Flaky Dinner Rolls Plus MVK’s Tips for T Day!

Free-Vintage-Thanksgiving-Clip-Art-GraphicsFairy-669x1024I thought I would pop in a day early this week with one last recipe and tips for those readers who are cooking for Thursday’s holiday! I can’t believe I’m looking at yet another turkey and talking about the biggest cooking day (for some) of the year! I finally settled on my menu over the weekend and now it’s full steam ahead until Thursday afternoon!

Thanksgiving is always my cooking and hosting holiday and I love it. There is no pressure of getting the Christmas tree up, making sure all the presents are bought, it’s just me, some paper, and an infinite amount of recipes that can be made. I tend to go the traditional route, but with a couple of tweaks here and there every year. For the past few years I’ve made Astor House rolls for the meal, which are wonderful, but this year I decided to pull out this ten-year-old recipe that is foolproof plus delicious. If you have any left over, they’re great to stick in the freezer and pull one out for your lunchtime soup. Or, what I envision to be my case, make another batch next weekend!

I’ll admit, these are a bit on the fussy side; rolling out, putting in the freezer a couple of times, and one last final rise. But if you’re in the kitchen, you’re already working, so it’s just a matter of setting the timer. And these are more than worth the effort. I didn’t bother using the cookie sheet, but I did pull out the measuring tape to make sure I was near the right size. These are sort of like a croissant, where you work butter into the dough layers. And they may be the best thing in the world right out of the oven. I had to test one to make sure they were suitable for guests (wink), but I really wanted to eat the whole pan, they’re that good!

Whether you are cooking or are the guest, here’s to a wonderful holiday on Thursday! I will raise my glass to my ever faithful and supportive readers for a happy holiday and for a meal (wherever in the world you live!) filled with delicious food!

Happy cooking! And happy eating!

flaky dinner rlls
Flaky Dinner Rolls

This recipe first appeared in the November 2005 issue of Cooking Light magazine.
Makes 12 rolls

3 tablespoons sugar
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 cup warm fat-free milk (100° to 110°)
3 cups all-purpose flour (about 13 1/2 ounces), divided
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, softened
Cooking spray

1. Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm milk in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 2 3/4 cups flour and salt to yeast mixture; stir until a dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth (about 5 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel slightly sticky). Cover dough with plastic wrap, and let rest for 10 minutes.

2. Roll dough into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle on a lightly floured baking sheet. Gently spread butter over dough. Working with a long side, fold up bottom third of dough. Fold top third of dough over the first fold to form a 12 x 3-inch rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap; place in freezer for 10 minutes.

3. Remove dough from freezer; remove plastic wrap. Roll dough, still on baking sheet (sprinkle on a little more flour, if needed), into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle. Working with a long side, fold up bottom third of dough. Fold top third of dough over the first fold to form a 12 x 3-inch rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap; place in freezer for 10 minutes.

4. Remove dough from freezer; remove plastic wrap. Roll dough, still on baking sheet, into a 12 x 8-inch rectangle. Beginning with a long side, roll up dough jelly-roll fashion; pinch seam to seal (do not seal ends of roll). Cut roll into 12 equal slices. Place slices, cut sides up, in muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat tops of dough slices with cooking spray. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

5. Preheat oven to 375°.

6. Bake dough at 375° for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan, and cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack. Serve rolls warm.

tday2MVK’s Tips for T Day!
As has been my past custom, I’m going to give you some of my tips for making your holiday cooking relatively stress-free and fun. Some of these tips may seem elementary, although to me they make the actual battle of getting everything ready all at once a little easier. Some of these tips are mine and some are other cook’s tips I’ve collected through the years that work for me. Whether you’re cooking Thanksgiving for ten or having a dinner party at another time of the year, I find these tips helpful to have in your back pocket.

  • The most important piece of paper in the kitchen for me is my timeline. I take my menu, figure out what time we are going to eat, and work backwards from there. So I have everything down to the time, “10 a.m., turkey in the oven; at 12:45 see if it’s almost done and start the potatoes” etc. This allows me to move quickly around the kitchen and for everything to (hopefully) be done pretty much at the same time (some day this will happen!). This method also is good for any meal you’re cooking while entertaining, as I have a habit of forgetting things once the door opens and the guests arrive!
  • Since almost all of us have one oven, prime real estate in the kitchen is small. At the suggestion of “America’s Test Kitchen,” I pull out my crock pot for an additional burner! Set to low and you can warm squash or potatoes and free up an extra burner.
  • If possible, prepare some items the day before or even two or three days before. Squash can be made today or Wednesday, make and bake your pies late Wednesday evening or Thursday morning, that way you’re not trying to jockey for space in the oven with your turkey.
  • Make sure your knives are sharp! I made this tip the year after it was discovered my knives were dull when my father was carving the turkey. (He has since given me a hand-held knife sharpener.) If you don’t have one, find a kitchen shop that does sharpening and take them in if you have time. This will make carving the turkey all that much easier–and everything else for months to come!
  • On Wednesday evening, take out all your serving bowls and utensils and assign dishes to each one. This saves a lot on the “what bowl is the stuffing going into?” when you start serving and avoids a Thursday morning surprise when you’re laying out the table. I put the assignments on scraps of paper and place them inside each bowl or plate, which I find helps my memory immensely the next day. Make sure all china, glasses, and linens are cleaned, ironed, and ready to go so all you have to do Thursday morning is set the table.
  • Serve a small relish plate as an appetizer. So many times I’ve made a couple of appetizers, only for my guests to get full before the meal. How about some carrots and celery sticks, a bowl of black olives, and cornichons? Just a little something light to tide everyone over before dinner. Sliced fennel with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper is another tasty treat. Serve with toothpicks
  • Instead of putting all the dishes on the table, finding room among the arms and elbows, I set up the kitchen table as a buffet, so people can fill their plates and return to an uncluttered table. While it doesn’t paint the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving feast, I find this to be a much nicer way to eat so you aren’t surrounded by people plus having to pass dishes!

One-Pan Broccoli-Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

We've had warm and sunny weather this month. The crabapple tree is heavy with fruit!

I took this photo on a warm and sunny day. The crabapple tree in the backyard is heavy with fruit!

It’s the dark and gray month of November here in Vermont. So what is better than tucking in when you get home with a nice warm plate of macaroni and cheese? This one-pan dish is easy to make, plus it’s filled with broccoli and winter squash with less cheese, so you can feel good about eating this healthy twist on an all-time favorite!

I made this dish one lazy Saturday night; it had been a long day and I wanted something tasty and satisfying for dinner and yet I didn’t want to be in the kitchen cooking all night. I love one-pot meals, along with being simple to cook it makes cleanup easy! And this dish is easy enough you can fix it on a busy weeknight.

Don’t be put off from the color; the squash can give the dish an almost neon orange color. The broccoli gives a nice crunch with the creamy cheesy noodles and the bacon lends just a hint of a smoky flavor. Vegetarians (and other eaters) can easily omit the bacon and substitute vegetable broth or water for a completely veggie meal. I buy bacon a couple of times a year and when I do (unless I plan on frying up the entire package), I’ll wrap two-slice servings individually in cellophane and stick it in the freezer in a plastic bag so I have two slices ready to go for recipes like this. No need to defrost, just chop and fry. Served with a simple salad of greens, this was one dish you’ll definitely want to go back for seconds and put on your winter meal rotation!

macncheese
One-Pan Broccoli-Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese

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

Serves 6 (serving size: about 1 1/3 cups)

2 center-cut bacon slices, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1 cup 1% low-fat milk
1 (10-ounce) package frozen butternut squash puree, thawed
10 ounce uncooked large elbow macaroni
3 cups chopped broccoli florets
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and divided (about 1 1/4 cups)

1 Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon; cook 4 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan.

2. Remove all but 2 teaspoons bacon drippings from pan. Add garlic to ­drippings in pan; sauté 30 seconds.

3. Add stock, milk, and squash to pan; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

4. Add pasta; cover, ­reduce heat, and ­simmer 5 minutes, ­stirring occasionally. Stir in broccoli; cover and cook 3 minutes or until pasta is done and sauce is thickened.

5. Stir in salt, pepper, and 4 ounces cheese. Sprinkle bacon and remaining cheese on top. Cover; let stand 1 minute.

rubbermaidMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids
This endorsement is sponsored by Cooking Light and Rubbermaid®.

One morning as I was making my lunch, I was lamenting the condition of my leftover dish drawer. I was in a hurry and trying to find containers plus a lid to go with each one so I could pack up my lunch. I try to keep things organized in the kitchen, but when I’m in a hurry, I can never find things easily and get frustrated with myself for not organizing things better and that I’m running late. That afternoon, I received an email asking if I wanted to test out Rubbermaid’s Easy Find Lids. I answered quickly with a resounding YES!

This 20-piece set includes different size nesting containers with the same cover fitting each one! Plus the covers snap together, so they are no longer roaming around all over the drawer! The different sizes are great for all sorts of things; they are handy for packing leftovers for lunch, prepping ingredients for dinner, and keeping my dried beans and grains in the cupboard. Best of all, when I’m getting ready for lunch, I’m not spending forever trying to find a lid, they are all right there. I’m thinking about buying another set!

Can’t-Believe-It’s-Veggie Chili Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I couldn't resist stopping and taking photos of the foliage on my way home. The light was just perfect reflecting off the orange leaves!

I couldn’t resist stopping and taking photos of the foliage on my way home. The light on the orange and red leaves made the colors pop out!

Chili is one of those meals that is so easy to make that you can fix it on a weeknight without a recipe and it can be ready to eat in well under an hour. A little bit of beef with some small beans, onions, garlic, and spices, you can throw everything in a pot and it will always be delicious. But my veggie chilis in the past have been less than mediocre, lacking in flavor and texture. Besides some beans and vegetables, I’ve never been able to make a decent pot. But this is one veggie chili I can believe in! Seasoned with lots of spices, with beans and wheat berries as a “meat replacement,” this chili is one for the books and has convinced me that you can make a good veggie chili at home!

Although the ingredient list is long, you definitely can make this on a weeknight, just don’t do like I did and postpone cooking by 30 minutes because you forgot a critical ingredient and had to run out to the store! The veggies can be prepped in advance and the wheat berries can be cooked early, too. The only change was I substituted one tablespoon of tamari in place of the amino acids, since I didn’t have a bottle on hand.

I noticed the “(Meat) Eater of the House” had seconds so I take that as a resounding thumbs up! Topped with a little bit of cheddar, avocado, red onion, and sour cream, it made excellent leftovers for lunch, and enough to pop in the freezer for another meal!

chili

Can’t-Believe-It’s-Veggie Chili
This recipe first appeared in the October 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Serves 6 (serving size: about 1 1/4 cups chili, 2 1/2 tablespoons cheese, 4 teaspoons onion, and 2 1/2 teaspoons sour cream)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced peeled carrot
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons unsalted tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (14.5-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, undrained
2 cups water
1 cup lower-sodium vegetable juice
1/2 cup uncooked wheat berries
1 cup water
1 cup lager beer (such as Budweiser)
2 tablespoons liquid aminos (such as Bragg)
1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted kidney beans, rinsed and drained
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and next 6 ingredients (through garlic); sauté 10 minutes or until liquid evaporates and vegetables begin to brown. Add tomato paste and next 5 ingredients (through red pepper); cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Using kitchen scissors, cut tomatoes in the can into bite-sized pieces. Add 2 cups water, vegetable juice, and tomatoes to pan; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat; simmer 30 minutes.

2. Combine wheat berries and 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Add wheat berries, beer, aminos, and beans to chili; cook 20 minutes. Serve with cheese, red onion, and sour cream.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Candy Corn Cookies
I thought with Halloween just a few days away, I would bring to you one of the most popular recipes I ever posted on my blog for any new readers: candy corn cookies! These tiny sugar cookies are about an inch high in height and are adorable and make lots to share!

Aren't these adorable? And this was cookie sheet #1, so my batch definitely made more than 5 dozen cookies!Candy Corn Cookies
From PBS Food’s Fresh Taste blog, recipe by Jenna Weber

2 sticks of butter, softened
½ cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
Red food coloring
Yellow food coloring

1. Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until incorporated.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to the butter sugar mixture and mix until a soft dough just forms. Remove dough from mixer bowl and separate into three equal pieces (use a food scale to weigh each piece if you want to be exact!). Mix together a little bit of red and yellow food coloring to make orange and then add the orange coloring to one of the dough pieces. Make another dough piece yellow and leave the third plain.

3. Place a piece of plastic wrap or tin foil inside a loaf pan and pat down the white dough inside. Place the orange dough on top (pat down firmly) followed by the yellow dough. Remove dough from pan, wrap up in either tin foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours.

4. When you are ready to bake your cookies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut 1/4th inch slices down the width of the dough. Continue cutting each slice into small triangles.

5. Place triangles on a lined baking sheet (line with parchment paper) and bake for 6-8 minutes until tops are puffy and bottoms are golden.

Yield: 5 dozen tiny cookies

Braised Chicken with White Beans and Olives Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Yup. That's snow. In October!

Yup. That’s snow. In October!

After what may have been one of the warmest Septembers on record, it’s finally getting cold here in Vermont! (And as I write this, it’s snowing rather hard outside!) Which means all I can think about is making soups, stews, bread, anything that will warm the kitchen and my soul.

With this in mind, I started creating a recipe for dinner in my head during the week: a braised chicken dish with tomatoes, white beans, lots of garlic, a touch of cinnamon, and tangy Kalamata olives; also something that could be slow cooked so I wasn’t hovering over the stove for the entire evening, too. I set to work one night as we were watching the movie “Love and Mercy,” which is fantastic movie if you haven’t seen it!

When The Eater of the House asked what was for dinner earlier in the day, I didn’t have the recipe completely sorted out so I described this dish as “sort of a chicken cacciatore.” “With pasta?!” he asked excitedly. “Um, no.” He frowned. I think serving pasta when you already have beans in a dish is odd because that gives you two carbohydrates. But of course, you can serve this with pasta, rice, or just on its own like I did.

I think Chicken thighs are the most forgiving piece of meat out there; you can cook as long as you like and it almost never dries out. Braised with the tomatoes and beans, I was able to go back and watch the movie while dinner simmered on the stove.

This dish turned out just like I had hoped it would; warm and spicy beans with lots of garlic, tender chicken, and briny olives. Plus it’s all cooked in one pan! If you find you have leftover beans but no chicken, just add a little cheese and warm for lunch the next day. It will be delicious!

chicen and white beans
Braised Chicken with White Beans and Olives

4 skinless chicken thighs
5 large cloves of garlic, minced
¾ cup red onion, diced (or half of a large onion)
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
28 oz. canned diced tomatoes
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ cup small white beans (I used navy)
¼ cup Kalamata olives, halved
Chopped parsley (optional)

1. In a large skillet, warm the olive oil, When it gets shimmery, add the chicken and cook until is golden brown, about 3-4 minutes each side. (Note: The chicken won’t be fully cooked.) Place on a plate to rest.

2. There should be some olive oil and fat left over from the chicken in the skillet, but if there isn’t, add a little bit more oil. Add the onions and garlic, cook at medium heat until they are translucent. Stir in the beans, tomatoes, and cinnamon. Add the rested chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add the olives, and let everything simmer for about 30-40 minutes, or until the chicken is done. Top with chopped parsley, if you have some on hand.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Oprah Now Part Owner of Weight Watchers!
Imagine my surprise the other morning as I’m on www.weightwatchers.com and see a photo of Oprah. I just happened to go to the website when the company made their biggest announcement in years: Oprah has joined forces with the company, purchasing a 10 percent stake and serving as a Board member! The company has been faltering financially in the last year and they’ve decided to bring in the big guns.

As a WW graduate, I think this is phenomenal news; just like she did for books, my hope is having the Oprah name will encourage people to join and get healthy. The company said while it will continue to focus on weight loss, its mission also will focus on an all-around healthy and happy life.

You can read more about the deal here.

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!

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.

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

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!

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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.

Pork Tenderloin and Cannellini Beans

tues mornThe weather this spring has been fickle; some days are so gorgeous I swear there has never been a more perfect day. Others are a bit on the cool side with wind, rain, and darkness. Mother Nature is having a hard time making up her mind what she wants the weather to be for us. My hope is with the turning over of the month, she’s decided she will continue to give us gorgeous days after her cold shoulder this past winter!

On these cool evenings, I still turn on the oven for a warm meal. And when I saw this recipe, I could already smell the rosemary, sage, and garlic. We have pork just a couple of times a month, since the Eater of the House doesn’t really like it, but I noticed he went back for seconds when I made this dish. I had forgotten how much I loved long-simmered beans with garlic and herbs. They were so delicious and leftovers for lunch the next day were even better!

This recipe is fairly easy and inexpensive to make. Once you brown the meat, just toss the beans, tomatoes, and garlic together, and pop it in the oven. I forgot to buy fresh sage, so I used a dash or two of dried to substitute and didn’t worry about topping with parsley, although the fresh herbs would be fantastic. This meal was delicious and I know I’ll be making it again when it starts to get really cold!

This ain't your mama's pork and beans!

This ain’t your mama’s pork and beans!


Pork Tenderloin and Cannellini Beans
This recipe originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: about 3 ounces pork and 1/2 cup bean mixture)

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped tomato
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 cup unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 425°.
2. Combine rosemary, fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl. Rub spice mixture evenly over pork.
3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add pork; cook 9 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove pork from pan. Add onion and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add tomato and sage; cook 1 minute, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, chicken stock, red pepper, and cannellini beans, and bring to a boil. Return pork to pan, and place pan in oven. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes or until a thermometer registers 140°.
4. Place pork on a cutting board; let stand 5 minutes. Heat pan over medium heat; cook bean mixture 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Sprinkle with parsley. Thinly slice pork; serve with bean mixture.

mayaMVK’s Endorsement of the Week
I was saddened to hear about the death of Maya Angelou last week. I blazed through her six-book memoir right out of college; at a directionless period in my life, I found her books inspirational to say the least. I feel fortunate to have been able to see her speak about 20 years ago. While approaching the stage, she recited her poem, “Phenomenal Woman” as she made her way to the podium. For those who know that poem, you know what a powerful moment she created.

A couple of years ago, I was listening to NPR’s Food podcast (it was December, so she kept me company on a snowy drive to work) and I enjoyed an interview with her about her newest cookbook. (Who knew she also was a food writer? Certainly not me!) There was something she said during that interview that struck me and has stayed with me for those three years. A young woman was in her home and they were eating sandwiches for lunch. The young woman insisted on standing at the counter instead of sitting at the kitchen table to eat. “To not sit at the table is to lose something that’s essential to community,” she said.

I have remembered her words ever since hearing that interview, especially in the morning, when I am running around making my lunch and breakfast, trying to get ready for work at the same time, and standing at the counter munching my piece of toast in between washing plates. But I stop myself and sit down, by myself, with my breakfast for at least a few minutes. Until the rush of the day begins again.

Because of the wonders of the Internet, I was able to find the interview for you! Maya Angelou’s Cooking Advice: Ignore the Rules. I like how she said she likes pepper, not too spicy, but enough to say “hello” to your taste buds.

When I finished writing this piece yesterday morning, this article on Maya and cooking appeared in the New York Times. I thought I would share this as well.

Fish in Coconut Curry

I tend to be a creature of habit (and those who know me well won’t be surprised by this admission). Almost every Saturday, I go to my spin class, buzz home for breakfast and a shower, go to the post office and library, and then out to lunch and grocery shopping. And since I tend to have more time on Saturday nights to cook dinner, I like to buy something special. This usually tends to be fish since it is fresh and follows my rule of buying and cooking fish on the same day. So I am always looking for new and delicious fish recipes.

And this recipe doesn’t disappoint! Originally appearing in the April 2014 issue of Cooking Light (it also appears in the cookbook Global Kitchen), this warm fish dish is flavorful and relatively easy to make even for the less advanced cook. Just a little bit of chopping, toss everything together, and dinner is ready! I love Asian, Indian, and Thai foods, so with the curry powder and coconut milk, it was a perfect combination of all three. I served it with coconut rice; for my version I cook brown rice and add a little bit of coconut milk to the water and shredded coconut if I have it on hand. Grated ginger is also a good addition.

A few of my changes; since halibut wasn’t available, I used cod in replacement. Instead of light coconut milk, I used ½ cup whole and ¼ cup of water. I forgot the cilantro, but I think it would be a great addition. For vegetarians, I think you could substitute chickpeas or tofu for the fish. My only quibble was no zing! I love all things spicy, so I added some crushed red pepper to my serving, but next time I’ll add some jalapeno with the red pepper to spice it up!

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Fish in Coconut Curry (Mtuzi wa Samaki)
This recipe originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.  

Tanzania sits at a crossroads in the spice trade routes from India. That’s why Indian spices ended up in so many Tanzanian dishes like this fish curry. The dish originated in Zanzibar but is now enjoyed all over the eastern coast of Africa. Coconut milk enriches the curry and gives it a tropical flavor. Serve over boiled yuca, potatoes, or rice.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 1/2 cup sauce, 5 ounces fish, and 1 lemon wedge)
Hands-on: 20 Minutes
Total: 47 Minutes

Ingredients
1 (1 1/4-pound) skinless halibut or other firm white fish fillet
1 1/2 teaspoons Madras curry powder, divided
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 3/4 cups chopped tomato (2 large)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup light coconut milk
4 lemon wedges
Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

1. Sprinkle fish with 3/4 teaspoon curry powder, 3/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add fish; cook 4 minutes or until deeply browned on bottom but undercooked on top (fish will finish cooking later in sauce). Remove fish from pan.

3. Add onion and bell pepper to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add ginger and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add remaining 3/4 teaspoon curry powder, remaining 3/8 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, tomato, and lemon juice. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 10 minutes or until tomato breaks down, stirring occasionally. Mash tomato with a wooden spoon.

4. Stir in coconut milk. Return fish along with accumulated juices to pan, browned side up. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook 8 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Cut fish into 4 equal portions. Spoon sauce into individual, shallow bowls; top each with a piece of fish. Serve with lemon wedges and chopped fresh cilantro, if desired.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week
416guNJMdHLI thought I was the only one in the world obsessed with Laurie Colwin and her food writing, but it turns out there is a whole new generation that is discovering her. A former essayist for Gourmet magazine, Colwin died at the young age of 48 of a heart attack. Her two books, Home Cooking and More Home Cooking sit on my writing desk as inspiration more than anything; reading her writing is like sitting down with a friend, it’s effortless. Last week’s Dining section of the New York Times included a wonderful story on Colwin and her new young followers. Here is a link to the article, I hope you enjoy!