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.

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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!

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.

Jerry’s Lasagne

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serves 12

In a saucepan over low heat, mix:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLT Pasta

At least once a week during the summer, I make pasta for dinner. Normally it’s pesto, because it’s basil season and hands down it’s my favorite meal; I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a week and I would never grow tired of it. But sometimes it’s fun to change it up!

Once in a blue moon, I’ll order a BLT for lunch as I always find cooking bacon at home leaves the smell lingering way longer than it takes to actually eat it. But making this dish in the summer when you can open the windows was worth the bacon-smelling kitchen! Although I had regular penne in the cupboard, I decided to try the mezze (mini) penne that is suggested, and with grape tomatoes on the counter and baby spinach in the fridge, it was a quick and easy weeknight dinner!

blt pasta

BLT Pasta
This recipe originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Cooking Light.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: about 1 2/3 cups)

8 ounces uncooked mezze penne pasta
6 center-cut bacon slices
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (6-ounce) package baby spinach
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ounce fresh Romano cheese, finely grated (about 1/4 cup)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon; cook 6 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Add tomatoes and salt to drippings in pan; cook 3 minutes or until tomatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. Add spinach and pasta to pan; cook 1 minute or just until spinach begins to wilt, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle pasta with bacon, pepper, and cheese.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: A Super Easy Method to Separate Eggs
A friend sent me this video of how to separate eggs with a water bottle. I was skeptical even after watching the video, because it looked so easy, I didn’t think there was a way that it work. So one morning before scrambling my eggs I decided to try it. And it really works! It just scoops it up! I will definitely do this next time I need to separate eggs!

You can watch the video here.

Pasta with Shrimp, Garlic, and Asparagus

Photo8J4Z47TN
When cell phones came out, I was the last one on the block to finally get one. And 11 years later, I finally got my own smart phone–the last one on the block again. Since March, I’ve been checking out these sites I’ve only heard about, Instagram being one of them. With Instagram, I can follow friends and celebrities by the photos of their lives. One of the people I follow is Amanda Hesser, former New York Times food writer who, with Merrill Stubbs, is the cofounder and CEO of Food52. A few weeks ago, she posted a photo of her first al fresco dinner, pasta with shrimp, lemon, garlic, and asparagus, with rose wine on ice. I had to make this! It looked delicious and what better way to welcome the warmer weather!

This recipe can almost fit into my Week Night Dinner Series and in fact, I did make it on a weeknight! Fresh shrimp sautéed with garlic and lemon, crunchy asparagus, a topping of freshly grated cheese, it was heaven in a bowl, and I had to resist taking a second helping. (The Eater of the House, on the other hand, obviously loved it. He finished it off—no leftovers for lunch!)

A delicious dinner was had that evening, alas indoors. This time of year, pop up rain showers and storms come along and can cancel all outdoor plans you may have for the evening. But no matter, it was still delicious and that’s what really counts. There is nary a raindrop on the forecast for tonight, so maybe I’ll make it again!

pasta pic
Pasta with Shrimp, Garlic, and Asparagus

For those gluten-intolerant, substitute white beans for the pasta. For those with shellfish allergies or vegetarians who don’t eat seafood, substitute white beans for the shrimp!

A couple teaspoons of olive oil and butter
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 shallot, chopped
¾ pound shrimp, fresh or frozen fresh (I used jumbo)
A couple splashes of dry white wine or vermouth (optional)
Crushed red pepper for heat (if desired)
3+ cups asparagus, chopped into about 2 inch pieces
½ pound (half a box) gemelli or penne pasta (you can really use whatever type of pasta you like)
The juice of one-half lemon
Slivered fresh basil
Grated cheese

1. In a medium-sized skillet, heat a couple teaspoons of olive oil and butter and melt gently. Add the garlic and shallot and cook just a minute or two, until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the shrimp and cook until just pink. Add a little bit of wine and crushed red pepper, if using.

2. Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Set the timer and cook for about eight minutes. When there are two minutes left, add the asparagus and cook for the remaining two minutes. Drain well.

3. Add the pasta and asparagus to a serving dish, add the shrimp and toss gently. Add the juice of a half lemon and top with freshly grated cheese.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week

provenceProvence 1970 by Luke Barr
Ah, to spend just a few hours in the company of M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, Simone Beck, and Richard Olney in Provence, cooking and talking about food. And Luke Barr takes us there.

It’s not all bread and roses for these four stalwarts of the cooking world, as each were at their own personal turning point in their lives. Child and Beck are at odds, coming to a point in their professional relationship that they must sever the ties, while neither one wants to make the first move. Beard is nearby at a health spa, trying desperately to lose the weight that is impeding his health. And M.F.K. Fisher is at crossroads in her life; live in France or return to her beloved California.

It took me a while to get into this. I found in the beginning Barr’s voice was too loud, a somewhat pretentious writer (this probably has everything to do with the fact I listened to an interview with him a while back). But soon, I got lost in the story of these writers and cooks and enjoyed being at the dinner table, as well as enjoying the occasional visits from Judith Jones and Elizabeth David: Beard and Child’s renowned cookbook editor and the grande dame of English cooking. When the dining editor of the New York Times left, it was interesting to see all the speculation of who would take over the position. Talk about a who’s who of gossip!

To read books like this, with a deep look at the past with a nod to the future, always fascinates me. Child was just beginning her cooking show, and was at the start of her immense popularity. Beard, while ill for many years due to his health, lived for at least 15 more, continued to write cookbooks, many of them quite famous. Fisher continued to write and publish memoirs and cookbooks, as did Olney. But looking back on December, 1970, in Provence, the world was still open and free, with endless possibilities.

Speedy Gonzales!

The view from atop Snake Mountain in Addison, Vermont.

The view from atop Snake Mountain in Addison, Vermont. The mountains yonder are the Adirondacks in New York.

With the onset of the end of summer, I’ve been doing everything I can to extend the season just a little bit longer. Hiking, walking, sitting by the lake, just wishing the days would stay lighter longer like they did in late June. But alas, that certainly won’t happen; already it’s darker when I get up in the morning, gets darker earlier in the evening, and the fields have their late-summer scent. I always feel a bit excited when the seasons change, and with fall being one of my favorites, I already am dreaming of warming the house with roasts, soups, and bread. I know in a months’ time I will be making my weekly trek to the apple orchard to pick up my week’s supply of apples for snacks and pies.

Since I’ve been outside not inside the kitchen, cooking has taken a back seat these past few weeks. With lawn mowing or long walks after work, dinner is unusually later than normal, so speediness and quickness is the key! Here are five dinners that take little to no time to whip up for those late nights!

1. This make this dish at least once a week and it takes roughly 15 minutes from start to finish. Take whatever veggies you have in the fridge, summer squash, zucchini, peppers, broccoli, and saute in a pan with a little bit of olive oil and garlic and onions, if you like. When the veggies are done cooking, remove them from the pan, and add a little bit more olive oil. Add some cut up chicken, chicken sausages, pork, tofu, you name it. Sauté until the protein is done cooking, add to the veggies, and voila! Dinner is served!

2. I recently saw a Panini on a restaurant dinner menu and I just shuddered. Call me traditional, but I am one of those people who believes sandwiches are for lunch, not dinner. But that doesn’t stop me from mixing up a batch of tuna salad and serving over fresh lettuce greens. I add some chopped celery and a little bit of diced onion with some mayonnaise and salt and pepper. Add some avocado to the salad greens along with any other veggies you’d like. If you have leftovers, then you can make a sandwich!

  • DSCN0393

3. I made these a few weeks ago and they were delicious. And no, I don’t believe they constitute a sandwich! Take a clove of garlic and cut it in half. Slice a baguette into the number of slices you would like. Rub the garlic over the bread, and add a slice of fresh tomato, a basil leaf, and top with olive oil and salt and pepper. Other alternatives are to add some ricotta or fresh mozzarella cheese and balsamic vinegar. If you are gluten or dairy intolerant, take away the bread and cheese and just fix up the tomatoes. If they are fresh, any way you make this it will be delicious!

4. A frittata takes a little bit more time, but it’s very delicious! Here is a recipe for one I made a couple of summers ago, and it reminds me I should make it again!

Farmer’s Market Frittata
4-5 new baby potatoes, thinly sliced
A couple of cups of chopped broccoli
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
4 eggs
A splash of milk
About ¼ cup of feta cheese, or to taste
Fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper

In a saucepan of boiling water, add the potatoes and boil a few minutes until tender. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Add the broccoli to the water and blanch, just a minute or two in the water, and add to the potatoes. Add the minced garlic and salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, mix the four eggs, milk, dill, and cheese. Add to the vegetable mixture and place in a greased pie pan. Cook at 425 degrees for ten minutes, then 325 degrees for 30 minutes, or bake at 350 for about half an hour or until the middle is set.

5. Take some fresh shrimp and poach it in a skillet with a little bit of white wine and garlic. While the shrimp is cooking, boil a pot of water for some linguine. In a large bowl, add the pasta, shrimp, some olive oil, crushed red pepper if you like it hot, some parmesan cheese, and a squirt of lemon juice.