Au Gratin Good Time

Brussels Sprouts Gratin

why hello there

When they’re in season, brussels sprouts find their way onto my plate at least once a week. And while I’m HUGE fan of roasting and sautéing those little beauties, that can get boring.

But if you’re looking for a good time, go ahead and add some cheese. Cheese tends to make everything better, right? And brussels sprouts are no exception.

Most grocery stores have pre-bagged brussels sprouts but if they’re available on the stalk, go for that. It might fit a little awkward in your fridge but they’ll taste fresher and last longer.

Brussels Sprouts Gratin
1 lb of brussels sprouts, ends trimmed
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt & pepper
½ cup of light cream
3/4 cup of shredded white cheddar cheese
½ cup of breadcrumbs
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter

Heat your oven to 400º.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the brussels sprouts and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until tender. Drain and then roughly chop.

Lightly grease a 9×7 baking dish with cooking spray and then add the chopped brussels sprouts. Add the red pepper flakes, season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Pour the cream over the top and sprinkle with the cheese and breadcrumbs. Then place dabs of butter around the dish. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. Let cool slightly and then eat.

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Heat Up

winter minestrone

hot & hearty

So far it would seem 2014 is only about one thing. Care to take guess, people? No? Well, I’ll just tell you.

It’s cold. Cold, cold, cold.

But fortunately, that means we’re smack-dab in the middle of soup and grilled cheese season. And you simply can’t have soup and grilled cheese season without a hot bowl of soup. Duh.

Normally I prefer my grilled cheese with tomato soup, but as any 6 year old will tell you, pretty much any hot bowl of soup is perfect for dunking your sandwich. This hearty minestrone uses a healthy portion of winter vegetables, tomatoes and beans to create a grilled cheese worthy soup – that tastes just as good on its own. It also doesn’t take too long to go from stockpot to soup bowl so you can eat up and heat up in no time.

Winter Minestrone
1 medium onion, chopped
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with basil, garlic & oregano
1 small butternut squash, cut into small cubes
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 15 oz can of navy beans, rinsed & drained
½ to 3/4 cup of ditalini (or other small pasta)
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

In a large stockpot, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, 3/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are soft, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes (including juice) and simmer until thickened, about 8 minutes. Add the squash, carrots, beans and 6 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Add the pasta and simmer until tender.

Right before serving, stir in the grated Parmesan. Ladle into bowls and then eat along with a grilled cheese sandwich.


Falling for Risotto, Again

maple pumpkin risotto

who’s up for a round of squash?

Guys, I think I have another food obsession. Everyone (everyone who regularly reads this blog, that is) knows that I’m obsessed with chicken. And eggs. Duh.

But after searching through my recipes, there are a lot that involve squash. Zucchini. Butternut. Acorn. And like this risotto, pumpkin. If you asked me when I was a kid – heck, if you asked me 5 years ago – I would have said that I didn’t like squash in any form. It was squishy and gross and bland. Oh, how naive I was. Squash is nothing like that. It’s sweet and rich and earthy. And crazy versatile.

Which brings me to pumpkin. Most people are used to seeing squashes in all kind of dishes this time of year, but pumpkin still seems to be something we just carve up or bake into a pie. Seasonal lattes aside, there’s more to pumpkin than just that. And risotto, with it’s creamy, fluffy rice, is the perfect base for this autumnal flavor. And please don’t get put off by the somewhat laborious process of making risotto. It’s worth it in the end, I promise. Would this squash fanatic lie to you?

Maple Pumpkin Risotto
2 cups of apple juice or cider
3 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 ½ cups of diced leeks
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
2 cups of Arborio rice
1 cup of white wine
1 15oz can of pumpkin puree
3 tablespoon of maple syrup
2 tablespoon of grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
Salt & pepper
4 slices of maple-glazed bacon, cooked & crumbled (optional)

In a medium sauce pan, combine the apple juice and stock and warm over low heat.

Heat the butter and oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until soft and slightly caramelized, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the rice and wine, and cook until the wine has been absorbed.

Next, add ½ cup of the juice/broth mixture to the rice and stir frequently. When fully absorbed, add another ½ cup of the mixture. Repeat this process until all of the juice/broth mixture has been absorbed into the rice, or until the rice is al dente. The rice should nearly double in size, so use that as a gauge, too.

Stir in the pumpkin puree, maple syrup and Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Plate, garnish with extra Parmesan (and bacon), and eat.

(*Also, I realize putting maple-glazed bacon on this doesn’t make it meatless. But I’m not saying you HAVE to put it on there. But I am telling you it tastes pretty good if you do.)


¡Lime-a Beans!

jalapeno-lime refried beans

holy frijoles

No no, I don’t mean lima beans. Although I have nothing against those. I’m talking lime. And also jalapeño. Which is such a tasty combination, made even tastier mashed with cannellini beans.

Storytime: Refried beans used to gross me out as a kid. I never understood how or why they were fried, and then fried again. Who would do such a thing? They also kinda looked like dog food to me. Or what I perceived as dog food because we didn’t have a dog. But then one time, somewhere, I actually tasted them. Mmm, creamy and spicy. And I loved them. Now, a Mexican dish doesn’t seem complete without a side of refried beans. Later on I did some research into the name, and found out that it’s a mistranslation. It’s not re-fried. It’s actually closer to well-fried. So there you go. And here’s an easy recipe for jalapeño-lime well-fried beans.

Jalepeño-Lime Refried Beans
½ small yellow onion, decided
1 jalapeño, finely diced
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 15.5oz can of cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of lime juice, or more depending on taste
Jalapeño hot sauce
Vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
A few sprigs of cilantro, for garnish

In a cast iron skillet, heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the jalepeño, garlic and cumin, and cook 1 minute until fragrant. Add the beans, 4 tablespoons of water and season with salt and pepper. Cook on low until beans are soft and liquid has mostly been absorbed, about 10 minutes. Off the heat, add the butter and mash the beans until they’re the consistency you prefer. Stir in the lime juice and hot sauce to taste. Garnish with cilantro, and then eat.


Putting on My Suit and Bow-tie Pasta Salad

broccoli, grape & bow-tie pasta salad

let me show you a few things

Summer cooking should be easy. And nothing is easier than this pasta salad.

Well, except for ordering take out. Although that still requires some effort. Answering the front door is hard you guys, just about as hard as figuring out what to tip the delivery guy. For that matter, why are you even ordering food when there’s a fridge full of perfectly good ingredients in the very next room? Get off your lazy duff and go make some dinner!

See, that’s the kind of conversation I have with myself on a weekly basis. If I only were able to motivate myself like that for other things, like going to the gym or cleaning out my junk room. Oh, I know: because those aren’t nearly as fun as cooking, or eating. It’s the eating part that really persuades me.

Broccoli, Grape & Bow-tie Pasta Salad
8 oz of bow-tie (farfalle) pasta
2 broccoli crowns, cut into small pieces
2 cups of red seedless grapes, halved
½ cup of mayonnaise
1/3 cup of red wine vinegar
1/3 cup of diced red onion
1 teaspoon of garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
½ cup of chopped pecans, toasted

Cook the bow-tie pasta al dente, and then drain.

In a large bowl, whisk together the mayo, red wine vinegar, red onion, garlic salt and pepper. Add the hot pasta, broccoli and grapes, and toss to combine. Cover and chill at least 3 hours.

To toast the pecans, heat your oven to 350º. Place the pecans in a shallow baking dish and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.

Stir in the toasted pecans right before serving. And then eat.


Frittering Around

corn fritters

fried & true

You know what I like? Lazy Sundays. When there’s nothing on your schedule, you’re free to catch up on crappy TV or read a good book (or a good-bad book) or leisurely make yourself dinner.

You know what’s easy? Removing kernels from a cob. I know they make gadgets that do that now, but why bother? A knife will do just fine. Plus, it’s very satisfying running your knife down the side of an ear (that sentence sounds scarier than it actually is, btw) to make little strips of kernels fall off.

You know what’s weird? Those little white hairy threads that you find between kernels of corn.

You know what’s really tasty? Hot corn fritters with lime aioli on top. If you’ve ever squeezed fresh lime juice on your salt and peppered corn, you’ll understand how awesome and refreshing a combo that can be.

Corn Fritters with Lime Aioli
For the fritters:
½ cup of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/3 cup of 2% milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups of fresh corn kernels (about 2 to 3 ears of corn)
½ cup of scallions, finely diced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil

For the aioli:
3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
2 tablespoons of lime juice
1 clove of garlic, minced

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and the baking powder. Add the milk and egg and whisk until smooth. Add the corn, scallions, red pepper flakes and 1/4 teaspoon of both salt and pepper. Chill in the fridge for about 10 minutes.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Drop 1/4 cups of batter into the skillet (don’t overcrowd the skillet) and cook until the top bubbles and the edges are golden, about 2 minutes. Flip the fritters and cook another 2 minutes or until golden. Place on a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Continue with the additional batter, adding more oil as necessary, until all the fritters are fried.

corn fritters 2

you know what’s a good supper? these fritters

To make the aioli, combine the mayo, lime juice and minced garlic in a small bowl. Top with each fritter with a dollop of aioli.


Chip In

zucchini chips

betcha can’t eat just one

Okay, for those of you keeping count (and I do hope some of you are), it’s been more than 2 weeks since my last post. Don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong – I’m still making eggs and crafting bad puns. I’ve just taken a little time off to rest and recharge.

A quick recap: I got a bad sunburn. I’ve nearly melted due to the oppressive Boston humidity. I spent some time way (way) up in Maine with my friends. I’ve been testing and re-testing new recipes, some that will definitely find their way onto this blog in the near future, including a cake that just might have done away with my long-standing notion that “I don’t like cake.” But more on that later.

For now, I’m offering something quick and easy and tasty. My old friend zucchini is back for a visit, this time in crispy chip form. These little guys would make a great alternative to potato chips, or even french fries. I thought about concocting a complementary dip for them, but you know what? They don’t need it. They’re that good on their own.

Zucchini Chips
1 large zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices (the mandolin is your friend)
½ cup of breadcrumbs, plus more if needed
2 teaspoons of Adobo seasoning
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
3 tablespoons of milk
Cooking spray

Heat your oven to 425º.

Combine the breadcrumbs, Adobo seasoning and pepper in a shallow dish. Put the milk in another shallow dish. Dip the zucchini slices in the milk and then dredge in the breadcrumb mixture. Place the slices on a wire rack lightly coated with cooking spray, and then place the rack on a baking sheet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until browned and crisp.