5 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s the temperature outside–but with the windchill it feels more like -6. Chicken noodle soup time. I’m getting tired of the regular chicken soup as the temperatures continue to slide. To capture a little bit of summer in a bowl, while warming myself up I’ve been making this Mediterranean version.
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups cooked, chopped chicken (hello, leftovers!)
3 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika (smoked, preferred)
1 10-oz. box Israeli couscous
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and diced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tbsp. olive oil
- Prepare the couscous according to package directions. You can use the smaller, more widely available Moroccan couscous but I prefer the larger, Israeli variety.
- Place the 2 tbsp. of olive oil in the bottom of a soup pot to coat. Saute the onions and garlic over medium-high heat until fragrant and the onions translucent.
- Add in the carrots and celery and saute for 2 more minutes.
- Stir in the chicken and saute 2 more minutes.
- Pour the chicken broth into the pot and bring the mixture just to a simmer for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
- Mix in couscous, parsley, olives, and seasonings.
- Serve each soup bowl topped with feta cheese and fresh squeezed lemon juice.
We’ve been hovering around freezing temps here in the Midwest so I’ve been on the hunt for recipes that heat up my house–and my tummy. Red Gold sent me a Lasagna Kit so that I can try out their version of this comfort food staple. I’m already a fan of Red Gold tomatoes–they’re grown here in the region in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana, and they hold that just-picked flavor of tomatoes even when there’s a foot of snow outside.
I tweaked Red Gold’s Easy Classic Lasagna recipe to make my own version–I usually add an egg to the ricotta cheese to thin it out when I’m putting it into the uncooked lasagna and it helps hold the cheese in place once the dish is cooked. I can’t help but add a little heat to my lasagna, too–if you’re not a spice girl, feel free to leave off the extra kick of cayenne pepper.
1/2 cup water
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 14.5-oz. cans diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning
1-2 cloves garlic, diced
1 pound cooked Italian sausage
1 16-oz. box lasagna noodles
1 15-oz. carton ricotta
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning (I used 1 tbsp. fresh, chopped basil)
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (opt.)
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit. Use a handheld immersion blender to mix together the tomatoes, garlic, and water in a large bowl (or you can place these in a blender). In another bowl, whisk together the egg with the ricotta cheese and the Italian seasoning along with the cayenne pepper, if using. Now it’s time to assemble your lasagna!
- Generously coat a 9×13″ baking pan with baking spray. Spread 1 1/2 cups sauce on the bottom of the pan. Arrange 1/3 of the uncooked noodles over the sauce. It’s fine to overlap a little.
- Next, smear 1/2 of the ricotta mixture over the noodles (they’ll wiggle around a little, just put them back in place). Top with 1/2 of the sausage, sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella cheese.
- Drizzle 1 cup tomato sauce over the cheese then top with another layer of pasta noodles.
- Repeat the steps above: ricotta, sausage, cheese, sauce, noodles.
- Pour the remaining sauce on the final layer of noodles then sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella cheese and the Parmesan.
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour; remove foil and cook for another 1/2 hour or until the top is golden. Let the lasagna stand for 10-15 minutes before you cut into it.
Your turn: What’s your favorite tweak to classic lasagna?
Layered with two kinds of ice cream and topped with an impossibly golden meringue topping, Baked Alaska is an impressive dessert to serve to your family (invite guests for this one!). Here’s the secret: it’s really easy to make. The key? Be patient and have lots of freezer space. Lots.
So keep it cool for Valentine’s Day with this dessert.
Keep it fun: Around our house we have a bit of a competition when it comes to eating our slices of Baked Alaska. We serve them upright–no sideways slices. You try to see how small you can get your piece before it falls over.
1 store-bought graham cracker pie crust
2 containers ice cream (1.5 quarts or half gallons; I like a layer of chocolate and some kind of vanilla/caramel combo)
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. pink food coloring (optional)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy cream
- Soften one container ice cream until just spreadable. Scoop onto the graham cracker pie shell trying to keep it in a dome shape. Freeze until hard. (Now’s the time to leave out the other ice cream container to soften.)
- Top the first layer of ice cream with the second just softened ice cream, keeping the dome shape. Freeze until hard.
- In a large mixing bowl, separate the eggs adding the whites into the bowl and discarding the yolks. With a blender whip the egg whites until they become frothy.
- Add the cream of tartar, food coloring, and powdered sugar into the egg whites, then gradually add in the sugar and continue to beat until stiff. (The mixture should form peaks when you dip a spoon into it and then pull it out.)
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and get everything ready. Clear out the freezer since you’re going to need to put your Baked Alaska inside in a hurry.
- Take the ice cream base out of the freezer and place it on a baking sheet. Quickly put the meringue all over the ice cream trying to cover it completely to the graham crackers edges. Have fun with it–create swirl shapes and peaks.
- Put the cake into the oven for 3 minutes. Watch carefully and remove as soon the the meringue peaks begin to cook.
- Stash in the freezer right away.
- Freeze overnight before serving.
- Make the sauce by melting together the chips and the heavy cream in a glass dish in the microwave. Allow to cool.
- Let the Baked Alaska sit out the freezer for 10 minutes before cutting. Run the knife under hot water before trying to cut each piece.
I’ve found when I prepare tilapia my kids are hungry again about an hour after dinner–they’re tasty, but not particularly hearty. Our new favorite fish is mahi-mahi. The meaty fish is mild, flaky and filling. I buy mine frozen in individually wrapped packets in a three-pound bag from Costco for around $20.
Here’s a simple way to prepare mahi-mahi:
- Thaw the individual fish pieces.
- Pat the fish dry before sauting.
- Generously sprinkle the fish with salt, pepper, paprika, and rosemary.
- Add 1/2 tbsp. olive oil to a heavy-bottomed skillet and bring to medium-high heat. Don’t move the fish! Let them keep cooking until you see the fish begin to change color on the edges and just up the sides–about 3 minutes.
- Time for flipping! Turn the fish over and reduce the heat to medium and cook about 3 more minutes.
To serve: Mahi-mahi loves sweetness. I made a simple topping of chopped tomatoes, onions, lemon juice, fresh chopped cilantro and basil and a few other things I had on hand. If you have mangoes, toss those in, too. I drizzled the fish with a balsamic glaze. Pair with rice, pasta, or salad.
Every year my mom would have each of my brothers and sisters eat at least one black-eyed pea on New Year’s Day. She said it was supposed to bring you good luck for the coming year. Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s is a tradition I’m now passing along to my kids.
I’m not sure exactly where my mom picked up this tradition, but many different cultures hail this humble bean (quizically called a “pea”) as a bringer of prosperity. During Rosh Hashanah, black-eyed peas are thought to bear good fortune, the idea dating back to mentions in ancient text.
In the South, the story goes that black-eyed peas became a symbol of survival and good luck because of their Civil War connection. Union troops took everything they could from the land as they left the South, leaving behind what they thought was a somewhat inedible field green, black-eyed peas.
Today a favorite Southern dish, especially for New Year’s, is Hoppin’ John, which includes pork, rice, and of course, black-eyed peas. I like to think that the unusual appearance of black-eyed peas–with one black “eye” nestled in the middle of each one–may also be a reason it’s become associated with good fortune. Eyes equal wisdom, something like that…
We infused flavor into the mild beans by using a Mexican cooking style for frijoles rancheros, then used French seasonings. I wasn’t quite sure what to call our concoction that blended a world of cuisines into one cast iron, the best I could come up with was French Ranchero Black-Eyed Peas.
1 large shallot, diced (about 1/2 cup)
4 cups cooked, drained black-eyed peas (I used dried ones that I’d cooked in the crockpot during the day)
1/2 cup chicken broth
5 slices bacon, cut into small slivers (the kitchen scissors are perfect for this!)
Handful of parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. white pepper
Salt to taste
- Bring 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan.
- Cook the bacon in the olive oil until just barely beginning to crisp. Add in the shallots and the garlic and cook until the shallots become translucent and the bacon crisped.
- Add the beans to the pan all at once along with the chicken broth.
- Cook for 10-15 minutes. Stir in thyme, white pepper, and parsley. Season with salt. (If you’re feeling crazy add in a little smoked paprika and rosemary, too.)
Thank you Kris Bordessa at Attainable Sustainable for introducing me to this fabulous fudge recipe. I put my own spin on it this Christmas season by infusing it with some of my favorite ingredients–coconut and walnuts.
Servings: 1 9×13″ pan — plenty of thick pieces
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butter
4 1/2 cups sugar
7-oz. jar marshmallow creme
12-oz. can evaporated milk
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut (divided–if you have time, toast it!)
1 tsp. Espresso powder or black onyx powder
1 tsp. coconut extract (opt.)
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips (opt. Ghirardelli are my fav)
- Place the chocolate chips, butter, and marshmallow creme in a large bowl.
- In a large cooking pot, heat together the evaporated milk and the sugar. Bring the mixture to a slow boil then keep it simmering at medium-high heat. Stir the mixture for 8 minutes. (Watch it! It can boil over.)
- Pour the hot milk mixture into the bowl with the chocolate chips.
- Beat the mixture using an electric mixer until it starts to thicken.
- Stir in vanilla, coconut extract, 1 cup coconut, walnuts, and mini chocolate chips.
- Prepare a 9 x 13″ pan by lining it with parchment paper, coat lightly with cooking spray.
- Spread the fudge mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the remaining coconut. Gently press the coconut into the fudge.
- Place the fudge into the refrigerator until the fudge becomes hardened.
- Cut into smaller 1″ pieces using a sharp knife.
Tip: I like to place the pieces into mini paper muffins wrappers. The perfect bite-sized pieces ready for eating!
Yeah, it’s time to talk dirt. I know what you’re thinking–why would I want to eat dirt? It’s not just regular dirt–or the dirt you make with ground up OREO cookie crumbs. This dirt adds undertones of umami to the freshest of salads.
On a recent trip to Kansas City I had dinner with friends at Affare, a Modern German restaurant that offers amazing seasonal salads as part of the menu. Here are a couple descriptions to give you an idea of what they serve:
Red beet salad and buttermilk two ways, artisan leaves, flower petals, goat cheese, spiced pecan nuts
Lamb’s Lettuce, truffled potato confit, smoked elk-brat on cranberry-mustard aioli, crispy sauerkraut
Creative, cool. Of course I had to try some of Affare’s ideas at home. So the night I was there a salad with edible dirt was on the list. I grilled the server on how to prepare the dirt–yeah, she probably doesn’t get that question very often, “So what’s in the dirt?” While I wouldn’t put edible dirt on the salad plate every day it was a fun, easy addition on a night where we wanted to make things a little fancy.
Making edible dirt is easy (surprised? I mean, it’s dirt)
Here’s what to do:
In a food processor pulse together:
1/4 cup dried mushrooms (any variety, I used porcini)
2-3 oz. dark chocolate (baking chocolate you don’t want it sweet)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. paprika (smoked preferred)
Process until the mixture resembles dirt–this will be loud! Adjust the seasoning–the flavor should have an earthy zing. Tip: If you want the dirt darker add a bit of dark cocoa (I used black onyx powder).
Putting the salad together:
- Place a row of artisan lettuce in the middle of the plate
- Top with grated carrots or radish (I used watermelon radish)
- Sprinkle with a strong cheese like feta, bleu, or gorgonzola
- Squeeze fresh lemon over the salad, drizzle with olive oil
- Add a teaspoon or two of edible dirt on the edges of the plate
Pumpkin loves garbanzo beans–the proof is in the hummus. Add pureed pumpkin into your hummus for a subtle, earthy underlying flavor.
The basic recipe is fast and easy to put together:
1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans
4 tbsp. tahini
4 tbsp. pureed pumpkin
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
- Drain beans (reserving liquid) and place them into a food processor along with the pumpkin.
- With the blade running add in the olive oil and half of the reserved bean liquid.
- Remove the top of the food processor, scrap down the sides and add salt and tahini.
- Adjust the texture and flavor of the hummus using seasoning and more pumpkin, bean liquid, and/or spices.
For pumpkin pie hummus:
Add 1/2-1 tsp. pumpkin pie seasoning (or a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves) and more pureed pumpkin
For Lebanese pumpkin hummus:
Add 1/2 tsp. cumin, 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika, and the juice from one lemon
I used to skip recipes that included alcohol. See Mr. Squid and I are non-drinkers. But I’ve learned that ingredients I have on hand are often good substitutions (as far as this teetotaler is concerned). Now, I’m not planning on trying to substitute the booze in vodka sauce–but recipes that include 1 cup of white wine or a smattering of red can easily have stand-ins.
As a base I use either chicken, vegetable, or beef broth. At my local grocers you can find Minor’s bases in the refrigerated section. They’re a little on the pricey side but one tub lasts forever. You can also use chicken broth from a carton. I tweak the flavor of the broth depending on what kind of wine the recipe calls for.
Here are a few substitutes I use:
White wine = Chicken broth + a little white grape juice + a splash of white balsamic vinegar
Red wine = Chicken or beef broth + a little red grape juice + a splash of regular balsamic vinegar
Fruit wines = Chicken or vegetable broth + apple or orange juice (maybe a bit of both) + white grape juice + fruit vinegars like raspberry
Your turn: Do you have any clever substitutions when recipes call for wine and you either don’t want to use it or don’t have it on hand?
Going for a gross-out dinner this Halloween! Break out the meatball mix, then.
This recipe didn’t start out as a Halloween meal. See, I had this great idea a few years ago that we’d study a different animal for two weeks at a time. To finish off our studies we’d have a meal where we focused on whatever animal the kids chose and we’d talk about what we learned. Well, the first animal my kids chose was a snake. I can’t remember what the kids learned about snakes–nope, what I remember is that my husband had this great idea to fashion meatball mix into rodents for our big meal. Now, we make these meatball rats to top spaghetti for Halloween each year.
You can too.
Here’s how it works:
- Use your favorite meatball recipe (I like The Pioneer Woman‘s)
- Shape the meatball mix into rodent shapes–rounded back side and a more pointed front
- BAKE the meatballs with pieces of olives for eyes and pieces of ham as the tails
- Serve the rodents over spaghetti topped with pasta sauce