Sunday, November 13, 2011

Black Bean Soup

Thanks to all my readers, who have been extremely patient during this busy time for me! We have been working toward buying our first home, and hope to be in by Christmas time. Thankfully, the paperwork has slowed down enough for me to try out some new recipes. Here is the first of what will hopefully be a return to somewhat regular postings for me.

I've had a variety of black bean soups over time, including ones that were entirely pureed. This is one that caught my eye because it was a little bit different. It is somewhat pureed (creating the thickener) but still maintains its body by having small chunks of vegetables and beans. It also has a simple, yet flavorful, seasoning.

This recipe was adapted from

for a gluten-free meal, be sure to use a gluten-free bouillon cube, such as Herb Ox brand

  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, halved lengthwise and chopped
  • pinch of dried cumin (about 1/2 tsp)
  • a few shakes each of salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • two 15-19 oz cans black beans, (do not drain) divided use
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 bouillon cubes
  • 2 tsp cornstarch


  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add onions, garlic, and celery. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until softened. Add a little bit of water if it begins to stick.
  3. Add cumin, salt and pepper, red bell pepper, and one can of black beans + their juice. Cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Using an immersion blender, puree soup. Alternatively, you can transfer it in batches to a blender to blend, then return to the large pot.
  5. Add water, bouillon cubes, and second can of black beans + their juice. Bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce heat to low. Scoop a mug-full of soup out, mix in cornstarch, then add back into pot. Stir well and serve immediately alongside bread or corn chips.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Baked Spaghetti

Why not?

My husband really enjoys baked pasta dishes. Recently he made the comment that, if it can be done with every other type of pasta, why not spaghetti? I couldn't argue.

As of late I have really enjoyed flexible recipes. Some of you may have noticed how less specific my recipes have gotten. It reflects a couple things. One is that my style of cooking is pretty flexible. I rarely do things the same way each time. The other thing it reflects is my hope that you will not be deterred from trying a recipe just because you are missing one ingredient. Likewise, if you'd rather avoid vegetables for some reason, just leave them out. The point: don't let barriers stop you from making good food for yourself and your family! I really hope you try this recipe out, and that you enjoy it.

  • 1 lb dried long pasta (spaghetti, fettuccine, or linguine are all good choices)
  • olive oil
  • your choice of vegetables, chopped into bite size pieces (I recommend onion, bell pepper, and mushroom)
  • 1 regular size jar of pasta sauce
  • 1-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • pinch of dried oregano
  1. Drizzle a little olive oil into a 13x9 baking dish and spread around to coat. Set aside.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  3. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. 
  4. Add your vegetables and saute until they have softened.
  5. Add jar of pasta sauce and turn heat down to low.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Once pasta is cooked, drain and return to pot.
  8. Stir in vegetable-sauce mixture to pasta.
  9. Pour pasta into oiled baking dish. Cover with shredded mozzarella. Sprinkle the dried oregano over top.
  10. Bake pasta at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  11. After the 20 minutes has passed, turn your oven up to Broil. Broil for 2-3 minutes, watching carefully, until cheese has browned. Remove immediately.
  12. Let cool for up to five minutes before serving.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Chickpea, Potato, and Kale Soup

My friend Jonah, of the Jonah's Fish Chowder recipe fame,  came to visit a few weeks ago with a lovely surprise for me from his local farmers' market. It included oyster mushrooms, wedges of different cheeses, and a large bunch of chard. Since then, I've been daydreaming about leafy greens. (I know, that probably puts me in the category of food dork, but I'm okay with that.)

This is a variation on a soup that I used to make a long time ago. I love the combination of chickpeas and potatoes, and also how flexible the recipe is. Feel free to throw in other aromatics like carrots or celery with your onions; replace the kale with swiss chard; or even add some ground sausage to the mix.

(for gluten-free recipe, omit bouillon or use a gluten-free bouillon)
(for dairy-free or vegan recipe, omit parmesan cheese when serving)
  • olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1/4 tsp dried whole thyme
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 4-6 red potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 8 cups water, divided use
  • 3 tsp vegetable bouillon (or 3 bouillon cubes)
  • two 15 oz cans of beans, drained and rinsed (I used one can of chickpeas and one of pink beans)
  • 3/4 bunch fresh kale, rinsed well and chopped
  •  parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
  1. Heat olive oil in large stockpot over medium heat. Add onions, thyme, smoked paprika, and bay leaves. Add salt and pepper. Cook until translucent.
  2. Add potatoes and 4 cups of the water. Cover and let sit until water comes to a boil. 
  3. Reduce heat to low and stir in bouillon. Add the other 4 cups of water, and place kale on top of other ingredients. Return cover to pot and let the kale start to steam. 
  4. After about 5-7 minutes, add beans, stir well, and return cover to pot. Cook for another 10-15 minutes, then turn heat off. Let sit, uncovered, for a couple minutes, then check flavors. Add more salt and pepper as needed.
  5. Serve with a side of parmesan cheese, for sprinkling, if desired.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

photo by Alison Tyne
I had a great time recently with my friend, the wonderful artist Alison Tyne. We spent a few days together discussing photography, businesses, and of course, food. Poor Alison had never before had a buffalo chicken sandwich! Luckily I was there to remedy the situation.

This recipe is a nice one if you are feeling lazy or just too tired to create a complex meal. It's easily adaptable for vegetarians through the use of soy chick'n nuggets (pictured).

Ingredients - per sandwich
  • 1 breaded chicken patty (or 4 soy chick'n nuggets)
  • hot sauce, such as Frank's Red Hot
  • 1 fresh sandwich roll
  • blue cheese or ranch dressing
  • 1/2 stalk celery, sliced
  • (see note below)
  1. Cook chicken patty according to package directions.
  2. Pour hot sauce into a small bowl. Dredge the patty in hot sauce and place on bun.
  3. Top with salad dressing and sprinkle with celery. Serve immediately.
Note: Norm makes a good point in the comments for those who don't like their sandwich full-strength. You can control how hot the sauce is by adding a little melted butter to your hot sauce, which will chill it out but still leave a little pizazz.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette

    Wow, it's been an interesting few months. In my part of New York State, we've been dealing recently with major flooding - the first day of school was cut short and the rest of the week canceled. It's been kind of unreal, to help people rip apart their houses, haul out furniture that has gone bad from being saturated with flood water, and pump out basements. Please send good thoughts to the Southern Tier as many deal with the effects of the flood.

    I am hoping to ease back into blogging with a wonderfully easy salad dressing recipe. The base of it is one I've been using for a few months, but discovered the special ingredient while watching an episode of The Pioneer Woman's show on Food Network.

    I love making my own salad dressing, and I hope you will too. Once you see how easy it is to manipulate with different flavors (such as adding in some Dijon mustard, or using a different kind of vinegar), you can have a lot of fun with it.

    Ingredients (serves 2-3)
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
    • a few shakes each of salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 2 tsp brown sugar (if gluten-free, make sure to use a GF brown sugar, such as Domino brand)
    1. Combine all ingredients in a resealable container. Shake well before serving.

      Note: Store on the shelf, not in the fridge, as olive oil will coagulate.

    Saturday, July 30, 2011

    Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary and Thyme

    I've noticed that my cooking interests rotate with the seasons. During summertime when there are so many wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables available, I find my recipes highlighting simplicity. Just like with my last recipe on Fresh Tomato and Red Onion Salad, today's recipe doesn't involve a lot of complex dressings or spices. Instead, it relies on the starchiness of the potato combined with the slight tartness from the apple cider vinegar to create a flavor that, when joined with salad and burger, rounds out a meal perfectly.

    • 2 Tbsp olive oil
    • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
    • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
    • 1/4 tsp dried thyme leaves
    • freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 quart new red potatoes, washed and cut into chunks
    • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
    • 4-5 cloves garlic, smashed and cut in half
    • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
    • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
    •  In separate bowl, combine oil, vinegar, rosemary, thyme, and pepper.
    • In 13 x 9 baking dish, combine potatoes, shallot, garlic, and onion.
    • Pour oil mixture over potato mixture. Stir well.
    • Bake at 450 degrees, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir at least once while baking.

    Tuesday, July 26, 2011

    Fresh Tomato and Red Onion Salad

    Do yourself a big favor. Go to the nearest farmers' market or roadside stand and buy the most beautiful tomato you can find. Slice it up, drizzle some oil and vinegar on top, and sit down. Stop everything else you're doing right now and let yourself enjoy the flavor. It is summertime: the perfect time for tomatoes.

    Sure, you can buy beefsteak or vine ripe tomatoes from the store, but you would be doing a huge disservice to your palate. Talk to the farmers - ask about their favorites. The tomato I bought today was absolutely gorgeous. It was a deep red, bordering on purple, with a crown of green. The farmer told me that it was the perfect time to eat them. He said, "You will never taste a better tomato in your life." In a world of over-exaggerated statements, this one was 100% accurate.

    I love the simplicity of this salad, as well as its flexible nature. Feel free to try it with different tomatoes, different vinegars, additions, or even caramelizing the onions to create a sweet / salty combination.

    Ingredients (serves 2)
    • 1 large heirloom tomato, cut into wedges (room temperature is best)
    • sliver of red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
    • drizzle of olive oil
    • drizzle of balsamic vinegar
    • freshly ground pepper
    1. Arrange tomatoes on a plate. Sprinkle onion around them.
    2. Dress with a drizzle each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
    3. Top with freshly ground black pepper.
    4. Enjoy!

    Monday, July 18, 2011

    Artistic Eatables on Twitter!

    If you're on Twitter, you'll be pleased to know that Artistic Eatables is now on Twitter. The account is arteatsblog - come visit and play with me!

    In other news, I have a delicious recipe for you, loyal readers, when I return from my vacation. I hope you're all well!

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    Goat Cheese and Grape Crostini

    Looking through my recipe binder, I found a picture of crostini topped with grapes. There was no recipe with it, but I couldn't resist giving them a try. I made a big batch for appetizers at a dinner party and they had disappeared by the time dinner was ready.

    My favorite part about this recipe is the combination of hot and cold. Your teeth sink into a warm piece of toasted bread topped with soft melted cheese, but the grapes are still cool with a different kind of crunch. I also like the balance of sweet and salty. If you're not a fan of goat cheese, you might consider making these with another spreadable soft cheese, like brie. Or if you are feeling adventurous, you could try one of the soft cheeses on this list.

    • most of 1 baguette or French loaf, sliced into rounds
    • 8 oz. soft goat cheese
    • freshly ground pepper
    • 1/4 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
    • red seedless grapes, halved
    1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
    2. Smear each baguette round with goat cheese, then place on large cookie sheet with sides. 
    3. Sprinkle crostini with pepper, then parsley.
    4. Bake at 425 degrees for 8-12 minutes, until goat cheese is softened and bread is barely toasted.
    5. Remove from oven. As crostini are cooling, top each round with a few grape halves.

    Thursday, June 30, 2011

    Marinated White Beans with Tomatoes

    While preparing for a recent picnic, I decided to mix up some marinated beans. After seeing this recipe on Budget Bytes, I had been thinking about a cold bean mixture to enjoy during the hot days of summer. I adapted her idea with a few tips from Jamie Oliver's salad video to create this great snack, crostini topper, or side dish.

    Ingredients for Dressing
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
    • 1 tsp high quality mustard (ex: stone ground or Dijon mustard)
    • small handful fresh flat leaf parsley, minced
    • salt and freshly ground pepper
    Other Ingredients
    • one or two 15 oz. cans Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained (for a dish with lighter dressing, use 2 cans of beans)
    • 1 small vine ripe tomato, diced
    1. In a small lidded container, combine dressing ingredients and shake well.
    2. In a separate bowl or container, combine beans and tomatoes. Pour dressing over top and stir until coated. 
    3. Let mixture sit at least fifteen minutes before serving atop toasted baguette slices or as a side dish.

    Saturday, June 25, 2011

    Sautéed Sweet Potatoes with Granny Smith Apple

    After a hectic end to my school year, I am back in the kitchen. Thanks for being patient!

    I write today with a recipe that could easily be part of breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Think of it as a fusion of traditional home fries and Thanksgiving dinner's sweet potatoes. The recipe, adapted from Susie Middleton's Fast, Fresh & Green, caught my eye for its excellent description of walk-away sautéing. Middleton breaks up her book by technique; other techniques include grilling, braising, and gratins.

    Important tips when walk-away sautéing:
    --Cut your vegetable into similar sized pieces. The closer in size, the easier it will be to avoid larger pieces being undercooked.
    --Don't be afraid of caramelizing or browning the potatoes - this will bring out their flavor
    --This technique is flexible, as long as you keep in mind that it works best with firm vegetables like potatoes, carrots, or even cauliflower, paired with an aromatic vegetable such as mushroom or onion.

    (This recipe can easily be made vegan by omitting the butter)
    • 1 Tbsp butter
    • generous drizzle of olive oil
    • 2 medium sweet potatoes, skins on, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 1/4 medium white onion, diced
    • kosher or sea salt
    • 1/4 Granny Smith apple, chopped
    • splash of apple cider vinegar
    • dried parsley, for garnish
    1. Heat large frying pan to medium heat.
    2. Add butter to melt, and olive oil
    3. Add sweet potatoes, onion, and a few shakes of salt to the pan. Cook uncovered for 10-15 minutes. Stir every once in a while but do not scrape bottom of pan.
    4. Once sweet potatoes are tender, add fresh apple and a splash or two of cider vinegar. Cook for another minute or two, until apples are warm.
    5. Dish onto plates and top with a pinch of parsley and another sprinkle of salt. Serve hot.

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    Mixed Summer Vegetables with Feta

    I love shopping for vegetables in the summer. I go to the farm stand and buy whatever is beautiful. This week, the beets and I fell in love.

    I know what you're thinking: beets are gross. My question to you: on what beets are you basing your judgment? Those slimy canned discs are NOT beets - they're aliens! Grab some fresh ones from your local farmers' market, boil them, and enjoy their delicious sweet flavor.

    • 4 small/medium beets, washed and greens removed
    • 1 yellow squash, halved lengthwise and sliced (into half-moon shape)
    • olive oil
    • red or white wine vinegar
    • salt
    • freshly ground pepper
    • 2 vine ripe tomatoes, cut into small wedges
    • 3-4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled or broken into small pieces
    1. Place beets in small pot of water and bring to a boil. Cook until tender.
    2. While beets are cooking, heat up grill or flat top griddle to medium heat.
    3. Spear squash slices onto kabobs.
    4. Place kabobs on grill. Drizzle with both olive oil and vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
    5. Cook 8-10 minutes on each side, until charred.
    6. Place squash in serving bowl to cool.
    7. When beets are done, slice in half horizontally, then into small chunks. Let cool, then add to serving bowl.
    8. Add tomatoes and feta.
    9. Toss gently and serve at room temperature.

    Tuesday, May 31, 2011

    Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Sandwiches

    I've heard lots of different names for this fabulous combination: Margherita and Caprese are both popular titles for tomato, basil, and mozzarella together in a dish. The red, white, and green symbolize the colors of the Italian flag, and the name was given to honor Queen Margherita of Italy.

    I was immediately attracted to Beth's recipe on Budget Bytes, which featured this famous medley. After a few alterations, I was ready to give it a try. My biggest concern was to preserve the crispiness of the bread. By grilling the sourdough on its own, it is protected from absorbing too much vinegar and keep the stability of the sandwich intact.

    Prosciutto isn't necessary to enjoying this sandwich, but Dan the Man highly recommends it! The saltiness goes wonderfully with the creamy fresh mozzarella.

    • loaf of fresh sourdough Italian bread, thickly sliced
    • butter (for grilling)
    • vine ripe tomatoes, sliced across into rounds
    • ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced
    • fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
    • balsamic vinegar (for drizzling)
    • olive oil (for drizzling)
    • freshly ground pepper 
    • small package of prosciutto (optional)
    1. Heat up frying pan or griddle to medium heat.
    2. Butter both sides of Italian bread slices. Grill both sides of each piece until crispy; remove from heat.
    3. Assemble sandwiches from the bottom up: tomato, mozzarella, basil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, a drizzle of olive oil, and freshly ground pepper. Top with a few slices of prosciutto, if using.
    4. Slice sandwiches in half and enjoy immediately!

    Wednesday, May 25, 2011

    Rhubarb Crisp

    Crisp, crumble, cobbler: what's in a name?

    For this dessert, I didn't want to fuss with a pie crust, but did want some oats involved. My trouble revolved around what to search for: which name included oats? Luckily, I found a helpful article on that articulates the differences. The answer: crisp is the American name for a fruit dessert with a crumbly topping that often includes oats. (Crumble is its British equivalent.) Upon finding this information, I was able to get to work.

    I hope you enjoy what I consider to be a perfect spring dessert: the tartness of rhubarb is scaled down during the baking process (and the addition of sugar, of course). The result is a somewhat messy but sweet crisp with only a bit of bite.

    Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes.

    Filling Ingredients
    • 5 1/2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/4" slices
    • 1 1/4 cups sugar
    • 1/4 cup flour
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
    • 1/4 tsp ground ginger

    Topping Ingredients
    • 1 cup flour
    • 1 cup oats
    • 1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter, cut into small pieces
    • more cinnamon for dusting

    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    2. Mix filling ingredients together (rhubarb, sugar, flour, vanilla, and spices). Pour filling into 13x9 dish.
    3. In another bowl, mix topping ingredients (flour, oats, and butter). Using your fingers, squish the butter into the flour/oats until it is spread throughout.
    4. Pour oat mixture on top of rhubarb filling. Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top.
    5. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

    Sunday, May 8, 2011

    Green Beans with Simple Dressing

    When I was younger I remember not being big on vegetables. My mom was able to sneak carrots or broccoli into my repertoire only if ranch dressing was available on the side.

    My taste has matured (slightly) since then, but one thing I still love about vegetables is the crunch. These green beans are cooked, but retain their bright green color. This not only means that the nutrients are left for you to eat (rather than boiling away into the water), but also that the beans still have a bit of crunch to them.

    What I love about this recipe is how simple it is to make, yet how fancy it looks when presented.

    • 2-3 large handfuls fresh green beans, ends snapped off
    • juice of 1 lemon
    • drizzle of olive oil
    • salt and freshly ground pepper
    • sliced almonds
    1. Boil green beans until just barely cooked; beans should still be somewhat crunchy.
    2. Transfer beans to serving dish. Dress with lemon juice and olive oil, then mix just barely. 
    3. Top with salt, pepper, and almonds. Serve immediately.

    Sunday, April 24, 2011

    Mashed Potato Soup

    This entry could also be called, "How to Use Leftover Mashed Potatoes". If you're like me, you will often make too much of a dish for holiday meals. Such is the case with my mashed potatoes, whose leftovers filled a large tupperware container. This recipe is an adaptation of my Creamy Potato Soup.

    There are no real measurements for this recipe because it can be altered for your needs. The butter and milk that many people add to mashed potatoes just makes this more flavorful from the get-go. You can also treat the potato soup as a starting point and add other leftovers for a heartier soup. Imagine throwing in your leftover cooked corn or chunks of ham after the liquid has heated up.

    • olive oil
    • small wedge white onion, diced
    • leftover mashed potatoes (I had about 5-6 cups)
    • water (I used about 4-6 cups)
    • spoonful vegetable/chicken base (or 1 bouillon cube)
    • pinch dried thyme leaves
    1. Heat stockpot over medium heat. Add drizzle of olive oil.
    2. Cook onion until translucent.
    3. Add mashed potatoes, water, vegetable base, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.
    4. Whisk soup to break up any remaining mashed potato chunks.

    Saturday, April 16, 2011

    Polenta with Fresh Tomatoes, Basil, and Shallots

    Polenta is cooked cornmeal. Translation: a great dinner option for those who are avoiding wheat or other products with gluten.

    Polenta can be purchased pre-cooked, usually in a package whose shape resembles a giant pill. Or, you can go the old fashioned route and buy cornmeal, cooking it according to directions that are usually written on the back of the box.

    Try out this dinner meal alongside grilled chicken, or as a vegetarian option accompanied with some greens. Ours cooked up crispy on the bottom and smooth inside. You can mix it up by adding parmesan cheese to the polenta before you bake it, or changing the toppings to your liking.

    • 2 cups cornmeal
    • olive oil
    • 4 plum tomatoes, chopped
    • 1/2 bunch fresh basil, roughly chopped
    • 1 large shallot, sliced (or can substitute 1 medium red onion)
    • salt and pepper

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    2. Cook cornmeal according to package directions. (usually a 1:1 ratio with water)
    3. Coat glass 8x8 baking dish with olive oil.
    4. Spoon cornmeal into pan and top with tomatoes, basil, and shallots.
    5. Drizzle olive oil on top of vegetables and add salt and pepper.
    6. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until shallots are tender.

      Monday, March 28, 2011

      Strawberry Cinnamon Muffins

      The challenge: to create a simple, fruit muffin that could be served nude(!). As much as I love butter on a warm muffin, I understand the need for a muffin's flavor to stand on its own. These do just that.

      This breakfast / snack / dessert has a delicious flavor, with a hint of sweetness from the strawberries. Just to be sure, Dan and I tested several, both warm and cool, and they were all consistently good. If you feel inspired, give it a try with other berries, like fresh red raspberries.

      Adapted from this recipe.

      Ingredients - makes 15-18 cupcake-sized muffins
      • 2/3 cup sugar
      • 6 Tbsp salted butter, melted
      • 2 eggs
      • 1 tsp vanilla
      • 2 cups flour
      • 1 Tbsp baking powder
      • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
      • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
      • 3/4 - 1 cup milk
      • 1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped into small pieces
      1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
      2. Line cupcake tins with papers.
      3. In a bowl, mix together sugar and melted butter. Add in eggs, one at a time, and vanilla.
      4. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and cinnamon. 
      5. While stirring, add flour mixture to butter / sugar mixture.
      6. While stirring, slowly pour in milk until batter is wet but not thin.
      7. Gently mix in chopped strawberries until just incorporated.
      8. Spoon batter into cupcake papers, each about half full.
      9. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes.
      10. Let cool on cooling rack for at least 5 minutes.

      Wednesday, March 16, 2011


      Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern dish made from bulgur wheat. Bulgur is a hearty grain high in fiber and protein, with a chewy texture. Tabbouleh was first introduced to me by my former boss Karen, who served it on top of salad greens. The combination of different textures and flavors stuck in my mind. I've written the American version of the dish (which highlights the bulgur itself) versus the Lebanese version, which is heavy on the parsley and mint. I encourage you to try this! It's definitely out of the ordinary for some people, so serve it with something familiar, such as cold shrimp on the side.

      Ingredients (serves 4)
      • 1 cup bulgur wheat
      • water
      • 1 tomato
      • 1/2 European / English cucumber
      • small bunch fresh mint leaves AND/OR fresh parsley leaves
      • 4-6 oz. feta cheese, block or crumbled
      • lemon juice
      • olive oil
      • salad greens, if desired
      1. Cook bulgur wheat according to package directions. (Mine was 1 cup dry bulgur to 2 cups cold water.)
      2. Once bulgur is cooked, place saucepan in fridge and let cool for 10-15 minutes.
      3. While bulgur is cooling, chop tomato, cucumber, mint/parsley, and feta into small pieces.
      4. Scoop bulgur, tomato, cucumber, and mint/parsley into a large bowl, stir well, and refrigerate for another 10-15 minutes.
      5. Remove from fridge. Add feta and stir well.
      6. Add a drizzle of olive oil. Add lemon juice to taste. Stir well and serve immediately as main dish, or atop salad greens.

      Sunday, March 13, 2011

      Pasta with Lemon, Artichokes, and Spinach

      Pasta with tomato sauce is one of my longtime go-to's for an easy dinner. But sometimes it's fun to mix it up! This is a simple vegetarian pasta dish with a LOT of flavor. I used the marinade packed with the artichokes to flavor the dish, and topped it with Parmesan cheese as a finish. The result: a delicious dish that's pretty healthy. If you're a fan of feta cheese, you may want to try replacing the Parm with feta for a stronger cheese flavor.

      **(for a gluten-free meal, be sure to use gluten-free pasta, such as rice pasta)
      • 1 lb long pasta (I used thin spaghetti)
      • olive oil
      • 2 cloves garlic
      • 1 small onion, chopped
      • one 15 oz jar artichokes, with marinade / juices reserved
      • 1 lb baby spinach leaves
      • 1 lemon (juice and zest)
      • 4 oz Parmesan cheese (half a container)

      1. Boil water in large stockpot. Steam spinach above the boiling water OR steam spinach in the microwave.
      2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse well.
      3. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
      4. Cook onion and garlic until onion is translucent.
      5. Add artichokes and their marinade. Cook until artichokes are heated throughout.
      6. Turn off heat and add spinach to artichoke mixture.
      7. Return pasta to stockpot and pour juice from artichoke / onions over pasta. Stir well.
      8. Add rest of artichoke / onion / spinach mixture to pasta. Stir well.
      9. Add grated zest and juice of lemon to pasta. Stir well.
      10. Finally, add Parmesan cheese to pasta and stir to coat. Serve immediately.

      Monday, March 7, 2011

      Onion and Pineapple Quesadillas

      The other day I had a few friends over for a quesadilla party. Few of them had ever experienced pineapple in this Mexican dish. To be honest, I hadn't considered it an option either until I stumbled upon the Pioneer Woman's quesadilla recipe.

      These are great as snacks, appetizers, or a meal. Enjoy them as written or mix and match your favorite ingredients: grilled chicken, mushrooms, and green peppers are all great options to consider.

      Ingredients (makes 3-4 quesadillas)
      • butter (divided use)
      • flour tortillas
      • shredded cheese (Mexican blend and Colby-Jack blend are both good options)
      • 1/2 white onion, chopped
      • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
      • pineapple, cut into small pieces (I used canned pineapple rings)
      • salsa or sour cream for serving
      1. In a small frying pan over medium heat, melt a pat of butter. 
      2. Cook onions and jalapeños until done.
      3. Heat a large frying pan or flat griddle to medium.
      4. While pan is heating up, assemble quesadillas as follows: fold one tortilla in half. Open it and sprinkle the half generously with cheese, onion/pepper mixture, pineapple, then a little more cheese. Fold it closed.
      5. Coat the hot griddle with butter. Place assembled quesadilla on pan and cook until browned. Flip and cook other side until browned.
      6. Remove from heat, cut into wedges, and serve with salsa or sour cream.

      Friday, February 25, 2011

      Traditional Hummus

      Hummus is one of my go-to party foods, and has also become a staple for my lunches when I've gotten sick of PB&J's. I make a big batch, then bring some in a container along with crackers or tortilla chips for a lunch I can eat all at once or snack on throughout the day.

      Tahini, one of the ingredients, is like peanut butter, but made from sesame seeds rather than peanuts. It's a strange ingredient - and I rarely use my tahini for anything but hummus - but it is truly necessary if you want the creamy consistency for which hummus is well known. You can find it in many grocery stores near the peanut butter.

      If my garlic hummus was too strong for your taste, you will undoubtedly enjoy this recipe, which has a much more mellow flavor.

      • one 28 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
      • one 15 oz can chickpeas, mostly drained
      • two drizzles of olive oil
      • 2 cloves garlic
      • spoonful tahini (sesame butter)
      • 1 tsp kosher salt
      • freshly ground black pepper (1-2 tsp, to taste)
      • juice of 1 lemon
      1. Combine both cans of chickpeas (including the small amount of liquid from the smaller can of chickpeas), olive oil, garlic, tahini, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until smooth.
      2. Add black pepper and half the lemon juice. Pulse to mix well. Taste test and add more lemon juice to your liking.

      Tuesday, February 22, 2011

      Sweet Potato and Black Bean Soup

      Sometimes I get inspired by food. It happens at random. The orange of a beautiful sweet potato is what did me in this time. I chose this recipe from Kalyn's Kitchen for its simplicity, high nutritional value, and staying power.

      Friends joined us and we made up some fresh guacamole, enjoying it with tortilla chips as an appetizer. This soup came next, along with some fun beverages that fit the evening's theme. One friend commented that the soup 'surprised' him. Although he watched it being prepared, the finished product was not what he expected.

      Here is the recipe with my alterations. You can purée more or less depending on your preference for a creamier or chunkier soup. Also, the scallions seem unnecessary, like a garnish, but they add another layer of texture (crunchy) that deserves to be included.

      • olive oil
      • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
      • 2 cloves garlic
      • 1 tsp ground cumin
      • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
      • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
      • 2 large sweet potatoes, chopped into small chunks
      • two 15 oz cans black beans, rinsed
      • 4 cups water
      • juice from 1/2 lime
      • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
      1. In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
      2. Cook onion and garlic until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
      3. Add cumin, cinnamon, and generous amounts of salt and pepper. Stir well.
      4. Add sweet potatoes, black beans, and water. Cook until sweet potatoes are very tender.
      5. Remove a little less than half the mixture and purée using an immersion blender or regular blender. Return to pot and heat until soup is hot throughout.
      6. Add lime juice and stir well. 
      7. Remove from heat and stir in scallions. Serve with bread or tortilla chips.

      Monday, February 14, 2011

      Jonah's Fish Chowder

      Our friend Jonah made us this amazing chowder when he visited recently. He commented that many people expect chowder to be thick and creamy, like traditional New England clam chowder; however most chowders are hearty soups with milk or cream in their base but not excessively creamy. He did mention that this soup could be thickened by making a roux but I enjoyed it as it's listed below.

      Another comment about ingredients: the haddock purchased at the fish counter was frozen when we brought it home. It was still fairly frozen when added to the soup, which allowed many of the pieces to stay whole while they cooked. If using really fresh fish, the pieces will break down quicker in the soup.

      • 4 Tbsp butter (divided use)
      • 1 small white onion, chopped
      • 3 carrots, sliced in discs
      • 3 stalks celery, sliced
      • 4 medium potatoes, chopped
      • 1 lb haddock, cut into chunks (fresh or frozen)
      • 1 cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc) or water
      • 1 tsp sea salt
      • freshly ground pepper, to taste
      • 3 tsp fresh thyme, roughly chopped
      • 1 bay leaf
      • 2 cups milk

      1. Melt 2 Tbsp of the butter in a large stockpot over medium heat.
      2. Add onion, carrots, and celery and cook until onions are soft.
      3. Add potatoes, fish, wine, salt, pepper, thyme, and bay leaf. Cover and cook until fish is flaky and cooked.
      4. Add milk and remaining butter. Reduce heat to low and cook until heated throughout.
      5. Serve immediately.

        Monday, February 7, 2011

        the Vegetable Issue

        An AE fan writes in with the following question:

        My significant other hates vegetables, but wants to like them. What could I make him [to get him more comfortable with eating vegetables]?

        First off: major props to your dude for wanting to give vegetables a try! They're not as scary as they seem, and can easily be disguised until his true love for them comes around.

        Root vegetables are a great place to start because they dress up nicely and can do a lot of different things. If someone likes potatoes (and honestly, do you know anyone who doesn't?), other root veggies can be substituted 50/50 or even 100% in many recipes. Some examples:

        • Use both white and sweet potatoes to make mashed potatoes.
        • Slice some sweet potatoes thin, coat them with olive oil and a healthy dose of salt and pepper and bake them up for some homemade sweet potato fries.
        • Make home fries using a mixture of white potatoes and turnips. Their similar coloring makes them nearly indistinguishable from one another. Turnips may have a bad rap but they're actually pretty high up on my favorites, mostly because they taste like a combination of carrots and corn. Yum!
        • Chopped root vegetables (perhaps a mixture?) drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary if you've got it, baked at 475 degrees for 30 minutes.
        Soups are often a good choice because many people who "hate vegetables" won't go to the trouble of picking them out of a soup. Chicken noodle soup with green beans, corn, carrots and celery or Tomato Florentine soup and grilled cheese might be worth tries.

        My focus here is to target things that he already accepts as "safe foods" and then slowly work to replace some of the ingredients with vegetables, or add vegetables to them. The Tomato Florentine soup listed above is pretty much plain tomato soup with some veggies thrown in. If he is comfortable eating roasted potatoes or homemade french fries, he may be willing to give them a try even if they're not make with white Russets.

        He may also transition well (in the future) to meals like my Leek and Lemon Risotto with some chopped asparagus added in; a good beef or chicken stir fry with veggies like broccoli, thinly sliced onions, carrots, and peppers in a peanut sauce or sweet soy ginger sauce; or homemade pizza with pepperoni and some colorful veggies.

        Faithful readers, do you have any other suggestions that may be of help?

        Sunday, January 30, 2011

        Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

        You may remember my love for roasting vegetables.. some may call it a problem. I call it a healthy obsession.

        This recipe evolved from my need for butternut squash soup. I went to a friend's house with all the ingredients to make us lunch and realized that his kitchen's contents did not include a vegetable peeler. After the shock wore off, I was able to improvise. I guess I should thank my friend for slacking in the kitchen accessories department, since it resulted in a delicious soup, but in reality he will be receiving a special Groundhog Day present. I bet you can guess what it is.

        for a dairy-free or vegan meal, omit heavy cream and garnish with a sprinkle of brown sugar
        • 2 butternut squashes, halved and cut into large chunks for roasting
        • olive oil for roasting
        • salt and pepper
        • olive oil for sautéing
        • 3 cloves garlic
        • 1 onion
        • 1 1/2-inch chunk fresh ginger, grated
        • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
        • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
        • 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
        • salt and pepper
        • 4 cups water
        • heavy cream for garnish (optional)
        1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. 
        2. Place squash chunks, flesh side up, in baking dish(es). Drizzle with a good amount of olive oil and coat with salt and pepper.
        3. Bake at 450 degrees for 70-80 minutes. Check for doneness with a fork - squash should be soft.
        4. When squash are almost done, heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a large stockpot.
        5. Sauté onion, garlic, and fresh ginger for 3-4 minutes, until onion is translucent.
        6. Scoop squash from its skin and add to stockpot. 
        7. Add ground ginger, cinnamon, thyme, salt, pepper, and water. Simmer over low heat for 15-20 minutes.
        8. Remove from heat. Mash with potato masher (for a chunkier soup) or blend with immersion blender (for a creamier consistency).
        9. Dish into individual bowls and top with a splash of heavy cream or sprinkle of brown sugar, if desired.

        Thursday, January 20, 2011

        Easy Scallops with Lemon Juice

        We had scallops the other night paired with the Leek & Lemon Risotto that I posted earlier in the week. I recommend eating them as part of the same meal, or even with the scallops served right on top of the risotto.

        Scallops are pretty easy to overcook. Seafood more than any other meat I tend to rely on time, rather than a color, to determine doneness.

        Do yourself a favor and treat yourself with these delicious scallops. With a short grocery list and simple directions, they're likely to please any seafood lover.

        • 1 lb sea scallops
        • 1 Tbsp butter
        • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
        • juice of 1/2 lemon
        • salt and pepper
        1. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes.
        2. Coat pan with butter and olive oil.
        3. Add scallops and squeeze half the lemon juice on top. Season with salt and pepper.
        4. Cook until scallops are browned on bottom, about 30-45 seconds.
        5. Flip scallops, add rest of lemon juice and more salt and pepper if desired.
        6. Remove from heat when scallops are browned, about another minute. They should be warm inside but not rubbery, and easy to cut with a fork.

        Sunday, January 16, 2011

        Leek & Lemon Risotto

        Imagine yourself on a villa in Tuscany, enjoying crusty bread, perhaps a glass of wine, and a dish of a warm, creamy risotto.

        Minus the villa, you can recreate this scene yourself with a dish my best friend used to make when we were in college. She loved risotto and the combination leek and lemon stuck in my mind.

        Risotto is an amazing dish because it is a chameleon, accommodating whatever you put in it. I've had mushroom risotto, red pepper risotto, and a multitude of others. But no matter your seasonings, the slow process allows the rice to absorb more broth, and therefore more flavor. You can make it with any short grain white rice, but I've found it works best with Arborio rice: this rice is the reason for such a creamy consistency. Luckily it's easy to get: I found a bag at my local grocery store.

        Trust me, don't rush this process. In the past I've tried pouring all six cups of broth in at once and it was an utter failure. You don't get the creaminess if you go too fast. If you start to get impatient, channel your inner Italian on that villa and relax as you stir.

        when slicing leeks, use only the white part
        • olive oil
        • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
        • 1/2 medium white onion, sliced and roughly chopped
        • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
        • 2 leeks, thinly sliced
        • 2 cups short grain rice, such as Arborio rice
        • 6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
        • zest of 1 lemon (grated)
        • juice of 1/2 lemon
        • 1/2 - 1 cup parmesan cheese
        1. Heat stockpot over medium-low heat.
        2. Add olive oil and swirl to coat.
        3. Add garlic, onion, and shallot. Cover and cook 4-5 minutes, until softened and translucent.
        4. Add leeks. Return cover to pot and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
        5. Add rice, stirring constantly. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
        6. Pour in 1/2 cup stock and continue stirring. When stock is absorbed, add another 1/2 cup stock. Continue this process (and the constant stirring to avoid sticking on bottom of pot) until all stock is used and rice is cooked. Don't rush this part! It will take about 20-25 minutes.
        7. Turn off heat. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

        Tuesday, January 11, 2011

        Sweet & Sour Meatballs

        These meatballs were a total experiment. Besides preparing them in a different kitchen, I've never made meatballs by measuring anything other than the beef and eggs. These were spiced very plainly and that's something I would change in the future: perhaps grated ginger in the meat would add a nice flavor to the mix.

        My other challenge was that the sauce in this recipe didn't become, well, saucy. I always struggle with thickening sauces and this one was no different. It turned out kind of thin but still packed a great flavor. If you are good at thickening sauces, you may want to work a little more with some cornstarch to thicken this one before the last step.

        This is adapted from a recipe by the Pioneer Woman.

        Ingredients for Meatballs
        • 2 lbs ground beef
        • 1/2 onion, diced
        • 2 eggs
        • 1 cup breadcrumbs
        • a few shakes each of salt and pepper
        • flour
        • olive oil for frying
        Ingredients for Sauce
        • 3 cups beef broth
        • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
        • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
        • 1/2 cup sugar
        • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
        • 2 bell peppers (one green, one red),  cut into large chunks
        • 1 fresh pineapple, cut into small chunks
        1. In a large mixing bowl, combine beef, onion, eggs, breadcrumbs, and salt and pepper. 
        2. Form meat into golf ball sized meatballs.
        3. Pour some flour into a small bowl. Roll each meatball in flour.
        4. Heat large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add a generous amount of olive oil.
        5. Fry meatballs (in two batches).
        6. While meatballs are cooking, whisk broth, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and cornstarch in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
        7. Once all meatballs are done, set them aside in another bowl. Pour oil / fat out.
        8. Return hot frying pan to stovetop over high heat. Add peppers and cook for about one minute.
        9. Add pineapple and cook for another minute.
        10. Pour sauce into frying pan. Let boil, then reduce heat to low and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
        11. Add meatballs and serve immediately over rice (as a main dish) OR place meatballs in a crockpot (I used a 5-qt. crockpot) and pour pepper-pineapple-sauce mixture over top. Set heat to warm and enjoy throughout the evening as an appetizer.

        Thursday, January 6, 2011

        Tomato Florentine Soup

        This is a great soup because it is accepting of any flavors you might want to add. It's loosely based on Budget Bytes' Swamp Soup recipe and it caught my eye because of the ingredient list. I've never made a tomato based soup that actually used pasta sauce in it before, but it made perfect sense to me. We often have a half full jar of tomato sauce in our fridge that is left over from one thing or another. Adding it to this soup tasted great because the sauce is already seasoned so I had to add very little in terms of spices for this soup.

        After changing the recipe quite a bit and working with the contents of my own kitchen, I ended up with this. Dan the Man wanted it on the record that future versions of this soup should experiment with the addition of chicken or pasta. To make it a little heartier I'd like to try adding another can of smaller beans, like Great Northern beans, to add some extra protein and color variation.

        for a vegan or dairy-free meal, omit the parmesan cheese at the end and replace with fresh basil leaves for garnish.
        • drizzle of olive oil
        • 4 cloves garlic, diced
        • 1/2 red onion, chopped
        • 4 carrots, sliced in 1/4-inch pieces
        • 4 stalks celery, sliced in 1/4-inch pieces
        • big pinch (about 1/2 tsp) oregano
        • big pinch of basil
        • big pinch of parsley
        • freshly ground pepper
        • 3 oz (about 1/2 bag) fresh baby spinach
        • 28 oz can diced tomatoes (don't drain - you will need the juice)
        • 15.5 oz can beans, drained and rinsed (I used red kidney beans)
        • 12 oz (or 1/2 jar) tomato sauce
        • 2 cups vegetable broth
        • parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)

        1. Heat olive oil in large stockpot over medium heat.
        2. Add garlic, onion, carrots, celery, spices, and pepper. Stir well and let cook for about 5 minutes.
        3. Add spinach, cover stockpot, and reduce heat to low. Cook until spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes.
        4. Add tomatoes (with their juice), beans, tomato sauce and broth. Cover, return heat to medium and cook until soup is heated throughout.
        5. Serve as is or sprinkled (covered?) with parmesan cheese.