Ah, yes. Another clean-out-the-fridge meal. I like to use spinach quickly, since it’s so nice when it’s fresh, and radishes always stump me. Did I make a salad, you ask? Nah. I made dal.
The lentils, along with onions, spinach, radishes (yes, cooked — they add a little spiciness) and seasonings, served with brown rice, made a complete meal. I know cooking radishes sounds a little weird, but they really do pair well with Indian spices, and in some parts of India, radishes are cooked traditionally, often in dal.
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan and add the lentils. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until tender, 25-35 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the ghee over medium-high heat and saute the onions until softened and translucent. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to stir until they are light golden brown.
Stir the turmeric, cumin, cayenne and 1 tsp salt in the with the onions. Add the radishes and the spinach, working in batches and adding more as the spinach wilts.
When the spinach is wilted but still bright green and the lentils are cooked, add the onion mixture to the lentil mixture and cook for a few additional minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust. Serve with rice and enjoy!
The days of soup-and-grilled cheese lunches are fading fast, with temps breaking into the 90s here in Austin (already — ugh!), but we may just have a few rainy days left in April. Last week, we had a few gray, chilly-ish days, and grilled cheese and tomato soup was just what the doctor ordered. However, we didn’t have any canned tomato soup on hand, so I decided to improvise. And you know what? I’m probably never going to bother to buy canned tomato soup again. This was creamy, delicious and almost as easy as the canned kind.
Sure, you could just open a can, but this is so much better and it only takes a few minutes more. This soup also freezes well, so next time we have a rainy day, all I’ll have to do is thaw it out. Golden.
We all have those days… You know, where everyone is running late to everything, dinner doesn’t get prepped like you planned, and the easy way out is to just pick something up. I will admit having succumbed to the takeout impulse plenty of times, but a little while ago, after having one of those days, I shot down hubby’s suggestion to “just get takeout” and set about improvising.
Sometimes improvised meals turn out to be the best. We had chard growing in the backyard (it’s the gift that keeps on giving!), stuff to make a batch of homemade ricotta, and I always keep pasta in the pantry and good-quality parmesan in the fridge. That was all I really needed to make this delicious pasta with a creamy sauce happen, and, guess what? It was better than takeout, not to mention healthier. Win!
Now, can someone please remind me of this next time we have one of those days?
Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain, reserving about ½ cup of the pasta water.
Heat 2 Tbsp of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the chard and cook until wilted but still bright green. Stir in the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for a couple minutes more.
Stir in the cooked pasta along with the remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil and a nice splash of the pasta water, and add the parmesan.
Lower the heat and stir until the cheese is incorporated and a thin sauce coats the pasta. Add salt and pepper to taste.
This formula was inspired by the Buddha bowl, which is my favorite dish at The Steeping Room. Not too long ago, I made a bowl with red quinoa, sautéed kale, roasted sweet potatoes and fried halloumi, all topped off with some sriracha and soy sauce. Perhaps tofu would have gone better with the Asian-style saucing here, but I had to work with what we had in the fridge. Plus halloumi is delicious!
Any grain will do (I prefer quinoa or farro myself), and you can go with tofu, a fried or poached egg and/or beans to add protein. In the summer, add baby greens or sliced avocado in lieu of the cooked greens and sweet potato. Get creative with sauces to mix up the flavors — think a tangy vinaigrette, or maybe a copycat of The Steeping Room’s famous cashew sauce. Have fun! I know I’ll be experimenting with this formula for a while.
I am starting to love twice-baked potatoes. Not the smallest reason is that they are easy to make ahead and then finish off right before dinner time. When I saw Kitchen Treaty’s recipe for Greek yogurt and chive twice-baked potatoes, I wanted to try them ASAP, and then I stumbled on a baked potato casserole recipe on Pinterest, and the rest is history. I made my very own Frankenstein version combining these dishes, and it was perfect.
The Greek yogurt, aside from adding creaminess to the filling, also packs a protein punch, and it’s tasty to boot. Add some sharp cheddar (I used Dubliner cheese leftover from my last twice-baked potato adventure, but any good sharp cheese will do), sautéed mushrooms and onions, and broccoli, and we’re in business. I would love to say that I served this as a put-together meal with a side salad or some roasted kale, but, alas, it was a busy night, and the fact that the potatoes already had veggies in the filling won out, and I just called it a complete meal in itself.
Preheat the oven to 400°. Lightly oil a large casserole dish, cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, and arrange then cut-side down in the dish. Bake for 15 minutes.
Flip the potatoes, pierce them with a fork and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until soft. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Lower the oven temperature to 350°.
While the potatoes are cooking, caramelize the onion. In a large sauté pan, melt 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp olive oil and cook the onion over medium heat for until soft and translucent. Lower the heat and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.
Return the heat to medium and add the garlic and mushrooms. Sauté for another 3 to 4 minutes. Add the broccoli and saute for a minute or two more.
Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, scoop most of the flesh out, leaving about ¼ inch so that the potato skin holds its shape, and place the insides in a large bowl. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp butter and the Greek yogurt and mash well.
Stir in 1 cup of the cheddar and the onion-mushroom-broccoli mixture and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Scoop the potato mixture back into the potato skins, mounding over. Sprinkle with the remaining cheddar and arrange the potatoes in the same casserole dish.*
Bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until heated through and the cheese is melted and starting to brown. Serve warm.
* If you want to make these ahead and finish baking them right before dinner, stop here and refrigerate the potatoes. Simply add about 5 minutes to the cooking time.
I love a good grilled cheese. It’s such a quick and easy meal to throw together with stuff you probably already have around your house. Add some soup or a handful of french fries, and call it a meal… and it’s done in 15 minutes or less. Gotta love that.
I like to experiment with my grilled cheese (which should come as no great surprise), and this one, discovered years ago by the hubby, is my all-time favorite. Pair some nice sharp cheddar with a sweet-and-spicy chipotle paste, a spring of cilantro, some thinly sliced red onion and/or a juicy tomato slice (depending on which if any of those things you happen to have in your fridge at the time), slap it between two pieces of sourdough bread and grill it to perfection. So very delicious.
I will let you in on my secret to perfect grilled cheese every time: butter. Lots of it. Slather that bread on both sides, and don’t be afraid to let it brown a little beyond what you might usually to ensure the cheese gets nice and melty.
The chipotle paste that adds extra zing to this grilled cheese is quick and easy to throw together, and we usually make a larger batch and freeze the leftovers for future use. Try it and enjoy! And happy Grilled Cheese Month!
Blend the tomato paste, chipotles and molasses together in a food processor.
You’ll use about half the paste on 4 grilled cheese sandwiches; reserve the remainder for future use. It freezes well.
For grilled cheese:
Spread about 1 Tbsp of the chipotle paste on each of 4 slices of the bread. Top with sliced cheese, tomato slices, onion and cilantro (if using). Top with the remaining slices of bread and spread generously with butter.
Heat a griddle over medium-high heat and grill buttered-side down until well browned.
Butter the other side of the bread and flip. Grill until well browned and cheese is nice and melty.
Remove to a plate or cutting board, cut in half (triangles or rectangles, I don’t judge) and enjoy!
I have about four heads of cabbage sitting in my crisper drawer right now. Since my attempt at sauerkraut was a fail (although I may have to try again with Fido jars), I turned to my old clear-out-the-fridge standby — stir fry — to use some of it up. I added some sliced kohlrabi, carrots, spring onions and delicate broccoli crowns from our garden to round it out.
Look at all those pretty colors!
For extra protein, I fried up some tofu and cracked an egg in with the veggies. I sauced the whole thing with a mix of soy sauce and toasted sesame oil accented a smidge of ginger and garlic, and the hubby and I doused our servings with Sriracha (which is still a little too spicy for the peanut these days).
The real story here, though, is the rice. I have been on what seems like a lifelong hunt for the perfect method of making brown rice. It’s hard to get it just right — that light, fluffy texture is harder to come by than it is with white rice.
I just love the nutty deliciousness and higher protein content of brown rice, and now I can enjoy it in all of its fluffy glory! I also love that you don’t have to worry about the proper ratio of water to rice and keeping the heat at just the right temperature. Just make sure you use a large pot and at least 6 to 8 cups of water per cup of uncooked rice. I’m never making brown rice another way again!
I have something to admit: My house is messy. I just thought you should know.
My darling neighbors were over playing with Nora yesterday, and, in that frantic space in the five minutes before dinner where everything is coming together and everyone wants your attention, I dropped something out of one of my cabinets. The four-year-old, being a four-year-old, pointed out that I had dropped it, and I, being a little short of patience right at that moment, might have responded a bit curtly.
“It’s okay,” she said. “It’s a messy house.”
The thing is, I spend a lot of time cooking, and running after a two-year-old (who doubles as a wrecking ball). But really, those are just excuses. I’d like to have a clean house — really, I would — but I like more to sit down for a few precious minutes at night before I crash in bed.
This has been making the rounds, and it is truth:
(I wish I knew where it originally came from, so I could give proper credit, but I pulled this from Momcom Life’s Facebook page.)
But, the thing is, it bothers me. Because I try to keep a clean house, but life gets in the way. I even have a cleaning schedule, for goodness’ sake! So, for a neighbor kid to catch me at the very messiest moment of the week and make a cutting observation… well, I won’t lie. It hurt. Even if she didn’t mean anything by it, it did.
I am going to take a moment to pat myself on the back, though. I am a good mom. I have a brilliant, sweet, beautiful daughter who gives me hugs and kisses (sometimes), has her alphabet down pat, is fully potty-trained and happy as a clam (usually). I make nutritious and delicious meals for my family nearly every night. I am starting a new career in a tough field and making a go of it (my first honest-to-goodness article in a print magazine is coming out soon!), and I have a wonderful, supportive husband with whom I am madly in love. But yeah, I am stretched a little thin at times.
I’m not perfect. I hope I never put forth the pretension that I am. I’d hate for anyone to think this is one of those glossy “lifestyle” blogs designed to make you feel bad about yourself. I really just like to write, I like to cook and I get a kick out of sharing recipes and stories with you lovely people. That’s it. And I have a messy house. Just thought you ought to know.
As your reward for reading my little sob story (that is, if you haven’t just skipped straight to the goods), please accept this delightful recipe for a fresh-from-the-garden early spring pasta.
I had spinach fettuccine in my pantry, plenty of chard and delicate broccoli crowns in my garden, and even a few baby leeks to add to the mix. I whipped up a quick creamy sauce to tie it all together, and voila! Just ignore the mess in my kitchen, please.
2-3 baby leeks (or 1 regular leek), sliced thinly (white and light green parts only)
1 bunch chard, stems removed and reserved for another use*, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1 cup cream or whole milk
½ cup parmesan, grated, plus additional for serving
½ tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leek and broccoli and stir for a couple of minutes, until beginning to soften. Add the chard to the pan and saute until wilted. Add a splash of the pasta water if the pan seems dry. Set aside.
Melt the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan, and then add the flour, stirring until bubbly. Gradually add in the milk, stirring well to remove any lumps.
Allow the mixture to simmer until it thickens slightly, and then turn off the heat and stir in the cheese. Add the garlic powder and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Toss the pasta with the cream sauce and the chard-broccoli mixture, adding splashes of pasta water if needed. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve topped with additional parmesan, if desired.
* I usually freeze mine and use them in a batch of vegetable stock. Hate to let all those good nutrients go to waste!
I keep seeing quinoa-stuffed sweet potato recipes floating around, and I’ve been meaning to try them out for a while. My version stuffs the sweet potatoes with a kale and quinoa mixture — how can you go wrong with three “superfoods”? Guess what, though? It’s not just about getting those high-nutrient foods in. The flavors also go really well together, and it makes for a hearty but not too-filling dinner.
I didn’t use any specific recipe as a jumping-off point, I just kind of winged it. I intended to use pine nuts, but I had pumpkin seeds instead, and I think they made a great substitution.
Even the hubby, who is a sweet potato skeptic, was impressed. Nora eschewed her own potato, but happily gobbled up her Daddy’s leftovers. Toddlers. She has also taken to calling anything green and leafy “kale” and picking it out of her food… but she happily ate up the stuffing, kale and all, in this dinner. Go figure.
1 small bunch kale,** tough stems removed and leaves finely chopped
¼ cup pumpkin seeds (or pine nuts)
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup grated parmesan***
Preheat the oven to 350°. Scrub the sweet potatoes and place them directly on the rack with a sheet of foil below to catch any drips. Bake for 1 hour, or until tender. Set aside to cool. Maintain oven temperature.
Meanwhile, bring the quinoa and vegetable broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the grain spirals out, about 15-20 minutes. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saute pan. Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent, and then add the chopped kale. Stir until wilted but still bright green, about 5-7 minutes.
Stir in the pumpkin seeds and stir until a little toasted. Add the cooked quinoa and stir to combine.
When the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the top ¼-inch of each one and scoop out the insides, leaving about ¼-inch of the flesh around the edges.
Mash the removed sweet potato in a large bowl, and then add the quinoa mixture. Stir to combine and add salt and pepper to taste.
Line a cookie sheet with foil and place the sweet potato shells on it. Fill each shell with a generous portion of the quinoa-sweet potato mixture, rounding the top. Sprinkle with parmesan and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the sweet potatoes are heated through.
* This will make about 1 cup of cooked quinoa. If you happen to have already-cooked quinoa, then by all means, start with that instead, as it will allow you to skip a step. I like to make big batches of quinoa and freeze the leftovers in 1 to 2 cup increments, as it freezes well. ** I used lacinato kale, which is what we grow in our garden (it’s my favorite variety for its softer leaves and milder flavor), but any kind of kale will do. *** This recipe can easily be made vegan by omitting the cheese.
Spaghetti with cracked pepper and parmesan is one of my go-to weeknight meals when everything else falls through and I need to get dinner together in 20 minutes. I can throw it together with stuff I have on hand, and it’s always delicious.
Make sure to use good-quality parmesan, since that’s where the flavor comes from. I like whole wheat pasta not only because of the nutritional content, but also because it has a heartier, nuttier flavor that holds its own in this dish. I served it the other night with a quick salad of wilted spinach, avocado and some balsamic vinaigrette.
And that was that! It was a delicious weeknight meal with a minimum of fuss. That’s just how I roll.
I’m a recovering lawyer-turned-freelance writer and editor, aspiring domestic goddess, and mom to a spunky, demanding and truly awesome 2-year-old girl. I love all things food and drink, and I’ve rediscovered a love for cooking now that I’m not spending most of my days locked in the office, but I often have to improvise, since having the ankle-biter around makes it more challenging!