Tag Archives: Weeknight Meal

Mesa Grill Black Bean Soup

Happy (belated – gulp) 2017!! With some extremely notable exceptions – a new nephew! a wonderful extended vacation with Matt! a good friend getting married! – I didn’t like 2016 any more than anyone else, so I decided to skip all the food blogger end-of-year countdowns and just jump into 2017 with good vibes. Mold in my apartment has hampered that a little, but take heed, it will not win!

I’d been planning to jump back into blogging yesterday, but seeing as it was MLK Day, and this particular MLK Day seems more … I don’t know, pertinent? Important? … than usual, given the current political climate and happenings, I didn’t feel that I personally could add much to that conversation. So today it is!

I want to begin this New Year with one of my favorite recipes, one that I first cooked years ago and never forgot, yet have never committed to my blog. What you have here is perfect comfort food for cold weather or grumpy days that will not interfere with any fitness/weight loss/lose those holiday pounds goals. In fact, it might even help! And this soup is SO delicious. The genius of this recipe is in the garnishes. Garnishes to soup or chili are usually in the vein of just throw whatever you like on there, if you like anything at all – and of course that’s totally fine! But it’s just not how this particular soup works. On its own, it’s a solidly built yet kind of non-special black bean soup. But when you garnish it as instructed, the entire bowl sings and makes everyone all kinds of happy.

On a different note, I do aim to be a better blogger this year. When your blog is not your primary source of income, it’s too easy to back-burner it, but that’s lame. I want this to be a fun, inspiring, and of course delicious space, so I vow to be better at time management. And feel free to hold my feet to the fire, my dear readers whom I love!

Source: slightly adapted from The Mesa Grill Cookbook by Bobby Flay

Ingredients:

SOUP:
2 tbs olive oil
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 cup red wine
3 (15 oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
3 jalapeno chiles, roasted, peeled, and seeded
1 poblano chile, roasted, peeled, and seeded
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 tbs fresh lime juice
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

GRILLED ONION RELISH:
1 large red onion, sliced ½-inch thick into rounds – do not separate the layers of the rounds
2 tbs olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

TOMATO-SERRANO RELISH:
2 ripe beefsteak tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 serrano chile, diced
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

CUMIN CREMA:
8 oz. crema, crème fraiche, or sour cream
1 scant tbs ground cumin
1 tbs fresh lime juice
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

AVOCADO-TOMATILLO RELISH:
2 ripe Hass avocados, peeled, pitted and chopped
2 large tomatillos, husked, scrubbed, and chopped
3 tbs finely chopped red onion
1 small jalapeno chile, finely chopped, seeded if desired
3 tbs fresh lime juice
2 tbs olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Directions:
First, make the SOUP: heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add carrot, onion, and garlic. Cook about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent but not browned. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by half.
Add the beans and reduce the heat to medium. Add the jalapenos, poblano, and stock. Simmer 30 minutes.
Remove from the heat and add the lime juice, salt and pepper. Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth. If the soup has cooled, rewarm before serving.
While the soup is simmering away, make the garnishes. I recommend starting with the GRILLED ONION RELISH: preheat a grill or grill pan to high heat. Cheater’s note: a griddle pan or nonstick or cast-iron skillet works fine as well. Just sayin’. Anywho, brush the onion slices with the olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Grill on each side for 4-5 minutes, until lightly charred and cooked through. If the rounds start coming apart when you flip them, it’s fine. Remove the onions from the grill and chop.
For the TOMATO-SERRANO RELISH: combine the tomatoes and serrano chile in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
For the CUMIN CREMA: place the crema in a small bowl, add the cumin and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper and whisk to thoroughly combine.
For the AVOCADO-TOMATILLO RELISH: gently combine the avocados, tomatillos, onion, jalapeno, lime juice, and oil in a bowl, then season with salt and pepper.
To serve, ladle soup into bowls, then spoon at least one tablespoon of each garnish on the soup, laying them side-by-side as much as possible. And it’s totally okay to add more of any or all garnishes when your bowl of soup is halfway gone. That’s why you make so much of each garnish!

Classic Mexican Picadillo

Classic Mexican Picadillo

I must apologize for my absenteeism, right before blaming the walking pneumonia-turned double ear infection that’s had me quite derailed the past couple weeks. I do not recommend it. Starting to feel just this side of human again = let’s blog some more!

Classic Mexican Picadillo

Unlike the end of 2015, December 2016 has been, well, cold, and we’ve even seen some snowflakes! And since I’m well aware it’s not just me battling illness – the season for that has begun, grrr – I figured some healthy comfort food to soothe embattled senses and perk us up was in order.

Classic Mexican Picadillo

I believe Mexican Picadillo to be Mexico’s precursor to Texas’ chili, but without the extra calories we all love to pile on in the name of garnishes, which let’s face it, sounds much fancier and more virtuous than admitting we made chili solely to eat copious amounts of shredded cheddar, sour cream, and Frito scoops. No, you don’t do any of that to Picadillo. The most you do to Picadillo is maybe serve some warm corn tortillas or tortilla chips on the side.

Classic Mexican Picadillo

Which, if you’re now wondering what the point is, 1) I don’t blame you; and 2) let me assure you it’s incredibly delicious. This isn’t chili. The flavors and textures are familiar, yes, but different – less heat, more subtle sweetness, and if this makes sense, it just feels more pure than chili. Not that I’ll ever say a bad word about chili – that’s certainly not what I mean. I will recommend this (highly!) to both chili-heads and those who aren’t so crazy about chili. If you, like me, adore a bowl of chili, this will broaden your horizons and introduce a lovely, easy one-pot weeknight dinner into your repertoire with far less calories than chili; and if you don’t groove on a bowl o’ red, I’d say this is distinct enough that you should definitely give it a shot. Everyone, enjoy!

Classic Mexican Picadillo

Source: The New Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook by Ellen Brown

Ingredients:
2 tbs olive oil, divided
1 lb. ground beef (I used sirloin)
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 jalapeno or serrano chile, seeded and diced
3 tbs chili powder
1 tbs sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1 cup beef stock
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, with their juice (can be fire-roasted if you prefer)
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
½ cup dry red wine
½ cup raisins
1 (15 oz.) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped
Chopped fresh cilantro, to garnish

Directions:
Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbs olive oil and tilt the pan to coat the bottom evenly. Add the ground beef and cook it, breaking up lumps until browned. Add the second tbs of olive oil and add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, and jalapeno. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the chili powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, plus salt and pepper to taste. Cook 30 seconds more, stirring to evenly combine.
Now stir in the stock, tomatoes with their juice, tomato sauce, wine and raisins. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the beans and olives and cook 15 minutes more. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve hot, sprinkling each serving with cilantro.

Zucchini Tacos with Corn Salsa and Chipotle Crema

Zucchini Tacos with Corn Salsa and Chipotle Crema

Years ago, when I finally decided to start eating from the produce aisle on a voluntary basis, I’ve been searching for a vegetable-based taco that meets with my admittedly high and exacting taco standards. Which are the following: they must be filling and hefty, no matter what the contents; flavor must be extremely bold and in your face; there must be a touch of heat and spice from chiles of some kind; there must be multiple components that complement each other.

Zucchini Tacos with Corn Salsa and Chipotle Crema

Vegetarian tacos generally fail at most of these criteria, particularly the last one. It often feels like people, more specifically restaurants and food trucks, think that if the filling is vegetable or bean based, then it might be overkill to top it with a vegetable or bean-based salsa. No!! Not at all! In fact it’s quite necessary to provide that contrast of textures, and that is a bit tougher on a vegetable-based taco.

Zucchini Tacos with Corn Salsa and Chipotle Crema

But with this blog post, I’m proving beyond any doubt that it is entirely possible. The key is choosing different textures between the main event filling and the garnish. This taco is, thus far, my hands down favorite meat-free taco ever, and it’s not a stretch to say it’s going in my top ten tacos eaten ever. The zucchini here is chopped and sautéed, so a chopped tomato salsa really wouldn’t work. The textures and shapes would be too similar. Corn kernels are a perfect solution. Then the chipotle crema adds a creamy note that this taco just begs for, plus that heat and spice that I personally require on all tacos.

Zucchini Tacos with Corn Salsa and Chipotle Crema

Carnivore or vegetarian, I don’t care, just try these. Whatever your eating habits/philosophy, it doesn’t matter – you will NOT be disappointed. Enjoy!

Source: Seriously Delish by Jessica Merchant

Ingredients:

TACOS:
2 tbs olive oil
2 shallots, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups cubed zucchini
Salt and black pepper, to taste
8 corn tortillas, warmed

CORN SALSA:
2 ears grilled corn on the cob, kernels cut from cob
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
2 tbs chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and black pepper, to taste

CHIPOTLE CREMA:
3 tbs plain Greek yogurt
2 tsp adobo sauce from a can of chipotle chiles in adobo
Juice of 1 lime
Pinch each of salt and black pepper

Directions:
For the TACOS: heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the olive oil. Add the shallots and garlic. Cook, stirring, until softened, 2-3 minutes. Add the zucchini, salt, and pepper and stir. Cook, stirring, until the zucchini becomes slightly tender, 5-6 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.
For the CORN SALSA, combine the corn kernels, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl and toss together.
For the CREMA, whisk together yogurt, adobo sauce, lime juice, salt and pepper.
To assemble the tacos, add some zucchini mixture to each warm tortilla and cover it with corn salsa. Drizzle some crema on top. Serve immediately.

Spanish-Style Chicken, Morcilla, and Sherry One-Pot

Spanish-Style Chicken, Morcilla, and Sherry One-Pot

So of course you all know that I used to be a horrifically picky eater as a child, and that only began to change about ten years ago. Not only did I expand my horizons to embrace formerly icky mainstream ingredients like say, broccoli, or cabbage, I’ve also become quite an adventurous eater as well. I’ve tried, and liked, some weird stuff over the past decade – veal brains, grasshoppers, duck tongue, kangaroo meat, shrimp heads, Rocky Mountain oysters (Google it if you think it’s seafood)…

Spanish-style Chicken, Morcilla, and Sherry One Pot

And yet, there are still lines I have trouble crossing. Like raw oysters. If you cook or fry the oyster, fine, I’ll eat it. But raw oysters are essentially loogies of the sea, and I just can’t do it. Blood sausage, politely known as morcilla, is another one I have real trouble with. I first tasted it about eighteen months ago, when Matt and I vacationed for a week in Buenos Aires, Argentina. One night we dressed up to the nines and dined at an authentic Argentine steakhouse, where our appetizers were Provoleta (best thing ever) and a link of blood sausage. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, “blood sausage” is not a euphemism. It’s exactly what you think it is.

Spanish-Style Chicken, Morcilla, and Sherry One Pot

I gave it the ol’ college try, but it just weirded me out so much. Gave me the willies, even though it really doesn’t taste bad at all. It was purely a mental thing. So imagine my surprise when we move from Queens to Hoboken, NJ, only to find that our local Shop Rite, of all grocery stores, regularly stocks morcilla. I promised Matt, who doesn’t share my squeamishness on this issue, that I’d cook it eventually. Nine months after we settled in, I delivered.

Spanish Style Chicken, Morcilla and Sherry One Pot

This chicken dish is quite lovely, rich and light at the same time, creamy and flavorful; I’m happy to report that Matt loved it! And I happily ate the chicken and did eat a few bites of the sausage. I tried, people, I tried. If you are like me and just can’t do it, I’d sub in some Spanish chorizo. Enjoy!

Spanish-Style Chicken, Morcilla, and Sherry One Pot

Source: A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry

Ingredients:
1 tbs olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
8 slices of morcilla (blood sausage), or Spanish chorizo
½ large onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
¾ cup dry sherry, plus more if needed
3 ½ tbs heavy cream
1 tbs toasted pine nuts
1 tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 350 F.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a cast iron or other oven-proof skillet that can hold the chicken and sausage pieces in a snug, even layer. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides and brown in the skillet on both sides for color. Don’t cook it through. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the sausage pieces to the pan and cook in the chicken drippings lightly on both sides, then remove it and set it aside with the chicken. Discard all but 1 tbs fat in the pan, if necessary, but don’t dislodge any brown bits stuck on the bottom.
Add the onion to the pan and brown it lightly. Lower the heat if it’s browning too fast. You don’t need it to soften. Deglaze the pan with the sherry, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to get those flavorful browned bits off and into the sauce. Return the chicken and sausage to the pan in a snug, even layer and place the skillet into the oven. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of a chicken thigh registers 165 F.
There should still be sherry left in the pan mixing with the juices, but if not, add up to 4 tbs more and stir it into the juices. Put the skillet over medium heat and pour in the cream. Heat until it bubbles, then shut off the heat, scatter in the pine nuts and parsley, and serve immediately.
Serves 2.

Thai-Indian Beef Lettuce Cups #SundaySupper

Thai-Indian Beef Lettuce Cups

Welcome to another Sunday Supper, where we are having Finger Foods for Dinner! I think we’d all agree that our inner children rejoice at any opportunity to not have to pick up a fork, right? I chose to make lettuce cups, one of my new favorite foods, and helpful that it’s lighter fare made delicious, too.

Thai-Indian Beef Lettuce Cups

Certainly not always, but lettuce cups are often of the Asian persuasion, and this one fuses the heat and ginger of Thailand with the curry of India for one delicious and SPICY hand-held meal. Spicy enough, in fact, that you should not congratulate yourself on eating low-carb until AFTER you’ve managed to get through this without guzzling a beer to cool off your burning lips and tongue. I deserve absolutely zero back pats on this front.

Thai-Indian Beef Lettuce Cups

But, it’s wickedly delicious, with incredible and complex flavor and the perfect texture. Oh, and you can totally back off on the heat level if you want. Combining lean beef (which I’d highly recommend for this purpose) and a drizzle of sesame oil at the end makes for the perfect pleasantly oily texture to complement the heft of the ground beef and soft lettuce leaves. This is one of my few repeat meals. Enjoy!

Thai-Indian Beef Lettuce Cups

And make sure you check out all the fun Finger Foods brought to you by my fellow Sunday Supper bloggers!

Source: Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet by Padma Lakshmi

Ingredients:
2 heads butter lettuce, or Boston lettuce
3 tbs canola oil
1 ½ lbs. lean ground beef
1 cup diced yellow onions
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbs minced fresh ginger
4 serrano chiles, or 20 green Thai chiles, chopped (you can seed the serranos if desired)
1-2 tbs soy sauce
1 generous tsp curry powder
1 tsp amchoor (dried mango powder), optional
1 cup rough chopped fresh mint
1 cup rough chopped fresh basil
1 ½ tbs fresh lemon juice
Salt, to taste if needed
1 tbs toasted sesame oil

Directions:
Separate the lettuce leaves, discarding any that have browned or wilted. The inner leaves tend to be sturdier and better suited for lettuce cups. Dry the leaves well if needed and set aside.
Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, then the beef, crumbling and cooking until no traces of pink remain. Lower the heat to medium and add the onion, garlic, ginger, and chiles. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft, 5 to 7 minutes.
Now add the soy sauce, curry powder, and amchoor if using. Stir to combine then turn the heat to low and let it simmer very gently for a few minutes to let the flavors marry well.
Stir in the mint, basil and lemon juice. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.
To serve, spoon the mixture into the prepared lettuce cups and lightly drizzle sesame oil over each cup. Serve immediately.

Pinky Appetizers

Manual Mains

Digit Desserts

Plus Bite-sized Pavlovas and More Finger Food Recipes from Sunday Supper Movement

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board. Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Spaghetti with Fried Eggs #SundaySupper

Spaghetti with Fried Eggs

Welcome to Sunday Supper! Today we present you with the wonderful theme of Eggtastic – recipes prominently featuring eggs! Eggs and I have not had the smoothest relationship over the years; despite that, I love this theme.

Spaghetti with Fried Eggs

As a child, the only eggs I would willingly eat were scrambled, and then only my mom’s. Fortunately, I have broadened my horizons a bit since reaching adulthood, and now I’d say the only type of eggs I just can’t do are hard-boiled. It’s good progress, right?

Spaghetti with Fried Eggs

But yet, even now as a grown-up, I’m fairly particular about how certain types of eggs are prepared. Which brings me to this recipe I’m sharing today. I found this on The New York Times Cooking (one of the absolute best spaces on the entire interwebs, by the way); the recipe is submitted by Mark Bittman, a cook and food writer I respect enormously, and he specifically instructed to fry the eggs gently in olive oil. Except…. I hate fried eggs that way. I need fried eggs to have runny yolks, completely set whites, and super browned crispy edges.

Spaghetti with Fried Eggs

So, I did what any food blogger would do – slightly adapted the recipe to accommodate my beloved crispy edges. I’m thrilled to say it worked, and you should make this the next time you need a quick, five-ingredient, weeknight meal that you barely have to think about. The end result was simple, delicious, and incredibly comforting. This will be a go-to for those days I’m feeling too tired to cook dinner. Enjoy!

Spaghetti with Fried Eggs

And be sure you check out all the delectable egg recipes from my Sunday Supper crew!

Source: adapted a little bit from The New York Times Cooking; recipe submitted by Mark Bittman

Ingredients:
Salt
½ lb. thin spaghetti
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, lightly smashed and peeled
4 large eggs
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese, optional but highly recommended

Directions:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente according to package directions.
Place a large, high-sided skillet over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil and garlic cloves. Cook, pressing the garlic cloves to release the oils, until the garlic is nicely fragrant and lightly colored on both sides. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon.
Crank the heat on the skillet to very high. Let it heat a full minute, until the oil is smoking lightly. Carefully, without cracking the yolks, crack the eggs into the hot skillet in a single layer. Season them with salt and black pepper. Let them fry, untouched, for a good minute. The whites will bubbly and the edges will brown. They should cook about 90 seconds at the most. You want to keep the yolk runny.
Transfer the eggs to a large bowl that can handle being lightly scraped by forks. Immediately use 2 forks to break up the eggs into bite-size pieces. Don’t worry about yolks running all over.
Time this to happen right when the pasta is cooked; you want to immediately transfer the drained pasta to the bowl with the cut up fried eggs. Toss vigorously with tongs – you want the heat of the pasta to finish cooking the yolks. Add cheese to taste and serve immediately, with extra cheese for passing at the table, if desired.

Appetizers & Sides

Main Dishes (Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Brinner and Dinner!)

Desserts

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Poppy Seed Chicken Skillet Casserole

Poppy Seed Chicken Skillet Casserole

I love the days when my cooking/food magazines show up in my mailbox. I get almost as excited as Billy Madison did when his pornos arrived, and I silently chant “Foodie magazine day! Foodie magazine day!” to myself, something I probably shouldn’t admit out loud. But, whatever.

Poppy Seed Chicken Skillet Casserole

So a couple months ago my Taste of the South magazine showed up, and this recipe immediately screamed “you must make me!!!” Because it was definitely winter then, and mild winter or not, a creamy baked chicken dish sounded heavenly, plus I was inexplicably giddy about the idea of garnishing the top with crushed Cheez-It* crackers that have been coated in melted butter.

Poppy Seed Chicken Skillet Casserole

Having grown up where I did, I feel almost positive that at some point I’d eaten a poppy seed chicken casserole during childhood – it just sounded so familiar. But I’m quite certain that the one(s) I ate did not have crushed cheese crackers on the top, because I think I would have remembered that! As I’ll likely remember this one, always.

poppy seed chicken skillet casserole

It lived up to my high hopes and drooling anticipation, with lusciously creamy chicken studded with soft mushrooms, and totally complemented by crunchy, familiar cheese cracker crumbs. A perfect mid-winter, cozy supper. I highly recommend. Enjoy!

Poppy Seed Chicken Skillet Casserole

Source: Taste of the South Magazine, January/February 2016

Ingredients:
½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup chopped cremini mushrooms (can also use white button if you prefer)
½ cup chopped yellow onion
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup whole milk
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 cups shredded cooked chicken (I used the entirety of a small store-bought rotisserie chicken)
1 tbs poppy seeds
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
2 cups crushed cheese crackers, such as Cheez-Its
2 tbs unsalted butter, melted

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 350 F.
Place a 12” cast-iron skillet over medium heat and melt the stick of butter. Add mushrooms and onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 3-4 minutes. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly for about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the chicken stock. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, 4-5 minutes. Whisk in the milk, then immediately shut off the heat and stir in the cream cheese until melted and smooth. Now stir in chicken, poppy seeds, salt, and pepper.
In a small bowl, stir together the crushed cheese crackers and melted butter. Smooth out the chicken mixture in the skillet, then sprinkle the crushed cracker mixture over the top evenly.
Bake until bubbly, 25-30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

* I mention Cheez-Its simply because that is what I used. This post is not sponsored or paid for by a third party in any way.

Viognier-Steamed Clams with Bacon and Parsnips

Viognier Steamed Clams with Bacon and Parsnips

A few days ago, I noticed my body was absolutely screaming for some seafood and vegetables. And while I don’t really buy into the whole “intuitive eating” concept – sometimes my “intuition” is toddler-esque and wants to eat ice cream for dinner, and I have to say no to myself; and then of course, as any parent of a toddler does, try to ignore the ensuing anger, pouting and tears. But when my body yelps for something light and healthy, I do listen up.

Viognier Steamed Clams with Bacon and Parsnips

Amidst all the holiday baking and heavier foods of the current season, I’ve been made aware of the need to balance it all out with some lighter fare. I’m going to take how wonderful this meal tasted, plus the way I was absolutely HORFING an arugula salad last night as confirmation that I did the right thing.

Viognier Steamed Clams with Bacon and Parsnips

There is some wintry richness to this dish, but it’s really balanced. And just wonderfully delicious. There’s all the flavors and textures your palate could possibly want in one bowl. Briny and chewy clams, salty, crunchy bacon, sweet softness from the parsnips, and fatty richness from the cream base all come together for the perfect bite.

Viognier Steamed Clams with Bacon and Parsnips

And if this isn’t enough to convince you, let me also say that this is the ideal weeknight meal, especially for this busy time. It comes together very quickly – the longest time-suck is roasting the parsnips, and that is mostly hands off and can be done days before. The rest comes together in one pot and very fast. Oh and if you can’t find Viognier wine, just sub in a dry Reisling. Enjoy!

Viognier Steamed Clams with Bacon and Parsnips

Source: slightly adapted from Food & Wine Magazine, October 2006

Ingredients:
½ lb. parsnips, peeled
2 tbs olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
3 oz. thickly sliced bacon, chopped
¾ cup Viognier
1 tbs unsalted butter
1 small shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed and rinsed
½ cup heavy cream
1 tbs snipped chives
Oyster crackers, for garnish

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 350 F. Cut your parsnips in half crosswise, so you have skinny pieces and fatter pieces. Cut the skinny pieces in half once lengthwise and quarter the fatter pieces lengthwise. Place the parsnips on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast the parsnips, turning once or twice, until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then slice them across ¼-inch thick. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a deep skillet, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until well browned and crisp, about 6 minutes. Remove the bacon strips with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Add the Voignier, butter, shallots, and garlic to the skillet over medium heat. Add the clams and turn the heat to high. Cover the pot and cook until they open, 6 to 8 minutes. Use tongs to transfer each clam to a large bowl as they open.
Add the cream to the clam broth in the skillet. Boil until reduced by half, a couple of minutes. Add the roasted parsnips, bacon, chives, and the cooked clams in their shells to the skillet. Season generously with black pepper.
To serve, spoon into shallow bowls and garnish with oyster crackers. Serve immediately.
Serves 2-3 people.

Barbecued Sloppy Hot Dog Sandwiches

barbecued sloppy hot dog sandwiches

In what has ended up being my longest blogging hiatus yet, I’ve spent some time thinking and researching the food blogging scene in general, and wondering if I should continue this space. To make a long story short, yes I will keep blogging – because I want to, not because it makes much sense.

Food blogging has become quite a big business, and quite a crowded and competitive industry. The steps needed to just keep up, let alone pull ahead, are simply steps I don’t wish to take. Because there are now so many of us, ad revenue is stretched pretty thin, and I don’t want to do sponsored posts or accept swag. But I started this game about five years too late to financially get away with taking that stance. Also, my food photography isn’t the worst I’ve ever seen, but it’s not competitive, and I don’t enjoy photography in general enough to motivate myself to get much better. Another thing – it’s very important to Matt and me to eat dinner together as many nights as possible, but that means we eat after dark due to work schedules; ergo, bad conditions for food photography.

Barbecued Sloppy Hot Dog Sandwiches

I’ve also wondered if I really contribute anything, mainly because I don’t have too much original content here. I love recipe development, but I also genuinely love working through my cookbook collection. I learn so much from chefs and cooks far more experienced than me, and I thoroughly enjoy sharing what I’ve learned and accomplished.

So here we are: I’ve decided that for me, this space isn’t going to be a business. I’m very fortunate to have other avenues to earn a living, and I don’t really need any income off this blog. So I’m not going to pursue it anymore. I’m going old school with the blog – this space will be a hobby, and a place where I share my love of cooking and improving my kitchen skills. My food styling and photography will continue to impress pretty much no one, but this space will be lots of fun. And pretty adventurous too.

Barbecued Sloppy Hot Dog Sandwiches

I wanted something really special to share as my first blog “back”, so to speak, and what better recipe than one of my grandmother’s? This is a wonderfully messy, tasty comfort food dish that takes little time to whip up. My mom and her siblings grew up eating this regularly, and while I don’t specifically remember having this as a kid, the recipe was passed to me when I got married. It’s kind of like a sloppy joe sandwich made out of hot dogs but in a hoagie roll instead of a hamburger bun. The sauce, which is pretty much a simple, homemade barbecue sauce, is perfectly balanced between spicy and sweet. I hope y’all enjoy it!

Barbecued Sloppy Hot Dog Sandwiches

Ingredients:
1 (8 count) package hot dogs, each cut in half lengthwise and then across in roughly 2” pieces
4 tbs unsalted butter, divided
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 tbs Worcestershire sauce
¾ cup ketchup
3 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs yellow mustard
A dash or two of hot sauce, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Kosher salt, if needed
4 hoagie rolls or large hot dog buns
Melted butter, for brushing the hot dog buns

Directions:
Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbs butter and once melted add the hot dog pieces. Crisp them up and render the fat, stirring occasionally. Once they are browned and crisped, remove them with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. Add the onion to the skillet (do not wipe it out) and saute until softened. Add the garlic and saute another 30 seconds.
Now add the Worcestershire, ketchup, sugar, and mustard. Add the hot dogs back in and simmer for about 15 minutes, until thickened, stirring occasionally. Add the last 3 tbs butter and let them melt. Stir them into the sauce. Add hot sauce and black pepper to taste. Taste the sauce and add salt if needed.
Brush the insides of the hoagie rolls with melted butter and toast under the broiler until lightly browned. Spoon the hot dog mixture into the rolls and serve immediately.

Grilled Venison Chops with Blackberry-Sage Brown Butter

Grilled Venison Chops with Blackberry-Sage Brown Butter

This summer, I learned the hard way, yet again, that stone fruits (specifically peaches, nectarines, and plums) really aren’t ready for prime time up here until August (apricots seem to usually be ready much sooner). I always try to force my will upon the stone fruits sometime in late June/early July, and every time I lose. This year I ceded the issue when I royally screwed up a nectarine crostata that shoulda woulda been delicious if not for unripe, horrifically uncooperative fruit.

So, we’ve been enjoying berries instead. Perhaps it’s the inner contrarian in me, but I absolutely love finding savory recipes for berries, despite the fact that they are so perfect in desserts and drinks. And make no mistake, I love berries in desserts and drinks! But, we’re consuming less sugar these days, so this just fits our lifestyle better, I guess. Fortunately, there are many, many methods of showcasing berries in all their sweet-tart glory that don’t add any sugar and are perfectly at home as your main dish for dinner.

grilled venison chops with blackberry-sage brown butter

Like this one. This one is beautiful. It came together very quickly, yet I would have happily paid $30 in a restaurant for it. This is one of the first recipes I made in the new apartment, (which is why the photography is subpar) as I was dying to try out my brand new indoor grill pan, and it taught me the value of saran-wrapping your smoke detector! Hashtag newer building problems.

Grilled Venison Chops with Blackberry-Sage Brown Butter

No matter. All worth it. Well, for us anyways. I suppose the neighbors may respectfully disagree… I hope y’all enjoy it!

Source: slightly adapted from The Bar Americain Cookbook by Bobby Flay

Ingredients:
4 (8 oz.) venison chops
2 tbs canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 tbs unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 fresh sage leaves, cut into thin strips, plus whole leaves for garnish
12 fresh blackberries, sliced in half

Directions:
Preheat your outdoor or indoor grill pan to high.
Brush both sides of the chops with the oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Place on the hot grill and grill until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip the chops and grill 3 minutes on the other side, until you have a nice brown exterior and the inside is between medium-rare and medium. Venison is incredibly lean, so you really, really don’t want to cook them even a second past medium.
When done, transfer to a platter, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest 5 minutes.
While the venison is resting, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the sliced sage leaves and cook, occasionally stirring and turning the leaves, until the edges curl and the butter is dark amber but not black or burnt, about 5 minutes. Add the blackberries to the butter and cook for 20 seconds. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Spoon some of the butter onto 4 large dinner plates. Top with the venison chops, and spoon some of the blackberries and butter over each top. Garnish with fresh sage leaves.