MVK’s Recipes for Autumn

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

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

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

Love,
Chris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

corn sal2Grilled Corn Salad

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“In the Summertime,” by Jerry Mungo

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

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

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Miscellaneous and Appetizers

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

Meditteranean Kebobs
My go-to dish for potlucks.

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

Kale Chips
Healthier than potato chips!

Soups and Main Dishes

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

Summer Minestrone Soup
A great soup with summertime vegetables.

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

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

Marinated London Broil
Mmm…

Salads

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

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

Szechuan Cucumbers
No guilt if you eat the whole bowl!

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

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

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

Desserts

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

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

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

Zucchini-Ricotta Pizza Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

The peonies in the garden are in bloom!

The peonies in the garden are in bloom!

I caught the sky looking like this on my way home before the storm.

I had to stop to take a picture of the sky before the storm.

Happy summer! It is finally the glorious season of local vegetables and the big strawberry sign is up in town, signally the berries are ripe! It will be strawberry shortcake for dinner very soon!

This recipe, which I found in the June issue of Cooking Light is a combination of foods I normally wouldn’t put together (mint on pizza?), but it is SO good! With a creamy ricotta base with a hint of garlic, then fresh ribbons of zucchini, it was a perfect meal for the end of the day, especially in the summertime. And is a different way to use up your CSA vegetables and herbs if you have one.

This recipe is actually one of three; the pizza dough makes a large batch, and divided into three portions, you can make Shrimp Panzanella or Broccoli, Cheddar and Ranch Chicken Calzones. Me? I prefer to have two extra batches of pizza dough in the freezer for a quick summer dinner. Just wrap the portions in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag. Take out in the morning and defrost on a plate and you’re ready to go when it’s time to make dinner! And a time-saver tip is to make the dough over the weekend so you don’t have to make it on a weeknight!

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Zucchini-Ricotta Pizza

This recipe first appeared in the June 2016 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

2 cups warm water (100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit)
3 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
23.75 ounces white whole-wheat flour (about 5 cups)
Cooking spray
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons 1% low-fat milk
1 garlic clove, grated
2 medium zucchini, shaved (about 2 cups)
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (1/2 cup)

1. Place first 3 ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in olive oil, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and black pepper. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add flour to bowl; beat at low speed just until combined. Cover; let stand 20 minutes. Uncover; beat at medium-low speed 8 minutes. Turn dough out onto a work surface. Knead 1 minute; form into a ball. Place in a bowl coated with cooking spray; turn to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°) about 1 hour. Punch dough down. Divide into 3 portions. Wrap 2 portions in plastic wrap; reserve for Shrimp Panzanella and Broccoli, Cheddar, and Ranch Chicken Calzones. Cover remaining dough portion; let rise 30 minutes.

2. Place a pizza stone or baking sheet in oven. Preheat oven to 500°.

3. Combine tomatoes and 1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 500° for 7 minutes.

4. Roll dough portion into a 13-inch circle on a large piece of parchment paper; pierce well with a fork. Place on preheated stone; bake at 500° for 4 minutes. Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, ricotta, basil, mint, milk, and garlic; spread over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Combine zucchini with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil; arrange on pizza. Top pizza with feta. Bake at 500° for 10 minutes. Top with tomatoes; bake at 500° for 4 minutes. Cut into 8 wedges.

The-Changing-American-DietMVK’s *Like* of the Week: The Changing American Diet
I found this interactive article online last week and just knew it would be my like of the week. Want to know what people ate more of in the 1970s? Beef, potatoes, and whole milk. Know what it was in 2013? Chicken, potatoes, and American cheese. And apples have been the most popular fruit every year! Really interesting trends here.  You can see the map and read the article here.  

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

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

It was a beautiful morning for an early kayak ride!

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

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

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

black bean sal 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ramps
Sautéed Ramps with Ricotta
Inspired by Melissa Clark.

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

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

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

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

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

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

½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons water

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

 

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

Check it out here!

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!

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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.

 

 

Green-Chile Bake, an Update, Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Sorry for the first post this morning! I was too excited about my three-day weekend and the big news below! (Ok, it was my error!)

Here is the final edited version!

First a quick update. Last summer, I told you about the short film I participated in with blueberry pie. Well, it has been accepted as an entry in the Green Mountain Film Festival! To say this whole experience has been wonderful is an understatement and this is the cherry (or blueberry, as it were) on top takes the cake! If you missed it the first time, you can watch it here. It’s less than three minutes and you get to see Vermont in all its glory in July. So lush and green. Sigh. It will be that way again, soon!

Now on to this week’s recipe. It’s an oldie (1999!!), but a goodie, one that I used to make on a regular basis and just got forgotten through the years. It wasn’t until I saw a recipe that resembled it that I was reminded of it. While I couldn’t remember its name, but I knew the ingredients, so after a little bit of Internet digging and searches on the Cooking Light website I finally found it. I made it and it was just as good as I remembered it!

I decided to take this to a potluck dinner. With the recipe in hand, I stopped at the grocery store on the way home from work. In an effort to save a few pennies, I decided to use a couple cans of chopped chiles as opposed to whole. I regretted this decision as I was making the dish, but to be honest, green chiles are so mild, it wasn’t as hot as I thought it was going to be. Phew! Crisis averted! I don’t think I’ve ever seen Manchego cheese in Vermont, so all Monterey Jack is what I use (and full fat, too). I thought if you wanted more heat, peppered Jack would be good too in place of the Manchego. I’m not that big a fan of egg substitute, but when I did the math, it would be 4-5 eggs for this recipe, but you can certainly use them.

This is an easy vegetarian casserole to make on a weeknight, on the weekend, or to take a potluck. As I’ve said before, cooking for potlucks and guests is on the tricky side these days, as so many people are either on diets or have food intolerances. This is vegetarian and gluten-free, so it at least covers those two bases!

 

greenchile2
Green-Chile Bake

This recipe first appeared in the July 1999 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

2 tablespoons butter or stick margarine
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups cooked long-grain rice
1 1/4 cups egg substitute
1 (14.5-ounce) can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes with jalapeño peppers and spices, undrained
1 (8-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded manchego cheese
3 (4 oz.) cans whole green chiles, drained and cut into strips
Oregano sprigs (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Melt the butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic, and sauté 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in ground cumin and salt. Combine onion mixture, rice, and egg substitute in a bowl. Combine tomatoes and tomato sauce in a bowl. Combine the cheeses in a small bowl. Spread 1 1/4 cups tomato mixture in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, and top with 1 1/2 cups rice mixture. Arrange half of green chiles on top of rice mixture, and sprinkle with half of cheese mixture. Repeat the procedure with the remaining tomato mixture, rice mixture, and chiles. Bake, uncovered, at 375° for 30 minutes. Sprinkle top with remaining cheese mixture, and bake an additional 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Garnish with oregano sprigs, if desired.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Pete Wells Review Per Se

Pete Wells is the lucky writer at the New York Times who writes the dining reviews. I always thought this sounded like a glamourous job until I read memoirs by former writers Ruth Reichl and Frank Bruni, who both held that job at one time, and they talked about eating out. Every. Single. Night. While I like eating out, when I’m on vacation, I’ll
admit even I get tired of eating in restaurants. I can’t imagine eating out as my job!

Pete Wells’s reviews of restaurants I’ve always felt are written for someone like me, the average consumer who wants to have a nice meal in a restaurant. His review of Guy Fieri’s Time Square restaurant a few years ago was the talk of the town and Internet for weeks. I remember Fieri had to do some fast PR to counter the review.

The New York dining establishment I’m sure gasped when Thomas Keller’s Per Se went from 4 stars to 2 following his review last week. I’ve always thought going to one of these restaurants would be the pinnacle of fine dining and the best meal I’ve ever eaten, but after reading this review, and the thought of paying $395 (!) for dinner, I’ve decided I’ve had much better (and less expensive) dinners—and I know more special—dinners with The Eater of the House and friends at other restaurants than I would ever have at a place like this. So Wells has saved me several hundreds of dollars on a dinner the next time I’m in New York.

You can read Pete Wells’s review of Per Se 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!

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