Crunch Time Tahini Granola

The internet is full of recipes that are made to look easy, but are a pain. This is especially true at the holidays where we are all looking for that holy grail food item—that thing to bring or give that is both delicious and memorable. Case in point, the Nutella puff pastry Christmas tree currently all over Instagram and so many other cleverly pieced-together videos. More often than not they lure you down the rabbit hole of something that may indeed be easy, but only after making it for a generation. And honey, we ain’t got no time for that during the holidays.

When I’ve tired of failed baking experiments I often go back to granola. In the pantheon of homemade treats—from this chocolate sauce that can be made in your sleep, to these GD chocolate dipped peanut butter balls (beware of anything that has to be rolled into individual balls! And/or dipped!)—granola is among the easiest. Not the cheapest, thanks to the precious nuts and honey/syrup, but the easiest. So, when I see easiest and granola together in one heading, I perk up.

This recipe delivers on its claim. Of course the ease comes with a price. You’ll swap out some steps and ingredients by springing for the jar of tahini. And if you go with pistachios as written (I used roughly chopped almonds), they’re the priciest option. BUT, they also require zero chopping, bringing this recipe to Level 1 on the effort meter. You will be rewarded for your lack of work with a delicious, not-too-sweet, crunch-perfect granola and extra time on your hands.

As with every recipe there is a slight catch, something that keeps the trained monkeys from taking over production. The catch here is the step of spreading the thick granola mass evenly on the cookie sheet. I used little chopping motions with a rubber spatula. You do whatever it takes, and it does not need to be perfect—we’re just aiming for somewhat even thickness so the granola at the edges doesn’t burn up while the stuff in the center stays soft and cuddly.

I wish you success in all your experiments. No matter how they turn out you deserve a gold star and a chocolate kiss for trying.  

Easy Tahini Granola

From Jenné Claiborne via Food52 Genius Recipes

Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 15 min

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (125g) well-stirred tahini
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 cups (180g) old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 to 1 cup (60 to 120g) shelled raw pistachios (or another nut or pepitas)
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  1. Stir everything together: Heat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with a rack in the center. Line a sheet pan with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the tahini, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt with a silicone spatula until it’s smooth and evenly combined. Stir in the oats, pistachios, and chia seeds.
  2. Bake the granola: Spread the wet, sticky oats onto the sheet pan in a thin, even layer. Bake for 10 minutes, then, using oven mitts, take the pan out of the oven and stir the granola—this will help it finish baking evenly. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the granola is dry and golden brown, another 5 to 10 minutes. Keep a close eye toward the end to make sure it doesn’t start to burn at the edges.
  3. Eat, Store, Give: Let the granola cool completely to crisp up, about 20 minutes, before breaking it into clumps with your hands. Eat as one does with granola. Store in a sealed container at room temperature for a week or more if you are disciplined. Pack it up in mason jars or treat bags for giving.  

It’s crunch time!

 

 

Stove-top Roasted Brussels Sprouts

We’ve been deep into apple and squash season for some time now, with nary a word from Bring It. If you are in search of some seasonal faves, there are plenty in the archives. I’ve been making my fair share of squash on toast, sugar and spice squash soup, all kinds of riffs on roasted squash and kale salad (often sans kale), and pretty much any way to mainline squash. Same with all things apple, though it is hard to stray far from apple crisp (using this topping) and its more intimidating sister, apple pie. Also psssst: make these apple cheddar scones on the weekend and you’re a hero, guaranteed.

With Thanksgiving breathing down our necks, I want to focus on Brussels sprouts, which for many of us place second only to lima beans as the most maligned veggie of our youths. They were recently featured in depth on cookthevineyard. The exposé discussed the merits of respective preparations—halved, quartered and sliced—and how to cook each, along with the one hard and fast rule of Brussels sprouts cookery, which is basically this: Never, ever boil them. This is gospel people.

Cookthevineyard has some excellent suggestions, but my new favorite way to cook them —more method than recipe— comes from Joy the Baker. My visits to her site are more voyeuristic than anything, because I’m just not a baker at heart. Other than Easiest French Bread Ever, which I bake like it is my job, I leave the baking glory to others. But her stovetop “roasting” take on Brussels sprouts is sheer brilliance. I can see it working on a cast iron pan on the grill too, just like these peppers and onions agradolce (fancy term for vinegar and syrup) that became this summer’s grilling addiction.

So, this is a quickie, but it is a method that I hope will come in handy this fall, because folks, it’s time to brush off your A Game in the kitchen.

Stove-top “Roasted” Brussels Sprouts

Taken completely, cleverness included, from Joythebaker

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and sliced in half
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • juice of half a lemon or splash of red wine vinegar
  • chopped fresh parsley
  • grated parmesan cheese

Method:

Trim the ends of the sprouts and cut them in half.  The cut side will create more space for that glorious browning and it’s always nice to see how Mother Nature made a whole ass cabbage to tiny and cute. Admire all the inner layers because vegetables are actually so cool.  All the little outside leaves that fluff off once the end is trimmed? Save those we’ll cook those, too.

Grab a skillet – a pretty big one that has a lid that fits cozy.  Nonstick isn’t important and I haven’t tried this recipe in cast iron though I suspect it works just fine.  Pour oil into the cold pan.  It will feel like a lot of oil and you might be tempted to use less oil but don’t.  Trust me on this one, ok?  Add the halved Brussels sprouts to the pan with oil, cut side down in a single layer.  Sprinkle the little leafy bits on top.  Put the lid on the pan.

Place the cold pan with oil, Brussels, and the lid over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes.  Don’t lift the lid. Don’t shake the pan – just let it all go. This is where the magic happens.  The Brussels sprouts will create steam as they cook and that lid is helping them steam to tender all while the oil is heating and browning those little babies to golden.  After 5-7 minutes, remove the lid, shake the pan around and allow the Brussels to pan fry uncovered for another 5 minutes.  Test with a fork for doneness.

Remove the pan from the heat and toss in salt, pepper, lemon juice and parsley. Be generous. Be very cheffy about it. Optional extras: a spoonful of dijon mustard and brown sugar are glorious additions to the acid.

Notes: As I said, this is 100% from Joy, but I can vouch for the bennies of Dijon and maple syrup added at the end. I mix them up with the lemon juice and pour in the whole shebang. And, I’ve used cotija or grated cheddar cheese instead of parm with no complaints. As ever, love the one you’re with!

And, if you are a brussels sprouts fan dive into cookthevineyard’s rabbit hole on the topic. I am so trying the sprout potato hash…as soon as I work through some more squash and apples.

 

Mini Maple Creemee Pies

Dedicated readers will know that I already posted a recipe for maple creemeee pie, back in November. Then, it was a way to fill a seasonal void. At the height of summer in New England maple creemee options abound, but…what about our friends in the rest of the country? And around the globe? What are they to do?

And, what about those times when you want “just a taste” of maple creemee goodness and you don’t want to get in your car? Enter mini maple creemee pies, the best idea since, well, maple creemee pie.

Here’s the basic concept. Whip up the same amazing pretzel crust, but press it into lined muffin tins. Ladle in the same creamy filling, then pop the tray in the freezer. A couple hours later you’ll have individual servings you can eat by hand, using the liner as a napkin; alternatively you can be civilized, put it on a plate (even top it with some berries) and eat it with a fork.

The civilized version, ready for berries or just your fork

As discussed at length in the original post, my preferred version relies on the alcohol in maple liqueur for both extra flavor and to keep the filling from freezing up like a brick. To make up for both, the non alcoholic version called for more maple syrup. I got some feedback that the sober version was too sweet. I have since adjusted down the syrup in that version, and upped the cream in both versions. All that said, this is wayyyyy more art than science, so give a taste along the way and follow your heart. 

For non maple fans, or for a citrus option, this technique can easily be used to make mini versions of Nina’s Margarita Pie. Finally, to my Vegan friends. I still have not had a victory here, but this is the latest recipe I am going to try, once I find unsweetened oat milk creamer. If you beat me to it, let me know how it goes.

Now, my friends, as a late summer treat, I give you mini maple creemee pies. I hope you love them!

Maple Creemee Pies of All Sizes

Prep time: 15 mins, plus at least 4 hours freezing time for a big pie, and 2 for the minis.

Makes 1 yummy pie, or up to 20 mini pies

Ingredients

  • 12 cup margarine or butter
  • 14 cup sugar
  • 3 cups pretzels (to equal about 1 14 cups crushed)
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup*
  • ¼ cup maple liqueur* (mine was 30% alc/60 proof)
  • 1 ½-2 cups heavy cream**
  • Optional: Maple sugar candies crumbled on as topping***

*For non alcoholic version, omit liqueur, and adjust to use 1/4 cup maple syrup, or to taste,  plus 1/2 tsp vanilla (optional).

** I like the full 2 cups of cream. If you don’t use the liqueur, and boost the maple flavor with more than 1/4 cup syrup, extra cream is the right call. And make sure to whip it like you mean it!

*** These are way optional. Veteran testers say leave it alone as is, but one rogue tester notes that the pro pies at Mac’s Maple (with a far inferior crust BTW) featured these. He was enamored by the flourish.

The production line

Method:

Make Pie Crust:
Melt margarine or butter and combine with sugar and pretzel pieces. Press into buttered 9” pie pan. For the mini versions, line 20 (ish) regular sized muffin tins with cupcake liners. Spoon the crust mixture into the cups until it is all used up, then use an empty liner to press the crust in place firmly. Refrigerate or freeze to cool while you make the filling.

Filling: Combine condensed milk, maple syrup and maple liqueur and whisk until it is well incorporated.

Whip the cream until it is very thick and stiff. I mean it—this is your structure. Fold in the whipped cream as gently as you can until it is fully incorporated. Pour into pie crust or ladle into the mini crusts and freeze for at least four hours, more to be safe. Two hours for the minis should do it.

Bringing it:

If you are celebrating away from home, where you have the time and space for it to freeze, it is easily assembled on site. Just prep the pretzels first and put them in a Ziploc bag. Portion out the booze and syrup, grab a pie plate and fill a bag with the rest of the ingredients— cream, a stick of butter and that can of sweetened condensed milk that expires sometime this decade. Make the pie right away so it has max time to freeze, and you have max time to put your feet up and prepare to be worshipped.

On a side note, I had previously said it was not advisable to travel with this in warm weather. I stand corrected. I sent a pie, in the back seat in a reusable freezer bag, to a friend’s house, with instructions for the courier to immediately put it in the freezer. You can guess what didn’t happen. Flash forward to the following morning…the pie is secretly returned from the back seat to our own freezer, hidden under a big bag of blueberries.  Flash forward two weeks…I unearth the buried pie, have a piece and it’s still delish! That, my friends is a true story of survival.

A 9-inch cake pan, with plastic lid, is the perfect getaway vehicle.

Picnic Perfection Broccoli, and Grated Carrots Ooh La La

This is it. The Super Bowl of summer gatherings is here. The sun is hot, the timing is loose, the fridge is likely full and the setting is outdoors. What we have here is a picnic situation, and I’ve got you covered with some no-fuss potluck faves.

I could also call these McFaves, because they both came into my life from my favorite foodie McFamily. You know who you are!

Each of these are a little miraculous in the way they transform a humble vegetable and a few basic ingredients into something addictive. Both recipes originated from the New York Times, which means they come with lots of commentary. I have distilled the extensive kvetching to the finer points.

These sides are easy to make, healthy, great at room temp and smashing as leftovers. They also travel like champs. There is no downside here people!

Make them. Share them, or not. They will bring you joy and serious roughage. Happy 4th to all!

In the lunch rotation. Every….darned….day

French Grated Carrot Salad
By Martha Rose Shulman and the NY Times

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil (or a mix of the two), or use 2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt or buttermilk and 4 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or white-wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and grated
  • ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preparation

  1. Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and mustard in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add the carrots and parsley and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate before serving (I recommend making this 30 minutes to 1 hour ahead, then tossing again).

Notes: Not a one. This is straight up perfection.

Picnic Perfect Broccoli
by Melissa Clark and the NY Times

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ teaspoons red wine vinegar (I say 1 Tbsp)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste (kosher is key…science, man)
  • 2 heads broccoli, 1 pound each, cut into bite-size florets
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds (ground cumin works in a pinch)
  • 2 teaspoons roasted (Asian) sesame oil
  • Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes.

Preparation

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the vinegar and salt. Add broccoli and toss to combine.
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil until hot, but not smoking. Add garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in sesame oil and pepper flakes. Pour mixture over broccoli and toss well. Let sit for at least 1 hour at room temperature, and up to 48 (chill it if you want to keep it for more than 2 hours). Adjust seasonings (it may need more salt) and serve.

Notes:

2 lbs of broccoli— deconstructed into florets — is a LOT of broccoli. You can easily scale it down, but don’t skimp on the vinegar. I boost up the vinegar to 1 Tbsp for the full recipe because it seems like the right thing to do.

There is much hand-wringing about all the oil, but remember, it’s a lot of broccoli. I’ve used 2/3 cup oil and that worked just fine. Some say 1/3 cup is enough. That said, don’t fly too close to the sun like the guy who brought it down to 2 Tbsp, and definitely don’t EVER put him on dessert duty.  

Finally, pay attention to the timing and make it far enough ahead so the broccoli has a chance to soften and take on the flavors.

Weekday Smoothie

I was going to post this on the weekend, but I’m your friend and friends don’t do that. Weekends are about pancakes and muffins and doughnuts and bacon and omelets and cinnamon rolls and maple syrup. Always maple syrup. So, posting a smoothie with vegetables and beans on a weekend just feels wrong. But on a Monday? The gloves are off baby—this is what you get.

I have a friend who is gorgeous (I have quite a few of those) and she once explained to me her diet philosophy of being “all about oatmeal” during the week, and then loosening up on the weekends. Clearly it works for her, and it leaves ample room for both discipline and fun.

On to this smoothie, which firmly belongs in the weekday repertoire. I’ll never lie to you. I’ll never tell you “this tastes just like a milkshake” or “you’d never know this was healthy” or that your loved ones will beg you to make this or that you will not be mocked when you open a can of beans for breakfast. But I will tell you I am mildly addicted to this because sometimes the cold goodness of a very healthy smoothie that is packed with nutrition from real ingredients is really comforting. And sometimes, well, I just need to get beyond the oatmeal.

If this intrigues you, I hope you try it and enjoy it. If the concept of this grosses you out, I hope you have a nice week and I will see you with something more fun very soon. Happy Monday!

A Breakfast Double Date…. get it?

Weekday Smoothie

Makes 1 huge or 2 small smoothies (as pictured above)

From Hey Nutrition Lady

Ingredients

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup frozen cauliflower (the riced stuff in the freezer section is best)
  • ½ cup black beans
  • 1-2 medjool dates pitted (2! or more if they are deglet)
  • 1 cup oat milk or milk of choice (use what you’ve got)
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Method

  • Place all ingredients into a blender. Blend until smooth. (really smooth!)
  • Pour into a glass and sprinkle hemp seeds over the top if desired. Serve immediately.

NOTES: You need an aggressive blender — or a lot of blending in an ok one — to really get this smooth, which is key. Gooey Medjool dates are ideal here, and I say live a little and add another if you need to ease into this. If you only have deglet, or if your medjools are a little dry, cut them up and rehydrate them with some boiling water (or a bit of your morning coffee supply) for a few minutes. You can also use an unfrozen banana and add some ice cubes, which also helps with the crappy blender situation.

Party Time Smashed Potatoes

Let’s just say, hypothetically….you’re heading into Memorial Day without a real plan for what to bring to the various cookouts; or, that you knew your house was filling up but hadn’t really planned out how to feed everyone; or, you cannot face going into the fancy grocery store looking for obscure ingredients ONE MORE TIME. I’ve got you covered!

Memorial Day weekend is no time for being fussy or experimental. It is about the basics and the classics, things that taste even better when you’re eating them outdoors in flip flops. Enter, the potato. Specifically, the smashed potato.

I’ve seen these many times but finally made them and am now a little but addicted.

Cutting to the chase: You are boiling whole small potatoes (those small ones in the mesh bags are perfect for this), then smashing them into disks/pucks, then salting them, slicking them up with oil and baking them at a high temp until they are crispy. You flip them halfway through because you know that crispy is everything.

Honestly, no need to follow the recipe if you do these things, because this is more method than recipe, more arts ‘n crafts than science. Which is to say, you can do this! And I hate being bossy but I really think you should. You can also make these in stages as you have time (and without taking up fridge space), making them perfect for the weekend.

There are a bazillion recipes for these on the interwebs, but I am running with this one from Cook the Vineyard because they had some pro tips (like using a high smoke point oil vs olive oil) That said, I included my own comments (in italics) that cut down on labor and laundry.

But that’s not all! As a bonus I’ve included the simple limey dipping sauce which is perfect on these and remarkably versatile at snazzing up leftovers, sandwiches, tacos, bowls and veggies, whatever. Any sauce that strikes your fancy will do here, and there’s never any shame in straight up ketchup.

And should you need tried and true ideas for the rest of the feast you can’t go wrong with the OG hits: Funitella, Hero Slaw, Oven fried chicken, Watermelon Tomato Salad, Panzanella…you know.

Crispy Smashed Potatoes

Recipe mostly from Cook the Vineyard

Serves 4, or more as an appetizer

Ingredients

  • 16 baby red potatoes, consistently sized (the little bagged ones, red or yellow, are perfect)
  • Kosher salt (lots, and other seasonings as you like)
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil or other vegetable oil I don’t think I’ve ever used that much oil. See recipe note.
  • Limey Drizzling Sauce (optional)

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 475°F. Line a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Put a piece of parchment paper on top. You can also go this with just parchment paper or straight on a baking sheet. Arrange a double-layer of dishtowels on a large cutting board or your kitchen counter. (No need for dishtowels I’ve found. Just mind any wandering taters)
  • Put the potatoes in a Dutch oven or other medium-large pot and cover with at least 1 1/2 inches of water. Add 2 teaspoons kosher salt, cover loosely, bring the water to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Uncover and cook until the potatoes are tender all the way through, but not falling apart, about 18 to 22 minutes. (Check with a paring knife.)
  • Drain and transfer the potatoes to the dishtowels. (I bag the dishtowels, pour out most of the water then use tongs or a slotted spoon to lift the potatoes out of the water onto the parchment. You’re just trying to get the water off and smash them) Arrange the potatoes a few inches apart, and let them cool for a few minutes. Using another folded dishtowel (or piece of parchment or just a big spatula), gently press down on each potato to flatten it into a patty about 1/2 inch thick (or up to 3/4-inch). Let the patties cool for a few minutes more, transfer them to the baking sheet, and let them cool for 10 to 15 minutes longer. (Or, at this point, you can hold the potatoes in the fridge for up to 24 hours and on the counter for hours, covered with plastic or that top piece of parchment. Bring to room temp before roasting.)
  • Season the top of the potatoes with salt and pour the oil over them. Carefully flip the potatoes over and gently rub them in the oil so they are well coated. Season the top side with more salt. Roast for about 15 minutes, carefully slip the potatoes over with a spatula, and continue roasting another 10 to 15 minutes (a total of about 28 to 30 minutes) or until they turn a deep orange brown color and are crisp around the edges.
  • Serve warm (seasoned with more salt if necessary) with Limey Drizzling Sauce (optional) or with salad greens.

All smashed up and ready to party

Bringing It:

These are ideal warm from the oven, but I have yet to meet the person who turns one down at room temp. For extra credit you can bring them on their baking sheet, pop them in the oven for a few minutes and transfer them to a serving platter. If you are besties with the host bring them over pre-smashed and bake them up on site.

Limey Dipping Sauce

Also from Cook the Vineyard\

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
  • Kosher salt

Method:

Whisk together all the ingredients, including a pinch of salt, until well-mixed. Refrigerate until serving time.

 

Save your A$$ Chicken Peanut Ramen

Who knew soup season would butt right up to Cinco de Mayo season and Kentucky Derby season? It’s been one of those springs in New Hampshire. The upside is that there is still time to post the recipe from Half Baked Harvest that I made more than any other (including spicy margaritas) this past winter.

It first came to my attention in November, when Pat the Great in Colorado had it ready to serve us upon arrival. Conservatively, I’ve made this 20 times since then. It was an extraordinary winter of feeding people, and without this recipe many of them would have gone hungry. Each time I thought I’d made it for the last time, there would be another chilly day with no meal plan, and out from the cupboard the stained hard copy of this recipe would come.

The recipe is classic Pat, because she only passes things along that are truly great in some way. That could mean interesting, informative, funny or delicious. In this case it means both delicious and easy.

My minor obsession with it was recently reconfirmed by Suzi the Great, who posted it on Instagram after making it an embarrassing number of times in succession. Suzi also gave me the cookbook that first introduced me to Tieghan Gerard’s Half Baked Harvest, not to mention the picture for this post, so, triple points to Suzi.

My goal at Bring It is to only share the recipes you will come back to time and again. They have to be great, not “Just OK,” and in the binary judgement by which many things can be simply appraised, absolutely “Worth It.”  Admittedly, a few times I’ve wavered, passing on a so-so recipe because it had a great story, but I’ve recommitted to the “Worth It” standard so please trust me on this one. If you like these flavors you will make this again and again, and never have to worry about how to feed hungry people in a hurry.  

Save You’re A$$ Thai Ramen

(AKA Half Baked Harvest’s 30 minute Thai Peanut Ramen)

One pot, quick and easy healthy, meal that’s creamy, spicy and delicious.

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins

Ingredients

  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can (14 ounce) coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup Thai red curry paste
  • 3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or protein of choice)
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or grated
  • 2-4 squares ramen noodles
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil or cilantro, roughly chopped, plus more for serving
  • chopped peanuts and toasted sesame oil, for serving

Ingredient notes:

  • You can riff on veggies here, adding more of whatever you like or whatever you have. I typically cook up the mushrooms in a skillet first with some onions because my people are not into mushrooms and that helps disguise them.  
  • I have also on occasion added a ton of thinly shredded cabbage instead of or in addition to the ramen.
  •  For “ramen” I have used fancy organic gluten free rice ramen, clear rice noodles, straight up spaghetti, 25 cent college student ramen, fresh and dried soba and udon noodles, etc. Anything goes so use what you have and what you like.
  • Pat and I both prefer to cook up the chicken before adding it to the pot (use the skillet you used for the mushrooms after you cook them up, if you go that route). It’s also a great use for leftover cooked chicken.

Method

Stove Top

  1. In a large soup pot, combine the chicken broth, coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, honey, peanut butter, and curry paste. Add the chicken, cremini mushrooms, red peppers, ginger, and garlic. Set over medium heat on the stove and bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and shreds easily.
  2. Once done cooking, shred the chicken.
  3. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat. Stir in the noodles, lime juice, spinach, and cilantro. Let sit 5 minutes or until the noodles are soft.
  4. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with peanuts and toasted sesame oil. Enjoy!

 

Instant Pot*

  1. In the bowl of the instant pot, combine the chicken broth, coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, honey, peanut butter, and curry paste. Add the chicken, cremini mushrooms, red peppers, ginger, and garlic. Cover and cook on high pressure for 10 minutes.
  2. Once done cooking, use the natural or quick release and release the steam. 
  3. Set the Instant pot to sauté. Shred the chicken, it should fall apart. Stir in the noodles, lime juice, spinach, and cilantro. Let sit 5 minutes or until the noodles are soft.
  4. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with peanuts and toasted sesame oil. Enjoy!

*(I know nothing of Instant Pots, so this is taken on faith)

Notes

Half baked harvest recommends storing the soup and noodles separately, then adding the noodles just before serving because otherwise the noodles will soak up all the broth and become very mushy. Here at Bring It Central we hoover down the leftovers that have been stored altogether for days noooooo problem.

 

When Life Gives You Lemons, Say Thank You!

It’s a dreary Sunday here in the east, with the promise of rain to take what’s left of our precious snow. As if in anticipation of this day, a heavy Priority Mail box from California recently arrived. Cousin D, in a race to save her California hillside of citrus from a cold snap, did a mass harvest and shared some of it with me. As a former Vermonter, D knows the mixed blessing of March in New England–winter’s easing its grip, but…the mud!–and the curative power of Meyer lemons. On top of that, she’s just darned thoughtful!

Rather than reinvent the citrus wheel, I’m going to revisit some favorites from Lemonpalooza 1, (Lemon simple syrup, and roasted lemon shallot vinaigrette for an off the hook chicken bread salad) and from the sequel, Lemonpalooza 2 (lemon pudding cake, preserved lemons and the lemon blueberry sunshine loaf that I discovered the last time Cousin D bestowed her citrus bounty on me.)

For breakie, squeeze some on top of the classic Dutch Bunny to put a big smiley face on your day, orrrr nothing says “I love you” and also “Don’t mess with me” like Sassy Sansa Lemon Ginger scones. If you really want to jumpstart summer, make up a Lemon Beach Pie.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with plowing through your lemons as straight up lemon juice in and on everything. Tea? Smoothies? Sprtizers? Cocktails? Yes please!

If you’ve already embarked on spring training, squeeze them up for some minty snap pea salad, lemony shrimp and bulgur salad, lemon cauliflower couscous or pretty much anything that could use some fresh zip.

Wherever you are on this spring day I hope you find some brightness and warmth.

PS. We’re taking votes for your favorite lemon recipes. First vote is by Aunt D for lemon posset, in Lemonpalooza 1. Solid choice!

 

 

Maple Creemee Pie

The saddest day of the year for me is the day they stop serving maple creemees in my hood. That was on the last weekend of October, when Mac’s Maple closed. It wasn’t a real ice cream day, but to honor the occasion I secured two of their maple creemee pies. I figured they would be my step-down program, and perhaps inspiration for my own recipe for the same. Rigorous testing ensued.

The first test was between the purchased version—the control pie— and my own creation, a riff of Nina’s Margarita Pie. Scouring the Internet for ingredients of legit maple creemees had confirmed that this was a good master recipe to use as a starting point. Immediately, my group of testers confirmed that the control pie’s waffle cone crust was, as one tester indelicately put it “f’ed up.” It was indeed far inferior to the pretzel crust of Margarita Pie.

Still, it needed some tweaks. My first creation tasted good but, as another tactless tester (this one related to me) noted, “you need an axe to get through it.” Here’s where the science came in. I realized that margarita pie contains alcohol, which keeps it from freezing up like a brick. Adding more whipped cream could also help the pie retain a softer, more utensil-friendly, consistency.

I’ll spare you the details to the entire process, but a stalwart tester, when confronted with the two latest versions, said he felt a bit like Chuck Yeager. He was not far off. When Thanksgiving is this close, every pie matters! We needed something as good as Joni Mitchell Apple Pie, Knock Out Vegan Pumpkin Pie and Pilgrim Pie. And, this being a new player amongst traditional faves, we needed perfection.

Friends, my testers unanimously confirm, we now have it. I offer here maple creemee pie perfection, the clear winner, and a non-alcoholic version as well which is a worthy silver medalist. The use of alcohol, I assure you, is not gratuitous—it’s where good science meets good taste. That said, you can save yourself a trip to the liquor store, use a little more maple syrup and a touch of vanilla, and still have yourself a darned good maple creemee pie.

The constants in both versions: The crust is the bomb! It is equally excellent with regular and gluten-free pretzels. The cream is your structural integrity, so whip it good, until it has very stiff (even jagged) peaks, yet hasn’t turned the corner to butter.

Finally, to my Vegan friends. I failed you on this round. I tried two oat milk fillings, this one with nut butter and this one with cashews. I know there are pros out there who can work their sweet magic with such ingredients (looking at you, Sister A), but not me, not yet. I have not given up, but I need a rest. Sometimes, a girl’s gotta not eat.

One happy side note, is that after all this testing, and knowing that I can get my fix anytime, I really am ok with waiting six plus months for my next maple creemee. But you out there? You’ve got a lot more creemee pie capacity in you. I hope you enjoy this and every other deliciousness on your Thanksgiving table. Holidays, here we come!

Maple Creemee Pie

Prep time: 15mins, plus at least 4 hours freezing time.

Makes 1 yummy pie, or up to 20 mini pies

Ingredients (updated August 2022)

  • 12 cup margarine or butter
  • 14 cup sugar
  • 3 cups pretzels (to equal about 1 14 cups crushed)
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup*
  • ¼ cup maple liqueur* (mine was 30% alc/60 proof)
  • 1 ½-2 cups heavy cream**
  • Optional: Maple sugar candies crumbled on as topping***

*For non alcoholic version, omit liqueur, and adjust to use 1/4 cup maple syrup, or to taste,  plus 1/2 tsp vanilla (optional-Chuck Yeager opts out of it).

** I like the full 2 cups of cream. If you don’t use the liqueur, and boost the maple flavor with more syrup, extra cream is the right call.

*** These are way optional. Veteran testers say leave it alone as is, but one rogue tester notes that the pro pies featured these, and he was enamored by the flourish.

Method

Make Pie Crust:
Melt margarine or butter and combine with sugar and pretzel pieces. Press into buttered 9” pie pan. For the mini versions, line 20 regular sized muffin tins with cupcake liners. Spoon the crust mixture into the cups until it is all used up, then use an empty liner to press the crust in place firmly. Refrigerate or freeze to cool while you make the filling.

Filling: Combine condensed milk, maple syrup and maple liqueur and whisk until it is well incorporated.

Whip the cream until it is very thick and stiff. Fold in the whipped cream as gently as you can until it is fully incorporated. Pour into pie crust and freeze for at least four hours, more to be safe.

Bringing it:

Warm weather travel with this is not recommended, but if you are celebrating away from home, and have the time and space for it to freeze, it is easily assembled on site. Just prep the pretzels first and put them in a Ziploc bag. Portion out the booze and syrup, grab a pie plate and fill a bag with the rest of the ingredients— cream, a stick of butter and that can of sweetened condensed milk that expires sometime this decade. Make the pie right away so it has max time to freeze, and you have max time to put your feet up and prepare to be worshipped.

We can’t all be winners

 

Mushroom (It’s Not About the Meatballs) Meatballs

This is my second post ever about meatballs. And like the first one, it really isn’t about meatballs. This time, it doesn’t even involve meat.

This post does include a delicious recipe that I have been meaning to share for a long time, but it’s more about friends and family and remembering and gathering. It is a loving shout-out to my Aunt Judith, who we honored last weekend. Judith was one of the most colorful people on the planet, quite literally. You’d be hard pressed to find any picture of her dressed in earth tones. It was her colorful personality, however, that shone through: the conspiratorial belly laugh that, together with the twinkling eyes, invited you into the underlying mischief of the moment. As my mother’s younger sister, she took it as her duty to show us that it was ok—even preferable—to color outside the lines.  

Judith would have appreciated the happy gathering orchestrated by her daughter, the fabulous  Pamina, resplendent in chartreuse and fire-engine red. The tribe came together, decked out in a full spectrum of colors on a brilliant November day, where the strangely persistent yellow foliage boldly defied the bleakness of stick season; and where Cousin Danielle’s Rolling Stones  tribute cheerfully defied church convention. It was perfect.

In addition to the colors, laughter, music and stories, it also seems fitting to remember Judith with food, of which she was a fan. Some of her favorite dishes were comfort food classics, like Italian fare and meatloaf. She also strove towards healthy eating, though the striving and the reality didn’t always match. These meatless meatballs seem like a fitting compromise between her desires and her aspirations.

They are mushroom-based and, like Judith, can accommodate all guests. As written, they include eggs and a small amount of cheese, but for Vegans making the appropriate substitutions is child’s play. These also involve some planning to accommodate chill time, forming and baking, but once you’ve done the drill they are quite easy. Crank up “That’s Amore” and get into it. They are delicious, which is all that really matters.

The only real downside is that color—Judith’s hallmark—is not well-represented here. Aside from that, these have everything you need for a tasty meal, and with enough sauce you’ve got color too. So, here’s to you Aunt Judith. You got us all together once more, in full color, and we love you to la luna and back.

Lots of taste, not so much color

Chef John’s Meatless Meatballs (of Internet fame)

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbs. Olive Oil
  • 1 lb. fresh white mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 pinch, and 1 tsp. pink salt
  • 1 Tbs. Butter
  • ½ C. finely chopped onion
  • 4 cloves, garlic, minced
  • ½ C. quick-cooking oats
  • 1 oz. very finely shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
  • ½ C. Breadcrumbs
  • ¼ C. Flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped, packed
  • 2 Eggs, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 pinch dried oregano
  • 3 C. Pasta Sauce
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped flat-leaf Italian Parsley
  • 1 Tbs. very finely shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Method:

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms to the hot oil, sprinkle with salt, and cook and stir until liquid from mushrooms has evaporated. Stir butter into mushrooms, reduce heat to medium, and cook and stir mushrooms until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Stir onion into mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir garlic into mushroom mixture until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl.

Mix oats into mushroom mixture until thoroughly combined. Gently stir 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese into the mixture. Add breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup parsley, and 1 egg, season with salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and oregano. Mix with a fork until crumbly. Stir in the remaining 1 egg. The mixture should hold together when pressed.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. For best flavor and texture, refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Form mixture into small meatballs using a 2-tablespoon scoop. Roll meatballs lightly between your hands until smooth, if desired; arrange meatballs on a prepared baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven until meatballs are lightly golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

Bring pasta sauce to a boil in a large saucepan; reduce heat to low. Gently stir meatballs into sauce until coated. Simmer meatballs in the sauce until cooked through, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with 1 tablespoon Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and 1 tablespoon parsley.

Cousins Pamina and Beatie, in color

Sisters Judith and Nina, smiling as they did.