Solo Dinner: Greens, Eggs, and Ham (Optional) Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

The sky was absolutely breathtaking the other night on my walk.

The sky was absolutely breathtaking the other evening.

I’m a solo gal this month while the Eater of the House is out of town, which means ME meals, dinners that include some of my favorite foods (eggplant!) and that I can eat when I finally get around to making dinner (8:45 anyone?).

So in honor of St. Patrick’s Day and that spring has finally sprung, I thought I’d bring back one of my favorite dinners which requires no recipe and can be prepped in advance so everything is ready to go when you get home! Also a plus, a salad supper is forgiving to the waistline; summer is coming and you want to be sure you fit into your wardrobe!

I love tender lettuces for this salad, such as butter lettuce or a mesclun mix. When you are home and are doing other things, fill a saucepan with water and boil up some eggs. They require no watching and can cook for as long as you want and they’re also a great snack. The ham in this recipe is the beloved bacon. When I buy a package, I’ll divide it into two strip portions and wrap each individually for recipes such as this. Topped with a tangy mustard vinaigrette, this salad is great served with a nice piece of bread and a crisp white wine and will feed the dream that summer is on its way!

salad
Greens, Eggs, and Ham (Optional)
Vegetarians, leave off the bacon and add crunchy bits (croutons, radishes, carrots) or some nice beans (garbonzos would be tasty). 

One salad bowl of greens (lettuce, spring or mesclun mix)
One hard-boiled egg
3 Tablespoons bacon, cooked and diced

Mustard Vinaigrette
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons vinegar (your favorite)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
A little bit of minced shallot, optional

Whisk together with a little bit of salt and pepper.

BLOGFODMAPPICMVK’s *Like* of the Week: FOD What?
Despite loving to cook (and eat!), I have lived a life with an occasional distressed GI system. Upon a recent visit to my doctor, she has me now following the FODMAP eating plan for the next couple of months. I thought I knew every diet out there, but this was completely new to me. FODMAPS are carbs found in foods that have been found to be difficult to digest or absorb well. So the thought is by eliminating these foods from your diet, you are giving your intestinal track a well deserved break, where upon foods can be introduced (or not) after a period of rest.

No gluten, very little dairy, and a do and don’t eat list of fruits and vegetables. I’ve gone back to reading labels (just because it’s GF doesn’t mean I can eat it) and with a returned focus of eating real food. I was happy to see I can still have my tea, wine, and vodka (yay!), almost every kind of meat and fish (yippee!), but that I can’t have onions or garlic (boo!). That is the hardest, so I’ve been trying to find ways to flavor food without my two favorite alliums. (One tip was to saute them in oil and then remove so you have the flavor. I haven’t tried that yet, but I will!)

This is still a relatively new plan, so doctors are always learning new things and the lists are always changing. You can read about the FODMAP eating plan by clicking here, and I find Boston-based nutritionist Kate Scarlata has a lot of helpful tips, too. And of course, don’t start any diet without talking to your doctor first!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

If you look carefully at the tippy top of the tree, you'll see all the red-winged blackbirds!

If you look carefully at the tippy top of the branches, you’ll see all the red-winged blackbirds!

It’s early March, there is mud not snow on the ground and the days are getting longer, so there is still enough light to catch a quick walk after work. The other evening, I had to stop my podcast to see if I was hearing correctly; the cheep of the red-winged blackbirds, a definitive sign of spring! Both blackbirds and robins are back in Vermont and I can’t remember a year they were back so early. I am cautiously optimistic that spring has finally sprung here, but that doesn’t mean I have put away my slow cooker just yet!

The one thing I wanted for myself under the Christmas tree last year was a slow cooker, or what we called a crockpot when I was growing up. While I had a smaller one, all the recipes I found called for the larger pot; I had visions of a winter of already-prepared dinners that I just had to warm and serve with some vegetables. I can definitely confirm its convenience; it is so nice to have a healthy meal I can pull out of the freezer in the morning and just heat after work. There’s nothing like it—aside from going out to eat! The only downfall I’ve found so far is the timing is off on a lot of recipes, so I tend to cut the time and watch it carefully. Maybe because it’s new it is also extra hot, and while I know you’re not supposed to open it to stir, I do to make sure nothing is getting scorched.

The Eater of the House and myself love Indian food, and Chicken Tikka Masala is a favorite, so I selected this recipe to make at home to see how it compared. Braised chicken with warm spices and a hint of coconut served over rice, it was a divine dinner. I was sorry I hadn’t thought ahead to make coconut rice, that would have been a perfect complement to the meal. (Brown rice cooked in a little bit of coconut milk, with shredded unsweetened coconut and minced ginger added.) The color wasn’t the vibrant red that you’d order in a restaurant, I’m honestly not sure what gives it that tinge, but it was still delicious.

Don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list, mostly it’s just measuring and adding. The recipe says it serves four, but I found it would served more even though it was just the two of us. The chicken was so tender it came off the bones, so I just stirred it in the sauce. I also didn’t add the extra Greek yogurt; I didn’t have any in the house and found it delicious just the same. And like my hope, I still have some in the freezer for a night I don’t want to cook!

tikka
Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

This recipe first appeared in the January/February 2016 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Serves 4
(serving size: 1/2 cup rice, 1 chicken thigh, 1 1/4 cups sauce mixture, and 1 tablespoon yogurt)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 (14.5-ounce) cans unsalted diced tomatoes
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
4 (6-ounce) skinless, bone-in chicken thighs
Cooking spray
1 cup light coconut milk
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups cooked brown basmati rice
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, ginger, and garlic to pan; cook 6 to 7 minutes or until starting to brown, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato paste and tomatoes; bring to a simmer, and cook 3 minutes. Combine 1/3 cup water and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture, garam masala, paprika, curry powder, salt, and pepper to pan; stir well. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute.

2. Place chicken thighs in a 6-quart slow cooker coated with cooking spray. Add tomato mixture to slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW 7 hours or until chicken is very tender and sauce has thickened. Turn slow cooker to HIGH; uncover and add coconut milk, stirring with a whisk. Cook, uncovered, 15 minutes. Turn cooker off; stir in cilantro. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve over rice. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon yogurt.

evooMVK’s *Like* of the Week: High in the Italian Hills…
I consider myself more than lucky that my friend and journalist, Kieran Mulvaney, brought back a can of freshly milled olive oil for me from the hills of Italy a few weeks ago. I use olive oil daily, but have never had oil that was just pressed, so this was all in the name of cooking experimentation! It is peppery, strong, incredibly flavorful, and delicious. It tastes nothing like any olive oil I’ve ever had, even the most expensive kinds. And because it’s so fresh I know I have to eat it fairly quickly, I don’t want to! I want to savor the delicious flavor for months to come.

Kieran wrote about this special farm in Paciano where the olive oil came from in the Washington Post in 2014. You can read his article by clicking here.

 

 

Ham and Cheese Corn Muffins Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I love homemade muffins. Such an easy recipe, but I find I don’t make them very often. But when I do, I wonder why not?! They are a perfect mid-morning snack and because it’s homemade, I know what is going into it, rather than a mystery extra-large muffin you’d pick up at a coffee shop.

I recently got the urge to make a batch and decided to go with a savory favorite as opposed to sweet. With a hint of cheese, hot pepper, flavorful ham, and a little crunch of corn, I’ve been making these delicious muffins for years. And with good reason, they’re really delicious!

For changes, I used cayenne pepper and two eggs instead of egg substitute. When the muffins finished cooling, I wrapped each one individually in plastic wrap and placed in a freezer bag, so in the morning when I’m putting my lunch together, I’ll pull one out of the freezer and it will defrosted by mid-morning. I’ll warm it for 20 seconds and enjoy it with a cup of tea. These would be a fabulous addition to a chili dinner, too!

Happy cooking!

muffin2

This looks like a huge muffin, but it’s really not!


Ham and Cheese Corn Muffins

This recipe first appeared in the September 2009 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Makes 12 muffins

7 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 2/3 cups)
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup egg substitute
3 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup (3 ounces) reduced-fat shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions (about 1 bunch)
1/2 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
1/3 cup (2 ounces) diced extra lean ham
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through pepper) in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine buttermilk, egg substitute, and oil; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in cheese, green onions, corn, and diced ham.

3. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 23 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove muffins from pan; place on a wire rack.

COOKED_VERTICAL_KEYART_USMVK’s *Like* of the Week: New Netflix Series, “Cooked”
The quote “Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants” that you see on my home page is a quote from author Michael Pollan. Famous for his books, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, Pollan is an evangelist for healthy eating and cooking and now has a new project on Netflix called “Cooked.”

The four-part docuseries, which is taken from his book of the same name, focuses on the four parts of cooking: fire, water, air, and earth. In his latest project, Pollan gives a nudge to viewers to get in the kitchen and start cooking.

I can only hope as many people who watched “Making a Murderer” view this documentary, so we have a kitchen cooking revolution on our hands in this country!

Valentine’s Day Chocolate Pudding Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

When I was growing up, my parents never went out to celebrate Valentine’s Day on their own, we always celebrated together as a family. And one of our special desserts was homemade chocolate pudding. I grew up never knowing what it was like to eat pudding from a box, so I didn’t know how spoiled I was by eating this dark, rich dessert topped with just a little bit of cream until I became an adult and had to make my own–from a box!

When I began thinking of this year’s Valentine’s Day, I decided I should bring back that tradition and make chocolate pudding for my Valentine. I found this recipe from Cooking Light, but knew my first switch was going to use whole milk instead of skim. Skim milk contains lots of natural sugar, so I didn’t want this dessert any sweeter than it needed to be. I bought a 4 ounce bar of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate, but then noticed I needed one additional ounce; luckily I had a square of Baker’s in the cupboard. I topped it with a few frozen raspberries, since I love that combination. You could take the remaining egg whites and whip them into meringue or top with whipped cream. The end result will be an incredibly rich, smooth, dark chocolate pudding.

While adding milk to a mix is simple, taking a little bit of effort to make something homemade is so much better! Plus, you know what the ingredients are and that they’re healthy and good for you. I’m a sucker for any kind of pudding, but this is extra special, especially if you’re sharing it with the one you love!

Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Cooking!

pudding3Chocolate Pudding

This recipe first appeared in the August 2006 issue of Cooking Light magazine

2 ½ cups fat-free (or whole) milk, divided
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

Place 2 cups milk in a medium, heavy saucepan; bring to a boil. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine remaining ½ cup milk and egg yolks, stirring well with a whisk. Add egg yolk mixture to sugar mixture, stirring well. Gradually add half of hot milk to egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Return milk mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add butter, vanilla, and chocolate, stirring until melted.

Spoon pudding into a bowl. Place bowl in a large ice-filled bowl for 15 minutes or until pudding is cool, stirring occasionally. Cover surface of pudding with plastic wrap; chill.

vday2MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Valentine’s Day Menus

With Valentine’s Day on a Sunday this year, that gives you a little extra time if you were planning on making a meal at home as opposed to eating out. Two years ago I combed the MVK archives to find some special recipes for the day. You can see that post here.

Looking for more chocolate inspiration instead? Check out these double chocolate cookies from last year!

Super Bowl Snacks Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

In nearly five years of writing, I have never written an article on snacks for football Sunday! Which, when I think about it, isn’t that odd since I don’t really watch football, except when a game goes into overtime and I’m waiting for “60 Minutes” to come on, although I do usually watch the Super Bowl. But I’m only there for the snacks and the half-time show! And in my opinion, forget chicken wings and everything else, nothing is better than chips and dip.

These days, clam dip is non-existent on the fridge shelves at the supermarket and I’m not sure why. But when I came across this simple dip in the New York Times a few years back, I now make my own. Homemade is always best for most everything, because it’s healthier, you’re controlling the ingredient list, and there is no added fake ingredients! It takes five minutes to put together, an hour (or longer if you want to make it the day before) to sit in the fridge, and lots of veggies and chips on the side, you will be the star of the game! And if you don’t like football, the dip will also go well with Episode 6 of “Downton Abbey!”

I’ve made this with either two cans of chopped clams or three cans of minced. I don’t think you can go wrong with too many clams, and I up the Worcestershire to 1 teaspoon. I’m not shy with the cayenne and lemon juice, and like Sifton says, I taste and adjust the seasonings to my palate. I sprinkle a little bit of Hungarian paprika, for yet another kick of hot.

Not into clam dip? Here are some other suggestions healthy and delicious snack idea for game day!

Nachos: The direct opposite of loaded nachos you might find at a bar, my take is simple and delicious. Distribute a layer of tortilla chips on a cookie sheet. Add some grated sharp cheddar cheese and chopped jalapeno. Add another layer of chips, more cheese and peppers. Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is bubbly, top with chopped scallions and serve with salsa and sour cream.

Black Bean Hummus: Healthy and oh so yummy!

Baked Artichoke Dip: For two years in a row, this has been the most popular recipe on myvermontkitchen.com! If you take this to a party, you will be the most popular cook in the room!

Guacamole: This recipe is for two, but just double (or triple) it if you have a crowd!

Deviled Eggs: In my house, these don’t last very long and are always a hit!

Mediterranean Kebabs: No cooking involved!

Homemade Salsa: Like I say, homemade is always best!

dip2

Clam Dip
This recipe by Sam Sifton originally appeared in the January 27, 2014 issue of The New York Times.

1 pint sour cream

1 cup cooked and cooled chopped clams, from approximately 2 dozen littleneck clams, or 2 small cans of chopped clams, with three tablespoons of their liquor

1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, or to taste

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

¼ teaspoon ground white pepper, or to taste

Spears of red bell pepper, celery and endive, or salted potato chips, for serving

1. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream and clams and mix well.

2. Add the lemon juice, Worcestershire, cayenne pepper, salt and white pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least an hour.

3. To serve, place a bowl of dip on a platter with spears of red bell pepper, celery and endive, or with salted potato chips.

theholiday

The kitchen from “The Holiday,” one of my favorite movies!

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: 13 of the Best Movie Set Kitchens of All Time
With movie award season upon us, I found this article highlighting the best kitchens in movies a lot of fun. I counted and I’ve seen ten of the 13 movies and am having a hard time selecting my favorite kitchen, but it’s a toss-up between “The Holiday” and “Julie and Julia.” But I love the kitchen in “You’ve Got Mail” too! Which is your favorite? You can see all the movies by clicking here.

 

 

Sweet Onion Risotto With Sautéed Kale Plus MVK’s Like of the Week!

Sunrise, Sunset.

Sunrise, Sunset.

Last week I brought you several comforting recipes to get you through January. Well, add one more to the list! Even though we’ve had more rain than snow this winter and it’s been in the 30s and 40s (a virtual heat wave by Vermont standards), it’s still that time of year you want something warm and healthy to eat at supper time!

With fewer calories and fat than macaroni and cheese or pasta, I think there’s something special about a warm, creamy bowl of risotto. To me it’s like a savory rice pudding for dinner! And this recipe includes the added benefits of some sautéed kale with nuts and raisins (which would be a delicious side dish anytime, or on its own), so you have a complete meal all in one bowl!

While the ingredient list may seem daunting, it’s the constant stirring that takes the time. I made this on a weekend, but you could certainly do this on a weeknight. And I’ll be honest, when I make risotto, I sometimes cheat. I’ll make sure the burner isn’t set too high, so when add the stock, stir, I will sometimes step away for a couple of minutes. And then rapidly stir when I get back to make up for my absence! Vegetarians can substitute either water or vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock.

The added bonus of this recipe is it actually makes three recipes! Set aside some of the risotto for Cauliflower Risotto Cakes and Italian Wedding Risotto Soup. (Recipes below.) I put my batch in the freezer to make these dishes later on!

Happy Cooking!

risotto
Sweet Onion Risotto with Sautéed Kale

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

3 cups water
2 1/4 cups uncooked short-grain brown rice
3 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
3 cups chopped sweet onion
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 cup dry white wine
5/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
5/8 teaspoon black pepper, divided
2 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese (about 1/2 cup)
3 1/2 cups chopped Lacinato kale
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 teaspoon white vinegar

1. Combine 3 cups water and rice in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Drain rice in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1 1/3 cups cooking liquid. Combine 1 1/3 cups cooking liquid and stock in a medium saucepan over medium heat; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low; keep warm.

2. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 3 1/2 tablespoons oil; swirl to coat. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 8 minutes. Add rice to pan; cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add wine; cook 2 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add 1/2 cup stock mixture to pan; cook 2 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining stock mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring almost constantly until each portion is absorbed before adding the next (about 30 minutes). Reserve 3 cups risotto for Cauliflower Risotto Cakes and Italian Wedding Risotto Soup. Stir 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and cheese into remaining 3 1/2 cups risotto.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add kale to pan; cook 3 minutes or until kale is slightly wilted. Stir in remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper, raisins, toasted pecans, and vinegar; sauté for 1 minute. Top risotto with kale mixture.

Cauliflower Risotto Cakes

Italian Wedding Risotto Soup

bfMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Buzz Feed Food
I’ve always thought of the website www.buzzfeed.com as a fun pop culture website, not one where I would get “real” stories. That changed a couple of months ago when I signed up to get their weekly food newsletters. Their stories are fun and full of information! With an emphasis on healthy eating (“18 Healthyish Slow Cooker Stews to Get You Through the Rest of Your Winter”), fun graphics (“17 Charts to Help You Eat Healthy), and sometimes silly (“Grandparents Predict the Food Trends of 2016”), it’s a fun way to get more recipes, learn about health, and have a laugh along the way! You can check it out at Buzz Feed Food!

 

From the Archives: Comforting Winter Fare Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Christmas Eve's sunset in Vermont's capital city.

Christmas Eve’s sunset in Vermont’s capital city.

Happy 2016! I hope your year has started on the right foot! Winter has begun in earnest here in Vermont; with a Christmas Eve high of nearly 70 degrees (yes, you read that correctly!), we now have a little bit of snow on the ground and it’s finally beginning to look like January. While disliking winter weather, I have to admit I have a special fondness for this time of year; the holidays are over, the light is slowly coming back, and when it’s snowing I don’t feel guilty about staying home for the day to cook and read. It’s time to roast root veggies in the oven, make a pot of farro to add to salads, and re-read Sense and Sensibility.

Since I am going into the fifth(!) year of My Vermont Kitchen, I decided to take a trip through the archives to find some warm and comforting recipes to start the year off a healthy foot. Such is the time for warm soups and stews, roasts, casseroles, and all of these recipes are some of my favorites that I make throughout the cold months; they’re healthy, delicious, and perfect to make when the weather outside is frightful. And most of these are either vegetarian and/or can be made vegetarian!

Turnip, Leek, and Wild Rice Soup
The underused turnip shines in this cream-based soup with leeks and wild rice.

Lentil Mushroom Soup with Barley
I find lentils and mushrooms cooked together with a little bit of barley to be very cozy. If you want to go the gluten-free route, omit the barley and pump up the lentils.

Hot Peppered Pinto Soup with Garlic
If you feel a cold coming on, make this soup STAT! Spicy with lots of garlic, it will keep those germs at bay!

Chicken Stew with Old South Buttermilk Biscuits
Warm chicken stew topped with homemade biscuits isn’t as hard to make as you think!

Braised White Beans with Garlic and Rosemary
A misread on a recipe turned into a happy mistake that I’ve made again and again!

Farro with Brussels Sprouts and Beans
With the addition of a little bit of bacon and shallots, this dish is easy to make with lots of flavor to warm you on a chilly night.

Sweet-Spicy Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry
With an early morning prep, this dinner can come together quickly after a long day.

Spicy and Creamy Pasta
Pasta, sausage, veggies, and a little bit of cream, you’ll think you died and went to heaven!

Roast Chicken
Roasted chicken is my go-to comfort dinner and one bird can make several dinners plus soup!

Barley, Corn, and Provolone Bake
A combination of easy to find ingredients makes for a delicious and nutritious casserole.

(Photo Faith Durand)

(Photo © Faith Durand)

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: 13 Things for Your Grocery List This Month
Along my reasons for liking this time of year (see above), I also love reading articles that highlight how to start the year off right. Here is a great list of things to add to your grocery cart this month. Grapefruits, Cuties, and coconut milk–yes!

You can read the entire list by clicking 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!

Tis the Season: Mexican Chocolate Cookies Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Look at this sunset!

Look at this sunset!

Since we are in the thick of the holiday season, I’ve been craving a really good homemade cookie. But just one! If I’m going to make anything this time of year, it will be my family’s butterball cookies, but I certainly don’t want them in the house because they are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea. The Eater of the House doesn’t really eat sweets, so I know I’ll start looking like a butterball myself eating the entire batch! But I recently had the opportunity to try something new and these cookies were it! The melding of chocolate, cinnamon, and pepper is a classic Mexican mixture and it all came together in this cookie. A soft cookie with a deep chocolate peppery flavor, this made the perfect sized batch to accompany the casserole I took to a recent dinner party. And it made just 24 cookies for me, so it was a sized offering of cookies.

If you don’t have a microwave like me, you can easily melt the chocolate in a water bath. Just take a saucepan filled with water and set a glass bowl over. Bring the water to a boil and stir occasionally, the chocolate will start to melt gently.

I realized as I started this that I was out of cayenne pepper. To be honest, when I see “red pepper” in recipes I don’t exactly know what that means; I always take it to be a spicy red pepper. So without cayenne, I added a dash of spicy Hungarian paprika since that’s what I had on hand. Success!

Happy Cooking!

cookies
Mexican Chocolate Cookies

This recipe first appeared in the December 2007 issue of Cooking Light.

5 ounces bittersweet (60 to 70 percent) chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 3 1/3 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of black pepper
Dash of ground red pepper
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Place chocolate in a small glass bowl; microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until almost melted, stirring until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

3. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through red pepper); stir with a whisk.

4. Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add egg; beat well. Add cooled chocolate and vanilla; beat just until blended. Add flour mixture; beat just until blended. Drop dough by level tablespoons 2 inches apart on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until almost set. Remove from oven. Cool on pans 2 minutes or until set. Remove from pans; cool completely on a wire rack.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Ben’s Kosher Deli and Restaurant
matzoIn the last *like* of my trip to New York City (see Like 1 and Like 2 here!), lunch on Monday was at Ben’s Kosher Deli and Restaurant. This restaurant right off Broadway didn’t seem to cater to tourists, or at least it didn’t seem so when I was there; at the height of lunchtime, it seemed to be more business and family lunches. Our meal began with a platter full of pickles and some coleslaw, which were both delicious. I ordered a bowl of matzo ball soup and half of a corned beef sandwich for my lunch. The matzo ball were the size of a tennis ball, yet light and fluffy, nothing like the ones I make at home. It was a good thing I ordered half a sandwich, it was layer upon layer of corned beef on a really nice rye bread. These were both delicious and gave me sustenance for an afternoon of walking around the city. This restaurant is definitely worth seeking out!

Ben’s Kosher Deli and Restaurant
209 West 38th Street
New York, New York
www.bensdeli.net

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I hope everyone had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner last Thursday! Now it’s full speed ahead to the December holidays!

A few weeks ago, I read Ruth Reichl’s newest book, My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life. In 2009, Reichl, and the rest of the country, was shocked when Gourmet magazine, the oldest cooking publication in the country, closed its doors immediately. After almost 70 years, Conde Nast folded the monthly with nary a reason. At the helm was Reichl, who along with being blindsided, also blamed herself. With no job and no prospects, she tweeted on Twitter and retreated to the kitchen and cooked. The book encompasses her tweets and recipes she created during that year.

Her recipes, such as they are, are more a listing of ingredients with a description of what to do. I love this way of cooking, but I know it’s not for everyone. And her writing is so beautiful, she makes everything she cooks sound delicious. Including a butternut squash soup.

I’ve never been one for squash soups; squash in soup, yes, but a pumpkin or butternut squash soup is something I’d tried on occasion but never liked. I’ve always found the flavors odd and would always avoid it in restaurants. This mindset shifted a couple of months ago when my mom ordered a pumpkin soup that was really delicious. Reichl had a recipe for a butternut soup and her description of it made me want to make it immediately. I took a glance at the ingredient list, decided to make my version, and cooked it up as the first snowflakes fell outside the kitchen window. And she was right. It’s good. And comforting. And is the best kind of soup to eat this time of year; it’s easy on the wallet and takes maybe 30 minutes at the most to make.

Dairy-free, wheat free, vegetarian, this is so simple that anyone can make it. For lunch, it’s satisfying and warms you up and fills you up, too. You’d think that just five ingredients would make for a not so exciting soup, so I was skeptical when I put everything together. But something about the melding of the flavors is delicious. And don’t worry about precise chopping, everything is going to be blended; it’s a lot easier to use a hand blender if you have one, but a standing blender will work, too.

You’ll find you’ll need more than the first two cups of water. I always add a little bit to my lunch container to get the consistency I like. If you want a little bit more flavor, I thought some cumin or thyme would be a good addition.

Happy Cooking!

butternutsoup
Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

1 Tablespoon olive oil

One butternut squash, 1 pound

2 peeled carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 medium onion, diced

2+ cups water

Salt and pepper to taste

Warm the olive oil in a soup pot. When ready, add the carrots, celery, and onion and saute until soft over medium heat. Add the squash and saute for about five minutes or so. Add the water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook the vegetables until everything has completely mushy. With a hand blender (or standing blender) puree until everything is blended, adding additional water if needed. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve warm.

bs1MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Bonnie Slotnick’s Cookbook Store

Number two on my New York City adventures (Part I can be read here). When I went to New York, I had very little on my agenda except for one thing, I had to go to Bonnie Slotnick’s cookbook store in Greenwich Village. I really wanted to check it out and after more than ten years, I finally made it!

My friend, Jen, and I got there Sunday afternoon at 12:56, only to discover the store opened at 1 p.m. and we were famished. So instead of waiting four minutes, we went to another bookstore for lunch and then I made my way back while Jen went shopping.

bs2I walked in and it was like walking into someone’s kitchen. A lovely table with the season’s colors and cookbooks was in the middle of the room. Cookbooks lined the walls, all neatly divided into ethnicity and topic. The lighting was golden with lamps on various bookshelves and the colors were of retro kitchens, light greens, oranges, yellows. Vintage aprons, linens, and cookware sat on wooden kitchen tables, and I immediately spied the recipe box my mother has in her kitchen since I was born! A box in the back had a pile of old menus from long ago New York City restaurants now closed. It was warm enough to have the back door open, which led to a small enclosed garden with a small table and chairs, where you could read your cookbooks.

bs3I thought it was curious she had no Julia Child books in the French section, but I soon discovered she had a reserved spot for the masters right in front of her counter! Child, James Beard, Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson, a variety of editions of The Joy of Cooking, she had all of the greats. I was so pleased to find they had such a special space all together!

bs4After everyone left, I was able to have a chat with Bonnie and it was everything I thought it would be. I ended up buying a book, Clementine in the Kitchen, a book Ruth Reichl reissued when she was editor of Gourmet, the recipe box, and a small cooking booklet titled Meals for Two. I found the book prices to be reasonable, especially for New York City and for being vintage. If you are into cookbooks and want a treat, don’t hesitate to check it out. Her hours change weekly, but she always posts them on her website, bonnieslotnickcookbooks.com.

bs5Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks ~ 28 East 2nd Street, New York, New York