May 17, 2019

Mortadella Home Fries


Ingredients:
1 1/2-2 lb Russet potatoes, peeled, quartered and sliced
1 large onion, quartered and sliced
1/4 lb thinly sliced (imported) mortadella, cut into bite-sized pieces
butter
freshly ground black pepper
pinch salt



Directions:

Parboil the potato in a medium pot. Drain and set aside.

Heat a large skillet. Melt the butter. Add the onions and mortadella and sauté until the onions are softened and starting to brown around the edges. Add the potatoes. Arrange the potatoes in as flat of a layer as possible. Cook until golden then flip and brown the other side. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.



My thoughts:
I have always been a home fries person. My grandpop always made them for me growing up (often alongside his meat cakes) and I think they are so much better than hash browns. Unfortunately,  a lot of restaurants don't seem to know the difference between hash browns and home fries so when I order home fries, I am often very disappointed.

I make them at home not terribly frequently but every time I do I wonder why it has been so long! Normally I make them with bacon but we had bought way too much mortadella shortly before our trip to NYC last week so I thought I'd swap some for the usual bacon. I'm so glad I did! The mortadella (the fancier, Italian cousin to bologna) crisped up around the edges and added a ton of flavor to the potatoes. It was a revelation. I think I might buy "too much" mortadella on purpose next time.

The trick to good home fries is to parboil the potatoes. I don't always do it, my grandpop never did, but it really is the easiest way to guarantee crispy, perfectly cooked potatoes.

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May 15, 2019

Spaghetti with Sardines, Asparagus and Capers






Ingredients:

1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 onion, sliced into half moons
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb asparagus, cut into bite-sized pieces
2-3 tablespoons nonpareil capers
2 4.4-oz canned sardines in oil, drained
juice and zest of one lemon
3/4 lb spaghetti
2/3 (loose) cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
Parmesan for sprinkling
olive oil
salt
freshly ground black pepper


Directions:

Cook spaghetti according to package instructions.

In a large skillet, toast the bread crumbs until golden brown. Set aside. Heat some olive oil in the pan. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onion softens. Add the asparagus, capers, and sardines. Saute, breaking up the sardines with the back of the spoon until the onions are fully cooked. Stir in the cooked, drained spaghetti, lemon juice, zest, salt, pepper, and parsley. Toss in bread crumbs. Divide over four plates and sprinkle with parmesan. Serve immediately.




My thoughts:
One of the best things about our trip to Portugal a few years ago was really exploring the world of tinned seafood. We went to two different restaurants that specialized in recipes using tinned seafood in interesting ways and a store that only sold canned seafood. It was so much fun!

Luckily, all sorts of canned and preserved seafood are available here in the US. Even the not so fancy supermarket had 10 different varieties and brands of sardines. Not to mention, tuna, anchovies, herring, even octopus!

It's easy to make a meal strictly from the pantry using sardines but since it's spring (despite being the 40s!! this week) I added some in-season asparagus and tons of parsley for a lighter, fresher dish. It was so good! Filling without being heavy and although sardines are a fishier smelling fish, the dish is surprisingly not pungent. The toasty bread crumbs and parm add a great depth of flavor as well. A truly satisfying weeknight meal.

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May 07, 2019

Dill Feta Ranch Dip



Ingredients:
1 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1/4 cup crumbled feta

for the ranch mix:
1 1/2 tablespoons dry buttermilk*
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon freeze-dried chives
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried onion
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
freshly ground black pepper


Directions:

Place all ingredients, including the ranch mix, in a medium bowl and stir to combine all ingredients until fairly smooth. Refrigerate 20 minutes prior to serving.


*look for this in the baking aisle

My thoughts:
I've been cooking a lot lately but it's all been dishes too heavy to post in May or food that is terribly unphotogenic. So frustrating when you are trying to keep with a regular posting schedule as you move into the 15th year of this blog!

Today I made myself a mortadella sandwich and since I had some of these sesame Pressels  I thought I'd make some dip for fun. I've been obsessed with feta and dill lately so I thought I'd combine them with some Greek yogurt and homemade buttermilk ranch mix. So good and creamy with a bit of a tang. Perfect for your next lunch, snacktime or picnic.

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April 29, 2019

Salted Cashew Chocolate Chunk Cookies



Ingredients:
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup salted, halves and pieces cashews
1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks



Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2-3 cookie sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat.

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 hand mixer. 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 and nuts.


Form cookies by dropping 1 heaping tablespoon of dough two inches apart (I like this cookie scoop that hold 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough).


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 Silpat 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:
I am not a huge fan of nuts in baked goods. Walnuts remind me of baby teeth. I rarely use them unless I am making something for someone else or making bar cookies like these where they aren't hidden and stay crisp. Anyway, I had to buy some cashews to garnish a recipe I was testing and had a ton leftover. I haven't had a cookie with cashews before but why not try? I ended up liking them a lot! Cashews are pretty soft so the texture melds really well with the cookie dough. I guess it makes sense since it actually a seed and not a true nut? The chocolate chunks were around the same size as the cashews and it made for a really chocolatey cookie. 

I used salted nuts and didn't add salt to the dough but since my cashews weren't terribly salty, it only added a savory note, not a ton of salty flavor. If your cashews are saltier, you might have a stronger sweet/salt contrast. 


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April 19, 2019

Gnocchi with Ham, Watercress and Peas



Ingredients:

1 medium onion, cut into half-moon slices
2 1/2 cups cubed ham
5 oz watercress
10 oz fresh, shelled peas
30 oz plain, potato gnocchi
salt
freshly ground black pepper
grated parmesan


Directions:

In a large pan, saute the onion until softened. Add the ham and cook until warmed through. Add the watercress and peas. Add 3 tablespoons of water and saute until the peas are tender. Season with salt and pepper

Meanwhile, cook gnocchi to package instructions. Drain. Add the gnocchi to the pan and saute until lightly browned. Divide among 4 dishes and top with parmesan.



My thoughts:
I love coming up with recipes using up holiday leftovers! To be honest, we never host so I am almost always buying food just to make fun stuff with the leftovers! It's become a bit of hobby on its own, to be honest. We aren't people who mind eating leftovers, we normally make dinner for four so we can have the leftovers for lunch the next day but repurposing them into something new is so much more fun. For this recipe, I used a whole boneless smoked ham I bought at Costco. It's so easy to cube to use in other dishes but of course, you can use any leftover ham from any cut.

This recipe is super easy because let's be honest, after hosting, who wants to make another big elaborate meal? I used gnocchi I bought at Aldi but any supermarket or Italian grocery will have them. You can also make fresh gnocchi if you'd like but the vacuumed pack ones are pretty good and are even faster to cook than regular pasta. I love watercress with ham so much (this egg salad with ham and watercress is another great Easter leftover recipe), it has a peppery bite that offsets the often sweet and very smoky ham. Peas are classic with ham so I added some I bought at Trader Joe's (in the fresh department) to make it even more of a complete meal.

Normally, I am not one to eat gnocchi leftovers but (maybe because it wasn't homemade gnocchi and not saucy?) we had some leftovers (of the leftovers, ha!) and they really reheated well! I sauteed them in a skillet to reheat and they were quite tasty. Lightly browning the gnocchi adds a nice toasty flavor too.

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April 17, 2019

Bitter Herb Deviled Eggs


Ingredients:
6 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup minced watercress
3 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon grated horseradish
1/4-1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Use a mini prep, food processor or blender to thoroughly mix together the yolks, mayonnaise, onion, spices, and peppers until fairly smooth. Spoon an equal amount into each of the egg halves. Garnish with additional paprika, if desired.

Notes: Recipe can easily be doubled or tripled. Can be made up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerated in an air-tight container.
My thoughts:
Easter and Passover overlap again this year so I thought I'd make some Passover-inspired deviled eggs. Last year when they overlapped, I made "Everything Bagel" inspired deviled eggs that were a big hit. This year I went for more of a Passover-tie in with bitter herbs. Maror, bitter herbs, are one of the foods on the Passover seder plate. The bitterness of the herbs is to represent the bitterness and harshness Israelites felt when they were slaves in Egypt. A few different things can be used as maror, including horseradish for maror, bitter greens like lettuce, watercress or endive for the second bitter herb, hazeret. It's a serious tradition for a serious holiday but the food that comes after is meant to be enjoyed! In that spirit, I thought I'd combine our two favorite bitter herbs to make a deviled egg that works for both holidays in our mixed household.

The results are excellent. A bit robust flavored thanks to the fresh horseradish and peppery watercress but it is tempered by the creamy mayo and egg yolks. A real crowd-pleaser.

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April 15, 2019

Toffee Macaroon Matzo Bars






Ingredients

2-3 sheets plain matzo
10 oz semi or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup sweetened finely flaked coconut
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk*
3/4 cup toffee chunks**


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly butter a 9x13 inch baking pan. Set aside.

Place the matzo in the bottom of the pan, breaking as needed to fit and cover the bottom of the pan as much as possible.



Evenly sprinkle the chocolate chips, then the coconut, and almonds over the matzo. Pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the top, and spread with the back of a spoon or spatula until the mixture is evenly coated.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until edges are golden brown. Remove to a wire rack and immediately evenly sprinkle with toffee chunks.

Allow to cool on a wire rack completely before slicing.  This will take a lot longer than you expect.




Store in the refrigerator or on a cool counter in an air-tight container. Freeze leftovers up to 6 months if desired.

*Make sure to use sweetened condensed milk that is marked as Kosher for Passover or use one of the many recipes for making it yourself that are available online.

**I placed this toffee in a resealable bag and hit it with a rolling pin to break it into chunks. I sprinkled both the larger chunks and smaller bits.
My thoughts:


I was trying to think of a new dessert or treat for Passover this year, we are not religous but I normally make something each year. The pineapple coconut matzo granola I made years ago was great but not exactly a dessert. I love making macaroons but I felt like something different. I was going to make matzo toffee and call it a day but then I had a better idea.

Last year I discovered Magic Bars (or Hello Dolly Bars or 7-Layer Bars) for the first time. I think bars are more popular in other parts of the country and are a bit old fashioned but I did not grow up eating them. We always had brownies or black bottoms, not bars!  I made what I called cocoanuts bars last year then for New Year's Eve to go with our numbers theme, I made speculoos butterscotch 7-layer bars. They are so easy to make and the flavors are really open to tweaking.

Why not replace the cookie layer with matzo? While I love these bars they are very sweet, and I've tried a few things to cut down on the sweetness, namely using very dark chocolate and/or unsweetened coconut but it's a bar that uses sweetened condensed milk as a binder. There's not much you can do! Using a cookie layer doesn't help either. Why not use matzo instead? It's not sweet, is perfect for Passover and doesn't need butter to help it stick together and cover a baking dish which makes the bar lighter as well.

Once I decided to make Matzo magic bars, I had to think about flavors. I thought I'd combine those popular Passover treats--matzo brittle and macaroons--into one bar. I didn't want to just layer coconut on the toffee and call it a day so I made toffee and sprinkled it on top and made the bars the traditional way but substituting matzo for cookie crumbs. When you sprinkle the toffee while the bars are still hot, it melts into the bars but doesn't turn totally liquid which is exactly what you want.

These were so good, my husband gave them the ultimate compliment-they were legit delicious, not just good for Passover! Passover desserts can be tricky so this is high praise indeed. Of course, you don't have to make these solely for Passover, they are a treat any time of the year. The toffee really is the crowning touch--it adds so much flavor and a contrasting texture to the coconut and matzo.




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Basic Toffee


Ingredients:

1 cup butter, cubed
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, rum flavoring or dark rum


Directions:

Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

Combine butter, sugar, water, and salt in a small pot over medium heat.

Stir ingredients frequently over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil.

After the mixture comes to a boil, attach a candy thermometer. Continue to stir periodically as it thickens and darkens.

Once toffee reaches 305 (or when a drizzle of the syrup hardens and cracks in a glass of very cold water), remove from heat and stir in flavoring.

Pour mixture into the prepared pan. Allow to cool completely, about 1 hour. Break or cut into pieces.

My thoughts:
I made this to use in my toffee macaroon matzo bars but it is tasty on its own! I didn't use a candy thermometer but they are very useful, especially if you are new to candy making.
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April 04, 2019

Spiced Up Mochiko Chicken



Ingredients:

1/4 cup chopped scallion
1/4 cup mochiko flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon mixed black and white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)
1 teaspoon shichimi togarashi
2 egg, beaten
1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (trimmed of excess fat if desired)

Directions:

WARNING: This must be done the day before you want to make the chicken.

Place all ingredients in a resealable bag. Seal and squish around until the ingredients are evenly distributed and the chicken is well coated. Refrigerate at least 8 hours, preferably 16-24.

Heat about 1-inch canola oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan. Fry, turning once until the chicken is cooked through and golden brown. Drain on paper towel-lined plates.


My thoughts:
I love mochiko chicken. The technique is different than other fried chicken, you marinate it in the sweet rice flour and then it goes straight into the pan and super easy. Every time I make this Hawaiian classic, I wonder why I don't make it more often. I love the crisp batter, how easy it is to make and how flavorful the chicken tastes. I'm not much of a chicken person but even I look forward to this!

Until now, I've only made it the traditional way but this time I decided to spice things up a bit. I was going to just add shichimi togarashi but it has a bit of salt in it and since we were marinating it in soy sauce so I was worried the final dish would be too salty. So we added some of my favorite red pepper gochugaru which added some more heat and a lot of pepper flavor. Totally not traditional for mochiko chicken but it works. Think of it as sort of a Hawaiian-Korean-Japanese mash up. Hawaiian food is a real mix of flavors from all over the world and Korea and Japan both have their own style of very wonderful fried chicken (here's my recipe for karaage) so it made sense to me to add some those flavors to mochiko chicken to spice it up.


I served it with a scoop of sticky rice sprinkled with furikake (I buy this variety case)  and some broccoli sauteed with shichimi togarashi and onions. A super easy, surprisingly light weeknight dinner.

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April 02, 2019

Smoky Eggplant Zucchini Dip



2 medium eggplants
2 small zucchini
1 handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup tahini
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt
freshly ground black pepper
healthy pinch ground chipotle



Directions:

Preheat oven to 375.
Place each eggplant on a gas burner and grill, turning occasionally until the skin is well blistered. Allow to cool. Cut off the stem and halve lengthwise. Line a baking sheet with parchment and roast, cut side down until the flesh is tender, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool.

While the eggplant is cooling. Broil the zucchini on a broiler pan in the oven, turning occasionally, until the skin blisters and the flesh is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool.

Scoop out the insides of the eggplant and zucchini and discard the skins. Drain the liquid through a colander into a bowl. Discard the liquid. Chop the pulp until fairly smooth but with still a few chunks.


Place in a medium bowl, stir in the parsley. Set aside.


In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, oil, lemon juice, garlic and spices until smooth. Pour over the vegetables. Stir until well combined. Refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight.


My thoughts:
I love smokey eggplant dips like Mutabal and Baba Ghanoush. The local Persian place we frequent has a signature eggplant dip that is sort of a mashup of the two that I adore. I frequently order that and a side of loobia polo as my main dish. It is so good! When I was reading a ton of cookbooks recently as a judge for a contest, I came across a recipe for a riff on baba ghanoush made with zucchini instead of eggplant. I loved the idea and was going to make it but then I remembered I really love eggplant. How could I forsake it entirely? Plus I hate following recipes. I'm actually really bad at it. I can and will do it (well!) but it really goes against my nature. So I decided to riff on the riff and make a smoky, roasted eggplant and zucchini dip.

The directions are a bit finicky. I'm sorry. But roasting eggplant skin on the burner yields, in my opinion, better, tastier results than broiling but unless you are using Japanese or "baby" eggplants (which have become maddeningly difficult to find lately) it won't cook the eggplant through before it catches on fire. (ask me how I know) So, roast it on the burner then bake it until it softens. Conversely, zucchini skin is thinner and less tough so I don't like roasting it on the burner and instead, broil and unless they are truly massive, in which case they aren't very tasty and have giant seeds anyway, they cook all the way through in like 20 minutes. I waited for it all to cool and then chopped it all together. You could use a food processor but that requires a lot of cleaning and the pulp is so soft, it chops easily.

The results are amazing and well worth the effort! I loved the smoky flavor and it was very creamy. It was even good three days after I made it. I can't wait to make it again.

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March 28, 2019

Lemon-Ginger Tea Quick Pickles




Ingredients:
3 "baby" cucumbers, sliced into 1/4 inch coins
2 1/4-inch thick lemon slices, halved
1/4 small red onion, sliced into thin half-moons
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 bags Stash Tea Lemon Ginger Herbal Tea, divided use
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white wine vinegar

Directions:

In a small bowl, toss together the cucumbers, lemon slices, onion, bay leaf, mustard seeds, caraway seeds and the contents of one Stash Tea Lemon Ginger tea bag. Place the mixture into 1 1-pint jar. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, place the remaining tea bag, salt, water, and vinegar. Bring to a rolling boil and whisk to dissolve the salt. Remove the tea bag. Pour over the vegetables in the jar. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 day prior to serving. Store, refrigerated up to 2 weeks.



My thoughts:
Stash Tea got in touch and wanted to know if I wanted to create a new dish for a blogger contest they were having. My husband loves tea so of course, I agreed. I wanted the challenge of creating something savory with tea and thought about it a long time before I came up with this. I had a lot of ideas but this one really stood out to me.

I love pickles and preserved things and often serve them as appetizers at parties. This pickle has a lovely floral aromatic flavor to it thanks to the Stash Tea Lemon Ginger Herbal Tea. The ginger gives just a hint of heat, the hibiscus a touch of sweetness and the lemon gives it a lively zing that is perfect for heading into spring. These pickles would be great on an Easter or Passover (if you do not keep strictly Kosher) spread or as part of a cheese board. You could even chop them up and put them in some egg salad!

Use the code COCONUTANDLIME-SC at check out for 10% off your order at Stash Tea.

Please follow Stash on social media: Facebook,  Twitter,  Instagram, and Pinterest. Check out the hashtags #stashtea #stashtearecipechallenge and #stashtearecipes for more cooking with tea inspiration.

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March 26, 2019

Sesame-Feta Chicken Salad



Ingredients:

2 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
handful Italian parsley, chopped
1 “baby” cucumber, diced
1/2 small red onion, diced
3 oz crumbled feta (tomato basil flavored if possible)
1 tablespoon nonpareil capers
2 teaspoons tahini
3-4 tablespoons mayonnaise
salt
freshly ground black pepper
zest of one lemon

Directions:

Place the chicken, parsley, cucumber, onion, feta, and capers in a large bowl. Toss to evenly distribute all ingredients. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, mayo, salt, pepper, and zest. Spoon over the chicken mixture and stir to combine. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 48 hours.

Serving suggestion: I served this on lavash with sliced cherry tomatoes.



My thoughts:
I made a different sesame chicken salad 11 years ago(!!) using sesame oil and sesame seeds and haven't made it since for no real, good reason. I really liked the flavor of sesame in the chicken salad so I thought I'd try it again but this time using the sesame paste, tahini,  for the sesame flavor. I love the tahini/feta/caper combo so those were obvious add-ins and I chopped up some cucumber for crunch.

I really hadn't thought of sharing the recipe (I was trying to use up some rotisserie chicken from Costco) but it was so good, I have too! It was really satisfying a super flavorful. The flavors really complemented each other and the dish was easy to make but the final product seemed a lot more exciting than traditional chicken salad. Plus it's always good to have a use for tahini that isn't hummus or baba ghanoush!

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March 21, 2019

Marshmallow Lovers Rice Krispie Treats




Ingredients:
6 cup crisped rice cereal (aka Rice Krispies)
1 cup plain or multicolored mini dehydrated vanilla marshmallows*
6 tablespoons butter
2 10-oz bags mini marshmallows
1 teaspoon vanilla


Directions:

Butter a 9x13 inch pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss together the cereal and dehydrated marshmallows. Set aside.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter. Stir in 1 1/2 bags marshmallows and vanilla. Stir until they are fully melted. Turn the heat to the lowest setting. Stir in the cereal mixture. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining half bag of mini marshmallows. Immediately scrape into the prepared baking dish. Very gently, smooth it out so it is an even layer without pressing down and compressing the mixture. Allow to cool at room temperature until firm enough to cut into squares. Turn out the dish and cut into squares. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.



*I bought these in bulk at a farm stand/old fashioned candy store while on a road trip but they are also available on Amazon.



My thoughts:
Rice Krispie Treats, 1980s commercial aside, are one of the easiest desserts you can make yet still I find myself tweaking the recipe. The back of the box recipe is fine but they can be a little dense. A bakery near us makes huge, thick squares of Rice Krispies Treats that are very good, soft and marshmallow-y but cost roughly the same as a whole box of cereal for one treat. It was worth it to try once but I can't bring myself to keep buying them when they make a whole slew of delights I can't or won't make at home.

Thus began my quest to make an extra-marshmallow-y, extra soft treat. Not surprisingly, the trick is to add way more marshmallows than you'd think. Not only did I up the amount I melted by half, I also stirred in some more marshmallows at the very end so they don't fully melt and leave marshmallow pockets. This is twice as many marshmallows as the official recipe! Then I added even more marshmallows in the form of dehydrated marshmallows (don't worry, they soften up). The dehydrated marshmallows added a bit more flavor and texture to the bars. The whole thing came together to make one super marshmallow-y, very vanilla Rice Krispie Treat.




Note: I did use generic marshmallows and "crisped rice" cereal I purchased at Aldi for this recipe. I don't like Jet-Puffed marshmallows and I can't tell the difference when it comes to the cereal. The marshmallows are only 88¢ a bag and the box of cereal (I only used half!) was $ 1.29. You can't beat that.

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March 15, 2019

Dilled Roasted Vegetable Orzo Salad with Gorgonzola



Ingredients:

3/4 cup (dry) orzo
1 zucchini, cubed
1 Spanish black radish, cubed
6 oz crimini mushrooms, quartered
1/4 lb asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
olive oil
a sprinkle of jalapeno garlic seasoning (I use this but you can sub in ground jalapenos and granulated garlic)
freshly ground black pepper
salt
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 (loose) cup chopped dill
2 oz gorgonzola, crumbled




Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Cook orzo according to package instructions. Drain and allow to cool.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Arrange the zucchini and radish in a single layer, drizzle with olive oil and seasonings. Roast for 20 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and asparagus to the pan, toss to mix. Roast for 15 minutes or until all vegetables are tender. Allow to cool.


Place the orzo, red onion, and roasted vegetables in a bowl. Toss with fresh lemon juice and olive oil to taste. Stir in fresh dill and gorgonzola. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 24 hours.


My thoughts:
This is another recipe that helps bridge the seasons. Spicy Spanish black radishes are in season, asparagus is starting to make an appearance and mushrooms and zucchini are pretty delicious year round. The gorgonzola is almost gilding the lily but it adds so much flavor for such little effort, it's worth it. It's strong enough to stand up to the pungent black radish but doesn't overpower the more delicate flavors. The salad is a little on the hardy side but I think that is fitting when it still getting down near freezing at night. Excellent for a side dish or light vegetarian main dish.


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March 12, 2019

The Italian Club





Ingredients:
1 lb thinly sliced good quality  roasted turkey deli meat
1 lb thinly sliced lean capicola
1/3 lb imported smoked provolone
iceberg lettuce, sliced
3/4 lb crisp bacon strips
1/4 lb jarred roasted red peppers, drained
mayonnaise
12 pieces white toast

Directions:

Arrange 4 slices of toast on a platter or cutting board. Spread a thin layer of mayo if desired. Top with cheese, then turkey, capicola, bacon, lettuce then red pepper. Top with the second slice of toast and repeat. You may have leftover deli meat, don't feel like you have to overfill the sandwich. Top with a final slice of toast and cut each into 4 triangles, securing with long picks. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 sandwiches

My thoughts:
We actually made this way back in January when we had our numbers themed NYE. Double decker sandwiches were an obvious choice for New Year's Day lunch. I took the picture and then it languished until today. 

The sandwiches were so good, I thought it was worth sharing. Everyone knows the typical club sandwich. A place near us makes excellent club sandwiches so there is no need to make one at home. The Italian club, on the other hand, is a different thing altogether. Okay, I admit I made it up but it's very good and worth a trip to the local Italian deli to pick up some capicola to make it yourself. Imported smoked provolone is so much more flavorful than the domestic stuff, it adds a lot of depth to the sandwich. Tomato season is months away so using roasted red tomatoes, another flavor found in Italian dishes, instead worked really well. Make sure you drain them carefully so they aren't too wet or they will make your sandwich soggy. 

The whole sandwich is just a delight to eat. a great mix of flavors and a fun twist on a classic.




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March 08, 2019

It's Almost Spring Minestrone




Ingredients:

2-3 stalks celery (with leaves), sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2-3 carrots, sliced into coins
1 medium purple-top turnip, cubed
2 zucchini, cubed
1 large Russet potato, cubed
1 cup diced green beans (about 1/3 lb)
15 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes
15 oz can cannellini beans, drained
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
salt
freshly ground black pepper
3-4 tablespoons pesto (homemade or jarred)
1 cup cooked ditalini pasta*
parmesan for sprinkling

Directions:

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, saute the celery, garlic, onions, carrots, turnip, zucchini and potato until the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes, green beans, beans, and stock. Simmer for 45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add salt and pepper. Stir in pesto. Divide into bowls, stir in a few tablespoons of noodles and top with a sprinkle of parmesan.


*I cook the pasta separately and store any leftovers in separate containers. If stored together, the pasta absorbs all the broth overnight and makes for a soggy mess. If you are planning to eat all of the soup at once, add the noodles to the pot, not each bowl.

My thoughts:

I've always liked minestrone soup. We ate a lot of Progresso minestrone for lunch when I was a kid and it's still one of my go-tos for when I need a quick lunch and don't have leftovers to heat up. I recreated that soup eight years ago and haven't thought of making minestrone myself since.

Then I was reading an Italian cookbook and they had a recipe for a vegetable soup with pesto swirled in. It seemed a lot lighter and less tomato heavy so I thought I'd try to make my own spin on minestrone using what's in season and available now.

It's that time in winter when there isn't much in season but you feel like something lighter and more vegetable packed. Turnips are always great this time of year, as are carrots and celery. Zucchini is one of those vegetables that I feel like are fine to eat in the winter even though they aren't in season. Unless it is some heirloom variety, the winter supermarket conventional zukes taste about the same as the homegrown. Tomatoes aren't in season but fire roasted canned ones add a ton of flavor. The pesto was an amazing shortcut to a ton of flavor in the soup. Why have I never done that before? What else can I put pesto in? I had this soup for three days in a row happily!

Serving idea: I had some leftover pesto so we mashed into 1/4 cup softened butter and ton of chopped garlic and some parmesan and spread it on crusty Italian bread to make pesto garlic bread. It only took about 10 minutes.






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March 05, 2019

Hot Cocoa Cookies





Ingredients:

2 cups flour
3/4 cup instant hot chocolate (cocoa) mix (I used this)
1 cup (unsalted) butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
10 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup vanilla dehydrated mini marshmallows*
pinch salt



Directions:



Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2-3 cookie sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment. In a large bowl, cream the butter, vanilla, and sugars for 5 minutes. Add the eggs, beat 5 minutes. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until a very thick dough forms. Fold in the chips and marshmallows. Refrigerate, covered, 30 minutes.

Form cookies by dropping 1 heaping tablespoon of dough two inches apart. I used this scoop. sprinkle with additional marshmallows if desired.

Flatten slightly then bake until light brown, about 14-16 minutes. They may look slightly shiny in the middle but the bottoms and edges should be solid. Slide them out on the baking mat on to a cooling rack and allow them to cool 5 minutes on the baking mat/parchment on the wire rack before removing them to cool directly on the wire rack. Cool completely before serving.


*I bought a bulk bag of these at a large "old fashioned" candy store/produce market. I've oddly seen them a lot at Amish markets.

Yield: about 2 1/2-3 dozen cookies

My thoughts:
It may be March but it is still quite cold! Our house has a tendency to be cool (even at times, cold) on the first floor where we spend most of our time and then positively boiling in the second floor at night when the weather is cold but sunny. I've found the best way to avoid this is to bake something.

My husband bought me an industrial sized tub of Galaxy last year which was tasty but then he found a fancy super dark hot chocolate that I like more for straight drinking leaving me with a seriously overwhelming amount of hot chocolate mix in the house. I also had a bag of dehydrated marshmallows I picked up on a road trip so it seemed fated to make something hot chocolate inspired.

I strayed a bit from my usual chocolate chip cookie technique: I really beat the butter and eggs until they were smooth and quite soft and then I refrigerated the dough for half an hour. Since the marshmallows were dehydrated, I wanted to give them time and liquid to help them soften so it wouldn't be like eating crunchy bits of styrofoam.

The final cookie really does taste like hot chocolate (or cocoa!) in cookie form! There is a very creamy chocolate taste in the cookie, punctuated by the dark chocolate chips and the texture is slightly chewy from the marshmallows.

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February 26, 2019

Polish-style Sour Soup with Sausage and Root Vegetables




Ingredients:

1 kielbasa* (about 1 lb), sliced into halfmoons
2 carrots, sliced into coins
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small celeriac (celery root, diced)
2 parsnips, diced
1 onion, diced
1 1/2 quart stock (chicken, pork or vegetable)
2 bay leaves
żurek or zakwas starter**
salt
freshly ground black pepper
big pinch marjoram (dried or fresh)
4-6 hard-boiled eggs, quartered

Directions:

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, saute the sausage until lightly browned. Add the vegetables and saute until the onion is softened. Add the broth, bay leaves and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in spices. Remove the bay leaves. Stir in the starter and heat through, about 5-10 minutes. 



Ladle into bowls and top with quartered hard-boiled eggs.





*I used kiełbasa wiejska because it's my favorite and has garlic and marjoram in it.

**You can find this bottled at most Polish markets. The one I find most easily is made with white flour, called żurek. I've seen both refrigerated (preferred) and shelf-stable versions. I used a 32 oz bottle of fresh starter. Zakwas is basically the same thing but made with rye flour. You can also make it home using these instructions (in Polish, the Google translation is good enough). There is a lot of debate (even in Poland, apparently) about what the differences between soup made with one or the other should be but they are very similar--sausage, vegetables, eggs. You can read a bit about it here.


My thoughts:
I've wanted to make this soup for quite a while now. My usual Polish market has been closed for a few months while they renovate the Broadway Market so I didn't have access to my usual sausage. Then last week, I was driving down Eastern Ave and saw another Polish market that I had heard of but had never been to before. They had not only the sausage I liked but the żurek (starter) in the refrigerator. Score!

I'm going to be honest here and say I really can't speak to how strictly authentic this is. I had it years ago at a festival and while my aunt made several Polish dishes, soup was not one of them. 

I've read dozens of recipes in both English and Polish (my Polish is mostly food and color words so it was a slog and Google translate is not always the best) for zurek (the soup, not żurek, the starter which is nearly identical in spelling but is not the same--that is not a speck on your screen, it is an overdot) and biały barszcz ("white borscht") which are two very similar soups but biały barszcz seems to be a bit lighter and is made with fresh, kielbasa biały (white sausage) and is popular at Easter. I came across so many articles saying conflicting information (in Polish!) and that there are regional differences. 

I ended up going a little rogue and using the white flour-based żurek but with a more veggie-heavy soup with smoked sausage instead of tracking down the rye starter or making my own. It's still winter. The rye starter is a bit heavier and would be in good use here too. This is only my experience but it seems like it is easier to source żurek (especially fresh, refrigerated) here than zakwas.

Several of the Polish-language recipes called for parsley root which we don't really get here readily, so I subbed in celeriac (celery root) because I love celery and celery flavored things. Other recipes just called generically for mixed root vegetables or even just carrots. I think with homey soups like this, it really comes down to you and your family's personal preference and tastes. 

Additionally, many of the Polish language recipes for both dishes had you make vegetable (or pork) stock first, then adding more vegetables, and some of the vegetables from the stock back in to make the soup but since I have access to good quality homemade and store-bought stock, I skipped this step and went right to soup making. This speed up the process to being quick enough to make on a weeknight. 

Honestly, all this made my head spin a bit. However, it was worth it because the soup was extremely delicious! It wasn't as sour as say, sauerkraut, but it had a tang similar to sour cream or mild yogurt without being tart. The smoked sausage perfectly offset it and the root vegetables added a lot of depth. It was hearty without being heavy. I look forward to making more soups using this starter! Maybe I will track down some fresh sausage and make biały barszcz in the spring.





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February 22, 2019

Mushroom, Spinach & Swiss Hot Dogs





Ingredients:

1/2 onion, chopped
8 oz crimini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
8 oz baby spinach
salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 hot dogs
4 brioche hot dog buns
1-2 tablespoons Dijon
3-4 oz Emmenthaler cheese


Directions:


In a medium pan, saute the onion and mushrooms until the onions are translucent. Add the spinach and saute until wilted. Pour off any excess water.

Meanwhile, broil the hot dogs until heated through and lightly browned. (or grill on an outside grill) Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Spread the mustard on each bun. Top with a hot dog a portion of the spinach mixture. Top with cheese. Bake 2-3 minutes or until the cheese melts and buns are toasty. Serve immediately.


My thoughts:
As anyone who has been reading this blog for the last 15 years knows, I love hot dogs. For my birthday last year, we went to the beach so I could play skee ball and seafood and hot dogs. We went to what is now one of my favorite state-side hot dog places, Twilley's Willys in Fenwick Island, DE. There we discovered our new favorite brand of hot dog, Berks, and my husband had a hot dog very similar to the one I recreated here. It's cold out so I used the broiler but feel free to use a real grill. You can even cook the vegetables in a skillet on the grill for an extra smoky flavor and I bet that would be really good! The broiler does well in a pinch and the toppings pack so much flavor, you don't miss the smoke. 

I used Emmenthaler cheese which is a little trickier to find (I buy mine at Aldi when it's for sale) but any stronger tasting, imported Swiss would be fine. You need a strong cheese to stand up to the hot dog and one that melts well. The spinach is a bit unexpected on a hot dog but it totally works- just take care that it isn't too wet or it will make the roll soggy--and makes the whole dish seem a lot more healthy.

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February 20, 2019

Upside-down Cottage Pie



Ingredients:
3/4 cup caramelized onions *
1 tablespoon butter
2 carrots, diced
2 parsnips diced
1 bulb fennel, chopped
6 oz crimini mushrooms, chopped
1 3/4 lb cubed sirloin
1/4 cup dry red wine, optional
1 sprig's worth of rosemary, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 bay leaf
fine flour (like Wondra)
salt
freshly ground black pepper
beef stock

to serve:
2 lbs warm mashed potatoes


Directions:

In a medium, Dutch or French oven saute the onions, herbs, spices, carrots, fennel, mushrooms, and parsnips in butter until the vegetables begin to soften.

Toss meat with the flour. Add meat to the vegetables. Stir until the meat is lightly browned. Add the liquids to just cover the mixture.

Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, covered, 45 minutes or until the beef is tender, stirring occasionally.

Serve over mashed potatoes.



*I used leftover caramelized onions I made using this method and froze. I defrosted them in the pan in a bit of butter before adding the vegetables. Or caramelize 2 onions and use them instead.



My thoughts:
This year and I guess the end of the last has been my year to experiment with various types of beef stew dishes. I discovered that the stew meat at Aldi (where I am nearly every week anyway) is particularly good--not too fatty, not to lean and gets very tender equally well in the slow cooker or stove top.

I was going to make a traditional cottage pie (a shepherd's pie made with beef instead of lamb) with it this time but I had the idea to invert it and serve the filling on top of the mashed potatoes and skip the baking part. The downside is that you don't get the crispy corners of potato that you normally get with cottage pie but the upside it that it shaves like 30 minutes off the cooking time, making it possible to make this for a weeknight dinner (if you have 45 minutes to let it simmer virtually unattended on the stove) or a less time-consuming weekend meal. It also means less dishes and makes great leftovers.

I truly loved the results, the fennel and parsnips added a touch of sweetness and a ton of depth to the flavors and eliminated the need for any side dishes.

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February 15, 2019

Homemade New Jersey Style Sloppy Joes




Ingredients:


coleslaw:

14 oz bagged coleslaw mix (cabbage and shredded cabbage mix)
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
salt
white pepper

Russian dressing:

3 tablespoons dill pickle relish
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons chili sauce (like Heinz)
1/2 tablespoon prepared horseradish
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
white pepper


sandwich:
1/3-1/2 lb good quality roasted turkey breast deli meat (I like Boar's Head*)
1/3/-1/2 lb turkey pastrami
1/4 lb imported (if possible) Swiss cheese
6 slices seeded rye or marble rye**
3-4 tablespoons room temperature, unsalted butter




Directions:

The night before you want to make the sandwiches:

Make the coleslaw: In a small bowl, whisk together the mayo, vinegar, and spices. In a large bowl, toss together slaw mix and carrot. Pour the dressing over the vegetables, toss to evenly distribute. Cover and refrigerate


Make the dressing: whisk together the dressing ingredients. Cover and refrigerate.

When you want to make the sandwiches:

Squeeze out any extra liquid from the cole slaw. (This recipe makes a ton of slaw so feel free to only squeeze out half of it and use the rest in something else; we had it on hot dogs the night I made it) Set aside.

Butter one side of two slices of bread; set aside.

Top two slices of bread with an even layer of turkey pastrami. Evenly cover with coleslaw, then spoon on the dressing and smooth it out. Top with 1-2 slices Swiss to cover. Top each with a slice of bread.

On the second layer, place an even layer of roasted turkey, then coleslaw, then dressing, then Swiss. Top with the buttered bread (butter side down). Cut a triangle shape out of the middle  (leaving two half-moon shaped ends) and serve.



Yield: 2 sandwiches, can be doubled. You will probably have some dressing leftover. Use it to make a Cloak and Dagger or a Reuben along with the rest of your rye and Swiss. Or make the most of your leftovers and make a Rachel with turkey or pastrami, coleslaw, rye, and Russian dressing.

*If you are in Baltimore, somehow the turkey at Mastellone's tastes better than the Boar's Head turkey anywhere else. My secret theory is that it is from being stored in the deli case with all those yummy Italian meats but I have no scientific research to back this up.

**Traditionally this is made with a Pullman loaf of rye sliced horizontally into long slices. Good luck finding that. You can make your own but that's a lot. Other delis sell it on regular sliced rye cut in the distinctive triangle middle, half-moon sides way I did here. I like marble rye best. Just use the middle slices so they are large if using bread from a round loaf.



My thoughts:
I have always wanted to make a New Jersey style Sloppy Joe ever since I first saw one which, oddly was in a Shop Rite ad for party sandwiches. Now I do love the other kind of Sloppy Joe but this is no saucy, ground beef laden sandwich. This is it's equally messy deli long lost cousin. The origin is a bit murky (the same bar, Sloppy Joe's, may have inspired both sandwiches?) and outlined a bit here in this article but unlike with superheros, its origin story doesn't really matter.

Originally made with tongue (which can be tricky to find and I was unable to figure out if it was fresh tongue or corned) most versions use corned beef or pastrami and roasted turkey. To make it a little lighter, I used turkey pastrami but feel free to use the real thing. I thought the turkey pastrami worked really well here because there are so many other flavors going on. I made the coleslaw and dressing from scratch but took a few shortcuts--I used dill pickle relish instead of chopping up pickles and used bagged coleslaw mix instead of chopping up the vegetables myself--to speed up the process. I find that it is really important flavorwise to make your own dressing and coleslaw for the best flavor but it doesn't need to take all day.

The end result is a super tasty, not quite as messy as expected thanks to careful assembly, sandwich. Super flavorful and a lot more fun to eat than a basic deli sandwich. The coleslaw adds some crunch, the dressing somehow helps hold it all together and it just really melds together with the rye and the meat. A little more work than the average sandwich but not difficult at all.



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