MVK’s Recipes for Autumn

sabattical
After much thought in the past few months about where my food writing is going and what I would like to do with it in the future, I’ve decided to take a pause from writing for a few months. At first I thought I only had an either/or, just two decisions, either keep writing or stop completely. But on a long walk last week I realized I can make my own rules and stop writing temporarily. Five years are a very long time to keep my creative juices flowing week after week and I’ve started to feel like I’ve been uncreative in both my cooking and writing. I know whenever I start to feel this way about anything, I know I need to take a step back and reassess.  

That said, I’ll miss writing about my favorite season and holiday, but I have collected some of my favorite autumn recipes to get you through the next few months, plus tips for Thanksgiving Day! And on Sunday, I will be toasting my favorite city in the world with a Perfect Manhattan.

May your autumn be happy, peaceful, and full of the bounty of this glorious season!

Love,
Chris

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Soups and Stews
Check out the farmer’s market and pick up some vegetables for my Late Summer Vegetable Soup.
Whenever I need some comfort, I make a pot of my Hungarian Mushroom Soup.
A delicious vegan meal, Autumn Red Curry Stew.

Main Dishes
This is one of my favorite chicken recipes, Chicken Stew with Old South Buttermilk Biscuits.
And another favorite chicken recipe, Braised Chicken with White Beans and Olives.
This recipe for macaroni and cheese is healthy and one pan!

Side Dishes
Although I love summer cooking, I admit I’m excited about root vegetables. Here are some of my favorite roasted roots recipes.
Fall means apples. Make some homemade applesauce!
I make this recipe for Roasted Delicata Squash all winter long!
Instead of the usual lettuce for salads, try my recipe for Autumn Kale Salad instead.

Sweets
My mom’s recipe for pumpkin bread.
Make these popular miniature Halloween cookies!
My go-to gingerbread recipe, courtesy of Lynne Rossetto Kasper of NPR’s “The Splendid Table.”

Since I’ve cooked Thanksgiving dinner for years, I’ve collected several tips each year to make the day a bit easier. And here are two recipes for the best rolls in the world that I’ve made for the holiday!
Astor House Rolls
Flaky Dinner Rolls

Grilled Corn Salad Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

sunrise
This is one of my most favorite times of the year. I come home from the farmer’s market with my bags overflowing with greens, squashes, cucumbers, herbs, and onions. Fresh peaches and berries are finally available, too. Dinners are made up of lots of vegetable dishes, trying different recipes and ways to bring new life to an old favorite. Soon it will be corn season and this year I have a delicious recipe for you to try.

A couple of years back, I saw a recipe that called for adding a spritz of fresh lime juice and some chopped cilantro along with the usual butter to an ear of corn. I love fresh corn, but to be honest, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to eat, and plus it gets caught in my teeth. But I love it and will never stop eating it. When I picked up a couple of ears at the store, I recently thought about taking that recipe, changing it up a little bit, and turning it into a salad! And instead of boiling the corn, roasting it on the grill.

This is another one of my recipes that has no measurements, just fix it to your own palate. I like this dish when it is barely warm; the butter and lime juice melded with the cilantro gives a little sweet sour flavor. If you don’t have fresh corn, you can skip the grilling step and warm the corn on the stove and make the salad that way, but roasting the corn gives it an earthy taste that is to die for.

And you can get in the driver’s seat and use this as a base for a grain or bean salad, or add some grilled diced zucchini or summer squash. Peas? Yup, those would be good too. Meat lovers, this goes great with steak, pork, and chicken. if you are a cilantro hater, you could substitute fresh basil. While this has a couple more steps than just boiling some corn, I think it is worth the extra effort!

corn sal2Grilled Corn Salad

Corn, shucked and all silk removed
Butter (vegans, this can be omitted)
Fresh lime juice
Chopped cilantro, a couple of tablespoons
Chopped fresh scallions, if desired
Salt and pepper

1. Heat a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Add the ears of corn and boil for just three minutes. Remove and set aside.

2. While the water is getting ready to boil, prepare the grill. When the corn is finished bar boiling, put the corn on a oiled grill and continue to turn the corn cobs over until slightly charred (about ten minutes or so).

3. When the corn is cool to the touch, take a large mixing bowl, stand the corn cob up vertical with the flat side on the bottom. With a sharp knife, cut the corn from the cob. In the bowl, add the butter, lime juice, cilantro, and scallions, if using, salt and pepper. Serve just slightly warm.

 

corn cobsMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Don’t Throw Away the Corn Cobs! Funnily enough, as I’m working on this recipe, I spotted this story on what to do with used corn cobs! Mine ended up in the compost pile to be a meal for a lucky raccoon or deer, but these are great suggestions for future recipes!

Summertime Holiday Dishes Plus MVK’s Food News of the Week

Note, apologies for the advance unedited piece you may have received on Monday; I’ve been having some troubles with my host and it sent instead of saved!  

I wish every morning this could be my view at breakfast.

I wish this could be my view at breakfast every morning! My view from the top of Mount Abraham.

“In the summertime when the weather is hot
You can stretch right up and touch the sky.”

“In the Summertime,” by Jerry Mungo

The first two lines of this old chestnut have been an earworm for the past two weeks or so. Long sunny days with the light going well past nine, and starting around 4:30 a.m., have me out and about well before my usual early rising time and sometimes well past my bedtime. No matter, this time is fleeting and I know in just a few short weeks I’ll start to notice the time change and that it’s no longer a bright light that wakens me.

That said, it’s almost Fourth of July weekend, which for some marks the start of summer. This is one of those golden years where the holiday is bumped with a weekend, so we don’t have the odd middle-of-the-week day off. I always find this time of year as one with family and friend gatherings, summer guests, picnics, and lots of opportunity to feed a crowd. So this week I’m recycling a favorite idea and bringing you some past suggestions for summer eating and hosting!

index

Miscellaneous and Appetizers

Jordan Marsh’s Blueberry Muffins
If you have some fresh blueberries, these are delicious and easy.

Meditteranean Kebobs
My go-to dish for potlucks.

Black Bean Hummus with Queso Fresco
I took this once to a dinner party and I ended up eating most of it! It’s SO good!

Kale Chips
Healthier than potato chips!

Soups and Main Dishes

Julia Child’s Vichyssoise
I’m not one for summer soups, but I do love this one.

Summer Minestrone Soup
A great soup with summertime vegetables.

Zucchini and Red Pepper Frittata
Eggs are a real lifesaver for dinner on summer evenings.

Marinated Grilled Chicken Legs
These are great hot off the grill or cold.

Marinated London Broil
Mmm…

Salads

Israeli Couscous “Tabbouleh”
A fun spin on an old favorite.

MVK’s Nicoise Salad
My take on this classic French summer meal.

Szechuan Cucumbers
No guilt if you eat the whole bowl!

Red White and Blue Salad
A fun salad for the holiday!

Asian Green Bean Salad 
A great vegetarian dish with an Asian twist.

Cavatappi Salad with Tuna and Olives
A delicious heart-healthy pasta salad.

Desserts

Strawberry Shortcake
It’s not summer without having this for dinner one night.

Old Fashioned Blueberry-Maple Pie
A Vermont spin on an old fashioned favorite.

pepsiMVK’s Food News of the Week: This is How Much Celebrities are Paid to Endorse Unhealthy Foods
I recently read this article about how much celebrities are paid to endorse certain foods, mainly soda and fast food. I was surprised and also saddened. If you can believe it (I can’t), Beyoncé was paid $50 million (yes, you read correctly) to promote Pepsi products! You can read the article by clicking here.

Spicy Black Bean and Corn Salad Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

It was a picture perfect morning for an early kayak ride!

It was a beautiful morning for an early kayak ride!

‘Tis the season of temperatures in the 80s and the sunset being around 8:30 p.m. Which means I want to take advantage of every second I can when I get out of work to be outdoors. And which also means dinners are late. Very late. While exercising, I create recipes in my head with items I have in the fridge and the cupboards so I can make a quick meal because I’ll be famished when I walk in the door. (This is how I get through a hike–thinking of food!) This salad is one such creation; I wanted something healthy, of course tasty, but one that I call a “dump it” salad, throw everything in a big bowl, toss and serve.

I’m a big advocate for canned beans, especially this time of year. Even though I prefer to cook my own dried beans, it’s definitely less expensive but more time-consuming, I find I don’t spend as much time in the kitchen as I do in the winter; having a few cans on hand for quick meals like this are a life saver. I measured out two cups of frozen corn to defrost for a couple of hours. When I got home, I took my big mixing bowl and started to add what I had in the fridge and cupboard. I didn’t have enough lime for a quarter cup, so I added some lemon juice. If you don’t have both herbs, you can use just one. And of course, there are substitutes galore: red pepper in place of the tomatoes, scallions in place of the red onion, cucumber in place of zucchini. Or add some protein; I was thinking cooked chicken or grilled shrimp would be good, or even some quinoa or another grain. I served it with grilled chicken sausages and it was fantastic. And of course, if your palate isn’t one for spicy foods, omit the cayenne entirely; just a tiny bit goes a really long way!

This dish makes close to four cups, which I thought was plenty enough for dinner for two and at least lunch the next day. Until I heard the Eater of the House, who went for seconds (or was it thirds?) ask if he could have the rest of the salad! “I wouldn’t eat so much if your food wasn’t so good!” I guess that’s a rousing endorsement for this recipe!

black bean sal 

Spicy Black Bean and Corn Salad
This recipe can easily be doubled for a summertime potluck!

2 cups, defrosted corn
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 Tablespoon diced red onion or shallots
1 small zucchini, diced
Chopped fresh basil and cilantro (2 Tablespoons each)
½ avocado, diced
¼ cup fresh lime juice or lime and lemon juice
A dash of cayenne or a bit of chopped jalapeno (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

In advance of cooking, defrost the corn until thawed (at least two hours). Add to large mixing bowl, and add the remaining ingredients (through lime juice). Add cayenne, if using, and salt and pepper.

coloring bookkMVK’s *Like* of the Week: A Coloring Book for People Who Like Food
The biggest things these days in bookshops aren’t the books themselves, it is coloring books for adults! While I myself haven’t gotten into this craze (I like to read too much to spend time coloring), this one did spark my interest, a book for people who like food! Edible Paradise is just that, pictures of lots of fruits and vegetables that you color! I don’t know if this will make me put my book down and pick up a coloring pencil or pen, but it might! You can read more about it here.

Ramps Two Ways Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Speaking of a fleeting season, I wait all year for my lilac bushes to bloom! The peonys will be next!

Speaking of a fleeting season, I wait all year for my lilac bushes to bloom! The peonies will be next!

We are now looking at Memorial Day weekend in a couple of days and are in the thick of the springtime harvest season. The farmer’s market is now open outdoors, with the locals selling their delicate greens and late winter root vegetables. I think spring is the most fleeting of the seasons; I feel like I blink and I’m then looking at young squashes. Which means when it’s spring I take full advantage of what the season has to offer and for me that means ramps. The season lasts maybe three weeks, so when I see them I grab them, so I hope this post isn’t too late! If so, tuck this recipe away until next spring. You will thank me. 🙂

Ramps are also called wild leeks and can be found in wet, woody areas, but I, of course, find them nice and clean at the coop. They have a lighter, more delicate flavor than say garlic or even cultivated leeks. You can use both the greens and the stems for different recipes or all at once. I love to sauté the stems in a little bit of butter and then add them to scrambled eggs (the addition of some fresh dill and cheese only makes it even better). And you can add some to pesto and also pickle them, too. (See below.)

To clean ramps, I fill the sink with cold water and swish them to make sure all the dirt is removed. For the greens, I cut just where the greens stop and the stem starts.

One of my favorite food writers is Melissa Clark of the New York Times. She frequently appears on WNYC’s The Leonard Lopate Show, which I listen to as a podcast. Recently she was on talking about springtime vegetables: ramps, asparagus, rhubarb, and gave a “recipe” for ramps that sounded delicious. (You can listen to the show here.) I decided to try my own version. I grabbed a handful of ramps at the coop and created these two recipes, greens for one and the stems for another.

This recipe is forgiving. As I was making it, I didn’t keep track of the specifics, so you can make this for one, two, or more eaters depending on how many ramps you have! Hopefully ramp season hasn’t passed by and you to try this! It was sooo good!

ramps
Sautéed Ramps with Ricotta
Inspired by Melissa Clark.

These would be delicious as an appetizer or accompanying a nice dinner salad or soup. Or you could make it your whole dinner (that’s what I wanted to do!).

Olive oil
Ramp greens
Crushed red pepper (if desired)
A good baguette (gluten-free if needed)
Ricotta cheese
Fresh lemon
Kosher salt (or another larger-grained salt)

1. In a medium saucepan, heat about 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Add your ramp greens and sauté until just softened. If you want a little bit of heat, add just a shake of some crushed red pepper.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice the baguette and put on a cookie sheet. Bake until the bread is nice and golden.

3. Add a smear of ricotta cheese on each piece of bread. Add some greens and just a tiny squirt of fresh lemon juice and salt. Then eat warm!

ramps2Pickled Ramps
The way I like to eat these is in a quesadilla or tostada. They are great with melted cheese!

½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons water

Mix the vinegar, sugar, and water together in a small bowl to make sure the sugar is dissolved. Add ramp stems (cut into half-inch pieces), and add to vinegar mixture. Cover. You can eat them in about two days and the bowl can be left on the kitchen counter covered for seven to ten days.

 

garlicMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Peel an Entire Head of Garlic in 10 Seconds!
Ok, I’ll admit I haven’t tried this technique from Saveur magazine yet, but since peeling garlic is my least favorite thing I do in the kitchen (even above doing dishes!), it is on my radar when I need a whole head of garlic!

Check it out here!

Easter Sides Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

easterAm I the only one who feels like Easter snuck up on us this year? It seems like I just barely made my Valentine’s Day dinner and now it’s time for another holiday! But since it’s here, planning is in order!

I usually make the first potato salad of the year to serve alongside the traditional ham, but it feels too early to make one in March, so I needed to find another potato side dish. Cooking Light has lots of menu ideas and some delicious sounding potato recipes. For me, springtime is lemon and chives. I thought this roasted vegetable dish sounded divine and decided to make it for my dinner one night. Served with pork chops, it was SO good! But not before a few changes.

I was making this for a solo dinner (not 12!), so my measurements went way down. As I mentioned last week, I can’t eat onions and garlic for a while (although I can eat chives and the greens of scallions), so I didn’t include the Vidalias, but I know they would make this dish even better! I’m not a fan of baby carrots, so I peeled and cut into chunks five small carrots. And I couldn’t find fingerling potatoes, so I used only small baby reds, which I cut into quarters. The vinaigrette is terrific and since this was a smaller portion, I have some leftover for another meal. I served them with pork chops, but this would be excellent served alongside ham, a pork roast, chicken, even fish.

I gave you two additional potato side dishes below. Rosemary is a great complement to potatoes and an herb vinaigrette with roasted potatoes has to be good, right? Whatever you cook and serve for your holiday meal, I hope you are surrounded by family and friends and it is delicious. Happy Easter!

veg 

Lemon-Chive Roasted Vegetables

Serves 12

This recipe first appeared in the March 2008 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, halved
1 1/2 pounds small fingerling potatoes, halved
1 pound baby carrots
2 medium Vidalia or other sweet onions, each cut into 8 wedges
1 tablespoon olive oil
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; toss well to coat. Arrange vegetables in a single layer on 2 jelly-roll pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes or until tender and lightly browned.

3. Combine vegetables, chives, and remaining ingredients in a large bowl; toss gently to coat.

And here are two more ideas for you!

Rosemary Potatoes-From the March 2001 Cooking Light

Roasted Potatoes with Herb Vinaigrette-From April 2007 Cooking Light


Processed-Foods-PhotoMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Nutrition Diva!

I have been listening to the “Nutrition Diva’s Quick and Dirty Tips” podcast for years now. Once a week, nutritionist Monica Reinagel gives a short podcast on a nutritional topic. Each one is well thought out, clearly explained, and less than ten minutes. They’re great!

I also follow her on Facebook and recently she posted this article on a new study about the American diet. While there is a movement for “clean eating,” the study showed more than half of the American diet is comprised of ultra-processed foods and lots and lots of sugar.

Although I found this interesting, I always look at studies with a wary eye. This one was from 2009-2010, so perhaps things have gotten better? Regardless, it does make interesting reading. You can read the article here.

 

End (or Begin) the Year on a Healthy Note: Lemon-Herb White Bean and Kale Salad Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

spoon
I can’t believe we are at the end of the year! Last New Year’s is still so vivid in my mind, but now we’re saying goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016! This year brought challenges and opportunities (making a pie for a movie!), crossing Bonnie Slotnick’s cookbook store off my bucket list, and learning more and more about food, nutrition, and cooking. I’m ready to see what the new year will bring.

And no doubt it will bring more healthy cooking and eating. After a few days of out of the ordinary food, I really wanted a healthy salad. And I hit the jackpot with this one: kale, white beans, a flavorful vinaigrette. It was perfect!

This salad would be perfect on its own as a main dish for lunch or dinner, but will work equally well as a side dish at dinner. Easy to assemble, you can serve it warm (which I did) or chilled (like I had for leftovers) and both are equally tasty. If you wanted to add a little grated cheese or a few pieces of chicken, the salad will only get better.

The Lacinato (or dinosaur) kale at the coop was flimsy and had about three stalks in each bunch, so I decided to go with plain curly, and chopped, you’ll never know the difference. And instead of cannellini beans, I opted for the nondescript “small white beans,” that were just right.

New Year’s will of course include my Good Luck Peas for lunch, with hopes that it brings good luck for the coming year. And as we close the year, my fourth as the author of this blog, I will raise my glass to my readers from near and far tomorrow evening and bid you a Happy New Year! May you find light and love in the coming year!

Happy Cooking!

salad
Lemon-Herb White Bean and Kale Salad
This recipe first appeared in the December 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine. 

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 cups thinly sliced Lacinato kale
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add kale to pan; cook 30 seconds. Add beans to pan; cook 1 minute.

2. Combine remaining 7 teaspoons oil and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over kale mixture. Serve warm or chilled.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: 15 Ways to Shop Smarter

shoppingI am always looking for ways to save money on food for my household, as it is one of the largest bills each month. Thekitchen.com created this list of past articles that is a great start for your new year! You can read the article by clicking here. Happy Savings!

Breaded Pork Cutlets with Root Veg Smash and Sage Gravy with Sauteed Lemony Brussels Sprouts Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I gave myself a cooking challenge one evening. After coming inside from mowing the lawn, it already was 7 p.m. I was tired and really wanted to take a shower plus get dinner on the table by 8 p.m. This dish is what I had planned on making, but could I do it? A long list of ingredients, plus three pots going at once, it wasn’t until I really read the recipe that I wondered whether making this in what Cooking Light says is 40(!) minutes was even possible. But I decided I was up for the challenge, because it looked so good and I was hungry! And not only was I successful, this will taste like you spent hours in the kitchen as opposed to 45 minutes!

Of course, looking ahead, you can do some advance prep that can cut down your cooking time: chopping the turnip and potato, as well as trimming and halving the Brussels sprouts. But I did nothing and was still able to do everything in under an hour. I had a local honeycrisp apple in the fridge, so I used that instead of buying a Fuji, as well as red potatoes instead of Yukon Gold. I cooked each pork chop until it was golden but not completely cooked, and then put them in the oven set at 325 degrees until everything was ready to eat. I only cooked three pork chops and The Eater of the House ate the extra one, so I had leftover veg and sprouts that were even better the next day for lunch!

This meal is a perfect weeknight dinner if you have guests you want to impress or you just want a special dinner for the family. A nice glass of a crisp white or a Pinot Noir will go great with this flavorful meal and is a perfect way to end the day!

Happy Cooking!

pork cutletsBreaded Pork Cutlets with Root Veg Mash and Sage Gravy

These recipes first appeared in the October 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 1 pork cutlet, about 1/2 cup vegetable mash, and 3 tablespoons gravy)

1 1/2 cups chopped turnips
1 cup chopped Yukon gold potato
3/4 cup chopped peeled Fuji apple
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup light sour cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and divided
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
4 (4-ounce) center-cut boneless pork cutlets
1/2 cup quick-mixing flour (such as Wondra), divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1 teaspoon chopped sage

1. Place turnips, potato, apple, and bay leaf in a medium saucepan; cover with water to 2 inches above vegetable mixture. Bring to a boil; cook 10 minutes or until tender. Drain. Discard bay leaf. Return vegetable mixture to pan. Add sour cream, 1 teaspoon butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; mash to desired consistency.

2. Sprinkle pork evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place 6 tablespoons flour in a dish. Place egg in a dish. Dredge pork in flour; dip into egg. Dredge in flour.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl. Add 2 pork cutlets; cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned and done. Remove pork from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 2 pork cutlets. Add stock, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Combine remaining 5 teaspoons butter and remaining 2 tablespoons flour in a small bowl. Gradually add butter mixture to pan, stirring with a whisk. Cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and sage. Serve with pork and mashed vegetables.

Sauteed Lemony Brussels Sprouts
Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: about 3/4 cup)

4 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup sliced shallots
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add shallots and Brussels sprouts; sauté 8 minutes. Add stock to pan; cook 2 minutes or until liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Stir in rind, salt, and pepper.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Book review: Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser
mr latte
This book has been on my radar since it was published in 2003 but it wasn’t until this fall that I sought it out to read. And while I totally devoured it in less than a week, it seems by reader reviews I read that I’m one of only a few people who found Hesser’s memoir palatable.

A young food writer for The New York Times, Hesser meets her future husband, Tad Friend, staff writer for The New Yorker, on a blind date. After much discussion about where they are going to meet, she quips the selected restaurant is “the Manhattan equivalent of an Outback Steakhouse.” He orders a Budweiser and puts sugar “sweetener” in his lattés. Some readers see Hesser as a snob, but I guess she and I are cut from the same cloth, as I, too, would raise a brow if this was my first introduction to a possible mate.

The book soon takes the reader through the courtship and ultimate marriage of these two people, with a lot of insight along the way. Anyone who cooks knows the protectiveness ones has over his/her kitchen, and I had to nod my head when she recounted Tad washing her dishes for the first time. And she also gives insight as a cook:

“I prefer the solitude of a kitchen; I like to hear the faint crackle as my knife slices into a fresh onion, to watch better and sugar meld into milky fluff as I wish. Sometimes I like to think; dream up travel plans, retrace my day or imagine an argument with my mother in which I win. I like to chop garlic, dice tomatoes, and carve chicken from its bones to relieve tension, just as someone else might go run a few miles.”

Hesser’s food writing is exquisite, as can be seen in the above quote, or whether it’s talking about her single cuisine, cooking dinner for her wedding party, or cooking with her grandmother. Besides Mr. Latte, we are introduced to her close group of friends, family, and now her extended family. Each chapter is peppered with recipes, all clearly written for the new and more seasoned cooks.

This was a wonderful look at a romance melded with food and I would take a second helping of anything Hesser writes.

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!

Appetizers

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!

Entrees

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
Mmmmm…..

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.

Desserts

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!

Brownies
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.

Cocktails

Mad Men Manhattan

Margaritas

Mocktails

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.

Spice Grilled Chicken Thighs with Creamy Chili-Herb Sauce Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

It’s summertime and the living is easy. Which means the cooking is easy, too! This dish, with tender chicken and a fiery sauce, is perfect for one of those cooler summer evenings. While I made this on a weekend when I had more time, it’s easy enough to make on a weeknight, too!

The flat-leaved parsley at the store was looking really sad, so I opted for curly parsley, but I wouldn’t advise that; I find curly more flavorful, sometimes a little bitter, so while the sauce was good, I think the sweeter flat-leaf is the definite choice. I don’t have a grill pan, so I pan-fried the chicken in a skillet and finished cooking in the oven. Although my original plan was to use the real grill, which would give great flavor! Also, if it’s a hot night, you can cook the chicken outdoors so the kitchen won’t get hot!

I love spicy foods, as you know, so if you wanted just a little heat, maybe a quarter of a jalapeno or a dash of crushed red pepper would do the trick. I served this with some sautéed fresh Swiss chard and garlic and a cucumber salad with dill. But a simple green salad or maybe a tomato salad with some basil and mozzarella would also be great. Something to celebrate summer and bountiful vegetables that are coming into your home kitchen!

spicychix
Spiced Grilled Chicken Thighs with Creamy Chile-Herb Sauce

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

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
1 tablespoon minced garlic, divided
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
8 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned (about 2 pounds)
Cooking spray
2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons half-and-half
1 tablespoon minced seeded jalapeño pepper

1. Combine 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon sugar, cumin, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to bag; seal bag. Let stand 15 minutes, turning occasionally.

2. Preheat grill to medium.

3. Coat grill rack with cooking spray. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken to grill rack; grill 8 minutes on each side or until done.

4. Place remaining 2 table­spoons oil, remaining 1 tablespoon juice, remaining 1 teaspoon garlic, remaining 1/2 teaspoon sugar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, parsley, half-and-half, and jalapeño in the bowl of a mini food processor; process until finely chopped. Serve sauce with chicken thighs.

eat-clean-2MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Clean Eating!

For two weeks in June, the Eater of the House and myself went through a detox with two other friends. In a nutshell, I was a gluten-free vegan for 14 days. Plus, no sugar, alcohol, or caffeine. The first few days were difficult, but by week two I had hit my stride; I no longer had to think about what I could eat, plus I had a lot more energy. When that first Monday morning rolled around, I was so excited for a cup of decaf coffee and eggs, but I’ll admit the meal fell on a low note. I was expecting a taste thrill, but it was just ok. I didn’t even have a glass of wine with dinner that night!

Cooking Light has jumped on the “clean eating” bandwagon, with a guide for clean eating plus tips, recipes, and ideas for a month of clean eating. While I like to look at eating as everything in moderation, I do plan to do this detox on a regular basis, as well as incorporating some of these changes in my daily life. No one has been hurt by eating even more fruits and vegetables!