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.

It’s Summer! Spoonbread’s Potato Salad Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

It's berry season in Vermont! Yummy!

It’s berry season in Vermont! Yummy!

It’s summer and the weather has finally caught up with the calendar! Tis the season for grilling, picnics, and lots and lots of salads. I love potato salad, but rarely do my salads turn out to be anything spectacular. Until now. I think I’ve found a new favorite!

In the past, my potato salad is the traditional potatoes, eggs, and mayonnaise, and quite honestly is a bit on the boring and bland side. It needed something that gave it a little zing and oomph. I was lamenting this fact and wanted to make a potato salad that would be a sure hit with guests, so I turned to The Essential New York Times Cook Book, a cook book where I’ve yet to be disappointed with a recipe. Named after the Manhattan catering company that created it, it’s everything a potato salad should be: creamy, tangy, with just the right amount of onion and crunch of celery. The Eater of the House was especially pleased with it, going back for seconds, thirds . . . complimenting me by saying, “you used more mayonnaise than you usually do.” (I tend to scrimp for calories a lot!) I bypassed the celery salt since I don’t like the flavor and optional garnishes and just had a delicious potato salad, which I served on 4th of July eve to good friends. Make a batch of this for your next picnic, it’s perfect!

pot sal
Spoonbread’s Potato Salad

This recipe appears in The Essential New York Times Cook Book, by Amanda Hesser, 2010.

2 pounds white potatoes, scrubbed
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon paprika
1 small onion, minced
½ cut diced celery
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Colman’s prepared mustard (I used plain yellow mustard)
1 teaspoon celery salt or to taste
Optional garnish (olives, green pepper rings, and sliced grilled red peppers)

1. Cut the potatoes in half if large. Put them in a pot ad add enough lightly salted water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, uncovered, and boil gently for 15 to 25 minutes, until just tender. Drain.

2. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and cut into coarse chunks. Place in a large bowl.

3. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt, and paprika in a small bowl. Mix with the still-warm potatoes. Cover and chill for several hours.

4. Right before serving, add the minced onion, celery, and chopped eggs to the potatoes. Mix together the mayonnaise and mustard, still into the salad, and season with celery salt. If desired, garnish with olives and red and green peppers.

MVK’s Like of the Week: Med Students Get Into the Kitchen

nps

Monica Eng/WBEZ

Is anyone else appalled that doctors receive a mere 25 hours of nutrition education in medical school? I’m of the firm belief of looking at your diet before taking supplements or taking medicine. This story, which you can listen or read, is about a group of medical students who are bridging that gap by learning about cooking and nutrition outside of the traditional classroom. Bravo! You can check it out here.

Italian Chickpea Salad Plus the Endorsement of the Week

Don’t have time to make dinner? Too hot outside? All of the above? This recipe will fit both of these scenarios. All you need is a can of beans, some veggies, olives, basil, and some dressing and you are well on your way to supper! And trust me, this takes about 15 minutes to put together!

I play trivia every Tuesday night (don’t ask how my team “Loose Lips” does; while we are usually at the bottom of the leader board, we always have lots of fun) and on these evenings, if I don’t eat in town, I end up eating when I get home close to 9 p.m. And even I don’t want to fix something for dinner that late, so it tends to be an egg, some cereal, or a glass of milk before I head up to bed. A couple of weeks ago, I started to feel this was bad nutrition; I really needed to eat a light dinner. I had in my mind a bean salad with a tangy vinaigrette would be a simple and healthy dish to serve on top of some greens. So before I headed out the door, I created this dish that was ready to eat when I got home!

Leaving it in the fridge for an hour or two to let the flavors marry is perfect, but you can also eat it right away. If you serve later, add the basil right before serving. I’ve made this with sweet onions in place of the shallots, and black olives in place of kalamatas, it’s all good. Whatever you have on hand (or don’t) will work. Add extra cucumber if you don’t have the tomatoes, or vice versa. And if you don’t have basil, fresh oregano would be a lovely alternative. Substitute white beans or another light bean if that’s what you have in the cupboard. And while this salad is vegan and gluten-free, I don’t think adding some tuna packed in olive oil is such a bad idea. Or some crumbled feta or ricotta salata cheese. It will all taste delicious!

Happy Eating!

italian beanItalian Chickpea Salad

I realized after I started working on the ingredients for this salad that it is reminiscent to one I posted last summer, Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Chickpeas, with a few additions and subtractions. Either salad is a quick and nutritious meal, whether it’s for lunch or dinner!

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or roughly 2 ½ cups
2 small tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, peeled, cut horizontally, seeded, and roughly chopped
¼ cup chopped kalamata olives
1-2 TBS finely chopped fresh basil

Dressing

1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

In a mixing bowl, add the chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumber, and olives. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, mustard, and shallots. Add to the chickpea mixture and toss gently. Add the basil before serving if you’re letting it sit for a couple of hours. Or eat immediately.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Picnic in Provence, a Memoir in Recipes by Elizabeth Bard

provenceIn 2011, it was just dumb luck that I came across Elizabeth Bard’s first food memoir, Lunch in Paris, A Love Story with Recipes, while I was perusing the food memoir section at a bookstore. A story of living in Paris, meeting the man of your dreams, it was a truly fun story and one of the better food memoirs I’ve read. So imagine my delight when I was in the same section of the same bookstore (the Northshire in Manchester, Vermont. It has the BEST food memoir selection I’ve ever seen!) to find that Bard has continued writing and has moved to Provence!

Picnic in Provence, a Memoir in Recipes is a true delight. Now married to Gwendal and in tow with tiny Alexandre, Bard retells the story of finding the small town of Céreste in the heart of Provence, where she and her family move into the home of poet René Charr. Now she’s not a visitor, she is entrenched in day-to-day village life. And what I liked about this is Bard shows us life in another country as well as her vulnerable side; as a new mother, she writes about her questions and fears with her son when it appears he prefers his father to her. The back and forth of should she give up her U.S. citizenship to become a French citizen? (She does.) What it’s like to be an American living in a country where there is a certain “style,” ie. French women don’t get fat. One of my favorite chapters was when her friend, Courtney, visited. A woman who suffered from bulimia and binge-eating, Bard turns to look at her own eating habits and those of France vs. the U. S. “A French diet is a balancing act. If you eat a little extra dessert at dinner, you have a bowl of soup or a plate of steamed vegetables the next day for lunch. I call it the quiet diet. It’s nobody’s business but mine.”

Throughout it all, Bard gives us mouth-watering recipes and food descriptions. “There’s something a little greedy about roasted tomatoes. Slick with olive oil and mellowed with garlic, pulpy like a supermarket romance novel, they are my attempt at pleasure hoarding. I want to be able to peek into the freezer in December and know I can use this spark of sunshine to light up a winter pasta sauce or guarantee a sensational base for braised veal shank or white beans.” (I’ll be doing that this summer.) French cooking isn’t about fancy cooking with sauces, most of it is simple, local, fresh food since you go to the market regularly throughout the week. White Beans with Tomatoes and Herbs, Zucchini Gratin, Lentil and Sausage Stew, Arugula Salad with Chicken, Fresh Figs, and Avocado, Mulled Wine Roasted Plums. (Is your mouth watering yet?)

I won’t spoil the ending for you like the book jacket did for me (grrr), but I have a feeling in the next few years I will find yet another chapter in Bard’s food life on the shelf of a bookstore. If I’m lucky enough.

Asian Green Bean Salad

Doing dishes is more fragrant with the Lily of the Valley and lilacs that are out! Next are the peonies!

Doing dishes is more fragrant with the Lily of the Valley and lilacs that are out. Next are the peonies!

I am always looking for new-to-me salads to make. When I recently was invited to a potluck garden party, my first thought was to make the first of the season macaroni salad. But given that I’m trying to be careful with the carbs these days, even if I was going to be offering it to others, I wanted to make something that had a little bit of carbs, lots of veggies, and lots of flavor.

This recipe, found on cookinglight.com was a perfect solution. Any time there are veggies in a salad, I never measure; my rationale is a salad is never hurt by adding too many vegetables! With some whole grain linguine and lots of green beans, red pepper, celery, ginger, plus a flavorful dressing, I made a choice that was a hit! I also dusted it with sesame seeds for a little more flavor and crunch.

One note, I have only chili pepper sesame oil in my cupboard at the moment, so I thought using it for the dressing would give the dish a little kick. Well, even I thought it had too much kick when I tested it! I actually thought about including a warning disclaimer with it! But it turned out, there were other chili heads at the party who liked it because I came home with an empty bowl! Use tamari sauce in place of soy sauce and either gluten-free noodles or all veggies for a gluten-free alternative. I thought this would be great with a piece of salmon or chicken. Would be tasty in the salad as well!

asian green bean saladAsian Green Bean Salad         

This recipe first appeared in the March 2008 issue of Cooking Light and is by reader, Linda Dalton of Stoughton, Massachusetts.

Makes 8 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

3 ounces uncooked linguine
1 pound green beans, trimmed
2 cups diagonally sliced celery
1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
1/2 cup (1/2-inch) slices green onions
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Dressing
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)

To prepare salad, break linguine in half. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; add beans during last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain. Place mixture in a large bowl. Stir in celery, bell pepper, onions, and cilantro.

To prepare dressing, combine vinegar and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; stir with a whisk until blended. Add to salad; toss well. Cover and chill.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: France’s New “Food” Law

(Mario Proenca/Bloomberg News)

(Mario Proenca/Bloomberg News)

Just going to my own supermarket, and it is probably small compared to yours, I sometimes look at the abundance of food and am totally blown away that there is that much food in every supermarket in the country, even the world. It’s enough to make my head hurt because of the enormity and makes me ask, how do we do it? And what happens to the food that isn’t that great, but also isn’t saleable?

France recently passed a bill that makes it illegal for supermarkets to throw away food that is edible or passed its sell by date. Grocers either have to donate the food to charity or have it made into compost, energy, or animal feed. Think you can get away with it? The fines are steep, $82,000 if you don’t comply.

According to this op-ed piece in the Washington Post, nearly $160 billion in food doesn’t get eaten each year in the U.S. That is staggering. Interestingly, as I was researching this piece, I found that other European countries may be addressing this issue. I didn’t find one article that talked about the United States thinking about it. I compost, so I always figure I’m feeding my bunnies and other animals that frequent our meadow, but this does make me think twice about tossing out sad-looking veggies. Just more food for thought.

MVK’s Burrito Bowl

A couple of months ago, I went to a Chipotle for the first time. Am I the last person on earth? While I’d heard about the healthy fast food chain, I’d never been to one; Vermont just barely got its first a few years ago. But on a cold January day, I decided to treat myself to lunch. And while it was delicious, I knew I could make a healthier and less expensive version at home. And I have!

This dish is so easy and healthy that it’s become a staple for Wednesday night dinners. When it’s the middle of the week, I don’t feel like cooking or I get home late and don’t have the time, so this is something you can make with kitchen and fridge staples or with a quick stop at the supermarket on the way home from work.

Before you leave the house in the morning, put a cup or so of frozen corn in a bowl and let it thaw in the fridge. (If you forget this step, just put it in a bowl when you get home, as it thaws pretty quickly.) When you get home that evening, start boiling water in a saucepan to make a batch of rice, preferably brown. While that is cooking, take out a mixing bowl and add to it a can of black beans, the thawed corn, a few halved grape tomatoes, a tablespoon or so of scallions, and if you like heat, chopped jalapeno, and mix. Add a dash of salt, a couple of tablespoons of fresh cilantro, some lime juice to taste, and a little bit of cumin. In a deep dish bowl or plate, add about a half cup of rice, add some of the black bean salad, and top it with avocado, salsa, sour cream, more cilantro and/or scallions, lime juice, or your favorite topping.

You can really make this dish your own. I thought about adding black olives next time or perhaps some shaved cabbage or sliced radishes. Instead of black beans, you can use another kind of bean or shredded chicken, pork, beef, or even fish. If you don’t like rice, you can leave it out or substitute another grain. Instead of cumin, use coriander or another favorite spice.

It was interesting that as I was working on this recipe, this story was printed in the New York Times. So now I know my version has fewer calories and is definitely healthier! (Although I will add, the restaurant can be healthy if you make the right choices!)

mvk burrito bowl

 

MVK’s Burrito Bowl

1 can of black beans
About a cup of grape tomatoes, sliced in half vertically
A couple of tablespoons chopped scallions
1 cup of thawed frozen corn
A dash of salt
One jalapeno pepper, chopped (optional)
Lime juice, to taste
A couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro
A dash or two of cumin powder
Cooked brown rice
Toppings: avocado, cilantro, sour cream, salsa, cilantro

1. In a bowl, add the black beans, tomatoes, corn, scallions, jalapeno pepper (if using), and to taste, salt, cilantro, cumin powder, lime juice, and mix. To a plate or bowl, add a half cup of rice, top with the salad and added condiments.


eggsMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: The Government’s Bad Diet Advice
Bravo, albeit a few decades late, to the U.S. government who finally realizes that low-fat food is not good for you! This article from the New York Times last week focuses on a new study, which is linked in the article. The government has said that cutting fat and cholesterol may have worsened Americans’ health, because by clearing our plates of meat, eggs, and cheese they were replaced with more grains, starchy vegetables, and pasta. The real takeaway is to eat real food, not processed or manufactured.

A Very Veggie Salad

New Year's Eve, 2014. Looking west to the Adirondack Mountains.

New Year’s Eve, 2014. Looking west to the Adirondack Mountains.

Am I the only one who feels the need to detox after the holidays? Despite my best efforts, four weeks of rich, sweet foods, alcohol, plus bad weather so I can’t get out and walk has given me tummy trauma. Since they are finally over, I’m looking to healthy and delicious meals at lunch and dinner which are comprised of mostly vegetables with light protein or legumes. This will help your waistline, ward off germs, and are nutritious, too!

This is the usual salad I make for my lunches. Lots of veggies with a little bit of protein and cheese, with a big glass of water, it’s perfect and keeps me full all afternoon. Add some heart healthy avocado or nuts and seeds if you like. I know not everyone loves radishes, so I added them as an option; they add a bit of heat and crunch plus they’re incredibly inexpensive!

One of the drawbacks of making a salad for lunch is finding the time to make it in the morning. So here are two tips:

  1. When you get home from the grocery store, or when you have time some evening when you’re making dinner, slice and chop all your veggies and put them into containers. I find if I pre-cut all my vegetables, making a salad is ten times easier and less time consuming. Plus, it keeps me from being lazy; if I have to slice up cucumber and peppers early in the morning before work, I might think twice about making a salad. This way, most of the work is done!
  2. Pack up the salad veggies the night before and just add the protein and cheese in the morning, so it’s basically made and it won’t be soggy.

This is my current salad these days. Of course, add whatever veggies you like in your salad, be it carrots, cabbage, leftover grains or veggies, whatever you have on hand. I’m on a cider vinegar kick lately, but of course, rice, sherry, balsamic, white or red wine, or other flavored vinegars will be just as tasty.

salad2Very Veggie Salad
Greens (baby spinach, romaine, or a lettuce mix)
Cucumbers, peeled, sliced in half vertically, seeded, and cut into half moons
Peppers-orange, red, or yellow
Grape tomatoes
Scallions or red onion
½ cup beans or other protein: chicken, fish (tuna or salmon), shrimp, hard-boiled egg
Optional: radishes, avocado, nuts, seeds
Sprinkle with feta cheese (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil and cider vinegar
Salt and pepper

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: More Healthy Lunch Tips

I introduced TheKitchn.com to you a while back and they always have lots of great tips and recipes. Although this article is from last fall for back to school suggestions, its tips are useful for those of us who pack our lunches year-round! Here is one that gives you 16 tips on packing a healthy lunch! Salad isn’t the only healthy option out there for lunch!

Jerry’s Lasagne

After being snowbound for two days, this scene is what greeted me one morning!

After being snowbound for two days, this is what the backyard looked like when the sun finally came out!

After nearly four years of creating and bringing you recipes from my kitchen and others, I start to get a bit forgetful. This crowd-pleasing recipe I make at least once a year for either a big dinner party or potluck and I can’t believe I’ve never written about it! I thought I had, but I searched high and low, and I couldn’t find it, so if this is a repeat, apologies in advance!

Like I said, this is a great crowd pleaser; a piece of nice, warm lasagna with a glass of wine will certainly fill you up on a cold winter’s night. (See above photo!) This is so simple and relatively inexpensive, canned sauce that you doctor up yourself, plus you don’t have to cook the noodles; the only time-consuming part is putting it together. I sometimes use artichoke hearts soaked in oil and spices for added flavor. The olives and mushrooms give a meaty flavor and texture, so (hopefully!) the carnivores will be happy. And leftovers, if there are any, are especially delicious! This freezes well, so you can always make up a pan on the weekend, divide into dinner-sized portions, freeze, and take out a package on those nights you don’t feel like cooking.

As an aside, I believe the name of the lasagna comes from Jerry Garcia, because it’s suggested you light some candles, open a bottle of organic wine, and listen to the Grateful Dead!

lasagneJerry’s Lasagne
This recipe comes from the cookbook, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, by Sandia Belgrade and Patricia Sweeney-Park, Elmira Publications, 1991.

Serves 12

In a saucepan over low heat, mix:

4 cups of marinara sauce
2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cup black olives, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 cup of water
2 zucchini, sliced
1 cup artichoke hearts, diced
1 box, or 12-15 lasagne noodles, uncooked

Cheeses:
1 ½ cups mozzarella or jack, grated
1 ½ cups colby or cheddar, grated
2 cups cottage cheese

Layer noodles in a lightly oiled 9 x 13 pan, then sauce, then cheeses, etc. Top with grated cheese and bake covered. Bake at 375 for 1 hour. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Julia Child’s Kitchen

childs kitchenWhen my good friend, Dawn (hi Dawn!), visited her daughter in Washington, D.C. for Parents’ Weekend this fall, she sent me this photo of Julia Child’s kitchen, that is replicated at the Smithsonian Museum and is one of their most popular exhibits.

America’s Test Kitchen Radio” podcast recently had an interview with a curator from the museum who talked about what it took to move Child’s kitchen from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Washington. It is an exact replication, and it was interesting to hear what went into the actual move; thousands of pieces encompass the space. I also learned what Child thought about the project; she was retiring to California and was selling her home, which is why her kitchen was “available” for the museum.

As a home cook, I’ve always yearned for that top-of-the-line kitchen, with lots of space to work. But Child’s was homey, with small counters and a kitchen table in the middle of the room. where people could gather round to talk while she cooked. It’s sort of like my kitchen, which always seems to be the hub of the house; whenever guests come over, we tend to congregate at the kitchen table instead of the living room. So if a small kitchen was good enough for Julia, it’s definitely good enough for me! You can hear the interview here.

Perfect for a Potluck: Barley, Corn, and Provolone Bake

Maybe it’s a Vermont thing, but I find several times a year we’re invited to a potluck supper. Everyone brings a dish to share, be it appetizers, casseroles, or desserts and I always love these, since I like to take a little taste of everything. A couple of weeks ago I was lamenting what to take to a potluck supper. I admit, sometimes cooking for a crowd has lost its appeal of late; so many people have food allergies, it sort of takes the winds out of my sails when I am deciding what to make. This time, I decided to make a homey casserole that I brought warm. And it was perfect—and I went home with an empty dish! Please note, this is barley, so it contains gluten and cheese, but it was the perfect dish to warm you up before an evening of dancing. And this would be a great weeknight dish to put together; just cook the barley in the morning when you’re fixing breakfast and lunch! My only switch was I used a cup of frozen corn. This was delicious and I plan on making again for dinner for two!

barleyBarley, Corn, and Provolone Bake
This recipe originally appeared in the November 2000 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 3/4 cup).

3 1/2 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt — divided
1 cup uncooked pearl barley
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped sweet onion
1 cup corn kernels — fresh (about 2 ears)
1 cup diced red bell pepper — (about 1 large)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup provolone cheese — or fontina, or part-skim mozzarella (3 ounces)
Cooking spray

1. Combine water and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Add barley. Return to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand, covered, 5 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and corn; saute 6 minutes. Add bell pepper; saute 3 minutes. Stir in cooked barley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, parsley, thyme, and black pepper. Remove from heat; stir in cheese. Spoon into a 2-quart casserole coated with cooking spray; cover with lid. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Uncover; bake an additional 5 minutes.

england's flagMVK Eats London, Part Deux
(To read Part One, click here.)

A month or so before we left on our trip, our friend, Jen, asked me what I thought about a sunrise breakfast at the tallest building in London. Yes please! So at the ungodly hour of 5:30 Monday morning, we got up for 6:30 breakfast reservations at the Duck and Waffle restaurant atop the Heron Building. As we took the glass elevator to the tippy top of London, we all looked at each other with sleepy eyes and said, “this better be worth it.” And it exceeded all of our expectations! I thought the restaurant would be full, but we were just one of three tables. (As an aside, at the table next to us were seated two players from the Dallas Cowboys, who played an exhibition game in London the night before. And they won, too! Thanks for the mimosas, guys!) Seated in a rounded booth that overlooked the city, we were able to watch the sky grow light and every five minutes or so, everything came into view, so we kept getting up and taking more pictures. London Bridge, the Gherkin building, everything grew more and more beautiful as the sun came up. Oh, and breakfast was delicious! I got an egg scramble with avocado which was really yummy, Jen got the Duck and Waffle (when in London!), and the Eater of the House got the traditional English breakfast. Two pots of tea, our stomachs full, we headed out for a very long day of walking and sightseeing. (As an aside, Jen cooked up blood sausage [or blood pudding, as it is sometimes called, which is definitely not pudding!] she brought back from Scotland for my first British breakfast! Don’t think about the name and don’t look up what it is, but if you ever have the opportunity to try it, I found it delicious! And was thrilled when I found some in my local meat market when I got home, although I didn’t find it as good as the “real” thing.)

 

The view from atop London.

The view from atop London.

For those of you who are book lovers, I just had to share this with you. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff is one of my favorite books of all time. For decades, Hanff corresponded with this small London bookshop, buying books from them. It is a lovely story, and one that I discovered while in London is truly American. While I knew the shop was no longer there, I knew there was a plaque somewhere on a building. We walked up and down Charing Cross Road several times and for the life of me I couldn’t find number 84. I went into 82, they didn’t know. I went into a bookshop, the clerk didn’t know. I went into another bookshop and the clerk said, “yes, it’s there.” But where? “It’s there,” was all he said. So I said I’ll walk up the street one more time and after that I give up. I expected the plaque to be eye-level, but when I looked up, there it was. My Holy Grail. I’ll admit I got very weepy when I found it; I’ll just blame it on jet lag and the early morning rise, but I tend to get emotional over sentimental things. So the photo of me in front of it has me with a red face and teary eyes. Oh well.

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This statue outside the National Gallery was in honor of the World War I soldiers.

This statue outside the National Gallery was in honor of the World War I soldiers.

Like I said, Monday was a BUSY day! We walked to the Tower of London to see the poppies dedicated for World War I, the National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery, then we walked down to Parliament, past Downing Street, Westminster Abbey, and down to the St. Ermin’s Hotel, because I had a date with Jen for high tea! We selected this hotel because they have their own bees and make honey, but we didn’t see any bees–or did we have any honey! Finger sandwiches and lots of sweets and delicious tea. It was a wonderful way to loll away an afternoon. But we couldn’t stay too late, we had a date with best-selling author David Mitchell! After the reading and having our books signed, we went out for tapas in SoHo, this time Peruvian, but I was so tired and hungry I didn’t take any pictures, but trust me, it was an amazing meal.

Look at the cute shelf they use for our sandwiches and goodies!

Look at the cute shelf they used for our sandwiches and sweet treats! And I loved that my china was in my favorite color–pink!

Off to Cambridge for an overnighter! Just a quick 40-minute train ride, and you are off in another land of academia and tiny bookshops. It was lovely and the architecture was incredible. We had lunch in The Eagle Pub, where in 1953 Francis Crick announced that he and James Watson discovered DNA! No announcements that day, although I’d like to announce I had a great plate of fish and chips! I also discovered a food treat at our B & B that I’ve been making since we got home, bircher muesli. Basically, yogurt with muesli or oatmeal and apples, stir, and then everything is nice and soft when you go and eat it. It’s delicious!

 

Cambridge.

Cambridge University.

Our goodbye dinner was at Simpsons On the Strand. I had wavered back and forth if this was a good decision, but we all agreed it was as we left the restaurant. My parents had eaten there more than 30 years ago and had told me what a special time they had, so I wanted to replicate the evening. And we did. My other BFF from Switzerland “popped” over for a quick weekend, so her joining us made the evening extra special. Simpsons is a London landmark, and if you order the beef, they will bring the huge roast to your table and carve it for you right there. Beware all vegetarians of the below photo! I like my beef rare, and this was cooked perfectly and just the right portion, too. Thinly sliced with freshly grated horseradish, I was in heaven. It was a lovely way to end an incredible week in London.

simpsons2

simpsons1

simpsons3
A quick girls only walk in the morning before we headed to the train station to go back to Heathrow. We did so much during these days and I only touched the surface with my stories! Tea in Hyde Park! Tea at Fortum and Mason! A stroll through Selfridges department store’s amazing food court! How my Munich-made, via Zurich, via London white sausages were confiscated at customs! (But I was able to keep the cheese!) And so many delicious meals! But alas our fabulous journey had to come to an end and we had to go back to reality.

And this was MY reality Monday morning!

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Side By Side: Caramelized Cipollini Onions and Honey-Glazed Kohlrabi with Onions and Herbs

A little bit of Vermont foliage for you this morning. This was my drive home the other day!

A little bit of Vermont foliage for you this morning. This was my drive home the other day! Sometimes I am still in awe of the beauty.

One thing I don’t really pay that much attention to are sides when it comes to dinner. The main entrée is usually the star, and a simple salad or roasted veggies tend to be the quiet background. But lately I’ve been paying attention to the root and cruciferous vegetables that are still around this season. One of my latest favorites is tossing fresh broccoli with some olive oil and salt and pepper, lemon if I have it, and roasting until it is crunchy and crispy. Roasting brings out its sweetness and it is a totally new way to enjoy this tired staple. And I have two other new favorites!

ING-cipollini-onions_sql

Cipollini onions!

I went to book club recently and Mary P. brought along caramelized cipollini (chip-o-LEE-nee) onions that were simply delicious. So delicious, they made it to my grocery list immediately so I could make my own! This is simple, yet time-consuming, mainly because of the peeling and slicing of these small onions (in between tears and stinging eyes). This is my method: take a large pan, line it with olive oil, and when the oil was heated, add the onions (I had seven onions, it was about 2 cups if not more). Cook and stir at low heat for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. I always add a dash of salt at the start of cooking to bring out the water in the onions to soften them. Continue to stir and keep a watchful eye so they don’t get too burned (the original 2 cups cooked down to about 1/2 cup when all was said and done). A couple dashes of balsamic vinegar at the end, and it made for a delicious accompaniment to chicken, but it would be delicious with pork, roasted vegetables, a salad topping, or even on toasted bread.

I discovered kohlrabi a couple of years ago, and normally I slice and chop and put it into salads. But this side is a whole new way to enjoy it! It was so delicious and really made me perk up and pay attention to other recipes for this vegetable. From the pop of the mustard seeds, to the warmth of the honey and smooth onions, this was a wonderful addition to Sunday chicken. Once the initial sautéing is complete, it’s just putting it in the oven for about an hour (mine actually took about 45 minutes or so) and then serve. I’m of Slavic heritage, so this was right up my food alley. Note, I completely missed the direction that the kohlrabi and onions were to be cut into wedges, I sliced everything. But I liked it that way and it didn’t affect the flavor at all. I had it for lunch the next day on its own and it was even better!

kohlrabiHoney-Glazed Kohlrabi with Onions and Herbs
This recipe originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

2 teaspoons olive oil
5 small green or red kohlrabi bulbs, cut lengthwise into wedges (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
2 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons butter
1 medium sweet onion, vertically sliced into wedges
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 300°.

2. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add kohlrabi to pan; cook 2 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in mustard seeds, salt, and pepper; cook 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup water, honey, vinegar, butter, and onion; bring mixture to a boil.

3. Cover and bake at 300° for 1 hour or until kohlrabi is tender. Uncover and remove kohlrabi from pan; place on a serving platter. Return pan to medium-high heat. Bring to a boil; cook 6 minutes or until syrupy. Drizzle kohlrabi with syrup; sprinkle evenly with chopped parsley.

pumpkinMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Make Your Own Pumpkin Pie Spice!

It seems like everywhere I’ve turned since the beginning of September, anything and everything talks about pumpkin spice. I don’t recall this being such a big movement in the past, but it seems to have exploded. Everything from lattes to doughnuts to coffee flavors, even book sellers are getting into the market!

The Kitchen recently posted a recipe on how to make your own pumpkin pie spice instead of buying it. Making your own spice mixture is wonderful, because you have it at the ready and lasts forever if it’s in a tight glass jar. I’ve done this with savory spices and it’s wonderful to have on hand. You can get the recipe for pumpkin spice here.