We’re really big cannellini bean fans. Like, really big. We love them in soups, salads, sides, and of course one of our favorite dinners. Recently, I wanted to make a soup that had protein and some substance, but didn’t have rice or pasta. That can be tough, especially when you’re not a fan of “plain” soups like tomato. Nothing against pasta or rice, of course, but we tend to already have both once a week or so, and I like variety. This soup, loaded with vegetables, chicken, beans, and bacon certainly fit my criteria.

I keep telling myself I’m going to move exclusively to dried beans and I haven’t yet because I am just forgetful (meaning, I don’t remember to cook them in advance and don’t have time to do so on a weeknight). However, this time I did remember to throw a bag in the crockpot, which is the easiest way to cook them in my opinion. No soaking, no boiling. Just toss them in there, cover them with water, and cook on low for however long you are at work or whatever. Super easy, and also a bit more economical. Also, last time I made a bean soup using canned beans I ended up in urgent care, so probably safer, too. ;)

I made a few changes to this soup, the most prominent being using twice as many beans. In addition to that, I blended about half of them with some broth before adding them to the pot, which is a really great way to thicken soup without adding a bunch of calories through flour, cream, or cheese. In all honesty you don’t really need the cream added at the end, but it does give it a bit of a silkier texture and half a cup across 5ish servings won’t break the calorie bank.

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It occurred to me recently that I don’t even have a “side dish” category on here. Don’ get me wrong, I do love side dishes—sometimes even more than the main course—so I’m not entirely sure why this is the case. In the more recent years it probably has something to do with cooking being more a survival mechanism than a joy, which in turn makes side dishes a bit of an afterthought. Salad, blanched or roasted vegetables + bulgur or rice. Done.

When I do potatoes as a side (rare these days, especially non-sweet potatoes), I usually just roast them. They’re easy and pretty fabulous that way (particularly if you’re using fingerling potatoes). I’ve had this version saved for a while, though, and decided to make them recently when my meatloaf-obsessed child requested meatloaf. Meatloaf begs for some type of potato as a side, so I settled on these.

The cooking method for these potatoes is not terribly different from how I make my Greek lemon-oregano roasted potatoes, so I knew they’d be a hit. You roast the potatoes for a while to develop a golden, crisp exterior, and then you add chicken broth and roast them again. The broth makes the potatoes soft and tender on the inside. These potatoes are incredibly creamy and delicious.

The whole family loved these, even Zachary, who is weirdly finicky about potatoes. He hates mashed potatoes (see? weird), likes fries (duh) and crispy roasted potatoes, but isn’t a fan of softer potatoes like baked potatoes or those in stew or soup. Since these are a combination of crisp and soft, I didn’t know which way he’d go but he placed firmly in the “like” camp and asked for seconds (yay! but also boo! because that’s less for me).

 

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I don’t know how  many pumpkin muffin and bread recipes one blog needs, but I’m just going to go with “never enough.” I’m not quite as fanatical about pumpkin as many people are (don’t get me wrong, I DO love it, I’m just not dying to get my hands on pumpkin spice meatloaf or something), but I’m not going to deny its awesomeness in baked goods. Adding pumpkin puree to baked goods makes them incredibly moist, and since pumpkin is a superfood, it obviously turns everything you make healthy.

Truly, though, I did make these pretty healthy. I’m pretty good at making lower calorie muffins that are good but those usually don’t include streusel, which is like a whole other superfood, at least in my book. These don’t have quite as much butter in the topping, but they still give you that streusel-y goodness. The muffins themselves are made with white whole wheat flour, a minimal amount of sugar considering how many muffins this makes, and clock in right around 200 calories each, which isn’t bad at all.

The recipe makes 18-20, which is kind of annoying, sorry. I try not to do that but it just worked best this time, with proportions. What we did is fill a 12-well muffin tin and then as many mini muffins as we could; I think we got around 16. The boys took 2 mini muffins to school each morning with some yogurt for breakfast. They helped make these with me, and they love not only to assist with baking, but with telling their teachers the next morning allllll the ingredients that went into them. :)

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Papoutsakia are sort of like individualized moussakas. The word literally translates to “little shoes,” because I guess they kinda-sorta look like that. :) You take smaller eggplants, halve them and scoop out the flesh, then fill them with a warmly spiced meatsauce and bechamel. They are delicious, and adorably so.

Although eggplant is the common vegetable used as a vessel, you can certainly use others. My grandma would often make these with various squashes, anything from zucchini to delicata. I didn’t start liking eggplant until I was older (and it’s still not my favorite, though I do enjoy it now, especially burnt and made into a dip with tahini or yogurt a la Ottolenghi) and I wasn’t sure what the kids would think, but they devoured these. It helps they are huge meatsauce fans and that bechamel is one of life’s greatest pleasures, I guess.

I typically make my Greek meatsauce with tomato paste but I wanted something slightly saucier for this so I used crushed tomatoes. I highly recommend the use of kefalotyri or mizithra but obviously not everyone has access to that. If you don’t, opt for a salty, sharp cheese like Pecorino Romano or a really good Parmesan. I must say I really miss the little Greek shop a couple blocks from my old place because I could just get mizithra to my heart’s desire. Moving away from it was big on the “con” list when it came to deciding whether to leave the city. :)

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Chicken breasts are…not terribly exciting. We eat a fair amount of them because they’re healthy and basically a blank canvas but they are certainly no one’s protein of choice in this household, if I’m being honest (I mean, they’re not even our chicken of choice, being that we all prefer dark meat). When you find a new chicken dish that’s not only healthy but also really quick and flavorful, it’s pretty exciting. (Hey, I’m a 9-5 suburban mom; we get excited about lame things, okay?)

This chicken uses jerk flavors, but in the form of a pan sauce vs. a marinade you’re probably used to. There are a few benefits to making a jerk pan sauce vs. a jerk marinade. For one thing, if you don’t think your kids or other family members will want the spice, it’s easy enough to not add the sauce to their portion (Ian is fine with spice but Zachary has recently started having issues with it, so his portion was served without sauce but with allspice sprinkled directly to his chicken). The other thing is it’s quicker. Sure, marinades don’t take much time, but being able to get this done in one fell swoop instead of over two prep periods is nice. This was easily as flavorful as other jerk marinades I’ve used. The habañero (or scotch bonnet) gets sauteed so it isn’t quite as spicy as  you might think, but it does retain much of its heat since it’s actually being used in the sauce (vs. in a marinade where it will impart flavor but potentially fall off before actually being cooked).

I will totally cop to using a can of pineapple tidbits here due to laziness. I probably should have/could have chopped the tidbits more finely but ehhh. I said a few months back that relishes are my new thing and that still holds true. And since one of the reasons I love them is they add flavor without being difficult or time consuming, I decided another shortcut was not a bad idea. :)

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Moving to the suburbs is when needing slow cooker meals the most became paired with the unfortunate inability to actually utilize most slow cooker meals. See, we’re out of the house for a long time, which doesn’t work with a lot of crockpot recipes. And I have little to no time in the morning to be prepping anything (never mind that I’ve never been a fan of smelling like a restaurant upon my arrival to work).

This recipe is pretty perfect for people like us, though. The prep can be done the night before and the cook time is long. You don’t need to sear the meat (although, by all means, if you want to, go ahead and do it in the bacon fat), so in the morning you really just need to piece everything together. You could probably assemble the whole thing and just stick the insert in the fridge overnight but I will admit I haven’t tried that yet.  Instead, what I do is make the bacon/onion/broth mixture and put that in the insert. I also cut up the roast and kielbasa. The next day all I need to do is stir in the beans (which don’t even need to soak overnight) and meat. Even a mom looking for one kid’s missing shoe while the other kid is yelling because he had to be the second to get his teeth brushed can pull it together.

Although most people eat stew in the cooler months, I thought this one worked pretty well even when it was warmer out. It’s a good summer/fall straddler recipe, especially since tomatoes are still good (and the peppers we’d given up on in our garden have literally just started to grow). I think just adding the simple “hot sauce” (which is really more of a relish) to the top brightens this meal  up a lot and makes it feel a little less heavy. We’re all big fans of this recipe, which is good because it makes a ton. :) I always freeze much of it (after leaving some for lunch leftovers the next day) and it holds up well.

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This salad quickly became one of our favorite meals this summer. Tom goes crazy for arugula (and the boys actually like it too). Everyone thinks prosciutto is the bee’s knees, and what makes a salad better than homemade croutons? (Maybe cheese. Maybe.)

This is a really simple salad with a big payoff. The arugula is  nice and peppery, the prosciutto is crisp, the cheese has a nice salty bite, and the dressing is light, fresh, and tangy.

I bulked this salad up not only so it was a dinner-sized portion but to up the protein (and because I didn’t feel like buying a rotisserie chicken that day since I already had chicken breasts. And because prosciutto is delicious). I used the same pan I crisped the prosciutto up in to cook the chicken and just put together the rest of the salad as it was cooking, so this wasn’t really any more time consuming than buying already-cooked chicken. You could also use the already-heated oven to bake the chicken.

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Summer is starting to wind down, and I’ll greatly miss its bountiful produce. Since we had a late start to summer this year, everything in our garden was pushed back a bit and tomatoes are both plentiful and reeeeally wonderful right now. We’ve been throwing them on everything. We’ve been roasting them like it’s our job.

I first made this pasta quite a while back. We really liked it then, but for whatever reason (49850 saved “to try” recipes, perhaps?) it didn’t get made again for a long time. I looked back at my notes (um, that would be me searching my email because I remembered telling someone about it) and saw that it didn’t quite make enough sauce, so I upped the sauce a little bit and changed the proportions a bit to something that works better for us (this usually means we all eat it for dinner and Tom & I have enough for lunch the next day).  One time, I also added chicken to this to up the protein (pro-tip: You can cook it in the bacon fat before cooking the onion).

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I held off on posting this for a little bit because I figured you guys were MEATBALLED OUT. But then some time passed, and last week we  had fall-like weather—which I totally associate with Swedish meatballs for some reason—so I moved these up. And now it’s a million and a half degrees outside again!

I posted a Swedish meatball recipe way back in the day and there was nothing wrong with it; in fact, it was extremely similar to the version I’m posting below. It just needed a slight facelift and a new picture since it was 9 years old and all. Sometimes even *I* forget I have a pretty deep archive, so it’s a good reminder to myself, too, that we should really eat more Swedish meatballs. :)

I’ve always loved Swedish meatballs. I think that hint of allspice just reminds me of the warm spices Greeks use to cook meat, so it makes sense. And nutmeg just makes everything better. Add to that a slightly creamy sauce and egg noodles (which, really, are the best kind of noodles) and I’m a pretty happy camper—as are the other members of my family.

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Linzer Cookies

August 28, 2015 · 2 comments

in desserts/sweets

Just a reminder, the reader survey is still open, but will only be open through the end of the month. If you haven’t already filled it out, please do! I’m so surprised (and pleased!) with the number of responses received, so thanks to those who have already completed it.

Now, onto cookies! I make cookies…almost never. I also buy cookies…almost never. Cookies are really good though, aren’t they? That’s precisely why I don’t keep them in the house. Until they change the serving of Oreos to an entire line or make it so cookies taste like cilantro or mayo and are therefore inedible, I will eat far too  many. You may think, “they are perfectly portioned,” but I think, “they are small enough that I can have another one!” The good thing about cookies, though, is that they are so easy to bring somewhere else. You can eat a cookie to see if it’s good and still bring a dozen into work, but you can’t make a cake at home and then bring it to work with a missing piece. At least in theory. Also, why would I share cake?

Anyway, these cookies are practically health food. They have fruit in them (kind of) and not a whole lot of sugar at all. I loved the hint of cinnamon and clove in these, which I am not used to with most linzer cookies. We made these with almonds since I had some at home already, but I’m a sucker for a hazelnut linzer for sure. Like I do with Dorie’s standard sablés (still one of my favorite holiday cookies, for the record), I added a teaspoon of vanilla to these. I just feel like vanilla is a requirement for cookies. Or any baking, really.

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