This blog post has been compensated by Dairy Farmers of America, Inc. All opinions are mine alone. #LaVaquitaCheese #CollectiveBias #Ad
All hail the mighty casserole. She comes in many forms - often smothered in cheese and packed with flavorful layers. They are made to please a crowd, feed a small army, and reheat with ease. My personal favorites usually involve vegetables while my husband prefers casseroles that focus on pasta.
Vegetable lasagna puts together the best of both worlds, and like casseroles in general, the concept of vegetable lasagna has been reinvented over and over again. For this recipe, I decided to combine savory roasted eggplant and red bell peppers with crumbled queso fresco in a roasted tomato sauce. Replacing traditional ricotta cheese with queso fresco gives this casserole a firm, hearty texture.
I used La VaquitaⓇ Queso Fresco, a local Texas brand in this recipe. La Vaquita® was founded by Maria Castro in 1971. Castro began making the cheese from her Houston home shortly after immigrating from Mexico.
Using a traditional recipe she learned from her grandmother, Castro began making batches of cheese to share with friends and neighbors in Houston. Over 40 years later, La Vaquita® authentic Mexican cheeses and cremas are an important part of Texas' food identity!
Like ricotta or feta cheeses, queso fresco does not melt when heated, but remains firm and crumbly. The mild flavor and delicate crumbly texture of queso fresco is perfect for stuffing casseroles. La Vaquita® Queso Fresco has the classic mellow flavor I expect in a great queso fresco. For a sharper flavor, try using La Vaquita® Queso Fresco Salvadoreno instead.
Included are steps and ingredients for making a fresh tomato sauce using roasted garlic and tomato. To simplify this lasagna recipe, just omit the tomato, onion, and garlic, and skip steps 2 to 4. You are welcome to use a 16-ounce jar of marinara sauce instead.
Roasted Vegetable Lasagna with Queso Fresco
A delicious layered casserole stuffed with crumbled queso fresco, savory roasted vegetables and fresh tomato sauce.
- 1 16-ounce package lasagna noodles,
- 5 pounds roma tomatoes
- 1 medium sized onion
- 1 bulb garlic
- 1 large eggplant
- 4 small red bell peppers
- ½ cup frozen spinach
- 4 tablespoons minced fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ cup olive oil, divided
- 16 ounces La Vaquita® Queso Fresco crumbling cheese
- 16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
- salt and pepper, as needed
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a generous pinch of salt to the water, then cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions. Do not overcook. Al dente noodles work best in lasagna. When the noodles have finished cooking, drain them quickly and rinse with cold water to cease cooking.
- Preheat oven to 450°F. Slice the top ⅓ of the garlic bulb off, exposing bulbs. Brush the exposed bulbs with oil and place in small oven-proof bowl or crock. Set aside.
- Cut tomatoes into quarters and remove seeds. Peel and chop onion. Combine tomato and onion in a large bowl, season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss together. Spread mixture onto baking sheet. Roast tomatoes, onions, and garlic bulb for 15 minutes. Remove garlic from oven, then set oven to broiler and broil for 10 minutes. Pop garlic cloves from peel when cool enough to handle.
- When tomato mixture has cooled enough to be handled safely transfer them to a blender. Add peeled garlic cloves, tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoon salt. 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, and puree until smooth. Stir in 2 tablespoons minced basil.
- Set oven back to 450°F. Peel eggplant and cut into ¼ inch slices. Spread slices out on baking sheet lined with parchment. Brush slices with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Line a second baking sheet with parchment. Toss whole peppers with 1 tablespoon olive oil and place on baking sheet. Roast peppers and eggplant for 20 - 30 minutes or until eggplant is tender and peppers have developed brown or black spots.
- Fill a large bowl or pot with water and ice. Drop roasted peppers into ice bath and allow them to cool for several minutes. Use your finger to peel the skin, stems, and seeds from the peppers. Reserve the peeled flesh in a small bowl and discard the rest. Chop the roasted flesh into strips.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush the bottom of a 3-quart casserole dish with olive oil, then place 3 lasagna noodles into the dish. Top with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Place the eggplant slices down to create the next layer, followed by about ½ of the La Vaquita® Queso Fresco.
- Place 3 more noodles down, and another layer of sauce followed by about ½ the shredded mozzarella, and ¾ roasted peppers.
- Place 3 more noodles down, and another layer of sauce followed by the second ½ of the La Vaquita® Queso Fresco and the frozen spinach.
- Place 3 more noodles down, and add one last layer of sauce followed by the remaining mozzarella cheese and red peppers. Sprinkle remaining basil over the top.
- Bake finished casserole for 45 minutes. Switch oven to broiler and broil for 5 minutes to brown cheese. Let lasagna stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.
I shopped for this recipe at my local Fiesta. Fiesta carries a great selection of La Vaquita® products including quesos and cremas. You can check them out on Facebook as well. Make sure to look for Ibotta offers for a good deal.
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #thetalkofthetable #CollectiveBias The following content is intended for readers who are 21 or older.
There is a time and a place for excess. Having someone special over for dinner or celebrating holidays with family and friends. These are not the times for quinoa or superfoods. These are the times for cream, parmesan and pasta. These are the evenings when you set aside the spring water and crack open a bottle of wine instead.
The recipes I reach for on special occasions are meant to delight and indulge the people I love. I don't just want to feed the crowd around my table. I want to hear them say "mmmmm". I want them to clean their plates and dream about that amazing meal for weeks to come. There is nothing more rewarding to someone who loves to cook and to feed people than being asked for a repeat on the next holiday.
This recipe is one of those meals that brings my loved ones back again and again. At home, we simply refer to this dish as Lemon Spaghetti. It's something I tend to whip up when I want to dote on people. You can top it with almost any kind of meat or seafood, but my favorite thing to use, by far, is a big fat pile of gulf shrimp.
I've never tried using lobster or scallops, but I have a strong suspicion that either of those things would be out of this world. Grilled chicken is also delicious on this pasta, and is a great option for more casual dinners or for a crowd that isn't as fond of seafood. If you are feeding vegetarians, just top the dish with any kind of hearty roasted vegetable. Peppers, eggplants, or zucchini would all be perfect.
Creamy pasta and seafood go very well with a chilled glass of chardonnay. Clos du Bois Chardonnay is a favorite at our house, so I was delighted to pair it with this dish. This bright and refreshing white wine has a low-medium oak flavor with a mildly sweet and fruit-forward flavor. It's oak flavor is well balanced and not at all overwhelming. The flavor and value of Clos du Bois Chardonnay makes it a super approachable wine that you can enjoy at special occasions or as an everyday house wine.
When it comes to making pasta-focused dishes it stands to figure that your choice in brands of pasta is an important one. Barilla, who I have partnered with for this post, happens to be the #1 choice for packaged pasta in Italy! If it's good enough for Italy, it's good enough for us. Barilla is a brand I reach for often. Simple ingredients, consistent quality, and a reasonable price point are all big wins when it comes to pasta. Barilla is a good fit for all three.
Lemon Scampi with Gulf Shrimp and Roasted BroccoliA quick and easy breakfast bowl made with sweet potato, spinach, avocado, and egg.
- 3 cups fresh broccoli florets,
- 1 pound fresh gulf shrimp
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- salt, as needed
- black pepper, as needed
- 1 pound Barilla Angel Hair Pasta
- 4 tablespoons butter, divided
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ white onion, minced
- 1 cup heavy cream, divided
- 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) cream cheese
- ¼ cup grated parmesan
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley
- 4 lemon wedges
- Preheat oven to 450F. Toss broccoli with 2 tablespoons oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon black or crushed red pepper. Roast on baking sheet for 20 minutes.
- Add a hefty pinch of salt to a large pot of water. Heat on stovetop over high heat, covered, until it comes to a rolling boil. Add pasta. Stir. Boil for 5 minutes before draining and rinsing with cold water. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, peel and devein shrimp. (Instructions here.) Toss with ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, ⅛ teaspoon black pepper.
- Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil. When the pan is sizzling hot, place shrimp in pan. Cook shrimp 2 minutes, flip over, cook 2 more minutes. Remove shrimp to dish and set aside.
- Add 2 more tablespoons butter to pan along with garlic and onion. Cover, and cook over low heat for about 3 minutes, or until onions clear.
- Remove cover. Add heavy cream and bring to simmer over medium heat. Whisk in cream cheese, then add remaining ½ cup heavy cream. Bring back to simmer and slowly whisk in grated parmesan. Whisk until cheese melts completely (about 2 minutes).
- Turn off heat. Whisk in lemon juice. Toss pasta into sauce.
- Divide pasta between 4 dishes. Top with broccoli, shrimp, and wedge of lemon. Lemon should be squeezed over pasta right before eating.
What are your favorite recipes to feed friends and family? Do you have a special dish that keeps them coming back for more? I'd love to hear what you are cooking up.
Need some inspiration for your next big meal? Visit The Talk of the Table to discover even more delicious ways to pair Barilla Pasta and Clos du Bois wines. For even more ideas, check out Barilla and Clos du Bois on Pinterest!
If you're looking to kick sugary or gluten-heavy breakfasts to the curb I encourage you to consider the sweet potato bowl. Slightly starchy root veggies provide a deeply satisfying base for a morning meal that is both hearty and delicious - especially with the help of few flavorful accoutrements.
For me, breakfast has long been a challenging meal. I grew up reaching for bagels or bowls of cereal, and even after spending my adulthood surrounded by brilliant food people I still struggle with finding ways to get away from that morning carb habit. It wasn't until I started leaning on sweet potatoes that I really got into a healthier breakfast groove.
It isn't always easy to set aside the time to make (or even eat!) a hot breakfast, but I almost always feel better when I do. I've managed to streamline the process a bit by cheating with frozen veggies, but you can make this even better by throwing some fresh kale into the steamer or roasting your own sweet potatoes ahead of time. Try swapping out kale for any other green vegetable. Chard, spinach, or asparagus would be great.
The sweet potatoes could also be replaced with another root veggie. Beets, turnips, or red potatoes would all be delicious ways to mix this recipe up. If frying an egg in the morning turns out to be too big a hassle, try using hard-boiled eggs instead or swapping the egg for a quicker pre-cooked protein like tofu, black beans, or grilled chicken.
Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowl
Makes one big serving
- 1 cup sweet potato, peeled, diced, and roasted (recipe here)
- 1/2 cup spinach, steamed
- 1/2 cup avocado, diced
- 1 egg, fried
- Optional garnish: lime juice, sriracha sauce, soy sauce, or Japanese mayo
- Prepare the sweet potato and spinach ahead of time in large batches. You can roast your own sweet potatoes at 350F for about an hour and steam your own spinach over simmering water for about 2 minutes. If available, you can use frozen pre-cooked sweet potato and spinach instead.
- When you are ready to eat, quickly heat the sweet potato and spinach in a microwave or toaster oven.
- Meanwhile, fry up a fresh egg (directions here) and dice up half an avocado.
- Throw it all together in a bowl and top with whatever garnishes you like. My personal favorite combination is lime, soy sauce, and a splash of hot sauce.
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SamsClubMag #CollectiveBias
People, it's really happening. Fall is here!
I am so ready. I've long been a summer person, but this year I spent most of the dog days here in Texas hunkered down inside my house with the air conditioning on. Maybe I was depressed - or just burnt out on sunshine or 100+ degree temperatures. Either way, I feel the fog lifting with every dropping degree and I couldn't be happier. There is nothing like that first cool, crispy breath of autumn. Every year in Texas it seems to look the same - painted with a bright blue sky and enjoyed by rolling down the car windows for the first time in forever.
Speaking of cool crispy things, how about apples? They are pretty much the quintessential autumn food as far as I'm concerned. I've been going a little crazy with them lately and I'm not even close to letting it go. This afternoon I put together a little something savory by pairing sweet apples with earthy mushrooms and savory miso. I don't want to make any promises, but these pork chops might just blow your mind.
They are moist and juicy, dripping with pan sauce, and stuffed with a blend of tasty autumn ingredients that couldn't be more seasonally appropriate.
This is one of those recipes that may sound a little more complicated than it actually is. The marinade, which is made simply by whisking together some key ingredients, doubles as a pan sauce when cooked along with the pork chops. Finishing the pork chops in the oven helps to keep the meat tender and juicy. Try serving this delicious main dish with hearty brown rice and a roasted vegetable like acorn squash or sweet potato.
Apple Miso Pork Chops with Mushroom Stuffing A sweet and savory stuffed pork chop recipe made with fresh apples and mushrooms. Serves 2 Ingredients:
- 2 4-ounce thick cut boneless pork loin chops,
- 2 tablespoons white miso
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon mirin (or white wine)
- 1 tablespoon roasted almond oil (or toasted sesame oil)
- 1/4 cup apple cider
- 1/3 cup sliced shallots
- 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1/2 cup sliced apples
- 1/3 cup sliced scallions
- salt & pepper to taste
- cooking oil, as needed
- Whisk together miso paste, onion powder, soy sauce, vinegar, and mirin until smooth. Add the almond oil and whisk until well-blended. Add the apple cider last, and mix once more. This is the marinade.
- Place the pork chops flat on a cutting board and slice them parralel to the board to butterfly the meat. Cut into the meat all the way to the far edge, stopping just before cutting through. This will make a sort of pocket in the pork chop. Repeat with the second chop, then pound both pork chops with a mallet to tenderize them.
- Coat each pork chop in marinade, then pack them into a close-fitting container or plastic bag along with the remaining marinade. Let the chops sit, refrigerated, for at least one hour.
- Prep the stuffing by slicing your ingredients as thinly as possible, and setting each aside in its own separate bowl. When you pork chop has finished marinating, preheat the oven to 350F, and set a large skillet over the stove. Turn the burner on to medium-high heat. When the pan is sizzling hot, add a few teaspoons of cooking oil to coat the pan.
- Fry the shallots first, cooking them for 3-5 minutes, or until the soften and clear just a little. Remove them from the pan, add a little more oil, if needed, and begin frying the mushrooms. It's important not to crowd the mushrooms during this step, so if you are working with a smaller pan, try frying just half of the mushrooms at a time. Cook the mushrooms for about 2-3 minutes, just long enough to brown them a little.
- When all of the mushrooms are cooked, add them back to the pan along with the shallots and the apples. Cook everything for about 1 minute, just long enough to warm the apples. Turn the heat off, then add the scallions and season with a dash of salt and pepper. Toss everything together, then transfer to a bowl and wipe out the skillet.
- Remove the pork chops from the refrigerator. Pull them from the marinade, letting the excess drip off, and reserve the remainder of marinade for later. Stuff each pork chop with prepared stuffing as full as possible. You may have more stuffing than you need. the remainder can be served as a side. Just be careful not to cross-contaminate the stuffing while filling the raw chops. That means don't use any utensil to touch the stuffing that you also use to fill the pork chops. In other words, no double dipping!
- Turn the skillet back on to medium heat. When hot, add a few more teaspoons of oil to coat the skillet, then carefully place the stuffed chops into the pan. Cook on each side for about 2-3 minutes, then pour the remaining marinade over the top of the chops, flooding the pan with sauce.
- Turn off the stove burner and cover the skillet with a lid or with aluminum foil. Place the covered skillet into the oven and roast for 8 - 10 minutes, or until a thermometer shows the internal temperature of the stuffed chops as 165F.
- Transfer the pork chops to plates and spoon the cooked marinade from the bottom of the pan over the top of each pork chop. Serve immediately.
I shopped for the main ingredients for my recipe at Sam's Club. The shelves were bursting with fresh ingredients like crispy salad fixings and seasonal fruits and veggies. I was especially impressed with their prices on apples and pumpkins. I may have to make another trip soon to work on more autumn goodies.
Sam's Club can be a wonderful resource for whole ingredients and natural cooking. The food selection includes a great range of produce, meats, and even seafood. Buying main ingredients like these in bulk is actually a really practical way to make cooking at home easier.
I like to stock my freezer with bulk ingredients so that I always have the basics I need to throw together an easy dinner. Not having to run to the store for ingredients before every meal can help save you time, money, and precious mental energy.
Sam's Club has its own online lifestyle magazine called Healthy Living Made Simple. The magazine offers insight on everyday health questions, fitness tips, and recipes for healthy seasonal eating. This month's featured seasonal ingredient is the mushroom! You can find out what makes these delicious earthy little nuggets a health hero in Healthy Living Made Simple's latest Superfood Spotlight.
Sam's Club also offers in-club health screenings for members on the second Saturday of EVERY month. The next screening will take place on October 8. (Check with your local Sam's Club for more details on this program.) Sam's Club offers hearing and vision services, a pharmacy, over the counter medications, and a great selection of basic ingredients for healthy cooking - all great resources for your healthy lifestyle.
Do you shop in bulk for fresh foods or natural pantry ingredients? Do you have any tricks to share for using up fresh produce quickly or keeping large purchases fresh longer? Shower us with your wisdom in the comments below.
I shared a recipe over on Sofab Food that makes breakfasts super-duper easy. Stuffed Breakfast Biscuits with Sausage and Egg are simple to make and re-heat in just a few minutes using a toaster oven. These little nuggets are hungry-hubby approved - though he thinks they would benefit from "dipping gravy".
Dipping gravy? Really?
Sometimes that guy makes me wonder. Anyway, you can check out my recipe for Stuffed Breakfast Biscuits over on SoFab Food.
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Randall's. Thank you Randall's for sponsoring this post. Check out the new Signature family of brands from Randall's, with more than 4,000 Signature products available and a 100% money-back guarantee.
Last week my younger sister made a joke about how she never bothers to clean her bedroom until she has more important things to do. I don't know about you, but that statement really sums up my signature style of procrastination - not to mention dieting!
It seems like every time I make a vow to live off of salads and water I come up with a brilliant recipe that either involves copious amounts of carbs, cheese, or bacon. This time I really went for it and made something with all three!
When I decide to make comfort food I really like to go all out. While the craving for salty, fatty, crunchy goodness could certainly be satisfied with a more traditional recipe - you know me. I like to put my own spin on things. I suppose that's my signature move in the kitchen, taking something classic and giving it an unexpected twist.
The inspiration for this recipe started with a few key ingredients that I received from Randall's. They asked me to work on a recipe using foods from their new NEW Signature line of products. We have a Randall's in our neighborhood in South Austin so this was a natural fit. CC and I have cruised those aisles many times and as a person who loves to cook, but also lives on a tight budget, I was delighted to learn more about this new line of products.
The NEW Signature line, available exclusively at Randall's, includes more than 4,000 items – from coffee to juice, soup to cereal, fresh produce to fried chicken, and delicious prepared foods to trusted home staples – all with a 100% money back guarantee. The Signature brand includes products across six product sectors – Signature SELECT™, Signature Kitchens™, Signature Farms™, Signature Cafe®, Signature Home™, and Signature Care™, including a wide assortment of pantry staples, delicious prepared foods, fresh produce and ingredients that bring delight to any dish.
With a whole store-full of Signature products to choose from I had to listen to my heart in order to choose a recipe to work on. Lucky for you, my heart was yearning for a big fat baked potato. I thought it would be fun to satisfy the potato craving by making gnocchi, a simple pasta dumpling made with mashed potato, flour, egg, and a pinch of salt.
Making your own gnocchi might sound a little advanced but if you have an extra ten minutes to spend on dinner I dare you to try it out. Gnocchi are simple to make compared to noodle pastas. The simple roll and slice technique I use to make my gnocchi is surprisingly quick and extremely forgiving, making it a great choice for your first adventure into homemade pasta.
What's your signature style? Randall's invites shoppers to join in the conversation by sharing Signature stories, photos and videos online using #MySignatureMoments.
Don't forget to enter the giveaway included at the bottom of this post. 40 lucky winners will receive gift cards so that they can check out Randall's new Signature products themselves!
Loaded Cheddar Potato Gnocchi
Makes six 1-cup servings
This rich and flavorful pasta dish will really stick to your ribs - even when served in small portions. Try pairing it with something a little lighter, like a crispy salad of iceburg or romaine lettuce or a plate of steamed broccoli.
For the Toppings
- 8 oz. sliced bacon
- 1 15.25-oz. (432 g) can Signature Whole Kernel Golden Sweet Corn
- 1 4-oz. (113g) can Signature Mild Diced Green Chiles
- 2 teaspoons Signature Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup shredded extra-sharp chedder cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh chives, minced
For the Sauce
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 2 ounces cream cheese
- 1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
For the Gnocchi
- 2 pounds Signature Red Potato, peeled and cut in halves
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
- 1 egg, beaten
- Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover them with cold water. Place the pot on the stove top and heat over high until it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let the potatoes simmer for about 30 minutes, or until they are tender enough to be broken up with a fork. Drain the potatoes and then mash or rice them until they are well smashed. Set aside to cool as you work on the rest of the recipe.
- Pre-heat the oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Place the strips of bacon on the lined sheet and then bake for 20-25 minutes, or until crisp and slightly brown. Remove the bacon from the oven and transfer the strips to a dish lined with several layers of paper towel.
- Next you'll make the cheese sauce. Start by warming the milk. You can heat the milk on the stovetop in a pan or in a heat-safe container in the microwave. It does not need to be brought to a boil but you'll want to get it nice and hot.
- Melt the butter in a medium-sized sauce pan over medium heat. Lower the heat if necessary. Be careful not to let the butter brown or burn. As soon as the butter has melted, add the flour and begin whisking. Whisk continuously for 1-2 minutes - until the mixture takes on a very subtle toasted smell. Whisk about 1/3 of the milk into the sauce pan and mix until it is totally dissolved. Add the rest of the milk, then increase the heat on the burner to medium-high or high. Again, you don't want the sauce to burn so be sure and whisk it continuously. When it begins to bubble reduce the heat back to medium-low.
- Add the cream cheese and stir until it has melted. Add the shredded cheddar and monterey jack 1/4 cup at a time, stirring well in between each addition. When all of the cheese has melted, add the salt and cayenne pepper. Give it one last good whisk before tasting it. If it's at all bland, try adding another pinch of salt. Turn the burner off and let the sauce sit as you work on the other parts of the recipe.
- Increase the oven temperature to 400F. Drain the canned corn and canned green chiles before tossing them together in a mixing bowl. Add the olive oil and black pepper. Crumble or chop the bacon into small bits and add it to the bowl. Stir the ingredients and then spread them out on a baking sheet. Roast for about 15 minutes - just long enough to slightly brown the ingredients.
- While the toppings are being roasted you can start the gnocchi. Set a large pot of water (with 1/4 teaspoon of salt) on the stove to boil. Whisk the flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl. In a second bowl, combine the egg and potatoes, then add the flour. Stir the mixture until it comes together. Knead for about 30 seconds. Cut the dough into four sections, then cover with a towel.
- Turn one chunk of dough out onto a floured surface and roll it into a long cylinder - about 1/2-inch thick. Slice the tube into 1/2-inch pieces, dust them with a little flour, and place them on a dish. Continue with the rest of the dough until it has all been cut. You'll only need half of the gnocchi for this recipe so you can freeze the rest.*
- When the pot of water has come to a rolling boil, add the gnocchi and let them boil for about five minutes - or until the pasta floats. Drain and rinse with cold water for about 20 seconds - just long enough to make sure they stop cooking.
- Stir the cheese sauce and reheat over low heat, if necessary. Portion the gnocchi into bowls, top with cheese sauce, shredded cheddar, the corn, chile, and bacon mixture, and fresh chives. Serve immediately.
*To freeze the extra gnocchi, spread it on a dish lined with wax or parchment paper. Place the dish in the freezer and let them freeze until they've hardened completely (about 1 hour). The frozen gnocchi can be stored in freezer bags for up to three months.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Randall's and White Wave Foods. My opinions are my own.
Like many almost two-year olds, my little CC can be a challenge to shop with. His fierce curiosity, unbridled enthusiasm, and tendency toward a rather LOUD form of self-expression can often leave me feeling exasperated. It makes something as simple as a quick stop for milk feel more like running a gauntlet than running an errand.
We're learning though. And I've discovered that there are some things that make the task a bit easier - like shopping carts with little cars attached to them. Our neighborhood Randall's always seems to have one of these wonder-carts available, which makes it a favorite place to do our weekly grocery shopping.
On a recent trip, my crafty little tot managed to escape his car and make a run for it. I thought I would have to chase him across the store but as I watched him hurdle his tiny body across the shiny linoleum I realized that he was on a very specific mission.
CC made a bee-line for a display we'd just passed, grabbed a package of Horizon cookies, spun around, and then returned triumphantly to the cart in order to drop them inside. He then got back in his car, buckled himself up, and honked his horn with delight.
"I need cookies!", he shouted.
This was a clear sign that my little boy had learned an important lesson; what goes in your grocery cart ends up in your body. While he hopes to fill our cart with snacks and treats, his Mama has a different set of priorities. When I go shopping I certainly want the products I'm bringing home to be delicious, but it's also important to me that they are healthy for my family and good choices for the environment. One easy way to help make sure we stay on track is to try and meet these goals one cart at a time. Every cart counts, so I try to fill each one with care.
I don't believe that there is one perfect diet or lifestyle, but I do think that it's possible to make a better choice today than I did yesterday. Instead of trying to make perfect choices I focus on making better ones. It's a perspective that helps keep me feeling inspired without getting hung up on whether or not I'm doing it right.
Whether your diet is paleo, omnivorous, vegan, or somewhere in between there are always opportunities for improving the healthfulness or sustainability of what lands in your grocery cart.
Eating fruits and vegetables is obviously a healthy choice, right? When I reach for a strawberry instead of a chocolate bar I'm on the right path and that's something to celebrate. The next day I might take it another step forward by making that strawberry organic or washing it down with some almond milk instead of dairy milk.
When you take that extra step to choose organic or try out a plant-based alternative to a traditionally meat or dairy-based product you are not only making a wonderful choice for your own health but also promoting a healthier environment. Here are a few examples of what I mean:
- Earthbound Farm makes use of over 50,000 acres for its organic farming operations, keeping synthetic chemicals out of the environment.
- It takes an average of 77% less water to produce one half-gallon of plant-based beverages versus conventional dairy milk.
- Brands like Silk and So Delicious participate in the Non GMO Project's Product Verification Program which helps provide transparency for consumers who choose not to consume genetically modified ingredients.
And just by choosing brands that promote and enact environmentally responsible practices you are supporting those ideas - making them more popular and more attractive to other companies and consumers. When you think about it, every grocery cart you fill is an opportunity to influence the world we live in. Those of us who have the privilege of having this kind of food choice available can make a real impact, one cart at a time.
From April 6 - 26, Randall's and White Wave Foods are celebrating Earth Month with the Every Cart Counts Promotion. Lucky shoppers nationwide will be randomly selected to have their carts paid for by White Wave Foods when their orders include one of the following products.
Participating items for the Every Cart Counts promotion:
- Earthbound Farm 5 oz. Salads (5 oz. Kale Italia/ 5oz Spinach)
- Earthbound Farm Frozen Fruits (10 oz. blueberries)
- Earthbound Farm Frozen Vegetables (8 oz. Frozen Kale)
- Silk Half Gallons (Almond Unsweetened Vanilla)
- Nutchello (Caramel Almond Cashew)
- Silk Dairy Free – Yogurt Alternative (Blueberry)
- Silk Creamer
- So Delicious Dairy Free Yogurt Alternative (Strawberry)
- So Delicious Ice Cream Pints (Coconut Vanilla)
- So Delicious Almond Milk (Unsweetened)
- So Delicious Creamer (Vanilla)
- Simply Pure Creamer (Vanilla)
- Mac and Cheese (Classic)
- Cookies (Cinnamon Graham)
- Cracker (Peanut Butter Sandwich)
- Aseptic Milk (Chocolate 6-pack or 12-pack)
- Essentials US (Vanilla)
- Clean Protein US (Vanilla MD)
- Protein & Greens (SM US Vanilla)
- Clean Energy US (Berry Infusion)
White Wave and Randall's asked me to share some recipes showing you how to utilize some of the participating products. Lately CC and I have been savoring our Saturday mornings together so for this post I decided to make breakfast!
Yogurt pancakes are one of my favorite ways to sneak protein into my carb-worshipping child. Their flavor and texture are a little different than traditional pancakes. Instead of a light and fluffy bite, these are made with a thick batter that yields something much more dense and chewy.
I like off-setting that texture with juicy fruits and berries. I used blueberry and banana in this recipe but feel free to experiment with other fruits like peaches, strawberries, or apples. A dollop of something cool or creamy would be a nice addition as well. Ice cream? Whipped cream? Coconut cream? You see where I'm going with this, yes?
Vegan Berry & Banana Yogurt Pancakes
Makes about seven medium-sized pancakes
These dense and chewy pancakes are packed with plant-based protein and sweet, juicy fruit.
- 1 tablespoon flax seed meal
- 3 tablespoons water
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 4 5.3-ounce containers Silk Dairy-Free Yogurt Alternative (Blueberry)
- 1/4 cup So Delicious Almond Milk (Unsweetened Vanilla)
- 1 banana, peeled and diced
- 1/3 cup Earthbound Farm Frozen Blueberries
- Combine the flax seed meal and water in a small dish and let it soak for at least five minutes.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and baking powder.
- In a second mixing bowl, mix together the Silk Dairy-Free Yogurt Alternative, So Delicious Almond Milk, and the flax seed and water mixture.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet, creating a thick batter. Fold in the banana and blueberries.
- Heat a frying pan on the stove top over medium-low heat. When the pan becomes very hot grease it with a small splash of cooking oil.
- Scoop about 1/2 cup of batter onto the pan and gently spread it into a circle using the back of a spoon. Cook for 2-4 minutes on each side, until the crust is golden-brown and the center of the pancake becomes firm.
- Transfer to a plate and serve immediately with whipped cream (find a vegan recipe here), syrup, or applesauce.
I also whipped up a protein smoothie for those mornings when breakfast goes a little more quickly. This recipe is a favorite with my husband who prefers drinking his greens to eating them. While I am pleased as can be with a bowl full of steamed kale, Scott Bobleo doesn't really get down with green veggies as often as he should. So while I would love for him to start chowing down on kale salads he would much rather start the day with a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. I'm glad to see him making a better choice by heading to work with a green smoothie in-hand.
Vanilla Coconut Protein Smoothie
Makes two 10-oz servings
This sweet shake is loaded with protein and nourishing vitamins. It uses a sweetened nut-milk beverage called Nutchello, which provides a dessert-like flavor with a relatively modest amount of sugar. For a less sweet version of this smoothie, try substituting the Nutchello with Unsweetened So Delicious Almond Milk.
- 1 frozen banana, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 cup ice cubes
- 1/4 cup Earthbound Farm Frozen Kale
- 1 scoop Vega Essentials Protein Powder (Vanilla)
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
- 1 1/2 cups Nutchello (Caramel Almond Cashew)
- Place the frozen banana, ice cubes, and kale into a blender followed by the Vega Essentials Protein Powder, shredded coconut, and Nutchello.
- Blend on low for 30 seconds, then on high for 1 minute.
- Pour into a glass and enjoy immediately.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Albertsons Safeway. The opinions and text are all mine.
It seems the more complicated things become outside of the kitchen the more I find myself craving simplicity within its walls. Cooking has always been calming to me, but now my floors are constantly sticky and my counter tops seem to be forever piled with madness. My little hideaway just doesn't promise the same meditative quality that is once had. In those rare moments when I do actually clear the counters, empty the sink, and pull out my chef's knife I am often way too exhausted to consider making anything more complex than a a bowl of cold cereal.
Such is the state of things that roasted vegetables on a sheet pan is now a grandiose task. A few minutes slicing up brussel sprouts (though I would have gladly purchased these pre-shredded had the stars aligned to make it so), a quick toss in a bowl with some diced butternut squash, oil, salt, and pepper, and into the oven it goes. My weekday masterpiece!
I hope you'll enjoy this too. For all of you out there with toddlers I encourage you to go ahead and buy your squash pre-diced and your sprouts pre-sliced. Those of you without kids had better damn well get your knives out though. I need to know that someone out there is chopping - even if I can't. Do me a favor and tag me in some action shots as you get busy with your cutlery. It will give me a thrill to slice vicariously.
Roasted Squash and Brussel Sprouts
Makes about six 1-cup servings
This simple recipe can be used to prepare almost any combination of hearty greens (think: kale, collards, or chard) and hard squash (pumpkins, acorn squash, delicata). I like to add a little lemon and parmesan on everything once it comes out of the oven but I encourage you to experiment with other flavors, like a splash of soy sauce or balsamic vinegar and a shake of toasted sesame or crumbled goat cheese. It's really quite versatile!
- 12 ounces (about 2 cups) brussel sprouts
- 2 pounds (about 4 cups) peeled and diced butternut squash
- 3 tablespoons cooking oil (try olive oil, ghee, coconut oil, or melted bacon fat)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 lemon (optional)
- 2-4 tablespoons grated or shredded parmesan (optional)
- Preheat oven to 450.
- Slice brussel sprouts as thinly as you can manage. (Watch out! They are quite wiggly.)
- Toss brussel sprouts and squash with oil, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl.
- Spread veggies over a sheet pan lined with parchment or silpat. Use two pans if necessary. Do not crowd them.
- Roast for 60 minutes, turning halfway. If the sprouts are not yet tender after an hour, roast for an extra 15 minutes. The exact time may vary depending on the thickness of the slices.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle with lemon juice and parmesan.
This is what happens when husband and wife start competing over the waffle iron.
My dear hubby has been on a waffle kick lately - stuffing everything imaginable into the sizzling jaws of his new favorite small appliance. You wouldn't believe the kinds of things this guy wants to waffle.
Things like meatloaf - I kid you not.
His man-waffle obsession inspired me in a different direction. This shredded veggie waffle uses the same recipe I shared a while back for Japanese Okonomiyaki, a simplified spin on the veggie pancakes I used to enjoy in my restaurant days. It isn't super crunchy, but the texture is fun and serves as an excellent vehicle for Sriracha.
What more could you ask?
More Mary-inspired waffles are on the way. I'm thinking crab cakes next, or maybe pad thai? Scott Bobleo insists on keeping his own waffle recipes top secret for now. Don't ask me why. If I told you I would have to kill you.
Makes about 3 waffles, enough to serve six
These simple vegetable waffles are made with an easy, flour-based batter and a cup of shredded vegetables. I used a mix of carrots, yellow squash, and zucchini, but I would encourage you to experiment with other veggies too. Broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, and onions are a few other ideas. Garnishing the waffles with Japanese mayo, Sriracha sauce, chopped cilantro, sliced jalapeno, and scallion gives this recipe its real flavor. Sometimes I like to add a splash of soy sauce or lime juice as well.
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup flour
- 2 cups shredded vegetables
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup sliced jalapeno
- 1/4 cup sliced scallions (green parts only)
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- Japanese mayo, to taste
- Sriracha sauce, to taste
- Preheat waffle iron to medium heat.
- Beat eggs and water together.
- Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Stir the egg and water mixture into the vegetables.
- Add the flour mixture to the vegetables and stir until well mixed.
- Grease the waffle iron well, then drop about 3/4 cup of batter into it. Spread the batter evenly before closing the iron.
- Cook the waffle for 4-6 minutes. It should be golden brown when it is finished.
- To garnish, drizzle with Japanese mayo and Sriracha sauce, then top with scallion, cilantro, and jalapeño (if you dare).
I used a new app called Simmer to record a quick video tutorial for this recipe. Simmer lets you watch and record step-by-step recipes using your smartphone. Pretty neat, and surprisingly easy to use. You can join me on Simmer here.
Do you know what I miss most about growing up in the Northeast? I miss the bread. The bagels, the hard rolls, the pretzels! It's just not the same anywhere else. Actually, I take that back - at least partially. I did encounter the same kind of bread outside of the tri-state (CT, NY, NJ) area once. It was during my trip to Italy - where I often turned a corner to discover a scene that could have been mistaken for my childhood in Yonkers. I'm not Italian by blood, but I am fairly certain my heart was adopted by way of my stomach long ago.
Anyway, bread. Oh bread! It's a wonder how the simple combination of flour and water can be transformed into so many amazing variations. It seems like the tiniest variance in recipe or technique results in a completely different product. Take pretzels and bagels for example. They are both simple yeasted breads that are boiled before being baked - yet they are each utterly unique foods.
The following recipe uses a soft pretzel to pay homage to its marvelous cousin, the Everything Bagel. (Don't get me started waxing poetic over Everything Bagels. I could go on and on.) The pretzels are rolled tightly into buns and then topped with an aromatic mixture of seeds, salt, and spices. After baking they are sliced open and stuffed with savory combinations of protein and cheese. These delectable little beauties are pretty much guaranteed to have you winning at brunch. I mean really. Who can compete? Marsha with her played out florentine quiche? Please.
Get out of here with that quiche, Marsha.
I didn't want to go overboard by trying to develop my own base pretzel recipe. I have used two different recipes with great success and encourage you to pick either one to use to make your dough, and to boil and bake your pretzels. The first is this Soft Pretzel Recipe From Alton Brown. It uses baking soda to boil the pretzels and is the easier of the two recipes to make. The second recipe comes from my good friend, Hilah, and is better suited to the more ambitious bakers out there. Hilah's taste better, look more amazing, and are enhanced by the magic of her proximity, but do take a little more doing. Check out Hilah's German Soft Pretzel Recipe to compare. (By the way, the recipe used in these photos was Alton Brown's)
These directions include fixings to make two different kinds of stuffed pretzels but you can certainly stick to just one type or the other if you have a strong preference. I would also encourage you to experiment with other types of fillings. Bacon, egg and cheese would be fun! Or you could get really adventurous and pull out some olives or pickled fishes. Vegetarians could opt for a roasted veggie and goat cheese combination. Basically anything you might find on a pretzel or a bagel would be great.
Stuffed Everything Pretzels
Makes twelve servings
- 1 batch of soft pretzel dough (Use Hilah Cooking's Recipe or Alton Brown's Recipe)
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon dried minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
- Breakfast Sausage, cooked
- Beer Cheese (Recipe) or Pimento Cheese (Recipe)
- Smoked Salmon
- Goat Cheese or Cream Cheese
- Fresh Dill (optional)
- Mix the spices, seeds, and salt together in a small bowl and set aside.
- Preheat the oven and make the pretzel dough according to the recipe instructions. After the dough has finished rising, cut it into 12 even parts and roll each of these parts into a tube.
- Tie the tubes into knots, tucking the tails of each knot under the bottom. This should make the pretzel look like a little roll or bun.
- Boil the bagels according to your recipe. After they have been boiled and placed on a lined baking sheet, brush each pretzel with the egg wash mixture. Sprinkle the spice mixture over each pretzel coating them liberally. (You may have some leftover.)
- Bake the pretzels according to your recipe, then let them cool for about thirty minutes.
- Slice each bagel in half as if it were a hamburger bun. Smear the beer or pimento cheese onto half of the pretzels, then stuff them with sausage. Smear cream cheese on the remaining pretzels and stuff with smoked salmon. A touch of dill would be nice too - if you have it handy.
If you are looking for a good excuse to consume way too much butter, a brown butter vegetable dish is a good choice. You've got the virtue of plant-power on your side, which pretty much offers a universal pass to go crazy with ingredients that would otherwise seem indulgent. Broccoli? Cover it in cheese sauce. Asparagus? Bring on the hollandaise! Spinach? Cream that mess.
Besides, anything with brown butter in the title sounds fancy, and fancy is almost as good an excuse for gluttony as vegetables. Now that we've got the justification out of the way, let's move on to this post's featured butter sponge, spaghetti squash! This toothsome veggie can vary in texture depending on how you prepare it. My current favorite method is roasting the squash whole, then cutting and shredding it afterwards. This gives you a slightly al dente squash as opposed to the softer bite that can result from steaming it or roasting it in halves.
Of course, you can do whatever floats your boat. If you'd like to try it my way, preheat your oven to 375F, poke some holes in the squash using a fork, then roast it on a baking sheet for about one hour. If you want to be extra conscientious you can turn it over half-way through. Let that puppy rest for about ten minutes after you remove it from the oven, then slice it open and remove its seeds. Shred the flesh with a fork, and you are all done. You can roast the seeds to use in place of the pepitas in this recipe - but only if you really love giving yourself extra work. I am lazy, so used store bought pepitas instead.
I used sweet potatoes in this recipe but feel free to swap that ingredient for any root veggie you like. Russet potatoes, parsnips, or celery root would all do nicely in its place. I also considered adding some sauteed spinach or kale, or sprinkling a little parmesan on top. The moral of this rant is, as always, to do what you want. If it tastes good to you it will probably taste good to everyone else. (And if not, at least YOU are happy.)
Brown Butter & Garlic Sage Spaghetti Squash
- 1 spaghetti squash, cooked and shredded
- 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil (or fat)
- 1/2 cup pepitas
- 1 stick butter (1/4 cup)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 sage leaves, minced (or 1/2 teaspoon dry sage)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 tablespoons chevre (or any soft cheese)
- Preheat the oven to 450. Toss the sweet potatoes with the cooking oil, then spread them onto a baking sheet. You can line the sheets with silpat or parchment to make cleanup easier, if you'd like.
- Roast the diced sweet potatoes for 15 - 30 minutes - until they are fork tender. (Cook time will vary depending on the thickness of the cut.) Set aside when finished as you prep the rest of the recipe.
- Place a small frying pan over medium heat on the stovetop. Place the pepitas into the pan, then toss as they heat through. Cook this way for about 2 minutes - just until they begin to smell nutty. Be careful not to let them burn! Set the seeds aside in a bowl when finished.
- Melt the butter over low heat in a deep skillet or frying pan. When the butter has melted, add the garlic, then increase the heat to medium. Cook the butter, stopping to stir and scrape the pan occasionally, until brown flecks begin to appear in the butter. Add the sage, then continue cooking until about half the butter has browned.
- Add the spaghetti squash, salt, and pepper, and toss together until the squash is coated and heat through.
- Divide the squash into four bowls and top with sweet potatoes, pepitas, and cheese.
Sometimes I like to roast up a huge baking sheet of broccoli and eat it piece by piece until I don't even want to think the word vegetable. This usually involves some pretty simple preparation - a dash of oil, a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Maybe when it comes out I might squirt some lemon over the whole thing. That's all I really need to enjoy myself: peace, quiet, and a savory snack. An added bonus to this particular pig-out is that I have noone to compete with. Under my nagging eye Scott Bobleo will grudgingly fill the requisite third of his dinner plate with green vegetables, but you would never EVER catch him snacking on a piece of broccoli for fun - no matter how much lemon was involved.
So I knew when I pulled a head of cauliflower from my Farmhouse Delivery box I would be eating the whole thing myself. While oil, salt, and pepper would have done the job handsomely I decided to spice it up by adding some Curry Powder. I'd recently tried the same ingredient on my popcorn. It wasn't bad, but butter, salt, and garlic powder remains my favorite way to address a popcorn craving. Anyway, I still had curry powder fresh in my mind, so onto the veggies it went.
The verdict? Curry powder is WAY more delicious on cauliflower than it is on popcorn. I could totally sit down with a bowl of this stuff and eat my way through a movie. Speaking of movies - have you seen any good ones lately? I find myself so far out of that particular loop that I don't even recognize the names on the theater signs as we drive by. Because I haven't seen any commercials or previews to accompany those names they all sound like jokes to me. I drive by and imagine each title as an SNL sketch. You can imagine my tittering when I saw the sign reading 22 Jump Street.
This makes me the worst person in the whole world to be stuck behind at a Redbox. Recommendations from the outside world would be most welcome. Once a week or so I get a chance to sit down with Scott and watch 1 or 2 hours of TV. It would be great if we could spend at least half of it actually WATCHING a movie instead of trying to think of something to watch.
So back to the cauliflower. Baking sheet, oil, salt, pepper, curry powder. Yes yes yes.
Curry Roasted Cauliflower
Makes 1 serving 4 servings
- 1 Head Cauliflower
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- a sprinkling of salt and pepper (to taste)
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Cut the stem off of the cauliflower. Trim the dry end from the stem, then use the tip of your knife to separate the little blooms of cauliflower from the stem. Slice them in half when necessary to make them all bite-sized. Dice the leftover stem. (That is - if you are into eating the stem - if not, chuck it. I won't tell anyone.)
- Toss the chopped cauliflower with the oil, then add the curry powder, salt, and pepper, then toss again until the curry powder coats the cauliflower pretty evenly.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat mat. Spread the cauliflower over the sheet evenly.
- Roast for 20 to 40 minutes (depending on how you like it cooked). Roast 20 minutes for chewy cauliflower and 40 minutes for crispy cauliflower. 30 minutes will get you somewhere in between.
- Taste, and add a little more salt if it seems at all bland. A little crushed red pepper wouldn't hurt either.
Disclosure: I was given a free copy of Texas on the Table to review from University Press, but I wasn't paid for this post or obligated to share it with you. My opinions are all my own.
I read a lot of cookbooks. It's one of my favorite things to do, and recently a few publishers started sending me copies of books to check out - which for a book-nerd like myself is really pretty thrilling. I've probably received about a dozen books this year, but only a few really stood out. Texas on the Table is one of those few.
It's a massive book, and packed with gorgeous photos. The book shares stories from Texas chefs and food producers, adding a rich background to each of the amazing recipes within. Most of the recipes aren't everyday fare, but they tend to focus on fresh whole ingredients, which is nice. These are the kinds of meals you might make for a holiday - or when you feel like spending a few hours in the kitchen fixing up something really special.
Being short on time lately my choices for recipe testing from this book were a bit limited. There were so many recipes I would love to make, but I didn't have time to glaze pecans or craft intricate sauces, so I ended up picking out Jack Gilmore's recipe for Shrimp and Cheesy Grits. Shrimp n' Grits happens to be one of my personal favorites, so the stakes were high. When I saw that Gilmore's recipe included blue cheese I had my doubts, but whoah mama, this stuff was GOOD.
This was easily the best Shrimp n' Grits I ever ate. The recipe worked like a charm, being easy to follow and incredibly tasty. We followed the book pretty closely but didn't bother to hunt down either of the blue cheeses Gilmore reccomends. We actually just grabbed the generic store brand. Nor did we grow our own tomatoes for this dish. That would have taken a bit too long.
We did use Gulf Shrimp - though that was not called for by name. It tickled us how specific Gilmore was about the brand of cheese and origin of the tomatoes, but not the the shrimp. Maybe it's just us. After all, we do come from a family of fishermen, so of course the shrimp seem much more important to us.
My mom and I ended up making this dish together along with another recipe from Texas on the Table, Mixed Green Salad with Cilantro Dressing. The dressing was really great - though a touch too spicy for my mom's sensitive toungue. I loved it - and drenched everything else I ate in the leftovers for days.
My mother and I both enjoyed the book so much that I expect I'll end up buying a second copy. It's too good to share.
On a side note, if you aren't familiar with Jack Gilmore, he's the chef and owner over at Jack Allen's Kitchen in West Austin. Since cooking this recipe we've enjoyed a few meals at Jack Allen's and it's now become a family favorite. He has his own cookbook out as well which is defnitely going on my wishlist.
Jack Gilmore's Shrimp and Cheesy Grits
(Recipe excerpt from Texas on the Table by Sandy Wilson. Shared with permission. Courtesy of University Press)
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup whipping cream
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup stone-ground grits
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled Veldhuizen Family Farm Bosque Blue Cheese, or substitute another Texas blue cheese, such as Mozzarella Company's Deep Ellum Blue
- 1 pound large (16 to 20 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined, tail section left intact
- Spicy Cajun seafood seasoning
- 6 smoked bacon slices, chopped into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup peeled, seeded, and chopped homegrown Roma tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
- 1 cup thinkly sliced green onions, including green tops
Combine the water and cream in a heavy-bottomed 4-quart pan over medium-high heat. Add salt and pepper to taste and bring to a full, rolling boil. Add the grits and whisk vigorously until the water is absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes; don't let them burn. The grits should be smooth and creamy. Remove pan from the heat and whisk in the butter and cheeses, makking sure they are well incorporated. Set aside to keep warm.
Rinse the shrimp and pat them completely dry. Toss with enough of the seafood seasoning to coat the shrimp heavily; set aside. Fry the diced bacon in a heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat until browned and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon pieces and set aside to drain. Add the onion to the pan and cook just until onion is wilted and transparent, about five minutes. Toss in the garlic and shrimp and cook, stirring often, just until the shrimp turn pink and are opaque throughout. Add the lemon juice, chopped tomatoes, parsley, green onions, and reserved bacon. Saute for three minutes.
Spoon a portion of the hot grits into individual rimmed bowls. Spoon equal portions of the shrimp mixture over each serving and serve immediately.
I've been missing my blog lately. So often I get a thought in my head and instead of letting it worm itself out through a quick post it lingers - trapped in my brain like a cat stuck inside a bedroom. I go about my daily work, taking care of the baby, working on edits for the book, testing recipes, writing for The Natural Beauty Workshop, and all the while I can feel it - a pair of furry little paws thumping away at the door. Let me out. Let me out! LET ME OUT!
So I decided to take a little break from my break and write a blog post (or three). Today's subject? Gratitude. Turkey Day is coming and it's one of my all time favorite holidays. It's going to be a little hectic this year with thirteen guests and one time-challenged host, but I'm sure it will all work out. I've asked my family to go heavy on the contributions so that Scott Bobleo and I can keep our end of the deal as simple as possible. We're making a turkey with all the trimmings but leaving sides, desserts, drinks, and hours d'ourves in the hands of the potluck gods.
There were a few moments this week when I felt so severely overwhelmed that the words "let's just cancel Thanksgiving" crossed my lips. Between book deadlines creeping closer and my little bundle of joy becoming more and more demanding, getting through a full-time workweek seems to have become a 24/7 endeavor. No matter what I'm doing, whether its cuddling the baby or even taking a shower this little voice in my head is constantly scolding me. "You should be working", she says. She's a real tyrant, and she can make all the good in my life feel awfully heavy.
So gratitude. Gratitude is that thing that keeps all of those other feelings (the dark and desperate kinds that tend to crop up when one is faced with a mountain of work) in check. Gratitude is the difference between breaking down in tears when your baby JUST WON'T TAKE A NAP AND I NEED TO GET THIS ARTICLE FINISHED and taking a deep breath and realizing that you were waiting to be inconvenienced by your very own baby for years. He's finally here, so I try to remember to be thankful for him - inconsistent sleep patterns and all.
Gratitude is what keeps me from giving up on the things I've worked really hard to cultivate: this blog, my book, my job. Right now I've got more than I feel I can handle, and I'm sorely tempted to box one of them up and ship it to Abu Dhabi. Then I remember how lucky I am that all this work is finally paying off. That gives me just enough energy to hope that if I stick it out eventually we'll find a way to make the pace more sustainable and less maddening.
Gratitude is what I feel for my friends and family who have helped support us through the hardest and happiest six months of my life. Our little guy will be six months old on Thanksgiving. So no, we're not going to cancel. We're going to celebrate.
Though the blog has been on hold, my appetite has not. We've eaten a shameful amount of takeout over the past two months, so much that I found myself craving greens with a serious passion. I had to have 'em. Collards, kale, spinach... if it's green I'm all about it. When I made up a batch of brussels sprouts I thought they were so pretty that they deserved to be shared.
Maybe you'll make a batch for your own Thanksgiving celebration. I'd be grateful if you did.
Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Raisins and Bacon
Makes about 10 servings
- 12 ounces bacon
- 2 lbs. brussels sprouts
- 1 red onion
- 12 ounces bacon
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 400.
- Cut the brussels sprouts into thin slices. This is easiest to do using a food processor with a slicing attachment or with a hand-held mandolin slicer. Slice the red onion in half, and then into thin slices as well. Toss the brussels sprouts and red onions together in a large heatproof bowl.
- Chop the bacon into 1/2 inch pieces. Heat a large skillet (cast iron if you have it) then add the bacon. Fry the bacon in the pan until it becomes crispy, stirring occasionally along the way.
- Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and into the bowl with the brussels sprouts and onions. Toss the ingredients together, then add one or two tablespoons of the bacon grease to the bowl. (Just enough to lightly coat the vegetables.)
- Spread the mixture onto two baking sheets lined with parchment or silpat mats. Roast them in the oven for 30 - 45 minutes, until the sprouts are cooked to your liking. I prefer them to be nearly burnt, but you might like them to be a little greener.
- Transfer the brussels sprouts back into the mixing bowl. Add the raisins, toss together, then add a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Taste, and add more if needed.
- Just before serving, squirt the sprouts with a little lemon juice.
Lately dinner at home has been a simple affair. Between taking care of CB, keeping up with my blogs, holding down a full-time job, and writing a book, I don't have a whole lot of time leftover to cook. Scott Bobleo has stepped up to the plate, staking his claim in our kitchen by making dinner several nights a week. Sharing my kitchen with my husband is a whole other adventure that I have plenty of feelings about, but I'll get into that another time.
Most nights dinner consists of a protein, prepared simply in a pan or oven accompanied by a veggie, and maybe brown rice or sweet potato. Every now and then, I still get the opportunity to take my time in the kitchen and whip up something really special. The last time my parents came to visit I took advantage of their enthusiasm for holding CB, and made up a massive plate of stir-fried noodles with grilled chicken, pickled veggies, and fresh herbs.
By the way, the rice noodles in this recipe are gluten-free, so if you also use tamari in the sauce you have an entirely gluten-free dish. Sweet! You can also feel free to swap out any of the pickled veggies according to what you prefer, or what you have handy. jicama, cucumbers, or pretty much any crispy vegetable that you enjoy eating raw will make a good pickle.
Can't handle the heat? Leave out the jalapeno and crushed red pepper.
Pan-Fried Noodle Salad
Serves 6 - 8
- 6 ounces rice stick noodles
- 1 pound chicken breast
- 2 tablespoon cooking oil (grape seed, coconut, etc.)
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 mango, peeled and sliced
- 1 bunch scallions, sliced
- 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
- salt & pepper to taste
Asian Quick Pickles
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into thin slices
- 1 golden beet, peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced (optional)
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 whole star anise
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari for gluten-free)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons cold water
- Soak the rice stick noodles in cold water, and let sit for 1 hour, then drain. Meanwhile, make the pickles.
- To make the pickles, combine the vinegar, water, salt, sugar, and anise in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour the hot brine over the sliced veggies and let sit for at least fifteen minutes. Serve at room temperature, or chill in the fridge until it's time to use them.
- To make the sauce, combine all of the sauce ingredients (except the cornstarch and water) together in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, the reduce to a simmer. Mix the cornstarch and water to firm a slurry, then pour the slurry into the simmering sauce, whisking continuously. Simmer the sauce for 1-2 more minutes, then remove from heat.
- Season the raw chicken with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Heat a skillet over medium. When hot, add the cooking oil to the pan. Now add the chicken. Fry on one side until golden brown (about 3-5 minutes), then flip. Continue to fry the chicken for another 3 - 5 minutes, or until cooked through. You can slice it open to check. It should be totally white and opaque all the way through. If you see pink, keep cooking it. You could also check done-ness with a cooking thermometer. Chicken is done at 165 F degrees.
- Remove the chicken from the pan when done. Add the sesame oil to the pan followed the drained rice stick noodles. Fry the noodles for about five minutes, then pour the sauce over the noodles in the pan. Toss the noodles and continue cooking as the sauce absorbs and the noodles soften. This will take 3 - 5 minutes. When the noodles are tender enough to eat they are done.
- Transfer the noodles to a large bowl or platter, then toss them with the scallions and cilantro. Drain the pickles, slice the chicken and mango, then add these to the noodles as well.
Scott Bobleo and I are still working on getting back into a rhythm when it comes to food. Baby Charlie tries to take it easy on us, but his needs and patterns can be pretty unpredictable. I've found that I can't really count on having time right before dinner to cook, so meals that are started way ahead, or can be prepared in several different chunks of time work out really well. Pot roast, for example, is pretty much a set it and forget it sort of thing. A quick sear, a splash of broth, a handful of herbs and spices, then it's into the oven for a few hours, giving me a huge window to cook a pot of rice and prep some kind of easy vegetable.
The only beef I have with pot roast (see what I did there?) is that it can be a little dull. The classic French flavors in most pot roast recipes are delicious and all - but after making a few roasts I started wondering how this classic dish could be reworked. I went for an Asian theme with this recipe, but really, you could make countless variations on a pot roast just by swapping out the herbs, spices, and cooking liquid.
Ginger & Lemongrass Pot Roast
Serves 6 - 8
Stromboli is more or less a big calzone stuffed with savory meats, cheeses, and vegetables. Back home in the North East, the broccoli variety is simple referred to as "Broccoli Bread". That crusty, cheesey, garlic-saturated bundle of deliciousness often haunts my dreams, it being one of those things you just don't see down here in Texas.