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.

Italian Breakfast Biscotti

Well hello! What say we spend a quiet weekend at home with family? I know, bad joke. But really, at any other point in time that probably sounded like a comforting luxury, so let’s enjoy it. And, how better to enjoy it than with cookies? But, wait, it gets better. How about breakfast cookies? NOW we’re talking.

This recipe come from “A Blissful Feast” the book I mentioned a couple of posts ago, after going to a reading at the Norwich Book Store. The author, the supremely talented Teresa Lust, is my neighbor in bustling Hanover Center, and the reading happened to be that last social event before we all scurried into our holes for the duration. Teresa’s first book, Pass the Polenta got a shout-out from none other than Julia Child, so I knew this chronicle of her culinary journey—through Italian culture, history and family—would be entertaining, informative and well written. As a bonus, it’s full of unfussy recipes that I wanted to try pronto!

Part history, part story and all great recipes

This was the first recipe I wanted to make, and it did not disappoint. I love that these call for olive oil instead of butter, which helps when cooking with heart health in mind, and means you don’t have to soften butter. I also love that they use lemon zest because the only things I have hoarded are Meyer lemons. And I love that I now have a new creation that impresses my kids and makes everyone happy at any time of day. When Teresa graciously encouraged me to share the recipe here, she warned me that it was possible to eat half the batch in one sitting. She was not wrong.

As I prepare to make them again, I need to time production so I have some left for tomorrow’s Easter festivities which include…cookies for breakfast and not much else. I’m saving A Blissful Feast for bedtime reading, going through it slowly, imagining a trip to Italy and enjoying it like a long family meal. 

A few notes: This is the recipe exactly as it is written in the book, but with a few *notes where Teresa provided some extra guidance and assurance for the baking impaired (like me). I suspected these would be great with other fruit/nut combos, and Teresa gives that a big thumbs up, especially dried cherries or cranberries and almonds, pistachios. or hazelnuts. I say any combo that speaks to you (ideally from your pantry).

Cantucci: Breakfast Biscotti

Makes about 4 dozen

These twice baked cookies are traditionally served with a sweet dessert wine at the end of the meal. The addition of dried apricots, almonds and oats gives them all the ingredients you need for breakfast, too, served with an espresso or steaming cup of caffelatte.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour, plus 1 Tbsp for tossing with apricot pieces
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • zest of a lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 cup blanched almonds, (whole or slivered)
  • ½ cup old fashioned oats (not instant)

Combine 2 cups flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

Place sugar, eggs and olive oil in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until smooth. Add lemon zest, vanilla and almond extract, and continue mixing, until combined.

In a small bowl, toss remaining tablespoon of flour with dried apricots to keep the pieces from sticking and set aside.

Add flour mixture to wet ingredients, stirring just until blended and make sure to scrape bottom and sides of bowl with a spatula to thoroughly incorporate dough.

Stir in chopped apricots, almonds, and oats. Covered though and refrigerate 30 minutes (or up to several hours or overnight).

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a baking sheet or lined with parchment paper. Divide dough in half, roll into logs (about 12 x 2 inches) and place on baking sheet a few inches apart.*

Flatten the logs into loaves about 1 inch high. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.

Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Let loaves cool slightly, then cut into 1/2 inch slices.** Arrange cut side down on baking sheet and return to oven until biscotti start to harden and turn golden (they’ll still feel a bit soft, but will continue to harden as they cool), 15 to 20 minutes.

Teresa’s guidance:

*I roll them out on the counter—I don’t dust the counter with flour, but if they are sticky you could do that. (There’s a lot of variation in different types/brands of flour, also humidity and freshness of flour can affect things.) Then I transfer them  to a baking sheet.

**I cut them on a cutting board, while they are still warm, but cool enough to handle, I’ve used both a chef’s knife and a serrated bread knife, which works better if you’ve forgotten about them and let them cool down all the way.

Partially baked, sliced and ready for the final act.

and then there’s this option

Raising the Potato Bar

Are you ready for the world’s easiest recipe? You’re in luck, because the world’s second easiest recipe—baked potatoes in a crock pot—wasn’t seamless. They were ok, but when we’re faced with the whole day to contemplate lunch and dinner ideas, and the whole Internet to peruse them, “just ok” doesn’t cut it.

This little miracle of low work/high reward cooking hacks comes to you from your crockpot or, in fancy talk, your slow cooker. Ever since discovering that you can cook beets by simply washing them and chucking them in a crockpot (than you Auntie Tina!), I’ve had new four season respect for my crockpot.

Sweet potatoes are just as easy as that, but provide a much wider range of options for a wider range of tastes. These come out perfectly cooked and even crisp on the outside.

Best yet, however, is that all you do is wash them, and load them in the pot. Here’s where they have it on straight up russet potatoes, which need to be pricked, oiled, salted and wrapped in foil before they go into the crock pot. Granted, that is far from difficult, but the russets also didn’t have the same texture as potatoes baked in the oven. I’m not giving up on them, but I’m also not ready to rave about them.

Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside crockpot sweet potatoes, however, are now my jam. I hope they solve many of your, “What am I going to feed these people today???” moments, or just make YOU happy one lunch at a time.

Slow Cooker Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients:

Sweet Potatoes to fill up the bottom of your crockpot (I’ve done up to 5)

Method:

Wash sweet potatoes and fit them into the crockpot in one layer. (You can probably stack them but I’ve never needed that many)

Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. Crockpots all vary, especially ones that are 20 years old. My potatoes were totally good at 3 hours on high and 7 hours on low.

Top with standard baked potato toppings, or whatever makes you happy. A few of my go tos, if you’re feeling saucy: liquid gold sauce, chile crisp, balsamic black beans, as easy peanut sauce and of course any salsa or guacamole.

 

 

Puppies, Squat Racks and Pasta Sauce

I had you at puppies, right? Apparently, now that the toilet paper hoarding issue is getting sorted out, the two things where demand is grossly exceeding supply is in puppies and home exercise equipment. Some people were prepared for the apocalypse, and had put in their puppy orders and built their proper home gyms. For the rest of us, I have this pasta sauce. Small consolation, but it’s something, and it comes from the master of Italian cooking, Marcella Hazan*.

This sauce can be made with any canned tomatoes you have in your pantry (San Marzanos if you are fancy), plus an onion and butter. Five Tbsp of butter sounds excessive, but if we’re being entirely honest about the effect on our diet of all this time indoors, it is probably a drop in the bucket. There are more irresponsible uses of butter that are far less tasty.

So, with no further ado, and before I embark on a grocery mission which involves many russet potatoes (hint hint on what’s coming), I give you the easiest, tastiest darned pasta sauce you’ll ever make. Stay safe and healthy and well-fed!

Marcella Hazan’s Pasta Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups tomatoes, in addition to their juices (for example, a 28-ounce can of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes)
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut in half
  • Salt

Method

  1. Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt.
  2. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed.
  3. Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta. This recipe makes enough sauce for a pound of pasta.

 

*Etna, NH, has its own master of Italian cooking, Teresa Lust. She read from her new book, a Blissful Feast, at the Norwich Bookstore, earlier in March, on what feels like the last time anyone could gather anywhere. I’m getting the goods to make her breakfast biscotti in the hopes that she will let me share them with you here. In the meantime, you can support the Norwich bookstore and Teresa by buying her book, which is a fun, interesting and delicious read about a part of Italy that is suffering hard right now. Have I mentioned puppies? Pet them if you’ve got them, while the rest of us visualize.

 

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!

Way Bettah Broccoli Salad

Bring It is back! No need to drag you all through a long preamble, but the short story is this: For the first time since New Year’s mama’s got a kitchen again… just in time for eating in place! OK, it’s alllllmost a full kitchen, but it involves running water, a fridge and a dishwasher, so we’re good to go.

I’m going to be serving up recipes with an eye towards feeding all those bonus people —less than 10 but more than two—who may be back in your house. If you don’t have a full house, you may be cooking for someone who doesn’t feel safe getting out to the grocery store or to pick up takeout from the local restaurants. Whatever your jam, chances are it involves more cooking and more time at home.

This is a funky time for sure, and because you may not know what’s available in the grocery store even if you can get there, we’re doubling down on our Bring It ingredients credo, which is: “Love the one you’re with.” As in, modify and substitute as needed, with conviction. Also, because you may find your self needing to provide actual breakfast vs leftovers or cereal, I highly suggest revisiting these overnight sensation muffins and popovers. Minimal evening effort + pantry staples = happy morning tribe.

So, on to today’s recipe that I’ve made countless times since discovering it. It came from my quest for a healthier version of that guiltiest of picnic pleasures—the sweet and creamy bacon broccoli salad. This transcends age, gender and most dietary restrictions. It is a hit with pretty much everyone who eats vegetables. As with most salads, it’s all about the dressing, which features tahini and maple syrup. So, it’s not low fat or low sugar, but you can dial the sweetness (and the amount of dressing you use of course) up or down…or live a little and enjoy it as written.

This is how I make it, but feel free to riff on the options. There’s no wrong answer here. You’re eating raw broccoli fergawdsakes, protecting yourself from the inside out. Go you!

I hope you all stay healthy and happy and are eating well in place.

Way Bettah Broccoli Salad with Lemon-Tahini Dressing

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 2 medium heads (3/4–1 lb) broccoli
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds (or toasted sunflower seeds)
  • 1/3 cup raisins or dried cranberries
  • 1–2 shallots, thinly-sliced (or red onion in a pinch)
  • 1–2 tsp white sesame seeds (not a dealbreaker. This slacker has never used them)
  • optional: 1/4 cup feta or ricotta salata cheese (same as above)

For the dressing:

  • 3 Tbsp tahini
  • 3–4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 Tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp fresh garlic, finely-minced
  • kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Method

Uh…WASH YOUR HANDS (as if we’d forget, but still)

Make the dressing:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, 3 Tbsp olive oil, lemon juice, and honey until combined. Add up to another tablespoon of oil to thin as desired. Stir in the garlic, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  2. Or, if saving for later, transfer to an air-tight jar. May be made in advance and kept refrigerated for up to two weeks.

Assemble the salad:

  1. Chop the broccoli into small bite-sized florets. Pro tip: See here how to butcher your broccoli. Basically, hold it by the stem and shave the broccoli tips with a sharp knife, like you’re giving it an all over hair cut. Save the stems for broccoli stem pesto, or soup or whatever moves you.
  2. Toss together the broccoli, shallots, and raisins or cranberries with the dressing. Refrigerate for about an hour. Just before serving, add the almonds, sesame seeds, and feta, if using. Serve chilled.

 

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

 

 

California Dreamin’ Persimmon and Pomegranate Salad

Sister B served me this salad on my last trip to CA, and I loved everything about it. It’s beautiful, interesting in taste and texture, healthy, and—most of all—it looked totally, easily replicable. We grew up with a persimmon tree in our backyard, but they were the acorn-shaped ones that turn your mouth to cotton when they are even slightly firm, and only become edible when they are the texture of ectoplasm. Suffice to say, I was not a fan.

In the intervening years, “Fuyu” persimmons—smaller, squat looking numbers that are delicious when eaten in their firm state—became readily available.

When my sister dug up this recipe, she did it as if playing a casual game of Google darts because in California (where every ingredient in this salad is something you might encounter underfoot on a sidewalk), needing a recipe for this salad is like needing a recipe for avocado toast. In the Yankee wilds, however, it qualifies as a fancy feast.

I approached this salad in the casual way one approaches non-toxic events, assuming that whatever persimmon I tracked down in NH would be the edible kind. Surely that old variety, if it appeared at all, would be sold with something akin to a skull and crossbones sign.

WRONG! One bite of my first-acquired persimmon brought back so many memories, none of them good. And so I returned to our groovy Coop and found the precious little Fuyus, which should have been sold in a velvet case. While I was paying $8 for my two small persimmons the cashier chuckled, having grown up in N. Carolina’s persimmon belt, where $8 would have gotten me the persimmons and, say, dinner.

Anyway, I got the goods, and armed with the pomegranate liberating technique in Pomegranates Unplugged, I was good to go. You’re basically tossing arugula with a bright, simple dressing, then laying on the goods—thinly sliced persimmons, avocado slices and pomegranate seeds. I hope you can find your Fuyu persimmons and try this yourself. I’ll try my best to get you some more Thanksgiving inspiration before T-Day. In the meantime, enjoy the season!

Callifornia Dreamin’ Persimmon and Pomegranate Salad

From Crumb, a food blog

Feel free to riff on this, with your own favorite dressing, baby spinach and blood oranges or grapefruit if you can’t find persimmons. Love the one you’re with, baby.

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Salad

  • 8 cups baby arugula
  • 1 firm-ripe Fuyu persimmon, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1 large avocado, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 cup fresh pomegranate aril
  • Handful of toasted pistachios or nuts of choice (optional)

Instructions

Prepare the Dressing:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegars and mustard until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Assemble the Salad:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, toss arugula with dressing until well coated. Distribute between four individual salad bowls, or transfer to a single large salad bowl.
  2. Arrange persimmon and avocado slices on the arugula, then scatter with pomegranate and pistachios (if using). Serve immediately.

Bringing It:

In addition to being healthy, beautiful and delicious, this is very easy to bring to a group feast. Slice up the persimmons, prep your pomegranates and dressing and jar them each up separately. Bring the arugula and the whole avocado and assemble on site. Then take a victory lap in your fancy pants.

 

Trickless Treats: Quick and Clean Chocolate Mousse

Halloween used to be so easy. You scurried around all night, gorged on candy, felt not a twinge of guilt and moved on. Now, it’s more complicated. Candy is not so dandy the morning after. But still, we all want to walk on the wild side on Halloween. Enter healthy treats, for which we turn to our crafty Vegan friends.

Vegan cuisine is rife with creativity. That said, I have no patience for food creations that are called something they’re not. Cashews with nutritional yeast, while it can be tasty, is not queso.  And as my husband sternly pointed out, chickpeas mashed with tahini is NOT tuna salad (though I do love this one).

Along those lines, when it comes to healthy treats, don’t tell me that date paste rolled in peanuts is just like a Pay Day because it’s not. It’s just not. And tofu blended with chocolate chips taste just like, drumroll please…tofu blended with chocolate chips.

But then sometimes you find legit healthy alternatives for your treat fix. For Exhibit A I call up cocoa nutty balls; And Exhibit B: Heart of Darkness cups made here with pumpkin seed butter (because who doesn’t have some of that laying around) which gets extra Halloween points for ghoulish green insides.

This chocolate mousse/pudding is another win. It was borne of too many ripe avocados, an upcoming trip and that Yankee streak that hates to waste even one bit of a perfectly good fresh produce.

The sheer ease and speed of making it (hello food processor) would be enough to make this a win, but it’s also delish and not one bit bad for you. After all, healthy fats are a thing and maple syrup, in responsible amounts, is like mainlining nature.

If you do want to witness dates and peanuts trying their hardest to be a PayDay, check this out from Minimalist Baker:  

Go ahead—have a treat, or two, and feel damn good about it. Happy Halloween!

Quick and Clean Chocolate Mousse

Total Time: 5 minutes (you’ve got that don’t you?)

Makes 4 servings

From Chocolate Covered Katie

Ingredients

  • flesh of 2 ripe avocados (240g)
  • 1/4 cup regular cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup melted chocolate chips
  • 3-4 tbsp milk of choice
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Method

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. Pour in four little bowls or one big one, and refrigerate it if you want it thicken up. Dress up if you must and feel 100 percent totally good about yourself.