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December 26, 2019

Ham, Delicata Squash and Wild Rice Soup





Ingredients:
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 carrots, sliced into coins
1 delicata squash, cubed (you can leave the skin on!)
1 (loose) cup green beans (about 1/3 lb), cut into bite-sized pieces
3 green onions, chopped
2 cups ham, cubed
8 oz cooked wild rice*
64 oz chicken or ham stock
2 bay leaves
pinch salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, saute the onion, garlic, carrots, squash and green beans until the onion is translucent. Add the ham and saute until slightly browned, if desired. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer until all is tender and cooked through.
Remove bay leaves.

Serve immediately.

Yield: about 5 servings


*You can make this yourself but I used a packet of microwaveable wild rice from Target (store brand) and added it to the pot directly from the package without heating it up.


My thoughts:
We don't always have ham on Christmas (this year my parents are making corned beef and cabbage?) but ham is always a great deal this time of year so I normally end up buying at least one small one. I bought a tiny boneless spiral sliced ham from Aldi that was tasty but it wasn't cut all the way through! Very odd. I ended up having to sort of cut around the middle to make small slices (I could have just completed the cuts but I really didn't need giant slices) and it left a big chunk of barely cut ham in the middle. Perfect for soup! 

This soup is perfect for using up odds and ends so feel free to tweak it. I had delicata squash, which doesn't need to be peeled but butternut would work too if you peel it. Parsnips would be good in place of all or one of the carrots and I really wanted to use celery but mine went mysteriously moldy overnight. I've been trying to use green onions (scallions) more like vegetables lately so I cut them into about 1/2 inch pieces rather than finely. The packet of wild rice I mention in the note above is really a game-changer when it comes to wild rice. It isn't 100% as good as when I make it myself but it is super quick and honestly, I don't think most people could tell the difference. I just add it directly from the pouch to soups like this or I heat in a pan in a little water before adding it to other dishes. Wild rice adds such a savory, nutty flavor to dishes that I love and goes great with other strong flavors like smoky ham and squash.



December 22, 2019

Black Bottom Cupcakes



Ingredients:

for the filling:

8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 beaten egg
6 oz. mini  semisweet chocolate chips

for the batter:

1 1/2 cups flour
1  cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1  teaspoon baking soda
1 cup water
1/3 cup canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon vinegar



Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Line mini muffin pans (this year I bought this mini muffin tin that bakes 4 dozen at a time, normally I use this tin) and set them aside.


For the filling:

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until well creamed. Beat in egg. Fold in chocolate chips. Set aside.

For the batter:

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer whisk flour, sugar, cocoa, and baking soda together. Add water, oil, vanilla, and vinegar. Beat VERY thoroughly.

Fill pans about halfway with chocolate batter. I use a gravy ladle to do this similar to this one (you can see it in this post on Instagram).  Drop approximately 1/2 teaspoon of the filling on top.




Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the center of the center cupcake comes out clean. Cool briefly in the pans on a wire rack. Remove from pan to fully cool.

Repeat with the remaining batter. These freeze very well and keep at room temperature for about four days.





Yield: about 5 dozen (it sounds like a lot but they are tiny!) I actually made two batches in one morning this year. For best results, I don't recommend doubling the recipe, just make the recipe twice.
My Thoughts:
This is what my family traditionally made (in addition to sugar cookies) at Christmastime. We've been using the same recipe at least since the early eighties. I actually posted it way back in January 2005 but when I looked at the recipe recently, I realized one, I had tweaked it and had no idea why and that it was so long ago, I hadn't included any thoughts or info about the recipe at all! That truly was the early days of food blogging and I really was just keeping track of my recipes with easy links for sharing.

So, many years later, it seemed time to brush off the recipe and make it again*. My parents normally make them but my mom had a cancerous brain tumor removed in June and while she seems like herself, has her remarkable memory intact and is mobile, making these black bottoms is pretty time consuming and requires a lot of energy. I'd rather she save her energy for doctor's appointments, brain cancer treatment, and physical therapy so I made a double batch of these so I can give some to friends and a bunch to my parents to freeze. These cupcakes freeze really well! Normally I do not freeze baked goods because I feel like something is never quite right after they defrost but I truly can't tell the difference between fresh and previously frozen.

Black bottoms are another thing that I took for granted growing up (like train gardens at Christmas) and thought were popular everywhere but now I think are regional. I did see a flurry of black bottom recipes when David Lebovitz's The Great Book of Chocolate came out in 2007 but as I said, we've been making them since at least the early 1980s and I posted this recipe for them on this blog back in 2005(!) so they are definitely not something new(ish)!  It was one of the recipes my mom wrote down for me when I moved out (you can see the recipe card here). They are found in bakeries and some delis all over Baltimore but are curiously absent when I've gone to bakeries outside of the area. In exploring the origin story over the years I've never gotten a straight answer as to the source but many references getting the recipe from a family member in the Baltimore or Maryland area. If you know more, let me know!

We always call them black bottoms in my family but that is a bit of an awkward name to say out loud, especially to people who haven't had them before (which in my experience is a ton of people) so black bottom cupcakes it is! They are basically super moist, light (actually vegan!) chocolate cakes topped with a cheesecake-like filling instead of icing. Seriously one of my all-time favorite combinations. I like to make mini cupcakes, I've seen larger ones (mostly in sandwich shops) but the filling-chocolate ratio is best when they are in miniature. It's a little tedious if you only have one pan but totally doable and how I did it for decades growing up. They cool quickly and you can use a fork to help pop them out of the pan (without dumping them and possibly squishing the filling) and use the pan right away again. This year I splashed out and got this mini muffin tin that bakes 4 dozen at a time, normally I use this tin and it works just fine. I also recommend lining the pans with paper liners as the cake is very moist and will stick to the pan. Please use mini chips! The larger ones are just too big. They are way easier to find in 2019 than ever before.

*I have made a couple black bottom variations over the years: pumpkin black bottoms and Nutella black bottoms and black bottom brownies.




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December 20, 2019

Salted Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies


Ingredients:


1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup butterscotch chips
sea salt

Directions:

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 and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg 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. Sprinkle with sea salt.

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:
I just realized this recipe has been languishing in my drafts folder for quite a while. I honestly feel like it has been there for nearly two years! If I create a recipe to share with my family and friends for the holidays, I'm often making too close to the actual holiday for my readers to have time to make it in their homes. I save it to post later but sometimes it gets lost in the shuffle. I think that must be what happened here but of no fault of the recipe at all! Honestly, this recipe isn't even that holiday-specific so I don't know what happened. Maybe I had been posting too many baking recipes when I made it so I just held on to it for later? Made too much with butterscotch chips? I have no clue! I remember making the cookies a couple of times and enjoying them though!

This is a pretty simple, straight forward drop cookie recipe. If you have room on your cookie tray for one last recipe, these come together and bake in less than 20 minutes. In the last few years I've really been enjoying butterscotch. I keep thinking it is going to be this year's next big flavor and so far it hasn't been. Maybe for 2020? These chips have a nice caramel-buttery flavor and are fairly sweet so I wouldn't sub in milk chocolate chips here unless you have a serious sweet tooth. The salt adds just the right savory note.

December 17, 2019

Salt Cod & Leek Latkes








Ingredients:

8 oz salt cod
4 cups finely grated Russet potatoes (about 4 medium potatoes)
1 small onion, grated
3 leeks (white parts only), chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup matzo meal
freshly ground black pepper
canola oil

Directions:

36 hours before you want to make the cakes:

Place the cod in a bowl or resealable bag of cool water. The cod should be fully covered. Cover with a lid or seal and refrigerate. Over the next 36 hours change out the water periodically (we did first thing in the morning, lunchtime, dinner time and before bedtime).

Remove the cod and finely chop or pulse in a food processor until minced.


In a large cast-iron skillet or another heavy-bottomed pan, heat about 1/4 inch oil.

Place the potato into a metal sieve over a large bowl. Press out any liquid. Pour out the liquid and place the potatoes in the bowl on top of the remaining starch. Stir in cod, onion, eggs, leeks, pepper, and the matzo meal. Form into flat patties. If they will not hold their shape, stir in additional matzo meal until they do. Fry in hot oil, flipping halfway through, until just golden.



My thoughts

When we went to Portugal (five years ago, how can that be?) we had the good fortune to try many things made with salt cod, bacalhau. Supposedly there is one salt cod dish for every day of the year! Most often you see it in Pastéis de Bacalhau (aka Bolinhos de Bacalhau, Portuguese Cod Cakes) and in another favorite of mine, Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá is often served on Christmas Eve but it really is a way more versatile seafood than you'd think.

It goes great with potatoes which was the inspiration for these latkes, just in time for Hanukkah. I have zero reasons to think these are authenticly Portuguese in any way--they are quite a few  Jewish dishes that remain popular in Portugal but latkes aren't one of them. However, these are very delicious and a filling, flavorful change from plain latkes. Super savory and crispy.

It does take three days to prep the fish so go shopping now--regular supermarkets in my area carry salt cod year-round as do many Italian and Portuguese markets.

December 13, 2019

Cranberry Sauce Crumb Cake





Ingredients:

for the cake:

1/2 cup light brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg, at room temperature
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
pinch salt
3/4 cup milk, at room temperature
1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce (I used this apple-cranberry sauce)

for the crumb topping:

1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
pinch nutmeg
pinch salt
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly



Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour an 8x8 inch pan. Set aside.


for the cake:

In a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the sugar and butter with an electric mixer. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. With the mixer on low add the flour and milk alternately to the butter mixture, stopping with flour. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth with the back of a spoon to form an even layer. Spread the cranberry sauce over the batter in an even layer. Set aside.

for the crumb topping:

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugars, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, salt, and flour. Pour in the butter and use a fork to coat the mixture in butter, leaving large crumbs unbroken. Sprinkle evenly over the cake. You may have some crumb mixture leftover. Bake 1 hour or until a toothpick in the middle comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

My thoughts:
My husband is from NYC where crumb topped cakes rule supreme. The more crumbs the better! Crumb cakes and coffee cakes are closely related but aren't always the same thing. Crumb cake always has a crumb topping while coffee cakes (cakes made to eat with coffee, not coffee-flavored cakes) may or may have a crumb topping. Don't confuse them with New Jersey crumb buns (which we see in bakeries around Baltimore too) which have a crumb topping but a yeast based cake base.

 The best New York-style crumb cake has a tender cake but very crunchy topping. This cake has both and a surprise ingredient: cranberry sauce! My husband is also a big fan of cranberry sauce and we make it a fair amount when cranberries are in season but since we are only two people, we end up with a bunch leftover. Why not combine the two?

For this recipe, I created a sweet, vanilla-based cake then topped it with cinnamon apple-cranberry sauce and a spiced crumb topping. It really takes a classic crumb cake to a new holiday-worthy level. This would be amazing served on Christmas morning. Or the day after to use up some cranberry sauce! 


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Apple Cinnamon Cranberry Sauce



Ingredients:

2 cups fresh or frozen (not defrosted!) cranberries
1 medium-large Stayman-Winesap apple, small dice (skin-on)
1 cup Honeycrisp apple cider
1 cup sugar (to taste)
1 short cinnamon stick (or long if you really like cinnamon!)

Directions:
Place the cranberries, apple cider, sugar, and cinnamon sticks in a medium saucepan and, stirring occasionally, cook for 20 minutes over medium-high heat to reduce and thicken. Remove the cinnamon stick and serve.

My thoughts:
Not to be confused with cranapple sauce which would be applesauce (ick) spiked with cranberries, this a cranberry sauce with just a hint of apple. We actually used an apple we picked way back in October--our poorly insulated enclosed porch comes in handy in these situations--and some unfiltered (soft) apple cider I picked up at Trader Joe's. It's on the sweet side so we used a little than a cup of sugar so start with a scant cup and work your way up as needed to cut the tartness. It's a very satisfying whole berry cranberry sauce yet super simple. We served it with a sort of meat pie we made with a layer of chicken, mushrooms, celery and onions with a light gravy, topped with stiff mashed potatoes then a layer of stuffing made from an old loaf of bread from our local Italian store, mushrooms, onions, and celery but you can serve it alongside anything.

I used the leftovers to make this cranberry sauce crumb cake.


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December 11, 2019

Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Blondies





Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch ground mustard
pinch salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon mace
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup flour
1 egg (2 if you like them a bit cakier)
1 cup bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Generously butter an 8x8 inch baking pan. Set aside

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, mix together the butter, sugar, molasses, vanilla and spices until smooth. Beat in the flour then the eggs until well-combined. Flour in chips.

Scrape into the prepared pan. Use a spatula to evenly spread the batter in the pan. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs and it looks "set". Cool completely on a wire rack prior to cutting and serving.

Store in an airtight container.



My thoughts:
This recipe basically came to me in a dream. I was trying to fall asleep then suddenly thought "gingerbread blondies" and emailed that to myself sometime after midnight. The next day, I obviously had to make them! I actually don't love love love traditional gingerbread in cookie or cake form. It's fine and I like the flavors but I find it a bit boring texture-wise. Blondies, on the other hand, have a pleasing chewy texture and you can add chocolate chips to them. Blondies are the true winner here. If you have pre-mixed gingerbread spice, feel free to use that but the spices are pretty basic and most mixes don't have my secret ingredient--dry mustard (mustard powder) which adds the weenciest touch of heat and some real depth. At any rate, these are some of the most flavorful, festive blondies around! Each bite is a chewy, chocolatey, spice delight. 

I feel like I say this every time I bake but it's true. I forget how easy it is to make some things! Blondies are easier than brownies because while you have to melt butter, you don't have to melt chocolate which is much more tricky. These came together in like 10 minutes then baked for about half an hour. Then they had to cool for what seemed like forever but I put them on the chilly enclosed porch to speed that up a bit. They slice very, very well if you are someone who cares about that sort of thing, with very neat edges. These would be amazing additions to a cookie tray to hand out to the neighbors you actually like.

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December 09, 2019

Fruitcake Cookie Bars





Ingredients:

1 cup flour PLUS 1/4 cup (divided use)
3  cups fruitcake mix candied fruit (a mix of candied cherries, pineapple, citron, lemon peel, and orange peel)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon orange zest or dried orange peel
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoon cognac
pinch salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a 13x9 inch pan. Set aside.

In a small bowl, toss together the 1/4 cup flour with the fruit and nuts to coat. Set aside.




In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until well combined. Beat in egg then mix in the remaining 1 cup flour, spices, baking soda, and salt with a hand or stand mixer. Fold in the fruit/nut mixture. Spread the thick dough in an even layer in pan.

Bake 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely, in pan on a wire rack, about 1 hour.

Cut into 24 bars. (3x8)


My thoughts:
I actually made these last year so close to Christmas, I just took some pictures and wrote up the recipe to save for this year. I try not to post seasonal recipes too close to the holiday so you actually have time to buy the ingredients and make the recipe. I don't assume most people have fruit cake mix candied fruit at their fingertips!

This time last year I was reading  Jenny Han's To All the Boys I Loved Before trilogy when they finally came available to download from the library after the popularity of the Netflix movie that summer. The main character, Lara Jean bakes a lot in the books and in one book her friend Peter was very insistent that she make fruitcake cookies. I honestly had never heard of fruitcake cookies before but I had a ton of candied fruit leftover from developing recipes for a client and thought why not give it a try? They seemed perfect for the season. There were very few details of what these cookies were actually like in the book so I started from scratch.

I wanted to give cookies to my neighbors so I thought bar cookies might be easier to than a rolled or drop cookies (Jenny Han really needs to start including recipes in her books) for the yield I wanted and to ensure that each bite had a good chunk of fruit and/or nuts in it. Plus they look so pretty all sliced up!

These bars are very fruit and nut packed and have all of the rich flavors of fruitcake but hopefully none of the negative associations regular fruitcake has acquired. They are very much a cookie in texture. Don't skip the coating the fruit and nuts in flour step--this ensures that they don't stick together, evenly distribute in the dough and don't sink to the bottom while baking.

Everyone who had these loved them! Even people who didn't think they liked fruitcake went back for me.



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December 06, 2019

Leafy Vegetable Soup with Gondi (Chicken-Chickpea Dumplings)






Ingredients:

for the dumplings:

3 cloves garlic, grated
2 onions, grated
1 egg
2 cups toasted chickpea flour*
1 pound ground chicken
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
pinch cumin
2 tablespoons neutral-tasting oil or schmaltz
salt
freshly ground black pepper

for the soup:

1 bunch rainbow chard, stems and greens chopped
1 onion, sliced into quarter moons
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 stalk celery (with greens), sliced
1 bunch green onions, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
2 parsnips, sliced
64 oz chicken stock
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
salt
freshly ground black pepper




Directions:

24 HOURS BEFORE SERVING:

Mix together the dumpling ingredients until smooth in a large bowl. Refrigerate in an airtight container overnight.


*Sold at Middle Eastern grocery stores. Or buy plain chickpea flour and toast it in a dry skillet. Cool before use.

WHEN YOU WANT TO MAKE THE SOUP:

for the dumplings:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Form the dumpling mixture into 1 1/2-2 inch balls (about 12-15) drop into the boiling water and cook for 45 minutes or until they are fully cooked (remember they have raw chicken in them!). They will float fairly earlier on but don't be tricked!

Directions:

In a large pot, sauté the chard stems, onion, garlic, celery, green onions, carrots, and parsnips until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the stock, thyme, salt and pepper and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the rest of the chard and simmer another 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and the dumplings are ready.


Ladle the soup into bowls, add dumplings.

Refrigerated any leftover soup and dumplings separately  (to avoid the dumplings absorbing all of the broth) and re-heat up together in a pot.





My thoughts:
This is one of those dishes where  I came across a mention of once and thought it was unusual but then once I had heard of it, I came across references to it everywhere. It's an Iranian dish that is apparently popular in the Iranian Jewish community at Passover. Chickpeas are one of those ingredients where there is some debate over whether it is okay to eat at Passover or not. A lot of Ashkenazi Jews don't eat any legumes during Passover but in 2016, it was ruled that they were fine. It's all a bit complicated and personal to many people but if this is an issue for you, then you know what you can or want to eat. 

Luckily, it is not Passover now! While I think this soup would be great then, I don't normally want to make some big soup dish when it is potentially warm and sunny out. No thank you! Deepest, darkest winter? Soup's on! 

This soup looks sort of like matzah ball soup (which may explain the popularity at Passover when matzah rules) but these dumplings are made of toasted chickpea flour and ground chicken so the meat in the dumpling, not the soup! I've made meaty dumplings before when I made Marak Kubbeh Adom (Beet Soup with Meat-filled Dumplings) but these are so much easier than that was! Here the chicken is basically the glue that holds the dumpling together. I cooked them separately like I do matzah balls, not only with leftovers in mind (when stored in soup dumplings tend to soak up all the broth and fall apart) but because there is raw chicken in there and they need to be fully cooked. I didn't want to overcook the veggie soup at the expense of the gondi. 

Like I do when I make matzah ball soup, I also made the soup more hardy than recipes I found online. I often see matzah ball soup at restaurants where the matzah balls are the star, floating in a sea of plain chicken broth or "soup" that is just a sad piece of chicken and a lone carrot. Gondi is most often served that way too--just broth. If I am going to put all that work into a dumpling, this soup is going to be a meal, not some appetizer! So I made a really tasty vegetable-packed soup to float the gondi with tons of rainbow chard and root vegetables. It was so so good! Very satisfying and full of flavor! The gondi were surprisingly light and I loved the spices. 



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December 04, 2019

Beef and Potato Stew with Olives and Stewed Tomatoes



Ingredients:

2 lbs russet potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 lb cubed sirloin or stew beef  (can brown if desired, I didn't bother)
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 onion, cut into quarter moon slices
1/3 cup chopped green olives with pimentos
15 oz canned stewed tomatoes (with juice!)
3 sprigs’ worth of thyme leaves
1 1/2 cup beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
3 cloves garlic, sliced
salt
freshly ground black pepper


to serve:

2 cups cooked white rice

Directions:

Place all ingredients (except the rice!) in a 4-quart slow cooker. Stir. Cook on low for 8 hours. Stir.

Serve with rice.

Yield: 4-6 servings


My thoughts:
I bought my first digital slow cooker ta month or so ago. I have a ton of slow cookers thanks to creating 300 recipes for my healthy slow cooker cookbook but all of them are the traditional, manual kind.  When I was writing the book, I didn't want to assume that people had what was then, the newest in slow cooker technology. The manual ones work fine, but I have to admit I was curious about the programable kind. I couldn't bring myself to buy one when I already had so many.

Then my trusty 4-quart oval died a year or so ago so when I saw one on sale for only $25 at Target that was programable, I ran right to the store. Four-quart slow cookers, especially oval-shaped,  are surprisingly difficult to find (the 6-7-quart models are more popular) but they are perfect for making food for smaller families. You don't always want chili for 10! I can't find it online for purchase but it's this (Rival) Crock-Pot brand and has a digital display to choose any cooking time (in 30-minute increments) you want then it automatically changes over to warm when the time's up. Oval pots are great because you can stick a whole roast in there horizontally but you can also make soups or stews in them.

I've been trying to avoid grocery shopping--last week to avoid Thanksgiving crowds and this week to try to use up some ingredients I already have--and had a package of stew meat and a ton of potatoes (it was cheaper at Aldi to buy 10 lbs of potatoes than 5 when I last shopped on 11/22) on hand. I seem to be coming down with a cold so what better way to make dinner than in the slow cooker? I could manage cutting up some potatoes and onions and then relied on other simple ingredients I had for flavor. I had a jar of "salad olives", a can of stewed tomatoes I impulsed bought for 47¢ and of course a big jar of smoked paprika. In to the slow cooker it went!

While it was cooking I was looking up stew recipes (because why do that before you make dinner??) I came across a recipe for the Cuban dish Carne con Papas (literally just meat and potatoes) that has beef and potatoes along with a few other ingredients that seems to vary from raisins to wine but also frequently includes olives and/or tomatoes. It's commonly served with rice, something I never would think to do with stew, but it sounded like a good way to stretch the stew out into a couple extra meals. So we fired up the rice cooker and served some rice along with the stew. It was really good! The stew was richly flavored but not very heavy and the rice made it a filling meal. Sick day food does not have to be sad food!


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December 02, 2019

Spaghetti with Walnuts, Anchovy and Parsley



Ingredients:

3/4-1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 oz anchovies in olive oil
5 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
bunch Italian parsley, chopped
3/4 lb spaghetti
Parmesan for sprinkling


Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook to al dente.

Meanwhile, heat a large, dry skillet. Add the bread crumbs, red pepper flakes, and walnuts and toast, stirring occasionally, until the bread crumbs and walnuts are golden. Remove to a heat-safe bowl and set aside.


Heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil in the same pan. Add the anchovies (with their oil) and garlic and saute until the anchovies have dissolved and the garlic is lightly browned. Add drained spaghetti and 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Stir in the parsley until it wilts a bit. Stir in the walnuts and bread crumbs.

Divide among 4 plates sprinkle with parm.




My thoughts:
I love recipes that can be made with simple ingredients but which yield great results. I was reading a book recently and one of the characters comes home and makes something similar to this from ingredients they had on hand. It sounded so good that I made a mental note to try it soon.

When I googled the combination, I came across some references for this (or a similar dish) being made during the holiday season in Italy as one of the seafood dishes traditional to a Neapolitan Christmas Eve. I can see why. It is so quick and easy to make a requires virtually zero prep and few ingredients. You might even have all of the ingredients on hand right now! It's really satisfying as a main dish (serve with a salad and/or garlic bread) or as a starter to a huge feast.

I always have anchovies on hand because they add so much depth to sauces and salad dressings so it was fun to let it be the focus of a dish. I think some areas of Italy must favor walnuts over pinenuts and I can see why-- they had a great flavor in this dish and are a fraction of the price. I bought a huge bag of walnuts at Aldi for under $3 and have a ton leftover.

I can't wait to make this cozy dish again, it's the perfect dinner for busy nights.

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