Category Archives: Pantry

Saintly Peanut Butter Cookies

Saintly Peanut Butter Cookies
Saintly Peanut Butter Cookies

I’m not an everyday dessert person. Not 100% sure when in my life this happened, because it was law in our house when I was growing up that my dad and I had to have a scoop of ice cream before bed. I think it may have changed when I was first living on my own and SUPER BROKE all the time, I couldn’t afford two meals a day much less ice cream at night. It’s no coincidence that my weight went up when I had money to buy groceries!

The other night, though, I wanted cookies. And After Dinner Cookie Needs generally go unfulfilled at my house, because by the time I get up off the sofa, pull butter out of the fridge to come to temperature, sit down and wait for the butter to pull it’s life together, and then get out all the stuff to make said cookies, the moment has passed and my lazy ass goes right back to where it was in front of the TV. Who am I kidding, I don’t get up in the first place. This saves me consumption of many calories over a lifetime but on the whole is so unsatisfying.

You can blame the internet for the fastest peanut butter oatmeal cookie on the planet, then. The dough for these was made, baked and in my mouth in under 20 minutes. THIS IS DANGEROUS TERRITORY FOLKS. This means that you can have a warm cookie in under a half an hour flat with no Hard Butter Barricades between you and glory. The recipe is so easy you can memorize it, the stuff it takes to make them is always on my larder shelves. My inner fat kid is shaking with glee about this.

The good news is these are healthy, as far as cookies go. They clock in at 87 calories per the website I found them, they are gluten free and don’t have a ton of sugar. Of course, my addition of chocolate chips throws all of this data to the wind with reckless abandon, but whatevs. It still doesn’t raise the calorie content that much. Want to feel even better about yourself? Make them with freshly ground peanut butter, the kind that is made of just peanuts with no salt or oil or anything that you grind yourself at the health food store. See? Sainthood for these cookies.

Just make them, you’ll thank me.

Saintly Peanut Butter Cookies

Saintly Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes about 18, adapted from here

½ c. peanut butter, the less additives on that PB the better
½ c. brown sugar, either light or dark
1 large egg
1 ¼ c. gluten free rolled oats
½ t. baking soda
½ c. semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350*F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Beat the peanut butter and brown sugar together until well incorporated, you can’t exactly cream these the way you can with butter, it just doesn’t get as light. I’d say let the mixer go for a minute or two.

Add in the egg, beating well to incorporate. Add in the oats, baking soda and chocolate chips, stirring well to combine. Coat your hands with a bit of oil (coconut, olive, canola, whatever you want), and roll the cookies into roughly 2” balls with your hands. Space them evenly on the cookie sheet and give them a smash so they are about ½” thick. Bake in the preheated oven for 8-9 minutes until they are lightly browned. Cool, remove to a plate, and resist eating them all at once. They keep well in an airtight container for a couple days but are best warm.

Olive Oil Cake with Orange Marmalade

Olive Oil Cake with Orange Marmalade

Guys? Guys. So I made this cake.

What cake?

This cake. A whole cake. A layer cake, of a Sunday evening, just because I wanted cake.

Because I wanted cake.

It wasn’t a birthday, it wasn’t a holiday, no company for dinner, it wasn’t because of some pre-lenten must-eat-all-the-sugar cake feeding frenzy. It was, simply, because I wanted cake.

(I have to say, as I write this someone nearby is outside in the rain barbecuing chicken and it smells heavenly. Now I want barbecued chicken. Anyway.)

I made this cake for me, and for Nick of course, but mostly for me. I never bake cakes just because. I bake them because people are coming over, because we’ve been invited somewhere, because it’s a holiday and I’m one of The Bakers in my family, et cetera, et cetera et cetera. Do I ever bake a cake just for me? Never. Or, rarely.

She’s a simple cake, though, with humble larder ingredients, just a few eggs,  no butter, no mixer involved. Me, a whisk and two bowls. An hour of sitting on the sofa watching That Touch of Mink, et voila, cake.

The cake by itself is a beaut, but I made a ton of Satsuma mandarin marmalade around Christmas time after buying a boatload of them and some Clementines at the grocery store and finding we’d crapped out on eating them. We always devour the first two bags with reckless abandon, and then *poof* the orangy magic is gone and they sit in a bowl on the table composting. So I made marmalade, and we aren’t even marmalade people.

I adapted my recipe from here, cutting the oil back to just one cup, and lowering the sugar to 1 1/4 cups. The orange liqueur if you’re using it is plenty sweet, and even if you use all orange juice and not the hooch it’s still sweet enough. Cake doesn’t have to hurt your teeth to be tasty.

Also, no frosting on this one. I considered making a nice dark chocolate glaze to pour over the top layer, but meh. It sounded fussy and it was late and Sunday and rainy, and just like that the thought was gone. I used a bit of powdered sugar on the top just to make it pretty, but it would have been just as lovely without it.

While this cake is humble, simple, and let’s just be frank, not a looker, she makes up for all of it with a gentle crumb, moist (and I hate that word but it just fits), orangy and lovely and perfect, with a cup of tea and an old movie. And while this is the simplest of cakes, don’t keep it from company. It’s most definitely a crowd pleaser.

Olive Oil Cake

Olive Oil Cake with Orange Marmalade
Makes 1 9″ cake, serving, 12ish.

2 c. flour
1 1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. EACH baking soda and baking powder
1 c. good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 c. milk
3 eggs
Zest of one large organic orange
1/4 c. fresh squeezed orange juice
1/4 c, Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or more orange juice
1 t. vanilla extract
3/4 c. orange marmalade
Powdered sugar, for dusting, if desired

Preheat oven to 350*F, line the bottom of a 9″ cake pan or springform pan with parchment (if your pan has sides less than 2″ tall, separate into two cake pans, this is a tall cake). Spray with olive oil spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour through the baking soda and powder together with a whisk. In another smaller bowl, combine the olive oil through the vanilla extract, whisking together until incorporated. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry with that same whisk, mixing well so there are no lumps. Dump it into the pregreased cake pan (or pans), and bake at 350*F for an hour or a bit more, until a cake tester comes out clean (If you’re using the two cake pans, start checking after 30 minutes). Remove from the oven and set aside on a rack to cool, about an hour.

Remove cake(s) from pan(s). If you used a single tall cake pan, bisect the cake across the equator and gently lift the cake top to a plate, with the top of the cake laying on the plate (trust me). Gently shmear the marmalade on the exposed surface of the cake and top with the upper layer. Use the plate you set the top on as a vehicle, this cake needs a bit of gentle handling and even pressure. If you used two cake pans you’re home free, level out the top of the lower cake layer with a knife, apply marmalade, and top with the second cake half (use the more handsome of the two as your upper cake layer). Dust with powdered sugar and serve in large wedges.

Tuna Noodle Salad with Fennel and Preserved Lemon

Tuna Noodle Salad with Fennel and Preserved Lemon

We’ve talked before about how tastes and foods stick in our heads until we just have to get of our arses and make them. I woke up on Sunday morning and after coffee and cruising the interwebs, I realized I wanted tuna macaroni salad. I NEEDED tuna macaroni salad. But the version I make most times has a ton of mayo and is heavy and it just didn’t sound quite right. I make it a lot in summer, on a cool weekend morning before the heat climbs the walls of the valley, so it has plenty of time to cool and the few simple ingredients have time to mingle and get to know one another. The one I made yesterday was a bit different, not by much but it has fennel, which I don’t normally add, and a big hit of lemon, which I also don’t normally add and now I’m wondering why the hell I don’t, because it made this AMAZING.

The end result of this is still a cool, creamy pasta salad, with lots of bright springy flavors since we are now in March and I feel like it’s time for this. Northern California hosted some much needed rain over the weekend and between you and me it can rain all month long, we need it so bad. But I want cleaner, brighter flavors and veggies and springiness too. Sundresses and rainboots for a while, I guess.

On another note, I made preserved lemons a few months back, as a friend of ours has a very stout but robust Meyer lemon tree in his yard and begged me to take a few grocery bags home (!). Who can turn down giant bags of Meyer lemons, amirite? I came home and squeezed, zested and preserved my little black heart out for a few days, canning lemon juice for lemonade this summer, making limoncello, and preserved lemons, as well as my dear mother-in-law’s amazing rosemary lemon roast rub (which has now become our very favorite). It was a friggin’ ton of work but I have a whole cabinet of lemony goodness, and didn’t waste a bit of those lemons. I should do a post on the preserved lemons too, because they came out so damn good and are stupid easy. They add a huge boost of flavor and a bit of savory sweet saltiness to dishes. If you think I’ve lost my mind and have no idea where to find them, you can get them at fancy-pants gourmet grocers or Indian markets a lot. In the absence of one of these options or the will to go find them, you can use good old fashioned lemon zest and it’s just as tasty.

Pasta Salad

(I really have to find my real camera, sorry for the blurry cell phone pics as of late.)

Tuna Noodle Salad with Fennel and Preserved Lemon
Serves 4

For the salad:
2 cups of small pasta (elbows, mini-wheels, mini bowties, etc.)
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and fronds saved
1/2 small red, orange or yellow bell pepper
2 stalks of celery
2 small or 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1″ long matchsticks
3-4 large radishes, thinly sliced
1 small can of tuna (the regular ol’ sized can, water or olive oil packed, you choose)
1/2 of a preserved lemon, rinsed well, white pith and lemon flesh removed and discarded, and chopped finely
-OR-
Zest of one lemon

For the dressing:
2 T. good quality olive oil
3 T. lemon juice (if you’re using zest instead of preserved lemon, zest off the whole lemon before squeezing)
1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 T. fennel fronds, from
Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Start a pot of water to boil for the pasta, and boil according to package directions. When it’s done, drain and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, fennel fronds, mayo, and taste. Adjust for salt and pepper to your liking.

Very thinly slice the fennel bulb, or if you have a mandoline deploy it for the slicing. Chop the bell pepper and celery, matchstick the carrots, slice the radishes, and add to the bowl, along with the fennel and the preserved lemon or lemon zest. Drain the can of tuna and add to the bowl, and give everything a good stir. Add the pasta while it’s still warm, and combine everything well. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Homemade Almond Milk

Homemade Almond Milk

Well, Happy 2014 to all! How were your holidays? Hell, how was your 4th quarter? All is well around Casa de Young, we’re coming in to this new year strong if not a bit bewildered by the whole 2014 thing and the general lack of rain in California (we’re talking scary apocalyptic drought, folks). Trying to stay positive and enjoy the, oh, 72*F afternoons we’ve been having. Makes going for a walk at lunchtime very pleasant!

So, how does one go from a post about Bacon Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies to a post on homemade almond milk? Simple: the overindulgence of the holidays left me sluggish, bloated and feeling like I needed to get my life together so my pants fit again. Been wondering why I’ve been wearing so many skirts, locals? It’s directly related to the amount of butter and cocktails consumed between 11/28 and 12/31. Feeling a little Jabba and jiggly, and it’s high time to knock this shit off.

Bon Appetit’s January issue had a ‘centerfold’ on how to make your own nut milk. As I’m sure you are well aware, nut milks in general are prevalent on the store shelves, with many people eschewing soy milk these days. I’m a carton flipper and ingredient reader, and in doing so I’ve noticed many of these nut milks are so crammed with excess sugar that it negates much of the health of them. The chocolate and vanilla flavors are the worst, with some of the most popular brands having a significant amount of added sugars. We all know that almost EVERYTHING is more tasty with sugar, just like nearly everything tastes better with bacon. Neither of these things belong in nut milk though.

I’ve made the recipe a solid half dozen times in the last few weeks, because it’s so darn easy and tasty. I’ve only made almond milk, but they say you can use pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts, etc. I’m thinking hazelnut would be tasty and plan to make that one soon.

The price is right on this, too. Most of the boxes of nut milks at the store are $3.50 – $4 for an 8 cup carton, and the single cup of organic almonds it takes to make 4 cups of nut milk costs me about $1 from the bulk bins at my little local mart (so, $2 for an 8 cup amount). Since I’m always trying to save a buck and a tree, I can forego the processing plant and the packaging, making this at home (so satisfying!) and storing it in one of my cute pitchers (so cute!). It’s perfect in smoothies and tastes so good in coffee.

almonds

 

(Sorry for the ugly picture, soaked almonds are less than photogenic and I can’t exactly find my ‘real’ camera right now so this is from my phone)

Almond Milk
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine
Makes about 4 cups

Special equipment: a blender and a flour sack towel/couple layers of cheesecloth

Soak 1 cup of almonds (unsalted, skins on, regular old boring-ass almonds) in water overnight in a bowl or jar, making sure to cover them with enough water to have an inch or so over their nutty little heads. Soak at least 12 hours but you can go for a bit longer. The longer they soak the creamier your milk comes out.

After soaking, drain and discard the soaking water and add the nuts to a blender with 4 cups of hot water (not boiling, just nice and hot). Clap on the lid, remove the little clear thingy on the top to let steam escape but rest your flour sack towel/cheesecloth over the top and hang on tight (you want the heat to go out so you don’t blow the top off, but hold on to the cloth so you don’t end up with ground almonds and water all over your house). Blend for 2 minutes (you can let go of the lid after the first few seconds without fear of flying nut bits).

Spread your cheesecloth or flour sack towel over a large bowl with a spout or your chosen storage vessel if it’s heat safe (I use my 8 cup Pyrex measure). Pour the contents of the blender into the cloth, gather the ends up so as not to let out any of the grit, and squeeze out all of the almond milk. Discard the contents of the towel (or use in muffins if you’re feeling thrifty). Add a pinch of salt and sweetener of your choice if desired: honey is tasty as is maple syrup or agave, but plain tastes mighty fine as well. Let cool to room temperature and then store in the fridge. Lasts about a week if you don’t drink it faster.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bacon Cookies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bacon Cookies

I broke my own rule, guys. Broke it and giggled and thought about how I would need to come clean about it on here, after making the bold statement that nuts, in any form or format, don’t belong in cookies. Or brownies, for that matter. But twice in two weeks I’ve added them, on my own volition, at my own whim, to two different recipes, and liked them. Hell, I enjoyed them.

The first of these two cookies is an unconventional one, and I respectfully request that you not gag until you consider it from all angles. I read recently about a depression-era cookie that used an alternative fat to butter and I thought it was novel. Waste not, want not, yes? And I’ll admit now that I have one of these in my refrigerator:

That, folks, is a can containing the rendered fat of many a slice of bacon. My mom has a can like this, my grandmother has a can like this, and I’m sure my great grandmother had a can like this too. It’s saved for a rainy day, for making scrambled eggs when we have no bacon, for greasing a skillet or frying anything that would taste good fried in rendered bacon fat. And I dare you to answer: what wouldn’t be good fried in bacon fat?! You haven’t lived until you’ve made taco shells in it.

Judge not, dear readers. I don’t go frying everything in bacon fat, and we don’t eat a ton of bacon. This little can kicks around my fridge for ages before it’s used for something big. It takes a lot of bacon to get a good sized can going! When I do use it, it’s a teaspoon here and there to start a stew, sauté aromatics for a soup, etc. It’s a flavor, not an ingredient.

Well, it wasn’t an ingredient until last weekend, when I scooped out a whole cup of it and made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with it. Do not knock this until you try it. And if you don’t plan to try it, you don’t get to knock it either. Lovers of bacon, circle your wagons and listen in!

So, I essentially swapped butter for fat (which is to say, fat for fat) in my favorite oatmeal cookie recipe. Half brown sugar and half white sugar to get some of the crispiness back in them, a bag of the darkest chocolate chips I could find, and a handful of chopped, toasted pecans.  The result was ridiculously good, rich on the first bite and bacony at the finish, but gently so. It wasn’t a supremely porcine mouthful at all.

If you decide to do this, make sure your bacon fat is good and cold. Stick it in the fridge until it’s as solid as solid can be. You can freeze it for a bit if you’d like instead. You want it to be softened butter consistency, and it won’t get truly, completely solid. When you get ready to make your cookies, premeasure and premix your dry ingredients and have the wet ingredients ready to go, and preheat your oven. Be ready for the notion that you may have to stick the bowl in the fridge for a while so the dough sets back up, as the grease gets warm really quickly. Cream your fat and sugar fast, add your eggs, and get busy adding the dry ingredients. No dallying!

Bacon fat chocolate chip cookies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bacon Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen, depending on the size of your cookie scoop

1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1 c. bacon fat
1/2 c. milk (whatever you have on hand is fine)
1 t. vanilla extract
4 c. quick cooking oats
1 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 t. baking soda
1 bag dark chocolate chips
1/2 c. chopped toasted pecans

Preheat oven to 350*F. In a medium bowl, stir together flours and baking soda and set aside. In a small bowl, combine milk and vanilla extract and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl, cream together the solidified bacon fat and sugar. Quickly beat in eggs, one at a time, and then the milk/vanilla mixture immediately after.

Add in the flour mixture in one go, and stir/gently mix to just combine all ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans.

At this point, if your dough seems soft, stick in the fridge for an hour or so until the dough firms up a bit. Once ready, drop onto a parchment lined cookie sheet in mounds about 2 T. in size (I like big cookies) or use your favorite cookie scoop (mine is a #3). Give them a bit of room to spread out, and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350*F. Remove from the oven and let them rest for 2-3 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack until room temperature.

The dough also freezes really well, just scoop out onto parchment-lined trays like you’re going to bake them, then pop them in the freezer until they’re solid. Put them into a plastic bag, label with the date, and they’ll keep in your freezer for about 3 months. To bake, put as many as you’d like on a a baking sheet, and bake for 12-15 minutes, no need to defrost.

Turkey Meatball and Arugula Soup

Turkey Meatball and Arugula Soup

I feel like I’ve lost my cooking mojo as of late. I was emailing a girlfriend today and told her I’ve flat lost my inspiration. We haven’t been eating much that’s exciting, I haven’t felt like throwing my shoulder into the load lately. Work has been busy and when I get home at night I’m sort of crapped out. I’ve been eating to live, and not living to eat.

It’s so, so sad.

This morning, though, I woke up and it looked like this outside:

Rainy Mondayted's bowl

60 degrees, overcast and rainy. And while I know this crapped a lot of people out who had lake trips and barbecues and whatever planned today, one deep breath of the fresh rainy morning and I wanted pie, and a pot of spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove, and and and and and.

So I went to the store.

I bought stuff to make spaghetti sauce, and stuff to make a pot of meatball soup, and stuff to make muffin tin eggs for the week, and I got really giddy about the prospect of standing in my kitchen cooking all day.

It’s a sickness, folks, I’ll admit it. I should sit and relax and read and enjoy the rain today. And I will. But I’ll also make things ahead for the coming week so dinner is easier and I don’t feel so crapped out about cooking it. And if I do get crapped out about dinner, Nick isn’t stuck cobbling something together while I protest.

Everybody wins.

This recipe makes a million meatballs and WAY more than the two of us needed for dinner tonight, so I halved the recipe for the soup base but made all of the meatballs, as they freeze beautifully. I plopped the ones we weren’t eating on a tray and into the freezer they went, to be defrosted and sauced or souped or crocked up another day.

Turkey Meatball Soup with Arugula
From Soup of the Day
Serves 6

FOR THE MEATBALLS:
1 lb. ground turkey
1/4 lb. prosciutto, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced (I used about 3 cloves, but I like my meatballs with lots of garlic)
1/2 c. seasoned dried bread crumbs
1 egg. lightly beaten
2 T. minced flat leaf parsley
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

FOR THE SOUP:
2 T. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chipped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
6 c. chicken broth
3 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
3 c. arugula
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Grated pecorino romano cheese for serving

To make the meatballs:
Preheat the oven to 375*F. In a large bowl, combine the turkey, prociutto, garlic, breadcrumbs, egg, parsley, lemon zest, 1/2 t. salt and 1/4 t. pepper and mix well (Use your hands! So much fun!). Scoop out a teaspoon of the turkey mixture, form a meatball, and place on an oiled baking sheet. Repeat until all of the meatballs are formed. Bake until cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. Set aside.

Cadi Note: if you want to freeze some, separate what you won’t be using onto a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze until solid. Place frozen meatballs in a freezer bag. Will keep for 3 months.

In a large, heavy pot, warm the oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and the garlic and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the tomatoes, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the arugula and meatballs and stir just until the arugula is wilted, about a minute. Season with salt and pepper. Serve, topped with the pecorino.

 

Chicken Pho-Style Soup

Chicken Pho-Style Soup

Happy Day After Tax Day! I’ve found that many of us that wait until the last minute to file are either 1. lazy or 2. not expecting a refund and/or filing an extension. It always breaks my heart a little to see how much we actually made in a year, and stop to think of what we have to show for it. I’m a last minute tax filer, for reasons 1 and 2 alike.

for those feeling a bit lighter in the pocket after mailing the old 1040, I bring you a penny pinching post-Tax Day Soup. Hearty, comforting, tummy filling and healthy, inspired by a picture of a noodle bowl that a friend of mine took and shared the other day, which immediately made me sad that we were having roast chicken bistro salads with Basil Buttermilk Dressing that night! The pretzel rolls on the side made me a bit happier though, and the leftover chicken means easy dinner tonight!

Some may look at this recipe and think that it’s not exactly cheap, but I’m considering it from the standpoint that I have all of the spices and sauces in my pantry, and I only need the fresh ingredients. In order to not have to break the bank if we want something like this for dinner, I slowly stock things like fish sauce, hoisin, chili oil, sesame oil, star anise, etc., buying one or two at a time if they are on sale and keeping them for a day like this. It’s much easier on my bank account to buy them over time instead of spending a small fortune all at once. I also frequent the local Mexican markets for a lot of my spices, and go to places like Cost Plus for some of the exotic stuff that is costly in other outlets. It means I can have an outrageously well-stocked, multi-national pantry and not break the bank. Being able to cook fun, exotic things at home keeps us from going out more often. For a few extra dollars per week we end up saving a lot of money in the long run.

I’m calling this ‘Pho-Style’ because any time I’ve seen someone post a soup and call it Pho they get shredded for it not being authentic. So to spare my fragile ego I’m going to call it ‘Pho-Style.’ Be gentle with me. I know it’s not perfect and authentic and is probably missing something that makes it more pho-y, but absent a noodle joint in my little town it hits the spot.

Chicken Pho-Style Soup

Chicken Pho-Style Soup
Serves 2 very generously

6 cups chicken stock
2 T. fish sauce
2 t. brown sugar
4 whole cloves
2 star anise
1 small cinnamon stick, broken
1″ piece peeled fresh ginger, thinly sliced
1 bag shirataki noodles (find them in the refrigerator section of your grocery store)
1 t. canola or coconut oil
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
3 c. shredded cooked chicken breast
1 c. fresh bean sprouts
1 c. small mushrooms, quartered
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 c. thinly sliced basil
1/4 c.chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon soy sauce

For Serving:
1/2 cup fresh cilantro sprigs
1/2 cup fresh basil sprigs
Lime wedges
1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
Hoisin sauce and Sriracha sauce

Tie up the cinnamon stick, star anise and cloves in a small piece of cheesecloth or a mesh tea strainer, and set aside.

In a 4 quart soup pot, heat the 1 t. of oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute 3-4 minutes. Pour chicken stock into the same pot, add in the spice bag/ball. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about a half an hour. Weed out the spice bag/ball.

Meanwhile, drain, rinse and parboil noodles according to package directions and set aside.

Add the onion and mushrooms back to the pot, along with the noodles, chicken, sprouts, green onions, basil, cilantro and soy sauce. Bring to a boil for 5-6 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Dish up into two bowls, and top to taste with more cilantro, basil, jalapeno/serrano, a squeeze of lime, and a dab of hoisin and/or sriracha.

Dining a la Desktop: Muffin Tin Egg Sandwiches

Dining a la Desktop: Muffin Tin Egg Sandwiches

Since I’ve been on this weight loss crusade (and it’s going along swimmingly, thank you), I’ve found that in order to keep from chewing off my arm as well as the arms of those around me, I need a decent breakfast for the first time in my life. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve never been much of a breakfast eater and that when I do it’s rarely something sweet. I’ll almost always eschew a waffle or pancakes when  there are Eggs Benedict on the menu. When I make breakfast at home on weekends it’s always eggs and whichever breakfast meat I have in the fridge, accompanied by toast.

During the week it’s much harder for me. Yogurt and a handful of berries isn’t enough, and even if I throw in a banana or some granola I’m still digging into my lunch bag an hour later. Oatmeal is a good one, but for the amount it takes to keep me full until noon I’m sacrificing too many calories at breakfast, because I like to have a great big dinner every night.

Dieting is not for the weak. The decision making alone can be exhausting.

Mom gave me this recipe a few years back, and I’ve deployed it again recently because: 1. I can make them ahead for the whole work week, 2. They are cheap and tasty, and 3. Eggs actually keep me satisfyingly full until lunch, and I don’t find myself behind the 8 ball the rest of the day. I hate to say it but it’s so true: a good breakfast will keep you lean and mean all day long.

And those of you who’ve been following me for a while will point out to me that I don’t like make-ahead and reheated eggs. These are different, though, for whatever reason. They aren’t gummy and weird when reheated for a few seconds in the microwave, I think because they aren’t heated with the bun on them. They gently steam and come out just like they would if you popped them out of the pan at home.

I use a Texas-sized muffin pan for these; you can most certainly use a regular sized one but the larger format makes the egg soufflé almost the exact same size as an English muffin (my vehicle of choice for this breakfast), and I like that symmetry. It also makes only six, which is perfect for me for a work week and one weekend day. With a banana or another piece of fruit on the side, it’s a filling breakfast for dining a la desktop during the week.

And not just for weekdays, actually: if you have a houseful on the weekend you can whip these together lickety-split and serve them wrapped in cute napkins on a tray with an assortment of hot sauces on the side. With a pot of coffee, what overnight guest wouldn’t love something like this?

Egg Sandwich

Muffin Tin Egg Souffles
Makes 6 Texas-sized or 12 regular sized egg souffles

12 large eggs (or separate out just whites, or a combination of whole eggs and whites, see Light and Lighter Versions below)
Salt and Pepper
½ c. diced scallions
½ c. diced bell pepper {whatever color(s) you like}
½ c. diced zucchini or yellow squash
Olive oil or olive oil cooking spray
½ c. shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350*F.

Regular version:
In a medium bowl (with a pour spout, if you have it), break in the dozen eggs. Add a splash of milk, salt and pepper, and whisk together until uniform.

Light Version:
In a medium bowl (with a pour spout, if you have it), break 6 of the eggs into it. Separate the whites from the remaining 6 eggs and add to the bowl, reserving yolks for another use if you’d like. Add salt and pepper, and whisk together until uniform.

Lightest Version:
In a medium bowl (with a pour spout, if you have it), separate the egg whites from the yolks. You can also use egg whites from a carton; if you do, measure out 2 cups and add to the bowl. Add salt and pepper and whisk until uniform.

Back to your muffin tin. Lightly oil each muffin indentation and divide the veggies as equally as you can into the indentation. Pour the egg mixture over each hole, trying your hardest to get an even amount in each one. Add a teaspoon of cheese to the top of each cup and bake at 350*F for 20-25 minutes, or until they are fluffy and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Individually wrap in cellophane when cool and stack in the fridge.

For assembly, toast an English muffin, and heat the egg in the microwave separately for 35-45 seconds. Place the heated egg in the middle of the toasted muffin, top with hot sauce, and enjoy.

Now, for the fun part. The best part about these eggs is that you can use any vegetable you have laying around in your fridge. Literally whatever you’d fill an omelette with. Each one could have different fillings depending on what you have in the fridge that needs using, any bits and bobs and bites of what wasn’t eaten one night at dinner. Save it and use it in your eggs when you make them on Sunday afternoon. Green chiles, leftover jalapenos, caramelized onions, crumbles of bacon or bits of ham, some thinly ribboned salami, diced potatoes, whatever tickles your fancy. You can add diced fresh herbs if you have them, or a sprinkling of whatever seasoning mix you have in the cabinet that you like (21 Seasoning, Taco seasoning, herbs de provence, etc.). Have fun!

Spaghetti Squash with Marinara and Meatballs

Spaghetti Squash with Marinara and Meatballs

In my imagination, I live in a world chock full of soft cheese mountains, crusty baguette trees with fluffy cupcake tuffetts beneath them to rest upon, rivers that run with wine and babbling brooks bubbling over with beer. The fields are waving stalks of pasta with herds of chocolate bunnies roaming the range, feasting on Cadbury eggs and full-fat yogurt in the springtime sun. The streets are paved with bricks of butter, lined by houses made of sourdough toast, with fountains of olive oil dotting the town square, and everyone is merry and bright. Sure, there are raspberry and strawberry patches and perennially ripe peach orchards and melon fields too, but they don’t overrun the baguette forests.

I could easily live and die outrageously overweight for my love of food and cooking with nothing stopping but my heart.

Unfortunately, my doctor doesn’t agree. Neither does my scale. My wardrobe is in cahoots with them both. And while I’m not generally the type to really diet (even though I am right now and NOT LOVING IT), most of us could stand to eat a bit lighter (or at least in some form of modest moderation) more often.

Spaghetti Squash

This is where my new recipe was born. For love of pasta soaked with spaghetti sauce, topped with a mountain of freshly grated parm, and a slab of garlic bread to wipe the bowl (long live wipeable carbs!). But oh, for want of skinnier jeans, a big ass bowl of pasta just can’t be eaten some days, much less my beef-and-pork-sausage laden sauce that smothers it. The cheese can stay, but maybe in less mountain-like quantities.

And so I bring you spaghetti squash and marinara. It’s a stalwart substitute for pasta, when our jeans are so skinny they belong on someone else. Not that pasta doesn’t have a place in a daily diet, and we do still eat it, but this one is a cheerful healthy sub when you’re counting calories or points. And bonus? It’s so packed with veggies that you don’t even have to make a salad if you’re feeling lazy, though it’s a nice cool contrast on the side.

Spaghetti Squash Marinara

Spaghetti Squash with Marinara and Meatballs

Serves 4 generously

1 2-3 lb. spaghetti squash
2 t. olive oil
½ a yellow onion, diced
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
3 T. tomato paste
4 Turkey Hot Italian Sausages (you can sub sweet mild if you’d like)
1 28 oz. can of tomato puree
1/4 c. red wine
2 T. Italian Seasoning Blend (or more/less to taste, I like mine really spiced up)
1 California bay leaf
1/4 t. red chile flakes (go ahead and omit if you’re not a spicy sauce kind of person)
1/2 t. sugar
1/2 t. Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
Freshly grate parmeggiano reggiano, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350*F. Slice the spaghetti squash from end to end (root to flower) and remove the seeds, then lay face down on a foil lined sheet pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a knife easily pierces the flesh when poked from the outside. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

While the squash is cooking and cooling, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook until translucent. Add in the garlic and sauté for a half a minute or until fragrant. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine with the onion and garlic. Take each sausage and remove the casing, breaking each into roughly 6 equal pieces. Roll each of the little pieces into a rough ball with your hands and set in the pan with the onion/garlic mixture and brown on all sides. Repeat with remaining sausage.

When meatballs are browned, push them to the edges of the pan and pour the tomato puree into the center. Add in the red wine, Italian seasoning, bay leaf, chile flakes and sugar, and stir together. Once combined push the meatballs into the sauce, distributing somewhat evenly, and clap a lid on the top of the pan. Turn the heat town to medium low, and simmer for 8-10 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to your liking.

To serve, flip over the spaghetti squash and using a fork scrape out all of the guts into a bowl (it will shred into spaghetti-like strings). For each serving, pile up a giant mound of spaghetti squash, and top each serving with 6 of the meatballs. Ladle over as much sauce as you can handle, and grate on some fresh parmesan (just a tablespoon or so, don’t get crazy). Or, serve family style and put the squash/meatballs/sauce on a platter and let folks serve themselves. Enjoy thoroughly and go to bed skinny.

Smoky Sweet Chipotle Shredded Beef

Smoky Sweet Chipotle Shredded Beef

Over wine with a friend earlier this week, it was noticed and noted that I’ve been blogging in spurts when I blog at all. I try to live my life in a way that I don’t have to apologize, but I really am sorry I don’t make it around more often. I have a handful of posts drafted but haven’t taken pictures of the food, or I’ve taken pictures of the food and haven’t drafted recipes. Or, like this post, I didn’t make up the recipe at all, I once again tinkered with someone else’s. I’ve been reading and cooking a lot from other peoples places, and I feel like I’m just repeating their efforts (which makes me feel bad). But this one, well, I have to share. It was too damn good NOT to share.

So first, go visit this website. Andie’s blog is chock full of tasty goodness, and her writing is so honest and candid, I assure you, you will be hooked as fast as I was. She’s an inspiration, and her love of food is something to be reckoned with.

Second, make this shredded beef. I made it for Superbowl and we were going to make nachos out of it, but I lost steam and didn’t want to dirty another pan (and we were out of foil, so there went that idea), so we made tacos soft tacos with the sultry, silky shreds of beef. It made me feel a bit better that we sat around in our pajamas all day and didn’t have or attend a party. In fact, it made me a little glad that we didn’t do either – because we had enough meat left over for dinner another night and it was even better.

Andie’s recipe called for chicken which I’m planning to make soon, but I had a vision of shredded beef which was fueled by my visit to the clearance section of the meat counter at the store, which my dad affectionately refers to as the ‘used meat’ section. I had two pounds of boneless beef short ribs that needed to be used or frozen – and here’s what they became.

Shredded Beef Tacos

 

I actually like the picture below better because it’s prettier with the cilantro, but you couldn’t see the beef, so you get two pictures today.

 

IMG_1783

In making this beef I have found my One True Love of shredded beef –  replacing my other recipe, possibly for good. Try it out and see what you think. And take my advice, it tastes even better when eaten in your pajamas.

Smoky Sweet Chipotle Shredded Beef (In Taco Format)

1 T. canola oil
2 lbs. boneless beef short ribs
1 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo
1 t. sauce from the chile can
1/2 of a yellow onion, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 T. brown sugar
1/4 t. liquid smoke
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 c. fresh cilantro leaves
3-4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Salt and Pepper

Optional, for serving:
Corn Tortillas
Shredded cheddar cheese
Shredded red cabbage
Lime wedges

Grab your crockpot (should be a 4-6 qt. crock) and get it ready for game time. In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until glistening. Lightly salt and pepper the ribs on all sides, and brown all sides, removing to the crockpot when they are caramelized to your liking.

In a food processor or blender, add all ingredients from tomatoes to Worcestershire, and blend until smooth. Pour contents of blender/processor over meat in crockpot, apply lid and cook at low heat for 8 hours. Shred meat with two forks and serve on corn tortillas with shredded cabbage, shredded cheese, lime wedges and cilantro leaves.