Category Archives: Appetizers

The Resta the Fiesta

Cinco de Mayo is coming at us like a Hump Day freight train. This year, we’ve got masks, we’ve got shots for the most part. We’re ready! Let’s review. We’re all set with triple spicy margs, and salsa verde, and today we’re adding one new non-recipe app to get the party started.

But first, we’re visiting to the archives for some basics:

For the apps, there must be guac. Lots of guac. I know full well you do not need a recipe for it, but in case you want to go a little off the reservation, there’s this crazy one with apples, pecans and tequila. For a more mainstream option try this Mango jicama guacamole or just add some chopped jicama to your guac for a refreshing crunch. Score points for doing (slightly) more than using your can opener with some easy and delish balsamic black beans. They can be an app or go on/into tacos, burritos enchiladas, quesadillas, tostadas, etc.

For the sides? Bust out the Hero Slaw. Full stop. It’s right for any party but especially for a fiesta because it’s fresh, crunchy, spicy, make-aheadable and feeds a crowd. It’s got it all, and neighborhood lore to boot. So, do that. For a more tropical totally refreshing salad Hot Cha Cha Pineapple Avocado Salad is a strong move. There’s got to be a corn course somewhere in there, and for some reason I have no go-to corn salsa recipe. Not to worry! This Mexican street corn inspired corn salad will do quite nicely.

As for the main event, let’s give ourselves the gift of simplicity. That could be: Baked tacos; quesadillas spiced up with Chile crisp, or not; a batch of Chicken taco chili all made easy in the crockpot; summer simmer chicken or some baked salsa verde chicken made with your salsa verde reserves.

Dessert, if you choose to eat it, has got to be Nina’s Margarita Pie. It just does. That said, nobody will complain if you bust out cholliesauce, call it dulce de leche and pour it on anything.

And now, for the non recipe pictured above. These Spicy Shrimp Bites, passed down through a friend chain, are deLISH and so basic. I hope they kick off many fun fiestas to come!

Spicy Shrimp Bites

Ingredients:

Tostitos scoops corn chips
Guacamole of choice (no shame in store-bought for this)
Smallish raw shrimp* (nekkid-no shells or tails)
Touch of oil for cooking
Taco seasoning

Method:

Cook up the shrimp in a skillet with a bit of oil until just done (a few minutes each side). As they are cooking, sprinkle them with taco seasoning on each side, and give them all a little stir together when they’re done.

Fill each chip with a bit of guac and top with a shrimp. Ta-da and Olé!

*Shrimp sizing on the package is a little like jean sizing. Not reliable. Your best bet is to eyeball the shrimp and imagine the Tostito boat it’s going in. I’m thinking 51/60 is a good zone, but if you find your shrimp are too big just cut them in half.

Bringing it:

If your trip is relatively tame, bring these pre-assembled, covered on a rimmed dish. Otherwise, these are easy and quick to put together on site. Just make sure you are kind to your Tostitos so there are enough intact to build your bites.

Return to Fiesta Salsa Verde

The thing about getting through this pandemic with any sort of grace, is having hope. For me, that hope has now come down to Cinco de Mayo and the prospect of a great excuse to drink margs and eat an irresponsible amount of avocados. Maybe I misplaced the irresponsible in this sentence, but regardless, this is an occasion worthy of preparation.  Let’s venture back to last Cinco de Mayo, which was on a Saturday and coincided with what was supposed to be Derby Day. Instead, it became a a sad early milepost to all the celebrations we would lose.

But this Cinco de Mayo will be different. It marks us clawing back at a social life.

Granted, it’s on a Wednesday which is kind of fitting, because long ago my inner circle determined Wednesday is the new Friday.

So let’s spend the rest of our month planning for it shall we?

First up, salsa verde. This is a super easy recipe that involves roasting tomatillos, onions and jalapenos then pulverizing them with a mass of cilantro (Nothing to see here, Sister B). The original recipe calls for olive oil, which tastes great but gives it a weird texture if you refrigerate it. I say bag the oil, but the recipe Gods say you’ve got the option.

I never ventured into tomatillos before, because the husks seem intimidating. They seem to say, “These are for other, more skilled people.” But it turns out, tomatillos are for this person! They’re tangy and kind of citrusy, so they’re even good raw, but amazeballs when roasted and salsified.

I came across this recipe after making an awesome and awesomely easy crock pot recipe of salsa verde chicken, that basically involved chicken and a jar of salsa verde. My friend loved it and wanted to make it for his mom who is on a low sodium diet, so we looked at the label on the jar and…no bueno!

Making salsa verde was the pro move here, and luckily it is totally easy. Easy seems like a great place to start for our Cinco de Mayo prep, so get yourself some tomatillos and let’s get this party started!

Fiesta Salsa Verde

Ingredients:

12 oz. tomatillos, husked, washed, and halved
1 small white onion, quartered
2 jalapeños, seeded and sliced in half
2 tbsp.vegetable oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 c. cilantro leaves and tender stems (chopped up if your blender is not top notch)
1-3 tbsp. lime juice (depending on taste)
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil (totally optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°. Toss tomatillos, white onion, and jalapeños with vegetable oil on a sheet tray, and season with salt and pepper. 
  2. Roast until softened and charred in spots, about 20 minutes. Let cool.
  3. Transfer roasted vegetables, cilantro, and lime juice to a blender and blend while streaming in olive oil, until mostly smooth. Season with salt and pepper. 
  4. Serve with tortilla chips.

Serve with chips alongside quick easy cheap salsa or…. bake up a batch of baked salsa verde chicken (thinking it would work with tofu as well) or… press the big fat easy button and use it to smother chicken in a crockpot.

Next up…a review of our Bring It Fiesta basics. And yes, we’re starting with Hero Slaw!

Coolest Cucumber Soup

Labor Day be damned summer is NOT over yet. Well, not totally. Sadly, I was skunked at two corn suppliers yesterday, so that ship is quickly sailing. But cukes and zukes are still going strong. I’ve got a pretty epic zucchini creation coming soon (I was so busy marveling at it that I forgot to take a picture), but while we’re waiting, here’s a cool way to use up some of the many cucumbers you may be experiencing.

I discovered while searching for a soup that involved zero cooking or warming of any kind, and could all be made in the blender. Slackers delight!

This one goes out to you Californians and westerners who are feeling the heat, and the smoke, and the earthquakes. As a bonus, it involves an avocado. The original recipe calls for the avocado on the soup, but this is not my first soup rodeo. Adding the avocado to the blender adds heft and creaminess without actual cream.

I hope this soup helps you soak up every last bit of summer, and frees up some space in your fridge.

Coolest Cucumber Soup

 Adapted from The New York Times

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 cups buttermilk (or use 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt plus 1/4 cup water) *
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed
  • 2 anchovy fillets (optional) **
  • 2 small whole scallions, trimmed
  • ½ jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • ½ cup packed mixed fresh herbs (like mint, parsley, dill, tarragon, basil and cilantro)
  • ½ teaspoon sherry or white wine vinegar, more to taste ***
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher sea salt, plus more to taste (omit if using miso, then add if needed)
  • ½ avocado ****

All The Options

  • 4 slices toast of choice
  • ½ avocado, pitted, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ½ lemon
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ear of corn, shucked, kernels sliced off
  • Fresh dill, for serving
  • Fried shallots or onions (if you’ve got ’em, why not?)

* Vegans, you have your milks. Use them here, soured with vinegar or lemon juice
**I used 2 tsp miso paste instead, for saltiness and funk, or what one might call “umami,”
*** I used 1 Tbsp lime juice (half a lime)
**** I threw the avocado intended as a topping right into the blender. Save the other half for toast…or throw it in as well. Did anyone ever complain about too much avocado? Ok, except for my husband?

Method

  1. In the bowl of a blender or food processor, combine cucumber, buttermilk, garlic, anchovy, scallions, jalapeño, fresh herbs, sherry vinegar and salt. Blend until smooth and adjust seasoning as needed.
  2. Smash avocado slices on the toasted bread. Sprinkle with crumbled feta, squeeze the juice of the lemon half over the top and finish each with a drizzle of olive oil and some pepper. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  3. Distribute soup between 4 bowls and garnish with raw corn kernels and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve avocado toast on the side.

 

 

 

Corn Star: A One Ingredient Summer Fantasy

We’re hanging on to summer here, even if it was the weirdest summer ever, with the haziest boundary on either end. We’re not sure when it started but it is definitely ending. I know this because it is corn season.

Cooking inspiration has been lacking in this household, thanks to the general laziness that goes along with hot days. For a recipe to get me back in the game and try something new it has to be really good or really weird. When it is both…Hallefreakinlujah!

First, some context on why this recipe is so perfect right now. I mentioned corn season, and my people take it very seriously. More nights than not, we’re having fresh corn. Our compost pile, with its layers of corn husks and watermelon rinds, pretty much tells the story. That means we have plenty of opportunity for corn experimentation.

This recipe came via Sister A, purveyor of all things Vegan, who knows I appreciate weirdness. It is a little bit of food magic and alchemy that turns corn first into milk and then into butter. Basically, you’re cutting corn off the cob, pulverizing it, straining it,  then cooking the resulting “corn milk” for just a few minutes until it thickens up into creamy deliciousness.

The result is a summer fantasy—the essence of fresh corn in a luscious spread. It does not taste like butter, but it looks like it, spreads like silk and is simply delish.  It has the added bonus of being Vegan, which you can either use as a selling point or keep to yourself. 

Slacker note: Now that I’m on to it, I’ve read versions of this recipe using canned corn, and that don’t even call for straining the corn. I will likely try that come November when fresh corn is a distant memory. But for now, I’m sticking with this version, which is a bit labor intensive but sublime.

If corn on the cob is your jive, there’s no shame in that. But if you’re looking for other ways to enjoy the bounty of the season, I highly suggest giving this a whirl. It pairs well with zucchini “butter,” another brilliant recipe that will use up the August veggie filling your fridge.  

Sweet Corn Butter

From Whitney Wright via Food52

Ingredients

  • 8 ears fresh sweet corn (or less), shucked
  • Salt and butter, to taste (optional)

Method

  1. Cut off kernels: Use a chef’s knife to cut the kernels from each ear. 8 ears of corn will yield 4 to 5 cups of kernels (I got way more). If you’re a go-getter, you can also scrape the back of your knife along the cob to get the juice.
  2. Blend: Put the kernels in a blender or food processor and buzz them up like crazy—let the blender run on the highest speed for about 2 minutes. Once the kernels are blended into a smooth puree, pass the puree through a strainer with a rubber spatula. Ta-da! Corn juice.
  3. Whisk and cook: Here’s where the magic happens. Pour the juice into a medium saucepan. Heat the juice over medium heat, whisking constantly. Continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken and the frothy bubbles begin to disappear, about 4 minutes. When the mixture is thick and bubbling, whisk and cook for about 30 seconds more. Remove from the heat.
  4. Season (optional): Taste it—and look for sweet, smooth, earthy, and buttery. If you want, add a few pinches of salt and pats of butter (defeats the purpose of this exercise I’m thinking, but do what you must). The corn butter will keep for about 3 to 5 days in the fridge.

How do you use it? The original author, a fancy pants chef, suggests these ways, to which I added:

  • Slather onto cornbread, a muffin, toast or fresh bread instead of butter
  • Use it on sandwiches instead of mayonnaise
  • Put it in quesadillas or omelets
  • Fold it into sautéed spinach with onions, and finish with just a touch of cream for killer creamed spinach
  • Dribble it onto a hot dog for a DIY corn dog
  • Stir it into risotto and finish with Parmesan
  • Blend it with vanilla ice cream for a crazy delicious milkshake
  • Top tacos or fajitas with it. Or…pizza anyone???
  • Mix it with shredded cheese, a little sour cream, and a jar of drained jalapeños, bake and serve as a LIFE ALTERING (and so not Vegan) dip for tortilla chips
  • Layer it on zucchini or tomato anything

Pure buttahhhh

 

Stay-In Sesame Noodles 

It’s not you, it’s me. Or maybe it’s you, too. As we’re entering month four of a full house, I’m just tired of coming up with new things to make and serve, so I’ve been relying on my tried and true. It’s not the worst thing to get reacquainted with these no fail recipes that are easy to prepare and even easy to learn by heart.  

Best of all, these recipes can fill the local army with homemade fare without breaking the bank, or spending all day cooking.  I’m talking about Easiest French Bread Ever, Maple Oat Breakfast Bread and Everyday Granola in the morning, a constant supply of blender salsa and chile crisp, plus a big bowl of broccoli salad whenever I need a no cook veggie fix, which is pretty much always. It’s also the perfect time to fill your freezer with a Tupperware of Frosecco or any other frozen concoction. The slurpee mothership is kind of like your sourdough starter of cocktails. Just keep scooping it out, and adding more as needed. Is that a problem? Do I care?

Now that we’re getting out a little, I am running in to people who have been spending more time cooking while in quarantine. They have been making some Bring It all stars, which are also excellent for entertaining. Things like Funitella Bruschetta (recently updated!) and, of course, Hero Slaw. And for dessert, Loosey Goosey Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp and Beach Pie because, ‘tis the season!  

Along the lines of no-fail fare, I give you my new favorite go-to recipe, which already feels like an old fave. Add this to your repertoire, and buy yourself some time to think about something other than “what’s for dinner?”  

Takeout (or Stay-In) Noodles 

From the New York Times

 Ingredients 

  • 1 pound noodles, frozen or (preferably) fresh 
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil, plus a splash 
  • 3 ½ tablespoons soy sauce 
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar 
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste (or tahini; see notes)
  • 1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter 
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger 
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic 
  • 2 teaspoons chile-garlic paste, chile crisp or chile oil, or to taste 
  • Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/8-inch by 1/8-inch by 2-inch sticks 
  • ¼ cup chopped roasted peanuts  

Preparation 

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until barely tender, about 5 minutes (or recommended amt if using dried). They should retain a hint of chewiness. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and toss with a splash of sesame oil. 
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil, the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame paste, peanut butter, sugar, ginger, garlic and chili-garlic paste. (You can also use an immersion blender or regular blender)
  • Just before serving, pour the sauce over the noodles and toss. Transfer to a serving bowl, and garnish with cucumber and peanuts. 

Notes:  

These are infinitely adaptable, and for suggestions, scroll through the many comments on the original NY Times post here. I hit the high points and recommendations here, in case you are sharing your paltry Internet connection with many young, curious, ever- streaming tenants. 

The Chinese toasted sesame paste called for here is not the same as tahini, the Middle Eastern paste made of raw, untoasted sesame. You can use tahini in a pinch, adding a little toasted sesame oil to compensate for flavor, or make your own from scratch with toasted sesame seeds and olive oil.  

To prevent dry noodles, serve immediately, or hold the sauce. I usually multiply the sauce recipe many times (I use a stick blender), and add a fairly minimal amount of the sauce to the noodles when they’re still warm. Chill the undersauced noodles until you are ready to serve, and then mix in as much extra sauce as you need 

Mind your noodles. The recipe says fresh or frozen, meaning egg noodles. It’s totally ok to use dried, as in regular spaghetti (my fave) or linguini, but 1.5 or double the sauce for a full pound of dried noodles.  

This is serious picnic fare, and can accommodate Vegans and carnivores alike with a variety of toppings like: shredded duck or chicken, tofu, cucumber, sweet red pepper, hot pepper, scallion, jicama, carrots, etc, all cut to roughly the same size.  

 

 

It’s the weekend— Have a ball!

Props to the McNultys of Hanover, for coming up with the idea of theme dinners to turn these Saturday nights in quarantine into something a little less, uh, quarantiny (as in, the state of restriction vs the popular cocktail). Last weekend they kicked it off with an après ski theme featuring Bring It’s own Guinness Fondue.

Their outdoor firepit version was not only inspiring, but also an excellent choice considering our fine spring weather. With the polar air expected this weekend, fondue is a solid option.  

Or….might I suggest, balls! Meatballs and “meat” balls are very versatile, can be made ahead and can accommodate many dietary needs. We’ve got Buffalo Chicken Meatballs, these quite excellent gingery sheet pan meatballs that I have made many times and never managed to capture on camera, the vaunted Ikea meatballs (secret recipe just revealed) and, featured here today, the shockingly tasty and “meaty” meatless meatballs.

This is a great recipe to have in your arsenal especially now that the shortage du jour is meat of all kinds. Whether you are trying to eat less or no meat, or you just can’t get your hands on the stuff, you need a good vegetarian meatball recipe, and here it is friends.

They take a bit of elapsed time, because you have to cook the water out of the mushrooms and let the whole shebang sit in the fridge for a spell, but they’re totally easy. And hey…we’ve got time! You can even show off  your domestic skills, make a double batch and stock your freezer.

As a bonus this recipe comes with a soundtrack suggestion suitable for any stage of creating or eating your Saturday night special. Crank yourself up some Queen because, well, we’re having such a good time, we’re having a ball.

Where’s the picture? Have you ever tried to get an appetizing picture of meatballs? Enough said…but how about another pic of fondue night? Happy weekend all!

 Ooh la la! Just another typical night around the fire pit.

Chef John’s Meatless Meatballs                                                                      

Barely adapted from AllRecipes

Ingredients
Makes 20 meatballs

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb / 453 gr white mushrooms, finely chopped (use the food processor to save time)
1 tablespoon butter*
½ cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup quick cooking oats
4 to 5 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese*
½ cup breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
2 eggs, divided*
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch cayenne pepper

3 cups of your favorite tomato sauce
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or any other cheese you prefer, or no cheese at all).*

*Vegans and Vegan dabblers you’ve totally got this. I’ve made these with Vegan butter, your favorite cashew parm, aquafaba and no cheese on top and they were delicioso.

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, sprinkle with one pinch of salt and cook, stirring every so often until the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the butter, and cook on medium for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown.
Add onions and sauté for 5 further minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for 1 further minute, until fragrant.

Transfer mushroom mixture to a large mixing bowl.

Stir in oats and mix until thoroughly combined. Add Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, 1 egg, salt, pepper, oregano, and cayenne pepper (if using).

Mix together with a fork until crumbly. Stir in remaining egg and mix to combine.
The mixture should hold together when pressed.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight best).

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Scoop 1 heaping tablespoon of mixture, and with dampened hands roll into meatballs.

Arrange on the lined baking sheet.

Bake until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

At this point you can refrigerate or freeze the meatballs until ready to use, or use immediately.
Bring tomato sauce to a boil in a large skillet (or saucepan), lower to a simmer, and gently stir meatballs into the sauce until coated.

Simmer meatballs in sauce for about 30 to 45 minutes. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, cover with a lid and let the cheese melt (about 4 to 5 minutes).

Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and serve over spaghetti, zoodles, spaghetti squash, in a meatball sub or just plain nekkid.

PS. Can’t get enough Vegan balls? Got more cans of black beans than you know what to do with? Try these from Minimalist Baker, who never steers you wrong.

           Eat UP people!

Easiest Tomato Soup: Beating the lunch curve

Gluten has made a serious comeback in our house, mostly out of desperation. Baking, once a rarity, is now a daily or twice daily thing, as the little darlings (read locusts) can work through two loaves of Easiest French Bread Ever in a day. To keep everyone fed, I’m turning to old favorites I can crank out with minimal effort. I’d love to try new recipes, but now is not the time to gamble precious ingredients—especially flour, the new toilet paper—on anything that might not work out.

I’m also trying to make mornings more pleasant by getting ahead of the breakfast curve the night before: making granola; mixing up batter for popovers, blueberry muffins, victory bran muffins; or stirring together the dough for Maple Oat Breakfast Bread.  

All those freshly baked goods may earn you some peace and joy in the morning, but by lunchtime—just when the coffee is worn off—it turns out you also need something to go with the carbs.

Fortunately, for inspiration we have the chain letter of favorite recipes that’s pin-balled through everyone’s inbox a few times already during lockdown. If you want a deep dive into why we do these chain letters, here you go  (Thanks NoPo, for being on the pulse with this analysis). I went looking through the emails for a soup that could be ready in less than an hour, without adding to the kitchen mess.

A lot of favorite recipes are labeled as “best” and “easiest,” tall claims that make it hard to choose what to try first: Best, easiest, best, easiest. It will surprise nobody that I opted for the one, from cousin Michelle, entitled “Easiest Tomato Soup.”

A quick look at the ingredient list confirmed that this would satisfy the recipe trifecta, by being: easy, cheap and requiring no trip to the store. I’ve been burned by minimalist recipes that taste like they are missing ingredients and steps, so I wanted to see just how good this was, exactly as written. I resisted every urge to add a little bit of this or that, things like: Maple syrup; a glug of sherry; a squeeze of basil from those yummy herb tubes; a splash of cream.

For a serial recipe tweaker this abstinence was tough, but I did it. I am so glad I did, because I can now attest that this soup over delivers on its promise. Maybe the simplicity is why it is so good, though it must also have to do with cooking time. Don’t cheat on the 40 minute simmer—that’s where the magic happens. Confession: It was not until writing that line that I realized this is essentially a pureed version of Marcella Hazan’s pasta sauce but with garlic and broth. Mystery solved. Of course it’s good!

As further endorsement, I barely had time to stage a photo of this before my family ate the shot and then the entire batch. The next day, I doubled it, amortizing the minimal effort over even more servings.  

Enjoy a bowl of this with a grilled cheese, or any of the aforementioned carbs, and consider yourself comforted…at least until dinner.

Really Truly Easiest Tomato Soup

from Michelle Prioleau

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • Butter (4 tbsp)*
  • White onion (1 half)
  • Garlic (1 large clove)
  • Canned tomatoes (2 cans)
  • Chicken stock (1.5 cups)*

Method:

  1. Finely chop onions and mince garlic
  2. Melt butter in large pot. Add onions and garlic and cook over medium heat until onions are softened
  3. Add canned tomatoes and chicken stock to pot, and cook uncovered for ~40 minutes
  4. When done cooking, pour soup into blender and blend until smooth (an immersion blender works beautifully too.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste
  6. That’s it!

*Edie’s note here. Don’t tell my family (God knows they will never ever read a food blog), but I used fake butter and veggie “Better than Bouillon.” So, yes it can be Veganized if you like, and the carnivores won’t even notice.

Liquid Gold

At a time like this, we all have questions. For the less pressing ones, I have an answer, and it involves sauce. The one, big, solvable daily question we are all facing is this: how am I going to make all these random leftovers into a meal without going to the store? This leads to satellite questions like, how much broccoli salad can one person eat in a day (answer: a shocking amount); and, when we’ve reached that point, what am I going to do with all this tahini I bought for that recipe

I’m so glad you asked. Thankfully the internet is now mobbed with tips like this on how to use the things that have been hanging in your pantry, waiting for their moment and your desperation. As mentioned in “get saucy with me,” (a darned useful collection of taste sensations), the right sauce or dressing is sometimes all you need to pull together humble ingredients and make them a feast.

Even though tahini opens up many options, you may need to wait for your next store run to make this baby that minimalist baker calls “liquid gold.” It is easy, fast and delicious, but requires some advanced pantry staples, all of which I promise we’ll use in the weeks to come. Namely, you’ll probably need to wrangle up some nutritional yeast and chickpeas* (Vegans can relax–I know you have these on auto delivery). The rest of you for sure have curry powder, right? And likely turmeric, from that time you vowed to mix up a comforting mug of golden milk to drink after your daily yoga. Or maybe because you actually are drinking golden milk after daily yoga. Namaste you! The rest is all pretty standard pantry fare.

This goes well as a dip or a dressing, and can transform rice, pasta, baked potatoes, sandwiches, quesadillas, salads, etc into something a little more exciting that “that stuff in Tupperware.” Bake up a couple loaves of easiest French bread ever, and you’ve just bought yourself a day off from lunch and snack duty.

Check out Lunch Deconstructed as a solid starting point for how to make leftovers into a feast, and stay tuned for some crock pot clinics on mass production of foundational lunch/snack fare. Does it get more exciting???

I hope you all are staying healthy, sane and well-fed!

*careful and prompt readers will note that the first version of this called out raw cashews. In my isolated state I somehow forgot that no cashews will be pulverized for this sauce. Bonus!

Liquid Gold Sauce

From Minimalist Baker

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 small cloves garlic, skin removed
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (or sub lime)
  • 1 Tbsp tahini (or cashew butter)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder
  • 1/8 tsp ground cumin (for milder sauce, omit the cumin and use only curry powder)
  • 1 dash cayenne pepper (optional // omit for less heat)
  • 2 tsp maple syrup (plus more to taste)
  • 1/3 cup water, plus more as needed

Method

  1. To a small blender or food processor (though it won’t be as creamy), add chickpeas, nutritional yeast, garlic, lemon, tahini, salt, ground turmeric, curry powder, ground cumin, cayenne (optional, but c’mon), maple syrup, and water.
  2. Blend on high until creamy and smooth. Add more water as needed until a thick, pourable sauce is achieved.
  3. Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more salt to taste, curry powder for spice, tahini for creaminess / nuttiness, lemon for acidity, cayenne for heat, or maple syrup for sweetness.
  4. Use immediately or store covered in the refrigerator up to 1 week. You can also freeze it up to 1 month and thaw before use (do not heat) although best when fresh.
  5. Perfect for use on just about anything — think roasted sweet potatoes, burrito bowls, salads, and more!

Going for the gold!

New Year’s Resolution Vegetables with Pomegranate Cha-Cha

Hey! You there by the last swig of eggnog. This is your year. It’s your year to be the one who brings vegetables to the party with your head held high, and your hand held up for a high five. This recipe is your first mission. 

It comes to us from Here and Now’s resident chef Kathy Gunst.  I first made it for this past Thanksgiving. Since then, it’s made a lot of appearances, thanks in large part to the pomegranate de-seeding savvy that can be yours in one quick video tutorial.

As Kathy notes this is a mix and match dish. There is no magic formula, so clean out the veggie drawer, grab the rogue pomegranate that is still hanging in the fruit bowl looking for a purpose, and prepare to impress. The main things to remember here are:

  • Roast vs steam the vegetables. As in, give them their space, and…
  • Group them by type so you can remove veggies that roast quicker and let the others get their due.

Other than that, this recipe is pretty loose, though I’d say Brussels sprouts, some kind of winter squash and red onion are kind of key. This recipe makes tons of dressing, so go ahead and overdo the vegetables if that’s your thing, or just be psyched to have extra pomegranate vinaigrette in your arsenal.

And as if this healthy, beautiful, tasty dish needed another bonus, the veggies can be roasted earlier in the day and the vinaigrette can be made a day ahead of time. Assemble it all just before serving, hot or at room temperature.

Roasted Vegetables with Pomegranate Cha-Cha

Ingredients

  • 8 new potatoes, scrubbed and left whole (if large, cut in half or into quarters)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, scrubbed, and cut into 1/2-inch thick pieces
  • 1 small Acorn or Carousel winter squash, peeled, cut in half, deribbed, deseeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 to 1 pound Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and outer leaves removed, left whole
  • 1 large sweet red pepper, cut into 3/4-inch wide strips
  • 1 whole garlic, 1/4-inch sliced off top and left whole
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and cut in quarters
  • 1 sweet white Vidalia onion, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 cup baby turnips, ends trimmed and left whole (if turnips are bigger than a golf ball, cut in half or into quarters)
  • 8 ounces carrots — about 8 small carrots or 3 to 4 larger ones — peeled, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch long pieces
  • About 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

The Pomegranate Vinaigrette

  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds and 1/3 cup of pomegranate juice (from 2 fresh pomegranates, or use 1 cups preseeded pomegranate seeds plus 1/3 cup bottled pomegranate juice)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic or white or red wine vinegar

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Prepare all the vegetables as described above. Place the vegetables a row at a time (keeping all the carrots together, all the onions together in row, etc.) on a large sheet pan or two pans or a shallow roasting pan. You don’t want to use a pan with high sides or it will steam the vegetables rather than let them roast and turn golden brown. Drizzle the olive oil on top and season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven and drizzle vinegar on Brussels sprouts. Flip vegetables over and then return the pan(s) to oven for 20 minutes. Check to see if vegetables are done by piercing with a small sharp knife. Remove any vegetables that are tender and continue cooking the others until softened, about 5 to 10 minutes. The vegetables can be roasted a day ahead of time; cover and refrigerate.
  4. Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl or Mason jar, mix half the pomegranate seeds and juice (if using), salt, pepper, oil and vinegar. Taste for seasoning. The dressing can be made a day or two ahead of time.
  5. If you made the vegetables a day ahead of time, remove from the refrigerator. After you remove the turkey from the oven, place the vegetables in a 300-degree oven for about 10 minutes or until warmed through.
  6. Arrange the vegetables on a serving platter and drizzle with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette and the remaining 1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds. Serve remaining vinaigrette on the side.

Holiday Do’s and Dont’s

It’s go time…the last week of shopping and baking and pretending to work before we get completely sucked in to the holiday vortex. In reality, we’re already there, which makes this week of quasi denial even tougher. But you’re here, you’re reading, and you’re definitely thinking of what to make for the neighbors, the party hosts, the UPS guy and your family…in that order.

So, no new recipes this time (because, who really needs another cookie recipe right now?), but I listed a few faves at the end. Others are embedded in these tips and cautions. Good luck my friends, and when you feel like you’re about to snap, just smile and wave.

DO make a whopping batch of Champion Chip Cookies so you’re ready to make someone’s day. DON’T think you’re so smart that you can make them by heart and end up using double the flour.

DO, figure out a few things you enjoy making (crackle, crackers, spiced nuts) and make a whole lot of them. DON’T go long on an untested recipe and end up with a whole lot of mediocre or inedible treats.

DO watch this clinic on deseeding a pomegranate. It will open your world to mass pomegranate consumption. DON’T position your 2 cups of pomegranate arils precariously in the fridge in a poorly sealed container.

Per above, DO keep a lot of seltzer on hand for stains. DO wear the same color you are drinking. DON’T forget the power of aprons.

If you’ve got people with special diets coming, DO make Knock Out Vegan Pumpkin Pie. DON’T go rogue and substitute the pecan coconut crust with a gluten free pretzel crust. Gah!

DO make Guinness Fondue for a cozy evening gathering. Don’t try to pass off this puree of roasted rutabagas and potatoes spiked with nutritional yeast as “fondue”, even in air quotes. That said, DO make up a batch of the above “faux fondue” (air quotes be damned), or of Sugar and Spice Squash Soup, and offer it as a healthy option alongside the real stuff, but DON’T oversell it. Just have it available and you may be surprised how many people appreciate (and dare I say like) it.

Do plan ahead, read through your recipes and check all your ingredients before you dive in. DON’T, realize too late you are missing a key ingredient, or make your treat arsenal when you are hungry. It is astounding how adversely this affects your yield.

DO have a refreshing or comforting drink and get into the spirit by turning on fun music or entertaining podcasts. DON’T Listen to Impeachment hearings. It will not make you jolly.

DO read this cocktail shaking guide, and consider a monster cocktail shaker as a hostess gift. DON’T shake fizzy drinks in a cocktail shaker. Just don’t.

DO divvy it up, vs taking it all on yourself. DON’T be a holiday martyr. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

DO get into the spirit by dressing up in something super fancy or super cheesy. DON’T let your fraternity brother pick your outfit.

The downside of using a personal shopper.

Here are some of my favorite holiday gifting recipes. I promise–they taste best when made with love and a smile.

Healthy and Healthyish

Heart of Darkness Chocolate Cups
Reeses Redemption Cups
Endurance Crackers
Lifechanging crackers
Paleo Crackers
Gingerbread Granola
Seed Bark Granola
NUTS! Like rosemary maple walnuts, honey thyme walnuts, sesame almonds
Triple Crunch Sesame Peanut Snack Bars

Not so healthyish

Crackle
Crackle 2.0
Cheddar Crisps
Champion Chip Cookies
Morning Paper Oatmeal Cookies
Cholliesauce