A while back, I had a friend tell me that if there was anything I didn’t like, I should just wrap it in prosciutto or stuff it with goat cheese and then I’d be cool with it. And, you know, she wasn’t wrong. Prosciutto is one of my favorite things. I love it for its saltiness. I love that it can be eaten on its own, with vegetables, in a sandwich, with fruit. I love that you can crisp it up and it takes on a whole new greatness. It’s no wonder, then, that I also love chicken saltimbocca. And of course, this recipe for a version that includes spaghetti and is all cooked in one pan jumped right out at me.

We’ve had this dish at least three or four times now, and it never fails to disappoint. Clearly, I thought I would enjoy this, but I was surprised at how delicious it was given its simplicity and relatively short list of ingredients. Tom asked if this was an America’s Test Kitchen recipe after eating it because “they always nail it.” Ian, true to form in this household, has started putting together two-word phrases that are largely about food. So the last time we had this, I got to hear “more pasta?” about a million times.

I add a higher broth to water ratio than the recipe (and have gone even higher than what I’ve listed below) but I do love salt. If you are more sensitive to it, you may want to stick with the original, which is 3 cups broth and 1.5 water. The prosciutto and capers obviously add a saltiness to the dish, too. The lemon juice and zest, though, really brighten this dish up.

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We recently had a family trip to the apple orchard. As expected, eating the apples was far superior to picking them, as far as the kids were concerned. But, we did end up with well over 10 lbs. of apples. The following day, Zachary and I decided to make some apple bread to make a teeny tiny dent in our stash. Z has always loved to bake and cook with me, but with cooking becoming more for survival and less for pleasure lately, we haven’t been in the kitchen much together. It’s been nice the past few weekends to bake with him again. I’m sure Ian will want to get in on the action pretty soon, too.

I always try to keep muffins and quickbreads pretty healthy. I was originally just going to adapt one of the many healthy muffin recipes I’ve made in the past, but then I came across this one on the KAF site and it sounded perfect. To make it even better for us, I used all white whole wheat flour, reduced the sugar, and replaced some of the oil with more applesauce. The result was an incredibly moist bread bursting with apples and fall spices, and made a great part of each of our breakfasts for a few days.

The original recipe doesn’t call for apples or raisins but does call for walnuts. Although this bread would be pretty fab with walnuts, we omitted them so that the kids could take some to their nut-free-school for breakfast. I also decided against adding almond extract for that same reason, but I think replacing some of the vanilla extract with almond would be awesome. Then again, I’m fairly certain I could just drink an entire bottle of almond extract, so I may not be the best judge of that. :)

 

 

 

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A few years ago, I worked near a sausage and burger restaurant that specialized in European ingredients and toppings. You could get your standard burger (or not—there were several options) and top it with things like tzatziki, a chile-feta spread, and other way-better-than-ketchup toppings. One of my favorite things to top a burger with was ajvar (eye-varr), a Serbian spread made from roasted red peppers, eggplant, and garlic.

I thought about ajvar again recently and added “burgers with ajvar” to my long list of “Things I Would Like to Eventually Make and Blog about” and then, like fate, we visited my family in Michigan, and my Serbian aunt whipped out some ajvar with pita for appetizers. Score! Both my kids ate it up (as did I, of course) so that really pushed me over the edge to make it myself.

I made this on a Sunday and we had it for a snack on pita (my oldest also added feta to his, because he is smart) and then we had it the next day for dinner. I made some cevapi-flavoried patties and we had them on mini pitas as burgers. We all really enjoyed it, and I love what a healthy dip/spread it is. I’m always looking for new and different things to use as appetizers, and this is a good one. I will say, though, that I was a little heavy-handed with the garlic (as always) and while the spread was spot-on on Sunday, by Monday evening, the garlic had become much more noticeable. I would say if you are not going to consume this fairly quickly, err on the lower range of garlic. You can always add more (or, you can roast the garlic for a much mellower, less pungent flavor). By day 3, when we took the leftover burgers to work, I just made sure to have a lot of gum handy. :)

I made this smoother than some ajvar dips I’ve seen. Do what you want.

[As an aside, every time I do an "ethnic" recipe on here, I get people coming out of the woodwork to tell me "That dish is not ___(insert ethnicity I claimed it was)____, it's really ____insert ethnicity of commenter)___! How dare you?!"  Let's just agree that a lot of places have similar foods, and there is no reason to get your hackles up about this. Comments like that simply won't be entertained. Well, I will use them for my own entertainment value, but that's it.]

 

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Okay, here it is. The first official pumpkin recipe on the blog this year–and it’s a good one. This doesn’t mean we haven’t eaten pumpkin yet, of course. Zachary and I made some pumpkin-apple muffins on a recent weekend, and then used the leftover pumpkin (as well as some spices and maple syrup) to make a great overnight oatmeal. These cookies, too, are the result of pumpkin leftover from Friday-night-pumpkin-pancake-dinner. PUMPKIN-O-RAMA.

We don’t make a lot of sweets in our house – partly because I’m not hugely into baking and partly because we (or at least I) don’t need that stuff around. That said, I really felt like we needed to use the leftover pumpkin puree for a dessert, instead of another muffin or quickbread. I had a vague recollection of a pumpkin snickerdoodle recipe I’d saved ages ago and voila, here it is!

These are the soft, puffy, cinnamony cookies you’re used to in a snickerdoodle, with the subtle flavor of pumpkin and a boost of warm spices. We all loved them and Z reeeeeeeeeally savors each and every bite.

Speaking of Zachary, if you have a kid who likes to help you in the kitchen, these cookies are really great for that. Zachary had fun helping me measure/mix all the ingredients for the dough (and of course making sure the butter/sugars creamed properly) and then, later, roll the cookies into balls, roll the balls around in the cinnamon-sugar mixture, and finally press down on the cookies with a glass. Plenty of steps that he could do on his own or with a little help. And, of course, later he gets to ask his dad questions like, “Dad, aren’t you going to thank Mom and me for making those delicious pumpkin cookies?”

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I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like tomato soup (more than once, apparently. I guess you’re prone to repetition when blogging for 8 years). It’s because I like more substance to my soups (especially because we do often eat them as a meal) and though I adore tomatoes, I don’t really like very concentrated tomato-based soups. They are a bit too tomato-y for me, if you will.

But this soup, I knew I would like. The tomatoes didn’t seem quite as prevalent, and clearly with both meatballs and pasta, this soup is pretty hearty. Bridget said the meatballs and pasta almost put this in the Spaghettios category and I would probably agree, but I’ve literally had Spaghettios only once in my life, in college, so I’m not really experienced enough to make that comparison (let’s be real, though, we all know this is way better).

Everyone really loved this soup. Ian finished his before I even had like 3 bites of my salad down, and then continued to grope me with tomato-fingers asking for more until I got him some. (One day, dinners will be a little more…relaxing, right?).

I did increase the amount of broth, not only because of my preference for broth to more tomatoes, but because I made this a day before we were going to eat it, and I knew the ditalini would continue to soak up the liquid overnight. I wanted it to stay a soup, and not…well, a pasta dish.

Now, tell me, what are your favorite soups? Because soups are my FAVORITE thing to make, and once the first one is out of the way (okay, okay, we’ve already had two…), there’s no stopping me.

 

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Last week, I was thankful to my kid for helping me with meal planning, and this week I’m thankful to my new dentist.

So, yeah. I have a new dentist and we are in that whole getting-to-know-you period. At my last appointment he asked if I had any hobbies, and because I am a really lame person who doesn’t have many any more, I said cooking. I have to say that while I still enjoy cooking for the most part, I would hardly call it a “hobby” at this point so much as a necessity. At any rate, he then started talking about various dishes he likes, and he mentioned that he makes this Italian pot roast from an old Boy Scouts cookbook. He rattled off the ingredients and it sounded really good, so I decided to search for it online (who am I kidding? Internet surfing is obviously my true hobby) and found it rather quickly. I decided to make this in the slow cooker so we could have it during the week, and we had it alongside some Parmesan farro.

I didn’t add any wine to this, but I think next time I’ll add a little red wine, especially since I upped the broth a bit (just to make sure there was enough liquid, since it was going to be in the slow cooker all day). This is not to say that it wasn’t delicious as-is, but I feel like pot roast needs wine or something. :) We did all really like this and the leftovers were SO good too. The sun-dried tomatoes add a great sweetness and the kalamata olives a salty bite. The pearl onions get cooked down until they are soft, sweet, and fabulous. I actually put a whole bag in vs. 1 cup, mostly because I read the recipe incorrectly, but I’m glad I did it.

The prep is also really easy—which should be mandatory for a slow cooker recipe.

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Meal planning has been really difficult for me lately. It’s just been…annoying. I get into these funks from time to time and they can be really hard to snap out of.  I’m the one who plans all the meals and makes the grocery list, and you’d think it should be easy because I (typically) enjoy cooking and my family is not picky, but it isn’t. It can take me ages to decide on a meal, and then I end up at the grocery store three times that week because I’ve managed to mess up the list or realize I’m out of a “staple” too late. I actually cleaned and organized my pantry recently and made a spreadsheet of everything in it (DORK ALERT) to help out (and also so that when I’m sitting on the couch making these lists I don’t need to, you know, get up and check our stock).

A couple weeks ago, I took a few cookbooks and went into the kids’ playroom and asked Zachary if he wanted to help. The first book he chose to flip through was The New Southwest. When he came to these sandwiches, he said, “I want to have these next week.” A quick scan of the ingredient list confirmed we would love these, and then seeing they were made in a slow cooker sealed the deal. One meal down!

These sandwiches are made with shredded pork that has a double-spice effect: a little heat (from the New Mexico chiles, which are not overtly spicy) and Mexican canela or cinnamon. They’re topped with cheese (any kind you want to use will work, really) and creamy avocado. Served on a bun, they’re a welcome change from your standard pulled pork recipe, and one our entire family enjoyed.  I actually made a similarly-spiced pork dish a few months back that was cooked with hominy instead of made into a sandwich, and although we liked it, I really think this version blew it out of the water. So even if I decide to go the non-sandwich route next time, I plan on using this recipe for the meat.

I will say that although the prep for the slow-cooking part of this is basically non-existent there is some work to be done after. You need to make a sauce, and then simmer the shredded pork in the sauce for about 20 minutes. I decided to make the sauce the day before and just refrigerated it right in the medium stockpot I used to make it, where the shredded pork went the following day. As it simmered to thicken, I of course did very important things like changing out of my work clothes, because if I cannot be in yoga pants at home, then what’s the point of even being at home?

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A few weeks ago we picked up the kids from school and turned on the radio as we were pulling out of the lot. Within 3 seconds, I hear Zachary—yes, that’s right, the 4 year old—start whining/crying/moaning for no apparent reason. At first, I thought maybe he had pinched himself in his buckle or something similar, but no. When I asked him what was wrong, he cried, “I WANTED TO LISTEN TO ‘DANCE YRSELF CLEAN.’” That’s right. Not only am I supposed to understand his unspoken desires, but a life without LCD Soundsystem is not worth living.

Four year olds, guys. They are nuts, I’m telling you. We sailed by the “terrible twos” without any issues and thought perhaps we’d won the lottery but then the threes and fours hit and, whoa. These random fits come out of nowhere.

Case in point: recently, Z has decided that he doesn’t want his food to be mixed together. Fine, I will appease him for some stuff, like putting the rice on the side of stir fry instead of underneath it, or whatever. But I’m not going to deconstruct everything, especially when it’s all stuff he likes. So, when he asked what was on the stove and I told him corn mixed with bacon and balsamic, he started stomping his foot on the ground and shouting that he WANTED THE BACON ON THE SIDE. It was bad enough I was committing treason by cutting corn off the cob, but to mix it with other things? Clearly I was trying to ruin his life.

Usually he comes around within about 2 minutes because it’s not like he can NOT eat, since it’s his favorite thing to do. And then he asks for seconds and thirds, says he’s sorry for the fit because he should have tried it first, and typically proceeds to do the very same thing the following week.

So, like I said, he asked for multiple helpings of this, as did Ian. We already know that bacon, red onions, and balsamic go exceedingly well together, so it was no surprise that this dish was great. We had this alongside some roasted chicken (always another hit, pretty sure I am going to have to start buying 2 chickens the way these kids eat) and green beans and it was a great meal all around.

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I am fortunate to live with some of the least picky eaters on the planet. The few things the boys don’t like to eat are very strange (mashed potatoes for Zachary, yogurt for Ian?!?), but between the two of them and Tom, I never have to really wonder if a meal will be well-received when planning or cooking it. (And it’s a good thing, too, because I’ve gotten to really dislike the planning and grocery-list-making process, so if I had to deal with pickiness, too, I would be so done.)

All that said, Tom is (historically) not a big fan of okra. On his short list of exactly three things he doesn’t really care for, okra falls second. Number one is Grape Nuts cereal, which he almost seems offended by. Number three is eggplant, where he has similar feelings to my own, which is basically that it’s not bad and we have both been coming around to it in recent years, but we don’t get excited about it, either.

I’m sure when okra appeared on the grocery list the first time I made this, Tom was less than excited. But after he had this version? He came around. He told me if I wanted to make okra like this all the time, he would be fine with it. Zachary also fell in love with it and, so, that is the way we continued to make it 99% of the time. Aaaaand I recently discovered that Ian, too, is a fan of this. So, it looks like this will be the way we continue to make okra 99% of the time for the foreseeable future (the other 1% being devoted to roasting and salads, and the occasional stewed pot I will make for myself, thankyouverymuch).

I made this recipe as-is the first couple of times, but recently I started cutting down the oil a bit and it works just as well. I left a range in the recipe I’m posting, but I use the low end of the range.  This isn’t going to replace fried okra or anything, but it does give you a crispy, non-slimy version of okra that even self-proclaimed okra haters can’t hate on.

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We’ve established that I can sometimes be pretty hesitant when it comes to barbecue sauce. But barbecue dry rubs? I’m always down.

We don’t eat a lot of ribs and rarely make an entire pork shoulder or similarly large cut of meat, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love a good dry rub. Pork tenderloin is always a winner in our house because it’s lean, cooks quickly, and is a good size.

I was debating what to pair with a bbq-rubbed tenderloin so I thought of the usual sides. Macaroni and cheese sounded great, but what I really wanted was some sweet summer corn. After all, you can eat mac and cheese year-round but corn this good only lasts so long! Eating corn straight off the cob is great, of course, but I decided to turn this into a risotto since I had a small amount of arborio rice to use up and my pantry is in a state of chaos, so I really need to, um, clear out.

The rub for the tenderloin is fantastic. And the corn risotto? Oh so good. Sweet, creamy, basically everything that is great about risotto and corn in one dish. Ian in particular went absolutely apeshit over this. Once again, I’m starting to think they’re going to have to get jobs by age 8 if we are expected to afford their food.

I took a pretty traditional approach to this risotto, but as everyone knows barbecued-rub stuff goes really well with cheese and beer, so I think a beer-cheese risotto would be a different but equally great spin on this dish. The nice thing about this dish is that the pork is roasted, so you can concentrate on the risotto. I also roasted green beans, so I didn’t even have to think about a vegetable side later. To get the timing right, you will want to sear the pork tenderloin, and then as soon as you stick it in the oven, start making the risotto. The cook and rest time will be right around the time the risotto is done, but you may want to do some prep before searing, like cutting the corn off the cob. I trimmed my green beans and threw them on a sheet pan so they would be ready to stick in the oven when I was about  halfway done with the risotto.

 

 

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