April 03, 2020

Dandelion & Dill Chicken Salad


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


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

Yield: about 4 servings

My thoughts:

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

March 31, 2020

Borscht with Pot Roast and Cabbage


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

sour cream to serve


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

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

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

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

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

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March 25, 2020

Marble Cake for an Anniversary under Quarantine


for the cake:

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

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


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

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

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

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

If icing:

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

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

My thoughts:

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

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

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

March 19, 2020

One Bowl Pantry Chocolate Snack Cake


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 16, 2020

Peanut Butter Reese's Pieces and Peanut Butter Cup Cookies


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


Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, cream the butter, peanut butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and combine thoroughly. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until a very thick dough forms. Fold in the chips. Form cookies by dropping 1 heaping teaspoon of dough two inches apart.

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

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

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

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March 13, 2020

Steelhead Trout Salad with Horseradish and Arugula


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


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

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

March 10, 2020

Steelhead Trout with Fennel and Cara Cara Oranges


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

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

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

My thoughts:

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

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

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

March 05, 2020

Corned Beef and Cabbage Cottage Pie


3/4 cup chopped onions
2 carrots, diced
1 parsnip diced
1 medium rutabaga, diced
2 small turnips, diced
1/3 of a head of cabbage, chopped
2 cups cubed (cooked, cold, leftover) corned beef
superfine flour (like Wondra)
1-2 cups beef stock
2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
1 tablespoon butter
handful chopped Italian parsley


Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium Dutch or French oven or another heavy-duty cookpot, saute the onions, cabbage*, carrots, turnip, rutabaga, and parsnips in butter until the vegetables begin to soften.  Add meat to the vegetables. Sprinkle with flour. Stir to coat Add the stock to just cover the mixture and simmer until the vegetables are tender and the mixture has thickened.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Boil the potatoes until tender. Drain. Season, mash in butter and parsley.  Cover and set aside.

Scrape the corned beef mixture into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate, individual 8-10 oz ramekins or an 8x8 inch baking dish. Smooth with the back of the spoon to create a single layer.

Top with an even layer of mashed potatoes. Bake until the edges are browned and bubbly.

*If your cabbage is already cooked, add it when you add the corned beef.

My thoughts:
This recipe isn't quite as fanciful as my corned beef and cabbage knishes were but it is just as tasty! It's a bit easier too if you've ever made shepherd's (lamb) or cottage pie (beef) before, it's a very similar technique just with cabbage added to the mix. I like my cottage pie with lots of vegetables so I also added carrots, parsnips, and rutabaga. Doesn't it look so colorful in the pan?

I started with leftover cooked corned beef but started from scratch with the vegetables but you are someone who makes corned beef and cabbage with onions and carrots or other vegetables (no potatoes), you could jump ahead. Simply heat it up and thicken it up with the flour and then layer the potatoes on top. That would work as well but if you have time, making it this way so good! Savory, meaty yet veggie-packed but surprisingly not terribly heavy. It easily became one my new favorite (easy!) ways to use up the corned beef that is so readily available (and affordable!) this time of year.

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March 02, 2020

Corned Beef and Cabbage Knishes


for the dough:

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sour cream
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 egg

egg wash:

1 egg
1 tablespoon water

corned beef and cabbage filling:

1 onion, chopped
3 tablespoon schmaltz or canola oil
1 1/2 cups chopped cabbage
3 1/2 cups plain mashed potatoes (cooled)
2 cups cubed corned beef (cooked and cooled)


For the filling: (can be done the day before and refrigerated, covered overnight)
Heat the schmaltz in a skillet. Add the onions and cook until quite dark. Add and cabbage and saute until soft, seasoning with salt and pepper. Mash the onion/cabbage into the potato, stir in the corned beef.

Preheat oven to 375. Allow your filling to cool while you make the dough.

for the dough:

Whisk together all of the dry ingredients. Pour into a large bowl, preferably in the bottom of a stand mixer. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, butter, water, and egg. Pour on top of the dry ingredients and mix using a dough hook until a solid ball of elastic dough forms.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces.

Roll each piece out on a floured surface to a 5-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick (I like using this small rolling pin). Place a 1/4 cup of filling in the middle. Fold the sides up to close, pinch shut. Place seam-side down on a lined baking sheet. Prick the top with a fork, once.  Alternatively, wrap the dough around the filling, leaving about 1/2 inch wide window on the top.

Beat the egg and water together for the egg wash. Brush over the top of the knish. Repeat for remaining dough. Bake for about 20 minutes or until very hot but not browned.

Note: As the dough contains dairy, this means this recipe is not kosher. If you'd like to make a kosher version, there are a ton of oil-based knish bough recipes that this filling would be wonderful in. We prefer this dough as we think it is tastier, easier to work with and less greasy and keeping kosher is not a concern.

My thoughts:
How is it almost St Patrick's Day already?! I have to admit, I never really celebrated it beyond wearing green to school and don't do much now but one thing I've really enjoyed over the years is coming up with new recipes using corned beef and cabbage. It's oddly very satisfying. I think my favorite is still corned beef and cabbage bao and corned beef stuff cabbage is a close second.

I actually made this just after St Patrick's Day last year and saved the recipe so I could actually get it up in time for you to make it before the holiday. Take advantage of those corned beef sales!

Not only do we love knishes here there is a neat origin story for the very American combination of corned beef and cabbage. Back in the early 1900s Irish and Jewish immigrants lived side by side in many lower-income NYC neighborhoods like the Lower East Side. Back in Ireland cabbage and another cured meat, bacon was a popular dish. Corned beef had been popular in Ireland but was more due to English laws mostly exported and out of the reach of most Irish citizens. By the time of the Irish Potato Famine when many Irish people immigrated to the US, it had fallen in out of favor for the more readily available and affordable bacon--if they had the money for meat at all--potatoes were the real staple of their diet.

Apparently, in New York, the Irish immigrants noticed that the more readily available corned beef from Jewish delis, the kosher butchers where they were already shopping and food carts was fairly similar (and inexpensive!) to Irish corned beef (and salty back bacon) and started cooking that with cabbage and potatoes. Voila: the American tradition of corned beef and cabbage began.

To celebrate the fusion of Jewish and Irish culture all those years ago, I had to make the deli classic knishes! They are easier to make than you'd think and while I love a potato knish, adding corned beef and cabbage really kicks up the flavor. They are amazingly good.

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February 24, 2020

Veggie Packed Beef Chili


1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 lb cubed sirloin stew meat
1 15-oz can jalapeño and habanero diced tomatoes
1 15-oz can chili-seasoned tomatoes
1 medium-large zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch thick half-moons
1 (loose) cup matchstick carrots
2 cubanelle peppers, chopped
2 15-oz canned kidney beans, drained
1/2 teaspoon toasted cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon chili seasoning
1 teaspoon cayenne
freshly ground black pepper


If prepping the night before, layer the ingredients in a resealable plastic bag or non-reactive bowl: from bottom to top onion, garlic, beef, canned tomatoes, vegetables, beans then spices. Refrigerate overnight.

Pour all ingredients into a 4-quart slow cooker so the beef/onions are near the top. Cover. Cook for 8-10 hours on low. If you have time before the timer goes off, give it a stir and then recover until ready.  Stir and serve.

Yield: about 6-8 servings

My thoughts:
It's been a surprisingly long time since I've posted a chili recipe! I recently found these cans of hot diced tomatoes with jalapeño and habanero at a local supermarket and was intrigued. Would they actually be hot? As it turns out, they really are! I have a high spice tolerance and was surprised at how spicy they were. So often products will say "hot" but really be, in my opinion, pretty "medium" or "mild" in actuality. Feel free to sub in tomatoes with green chiles or a second can of chili flavored tomatoes for a milder chili. 

I was making this chili on a day I was volunteering at a local high school helping the students with their essays for a small local scholarship. Little scholarships like that made a big difference to me when I was a college student so I was happy to help! I prepped everything the night before so in the morning I just had to start it cooking. Using flavored tomatoes like this is a great way to add a ton of flavor without having to measure out a bunch of different spices or chop a ton of various peppers.

I love beef chili but it can be kind of heavy. Instead of having a ton of beef in this chili I used beans and added some bulk and extra nutrition by adding a ton of vegetables. I think it's always a good idea to reduce beef consumption both for health and environmental reasons and this is a good step in that direction-all of the flavor but using only one pound of beef. 

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February 21, 2020

Tennessean Corn Light Bread


2 cups finely ground yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter, cooled slightly


Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a standard loaf pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Pour the buttermilk and butter over the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Scrape into the prepared pan. Bake 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean. Cool, in pan, on a wire rack for 5 minutes then invert and continue to cool on wire rack.

My thoughts:
I came across a reference to a regional cornbread from the middle of Tennessee that seemed like a mix between northern and southern-style cornbread and had to make it. I can never decide what style of cornbread I like best so something in the middle of the two was very appealing. It's apparently most often made in a loaf pan which is perfect for me because I like a good surface area to butter! Cornbread baked in an 8x8 inch pan doesn't give you an easily sliced edge to butter but these slices have plenty. The name seems to come from it being lighter in texture than traditional cornbread--more like that of what used to be called "light bread", sandwich bread made with wheat and yeast. Some very old recipes call for making this cornbread with yeast but the majority of mentions I found referred to it as a quick bread; one leavened by the combination of buttermilk and baking soda which is much easier to whip up on the spur of the moment.

The batter was surprisingly light and fluffy! Maybe because it doesn't have eggs? The buttermilk? I was using buttermilk leftover from making red velvet cake which had a similarly light and fluffy batter so maybe that's it?

I used melted butter because I think it adds a nicer flavor than oil or melted shortening (other suggestions I found for making this bread) but I bet bacon grease would also be good if you have that on hand.

The cornbread has a light texture, is slightly sweet but rich in corn flavor and has a pleasingly crunchy crust. Traditionally served with barbecue, it's also great with soup or chili.

February 12, 2020

Spaghetti and Salami, Dominican-style


1 small red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/3 cup chopped mixed olives
8 oz your favorite hard salami, sliced into roughly 1/4 inch half-moons
28 oz diced tomatoes
6 oz jarred roasted red pepper, diced
splash of olive brine or vinegar

to serve:
1 lb spaghetti, cooked to package instructions

In a large skillet, saute the onion, garlic and olvies in some oil until the onions are transulucent. Add the salami and lightly brown. Add the tomatoes, olive brine/vinegar and peppers and simmer until warmed through and slightly reduced. Add the hot spaghetti to the pan and use tongs to toss. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
I was reading a book and in it the characters take a container of spaghetti and salami to Coney Island for the afternoon. I remeber doing nearly the same thing years ago with a friend and I can't believe I haven't made it since.  It's so easy and so delicious! It's the perfect meal to make when you don't have much on hand but still need to make dinner (or lunch). I feel like there is a bit of a divide over whether you make it "wet" or "dry" but I've only had it dry. I strayed a little bit from what I've add by adding in a fire-roasted pepper for some extra flavor (versus leaving them out all together or using fresh) and using the leftover mixed olives I bought from the local Italian store instead of pimento-stuffed green but feel free to use whatever you'd like. So savory and so delish.

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February 05, 2020

Veggie Packed Chicken Lo Mein for Crowd


for the chicken:
6 chicken thighs (about 1 3/4 lb), cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1 1/2-inch knob ginger, grated
2 big cloves garlic, thinly sliced


1/4 cup Shaoxing wine
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon corn starch (optional)

for the veggies:

1 small onion, sliced into half-moons
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 napa cabbage, sliced
2 zucchini, thinly sliced into batons (I actually used 8 baby zucchini)
2/3 cup matchstick carrots
1 cup mung bean sprouts
8 ears (fresh) baby corn, halved lengthwise
8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
2/3 cup snow peas

20 oz dried lo mein noodles


THE NIGHT BEFORE (or at least 8 hrs) you want to make the lo mein, place all of the chicken ingredients in a marinating container or resealable bag. Refrigerate.

When you want to make the lo mein. Bring a large pot of water to boil for the noodles. Whisk together the sauce ingredients, set aside.

Add the chicken and the marinade to a large, high walled skillet and saute until the chicken is cooked. Remove to a bowl and cover to keep warm.

Add the onions and garlic to the pan the chicken was in. Saute until the onions were softened. Add the remaining vegetables. Saute until the vegetables start to cook. Add about half of the sauce. Cover for 5 minutes or until the cabbage is well-wilted. Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to package instructions, drain. Uncover the vegetables and saute until tender. Remove the vegetables to a very large bowl and cover to keep warm.

Return the chicken to the pan and cook over medium heat for 1 minute. Stir in the noodles and remaining sauce. If it looks dry, add a drizzle of any (or all) of the sauce ingredients except the cornstarch) Toss until well combined. Add the chicken and noodles to the vegetable bowl. Use tongs to toss and evenly distribute all ingredients. Serve immediately.

Yield: about 6-8 servings

My thoughts:
There are a few things to keep in mind about this recipe. One, it is really, really delicious! Two, it is a fair amount of work for a dish that (three) is almost certainly cheaper to buy at your local American-Chinese takeout place.

That said, it is totally worth making (at least once) because it is very tasty and I always think it's fun to make homemade versions of my favorite takeout dishes. You can really customize it with whatever vegetables you like in lo mein. I lucked out and found some mung beans and a mix of "baby" vegetables (snow peas, baby zucchini, and baby corn) marked down for quick sale when I went to pick up some snow peas so I used that instead of a whole large zucchini and added in baby corn which was really cute and added some crunch. I also cheated and picked up a bag of matchstick carrots so I didn't have to cut them up. Another trick is to spiralize the carrots and/or zucchini and then cut the "noodles" into 2-inch pieces. So much is going on right now, I've been trying to give myself a break and use some prepped vegetables like the carrots when it isn't much more expensive and the results would be the same as me doing it myself. Is that self care? 

The results were amazing--all of my favorite lo mein vegetables and super flavorful marinated chicken thighs--and super filling! It made a ton. Way, way more than two people needed, even with lunch the next day so halve this recipe for save it for a day when you are feeding a crowd. All of the lo mein noodles I can find at any store are 10 oz a bag which is a little small for 4 servings as a main (read: only) dish but doubling it leaves you with a huge amount of food. Not a bad problem to have when it is is this good! 

February 01, 2020

Coconut Toffee Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies

3 cups flour
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups light brown sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup toffee bits
12 oz mini bittersweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 4 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 eggs 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 toffee.

Form cookies by dropping 1 heaping tablespoon of dough two inches apart (I like this cookie scoop that holds 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/Silpat and allowing them to cool directly on the wire rack.

Cool completely before storing in air-tight containers.

Yield: around 4 dozen cookies. Recipe can be halved.
My thoughts:
These cookies were a bit of an experiment. I had a bunch of mini chocolate chips leftover from making black bottom cupcakes, coconut from making the vegan coconut lime bundt cake over the holidays and a bit toffee leftover from way back in October when I made the roasted pumpkin Rice Krispies treats. I have such a lack of storage space in my house, the thoguht of getting rid of some of these bags sitting around all in one baked good was great. I also wanted to make a cookie that I thought might be able to be frozen once baked because I knew I was going to see my parents but not until a couple days after I thought the cookies might be getting stale. I know a common idea is to freeze the dough but I don't have room in my freezer for a cookie sheet of scooped dough but I did have room for  a bag of already baked. If they didn't thaw well, oh well. It was worth a shot.

I have never made chocolate chip cookies with tiny chips before. Years ago, it was a struggle to find mini chips to make my family's black bottoms but in more recent years, they have been readily available year-round. I wasn't going to waste the few precious bags I had for black bottom cupcakes on cookies when full-sized chips would do! As it turns out, I rather liked them in cookies! Literally every bite, every tiny nibble had chocolate in it. The toffee added a bit of chew and caramel flavor and the coconut was, well, coconut-y. I, unfortunately, wasn't able to use up the whole bag of coconut and have cookies that were scoopable so if you know any recipes that use only about half a bag of coconut or less, throw them my way. 

As it turned out, the baked cookies froze and defrosted just fine. My parents swooned over them and it was a nice treat for them before my mom went and had her second brain surgery for her cancer. 

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January 27, 2020

Polish-y Cabbage Soup with Root Vegetables and Kielbasa


1 1/4 lb kielbasa, sliced
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 large purple top turnip, cubed
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
2 bay leaves
1-2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
14 oz coleslaw mix (or the equivalent of hand-shredded cabbage and carrots)
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock


Brown the kielbasa in a large skillet. Add it to a 4 or 6-quart slow cooker. the onion, turnip, garlic, potatoes, spices, and vinegar. Add the coleslaw mix/shredded cabbage. If it looks like too much to safely fit in the slow cooker, saute the cabbage briefly into the same pan you browned the kielbasa to to wilt it slightly. Add to the slow cooker and pour in broth. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Discard bay leaves, stir. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
Cabbage soup isn't the most beautiful looking or sounding dish but you know what? It's very good! I don't think I've actually ever had cabbage soup until I made this. I set out to make a fresh version of this very very good sauerkraut soup I somehow made way back in 2012 even though it seems like yesterday and ended up with another amazing soup. I think part of the trick is to use very flavorful kielbasa. I picked mine up at a local Polish deli. I like kiełbasa ​czosnkowa best. It's lightly smoked and flavored with marjoram and garlic. To accent the smokiness I added smoked paprika. Caraway is one of the best things to flavor cabbage with, in my opinion, so of course that had to go in! I'm not claiming this is some super authentic Polish soup by any means (my ability to read Polish was severely taxed while reading Polish cabbage soup recipes and I admit, I gave up and did my own thing) but caraway is a frequent addition and it just makes sense to add it. Caraway is such an underutilized flavor outside of bagels and rye bread. Let's remedy that!

I "cheated" and used a pre-shredded coleslaw mix (it's just plain, dry shredded cabbage and some carrot) instead of shredding my own cabbage and carrot. It's actually cheaper at Aldi to buy the mix than it is to shred my own whole cabbage. It's a huge time saver and meant I only spent about 10 minutes in the morning chopping the onions, potato, and turnip while browning the sausage and the soup was ready to go! If I hadn't bought the mix I would have chopped everything up the night before and refrigerated it until I was ready to add it to the slow cooker for more ease in the morning.

The result was so good! Perfectly savory and rich-tasting but full of vegetables and oddly light. The broth came out oddly clear despite the paprika and was so flavorful. Yum. A surprise delight. The perfect meal for a cold January night. 

January 22, 2020

Pan-Roasted Cauliflower with Anchovy-Caper Giant Croutons


2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons nonpareil capers
3 cloves garlic, sliced
4 anchovies
1 loaf day-old (or older) crusty bread, cut into 1-inch cubes)
1 head cauliflower
1 1/2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley


In a large skillet, heat the oil. Add the garlic, anchovies, and capers and saute until the garlic is fragrant and the anchovies have broken down. Add the bread cubes and saute until golden. Remove everything to a large bowl.

Add more oil if needed, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and cauliflower to the same pan. Saute the pan until starting to brown. Cover and cook until nearly fork-tender, then remove the lid and continue to cook until lightly browned. Add the croutons back into the pan, sprinkle with parsley and stir. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:

I admit this is a bit of an odd recipe. I had a whole loaf of "country French" bread I bought at Costco last week. I used the first loaf for sandwiches but the second loaf just sat on the counter going stale. I've been trying really hard to reduce food waste so I was trying to think of something to use up this bread which was rapidly bearing resemblance to a doorstopper. Bread crumbs seemed obvious but I really didn't need any.

I also had two heads of cauliflower taking up a lot of room in my refrigerator--they were on super sale last week so I impulse bought two. I googled "bread and cauliflower" (ha!) and mostly came up with recipes that called for breadcrumbs or some sort of "lower carb" stuffing where you sub cauliflower for some of the bread. That seemed a little sad. Then I was thinking about how some Italian recipes like panzanella take stale bread and turn into new dishes without pulverizing it into crumbs. Why not do that with cauliflower? 

Since cauliflower isn't as juicy as tomatoes are, I heavily seasoned the bread cubes. I made big cubes (about the size of cauliflower florets) so the middles of the bread softened up a bit and there were large surface areas to brown vs tiny cubes that can go from crispy and delicious to burnt and greasy very quickly. I love anchovies and capers so it was clear they needed to be included. I even finished up a jar of anchovies I've had forever so it was satisfying to use that up too. Adding so much savory flavor to the croutons meant I could simply prepare the cauliflower and still have a fantastic dish. The parsley had been languishing in my fridge for a week too so I really checked off all "eliminate food waste" boxes and it added a pop of color and freshness.

Trust me, you want to make this! It sounds a little nutty but it so so good! Salty, savory and very satisfying. My husband was amazed I came up with this and that it was so delicious. I can't wait to over buy bread and have to use it up again. 

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January 20, 2020

Sesame Noodles with Roasted Duck, Sugar Snap Peas and Cabbage


for the sauce:
1/4 cup Chinese "pure" sesame paste*
1/4-1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
2 tablespoons chile-garlic sauce
1/2 tablespoon hot sesame oil

everything else:

12 oz  wide egg "lo mein" noodles
1 1/2 cups sliced cold, roasted duck
10 oz sugar snap peas (raw or lightly steamed)
3 scallions, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/4 small cabbage, thinly sliced
sesame seeds


for the sauce: (can be made a few hours ahead of time)

Place all ingredients in a blender, blend until a smooth, pourable sauce forms, adding additional water if needed.

for the noodles:

Cook according to package instructions, add a couple drops of hot sesame oil to keep them from sticking and allow to cool.

for the salad: (minutes before serving)

In a large bowl, toss together the noodles, cabbage, scallions, and sauce. Top with sliced duck, snap peas and sesame seeds.

*It's made from roasted whole white sesame seeds. Purchase at Chinese grocery stores or online. Tahini isn't quite the same (it is made from unhulled, raw sesame seeds and has a different flavor profile) but can be used with tasty, if not quite as intended results. If using tahini, I suggest adding a drizzle of toasted sesame oil to the sauce as you mix it.

My thoughts:
It's been ages since I've made sesame noodles. I'll admit, I posted a fairly similar recipe a couple of summers ago so you aren't imagining things if this looks familiar to you but I made it again and tweaked it to be more winter-appropriate. Sugar snap peas are available year-round now (I think the ones I bought were grown in a greenhouse?) and add a lot crunch and an appreciated respite from winter squash. I love cabbage so I tossed it in raw for even more crunch. I also went with wider, dried noodles this time. I enjoy fresh noodles a lot but these are much easier to find (all of my local supermarkets carry them) and since they are shelf-stable, I don't have to plan ahead so much to make this dish. 

Having leftover duck is a luxury, I know! I actually heated up a frozen half duck portion (look for these in more high-end supermarkets) vs roasting a whole duck myself because it was our lunch for our New Year's Eve game theme (duck is game meat!) and I didn't have the time or energy. It makes the perfect amount for two people to have hearty portions. If you don't have duck, leftover roasted or rotisserie chicken would be great or even tofu or steamed shrimp. 

The leftovers (or plan for this) are great for packing for cold lunches too. Even though it's cold out, it's okay to eat some cold food. 

It's a really satisfying meal and every time I make it, I wonder why I don't make it more often and how easy it is. 

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January 13, 2020

Modernized Spinach Dip


16 oz fresh baby spinach
1 small carrot
1/4 small red onion
1/2 stalk celery
16 oz sour cream
2 tablespoons mayo
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3 tablespoons finely diced Italian parsley
freshly ground black pepper


Heat a small amount of water to large skillet. Add the spinach in batches until wilted. Thoroughly squeeze dry.  Coarsely chop. Place in a medium bowl.

In a small food processor (I used this mini manual chopper) or if you have the patience to chop vegetables very finely, finely chop the carrot, red onion, celery.  Add to the bowl with the spinach.

Stir in the remaining ingredients until well distributed. Refrigerate at least one hour and up to overnight before serving.

My thoughts:

Our theme for NYE this year was games so of course, I had to make dip! What better game night food is there? If you are actually serving it on game night, I suggest crackers because they are sturdy (this is a hardy dip!) and won't leave your hands greasy. It's also really good with cucumber spears, pretzels and thicker chips. 

My inspiration for the dip was those old school dried vegetable soup mix spinach dips that were everywhere from around the 1960s on. Does anyone really make soup from that mix? Even the packet photo is of spinach dip! 

This version is just as easy but so much more flavorful. The little dehydrated vegetables never got 100% soft so I just finely chopped them here vs sauteing them so they retained a little bite and didn't add any butter or oil to the dip which can make a dip greasy. I opted for fresh baby spinach becuase I find the flavor and texture is so much better than frozen which can have a lot of stems. This makes for a more velvety dip. 

This really was delicious! I kept coming back for more. If you've missed this old fashioned dip now is the time to make it again. 

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January 08, 2020

Coconut & Lime Bundt Cake (vegan)


3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 3/4 cups sweetened, flaked coconut
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cups canola oil
14 oz (canned) full-fat coconut milk (not light!)
1/4 cup lime juice
zest of 2 limes
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt

for the glaze:

2 tablespoons lime juice
1 cup confectioners sugar
zest of one lime


Preheat oven 350. Grease and flour a Bundt pan. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and coconut. Set aside.

In a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together sugar, oil, coconut milk, lime juice, zest, and vanilla. Slowly stream in the dry ingredients and beat until well combined. Pour into the prepared pan.

Bake 1 hour or until a cake tester or thin knife comes out with just one or two dry crumbs. Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, invert on the rack and cool completely.

When cool, whisk together the glaze ingredients. Drizzle over the cake. The cake can be made a day before serving but don't apply the glaze until ready to serve.

My thoughts:
I took inspiration for this cake from the Depression and wartime era "wacky" or "crazy" cakes that were made without eggs or butter as a cost and resource cutting measure. They rely on acidic ingredients and baking soda to make the cakes rise. They are also incidentally vegan. My sister-in-law recently became vegan so I took that as an opportunity to experiment with some vegan baking! She isn't a huge chocolate person but everyone in my family likes coconut so it makes sense to make a coconut cake. Lime juice not only adds flavor but it is the acid ingredient the cake needed to rise.

I was a little nervous making this cake since it was for a holiday and it's been ages since I've done any vegan baking but it came out great! I greased the pan and then used this wand to evenly distribute the flour to keep it from sticking. Since I've started using that I haven't had a single cake stick! I really wanted to make a cake where I wasn't using any ingredients that I normally wouldn't have on hand. I don't drink or use alternative kinds of milk like soy or almond, I don't use margarine (ahem, "plant butter") or want to bother with egg replacements. I wanted to buy enough ingredients for two cakes just in case so I didn't want to end up with ingredients I wouldn't use in something else. So coconut milk, canola oil and the mix of acid and baking soda make sense to me. The added bonus is that using coconut milk really ramps up the coconut flavor and adds a lot of body that can be missed due to the lack of eggs.

Luckily, it came out wonderfully! I hate to say that you'd never know it was vegan (because vegan food is very good on its own and it shouldn't be a surprise) but it really did come out like any other moist, super coconut-y bundt cake I've ever made. The zest added a ton of bright flavor in the glaze and every bite was full of coconut. It would be a great addition to any meal, vegan or not.

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January 06, 2020

Bookmaker Salad


for the dressing:

3 tablespoons finely grated parmesan
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
tiny pinch salt
freshly ground black pepper

for the salad:

2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped
1-pint cherry tomatoes, halved (I used an heirloom mix)
1/3 cup large Spanish pimento-stuffed olives
1/4 cup kalamata olives
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 lb thickly sliced sweet soppressata, cut into 1/2 inch strips
1/4 lb thickly sliced Genoa salami. cut into 1/2 inch strips
1/4 lb (imported, aged) thick-sliced provolone, cut into 1/2 inch strips
4 hard-boiled eggs, cut into wedges
4 pepperoncini


In a jar with a tightly fitted lid, shake together the salad dressing ingredients to mix thoroughly. Set aside.

For the salads: Evely divide the romaine among 4 plates, top with an assortment of the remaining ingredients.  Serve the dressing on the side so everyone can dress their own salad.

My thoughts:
This is my homemade version of possibly the most famous salad in Baltimore. It is from an old school Italian restaurant here called Sabatino's in Baltimore's historic Little Italy neighborhood. Going there is like taking a trip back in time and the menu is full of classic Italian-American dishes like lasagna and manicotti. However if you mention Sabatino's to a native Baltimorean, the first thing out of their mouth is either a mention of the bookmaker salad or the Sabatino's signature salad dressing. You can upgrade your side salad to be a bookmaker salad or get the signature dressing. It's serious business there! It's basically a chef's salad but with Italian meat or cheese or what I've seen called an antipasto salad. What sets it apart is the thick, parmesan-loaded vinegarette they serve on it. People love this salad! 

It's been one of my most requested recipes for years but I've never made it. I'm really not much of a green salad person. This year, following our New Year's Eve (and Day!) tradition of themed movies, games and food I finally made it. Our theme this year was "games" and while I had some duck (game meat), chess pie and Cornish Game Hens on the menu, we were really lacking on vegetables. Then inspiration struck and I remembered the bookmaker salad. Bookmakers (aka bookies) place bets on games! It was good enough for me. It has been years since I've had this salad at Sabatino's (I went there after my college graduation and then just a few times after that) judging from the pictures I found in reviews online nothing's changed. I wouldn't expect it to! I think you could time travel from 1961, go to Sabatino's and have it be unchanged. You get the salad as a meal with shrimp on it which sounds good but honestly, it's pretty filling without it! When I went there, it was popular to get a half salad as your vegetable (without the shrimp) with a heartier entree.  

The original just has Genoa salami and domestic provolone and that's fine but we have a great Italian grocery in our neighborhood* so I upgraded the salad to a mix of Genoa salami, aged, imported provolone and a personal favorite of mine, sweet (as in not hot, not sweet-sweet) soppressata which, while also a salami, has a different flavor profile than the Genoa and added a ton of depth to the salad. When there are these few ingredients, every single one counts. I also went for the pricier imported white wine vinegar and olive oil and of course excellent quality parmesan. 

I will say that the dressing is a tiny bit "gritty" or chunky thanks to the copious amounts of grated cheese in it, which according to some reviews I saw online people don't always love, but it is very tasty, I assure you! It's no grittier than it would be if you had sprinkled parm on your pizza (or salad!)  but I think people are used to creamy parmesan dressings from the supermarket so it stands out. It's served on the side at Sabatino's so you can dress your salad yourself and I found that worked well at home too. It's an assertive dressing! It really accents the flavorful meats and brings the whole salad together.

To drive home this salad's popularity, when the maitre d' who invented the salad, and named it after his gambling friends, died, the salad made it into his obituary.  He led quite a colorful life! He says he created a salad as a "lighter" option for his old bookmaker friends to entice them into coming to dinner at Sabatino's. 

*I also saw a pack of Italian meats at Aldi (and Trader Joe's) that had Genoa salami and sweet soppressata in it for about $4-6 if you don't have an Italian deli locally.

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January 02, 2020

Lemon Sesame Tuna & Chickpea Orzo Salad


for the salad:

8 oz dried orzo, cooked to package instructions and drained
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 bunch green onions, diced
3 3-oz pouches Safe Catch Elite Wild Tuna
15-oz canned chickpeas, drained
3 oz crumbled feta
1/4 cup roughly chopped Italian parsley
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 (jarred, drained) fire-roasted red pepper, chopped
1/3 cup halved kalamata olives

for the dressing:

1 tablespoon tahini
juice on one lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
zest of one lemon
freshly ground black pepper


Toss together the salad ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients until smooth. Drizzle over salad, toss to evenly distribute.

My thoughts:
I know I can't be the only one who really doesn't like winter. Sure snow is pretty for a few minutes but it doesn't distract me from everything being cold and dead. The new year in our hemisphere really should start in April when everything is coming alive again. 

Possibly the worst part of this time of the year is that pretty much nothing is in-season in the mid-Atlantic. We can get citrus from warmer climes which is nice but the vegetable assortment is downright dismal. It makes it difficult to get excited about making meals. To re-energize myself I try to give myself challenges. Can I use the few things that are reliably good in the winter and bunch of pantry-stable items to create lunches that I would actually be excited about eating?

The answer is, happily, yes. I always have tuna on hand but I try to be careful where it is sourced. Safe Catch Elite Wild Tuna pouches (in the interest of full disclosure, Safe Catch provided me with some samples to try but aren't paying me anything for this recipe) are just pure, wild, sustainably-caught tuna with low levels of mercury and don't need to be drained. Surely I'm not the only person who lacks the hand strength to drain tuna easily? I also like that I can stack them in my "pantry" aka the old wooden icebox I use for food storage and they take up a lot less space than the cans.

I love this tahini-based goddess dressing (and it's Aldi and Trader Joe's branded dupes) and often add it to tuna salad. Since I had actual tahini on hand, I took inspiration from the bottled dressing and made my own sesame kissed dressing to pour over the hearty salad. The tuna comes out of the pouch nicely broken up so it mixes well with orzo, which the chickpeas providing some texture in addition to extra protein. I added some feta for some tangy richness, salty olives, crisp celery and sharp red onions to round out the flavors and provide a lot of texture variety--key in any good cold pasta salad.

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