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Grilled Tomatillo Salsa

September is truly the golden month in Maine.
Still warm enough for boating or biking during the day.
Cool enough for a campfire or a cup of hot tea in the evening.

The farmers’ markets are still in full swing.
Berries have given way to apples and Brussels sprouts (yay!) are the new zucchini.
And how about these sweet little peppers? Soooo cute.

“Why?” you might ask.
Because I’ve always wanted to and never have. And because I’ve had this recipe hanging around for awhile and it seemed like the right time to give it a try.
I hope you do too. It’s tangy, spicy and smoky. Plus it’s an excellent accompaniment to grilled chicken or fish.
I wouldn’t mind it with some good tortilla chips either.

Grilled Tomatillo Salsa inspired by Rachel Ray

1/2 lb. tomatillos, husked and halved crosswise

1 small red onion, thickly sliced

1 fresh jalapeno, halved and seeded

1/2 tomato, preferably yellow, chopped

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

1 tsp. sugar

In a medium bowl, toss the tomatillos, onion and jalapeno halves with the vegetable oil and garlic. Season with salt. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat grill to high.
Remove vegetables from oil and grill until lightly charred. The tomatillos will cook much more quickly than the onion and jalapeno. Remove from the grill.
Chop all the vegetables and mix in a bowl with tomato, cilantro, lime juice, vinegar and sugar.

Grapefruit Yogurt Cake

As my dear local readers are well aware, we were blessed with another 10” of snow yesterday. School cancelled. Don’t you think the DPW should just attach a snowplow blade onto the front of the school buses and get two jobs done for the price of one? I certainly think so.

I also think we needed a little spot of sunshine in the midst of such a wintery day. So I made a Grapefruit Yogurt Cake. It smelled so fresh, tasted so light that I was momentarily transported to a warmer clime. Momentarily. Then the dog came in for something like the twelfth time, and shook off all the snow.

I got the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, a great recipe and food photo blog.

Grapefruit Yogurt Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsps. baking powder

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 cup plain whole milk yogurt

1 cup sugar, plus 1 Tbsp.

3 extra-large eggs

grated zest of one large grapefruit

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, plus 2 Tbsps.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.Grease an 8 1/2 x 2 1/2″ loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
In another larger bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, zest and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into batter, making sure it’s well incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester (or toothpick) placed in the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup grapefruit juice and the remaining 1 Tbsp. sugar in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Place a cooling rack over a baking sheet lined with wax paper.  Remove cake from pan, peel off parchment paper and carefully place on rack. Pour the juice/sugar mixture over the still warm cake and allow it to soak in. Cool completely.

Make a glaze with 2 Tbsps. grapefruit juice and 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar. Drizzle over cake, so some drips down the sides.

You could substitute any citrus fruit for the grapefruit. Lime would be delicious!

 

Granola? Yup, Granola!

Of all the things you’d expect me to make and give as a food gift this year, I’ll bet this one never even entered your mind…Granola.

Sure I could have gone the fudge route. I certainly have nothing against fudge. In fact, I probably like it a little too much.

I briefly considered – and rejected-  chocolate bark, almond toffee, coffee cakes, peppermint brownies, caramel sauce, chocolate truffles, even homemade marshmallows.
I’m pretty sure any of them would be warmly welcomed by my friends and my kids teachers.

But I went with granola.
You’re shaking your head in wonder, aren’t you? You thought you knew me.
Well guess what? I really like granola.
(But nowhere nearly as much as I like chocolate. Let’s not get ridiculous).
I went to college in Vermont where granola is the state food.

Granola is homey and healthy.
It keeps a long time.
You can package it in all kinds of cute jars and bags.
People are secretly glad for a break from all that sugar.
And the number one reason I made granola…
is because it’s wicked easy.
As we say in Maine.

This recipe is inspired by one that 2 Stews (a beautiful, very delicious blog) posted last spring. After a bit of trial and error (and burnt oats), I find this works well. I’ll give you measured amounts, but feel free to ignore them. Use any kinds of nuts you like, and any kind of dried fruit. I added some crystallized ginger because I am a little obsessed with it and I like the zing it adds.

Holiday Granola


4 cups of whole oats

1 cup shredded, sweetened coconut

1 cup slivered or chopped almonds

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

3/4 cup honey

3/4 cup maple syrup

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Line a heavy roasting pan with non-stick foil. Pour all of the ingredients listed above into the pan and mix well.
Roast in oven 10 minutes. Remove from oven, stir well and roast another 10 minutes.
Remove and stir it again. Place back in oven and roast until lightly golden, about another 5-8 minutes, checking often.
The edges tend to burn very quickly so keep an eye on it!

Remove from oven and allow granola to cool.
Mix in 1 cup dried cranberries (or other dried fruit) and 1/4 cup crystallized ginger, diced small.

That’s it.
Wicked easy, huh?

Pizza on the Griddle

Men might think they rule the house, but it’s really only on Father’s Day that you have to do whatever they want.
Well, maybe their birthday too. Luckily, the dad in this family is pretty easy to please.

And what’s that, honey? You want pizza for dinner? Oh what a surprise.

Pizza is my husband’s favorite food. He would eat it every night, given the chance. He certainly appreciates very good pizza, but will never turn down even a bad pizza. A couple of years ago we started making pizzas on a griddle.

What began as an experiment has grown into a family favorite. In the winter I’ll make them on a griddle pan stretched over two burners. In the summer, Bob gets to fire up his big new griddle and cook up the pizza outdoors (don’t read anything into this statement that isn’t there).

If you have never griddled pizza before, I highly recommend it. You get a nice smoky flavor and a crust that’s crispy on the bottom but chewy around the edges. I usually buy pizza dough at my grocery store, but I’m sure many of you will want to make it yourself. You can make one or two large pizzas, or you can divide the dough into several individual pizzas. We often do this, so everyone can top their own any way they like.

Brush one side of each piece with some olive oil, and place on the griddle, oiled side down. Cook for about five minutes, or until the bottom is golden brown and has some nice grill lines. We just started using an electric griddle to do this and if you have one with the grill lines on it, it makes for a smashing pizza with some extra taste that you can’t usually get with a traditional grill or oven.

Have your toppings ready, including the sauce (again, some of you will want to make this yourselves. That’s a nice thing and ambitious, but a good jar of sauce is fine) and cheese, plus whatever else you’re using. We like pepperoni, caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, and some chopped hot sausage. For cheese, you can use the traditional mozzarella or a combination, with Parmesan and asiago. Fresh mozzarella is also delicious.

Stretch the dough into whatever size you want using the “steering wheel” method. Divide the dough and use the heel of your hands to push it out, making a rough circle. Then hold the piece of dough at the top, like you would a car steering wheel, and keep turning. The dough will stretch and thin. Keep turning until you get a size you like. Be careful not to make it too thin, or it will burn on the griddle.

Remove from the electric griddle and place onto a large cookie sheet or cutting board, with the uncooked side up. Brush with olive oil and flip, so that the cooked side is now UP. Cover with the toppings (the kids love to do this). I also like to brush the edges with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt.

Place pizzas back on the electric griddle and cover for 5-10 minutes until cheese is nicely melted. When they come off the grill, sprinkle some fresh basil on top. What I like to do is melt some extra cheese when it’s done with the griddle. You can do this in a few minutes and it tastes amazing!

Jessica, over at the blog Griddle Chef, has some awesome griddle recipes and I just simply love her cooking style. Defintiely would encourage you all to check her out to get some good ideas on how to spice up your dinners using griddles. The best thing about griddles is that they are one of the healthiest materials to cook on and ever since I started using them about a decade ago, I haven’t gone back to tradtional pots and pans ever again.

Crustless Quiche for Graduation Brunch

Yesterday was one of those events that you know will come sometime, yet you’re never quite prepared for it.
When you’ve picked the thousandth Lego off the floor, when your three year old won’t sleep through the night, when you step on a Barbie shoe barefoot, when your kid won’t eat anything but white food, when they don’t get long division, you think this day is so far off, it’s unimaginable.

Then suddenly, there it is. High school graduation.

It was a beautiful June day, full of sunshine and anticipation.
One hundred and twenty five fresh-faced young adults, clad in blue and white robes, marched purposefully into the tent. They took their seats facing proud parents. There were encouraging speeches and music performed by a few from this very talented class.

In a small town, you know a lot about each other. Who’s going to what college, who’s working (or not working) where, and whose family needs a little extra hug and support. As each student came forward to accept his or her diploma, the cheering was loud and sincere. Parents and parents of friends who’d seen them grow up, were there now, one last time.


There was a cool breeze inside the tent, but so much warmth in the air that no one minded.

Afterwards, the kids indulged their parents as they snapped photo after photo. They tolerated all the hugs and congratulations with smiles and grace.

It was a beautiful June day that we thought was always a million years away.

Ok, of course you want to know, what did we eat?
For the five us, plus grandparents and an uncle, I put together a brunch that guaranteed no growling stomachs during the ceremony.

Crustless Mushroom, Spinach and Leek Quiche adapted from Baking Bites
(I think it’s better to have crustless quiche and save the calories for an extra piece of coffeecake)

1 medium leek, thinly sliced

6 oz. fresh baby spinach

4 oz. fresh white mushrooms, thinly sliced

3 large eggs

2 large egg whites

1/2 cup flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 1/3 cups milk

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400F.
Lightly grease a 10″ quiche or tart pan.
Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a skillet. When hot, add leeks and mushrooms. Saute until soft, but not browned. Add spinach and cook about one minute until it is wilted. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk in milk, then stir in vegetable mixture and cheese. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the center is set and the edges are golden brown.
Let set for at least 5 minutes before slicing.

I also made a second quiche that was very popular with the guys. Follow same directions, but swap out vegetables and Parmesan for smoked ham and pepper jack cheese.

Enjoy, because it’ll be gone before you know it.

Philly Cheesesteak Eggrolls

Philly Cheesesteak Eggrolls with Better Than “Cheez Whiz” Dipping Sauce

one of my favorite party pickup/appetizer items are eggrolls, and this East meets West combo is especially yummy.

Ingredients:

• 2½ cups chip steak
• ⅔ cup sweet onion, minced
• salt and pepper
• Oil, for sautéing and frying
• Egg roll wrappers, refrigerated
• 2 egg whites, slightly beaten

Instructions
1. Cut steak into very thin ribbons (easily done when meat is partially frozen). Drizzle a little oil in a frying pan, sauté onions over med-high heat until they start to soften then add the steak. After a minute turn heat on low and continue to cook until meat is fork tender. Remove from heat and season,to taste, with salt and pepper.
2. Pour oil into a deep fry pan (at least 1 inch high) and heat to 375 degrees.
3. Place a 2 or 3 heaping tablespoons of the filling onto an egg roll wrapper and roll up according to the instructions on package. (brush seams with egg whites helps them hold together a little better than just water)
4. With tongs, gently place uncooked rolls into the hot oil and fry for a couple minutes on each side, until the roll turns a golden brown.
5. Let cool on paper towels.
6. Slice each egg roll diagonally, lengthwise and serve each person 4 egg roll halves with individual bowls “Better Than Whiz Sauce” and Heinz Ketchup

“Better Than Cheese Whiz” Dipping Sauce

Ingredients:

8 slices or 1 cup American Cheese (Boars Head makes one of the best; or if lucky enough to live in the Mid-Atlantic region of the USA, Cooper Sharp CV, a delicious flavored American Cheese)

2 TBSP milk

Directions:

Break/Chop up the cheese and place in a microwave safe bowl. Add the milk. Microwave for about 3o seconds to a minute Stirring every 15 seconds until melted.

Beef or Chicken Chimichangas

While Fajitas and Tacos are my number one, a perfectly made Chimichanga is a very close third favorite Mexican food!

Ingredients
-4 large flour tortillas
-1 grilled or sautéed boneless/
skinless and thinly sliced, tender
steak or chicken breasts
-1/2 Vidalia or sweet onion AND
1 sweet pepper. sliced and sautéed
until caramelized
-1/4 lb Monterey Jack, shredded
Or a Mexican blend cheese
-Bush’s Black Beans, puréed Or
the more traditional refried beans
-Vegetable oil for frying

Plus: Mixture of slightly beaten egg white & a little bit of water mixed makes a great “glue” to seal edges.

Directions:
Lay out all four tortillas on a work surface. You’re going to put all the ingredients onto these and roll them up for frying.

Remembering to pile all the ingredients in the very center of the tortilla, allowing room to seal up tortilla for frying.

Add a couple of spoonfuls of beans into the center of your tortillas, and then divide up all the other filling ingredients into piles on top of the beans.

Take one of the tortillas, and roll it over once. Add some of your glue to the two ends, and fold them in towards the center.

Roll it again, and use some more glue to seal off the edge. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. (Note: If your tortillas are breaking, you can warm them up in the microwave a bit first, to make them more pliable.)

The deep fry method is best, but most people would rather shallow fry method. To shallow fry you want to add at least an inch of oil to your deep skillet, and heat it up over medium heat. When hot, (a little piece of tortilla starts bubbling immediately when dropped into the oil), add your chimichangas.

Do this in small batches, as you don’t want to over crowd the skillet and drop the oil temperature down too much. Fry for about 2 minute’s per side, or until crispy and golden brown.

Serve with your favorite salsa, hot sauces, and guacamole.

Tiny Bits Casserole

I don’t know about you but when I get about 2/3rds down in a bag of tortilla chips, there’s more tiny bits than chips..

Part of the cause for my dilemma is the vibration of the truck.. So tonight I wanted a plate of beef nachos..

I had so many tiny bits I made it a layered casserole instead.. And I like it better 😄

When your chips,

are crushed to bits,

just try this:

1 lb ground beef

1 or 2 large shallots

1 tsp of EVOO

Spices to taste : garlic powder, taco seasoning, dried cilantro and squirts of lime.. cumin too is awesome but I know many ppl don’t like it..

Heat skillet to medium high, add EVOO, then add diced shallots, cook til translucent.. Add hamburger, seasonings and just cook till browned..

Meanwhile, Preheat oven to 400 f  and add up to 2 cups of  the chip bits to make about a 1 inch layer in the bottom of a brownie pan..

Add burger, then top with shredded taco cheese and bake about 10 mins..  Remove from oven and scoop into servings..

Top with dollops of Greek yogurt or cottage cheese or sour cream.. avocado or guacamole

Bees Knees London Broil with Brussels Sprouts

Here is a slightly adapted recipe from the Brooklyn-based company, Bushwick Kitchen, makers of Bees Knees Spicy Honey

Ingredients:
1-2 pound flank steak
¼ cup Balsamic vinegar
2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
1 large shallot, sliced
2-3 medium cloves of garlic, smashed
¼ cup olive oil
2 TBSP Bees Knees Spicy Honey
½ tsp ground pepper
½ tsp sea salt

Directions:
Pat dry the flank steak and place into 1-gallon zip-lock bag
In a medium metal bowl, mix all ingredients (minus steak) with a whisk. Make sure to fully incorporate the honey.
Pour the mixture over the flank steak and carefully seal (or else you’ll be cleaning your fridge for days)
Marinade for 4-6 hours in refrigerator. Go have a beer or two.
1-hour prior to cooking, take steak out of refrigerator and place it aside
Turn grill on as high as humanly possible (heat = caramelization)
Grill to taste; I prefer rare which equates to about 5 minutes per side
Let the meat rest (under a tent of aluminum foil)on a cutting board for 10 minutes. Fight every urge you have to tear into the meat with your bare hands, as a rest allows some the juices to absorb back into the meat.

————————————

Brussels Sprouts

1 lb. of Brussels sprouts
3 slices of thickly cut pancetta diced into small cubes (ask your butcher for 1/4” slices)
1 medium shallot, very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
coarse ground black pepper, to taste
Bees Knees Spicy Honey, to taste

Directions:

Trim brussels sprouts of small stems and cut larger sprouts in half, leaving smaller sprouts whole. Rinse in a colander and set aside.

Heat oil in a large non-stick or heavy bottom skillet over medium heat. Once hot add diced pancetta and cook for 5 minutes until the fat starts to render, stirring frequently. Make sure to scrape the hardened bits of pancetta from skillet.

These are little pieces of heaven you surely don’t want to leave in the pan.
 
Add sliced shallots and crushed garlic to pan and cook until shallots are soft and garlic is fragrant, 3-5 minutes.

Add trimmed sprouts to the pan and pepper them, to taste.
 
Pan roast the sprouts on the stove for 30 minutes or until crispy. Once the sprouts are cooked add a heathy glob of Bee’s Knees Spice honey directly to the pan and stir to incorporate. Serve immediately.

If you want to check out all of Bushwick Kitchen’s delicious specialty honeys, maple syrups and more delicious recipes their website is:

Football Sunday Beef Brisket

For this recipe, you’ll need:

2-3 lb brisket
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup olive oil
4 tbsp brown sugar
4 garlic cloves, minced
cracked or coarse grind black pepper

Directions:

Place all ingredients except the beef in a bowl. Whisk until well combined.
Place the beef in a gallon-size zip-lock food storage bag. Pour marinade over beef in bag, squeeze excess air out and seal up the bag. Massage the marinade into the beef to make sure beef is completely coated. Place bag in refrigerator until ready to grill (at least two hours or as long as overnight).
**Make sure your charcoal or gas grill is very hot. Remove the beef from the marinade and wrap and seal up in no-stick or heavy duty aluminum foil.
Place foil-wrapped beef in the center of the grill and cook until desired doneness.

Approximately:
rare: 35 min
med rare: 45 min
med: 50 min
*The last ten minutes, remove foil to caramelize the outside of the meat.

**Or alternately,for delicious pulled beef sandwiches, pour all contents in crock pot. Place heat on high and cook for about 4 hours, or until fall apart tender. After resting the meat for ten minutes, shred apart the meat with two forks.

Apple Latkes On the Griddle

I am cutting it close, but I had to share a Chanukah recipe before the holiday was over. With eight days of the holiday you would think it easy to fit in making latkes, but this year I felt a little time crunched!

It was a goal to make latkes this week but it was feeling more like a chore than something I really felt like cooking, or even eating. It can be quite a process- the peeling, and grating, then frying… I decided that the best way to make it more exciting would be to add in an aspect of experimentation.

Latkes or latkas (לאַטקע) are traditionally eaten with apple sauce, so I decided there could be something interesting about incorporating the apple sauce flavor into the latkes themselves. Together with the traditional apple spices of nutmeg and cinnamon,  grated apple was added to the mix. I used a pink lady apple, but any variety will do. I chopped the onion and grated the potatoes and apple using my food processor which definitely makes the process less labor intensive. Although the thought of making latkes was a bit daunting, once getting started I was swept up in the holiday spirit and enjoyed it, feeling festive and connected to the holiday.

I was a little hesitant to serve my apple latkes to guests, not sure if the deviation from the traditional dish would be appreciated, but I’m happy to report they were a hit! These latkes are perfectly sweet, and just slightly spiced, a lighter pancake than the all-potato ones. They are delicious on their own, and of course you can still enjoy them with an apple sauce topping.

Half-Baked Apple Half-Baked Apple Latkes

3 medium Potatoes, peeled and grated

1 medium Apple, peeled and grated

1/2 large White Onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons Potato Starch

1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder

2 teaspoons Fine Sea Salt

1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Coconut Oil or Grapeseed Oil for Cooking

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 325’F. Wash, peel, and grate the potatoes using a food processor or grater. Transfer to a flour sack or tea towel and squeeze as much of the liquid out as possible, then place in a large bowl. Add the chopped onion, grated apple, potato starch, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and mix, making sure to blend ingredients well.

Heat a large griddle with oil to medium heat. Scoop a heaping tablespoon of the mixture into your hands and squeeze out any additional liquid. Form into a ball and place into the pan. Press down on the mixture quickly and do the same for as many as will fit into the pan, leaving space for the spatula to reach each latke for turning them over.

Keep on the heat for 2-3 minutes on the griddle, until they brown slightly- this will allow them to flip without falling apart. Once the bottoms are slightly browned, flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer latkes off the griddle to the the baking sheet.** Add more oil to the pan before the next set of latkes. Continue baking them in the oven for 15 minutes. Serve warm.

*It is best to use a cast iron griddle. These would most likely stick on a stainless steel griddle.

**Don’t try to flip the latkes too early! They will fall apart if not given enough time to cook on the first side.

Stuffed Wild Rice Squash

Creativity is a funny thing. Sometimes lying in bed at night I have so many ideas flying through my head that it’s hard to sleep. Other times, I feel like my mind is blank, not that I don’t have thoughts, just that they aren’t exactly creative or new ones. Lately, I have been spending more time in the latter.

I have spent more time thinking about creativity since picking up Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic. There are many noteworthy passages in the book, and I have gone a bit highlighter crazy on my kindle. What has left the greatest impact so far is what she says about curiosity. She draws a contrast between passion and curiosity; passion being intimidating and out of reach at time, and curiosity milder, quieter, more welcoming.

Curiosity only asks one thing, and that is, “Is there anything you’re interested in?” Elizabeth Gilbert goes on to write that these little interests that catch our attention, even just for a moment, are clues for us to follow and trust. She calls it a “scavenger hunt of creativity,” one that can lead to amazing, unexpected places. The most important part out of the whole process, is to not judge the outcome… to find it all just interesting.

As much as I love following recipes and reproducing other people’s creativity in the kitchen with my own spin, I love the process of putting together different flavors and textures to form something new. It’s not that the outcome of my actions is overwhelmingly new or different, it’s the satisfaction of creating something through a process of experimentation and imagination. I was interested to see how I could bring this “curiosity scavenger hunt” into the kitchen. The worst that could happen would be for the outcome to be described as “interesting” rather than a resounding “delicious.”

 

I decided to start cooking without having a set idea of what the final result would be. With Thanksgiving flavors onmy mind, I started with an acorn squash, cut it in half, removed the seeds, and placed in into a stovetop steamer. While it was steaming I started on a filling.

Luckily, I had cooked up some wild rice earlier in the day so I decided it would be a great starting point. I sautéed a shallot in some coconut oil and added in the wild rice. With that, I reached for the cooked chickpeas in the fridge and mixed those in. My “curiosity scavenger hunt” had now turned into a fridge scavenger hunt. I debated throwing in some carrots or peppers, maybe some peas… but ultimately decided I liked the simplicity of what I had. I picked some fresh parsley from the garden, chopped it up, and stirred it into the rice.

What came together wasn’t anything ingenious or totally new, but I have to say, it was delicious! The shallots give the perfect sweetness to the nutty rice, with a nice richness from the added chickpeas.  The whole dish comes together with the warm, creamy squash. I seasoned the rice with Coconut Aminos, which is what I use as an alternative to gluten free soy sauce. I was happy to have cooked the wild rice earlier since it takes a little longer than other “grains.” Not technically a grain but a grass, the rice takes about 45 minutes to cook. Each “grain” should open up to be perfectly chewy and not too hard or crunchy. This squash would be lovely drizzled with a nice tahini dressing, however, I thoroughly enjoyed it just as it was.

Wild Rice Stuffed Squash

1 Acorn Squash

1 tablespoon Refined Coconut Oil

1 Shallot, finely chopped

2 cups cooked Wild Rice

1 tablespoon Coconut Aminos

1/2 cup cooked Chickpeas

a handful of fresh Parsley, chopped

Instructions:

Cut squash in half, remove seeds, and steam for 20-30 minutes. It is ready when a fork can easily pierce through the skin and flesh.

Heat coconut oil in a large griddle over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until translucent. Stir in the cooked wild rice, coconut aminos, and chickpeas. Cook over a low heat for 3-5 minutes, until flavors have combined and everything is warm. Remove from heat and stir in the fresh parsley.

Remove the steamed squash from the pot and spoon the prepared rice into the squash cavities.

Our New Gluten-Free Cornbread

From a young age, I’ve had a semi-unique obsession with history; my favorite books growing up were from the Little House on the Prairie and Dear America series and I even had a pioneer barbie doll. There is something lovely and simple about the lives of the young settlers that really appealed to me and still does.

I admit that I enjoy and appreciate the comfort of living in our modern world, but part of me still wants to live like Laura Ingalls, in the little log cabin where dinner is cooked over an open fire and home-made butter, jam, cream, and breads are the norm. Everyday life was more simple back then and so was cooking and the ingredients used. I credit my love for pancakes, maple syrup, and warm cornbread to my early love for those books and tv shows.

Corn bread has always been one of my favorite foods and I love how quickly and easily it comes together- the only equipment you need is a bowl and wooden spoon. My recipe is not quite as simple as Laura Ingalls’ but this  go-to recipe satisfies my craving (for both the bread and the feeling of prairie life!)

I was undecided on how to sweeten this bread so I set up an official side-by-side taste test. One batch was made with honey and the other with coconut sugar, and I was surprised by how different the two breads turned out. It was close and I enjoyed both breads but my favorite was the darker one with coconut sugar (the bread on the right), and when left on the kitchen counter for everyone to enjoy, that was the one that disappeared the quickest.

The other thing you’ll notice about this recipe is that there is no xanthan gum. Most gluten free recipes and baked goods you’ll find in the store, even salad dressings, rely on xanthan as a binding and thickening agent, but I prefer to avoid using it.  A product of fermentation, it has been noted that some people react to eating it. There is also some controversy over whether it is truly gluten free.  A lot of gluten free flour mixes also have xanthan gum mixed in, but I found that Bob’s Red Mill doesn’t, so I just add my own binding agent, like flax seeds, chia seeds, or psyllium husks.

Gluten-Free Cornbread

2 Flax “Eggs” (2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds, 6 tablespoons water)

1/2 cup Gluten-Free, All Purpose Flour ( I use Bob’s Red Mill)

1/2 cup Garbanzo Bean Flour

2 cup Finely Ground Cornmeal

1 tablespoon Baking Powder

3/4 teaspoon Ground Psyllium Husks

3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 cup Honey or Coconut Sugar

1 cup unsweetened Almond Milk

1/4 cup Coconut Oil, Melted

Preheat oven to 425′ and grease 8×8 baking dish.

Prepare the flax “eggs” by combining the flaxseeds and water. Stir and set aside.

Combine all-purpose flour, garbanzo bean flour, cornmeal, baking powder,  ground psyllium husks, sea salt, and coconut sugar in a large bowl.

To the dry ingredients, add the “flax” eggs, honey if using, and almond milk. Stir until just combined.

Slowly mix in the melted coconut oil and stir until everything comes together, not over-mixing.

Transfer mixture to the prepared baking dish and bake for 20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

I had to add that this cornbread is delicious on the griddle! Using the electric griddle, I love making cornbread “toast” and will even slather on some almond butter. The bread itself isn’t too sweet so an extra drizzle of honey can turn it into a sweet treat.

Our New Whole Grain Sorghum Popcorn

Dealing with many food allergies and sensitives I’ve had to learn to adapt my diet based on what my body tolerates. I’ve found that I’m fine at some times with a food, while other times I feel sick and react after eating that same food.

It’s funny how certain conversations just stick in on your mind; Before I was Gluten Free I remember my cousin saying he should be on a gluten free diet but he’d rather eat what he wants and deal with the consequences. While no gluten containing food would be worth the consequences eating gluten would result in for me, there are other foods I sometimes eat despite the symptoms. I LOVE popcorn.  I love the crunch, the salt, and the act itself of diving into a large bowl of it.

Unfortunately, my body doesn’t always love popcorn as much as my head, and while I try not to over-indulge there are times where no other snack seems to hit the spot in the same way. That is, until i found sorghum.

I would call this the twin sister of popcorn; although smaller than the traditional kernels, this is a pretty good substitution. While it’s delicious on its own with oil and salt, the opportunities for different flavors is endless. This time, I added my new favorite spice, Za’atar- I’ve been putting this traditional Middle Eastern spice on just about everything lately. I have to admit I haven’t completely given up popcorn, but this definitely helps me eat it less frequently!

Spiced Sorghum Popcorn

1/4 cup Sorghum

2 tablespoons Olive Oil

2 teaspoons Za’atar

1/2  teaspoon salt (unless your Za’atar contains salt)

Preheat a stainless steel griddle, add in the sorghum, and cover with a lid. Just like making traditional popcorn, shake pot over medium heat until there are 10 seconds between “pops.” Remove from heat and season to taste while “popcorn” is still warm!

Classic French Vanilla Springtime Macarons Recipe

When packing for my move to New York City, I kind of had in my mind that I just had to take the essentials, that I would come home to get the rest the following weekend. I knew for sure that I would be coming home the third weekend in April for Passover, which was about 6 weeks later, but part of me expected I’d be able to make a quick trip home in between.

Between having visitors, birthday dinners, and setting up the apartment, I didn’t get home before that Passover weekend in April. While homesickness was definitely real at times, I think it made my first weekend home that much more exciting.

One of my favorite things about the holidays is the time spent together in the kitchen. Even though I cook on a daily basis, there is nothing better than cooking with company. I love the frenzy of activity in the kitchen, sometimes with the holiday’s music playing, in the rush to get ready for the family meals.

Even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to make everything on my list, I had to make a dessert. I don’t do too much baking in my everyday routine, so it’s a must when it comes to the holidays. When I came across this recipe, I knew I had to try it. I surprisingly had never made macaroons and these couldn’t have been easier. I used special “kosher for passover” vanilla sugar but a teaspoon of vanilla essence could be substituted as well. The macaroons which were a total hit, light and fluffy, and not overly sweet, are definitely too good to be saved for just Passover.

Vanilla Macaroons

Ingredients:

2 large egg whites

1/2 cup Vanilla sugar

2 1/4 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

Pinch of salt

1 ounce dark chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate), melted

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, and preheat oven to 350’F.

In a medium bowl beat egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add in the sugar and continue beating until glossy. Stir in the coconut and salt.

Using a tablespoon, form about 20 uniform balls on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until slightly browned on the outside, but still soft on the inside, which will be about 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

While the macaroons are in the oven, melt the chocolate. Once the macaroons are cooled, drizzle the melted chocolate on top. I used a squeeze bottle, but you can also spoon the chocolate into a small plastic bag and snip off a tiny tip of one of the corners. Let the cookies stand until the chocolate cools before serving.

How To Cook Better In The Kitchen

It can be very beneficial for you to improve your cooking skills while you’re in the kitchen. First of all, it could help you save money by preparing your own food rather than constantly buying from fast foods and restaurants. Second of all, when you will be cooking at home, the food is going to be much more healthier than the food that you eat at restaurants. Finally, with improved cooking skills, you will also be more pleased with your own skills. So now let’s look at what are the best ways to improve your cooking skills:

Cooking Guides

Personally, I’m a very big fan of the cooking guides. This is based more on personal preference rather than a set rule for everyone. Cooking guides can be very helpful for intermediate-level cooks because they already know the basics, and the cooking guides are there to only help them enhance their skills.

Cooking guides can give you an excellent plan on how to go about things, and they usually contain instructions that cover everything from the start to the end. This is really good for cooking, however you should use these instructions in the kitchen with an open mind so that you don’t fall short on the procedures just because you’re missing one unimportant ingredient.

Cooking Shows

Every aspiring chef starts off with cooking shows such as Maserchef. Why is this so? It’s because cooking shows are the most convenient and illustrative tools of learning how to cook. Cooking shows are not only providing you with the recipes and instructions for preparing food, but they also share invaluable tips for novice chefs which help them along the way.

The best part about cooking shows is that they provide viewers with a visual explanation on how to cook. This is really important for beginners because of their lack of experience in the kitchen and with handling kitchen utensils. However, some people also prefer cooking guides over cooking shows because they complain that cooking shows do not provide them with enough time to write everything down.

Practice makes perfect

This is a very old saying, and it is mostly true. Only practice will make you perfect in the long run, cooking guides and shows won’t. This is because when you cook yourself you will realize the small details of cooking that cooking guides and shows cannot cover. Moreover, once you start cooking you will also improvise over time in your cooking.

Follow these three tips in any order, and you should be on your way to better cooking in the kitchen. Of course, there are drawbacks and advantages of each of the methods listed, but once you follow any one of these rigorously, you will see results very soon!

Time Saving Tips in the Kitchen

Cooking can seem like a daunting task at the end of a long day, however there are ways to shorten cooking and clean up sessions. Here is a list of ways to save time in the kitchen.

PREPARE YOUR MEALS

Sit down in advance and plan a menu for the week. Take stock of what you have in your kitchen and what you will need for the week. Go to the grocery store with a list of specific items and ingredients. By ensuring that your kitchen is stocked with things you will need, you will be less likely to have to make runs to the store in the middle of a recipe or be tempted to order in if a key ingredient is missing.

WASH AND STORE FOOD

As soon as you get home from the grocery store wash your vegetables and fruit. If you wash them right away, you can grab an apple for the road or munch on grapes while you are cooking. You won’t have to worry about washing your vegetables before you cut them up for soup or rinsing off your chives to top your baked potato. Pre-rinsing your fruits and vegetables is a time saver.

PRECOOK MEAT

Sunday night before the workweek starts, cook up your hamburger and George Foreman your chicken breast. Precooked hamburger can easily be tossed into spaghetti sauce, thrown into a cheeseburger pie, or added to a casserole or soup. Precooked chicken breast is a convenient salad topper, a quick protein snack, and can be used in wraps and on sandwiches.

SOMETIMES SETTLE FOR STORE MADE

Although we’d all love to roll out own pizza dough, make our own soup stock, and knead our own piecrust, there is a reality. Don’t feel guilty for occasionally using a Duncan Hines brownie mix for your daughter’s class treats or splurging for pre-sliced veggies or bagged salad. As a last minute meal, a frozen pizza or can of soup isn’t the end of the world.

WASH AS YOU GO

If you keep the kitchen clean as you work you will have a lot less work waiting for you at the end. While water is boiling clean the counters or wash the cutting board you just chopped vegetables on.

LEFT OVERS ARE KEY

Make large batches of things you like. Instead of making one chicken, bake two and use the extra meat for dumplings or sandwiches the next day. Cook extra spaghetti sauce for spaghetti pie the next night, or use excess sauce for pizza. Cook a larger roast beef and make sandwiches or toss it in pan with beef stock and vegetables for homemade soup.

ENGAGE YOUR FAMILY

Cooking can sometimes feel like time wasted, so instead use meal preparation as family time. Have your children help set the table, chop vegetables, or even do their homework in the room with you. If you stop thinking of cooking as being wasteful, you may start to enjoy yourself.

MICROWAVE

A microwave is not the enemy. Instead of waiting for rice to cook on the stove for a half hour, pop it in the microwave for three minutes. Don’t waste time and water thawing chicken under cold water. Simply pop it into the microwave and your chicken will be ready to cook within minutes.

CROCKPOT

A crock-pot has been my salvation. Dump whatever you want for dinner in the crock-pot on your way out the door in the morning and it will be ready when you get home. I’ve made soups, roasts, and pastas, even desserts. Not only is it easy and convenient, but it makes the most flavorful and tender meat I’ve ever tasted. Invest in a crock-pot cookbook and learn how to cook anything under the sun with zero effort. You can even put everything you plan to cook into the crock pot the night before, stick it in the refrigerator and simply take it out and plug it in as your race out the door in the morning. As an added bonus you will only have one pan to clean!

I love cooking, but time constraints can take their toll. These have been my saving graces in a pinch.