Roasted Eggplant

Eggplants by Rens on Unsplash

Here’s another glorious roasted Eggplant recipe, where the addition of one secret ingredient (okay, it’s dried onion flakes) truly takes it to the next level. It’s delicious fresh out of the oven, but honestly even better warmed up the next day. We like it on pasta, or steamed rice.

Ingredients

2 medium eggplants, cut into 1/2″ squares
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 heaping Tbsp dried onion flakes
2 Tbsp olive oil
grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425.

Mix seasonings, onion flakes and oil in a medium bowl, Add eggplant and toss well to coat. Pour onto a baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove and flip eggplant over. Bake 5 more minutes. Remove and serve over rice or pasta, with some fresh, grated Romano cheese.

Would also be amazing in a wrap!

Green Beans, Mushrooms & Brie

This is an incredibly delicious dish with rich, intense flavors, and a nice bite from the green beans. I used a Brie with mushroom, but regular Brie would be great, too.

Fresh Green Beans image by Gaby Yerden on Unsplash

Ingredients:

2 cups of mushrooms, quartered
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb. green beans, snapped
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp dried onion flakes
a chunk of Brie with mushrooms, 1.5 x 1.5 x 3″ cut into cubes

Start a pot of salted water boiling.

Heat 1 Tbsp Olive Oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add mushrooms and saute 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally until they’ve lost their water and are dry again. Make a well and add the 2nd Tbsp of Olive Oil and the seasonings and stir well. Turn heat down to low, and stir occasionally.

Toss green beans in the boiling water and let them boil for 4 minutes. Remove the green beans from the water, and add to the mushrooms. Stir to combine, adding a couple big spoons of the bean water. Let cook for a couple of minutes, and then toss in the Mushroom Brie. Add a little more bean water to loosen it all up and stir until the cheese is melted. Check seasonings and serve immediately. Delish!

Mel’s Kale & Chicken Salad

This is a super delicious, super satisfying salad from Mel’sKitchenCafé.com. I made it for lunch today and Ali, who had popped in for a bike ride with Kumy enjoyed it, too. It looks like a lot, but it was really just about enough for 3 servings as a main dish. It’s got enough crunch and texture to make it interesting and satisfying.

Fresh Kale by Deborah Rainford on Unsplash

INGREDIENTS

1 ½ cups cooked rice, slightly warm or at room temp. (Mel uses a wild rice blend, but I had Basmati in the fridge. Trade Joe’s has a great frozen rice blend that would be great, or you could use quinoa.
6 ounces (about 5 lightly packed cups) coarsely or finely chopped kale
5 boneless, skinless thicken thighs, cook, seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium apple, cored and diced
1/4 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
1/4 cup Craisins
1/3 cup crumbled Feta cheese
2 medium avocados, diced

Dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic or red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp kosher salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
½ cup fresh cilantro

INSTRUCTIONS
Cook the rice according to package directions, and let cool to room temperature.

In a large frying pan, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil, season chicken thighs, and cook thighs over medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Flip over and cook another 4 minutes or so, or until the chicken is browning nicely and cooked through. Remove from heat and let cool a bit. Cut into 1″ pieces.

At the same time, start a smaller nonstick skillet on a low heat and add slivered almonds, shaking occasionally so they toast on all sides.

Make the dressing by combining all the ingredients in a blender. Process until smooth and well-combined. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Set aside.

Assemble the salad by placing the greens in the bottom of individual wide serving bowls. Top with rice, chicken, apples, almonds, Craisins, feta and avocados.

Drizzle dressing over salad and toss lightly to combine. Serve immediately.

NOTES
You can also use 3 cups rotisserie chicken, chopped up, in which case you don’t need any olive oil, or you could leave out the chicken altogether for a vegetarian dish.

Kale, Lemon & Chicken Casserole

Lovely image of kale by Christina Rumpf on Unsplash.

I’d picked up kale planning to make soup or a lovely massaged kale salad, but somehow it just didn’t feel like a soup or salad night. Instead, I tweaked a Martha Stewart casserole recipe. We loved it – it was fast, easy and perfect for a weeknight supper. Next time – I’ll probably double the kale.

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. shells or other pasta (bowtie or rotini)
2 Tbsp butter
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced or one heaping teaspoon garlic powder
1 package chopped kale (5-7 oz – but you could easily double it!)
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 cup sour cream
Zest and juice of half a large lemon
3/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (or Parmesan)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-grated black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Add pasta to a large pot of boiling salted water, and cook until al dente. Drain and return to the pot off heat.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan melt butter over medium high heat, add onion and cook 4-5 minutes until onion is softened. Add garlic and cook another minute, stirring frequently.

Add kale, reduce heat and stir to combine. Cover and cook about five minutes, stirring occasionally until kale is tender. Add to pot with pasta.

Then add chicken, sour cream, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper and 1/2 cup of Romano cheese, and blend together gently.

Check seasoning and place in a 9 x 13 baking dish, and top with remaining cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes. Serve with slices of fresh lemon for squeezing over.

Delish!

Cucumber, Tomato and Avocado Salad

This is a really interesting recipe from the New York Times, that replaces the oil in the dressing with the buttery fats from ripe avocadoes. I have made this a few times and tweaked it to a recipe that we just love. I used mini cucumbers, which stay really nice and crunchy, but you could also use regular cucumbers, scooping out the soft, seedy part. It’s bright, colorful and delish!

Ingredients

1 lb. mini cucumbers (6 small)
1 package grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise (2 cups?)
2 very ripe avocados
Juice of one medium lime
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cumin powder

Directions

Peel cucumbers in alternating strips and slice into 1/2″ slices and place in a medium serving bowl.(You can also just halve the cucumbers lengthwise and slice into 1/2″ half circles.) Add tomatoes.

Mix juice and spices in a small bowl, and toss with veggies.

Just before serving, cut avocadoes into 1/2″ cubes and toss fairly vigorously with the salad. The avocadoes must be really ripe, so when you mix them in they break down a bit and coat the other veggies.

Check seasonings and serve. Keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days.

Mel’s Cheesy Bacon Croissant Breakfast Casserole

I mixed this up on Christmas Eve, and baked and served it for Christmas Brunch this morning. It was incredibly delicious – another great recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. Mel uses shallots or red onions, and doesn’t add hot sauce, but other than that, this is really her recipe. We all flipped over it and I love that you can make the night before!

Ingredients:

1 pound (454 g) croissants, halved lengthwise (about 5-7 small/medium croissants, or 4 giant Costco ones)
8 to 10 slices bacon, chopped into 1″ slices (I use thick-sliced. See my bacon chopping trick.)
½ cup diced onion
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese (freshly-grated is best)
9 large eggs
2 cups milk (I used 2%)
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2-3 dashes hot sauce

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Slice the croissants in 1″pieces and lay in a 9×12″ baking dish. Bake 10-12 minutes, tossing halfway. You want them to be a little toasted.

In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to a plate, and remove all but a tablespoon of the bacon grease from the skillet. Add onion and sauté 3-5 minutes.

Mix eggs, milk, cream, salt, pepper and hot sauce in a bowl.

Sprinkle bacon and onions over the croissants. Then sprinkle cheese over and finally pour the egg mixture over. You don’t need to toss it or anything.

Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

Remove cover and bake for 45-50 minutes.

Let stand 15 minutes and serve. Wow.

Fresh Cranberry Butter Cake

Fresh, luscious Cranberries by Rasa Kasparaviciene on Unsplash.

Fresh Cranberry Cake, from Barefeet in the Kitchen, is easy and so delicious! The most important thing is to thoroughly beat the eggs and sugar until they are super light and fluffy. It forms a nice crust on top by itself and keeps very nicely for a few days. Had a piece with my dear friend Louisa yesterday and it’s perfect with afternoon tea!

Ingredients

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
zest of 1 orange
2 cups all-purpose flour
12 oz fresh or frozen cranberries (about 2 1/2 cups)
powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

With a mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until slightly thickened and light in color, about 5-7 minutes. The mixture should almost double in size. The eggs work as your leavening agent in this recipe, so do not skip this step. This mixture should form a ribbon when you lift the beaters out of the bowl.

Add the butter, vanilla and orange zest; mix two more minutes. Gently stir in the flour until just combined. Add the cranberries and stir to mix throughout, and spread in a buttered 9×13 pan. The dough is quite thick, so you’ll need ot smooth it with a spatula.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until very lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let cool completely before cutting, and dust with powdered sugar.

Amazing!

The Most Important Herbs & Spices for a New Cook

My daughter Maya says that most of her friends have no idea what herbs and spices to get when they get their first kitchen. She’s been bugging me forever to help with a list of starter herbs and spices for a new cook, since the spice aisle can be pretty overwhelming.

So here is my list of must have herbs and spices – the ones I reach for most frequently. I’ve also created a second list to add as you can and a list of shelf stable pantry essentials.

7 Absolute Essentials

Kosher Salt
Whole Black Pepper (in a grinder is great)
Red Pepper Flakes
Powdered Garlic
Dried Thyme
Cumin Powder
Dried Basil

These will let you cook Italian, Cajun, Tex-Mex or good old American flavors.

2nd Level to Add

Cinnamon
Whole Nutmeg with a grater
Ground Cloves
Dried Parsley
Rosemary
Chili Powder
Bay Leaves
Paprika (I love Smoked paprika)
Oregano

Adding these spices as you can will open up lots of other possibilities.

Other Pantry Essentials

For Cooking:
Olive Oil (not virgin – just regular, lighter)
Diced, Canned Tomatoes
Rotel Tomatoes
Canned beans (Black beans are my favorite)
Coconut Milk, canned or in a tetrapak
Apple Cider Vinegar
Rice (I like Basmati Rice for general cooking)
Pasta
Chicken Stock in cubes or shelf stable tetra-pack blocks
Fish Sauce (Sounds weird – but it adds so much to Italian food and Thai Foods.)
Dijon Mustard

For Baking or Desserts
Sugar
All-Purpose Flour
Baking Powder
Baking Soda
Cocoa Powder
Corn Starch
Vanilla

DIY Dried Herbs:

Don’t forget that you can always dry fresh herbs. So if you get a nice handful of fresh parsley, use what you need for your recipe, and set the rest on a plate on the counter to dry out for a few days. Once they’re are dry, just crush the leaves and store them in a bottle. You can pitch the stems. Same thing with Thyme and Rosemary – or really any fresh herb.

Salmon with Creamy Spinach and Tomatoes

Another delicious salmon recipe – and this one has plenty of veggies, with a delicious, creamy sauce – so it’s just the kind of recipe we love.

I made it last night, and we finished the whole thing – leaving not so much as a drop. It’s even possible that someone went after the skillet with a rubber spatula. So truly, not a drop was left, and yes it was me! Yum!

Ingredients

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 4-oz piece of salmon fillet, skin removed
2 Tbsp butter
1 chopped onion
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, or other tomatoes, cut into roughly 1″ chunks
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup half & half
1 tsp lemon zest
4-5 cups baby spinach

Heat olive oil in a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat. Cook salmon for 7-8 minutes, gently flipping half way through. Remove salmon from skillet, and keep on a plate.

Add butter, and sauté onion for several minutes until softened. Stir in the flour and spices and stir for another minute or two. Add tomatoes, and cook 3-4 minutes or until softened a bit. Add wine and Dijon mustard. turn heat to low, and cook five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Slowly stir in the half & half and lemon zest, and continue cooking another minute until it starts to thicken. Add spinach and stir until spinach is mostly wilted.

Return salmon fillets to the skillet, and cook two minutes or so until the salmon is heated through. So good!

Classic Pork (or Vegan) Stew from Southern Boys Dishes

With the arrival of Fall weather, I’m starting to think of stews again. I made this stew a while back and it was delicious! One of those recipes that you save in your inbox so you remember to make it again – rich, hearty and super flavorful.

Looking at the recipe recently, I realized it could be made vegan super easily – by substituting Seitan for Pork. Or you could honestly leave the meat out altogether and just enjoy it as a hearty veggie stew!

Ingredients

2 ½ pound boneless pork roast, cut into 1″ cubes
Or, for a vegan version, use 2 lbs. Seitan cut into cubes
1/4 cup flour
2 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp black pepper
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 small leeks, white and green part thinly sliced
1 cup chopped shallots
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup white wine
5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4″ pieces
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1″ cubes
2 cups chicken or veggie stock
1 14.5 oz can chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
10 oz button mushrooms, halved
Chopped parsley for garnish

Instructions

  1. In medium bowl, toss pork or Seitan cubes in flour, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp black pepper.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Place one half on the pork or Seitan in an even layer in the dutch oven. Do not overcrowd. Brown for two to three minutes. Turn each piece and brown for two to three minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining pork or Seitan, transferring to plate when browned.
  3. Add leeks, shallots, and garlic to dutch oven and saute for two to three minutes until the leeks are wilted. Add wine and stir to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom of the pot to remove browned bits.
  4. Add carrots, potatoes, chicken or veggie stock, tomatoes, vinegar, bay leaves, basil, oregano, thyme, two tsp salt, and one tsp pepper to Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, mixing well. Reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes.
  5. Add pork to the stew, cover, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.
    (If using Seitan, see note below.)
  6. Add mushrooms and continue simmering for 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately garnished with chopped parsley.

Note: I believe Seitan can be added in the last 5 minutes of cooking, since it’s basically just being rewarmed. The gravy and delicious flavors will be coat the Seitan so it should be fine. (I’ve never cooked Seitan for a long time in liquid, like in a slow cooker though I’ve seen some recipes for it, so you could definitely try it.)