Roasted BBQ Drumsticks and Cowboy Beans Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

The leaves are finally beginning to turn!

The leaves are finally beginning to turn!

Before turning my cooking attention to warm stews, squashes, and gingerbready sorts of treats for fall, being it is the end of September, I thought I would bring you one last blast of summer this morning! Although, since this recipe is roasted in the oven, you could bring summer to the dinner table any time of the year!

Don’t be put off by the list of ingredients; it’s just some measuring, placing in a bowl, and giving a stir. The cowboy beans were so delicious and flavorful, just the right balance of sweet, spicy, and a little tangy. They’ll definitely make my meal rotation when I’m looking for something different to accompany chicken or pork or just on their own as a vegetarian meal with a salad. I used smoked paprika to give it a little extra kick of heat.

This is another one of those quick dinners you can easily make on a weeknight. If you have time in the morning, you can prep the onion and red pepper, and mix the ketchup mixture for the beans, so it’s all set to go when you’re ready to cook. I served this with the last of the summer’s corn on the cob and it was delicious. It was even better for lunch the next day!

cowboy chicken
Roasted BBQ Drumsticks with Cowboy Beans
This recipe first appeared in the September 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 2 drumsticks and about 1/2 cup bean mixture)

8 skinless chicken drumsticks (about 2 pounds)
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons unsalted tomato paste
1 tablespoon lower-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup unsalted ketchup
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1. Preheat oven to 450°.

2. Place drumsticks on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray; bake at 450° for 20 minutes. Combine tomato paste, soy sauce, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a bowl. Brush half of soy sauce mixture over chicken; bake at 450° for 10 minutes. Turn, brush with remaining soy sauce mixture, and bake at 450° for 5 minutes or until chicken is done.

3. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add onion and bell pepper; sauté 6 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, ketchup, and next 6 ingredients (through paprika); bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add beans; cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Serve with drumsticks.

(Image: POPSUGAR Photography)

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Want to Lose Weight? Keep These 10 Foods in Your Fridge
Even if you don’t need to lose weight or just want to eat more healthfully, I always find it a good reminder to read articles such as this one from Pop Sugar for a reality check. And it’s a good reminder when you’re writing your grocery list! Check it out!

The One Where the Cook Stays Home Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

This gorgeous sunflower field is on my commute!

This gorgeous sunflower field is on my commute!

Last weekend, four of my girlfriends were meeting up in Michigan for a book festival. It disappointed me that I wasn’t able to join them, so I tried to make the most of being home by celebrating the season in my own backyard!

Every month in Vermont has its jewels (well, maybe not January and February!), but September really stands out for me. The days are getting shorter, it’s dark when I get up in the morning and my evening walks sometimes end at dusk. And there is something about September’s light that is special; I can look at the reflection of the sunset on the mountain range that makes every little pine tree stand out, and then it is gone in the blink of an eye. The days and nights are getting cooler too, although you wouldn’t know it by Saturday’s record high of 85 degrees.

Photo7This time of year in Vermont you’ll run into harvest festivals, a celebration of the bountiful season with local farmers and vendors, and sometimes even suppers. This is one of my favorite times of year to cook because of the fall harvest, and while I’ve been cooking with the season, I didn’t have any special or new recipes to share (roasted beets, garlic mashed potatoes, and sautéed kale anyone?), but realized since I went to my coop’s harvest festival that I could share some of my favorite Vermont producers I buy on a regular basis for my far away readers! Many have stores, so check out their websites. If you are in Vermont, you can pop in for a visit and let me know if you liked them! And special thanks to The Eater of the House, who helped me out with the photographs, because I forgot my camera!


Vermont Coffee Company
This is hands down the best coffee in the WORLD! Although I tend to be more of a tea girl these days (more on that later), if I do drink coffee, VCC’s dark roast is my choice. I’ve shared this coffee with many and a care package to a certain friend in Seattle isn’t complete without a bag of the dark roast. I sipped a sample of iced coffee sweetened with cream and maple syrup and I learned their method of making iced coffee that is a cold method rather than my method of making a pot then cooling it in the fridge. (They were out of pamphlets, otherwise I’d give you the secret!)

Photo2MapleBrook Farm
MapleBrook Farm’s specialty isn’t cheddar, it’s mozzarella. And now they are selling handmade burrata. Burrata was the “it” cheese a couple of years ago and I tasted it for the first time in New York City and since then I’ve been obsessed with it, but have avoided it since I know I’d eat the whole thing in one sitting. Burrata is a fresh mozzarella cheese, the outer shell is mozzarella, while the inside is both mozzarella and cream. MapleBrook’s samples served the cheese with a tiny basil leaf, a halved baby tomato, and a drop of balsamic vinegar and were an incredible taste treat. What I really wanted to do was eat the entire platter, but I was polite and stuck with just one. I now know what to make next time I’m searching for a special appetizer!

Photo3Red Hen Baking Company
I don’t buy bread that often, but when I do Red Hen is one of just two Vermont breads that I will buy. I almost always pick up a loaf of their seeded baguette on the weekend and serve it with olive oil and fresh garlic or just with some good cheese or local butter. (The above burrata would be incredible!) And their bread ingredients are what should make up a bread recipe: flour, yeast, water, and salt with no other additives.

Photo4Stone Leaf Teahouse
Like I said above, I drink mostly tea these days, usually flavored green tea or as a special treat, my favorite Yorkshire Gold. I always think of tea as an English beverage, so I have a lot to learn about Asian teas. And a visit to Stone Leaf Teahouse is a great place to do that. I had a sample of a dark Asian tea and some Chai, which was SO good!

Photo5Butterworks Farm
I have been eating Butterworks Farm’s yogurt for as long as I can remember, so I had a great discussion about their products, where they have been and where they are going. The oldest organic farm in the state, it produces yogurt and other dairy products and has now expanded and sells whole wheat flour, cornmeal, wheat berries, and dried black beans. And I learned something new! Apparently Jersey cows give higher protein milk, so their yogurt has a higher protein content than some others. I had no idea that different cows produced different levels of protein in their milk. And while I’m full-fat dairy all the way, they also produce low and non-fat yogurts, which allows them to skim off the fat for their cream.

Photo6Sunrise Orchards
My tiny town has its own orchard that I frequent in the fall, but it closes right before Thanksgiving, so winter fruit, besides citrus, is at a minimum for me. But I am able to get apples at the coop from Sunrise Orchards well into spring! Their Empire apples, a hardier variety, which I eat in the winter, are kept in a special climate controlled fridge that eliminates moisture, so the apples are kept fresh all winter long. I always wondered why their apples were fresher than if I kept them in my own fridge!

The weekend ended at a lovely local restaurant for a special evening of dinner, dancing, and watching the sun set behind the Adirondacks. Not bad to spend a weekend at home!


IMG_2841MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Ruth is Back in the Kitchen!
Last week, I lamented the fact that Mark Bittman is no longer writing for the New York Times. But this week I’m happy again, because my other favorite food writer, Ruth Reichl, has a new cookbook coming out!

The former editor of Gourmet magazine, the rug was pulled out from under Reichl in 2009 when the magazine shut its doors quickly and swiftly with no advance warning. So Reichl did what many of us cooks do, she retreated to the kitchen and cooked. My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Changed my Life, which is released on September 29, focuses on those recipes she made during that year of recovery, step by step, month by month.

If you’ve ever read any of Reichl’s writing, be it her memoirs, articles in Gourmet, or even her tweets, you know you are going to be in for a treat when you sit down with this book and I can’t wait. The New York Times had a great profile on her and the writing for the cookbook last week. You can read it by clicking here.

Weeknight Dinner Series: Squash Ribbon Pasta with Herb Cream Sauce Plus Bye Bye Bittman

The sky this time of year can sometimes take your breath away. #nofilter

The sky this time of year can sometimes take your breath away. #nofilter

Despite loving to cook and spend time in the kitchen, I find I spend less and less time in the kitchen making dinner in the summer. To take advantage of the light as much as I can, after-work time is spent walking, mowing the lawn, reading, writing, everything but making dinner. Which means it gets on the table late, sometimes really late; our usual 8 p.m. dining time has been bumped sometimes to 8:30 and even close to 9 p.m.! With the start of September, I decided to make a new start and to start cooking earlier, which means I’m looking for quick, nutritious and healthy dishes to make on a weeknight.

You’re going to want to make this pasta dish NOW! It’s perfect for late summer, since zucchini, summer squash, and fresh herbs are still plenty. This recipe had three techniques I’d never used before: “wilting” the squash by pouring the hot pasta water on it, softening and tempering the onion flavor by boiling it with the pasta, and making a roux without butter. All worked beautifully and I definitely got this on the table in record time!

I prefer to buy small squashes, so I used two or three of each, because you can never go wrong adding more veggies. Since there is no butter in the sauce, I flavored it with a little bit of white wine, which was perfect. Lemon juice would be a good addition, too. I had some mushrooms in the veggie bin, so I sautéed a few in olive oil to add for a bit more texture to the sauce. Those who eat gluten-free, brown rice pasta can easily be substituted for the fettuccine.

Lots of vegetables, freshly chopped herbs, and one cooking pot for easy cleanup, this is a recipe that will please even those meat lovers in your house—and get on the table quickly. Cook it tonight!

Happy Eating!

squash pastaSquash Ribbon Pasta with Herb Cream Sauce

This recipe first appeared in the September 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine. Serves 4 (serving size: about 1 1/2 cups)

1 medium zucchini (about 8 ounces)
1 medium summer squash (about 8 ounces)
8 ounces uncooked fettuccine
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chopped fresh tarragon, basil, or parsley
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Shave squashes into thin strips using a vegetable peeler; place in a colander. Bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil. Add pasta; cook 6 minutes. Add red onion; cook 2 minutes. Drain pasta mixture over squash in colander.

2. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add milk and flour; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until slightly thickened, stirring constantly. Stir in cream; cook for 1 minute. Add pasta mixture, stirring to coat. Stir in the herbs, salt, and pepper. Serve immediately.


(JooHee Yoon/New York Times?

(JooHee Yoon/New York Times)

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: A Farewell
Or sadly, my dislike of the week. One of my all-time favorite food writers, Mark Bittman, is hanging his The New York Times pen to join a young start-up company. The original Minimalist, for years Bittman’s weekly column introduced readers to healthy eating with quick, easy-to-make recipes. Even years later, I still to this day refer to his tips on salads, grilling, summer cooking, holiday cooking, and more. His style of cooking is what I strive for every time I enter the kitchen, and he makes it look so easy! His opinion piece which began five years ago, educated cooks and readers to the politics of food and frequently made me think about where my food is coming from, and where, ethically, the food industry is going.

While my weekly dose of Bittman inspiration is a loss for me as cook and reader, his presence will still be in the limelight. His newest cookbook, Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Matrix: More Than 700 Simple Recipes and Techniques to Mix and Match for Endless Possibilities, comes out at the end of October. And I still have those dog-eared columns.

It’s Labor Day Weekend Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

This time of year, the front meadow is a sea of goldenrod.

This time of year, the front meadow is a sea of goldenrod.

I always use Labor Day weekend as the benchmark for the end of summer. Kids are back at school, the days are getting shorter and cooler, and the local apple orchard is now open. So this weekend is a perfect time to say goodbye to the season and to invite some friends over for some a delicious meal! I’ve scoured MVK’s archives for some recipes that would be perfect for this time of year. I hope whatever you do this coming weekend, it is filled with good food!


Deviled Eggs
Who doesn’t like deviled eggs? Take this to a party and they will be gone in the blink of an eye!

Baked Artichoke Dip
While this is a little fussy, it is well worth the effort.

Homemade Hummus
Know the ingredients in your hummus by making a batch of your own!

Mediterranean Kebabs
You don’t even need to know how to cook to make this tasty appetizer!


Marinated Grilled Chicken Legs
Get the grill going for this flavorful chicken dish.

Linguine with Clam Sauce
If you can find fresh clams, this dish will be phenomenal, but canned work just as well.

Mystic Pizza
Impress your guests by grilling this pizza!

Marinated London Broil

Brazilian Fish Stew
This stew tastes like a professional made it. Show off your skills!

Salads and Such

Potato Salad
I made this over Fourth of July weekend and am still thinking about it!

Kale Salad
Instead of a usual green salad try using kale instead!

Quick Pickles
Because I love these!

And you can never go wrong with a platter of sliced fresh tomatoes with basil and a little drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.


Warm Roasted Peaches with Cream
Pick up some Amish peaches if you’re in the Northeast and roast them with a little cinnamon and nutmeg. You won’t be sorry!

You’ll make a friend for life if you make a couple batches of these incredible brownies.

Crumbly Peach Pie
A summer isn’t complete without making my grandmother’s peach pie.


Mad Men Manhattan



sunday dinner

(Photo Steve Cavalier/Alamy/Alamy)

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Should Sunday Roast Dinners Still be on the Menu?
One of the things I was most excited about when I was in London last year was going out for Sunday Roast, which is basically a full dinner at lunchtime. I have a version of that in my own home almost every Sunday because there is more time to cook; a really nice meal, usually a roast of some sort, to end the weekend and to have a nice start to the work week. Sunday just feels odd if I’m throwing together a stir fry.

So I really enjoyed this pro and con op-ed piece out of The Guardian last week for Sunday roast dinners.  Of course I’m in the “pro” camp; they truly are a comfort blanket meal. You can read the article in its entirety here.

Black Bean Hummus with Queso Fresco Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I love my early morning summer walks. I run into geese, chickens, and Dexter the Cat!

I love my early morning summer walks. I run into geese, chickens, and Dexter the Cat!

A few weeks back The Eater of the House and myself were invited to a dinner party and the request was to bring either an appetizer or dessert. Since I had the time and the urge to cook a little bit, I made some chocolate chip cookies with coconut, but wasn’t really sure what to make for an appetizer. Be forewarned, if I am cooking for a group of people either at my home or for a potluck, I almost always try something new. Certainly not the wisest of decisions (the rational voice in my head is always questioning why?!), but I love trying something new to me and introducing it to guests. And I truly hit the jackpot with this dip.

This incredibly flavorful black bean dip has a little bit of heat, a hint of garlic and crunchy onion, and a combination of lime juice and red wine vinegar that is so good that after one bite I moved the plate closer to me with the hope the other guests wouldn’t notice. It was so delicious, I made it the next day just for myself!

I searched high and low in the grocery store and couldn’t find queso fresco cheese, so I used feta in place and it was just as good. This appetizer will make vegans and those who don’t eat dairy happy if you leave off the cheese as well as those who are looking for a healthy, flavorful dip that isn’t terribly heavy or rich. I thought it would be terrific as a vegetarian burrito filling or as an accompaniment for eggs!

black bean dip
Black Bean Hummus with Queso Fresco

This recipe first appeared in the April 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Can’t find queso fresco? Crumbled feta cheese can certainly be substituted, or if looking for a dairy-free version, just add extra onion and cilantro. I also added a couple tablespoons of water to make it more dip-like as I found it a little dry without it.

1 tablespoon tahini (roasted sesame seed paste)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons water
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons queso fresco
1 tablespoon chopped red onion
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro

Combine tahini, lime juice, olive oil, beans, salt, water, and garlic clove in the bowl of a food processor. Add vinegar, cumin, and crushed red pepper to food processor with black bean mixture; process until smooth. Top with queso fresco, onion, and cilantro.

onionsMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Pickled Onions
This is more like my love of the week. Or month. Or year. I decided at the beginning of the summer to make some pickled onions to go with the burritos I was making. O. M. G. They are the best (and easiest) thing you can make to add flavor to your food! I take 3/4 cup of apple cider or red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup of water, and add some diced red onion. They last forever and are so good! I’m a big onion fan, so this just adds enhanced flavor with a little bit of a zing. I especially like putting them on a warmed corn tortilla with melted cheese, a scrambled egg, and some avocado for a really tasty breakfast!

I found this article, which gives great instruction on how to make quick pickled onions or you can do what I do. Either way, I hope you find a new delicious food accompaniment!

The Lazy, Shorter Days of Summer: Late Season Pesto Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Summertime and the living is easy!

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy!

Vermont in August is one of my favorite times of the year. While the light has quickly diminished in both the morning and evening, the fields are now a bright yellow with goldenrod, a little bit quieter, and the gardens have reached their peaks. While the days can still be quite warm, nighttime is usually perfectly cool sleeping weather. Weekends are spent at the lake, soaking in the sun and making memories that (hopefully) will keep us warm in the winter.

Speaking of gardens, you’ll never see me turn down an offer of free vegetables or fruit from someone’s garden. Which was the reason I was cutting up cups and cups of late season rhubarb for pies a couple of weeks ago, and why I found myself in a friend’s garden one recent evening, pulling all of the basil that she didn’t want. While it was almost past its time, it was still salvageable and all I could see was green, and knew I could make mounds and mounds of pesto.

I can grow tired very quickly if I eat the same thing all the time–leftovers are a two-meal minimum for me–but I think I could eat pesto every day and be completely happy! There is something about the mixture of basil, garlic, nuts, cheese, and olive oil that is heaven on a plate. During the summer I make it just about every Monday night for dinner. Even during my detox I talked about a few weeks ago, I created a dairy-free pesto that was almost as good as the real thing, served over quinoa pasta! For my friend who graciously gave me the basil, I made a nut-free and dairy free version for her.

The word pesto comes from the Italian, pestare, which means “to pound or crush,” and I have certainly made it many times the authentic way with a mortar and pestle, but my blender is a lot quicker when making lots. For nuts, I’ve used almonds, walnuts, or the traditional pine nuts. Or I’ve left them out if I don’t have any on hand. Making batches ahead of time will be a way to bring some summer into the darkness of the cold, winter months!

It's a pesto explosion in my kitchen!

It’s a pesto explosion in my kitchen!

Late Season Pesto

I don’t measure when I make this. Ever. So these are my approximations of measurements. I go by taste, so as you’re mixing, keep tasting to see if it suits your palate. When freezing, I put a little piece of plastic wrap on the top of the pesto to keep it from drying out.

1 large garlic clove
2 large handfuls of basil leaves
A few parsley stalks (preferably flat-leafed parsley), about 2-3 tablespoons
About 3 tablespoons grated parmesan or Asiago cheese
2 tablespoons whole almonds (or substitute walnuts or pine nuts)
Extra virgin olive oil, roughly ¼ cup (you can also use some hot water as a substitute for some of the oil)

With a blender, add the ingredients one at a time, ending with enough olive oil to make a paste. Serve over pasta, veggies, fish, or toasted bread.

movie posterMVK’s *Like of the Week: “That Sugar Film”
Are you like me and think the food you find in a health food store is good for you? Think again. Australian filmmaker, Damon Gameau, has a movie out, based on the movie “Super Size Me,” where he eats only “health foods,” but which are actually filled with added sugar. For two months, he gave up his normal diet of fresh foods for one that contains 40 teaspoons of sugar daily. But he wasn’t eating the obvious sugary foods like ice cream, candy, and soda. He instead focused on those foods perceived as healthy, but which contain added sugars: juices, low-fat yogurt, healthy bars, cereals. The effect of the diet is shocking.

While I think the movie is a bit gimmicky to get his point across, maybe this will be added to the American dialogue we are having about food and how it can help, or in this case hurt, your body. You can read more about the film and watch a trailer by clicking here.

Sizzling Skirt Steak with Asparagus and Red Peppers Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Isn't this farm stand adorable? I stopped on my way home from the lake and picked up some beets, broccoli, tomatoes, and an onion!

Isn’t this farm stand adorable? I stopped on my way home from the lake and picked up some beets, broccoli, tomatoes, and an onion!

For the past few weeks, I’ve been making more and more vegetarian meals. Summer is so easy to fix up some veggies you’ve picked from the garden, the farmer’s market, or tiny farm stands like the one above. August is the month all veggies shine; they are their peak of ripeness and deliciousness, it’s easy to just have a plate filled with some beans, tomatoes, and an ear of corn and be happy. But there are some evenings that I’m dragging, tired, and I know it’s because my iron is low, so I decide to fix a nice steak. When that happens, pull this recipe out! You can let the steak marinate during cocktail hour (or when you run out for an errand, like I did), and with just a few ingredients, it takes hardly any time at all to put dinner on the table!

Remember the Caesar salad and Brussels sprouts recipes I gave you a few months back that called for fish sauce? Still have the bottle? Here is another recipe where you can use it! Fish sauce has something that experts refer to as umami, the “fifth taste”; like sweet, sour, etc., the combined ingredients make foods flavorful. Like MSG without the chemicals. Just a little bit adds a load of flavor–and it’s not fishy at all. The grated onion marinade is perfectly suited for flavoring the meat and the additional sauce with the vegetables adds a nice touch. 

I have never seen skirt steak in Vermont despite many searches, so I’ve substituted both flank steak and sirloin for this recipe. I’ve let the marinade sit longer than 30 minutes with no ill effect, it just made for a more intense onion flavor, which I love. And this would be fabulous if you put it on the grill! And you can substitute some fresh green beans instead of asparagus if you like!

steakSizzling Skirt Steak with Asparagus and Red Pepper

This recipe originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine. Serves 4.

1 pound skirt steak, halved crosswise
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce, divided
2 medium red onions, divided
12 ounces asparagus, trimmed
1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Combine steak and 1 tablespoon fish sauce in a shallow dish. Cut 1 onion in half lengthwise. Grate half of the onion. Add onion pulp to steak; toss to coat. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Cut remaining 1 1/2 onions into 1/4-inch-thick vertical slices. Cut each asparagus spear diagonally into 3 pieces. Combine sliced onion, asparagus, bell pepper, and oil; toss to coat. Heat a large wok or stainless steel skillet over high heat. Add vegetables to pan; stir-fry 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce to pan; stir-fry 30 seconds. Remove vegetable mixture from pan; keep warm.

3. Scrape onion pulp off of steak. Return wok to high heat. Add steak to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Place steak on a cutting board; let stand at least 5 minutes. Cut steak across the grain into slices. Serve with vegetables.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: “The Kitchen of Ambrosia”

Last week I told you about my small screen debut and now its ready for the big reveal! A little peek at Vermont in August and blueberry season! Click on the movie poster to enjoy “The Kitchen of Ambrosia!”


movie poster