After waking up twice this week with new snow on the ground, I’m sad to report that maybe we haven’t officially reached “salad weather” yet. Sigh.

But, no matter, right? Salads can definitely be eaten year-round, especially when you’re trying to get back to lighter meals after all the comfort foods of winter. And, besides, this is one of my new favorite salads.

It’s based off one at a popular Chicago lunch/sandwich place called Hannah’s Bretzel.  They have really great sandwiches, but when I go I tend to get the small one (wecken) with an Ella’s salad on the side. Not to sound like a Yelp review, but the first time I got it, I was amazed at the size of the salad. Most “side” salads, especially in the Loop, are a few scrawny pieces of lettuces and maybe like 3 bites of other vegetables drowning in dressing. After I got past how miraculously substantial this one was, I loved it even more for the way it tasted.

This salad includes some of my favorite things: asparagus, roasted tomatoes, cashews, mozzarella, and cannellini beans. Definitely not your typical side salad. It comes with a white balsamic vinaigrette that’s a little tangier than normal vinaigrettes (which works for me, as I vastly prefer this to oilier vinaigrettes).  It’s worth going for, even if you don’t eat any of their vast array of fancy schmancy chocolate bars staring at you as you make your way through the line.

Now, if only this salad had the magical powers to bring warmer weather.

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I’ve been staring at a blank screen for a while here, because I don’t know how many more times or ways I can tell you that we’re a Tex-Mex loving family and that one-pot meals are highly desirable in our lives right now.

I’m not sure how many more ways I can say, “We loved this” or “My kids asked for thirds” or “Isn’t cast iron the best thing ever?” or “Why is Zachary insistent on eating sour cream straight off a spoon?”

This meal is just…us. It’s quick, it’s pretty healthy, it’s got the flavors and ingredients that we love, and it’s comforting (also, it can be served with sour cream).

There’s not much more to say other than that. Instead of wasting time reading my usual ramblings, go ahead and use time to make this. :)

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I am on a roll with this whole remembering Pi Day thing, guys! This year I decided to make a savory pie, since I’ve already made two chocolate pies and fruit right now is not the greatest. And, hey, this can double as a St. Patrick’s Day post, too.  I’m just killing this whole blogging thing.

So, this pie. It starts with braised beef that gets fork-tender and delicious while cooking in a Guinness-y gravy. Then, you mix in some cheddar, plop it in a pan, top it with more cheddar and then puff pastry. Can we talk about puff pastry for a second? It should be its own food group, right? So good.

(I may have forgotten to put the cheese on the top and then had to peel back the crust to add it, sacrificing a prettier crust. Maaaaybe.)

This is some major comfort food. I know the temperatures are starting to rise (at least for now), but you still have some time to make this pie, and you should. We had it with peas (and salad) to sort of counteract the pastry (and the fact that we ate entirely too much on the first night), but it would be perfection with some mashed potatoes. Or maybe colcannon, to Irish it up? Either way, make it. And happy Pi Day!

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Years back, when I used to be able to walk home from work (the glory days), I would often stop at the Whole Foods near our apartment for whatever random ingredient I had forgotten to purchase that weekend. No matter what I went in for, I had a really hard time leaving without their seeduction loaf or rolls. So good. When I came across this recipe, it instantly reminded me of that bread, which I haven’t had in a number of years. Though different and not a “copycat” recipe, this bread is equally hearty, wholesome, and delicious.

The recipe makes two smaller pointed or round loaves. We killed the first loaf for dinner (and uh, pre-dinner snacking) and then my husband went out after the kids went to bed, leaving me all alone with loaf number two. :-\ FOR THE RECORD,  I didn’t eat it (all) and the next day I wrapped it in foil and reheated it in the oven for a bit and it was every bit as good as day #1,

Now, this is not 100% whole wheat. I will be the first to tell you that I often get annoyed at the moniker “whole wheat” when only about 60% of the flour used is whole wheat. But, the nice thing about that is that you don’t have to do a lot of prep as far as a starter and fermentation and all that jazz (there is a lot of rise time, but not overnight). You do soak the seeds overnight, just to make them softer, so there is a little prep the night before, but it takes all of 30 seconds. The baking stage is a little strange and involves quickly throwing some water into a hot oven, which is always fun.

I loved this bread. Loved it. I was so happy it turned out, especially after a couple brad-flops as of late. It’s delicious on its own, slathered with butter, or dipped into soup or stew (which is how we ate most of it). Now that I have like 46 lbs. of flax seeds, because our grocery store only sells them in gigantic containers, I can make this bread a million times over. And that’s fine by  my family and me.

 

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My youngest son will not eat cheese unless it’s stuck to pizza or pasta. If I hadn’t seen the child come out of my own body, I may question whether he’s mine (did I mention he particularly dislikes feta and despises yogurt?). But man, oh man does that kid love pizza and pasta. Literally every day after he gets picked up from school he asks if we’re having pasta. When that answer is (almost always) a no, he asks if we’re having pizza or bread. If they are all “nos,” temporary hell will ensue. When it comes to eating dinner, he’s basically a garbage disposal no matter what, but he has the typical toddler gene that gives preferential treatment to carbs. (He must be mine after all.)

Obviously, I knew this meal would be a hit. It’s a fairly standard baked pasta dish with a pizza twist. Typical pizza ingredients like sausage, pepperoni, and mushrooms (I also added green peppers) are added to a tomato sauce that really is reminiscent of pizza sauce – also, I swear it smells like pizza while it’s cooking.

This is extremely easy to throw together. The pasta cooks in the oven, so there’s no cooking it beforehand. The mushrooms are microwaved to get rid of their moisture, and the sausage is crumbled into the baking dish without even being browned. I was a little leery of that last thing, knowing that browning sausage can add more flavor and uncooked sausage does not look particularly appealing in globs on top of uncooked pasta. But, it turned out fabulously and, hey, if you’re familiar with how Lou’s makes their pizza, which is to put a literal layer of pressed in, uncooked sausage onto the crust before baking, it may make this even more “pizza-like” in your mind. :)

 

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My youngest has taken after his older brother and become food-obsessed. The upside is my kids are not picky. The downside is I’m not sure how we’ll afford to feed these children without taking out a second mortgage on our house in a few years. Ian wants to watch me make dinner but, weirdly, has zero interest in helping. If he had his way I would hold him with one arm while trying to chop and stir with another. It’s not my favorite stage. He’s always in the kitchen asking, “What for dinner mom? Can I see? WANT TO SEE. Chicken in oven? Whassat? Bread? We have pasta? WANT PASTAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!” My husband tries to keep him occupied but it’s sometimes futile and he has stuff to do, too.

When you have a near-2-year old clinging to your leg and whining about food, the last thing you want is something that takes a long time to cook. This is one of the reasons I really like marinating food because I can just throw it in the pan when I get home. Roasting yams is hands-off after the first few minutes and I only cook green beans for 3ish minutes, so these types of meals are frequent in our house as of late.

We’ve had this marinade on chicken (breasts and thighs) and pork (chops and tenderloin), and I’m sure it would be good on steak too, if you’re not too much of a steak purist. It reminds me of a not-spicy jerk marinade, but of course if you want some heat you can add a minced habanero, more hot sauce, etc. to suit your tastes. Next time I plan on replacing the brown sugar with honey, which I’m sure will be equally delicious and eliminate refined sugar. Oh, and I’ve also made it without bothering to cook the onion (just chopping it finer), which works too. Laziness wins often around here.

The ingredient list for this is long, but likely contains ingredients you already have in your pantry. Plus, this makes a decent amount of marinade, so you could likely get 2-3 meals from it, depending on how many people you’re cooking for. I like to freeze extras in gallon-sized bags, so that when you’re ready to use it, you have enough room in the bag to place your meat.

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Weeknight Porchetta

February 25, 2015 · 3 comments

in pork

I know the bacon craze is dying/has died out but the truth is bacon is timeless. I mean, any time you wrap something in bacon, it’s going to be good, regardless of whether it’s the hip thing to do or not, right? Right. I’ve combined pork tenderloin with bacon quite a few times (what Z referred to this past weekend as “double pork!”), so it’s no surprise that when I saw this recipe, it immediately grabbed my interest and got made pretty quickly.

What I love about pork tenderloin, or really any roasted meat, is that it’s so easy to just cook alongside potatoes and/or vegetables for a complete meal.  After you put it in the oven, your work is done. It’s rare I roast pork tenderloin without searing it first and, since that increased the cooking time, I decided to do larger cut redskins rather than sweet potatoes or fingerlings, which seem to cook a little more quickly. About 10 minutes before the pork was done I threw in some broccoli. Once the pork came to the correct temperature, I removed it and let the broccoli and potatoes continue cooking for about 10 minutes while I rested and sliced the pork.

Although not required, I do think this benefits from applying the rub in the morning/afternoon and letting the pork tenderloin absorb the flavors more prior to cooking. We made this on a weekend (take that, recipe title!) so doing so in the afternoon was not a problem, but the rub is pretty quick to put together so  you should be able to do it in the morning before work if you’d like.

 

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The good news is, since my last post about bread failures, I’ve successfully made two yeasted breads. The bad news is, since my last post about bread failures, I’ve successfully made two yeasted breads.  ♥ Carbs ♥

Lagana is a Greek bread that is typically made and eaten on “Kathari Deftera,” which is literally translated to “Clean Monday.” It is the day that starts 40 days of Lent before Easter. For those celebrating Orthodox Easter, it’s this coming Monday. On Kathari Deftera, typical Lenten diets, like not eating meat, are observed, but most also do not eat certain types of fish or anything “with blood,” or dairy products.

Lagana is a long, ovalish shaped flatbread that many liken to focaccia. It’s incredibly easy to make and great with any number of dips or simply just olive oil.

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I used to have a bag of masa harina in my cabinet at all times, but then when my last bag ran out, I kind of…forgot about it for a while. Recently, though, after randomly remembering my love for tamale pie, I reinstated the bag-in-the-pantry scenario. And it has been lovely.

Masa harina is so much fun to use (not to mention, delicious). It’s mostly simply used in making homemade corn tortillas, but it can be used in corn cakes, to thicken soups and chilis,  pancakes, muffins – whatever. It’s pretty versatile and adds that unmistakable corn/tortilla flavor to everything.

One of the first things I decided to make with my newer bag was dumplings. Because dumplings are basically cures for the winter blues. I’m pretty sure I read that in a science journal.

For the base of the chili, I essentially used this recipe but made it heartier by using more chicken (also, switching to thighs) and less broth. As for the masa dumplings, I already made them as part of a different recipe, so I used those.

This was a big hit with everyone, and I look forward to making it again (and again). The leftovers were also great (yes, the dumplings do get kind of soggy but that doesn’t bother me at all and my husband even remarked that “anything you make with masa is good but for some reason this leftover chili was really good.”)

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You know  how there’s all this research now that points to people who think cilantro tastes like soap/tin foil actually having something in their DNA causing that reaction ? I wonder if there’s something similar with beets. I hear people say a lot that beets taste like dirt and they don’t taste that way to me at all. Sure, they are earthy but they are fabulous. Growing up, the beets were my second favorite part of Greek diner salads (after feta, obviously). And now I love them as chips, roasted, or really any way. My whole family likes them. Fuchsia hands after handling them (or eating them, if you are a 22 month old) are their only downfall.

(sidebar: I just did some of my own “research” and discovered that there is an organic compound in them called geosmin that some people don’t like the smell of and may cause that dirt reaction. It’s also present in spinach, mushrooms, and lettuce. So there you go.)

I liked the sound of this salad from the getgo. Beside beets, it has wheat berries, which I’ve just started eating more of, and pumpkin seeds, which are so great. Some of the pumpkin seeds are crushed up finely and used in the vinaigrette so their flavor is laced throughout and the rest are sprinkled on top, giving a little texture to the salad. This salad is good at room temperature (how we had it the first day) or cold (how we had it as leftovers) so it’s nice for a gathering because you can make it ahead.

This recipe called for celery leaves but I realized too late that the celery in our fridge was just ribs. So, I ended up using the beet greens in their place. Worked wonderfully. Also, my store was out of golden beets, which are sweeter, so I used red beets. If you’re just coming around to beets and you find yellow, that may be an easier transition for you.

 

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