Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Stew

Fall is slowly arriving and school and other activities are kicking into high gear. Enter the slow cooker. I love the ease of prepping a meal in the morning — or even the night before — pushing a button and having a meal ready by dinner time.

We love chili and Mexican food at our house, so this recipe for Chicken Enchilada Stew seemed like a good fit.

I made a double batch to stock my freezer and we had plenty of leftovers for a second meal, too.

Mangia! Mangia!

Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Stew
Inspired by this recipe from The Kitchn

For the stew base:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon (or more to taste) of canned, chopped jalapeño peppers
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 heaping tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon sugar
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
2 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Additional ingredients:
1 15 ounce can of corn, drained
1 15 ounce of black beans, drained
3 pounds boneless chicken thighs and/or breasts
Splash heavy cream, to taste (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

You'll need a 6 quart slow cooker for this recipe.

Heat oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or deep skillet. Add onion and jalapeño and cook until softened, about 6 minutes.

Add garlic, chili powder, cumin and sugar. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce and chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then transfer to the bowl of your slow cooker.

Add the corn and beans to the slow cooker and stir to combine. Nestle chicken into the stew. Cook on low for 6 to 7 hours, or high for 4 hours.

Remove the chicken and shred with two forks. Return chicken to the crock pot and stir to combine. Mix in a splash of heavy cream.

Serve with shredded cheese, sliced green onions and tortilla chips. Refrigerate leftovers.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fresh Apple Pie

I grew up close to an orchard and apple pie is one of the first things I learned how to bake. For years I would make the crust from scratch, using a big bowl and two knives to incorporate the butter into flour.

Discovering the pastry cutter in my early 20s was a major breakthrough. After I got married, a friend told me about using a food processor to slice the apples. Game changer! I once packed that kitchen gadget and drove it from Cincinnati to my parents house in New York just to make Thanksgiving pie baking easier.

This year I've been experimenting with prepping dough in the food processor, too. I recommend it for saving time and less mess. I also discovered (thanks to Ina Garten) that adding shortening to the dough recipe makes the dough  easier to work with.

After a recent visit to our local apple orchard here in Illinois, my boys were craving apple pie and my husband needed a treat for an office party. So I put the food processor to work. I had two pies in the oven in a little more than an hour.

Another secret to perfect pie: use a variety of apples. You need at least 2-3 Granny Smith, then use your favorites. Fuji, Honeycrisp, Macintosh and Jonagold hold up well, as does Sweet Tango, which I just discovered.

If you're a novice, don't be afraid of making pie. It's a great way to get the whole family in the kitchen.

If you end up with extra apple filling and enough dough scraps, let your kids make small hand pies or cook the apples in a saucepan for some apple sauce.

Mangia! Mangia!

Fresh Apple Pie

For the crust:
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chilled vegetable shortening
1/2 cup ice water
Egg wash (1 egg whisked together with 1 tablespoon water)
1-2 teaspoons coarse sugar

For the filling:
4-5 pounds of mixed apples, peeled, cored, quartered and thinly sliced by hand or with food processor
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks

*One note: I tend to just eyeball the apples and spices, tasting as I go. I also pile the apples high in the pie plate. So feel free to make your own adjustments.

To make the crust, set up your food processor with the steel blade. Add flour, salt and sugar to the processor bowl and pulse to combine. Add butter and shortening and pulse until the butter is the size of small pebbles, about 12 times.

With the food processor running, pour in the cold water until the dough comes together. Turn out onto a floured counter and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the filling.

To make the filling, thinly slice apples by hand or set up your food processor with the larger slicing disk. Place each apple quarter into feeder shoot and let the food processor do the work. Place apples into a large bowl.

Add sugar, flour, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Mix to combine so that all the apples are coated in the spices. Add more spices if you think it needs it, or if you used more apples. Set aside.

Grab dough from fridge. Lightly flour (1-2 tablespoons) a counter. Cut dough ball in half. Gently roll out one half of dough into a roughly 10-inch circle. Carefully fold in half and place into pie plate. Unfold and press dough into pie plate. Let extra dough hang over the edge, then trim it so that 1/2 inch or less hangs over.

Brush the edge of the bottom crust with egg wash. This will help the top crust stick to it.

Fill pie crust with apple filling. Arrange apples in a mound slightly higher in the center. Dot with butter chunks.

Roll out the rest of the dough to make the top crust. Place dough on top of filling. Trim off excess dough. Press together edges of dough. Crimp with fingers or a fork.

Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Cut a few 1-inch slits in top crust to allow steam to escape during baking.

Place a sheet pan lined with parchment on a lower rack in the oven, to catch any drippings from the pie.

Place pie on a middle or upper middle rack in the oven. Bake for about an hour, until the crust is brown and the juices of the pie are bubbling. If crust is browning too fast, cover loosely with foil.

When done, remove and let cool before serving. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream. Refrigerate leftovers.

My kids devoured half the pie before I could take a pretty photo!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Singapore Noodles

Singapore noodles is like the original Asian fusion dish. First of all, they originated in Hong Kong, not Singapore. Plus, there's a little bit of China (soy sauce), a little bit of Thai (rice noodles) and a little bit of India (curry).

I've been meaning to try this recipe from Cook's Illustrated for years and finally got around to doing it one weekend night recently. It's involved with a lot of steps, making it not suitable for a weeknight week, in my opinion. While this dish was perfectly good the night I made it, it tasted even better as leftovers.


Singapore Noodles
Based largely upon Cook's Illustrated
4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil or olive oil
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
6-8 ounces rice vermicelli
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
12 ounces large shrimp (ideally 26 to 30 per pound), peeled and deveined, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, OR smaller shrimp (36 to 40 per pound, peeled and deveined and left whole
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt, and extra for serving, as needed
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 2-inch-long matchsticks
2 large shallots, sliced thin
2/3 cup chicken broth
4 ounces (2 cups) bean sprouts (optional) (I hate bean sprouts, so no way)
4 scallons, finely cut
2 tablespoons lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving

Heat 3 tablespoons oil, curry powder and cayenne, if using, in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.

Bring 1 1/2 quarts of water to boil. Place noodles in large bowl. Pour boiling water over noodles and soak noodles until flexible, but not soft, about 3 minutes. Drain noodles and transfer to cutting board. Using a chef's knife cut pile of noodles roughly into thirds. Return noodles to bowl, add curry mixture, soy sauce and sugar; use tongs to toss until well combined. Set aside.

Wipe out skillet with paper towels. Heat 2 teaspoons oil into skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. add shrimp in even layer and cook without moving them until bottoms are browned, about 90 seconds. Push shrimp to one side of skillet. Add 1 teaspoon oil to empty side of skillet. Add eggs and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Using rubber spatula, stir eggs gently until set but still wet, about 1 minute. Stir eggs into shrimp and continue to cook, breaking up big pieces of egg, until eggs fully cooked — about 30 seconds longer. Transfer shrimp-egg mixture to second large bowl.

Reduce heat to medium. Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in empty skillet until shimmering. Add garlic and gingers and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add bell pepper and shallots. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are a little tender but also still crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl with shrimp-egg mixture.

Return skillet to medium-high heat, add broth to skillet  and bring to simmer. Add noodles and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add noodles to bowl with shrimp-egg and vegetable mixture and toss to combine. Add bean sprouts, scallions and lime juice and toss to combine. Plate noodles and serve with lime wedges.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Banana Muffins with Nutella Swirl

My son Sam truly loves to be in the kitchen — almost as much as he loves Nutella. I need more ways to get him to eat more bananas.

Say hello to banana muffins with Nutella. You can use your favorite banana bread or banana muffin recipe here. The chocolate-hazelnut topping makes these treats special for breakfast or a snack.

Kids can help by swirling the Nutella into the muffin batter.

Mangia! Mangia!

Banana Muffins with Nutella Swirl
Inspired by this recipe from MyRecipes.

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup Nutella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 12-muffin tin with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder and salt. In a second bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, banana and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Add flour mixture in batches, beating to incorporate after each addition. Use a spatula to scrape down the side of the bowl.

Divide batter among the muffin tins. Top each muffin with a heaping teaspoon of Nutella. Using a toothpick, swirl Nutella into muffin batter.

Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Quick Cucumber Salad

Once again we have a bumper crop of cucumbers. They seem to be the only thing we can grow in our tower garden. Time to make cucumber salad, a nice, light side dish to a dinner in which the husband grilled burgers, sausages and chicken (for the week, not just one dinner!)

Even the kids LOVE this cucumber salad. I prefer it to the creamy Hungarian version, but that's good too. Put this on your culinary radar for when you have an abundance of cucumbers.


Quick Cucumber Salad
2 medium cucumbers, thinly sliced (I used the 1/16" setting on my mandoline.)
1/3 cup vinegar — apple cider or white
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh or jarred dill weed or parsley, if desired (I much prefer dill.)

Place sliced cucumbers in small glass or plastic bowl, preferably one that has a lid that fits.

Combine remaining ingredients and pour over the cukes. Cover and refrigerate at least three hours to blend the flavors. Drain cucumbers. Sprinkle with dill weed (or parsley). Serve.

Confession: I have made this when I've only had time to let the cukes site and marinate for one hour, and nobody could tell as they were too busy stuffing their faces.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Zucchini Bites

It's that time of year when fresh zucchini is still plentiful. When my farmer's market had one of these giant vegetables for just $1, I could not pass it up.

My boys may disagree, but I think zucchini is one of the hardest-working veggies out there. You can use it in so many different recipes, like side dishes such as a simple saute or Zucchini Rice. And you can bake with it for super moist Zucchini Chocolate Cake or Zucchini-Blueberry Bread.

One thing I'd never done with zucchini is wring it out in a towel to squeeze out the moisture before using it in a recipe. Wowza. The process adds just a few extra minutes and it's a great way to get your kids involved in helping out.

Removing the zucchini's extra water led to these amazingly light and fluffy veggie bites. In fact, these will likely replace my go-to Zucchini Pancakes.

I'll be making this recipe again because it is so versatile. You can easily change up the herbs and cheese for variety.

Mangia! Mangia!

Zucchini Bites
Inspired by this recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 1/2 cups packed, shredded zucchini
1 large egg
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup finely chopped white or yellow onion
1 bunch green onions, diced
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper lightly coated with cooking spray.

Place the shredded zucchini in a clean dish towel and fold up the edges of the towel. Holding the towel pouch over the sink, twist and squeeze the zucchini and towel to wring out as much excess water as possible. You want the zucchini to be almost dry.

Place zucchini in medium bowl and add remaining ingredients. Mix until combined. If mixture is too wet, add a tablespoon to two of bread crumbs or flour.

Scoop up rounded tablespoons and drop onto prepared baking sheet. Gently flatten mounds with the back of a spoon.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the tops are browned in spots.

Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving. Goes well with plain Greek yogurt or ranch dressing.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Tahini Shortbread Cookies

A recipe for Tahini Cookies in this month's issue of Bon Appetit caught my eye.

"These are your grown-up peanut butter cookies. The tahini lends a creamy, earthly flavor." 

Sold. Plus, I had a can of tahini in the pantry. Boom.

And, I actually had a reason to bake, as if a reason is necessary. Icing on the cake. Oops, wrong dessert. Anyhow, my friend Megan invited my family over for dinner to celebrate her husband Steve's birthday.

Bon Appetit reported these cookies were inspired by the Tahini Shortbread Cookies at a Cambridge, Mass. restaurant called Mamaleh's.

Indeed, these are cookies for adults. Not too sweet. Not even so pretty. Rich and melt in your mouth. Exactly like shortbread. "They're ugly, but so good," I announced upon arriving at the dinner party. And because I'm a fab friend and lacking in self control, I left all of the uneaten cookies with Megan and Steve. That was on Saturday. Here is the text exchange with Megan the following Tuesday:

Megan: "Even though I just had oral surgery 2 hours ago, I am still eating those cookies you made. They are too (freaking) good to let pain stand in the way."

Me: *Laughing/crying emoji* "Glad they held up and are being devoured."

Megan: "They still taste just as good as day 1....for future reference. Make-ahead potential is very high."

Me: "That's gtk for when I blog them."

There you go, dear readers. My pal Megan and I doing the hard research and reporting for you.


Tahini Shortbread Cookies
From Bon Appetit

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons honey
3/4 cup tahini
1/8 to 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the flour, baking power and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, mix together the butter, sugar and honey in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Mix in tahini, then add dry ingredients in two or three batches. Beat until thoroughly combined. Batter will be slightly sticky.

Place 1/8 cup of toasted sesames in a small bowl or on a small plate. You can always add more if you run out. (I didn't need the 1/4 cup that Bon Appetit called for.) Scoop out heaping tablespoons of dough (about one ounce) and roll into balls. Dip tops of balls in sesame seeds and place on very lightly sprayed cookie sheet, spacing cookie balls about two inches apart. Take a spatula and gently press the balls to very slightly flatten. (I learned to do this after the first batch of cookies came out of the oven pretty much still looking like dough balls.)

Bake cookies until golden brown, about 13 to 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire cooling racks. Cookies will firm up as they cool.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Cherry Berry Bars

If you ever find yourself with a mess of berries and cherries that need be consumed quickly, this recipe is your new best friend.

After buying more berries than my family could eat, I decided to cook them in a saucepan to make a compote to serve with yogurt or ice cream. When my oldest son started asking for a cherry pie, I improvised.

These dessert bars were delicious, with a dough that reminds me of shortbread. My kids put them in their school lunches and ate them for after school snacks. They disappeared from my kitchen in just a few days.

Mangia! Mangia!

Cherry Berry Bars
Inspired by this recipe from the Kitchn

7 to 8 cups of berries (blackberries, strawberries, raspberries) and cherries, hulled or pitted, and halved
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon water
3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon course sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Place berries, cherries and 1/2 cup sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until berries break down and release their juices, stirring frequently to avoid burning and lowering the flame if needed.

In a small bowl, mix corn starch with water until dissolved. Stir into berries. Continue to cook until berries thicken. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Set aside to cool.

Insert the blade attachment on your food processor. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and pulse to combine. Add egg yolks, almond extract and butter. Pulse in short intervals until dough comes together (about 1 minute). The dough will be crumbly and soft.

Transfer about 2/3 of the dough to the baking pan. Use your fingers to press the dough into the bottom of the pan. Spread the cherry mixture evenly over the dough.

Scoop tablespoons of the remaining dough into your hand and flatten them into an oval shape, then place on top of berry mixture. Repeat until you use all of the dough, evenly spacing the dough ovals on top of the fruit. The berries will not be completely covered.

Brush the dough pieces with the melted butter, then sprinkle with the coarse sugar.

Bake until the dough is light brown and the fruit is bubbling, about 40 minutes. Cool completely in the pan before cutting into bars.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Oven-Grilled Tuna Steaks

This summer I did something I don't usually do, because of an utter lack of self control. I indulged in beer. Omigoodness I love beer. And not crap light beer but really good craft beer. By the beginning of August, I was ready to be done and start living cleaner. So the husband, who also loves the craft beers, and I have been eating healthier.

It's boring in a way — OK, in a lot of ways. But we have learned to appreciate some simple dishes that we never made at home. Like oven-grilled tuna steaks. Even our kids love these (who knew?), so this dinner has become a new go-to Chez George.


Oven-Grilled Tuna Steaks
3-4 half-pound tuna steaks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Fresh herbs of your choosing

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray baking sheet or inside of grill pan with non-stick spray.

Mix together lemon juice and olive oil with a fork. Brush the lemon juice and olive oil mixture over each side of each tuna steak. Salt and pepper each side. Sprinkle herbs (I used rosemary) to each side. Bake for four to six minutes per half inch of thickness, or until fish begins to flake when test with a fork but is still pink in the center. I have found sticking closer to the four-minute mark is best.

Serve with a steamed vegetable or salad for a really healthy dinner.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Creamy Shrimp Salad

When I served this salad, my husband was surprised to see large whole shrimp — which is why I decided to try this recipe.

I usually associate shrimp salad with those tiny "salad shrimp." An email from the Food Network highlighting this dish caught my eye.

This is perfect for a warm day or when you need a meal that you can prep ahead of time. (The dressing tastes even better if it has time to sit in the fridge for a bit.) Creamy shrimp salad is good on buns for lunch or on top of greens for a light dinner. Leftovers stand up well in the fridge, too.

Mangia! Mangia!

Creamy Shrimp Salad
Inspired by this recipe from Ina Garten

2.5 to 3 pounds of large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tail off
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon orange zest (about the amount you can get from 2 oranges)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/4 cup minced dill
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons red onion, diced small

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. You will need one or two large baking sheets so that the shrimp can be arranged in a single layer.

Place shrimp, oil, salt and pepper on a large baking sheet and toss together. Roast for 6 to 8 minutes or until is pink and cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool.

In a medium bowl combine remaining ingredients to make the dressing, beginning with the mayonnaise. Stir well. Add shrimp to a large bowl and pour about 1/2 the dressing on top. Gently stir to evenly coat.

Add more dressing to taste or until all shrimp are coated. Save any extra dressing in the fridge to add to leftover salad or to spread on buns or bread if you make shrimp salad sandwiches. A garnish of orange slices would be nice, too.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Ramen & Bok Choy Salad

This recipe is a bit of a classic. I've been making it for 14 years — ever since a good friend whipped some up during my bachelorette weekend in Myrtle Beach.

This summer's trip with my husband's family reminded me of this salad as my sister-in-law and I reminisced about that long-ago girls weekend.

When we got home from vacation, I wanted to see if my kids would like this dish, especially since Sam still loves ramen noodles.

The verdict? I still find this salad addicting and my husband still enjoys it. Not so much for my boys. But hey, more for me!

This recipe makes enough for a crowd. Leftovers still taste good on Day 2, but the ingredients will be a little less crunchy. If you want to make less, cut the recipe in half by using a small head of bok choy or 4-5 baby bok choy.

Do you make a version of this salad? Let us know how you do it at your house!

Mangia! Mangia!

Ramen & Bok Choy Salad
Inspired by my friend Claire

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 packages ramen noodles, broken into small pieces (Set aside seasoning packet for another use.)
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 large head of bok choy
1 bunch green onions, sliced (5 or 6 stalks)
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup white sugar

Note: You can prep this salad in advance, but don't add the dressing until you are ready to serve it.

Heat oil over medium heat in large sauce pan. Add ramen noodles, almonds, sesame seeds and sugar. Still until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

Chop the bok choy leaves and the white stalks into small pieces and place in large bowl. Add green onions. Stir to combine. Set aside.

To make the dressing, combine oil, vinegar, soy sauce and sugar in a container with a tight lid. Shake to mix. Set aside.

When ready to serve, combine ramen noodle mix with bok choy mix. Add half the dressing and stir to evenly coat. Add more dressing as needed. (You may not need all of it.)

Monday, August 21, 2017

Poppyseed Egg Salad

A few weeks ago, with my nieces in town to hang out with my girls for what is known as Cousin Camp, we had a tea party with some other friends. I made PB&J and cream cheese and jam sandwiches in the shapes of hearts and flowers. But what about for the adults? I hadn't thought that far ahead. Fortunately, egg salad popped to mind, because all of the ingredients — including poppyseeds, which give this version a subtle nutty flavor and crunch — are always on hand.

My friend Ashley, who brought her girls to the tea party, and I were like "Omigosh, egg salad is sooooo good." There wasn't a whole lot of talking during the eating, actually.

Why don't I make egg salad more often? Well, the hubby is watching his cholesterol, and the kids won't eat it. But I'm here to tell you, my friends, that it's good to make dishes for just yourself (and a like-minded friend) sometimes. Besides, taste buds change, too. I now have one kid, Lucy, who absolutely loves this egg salad. I found out about Lucy's new love of egg salad when the leftovers that had my name (figuratively) all over them for a late post-cycle class lunch were half eaten when I got to them.

I hope you enjoy this simple, classic dish with a twist. I hope that sometimes you make something that only you like ... for now.


Poppyseed Egg Salad
12 hardboiled eggs
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon poppyseeds
Salt and pepper, to taste

Peel and cut up eggs; transfer to bowl. Add rest of ingredients and stir gently (so as not to make the eggs a mushy mess) until combined.

Question: Do you know how to boil eggs? That is, do you know how to boil eggs so that the yolks are perfectly cooked without any greenish hint of being overdone? And do you know how to boil eggs so that the shells come off easily, without taking out hunks of egg white?

No? Well, here is what to do. Place eggs in a pot and add water so that it there's at least an inch of water over the tops of the eggs. Add some salt to the water and set pot over high heat. Once the water comes to a rapid boil, allow water to continue its full-paced boil and the eggs to cook for another two minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove eggs and transfer to a bowl of ice cubes and cold water. Peel eggs immediately after they are cooled, within about 10-15 minutes.

Oh, and here's Lucy enjoying an open-faced egg salad sandwich.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Grilled Eggplant Caprese

Oh, sweet eggplant. Paired with tomatoes, basil, oil and balsamic, this purple beauty really shines.

If you are enjoying an abundance of tomatoes from your garden or farmer's market, this dish is a great way to put that fresh summer taste to work. The eggplant caprese makes a great side salad, appetizer or vegetarian main dish.

Never grilled eggplant before? It's a quick way to get a mellow, smoky flavor, and the eggplant will hold up well the next day, too. If you like, you can grill the eggplant ahead of time.

If you are like me and just can't get enough of grilled eggplant, try these dishes, too — Grilled Eggplant with Chimichurri Sauce or Grilled Eggplant Salad

Mangia! Mangia!

Grilled Eggplant Caprese

1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/4 slices
Olive oil (about 1/2 cup, plus more for drizzling)
Balsamic vinegar (about 1/2 cup, plus more for drizzling)
4 to 5 medium tomatoes, sliced
15 basil leaves, divided
1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh salad greens, optional

Heat your grill to medium. Brush both sides of eggplant slices with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Place eggplant slices on grill and cook until lightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Turn over and grill another 3 minutes or so, until eggplant is softened and nice grill marks appear. Remove from grill and set aside.

Layer salad greens on a serving platter. Arrange eggplant slices on greens. Top each piece of eggplant with a slice of mozzarella cheese, 1 basil leaf and a slice of tomato. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Slice any remaining basil leaves into thin strips and sprinkle on top of eggplant stacks. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Jack Fruit Three Ways

My youngest son Sam is on a mission to try a new fruit whenever possible.

This means picking something exotic from the produce section at our local grocery store and trying it out. Sam's quest is known by our regular cashier and the produce manager. They often give us tips and previews on what we'll find inside a small spiky orb or a giant bumpy-skinned melon.

Some of the delicacies we've tried this summer are:

Passion fruit.
Dragon fruit.
Prickly pear.
And then there is the Jack Fruit. At just $2, this baby supplied us with enough fruit for more than a week. It took some work, but it was totally worth it.

If you're a vegetarian, you might eat jack fruit all the time, as the yellow bulbs inside this behemoth can be used as a meat substitute in tacos and many slow cooker dishes. The seeds are edible, too, if you cook them.

The fruit is somewhat firm and tastes like a cross between a mango and a peach.

We went online to learn how to open this baby and harvest the edible parts. This video from was pretty helpful. A note if you watch the video: Do not be deterred! Our jack fruit was not as sticky as predicted and we were able to pry it open with just a knife.

It took me, Sam and my husband about an hour to remove all the fruity pods and seeds from the tough shell. We tackled the job on our patio to make clean-up easier.

Cut the jack fruit in half, and then into quarters.
Once your jack fruit is in quarters, you can start peeling away the stringy white pulp to reveal the yellow pods.
The jack fruit.
Jack fruit seeds can be seasoned and cooked.
The aftermath of our work.
Jack Fruit Salad

Once your jack fruit is ready to use, you can dice it into a fruit salad with strawberries and some mint.

Jack Fruit Salsa

Jack fruit holds up really well in a salsa, adding a sweet note.

2 cups jack fruit, diced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, diced
1 bunch green onions, sliced
Juice of 1 lime
2-3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir to combine. Chill or serve right away with tortilla chips.

Jack Fruit Fries

If you like sweet potato fries, you'll love this side.

2 cups jack fruit, sliced into 1/4 inch strips
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a medium bowl, toss sliced jack fruit with the oil until the fruit is well coated. Spread jack fruit on a large cookie sheet, leaving space between each piece of fruit. You may need two cookie sheets depending on the size of your pans.

Roast for 10 minutes, then flip fruit pieces over with a spatula and bake for another 10 minutes or until fruit is crispy and browned.

Remove from oven and let cool. Add more salt if needed. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Tequila by the Slice

A fellow baseball mom shared a recipe for this handheld cocktail in the middle of our summer season. So, so glad she did!

These adult "drinks" are light and refreshing on a hot day. Since I'm on vacation this week, they are top of mind (again!)

One tip: If you bring these to a gathering or party where children will be present, be sure to have some slices for the kids, too. This way you can avoid a little one taking a bite of "grown-up watermelon."

Another option: A friend added a drizzle of basil simple syrup when she recently served these. Also very yummy.

If you don't use a whole watermelon when you make this, you can use the rest for some delicious Watermelon Raspberry Rum Punch.

Mangia! Mangia!

Tequila by the Slice
Inspired by

1 seedless watermelon, quartered
Silver tequila
2-3 fresh limes, sliced
Coarse salt for topping

*Note: It is best to add the lime juice and salt right before you eat the watermelon slices. Doing so in advance makes the watermelon too salty.

Slice each watermelon quarter into 1-inch triangles. If you like, cut each piece in half to get smaller triangles.

Place watermelon slices on a large cookie sheet.

(Please pardon the drywall. Kitchen still a work in progress!)
Splash each slice with some tequila. Eyeball it. I used about 1/3 a bottle of tequila for a medium sized watermelon. Let sit 15 minutes. Turn over each slice and soak for another 15 minutes.

Serve each piece with a lime slice and some coarse salt.

To enjoy, drizzle with lime juice, sprinkle with salt and repeat!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Mini Cherry Pies

Nothing says summer like cherry pie, so here you go!

If your family likes cherries, these sweet little tarts will hit the spot for dessert or a hearty snack.

And if you don't have a cherry pitter, I recommend investing in one. I found a model that pits 6 cherries at a time for under $20. My son Sam gets great satisfaction out of using it; I love having a helper in the kitchen.

This recipe calls for a homemade crust, and I recommend taking the small amount of extra time needed to make it. So yummy.

Mangia! Mangia!

Mini Cherry Pies
Inspired by this recipe from Cooking Light

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
4 1/12 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut in chunks
1/4 cup ice water
2 tablespoons chilled vodka
5 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons turbinado sugar, divided
2 tablespoons corn starch
5 cups fresh cherries, pitted and halved
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Optional: 1 large egg white, lightly beaten

Items you will need:

  • Baking sheet lined with parchment paper. 
  • Six 4-inch tart pans. 

No tiny tart pans? Use mini foil pie dishes instead.

Place flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse a few times until mixture looks crumbly. Add 1/4 cup water and vodka. Pulse about 6 times or until the dough comes together.

Place dough on lightly floured surface and knead 2-3 times. Divide dough into 12 equal-sized balls.

Roll each ball of dough out into a roughly 4-inch cycle. Arrange on the lined baking sheet. Cover with parchment or plastic wrap and chill for 1 our or until firm.

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Move oven rack to middle position.

Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 5 tablespoons sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Add cherries and lemon juice, gently mix to combine.

Divide pie filling among the 6 tart or pie pans. Top each with second pie crust, or let your kids cut out fun dough shapes and use those instead.

Brush top crust, if using, with egg white. Sprinkle remaining sugar over crust or dough cut-outs.

Line a baking sheet with foil. Place tarts on baking sheet and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until mini pies are golden and bubbly. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes.

Take pies out of pans to cool completely.

Serve warm or at room temperature. My boys liked these with ice cream on top.

Wrap and refrigerate leftovers.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Mom's Potato Salad

We had tons of family gatherings when I was growing up. That was a big plus to living where all of our relatives were within an hour's drive.

In the summer, potato salad was usually on the menu. My mom added a little twist to her recipe and I still love it — a chopped apple. The fruit gives the side salad an unexpected sweet crunch.

I remember my mom served it to a college friend's family when they were visiting. When I saw my friend's step dad again more than a decade later, he remembered the potato salad!

My recipe here may differ a bit from my mom's (because I make it for a family of 4 and she was usually serving 30+ people), but you'll get the same effect.

Mangia! Mangia!

Mom's Potato Salad

1.5 or 2 pound bag of small yellow potatoes
1 bunch green onions, sliced and chopped
2 hard boiled eggs
1 large apple, peeled and diced (use Granny Smith, Honey Crisp of Fuji)
1/2 cup of your favorite mayonnaise
1/4 cup dijon or champagne mustard
1 teaspoon dill (fresh or dried)
*1 teaspoon dried spice mix for Green Goddess Dressing
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 1/2 cup diced celery or bell pepper

*If you can't find this, use another 1/2 teaspoon dried dill, 1/2 teaspoon dried onion, 1/2 teaspoon dried celery flakes and 1 teaspoon minced garlic.

Peel the potatoes. Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Set the pot to boil. Once thee water boils, lower the heat a little and cook until a knife easily inserts into the potatoes.

Remove potatoes from heat and drain. Then rinse with cold water. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, dice them and place in a large bowl.

Add egg, green onions, apple and any other vegetables, if using. Add mayonnaise, mustard, dill and Green Goddess spices.

Mix to combine, until everything is coated in the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve right away or chill before serving.

I liked this potato salad with barbecue chicken and grilled squash.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Arugula, Beet, Quinoa and Orange Salad

Salads that work for lunch and dinner are my best friends this summer. Here's another one I'm loving. So delicious and so easy to make.

My husband and youngest son love beets. When I spotted these sweet little containers of the ready-to-use veggies I snapped up a few.

This colorful dish is great as a side salad or a main entree. It holds up well the next day, too, but the quinoa will start to turn pink.

Mangia! Mangia!

Arugula, Beet, Quinoa and Orange Salad
Inspired by a recipe in Diabetes Focus Spring 2017 issue

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 large orange
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
4 cups cooked quinoa
5 ounce package baby arugula
1 seedless orange, peeled and diced
2 6.5 ounce packages prepared beets, diced

In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, orange juice, salt and pepper.

Add quinoa, arugula, orange and beets. Gently stir to combine. Fold ingredients together until everything is coated with the vinaigrette.

Serve right away or chill until needed. Refrigerate any leftovers in an air tight container.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Grilled Pineapple & Watermelon Salad

I do love to grill and to me, there is nothing tastier than grilled fruit.

With pineapples and watermelon in season, I figured why not? 

Watermelon firms up over the flames and gains a mellow flavor. The pineapple becomes caramelized and even juicier.

The result was so tasty I ate nearly half the bowl myself. This smoky sweet side dish is a great partner to some spicy blackened grilled chicken. 

The next time you fire up the grill, give this a try.

Mangia! Mangia!

Grilled Pineapple & Watermelon Salad

1/4 cup olive oil 
1 small pineapple, outer skin removed, cored and quartered
5 thick watermelon slices, cut from 1/4 of a large melon
1 bunch green onions, trimmed
1-2 teaspoons fresh basil, chopped

Heat grill to medium. Brush both sides of each piece of fruit with olive oil. Brush green onions, too.

Place each piece of pineapple and watermelon on grill. Place onions perpendicular to the grill grates.

Cook for 2 minutes or until nice char marks appear. Remove green onions and set aside to cool. Lower heat if fruit starts to burn. 

Turn over fruit and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more. 

Remove fruit and let cool until you can handle it. Cut off watermelon rind. Dice watermelon, pineapple and green onions into bite-sized pieces. 

Toss fruit and onions in medium bowl. Sprinkle with fresh basil. Serve warm or cold.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Simple Cucumber Dill Salad

We've been eating lots of salads lately for a few reasons:
  • My kitchen is a work in progress. 
  • We have baseball practice or games almost every night. 
  • Our days are jam packed, too.
I know you fellow moms can relate. Here's my morning yesterday:

8 a.m. – Take dog for grooming appointment.
8:30 a.m. – Take Sam to baseball clinic, go to bank.
10 a.m. – Pick up Sam and drop off Max at baseball clinic. Go to post office and dry cleaners.
11 a.m. – Take Sam to saxophone lesson.
12 p.m. – Pick up Max from baseball clinic.
12:15 p.m. – Pick up dog from groomer.

Summer salads are easy, refreshing and can often be made ahead. One of my faves is Chick Pea Salad. If you make that and have some leftover dill, you can use it in this cucumber recipe.

Do you have a favorite summer salad? Let us know what it is!

Mangia! Mangia!

Simple Cucumber Dill Salad

2 English cucumbers, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 bunch green onions, (about 5 or 6) sliced
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and gently stir to combine. Let refrigerate for at least 1 hour to help the flavors blend.

Salt individual servings to taste.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Slow Cooker Hawaiian Pork

When I wrote my last post at the end of March, I apologized for falling off the face of the earth because of our business move. Well I fell back off. As soon as we got settled in our new office, life got a little crazier. I was feeling relatively terrible because apparently morning sickness and exhaustion are twice as bad when you're pregnant with twins.

Yep, you heard that right. The husband and I are having identical twin boys! They'll arrive sometime in October, and we couldn't be happier. Especially now that I'm in my second trimester and eating more than crackers and cheese.

While the nausea reigned supreme, my family was subsisting on mac and cheese from a box while I laid on the couch like a cranky beached whale. But I'm back in the kitchen! And I was craving pork like you wouldn't believe.

I found this recipe on my Pinterest board, and immediately headed to the grocery store. When we sat down to dinner, I wasn't disappointed. The entire family demolished this meal; it is absolutely delicious. And you can prep everything ahead of time! The Pineapple Coleslaw might seem like an unnecessary extra step, but it's worth it. I ate my weight in slaw. The kids even helped me stir together the dressing.

If you're looking for an easy, delicious, filling, make-ahead meal, give Slow Cooker Hawaiian Pork a whirl. You're whole family will love it. Guaranteed.

Let's get cooking!

Slow Cooker Hawaiian Pork
Adapted from Half Baked Harvest

1 1/4 cups pineapple juice
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sriracha
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
3 pounds pork shoulder roast
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons water
Chopped cilantro, for serving
Coconut Rice (recipe below), for serving
Pineapple Slaw (recipe below), for serving

Mix together pineapple juice, soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, sriracha, and ginger. Set sauce aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add pork and sear on all sides until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Add pork to slow cooker. Pour sauce over pork. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until pork falls apart when you poke it with a fork. (My slow cooker tends to run hot, and my pork was finished cooking in 6 hours.) Remove pork to a plate and shred into bite-sized pieces.

Whisk together cornstarch and water. Whisk into cooking liquid in slow cooker. Turn the slow cooker to high and take off the lid. Allow the sauce to simmer until it's thickened, about 15-30 minutes. Stir shredded pork back into liquid and allow it to warm through again. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with Coconut Rice and Pineapple Slaw.

Pineapple Slaw
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons pineapple juice
1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
Salt and pepper
2 1/2 cups shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix
1 cup pineapple chunks (fresh or canned)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Stir together mayo, pineapple juice, yogurt, vinegar, brown sugar, zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cabbage, pineapple, and cilantro. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Coconut Rice
1 cup water
1 cup coconut milk
Pinch salt
1 cup rice

Bring water, coconut milk, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in rice. Bring the mixture back to a simmer, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes, until rice is firm but tender. (If you have one, you can certainly use a rice cooker in place of cooking rice on the stove.)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Old-Fashioned Cream Pie

I rip recipes from magazines (that I own, not say in waiting rooms) all the time. If I never tore another recipe from People, Real Simple and more, I'd easily spend the next couple years cooking my way through my "to make" recipe pile.

Anyhow, this year for Easter the kids and I decided a cream pie sounded tasty. I used a recipe from the June 2013(!) issue of Ladies' Home Journal. It was worth the wait, so give it a try sooner rather than later.


PS: What drew me to the LHJ recipe was the headline on the article — "The Pie That Made My Dad Propose." Here's a version of that story, originally published in LHJ. And below is a piece of art that ran with the story.

Old-Fashioned Cream Pie

12 graham crackers, broken into pieces
2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 store-bought graham cracker pie crust (For less than $2 and a lot less hassle, this is my preferred option.)

2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
 2 1/2 cups cold milk
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Fresh berries for serving

For crust: Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, blend graham cracker pieces and sugar until finely ground. Add butter and pulse until combined. Set aside 1/4 cup of graham cracker mixture for topping. Press remaining mixture into bottom and side of a 9-inch pie pan. Bake until lightly browned, about seven minutes. Cool while you prepare the filling.

For filling: In a 3-quart saucepan, whisk together sugar, salt and cornstarch. Add milk and egg yolks and whisk to combine. Heat mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly until mixture begins to bubble and then cook 1 more minute. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, nutmeg and butter. Place over and ice bath to cool slightly before pouring into prepared crust. Cover pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm — about 5 hours or overnight. Sprinkle with reserved graham cracker crumbs and serve with cold berries.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Cilantro Walnut Pesto

Pesto is one of my addictions. I love it on pasta, steak, chicken, shrimp, vegetables -- it's so good on almost anything!

For years I've been a traditionalist, sticking to the basil, pine nut and Parmesan cheese varieties. I usually serve pesto swirled into angel hair pasta, as a side dish to grilled steak.

Boy, was I missing out. Turns out many fresh herbs and vegetables deliciously transform when you whip them into a pesto with some nuts and olive oil. Think fresh peas, or even trimmed broccoli stalks.

This cilantro version is the healthiest pesto I've ever encountered – no oil, no cheese. Trust me, you won't even notice.

I could not stop eating it. First on pasta, then later as a dip for veggies. It's nutty, earthy and fresh – with a little zip! – all at the same time.

If you're ready to welcome spring, add this cilantro walnut spread to your menu.

Mangia! Mangia!

Cilantro Walnut Pesto
Inspired by a recipe from Dr. Andrew Weil

1 cup walnut pieces
2 heaping cups cilantro leaves, stems removed
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 cup water

Using a food processor, finely grind walnuts.

Add cilantro, jalapeño pepper, salt, vinegar and 2 to 3 tablespoons of water. Blend until combined and smooth. Add more water to thin the pesto mixture.

Serve over pasta, top grilled meats or use as a dip.

To dress up this pesto, you could add a drizzle of olive oil.

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Twice-Baked Creamy Chive Potatoes

My son Sam is a big fan of my Aunt Dottie's twice baked potatoes. The last time she made then, Sam ate 3! Somehow, she gets her filling to be like velvet. When Sam requested these as a side dish recently, I went to work.

Unfortunately for me, I couldn't catch my aunt on the phone or by text. After reviewing lots of online recipes, it seems the trick is the right combination of butter, milk, cream cheese and sour cream mixed into the cooked potatoes.

And since I was experimenting, I made some of the potatoes with chives to suit my own tastes, leaving some plain for my kids.

Sam declared these "pretty good" but Aunt Dottie still wears the cooking crown in his eyes.

Mangia! Mangia!

Twice-Baked Creamy Chive Potatoes

6 medium to large baking potatoes, like Idaho or Russet
1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil
Kosher or table salt
2/3 cup of milk
3/4 cup of butter at room temperature, cut into chunks
1 8 ounce block of cream cheese, cut into chunks
3/4 cup of sour cream
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 2 tablespoons snipped chives (or other fresh herb), plus more for topping

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Scrub potatoes and dry well. Prick all over with a knife. Lightly coat with olive oil, then rub with salt. Bake for about 1 hour, or until potatoes are soft. An alternative method is to cook potatoes in microwave first, until soft. Then transfer to oven for about 20 minutes until the skin crisps up.

When cooked, remove from oven and let cool until you are able to handle the potatoes but they are still warm.

Lower oven temperature to 400 degrees.

Carefully slice each potato in half. Using a spoon, scoop out the pulp and place into a large mixing bowl. Be sure to leave a thin layer of potato inside each potato skin for 5 of the potatoes, so that they make little boats. For the 6th potato, you just want the cooked potato pulp and you can discard the skin.

Combine milk, butter, cream cheese and sour cream and garlic powder with potato pulp. Use a potatoes masher or electric mixer to combine until creamy. If potatoes are too starchy or stiff, add more sour cream or cream cheese (your choice) until you get the consistency you want.

Add salt, pepper and chives or other fresh herb and stir to combine.

Arrange potato boats on a baking sheet and scoop filling into a mound in each potato skin. Sprinkle with additional snipped chives.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven, until the top of potato filling is slightly browned. Remove from oven, arrange on a pretty platter and serve.