It should be no surprise that I’ve been throwing feta in pasta for pretty much my whole life.  It adds a nice salty bite and tastes delicious, of course. The only “bad” thing about feta is that it’s not exactly known for its melting properties, so it can sometimes be a little more difficult to incorporate it into every bite (which is something you want to do with cheese in general, obviously). But, make a simple cheese sauce with butter, flour, milk, and feta and boom. FETA IN ALL THE THINGS.

This is not your typical macaroni and cheese, so even though the feta is well-incorporated into the dish, it’s not going to be that creamy, silky, overtly cheesy sauce associated with most “macaroni and cheese” recipes. I like to think of this more as a spin on baked ziti or something similar, since it also includes tomatoes. Kalamata olives are adding for that nice briny, salty, Greek flavor (PS if you don’t like olives, try kalamata olives; they blow all olives out of the water). I also added some chicken to this to make it a more filling meal.

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As a kid, I was pretty picky. But, I wasn’t the kind of picky most kids are. It was never difficult to get me to eat vegetables. I would eat Greek-style okra, peas, and green beans by the bowlful—often even cold, straight out of the fridge, for a snack. And xorta would be eaten like we were approaching a crop shortage. But beans, seafood, or Chinese food? Nuh uh. No way.

Xorta (pronouced horr-tah) are just greens. They can be any sort of greens you want, really, but dandelion greens or vlita (amaranth) were the most common for us growing up. All you do is boil them until they are tender, drain them, and toss them with olive oil and lemon. We Greeks are simple – lemons and olive oil in savory foods, honey and nuts in sweet foods. :)

Full discloser: Zachary, my garbage disposal, is not a fan of these. This is not surprising because outside of mashed potatoes (WEIRDO), soft leafy greens are the only things he doesn’t really like. He will eat raw spinach or whatever but as soon as it’s sauteed or boiled it becomes untouchable. I would weep at our lack of shared love of leafy greens, but he is otherwise a great eater who does share other loves with me, like listening to REM and Le Tigre in the car.

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There are some foods I cannot get enough. I will make the dish itself or versions of it often and in any way imaginable. Chicken shawarma is one of them (which I will prove to you in a new post soon) and French onion soup is another. Over the years, I’ve made countless renditions of French onion soup, from a chicken dish, to a grilled cheese, to a rice dish. It should not be surprising that I’d try to sneak gruyere and caramelized onions in as many things as possible.

I know that this is not the most spring-y dish. I know that. But I still don’t have a problem making or eating it in the warmer months (at least, now that our air is fixed). Because, again – gruyere and caramelized onions. And bread.  I also know that these pictures are  not great because I got them in the days before it was light at dinnertime. Still, I want to share this with you because I adore it.

I’ve added chicken, which is totally optional, of course, but it does make for a good complete meal. For the grain, I used farro, but you could just as easily use rice, quinoa, barley, or any number of things. I’m just the weirdo who has farro in one of my 3 counter-top canisters (bulgur, not flour or sugar, is in another of course).

Just make sure you take into account the amount of liquid (and time) required to cook your grain. Farro for me is generally a 2:1 ratio of liquid to farro (even though I have seen others that recommend more like 3:1), so that is what I have indicated below (with a little extra to be absorbed by the chicken, and while baking/sitting).  Note also that I have used pearled farro, which has a quicker cooking time.

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I’ve been on a cookbook kick lately. I’m back to bookmarking and food-staining the pages of cookbooks I’ve resurrected. It’s been great because I’ve been in a bit of a food rut (especially for weekday dinners), and the cookbooks help. Plus, it makes me feel okay about the precious real estate (only 2 squares, for the record) my cookbooks are taking up on our already-way-too-full bookshelves.

So, in addition to making pretty much everything from Pasta Revolution and Mexican Everyday, I’ve been using The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook a lot, too. Because balance.

Shrimp, asparagus, and lemon are a match made in heaven, so it’s obvious this was a winning dish. What’s better is that it’s quick to make and healthy. What’s not so good is that shrimp can be expensive and both of my children are shrimp beasts. I’m pretty sure they will be getting a call from the ocean any day now.

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It should come as absolutely no surprise that Zachary is a huge fan of Mexican food, given how much of it we eat (and Ian is already following closely in his footsteps). Last night we were eating tacos and guacamole salad and after he finished his meal in 2.5 seconds, I told him he should open a Mexican restaurant when he gets older, implying that he can own it/cook there. Of course he took it to mean something else entirely and said, “Yeah, so I can eat all the Mexican food!”

So, it should also come as no shock whatsoever that he loves Mexican sandwiches, which combine two of his favorite food groups. And who can blame him? We love them, too.

This time around, we tried a version of chorizo and black bean subs from the always-popular Mexican Everyday. They’re a quick and easy meal using some of my favorite ingredients (chorizo! goat cheese!) and a winner all around. These are more bean-heavy than sausage-heavy so they are also good if you’re trying to cut down a little on your meat intake but not get rid of it all together (though you could certainly make these just with seasoned beans).

I’ve made other versions of tortas before and never blogged them, but one of my favorites is with chicken that has been cooking in tomatillo salsa (crockpot FTW!) with a more-mashed-version of these black beans. Of course, tortas are infinitely adaptable just like tacos, so feel free to experiment (and then tell me your favorite combination, so I can eat more tortas).

 

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Oh, asparagus. Why must you come and go in the blink of an eye? How am I supposed to make all the things I want when you are here for such a seemingly short time? I guess I just have to go on an asparagus-eating rampage and make everything I have bookmarked (and the annual favorite, asparagus pancetta hash, of course).

You’ve no doubt seen the famous prosciutto-wrapped asparagus appetizer online or at many a party. Personally, I love it, so it was no surprise I saved this recipe as soon as I saw it. You get the great asparagus-prosciutto combination with the added deliciousness of bread (which also makes it easier to eat and appropriate for a light lunch). The lemon adds brightness and makes this even more undeniably springlike.

We decided to have these toasts for a weekend lunch, and what a nice change of pace they were. We’re admittedly boring when it comes to weekend lunches and generally default to eggs or cold cut sandwiches. I was wondering how Z would like these – he eats 99.9% of what we put in front of him and anything under the general categorical umbrella “food” but he can be a bit of a sandwich purist. This mostly means he doesn’t want a lot on a sandwich, or wants to eat the components separately. But, he loved these (and requested thirds). Ian didn’t eat the prosciutto (I *try* to limit salty stuff at this age so he only has things  like that occasionally) but enjoyed the puree both on toast and on its own.

So tell me, is there an asparagus recipe you love that I must make IMMEDIATELY?

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For a while there, about half our meals were coming from Mexican Everyday, or at least it felt like it. It still remains one of my favorite cookbooks, but I was thinking the other day that it’s been far too long since I’ve made something from it (well, something new that is – both the red chile chicken and rice with black beans and arbol chile salsa have graced our table in the past few weeks).

Since I’ve been big into marinating and not big into, um, too much work lately, I decided to pick a marinade from the book. I went with a quick adobo marinade. Originally I planned on using this with bone-in chicken pieces, but in the end decided to do a pork tenderloin. That said, you can really pick your favorite meat (or vegetable) and this will work well on it. Promise.

For the marinade, you can use either straight chile powder or an ancho chile puree. I opted for the latter because I recently ordered dried ancho chiles instead of ground (oops), so I already had them on hand. Bayless also calls this a “more harmonious” preparation and, really, it’s about as easy to make as dumping some chile powder out, anyway. The marinade was nice and flavorful, but not spicy. Anchos are dried poblanos, which generally do not have a whole lot of heat. Grilling or searing in cast iron and then roasting will give this some smokiness in addition to the small amount of spice.

We had this alongside some spicy sweet potato fries and roasted asparagus, so after the initial preparation, the meal was pretty hands-off and my oven did all the work.

I know this dish requires marinating so if you’re trying to think of a last-minute Cinco de Mayo meal, this may not be for you. Rest assured, though, I have an absolutely insane amount of Mexican dishes in the blog (and a previous round-up) so you have plenty to choose from!

 

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Remember a million years ago when the computer I used for blog pictures up and died? Well, it only just got up and running again (and will probably die again in about 5 minutes). I found a plethora of blog pics where the pictures were actually good  (something I have really been struggling with lately…) but it had been so long that I had no idea what they were. Except for this one, and that’s because even without seeing the pic, it was already on the menu for that very week.

This recipe is pretty easy to remember because it’s one of those dishes where you’re surprised how good it is since it’s so incredibly simple. I mean, it’s not a huge surprise because there’s bacon, potatoes, and sausage, after all, but you know what I mean.

I ate a lot of kielbasa growing up and I don’t know if it was that or other factors but I sort of…stopped eating it. Every once in a while , though, I have this intense craving for it. It’s one of those things where, when I want it I REALLY want it. And when I don’t, I REALLY don’t. Do you have ingredients like that?

Anyway, this dish is perfect for a weeknight, not only because it’s a one-pot meal, but also because it comes together very quickly. The potatoes are microwaved beforehand so you aren’t waiting for them to cook in the skillet, and while you’re heating them you can do other things, like cook the bacon and chop your sausage. I decided to use the bacon fat instead of the olive oil in the recipe because, why use oil when there is perfectly good bacon fat? Other than that and reducing the amount of Dijon by just a little, I stayed pretty true to the recipe. The ingredients in this are incredibly similar to German potato salad so if you like that, you will definitely like this.

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There are a lot of mysteries in the food world, like how do liquid egg whites get beaten into stiff peaks? Why do buttered popcorn jelly beans exist? How come every time you drop a piece of toast, the side with the jelly/butter/peanut butter lands on the floor? Was the guy who invented nachos the most brilliant guy ever? And, the biggest one: Why is Swiss cheese awful and Gruyere so good? I will never know.

This chicken dish is a mouthful (both the title and the actual chicken) but it’s not difficult to make. You just stuff the chicken with some of the best things ever – prosciutto, arugula, and gruyere – cook it for a few minutes on the stove top and then while it’s finishing up in the oven (just a few minutes longer) you make a quick shallot sauce in the pan. It’s a meal that’s both easy to make for your family on a weeknight and also works for a dinner party. And the best part is that even though you wouldn’t know it, it’s also pretty healthy for you.

I feel like a broken record saying this, but we all liked this dish. Though I didn’t give him much with his piece, this was Ian’s first time eating prosciutto and he was a fan (rule of thumb: second children always get salty cured meats sooner).

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There was a (long) period in my life where I was basically keeping Lipton in business. And I’m not just talking about my iced tea addiction (which I still have, thankyouverymuch) but those flavored “pasta sides” packets. Except in my world they weren’t really sides so much as a meal and, man, did I love them. Sure, one package allowed me to reach my sodium limit for a month, but I’m sure that’s what made them so tasty.

Those types of things got kicked to the curb when I started doing more from-scratch cooking and more clean eating. I haven’t had them in a number of years, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have cravings for something similar from time to time.  This is, of course, why things like creamy taco mac and skillet ground beef stroganoff are very popular dishes in our house.

This dish is simple. You cook the pasta and then you saute a couple of garlic cloves in a little butter and oil, and make a roux which thickens the sauce. Then, everything is combined, along with some cheese. Garlic powder is added, too, and though I normally don’t use it for anything other than rubs, it works well here because it makes the garlic flavor more robust—something I remember from the packets. It’s all on the table quickly and makes for a great side to pretty much anything. Although I haven’t tried it yet, I see no reason why you couldn’t make this all in one pot, a la the revolutionary mac and cheese, increasing the liquid by a bit, so I’ll probably try that next time.

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