1/4 lb) butter
3 eggs
1/2 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cup  sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 Peppermint Pattie miniatures (.6 oz each), quartered
1/2 cup crushed candy canes*, divided use


Preheat oven to 350. Spray with baking spray or grease and flour one 9x13 inch baking pan. In a saucepan, melt the butter, cocoa and chocolate together over low heat. Stir occasionally, and when the chocolate is nearly melted, remove from heat. Whisk until smooth. Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking powder and 1/4 cup crushed candy canes. In a separate bowl, beat together the sugar, eggs and vanilla until frothy. Slowly stream the chocolate mixture into the eggs and mix to combine. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients and mix until the batter is thick and glossy. Beat in the Peppermint Patties. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.  Sprinkle with remaining  candy cane bits and sprinkles (if desired).

Bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before slicing and serving.

*Crush your own by placing them in a resealable plastic bag and whacking it with a rolling pin. Many stores, including Giant (if you are local), sell bags of pre-crushed candy canes.
My thoughts:
This has been a long summer and fall and I am trying mightily to get into the holiday spirit. What could be more festive than peppermint infused brownies?! I've made brownies with a Peppermint Pattie layer before (8 years ago, OMG) and Candy Cane Oreo Brownies (4 years ago! Where does the time go?) and loved them so I thought I'd do a mash up and make this candy-packed version. The mint favor is really spread out and the York Peppermint Patties give the brownies a slightly chewy texture which I find pleasant. I always forget how much I like brownies and how easy they are to make until I make them again. It is like brownie amnesia.

Normally I make brownies in an 8x8 inch pan because we are a family of two but this time I went all out and made a whole 9x13 inch pan which is perfect for taking and sharing. Feel free to cut them as large or small as you'd like, they are rich but not as over-the-top as you'd think!

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November 22, 2016

Smoked Trout and Black Garlic Open-faced Sandwiches

500 gram loaf European style sliced pumpernickle
1 7-oz container Finlandia Creamy Gourmet Cheese Black Garlic
8 oz smoked trout, cut into 2 inch wide pieces
1/2 English cucumber, sliced thinly
1/2 red onion, halved and sliced thinly
1 7-oz container Finlandia Creamy Gourmet Cheese Black Garlic

Spread a thick layer of Finlandia Creamy Gourmet Cheese Black Garlic on each slice of pumpernickel. Top with smoked trout then top with cucumber and onion slices. Slice the bread in half, if needed, for easy serving.

My thoughts:
Each year my husband and I make the rounds to as many of the Scandaivian holiday bazaars we can. We've been to Swedish, Finnish, Danish and Icelandic (this year we went to the Danish and Icelandic festivals back to back in the same day!) and this year we are hoping to finally make it to the Norwegian bazaar. I love Scandinavian food and these bazaars are the best place to not only try it but to bring back some of the foods to have at home. Luckily there are quite a few to choose from in the DC/Northern Virgina area which is a bit of a drive for us but worth it! One thing each of the fairs have in common are open-faced sandwiches. I liked them so much, I've taken to making them at home. So when I was asked to create a new recipe using Finlandia Creamy Gourmet Cheese and I happened to have some pumpernickel at home, I knew what I had to make! I love anything with black garlic so chosing that flavor was a snap. It is super creamy and spreadable so it was a great base for a sandwich piled high with toppings. It had a light black garlic flavor which was the perfect foil for the smoky, slightly oily fish. The onion and cucumber cut the richness just the right amount. I should have known Finlandia – making cheese and butter in Finland for over 100 years-would have a great spreadable cheese for an open-faced sandwich! Of course, I think it would be great on anything, I had it on pita crisps as a snack and even stirred it into pasta.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Finlandia™ . The opinions and text are all mine.

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November 11, 2016

Salted Butter Jumbles with Blueberries, Coconut & Chocolate Chips

1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup (4 oz) Finlandia Premium Imported Salted Butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup large unsweetened coconut flakes/chips
1/4 cup dried blueberries
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silipat.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Set aside. In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy using a stand or electric handmixer. 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, coconut, and blueberries.

Form cookies by dropping 1 heaping teaspoon of dough two inches apart.

Flatten slightly then bake until light brown on the bottom, about 12-13 minutes.

Slide them out on the parchment paper onto a wire rack and allow them to cool 1-2 minutes on the parchment or silipat on the wire rack before removing the parchment and allowing them to cool directly on the wire rack.

Cool completely before storing in air-tight containers.

My thoughts:

Traditionally jumbles are made with dried fruit, nuts and spices. I used dried blueberries (raisins are more typical but they are the devil's fruit), cocoNUT and chocolate because, well, that's what I like and I can. Using fresh tasting, Finlandia Premium Imported Salted Butter gave me a craggy, soft, surprisingly light cookie that everyone who tried it loved. I know it is somewhat unusual to use salted butter in a cookie but jumbles are a historical cookie (think Martha Washington) and salted butter was often used in cookies back then.

I'm not sure if it was the salt or the insanely soft, creamy texture of the butter (made from Finnish cows that their farmers treat like family!) but the dough whipped up super fast and was great to scoop. It didn't get stuck in my cookie scoop once! I can't wait to make these cookies again, maybe swapping the blueberries for cranberries for Thanksgiving?

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Finlandia™ . The opinions and text are all mine.

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November 09, 2016


1 lb kielbasa*, cubed
1/4 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup finely shredded Polish sauerkraut, drained (if needed)
2 cups cubed Russet potatoes, parboiled
1/4 cup sour cream
10 eggs
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

*I like to use the good garlic-y kind from the Polish grocery but any good, kielbasa would work.


Preheat oven to 350. Saute the kielbasa, onion, and garlic in olive oil until the onion is translucent. Drain off any excess fat. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat together the eggs, sour cream, pepper until fluffy. Stir in the sausage mixture, sauerkraut and the potatoes. Oil an 8x8-inch baking dish. Pour the mixture into the dish and bake for 40 minutes or until fully set in the middle. Allow to cool 5 minutes. Slice into 9 squares and serve.

Note: Do not skip the cooling step, it is difficult to cut straight out of the oven.

My thoughts:
I bought some lovely kielbasa at the Polish market (in Broadway Market for the locals) and a bunch of other goodies like candies, arak flavoring, pierogies, ham, sauerkraut, bread etc. Anyway, I may have overbought the sausage so I thought I'd make a frittata out of it, then I wondered if a frittata would be good with sauerkraut in it and then last night it just evolved into a total pierogi-inspired baked frittata. My favorite pierogi have sauerkraut and potatoes in them and I serve them with onions, kielbasa, and sour cream so it made total sense. I know it sounds a little wacky but trust me, it totally comes together! It isn't super sour or anything, just a fun combo of some of my favorite foods in the world.

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October 26, 2016

Admitting it is Autumn Lentil Salad


1 6.7-oz tin smoked herring in oil*
2 tablespoons good quality apple cider vinegar
2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
1 bunch French breakfast radishes, thinly sliced
8-9 oz cooked beets, halved and sliced
8 oz cooked Beluga lentils**
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
freshly ground black pepper


Drain half of the oil from the fish into a small bowl, whisk in vinegar and spices. Discard the remaining oil. Chop the fish. Add to the bowl along with the lentils and onions. Serve at room temperature.

*I buy mine at Trader Joe's but they are easy to find
**many stores, include Target, sell these fully cooked in vacuum-sealed packets. Simply heat them according to package instructions.

My thoughts:
This is a difficult thing for me to do but I have to do it. We are nearly a month into autumn. The fact that today was the first day I had to wear tall boots (no tights yet!) instead of sandals or ankle boots really drove it home for me. That and the fact that all is left new in the ground are radishes, beets, squash and some hardy greens. So this that in mind, I came home and made this for dinner. It, like quite a few things I seem to enjoy, combines a few ingredients people are skeptical of: radishes, beets, canned smoked fish, lentils...but again, I swear it is really good! Slightly pungent (eat among loved ones) but it really comes together to make a savory, smoky veggie packed salad that makes a lovely lunch or light dinner.

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October 17, 2016

Smoked Turkey and Greens Pot Pie

1 cup frozen Lima beans
1 cup peeled, diced Russet potatoes
1 bunch kale, chopped
1/2 cup flour
1 carrot, cut into coins
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 parsnips, cut into coins
1 onion, diced
3 tablespoons butter
3 cups cubed, smoked turkey breast*
2 1/2 cups chicken stock or turkey stock
1 3/4 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 egg, beaten
freshly ground black pepper

puff pastry (if using defrosted frozen, you will only need one sheet)


Preheat oven to 350.

Melt the butter in a large skillet with high sides, a large saucepan or a stove top and oven safe 2-quart casserole. Add the onion, garlic, parsnip, celery, carrots, Lima beans, potatoes, and kale. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent.

Stir in the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the milk, bay leaf, and stock. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid reduces and thickens a bit, about 10-15 minutes. Fish out the bay leaf. Add the turkey, herbs and spices. Stir to evenly distribute all ingredients. Cook for 2 minutes. Divide into large, oven-safe ramekins or pour into a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish. Leave  1/4 to 1/2 inch of room at the top.

Top with a layer of puff pastry. Pierce with a knife. Brush with egg. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.

*Store-bought or homemade
My thoughts:
I bought this whole, smoked Butterball turkey ages ago at Aldi and stuck in the small extra freezer we have in our basement. It sat there forever because we never had room in the fridge to defrost it. One of the only lucky things to come out of the fridge breaking and throwing out all of our food is that we now have tons of space because we have no food. So I defrosted the turkey (and transferred all the frozen stuff from the basement into the fridge freezer and defrosted that so I have that to fill too!) on the empty shelf. I didn't really know what to expect but it was really good! It was super moist and juicy (there were even enough juices in the cavity to make a quick turkey stock with!) and while smoky, it wasn't overpowering.

One of our favorite things to do with smoked turkey legs is make greens and while I had kale from my produce box order, I wanted to make something different with it. So I came up with the idea to combine greens and another favorite way to use up cooked poultry; pot pie! OMG, it was so good! Creamy without being too rich, savory and smoky and just really really good. Normally I put peas in my pot pie but since I was going Southern-inspired, I used Lima beans instead. They held up really well and added to the "packed with vegetables" pot pie I was going for. I hate having to make a side dish after making a time-consuming recipe so the more vegetables, the better! We have been so busy this summer it was good to get back into the kitchen with my partner in marriage and crime and make a fun meal! Pot pies are simple to make but time consuming so leave yourself more time than you'd think for the prep.

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October 14, 2016

Smoked Olive Egg Salad

7 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4-1/3 cup sliced smoked olives*
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard (powder)
freshly ground black pepper


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

Remove one egg's worth of white. Discard or eat. Chop up the remaining egg whites. Place in a medium-sized bowl. Stir in the onion and olives.

Place the mayonnaise 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.

*I get these at our local smokery but they are also available in specialty or gourmet stores

My thoughts:
It has been an unfortunately eventful last few months. One of the most recent disasters was our refrigerator going up resulting in the loss of hundreds of dollars of food including tons of beef, seafood, all of the produce I harvested and frozen this summer, and every thing in the fridge except cured meats, olives, butter and cheese. We are slowly trying to get things back in stock but between not having a fridge for nearly a week, visiting a peanut farm, the apple butter festival two hours away and Matt's school schedule I've barely cooked in weeks. I finally broke down and made this for our lunches. Luckily the smoked olives I had bought at the smokery survived and they add a ton of flavor to this easy egg salad. I bet regular olives would be good too if you can't find smoked--just swap the paprika for smoked paprika.

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September 16, 2016

Crispy Chicken Thighs with Portobellos, Zucchini and Potatoes


3 lbs chicken thighs
2 tablespoons lemon pepper seasoning
1/2 super fine flour (like Wondra)
2 zucchini (I used goldenrod zucchini), cut into 1/2-inch thick half circles
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
3 portobello mushroom caps, large dice
1 bunch green chard, chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 lb baby potatoes (I used a mix of white, red and blue potatoes), halved
freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 400.

Thoroughly coat the chicken with lemon pepper and flour. Place skin-side down in a hot, oven safe, dry skillet. Cook for 10-20 minutes or until well browned. Remove to a paper-towel lined platter. Drain off fat, leaving 1-2 tablespoons behind. Add the onions, zucchini, mushrooms, chard, and garlic and saute until the onion is softened and translucent.  Season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken, skin-side up, on top of the vegetables. Bake for 40 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked. Serve immediately.

Note: If you have more vegetables than room in your pan, transfer them to an appropriately sized baking dish and then top with chicken and bake.

My thoughts:
Last weekend we went to one of my favorite food festivals, the Kennett Square Mushroom Festival. Kennett Square is known as the mushroom capital of the world and they put on quite a festival! Not only can you buy mushrooms (we bought a five lb case of HUGE portobellos!) but they have all sorts of mushroom food on offer. This year we shared a candy cap mushroom cupcake, a mushroom tamale (the best!), a Mediterranean burrito with mushrooms and pork, fried mushrooms and mushroom-free Dole Whip. In previous years we've had mushroom ice pops! Anyway, we brought home a ton of mushrooms so now it is my job to use them up!

This is my second favorite way to cook chicken thighs. I love Maryland Fried Chicken the best but we can't always eat fried chicken! This method gives you crispy skin thanks to the browning step but requires zero extra fat. Then you layer it on a bed of vegetables. The whole thing bakes in about 40 minutes and you are left with both perfectly cooked chicken and a side dish all in one pan.

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September 14, 2016

Late Summer Succotash


2 slices of cooked bacon, crumbled
1 ear's worth of corn kernels
1 quart fresh lima beans, shucked
1 pint okra,  cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 medium tomatoes, diced
freshly ground black pepper

Heat some oil or bacon grease in a large pan. Add the corn, lima beans, okra, onion, green onion and garlic and saute until the vegetables are tender. Add in the tomatoes and cook until just heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in bacon.

My thoughts:
The fact that summer is ending makes me sad. I know some people love fall (and puzzlingly, everything pumpkin spice) but to me, fall means that my least favorite time of the year is right around the corner. Luckily we have a few more days of summer left and here in Baltimore at least, a few of my favorite foods are still in season. I picked up some heirloom tomatoes and lima beans from the tiny market in my neighborhood and decided to put them into this simple succotash. It comes together quickly--I dispensed with the sauteeing the onion first--and makes a great side dish to pretty much anything while showcase the last bit of summer produce.

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September 12, 2016

Tahini-Dill Tuna Stuffed Tomatoes

5 oz canned solid albacore tuna in water, drained
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons prepared tahini sauce
3 tablespoon minced red onion
1 tablespoon nonpareil capers
1 tablespoon minced dill
freshly ground black pepper
2 large tomatoes (beefsteak works well)

In a small bowl, break up the tuna into small chunks. Mix in mayonnaise, tahini sauce, red onion, capers, dill and pepper until well combined. Set aside.

Core the tomatoes. scoop out some of the flesh to accommodate the tuna. Fill with tuna. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
Tomato season is by far my favorite season. They are still going strong in Baltimore and I took a trip down to my local  farmers market to pick up some big enough to stuff. I think tuna stuffed tomatoes were the just about first thing I remember making as a child. I want to say I got the idea from my Strawberry Shortcake's Cooking Fun cookbook but I'm not 100% sure. They didn't have tahini sauce in them back then though! I updated the recipe just a bit to include tahini sauce and dill, two of my favorite flavors in tuna salad. Tomatoes are still in season here so I used some big, juicy ones from the farm stand. Just take care to use sturdy tomatoes like beefsteak that can be hollowed out without poking a hole through the side. I like to serve them immediately so the tuna doesn't get watered down but if you have to travel with them, hollow out the tomato at home and fill with the tuna at your destination.

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September 08, 2016

Fairytale Eggplant Capicola Baked Frittata


1 lb fairytale eggplants, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup Parmesan
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup chopped chives
10 eggs
1/4 lb thin sliced lean capicola, cut into slightly less than 1/4-inch strips
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil


Note: This part can be made one day ahead and refrigerated.

Preheat oven to 350. Place the eggplant on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet, skin-side-down. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, saute the onion and garlic, in a medium pan using olive oil, until the onion is soft and translucent. Allow the eggplant and onion/garlic to cool. Refrigerate if making ahead then bring to room temperature prior to the next step.

For the next step/next day:
Preheat oven to 350. Beat together the eggs, milk, Parmesan, chives, salt and pepper until fluffy*. Fold in the room temperature eggplant, onions/garlic and capicola. Oil an 8x8-inch baking dish. Pour the mixture into the dish and bake for 40 minutes or until fully set in the middle. Allow to cool 5 minutes. Slice into 9 squares and serve.

*I love my egg beater for this task.
My thoughts:
This is one of my favorite dishes of the summer. It uses chives from my garden and my favorite fairytale eggplant in a way that is even easier than a regular frittata because there is zero stove-top time. Fairytale eggplant is my favorite eggplant variety because it is a. cute b. has tiny seeds c. doesn't require much work to become delicious and d. zero bitterness. Adding to the vaguely Italian theme is capicola, one of my favorites of the Italian deli meats. I get sweet capicola which is well, sweet and has a light, hammy flavor. The version we buy at our local Italian market has no visible fat so if your capicola does, feel free to cut the extra fat off before adding it to the frittata.

The frittata is great reheated, as well. We like having extra for lunches the next day.  I normally bake mine because I am home but a toaster oven or even microwave works just fine.

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September 06, 2016

Shrimp with Okra and Fairytale Eggplant


2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 portobello mushrooms, cubed
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1-quart okra, chopped
2 lb fairytale eggplant, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
24 oz medium shrimp, peeled

to serve: over Old Bay Chive Cheese Grits

Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet. Add the garlic, mushrooms, eggplants, onion, okra and eggplant and saute until the eggplant and mushrooms are tender. Stir in the shrimp and cook 3-5 minutes or until pink and fully cooked. Server over rice or over Old Bay Chive Cheese Grits.
My thoughts:
This is my seasonal take on the traditional shrimp and grits. I added in my favorite variety of eggplant, some local portobello mushrooms (the mushroom festival is next weekend!) to make a dish that is less traditional and more hearty. I love okra and eggplants but I think they are both some of the more polarizing of vegetables. I think this is a great way to showcase both so if you are on the fence, give it a try! They get nice and soft during the sauting and shrimp adds some light seafood flavor to round out the dish. I liked them over grits but I bet rice would be good too.

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