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Pasta, Potatoes, and Pesto with Green Beans

I’m still working on cleaning out the freezer over here. I have a big batch of pesto I made last summer and froze in an ice cube tray. It’s nice to be able to just take out a bit at a time. This recipe is simple enough that it doesn’t really need a recipe, but I wouldn’t have thought to try this combination. And, you can make it all in one pot! It’s easily doubled to feed a bigger group (add a little extra water though). Everyone liked it and there was just a tiny bit left for my lunch the next day.


1/2 lb new potatoes, scrubbed and halved (or cut into bite-sized chunks)

1 Tbsp salt

8 oz. gemelli or other short pasta

8 oz. green beans, trimmed and halved

1/2 cup pesto (store-bought or homemade pesto)

extra fresh grated Parmesan cheese for serving

In a stockpot, cover the potatoes with 2 inches water. Bring to a boil. Add salt and pasta and return to a boil. Cook 2 minutes then add the green beans. Return to a boil and cook about 6 minutes, or until pasta and beans are done. Drain and toss with pesto. Season with salt and pepper and serve with extra parmesan. (Can serve warm or at room temperature).

(Recipe from One Pot by the Editors of Martha Stewart Living)

Rye Soda Bread with Dill Butter

On it’s own, I thought this bread was alright, but a little on the dry side, especially compared to my favorite Irish Soda Bread. But with the dill butter, I think it’s a new favorite. They make a great combination. I plan on making another loaf (and batch of dill butter) as soon as I finish the first. We had it with soup/stew for dinner, toasted for breakfast with scrambled eggs, afternoon tea, etc.


2 1/3 cups (275g) rye flour

1 3/4 cups (225g) all purpose flour, plus more for dusting and kneading

1 3/4 tsp baking soda

1 1/4 tsp fine-grain sea salt

2 cups buttermilk, plus more for brushing

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour in the buttermilk and stir until it comes together into a dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead just long enough for the dough to come together (about 30 seconds). It will be very sticky.

Form into a slightly flattened ball and place on a lightly floured baking sheet (I line it with parchment first). Brush the top and sides of the dough with buttermilk and sprinkle generously with flour (about 2 Tbsp). Slice four deep slashes in the dough, about two-thirds of the way down (as if making it into 8 wedges, but not going all the way through).

Bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes in the center of the oven, then quickly move the bread up a level. Bake another 20 minutes, or until hard and hollow sounding when you tap the bottom. Cool on a wire rack. Slice and serve with dill butter.

Dill Butter:

1 1/2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill

1 1/2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh chives (I didn’t have this and left it out)

1 1/2 Tbsp finely chopped shallots

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/4 tsp fine sea salt (reduce to a pinch if butter is salted)

1/3 cup goat cheese or semi soft farmers cheese.

Mix the herbs and shallots into the butter first, then mix in the cheese, leaving some small chunks of cheese. Serve at room temperature. (Keeps in the fridge for a week)


(Recipes from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson)


I just finished reading The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn for a book club. I’ve been inspired (again) to work more on using things up in the kitchen. One of the ways she recommends doing that is by making paella. I didn’t realize that it was a good vehicle for using things up, but with all the random things in my freezer, I decided to give it a try and I really liked it!

I didn’t have shrimp, chicken legs/thighs, spanish chorizo, artichokes, pimento, or mussels. I did have the recipe “essentials” and also a few things to use up: 4 cooked chicken wings from roast chickens, 4 oz. Mexican chorizo, 5 scallops, 2 filets of home-smoked bass. Never would have thought to combine all those, but it worked! I’m including the recipe as shared in the book, but it’s pretty flexible so use what you have or what you like! I’ll probably never make the recipe exactly as written, but I’ll definitely make it in some form again.


Shrimp-Flavored Stock:

1 lb medium shrimp, deveined, shells reserved

1 quart chicken stock


Seasoned Chicken:

6 chicken legs and/or thighs

coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper

1 tsp dried thyme

couple pinches cayenne



2 Tbsp olive oil

8 oz chorizo, cut into bite sized pieces

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 green pepper, diced

2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 cups Arborio, Bomba, or other short-grain rice (uncooked)

Pinch of saffron threads (about 1/4 tsp crushed)


To Finish: 

14 oz. can artichokes

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

2 oz. diced pimento

About 1 lb mussels, bearded and scrubbed

2-3 lemons, cut into wedges

Strips of green pepper (Apparently you are supposed to alternate bites of paella and green pepper. Mine was frozen so I didn’t get to try it this time)

Combine the shrimp shells and chicken stock in a pan and simmer until needed. Season the chicken pieces generously with the salt and other seasonings.

Heat a 12 to 15-inch pan (I used a 12-inch carbon steel frying pan, and it all just barely fit) over medium-high heat or a hot grill. Add the oil and saute the chorizo until it is partially cooked, about 5 min. Add the chicken to the pan and brown it well, turning occasionally, for about 15 min. Remove the chorizo and chicken and set aside. Add the onion, green pepper and garlic and cook until the vegetables are softened and starting to brown. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves and cook another 3 min. Strain the shrimp shells from the stock.

Add the rice to the vegetables and cook, stirring, for a couple minutes, until gently toasted. Add the strained stock, saffron, several cranks for black pepper and 3 pinches salt. Stir and bring the mixture to a boil. Return the chicken and chorizo to the pan.

Cover loosely with foil and adjust the heat to keep it at a bubbling simmer for about 25 min, until the rice is tender. (It can also be finished in a 450 degree oven.) If excess liquid remains, remove the foil and cook until it is absorbed. Scatter the artichokes, peas, and pimentos on top of the rice. Press the shrimp and mussels into the hot rice. Cover again until the seafood cooks through, about 8 to 10 min. Remove the pan from the heat and let it stand (covered) for a few minutes before serving. Discard any mussels that are not open after cooking. Remove bay leaves. Serve with lemon wedges and strips of raw green pepper.


(Recipe adapted slightly from The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn)


Cream of Celery Soup – à la “Chopped”

On a recent very long flight I was watching the cooking show Chopped for the first time and four teenagers were competing. If you’ve never seen the show before, the contestants have to make various dishes and must include a bunch of random leftover ingredients in each course. The results were quite impressive. Two of them were only 14 years old and their dishes looked very professional!

I was inspired, and when I got home I resolved to look in the fridge and pantry and use up stuff creatively (something I’m not very good at doing yet, but would like to improve).  So I garnished my cream of celery soup with celery leaves and parsley, crushed peanuts, and Frank’s buffalo wing sauce. Served with goat cheese biscuits (I think you can serve pretty much anything with these and be happy). I couldn’t compete with those teens, but this was pretty good.


Cream of celery soup:

About 1 lb celery, roughly chopped

4 cups stock or water, or a combination (I used 1/2 vegetable broth and 1/2 water)

1/4 to 1 cup cream or half-and-half (I used about 1/4 cup and it seemed just right for this soup)

salt and pepper to taste

optional: chopped fresh celery leaves, parsley, or chives, peanuts or other nuts, hot sauce, or an extra drizzle of cream

In a medium saucepan, bring celery and stock to a boil then lower the heat and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Cool slightly and puree in a blender. Strain celery soup after pureeing (unless you use a Vitamix, then it’s unnecessary). Reheat the soup over medium-low. Season with salt and pepper.  Add the cream, heat again and serve.

(Recipe adapted from “Cream of Mushroom (or Any Vegetable) Soup” in How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman)

Note: So, I actually wrote the draft of this post years ago and I’m not sure why but I never published it. I recently found myself once again with a bunch of celery destined to rot in fridge if I didn’t do something about it, and I remembered this recipe that I made before. I guess it’s now time to post it!  This time I didn’t have peanuts or Frank’s, but chopped cashews and another type of hot sauce did the trick (and the soup would still be good without any garnishes). And this recipe can be used for pretty much any vegetable you need to use up.

Chocolate Orange (or Raspberry) Pudding Cake

I got to try this chocolate raspberry cake recently at a cooking class and it was very good. It’s a very moist cake with the frosting built right in. I didn’t have any raspberry jam but I did have a jar of orange marmalade I needed to use up and wondered if I could use the same recipe with orange marmalade instead of the raspberry jam. It worked great. I put the marmalade in a mini food processor to make it a little smoother. Mine had a lot of big strips of zest and seemed a little bitter. There were still a few little bits when I mixed it in the batter, but they weren’t noticeable in the finished cake.

Another nice thing about this recipe is that you can make it ahead of time and just leave it in the pan. When you want to serve it, just warm it back up in the over for 10 minutes. It may not be the prettiest cake, but it’s one of the tastiest chocolate cakes I’ve ever made!


For the frosting:

3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam (or pureed orange marmalade)

1/2 cup heavy cream

For the cake:

1/2 cup boiling water

1/3 cup plus 2 tsp cocoa powder (natural, not Dutch process)

1/4 cup whole milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam (or pureed orange marmalade)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup flour

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

optional: fresh raspberries or strips of orange zest for garnish, whipped cream

Place jam, cream and chopped chocolate in a small saucepan and simmer and stir until all the ingredients are melted and smooth. Pour into a buttered 9 inch round cake pan (with 2 inch sides).

In a bowl, whisk together boiling water and cocoa powder until smooth. Whisk in milk, vanilla and jam. In a separate bowl (or stand mixer), beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In another bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt. Add to egg mixture in batches alternating with cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating well after each addition.

Pour batter evenly over frosting in cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the cake comes out clean (the frosting on the bottom will still be liquid). Cool the cake slightly in the pan on a rack, 10-20 minutes.

To make ahead: cool the cake completely in the pan. Before serving the cake, reheat at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Let cool a few minutes and then invert the pan on a plate. Let the cake settle onto the plate and scrape any frosting left in the pan onto the cake. Garnish if desired and serve warm with a little whipped cream (and a glass of milk!).

Bonus tip: if you happen to have some raspberry or orange liqueur around, you can brush the cake with a little bit after it has cooled (while it’s still in the pan) for a little extra orange or raspberry flavor.

Mexican Hot Chocolate and Homemade Marshmallows

This is my new go-to hot chocolate recipe. It’s so easy with a Vitamix blender, but I think you could use the same proportions on the stovetop and just use some of the milk with the chocolate and add the rest once it’s melted. You can leave out the spices to make a regular hot chocolate.

First I tried a different marshmallow recipe that used powdered gelatin and some honey, but it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. I was wanting marshmallows like the ones at Mindy’s Hot Chocolate in Chicago…and then I remembered that I had Mindy’s cookbook and the marshmallow recipe was inside! 🙂 It’s a little tricky to find gelatin sheets, but you can order them online or find them at specialty food stores.


Hot Chocolate:

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp ancho chile powder

Combine in Vitamix blender and set to the Hot Soup program and press start. Or, start the blender on the lowest speed and slowly increase to the highest speed and blend for 5 min.



2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature

8 sheets gelatin

2 cups plus 1 Tbsp cane sugar

2 Tbsp light corn syrup

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp kosher salt

icing sugar for dusting

Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray and line with plastic wrap so that it overhangs 5 inches on the ends and 7 inches on the sides. Spray the plastic wrap with cooking spray.

Fit a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and whip the egg whites on high speed for about 4 minutes, until they are over whipped and start to turn grainy. Fill a 2-cup measuring cup with ice water and add the gelatin sheets. Meanwhile, add the sugar, syrup and enough water to cover to a pot fitted with a candy thermometer. Heat over medium-high until the syrup reaches 238 degrees F, about 5 minutes. (Mine took over 20 minutes, until I turned the heat up higher.) When the sugar reaches 238 degrees, quickly squeeze the excess water from the gelatin sheets and stir them into the syrup.

With the mixer on medium speed, pour the syrup in an even stream into the egg whites. Whip in the vanilla and salt and keep whipping until the egg whites have cooled to warm but are still fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Spread the marshmallows into the prepared pan, and even the top with an offset spatula. Spray the top of the marshmallows with cooking spray. Cover with the overhanging plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.

Dust a counter with icing sugar and cut the marshmallows into squares, coating each side with the sugar. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to a month.

(Marshmallow recipe from Cookie Love by Mindy Segal)

Mexican-Style Lasagna

I’ve been trying out some new make-ahead recipes to make the work week go a little smoother. My goal is to prep a meal every Sunday that can be dinner for Monday and Tuesday. This is one of the ones I’ve tried and we really liked it. And it sure includes a lot of spinach! This dish can be assembled a day in advance and refrigerated (add 5-10 min to the covered cooking time).


8 corn tortillas

1 (15 oz.) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup salsa

8 oz. (2 cups) grated pepper jack cheese

10 ounces baby spinach

4 scallions, coarsely chopped

1 cup cilantro leaves

1 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

sour cream for serving (optional)

In a food processor combine the scallions, cilantro, salt and pepper and as much spinach as will fit. Pulse, adding the remaining spinach until it is all coarsely chopped (it will look a little like pesto). Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Layer 4 tortillas, half the beans, salsa, spinach mixture, and cheese and repeat the layers again. Press down gently on the cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 425 degrees F on a rimmed baking sheet for 25-30 minutes, or until bubbling. Remove the foil and bake uncovered until the cheese is golden, 15-20 minutes more. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

(Recipe from Martha Stewart Living’s One Pot: 120+ Easy Meals from Your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Stockpot, and More)

Slow Cooker Minestrone

After eating the same dish 3 (maybe 4) times, I’m usually done. I don’t want to eat it again for at least a little while. But when I made this soup last week, I ate it for lunch every day and wanted another batch as soon as it was done. So, I made more today. I hope I’m not tired of it by tomorrow :).


1 onion, minced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp dried oregano (or 1 1/2 tsp fresh)

1/8 tsp red pepper flakes

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

15 oz. can tomato sauce

1 cup dried beans (great Northern, cannelloni, or another type that you like), salt soaked and rinsed

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick

1 bunch swiss chard, stems removed and leaves sliced 1/2 inch wide

1/2 cup small pasta shape

1/2 cup fresh basil, sliced

fresh grated parmesan cheese and extra-virgin olive oil, for serving

Start by soaking the dried beans. Dissolve 1 Tbsp salt in 2 quarts water. Add the beans and let soak overnight. Rinse and drain. (If you need them faster, you can use 1 quart boiling water and 1 1/2 Tbsp salt. Add the beans and let them soak at room temperature for 1 hour.)

Combine the onion, garlic, oil, oregano and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Microwave, stirring occasionally until onion is softened, about 5 min. Add to the slow cooker along with the tomato sauce, broth, beans, and carrots. Cook until the beans are tender, 9-11 hours on low or 5-7 hours on high. Add the zucchini, chard and pasta and cook covered on high for 20-30 min. (I prefer to cook the pasta separately and just add some to each bowl so that it doesn’t get soggy in leftover soup). Add basil and top each bowl with parmesan and olive oil.

(Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s Slow Cooker Revolution)

Aloha Pork Chops (slow cooker)

Pork chops aren’t something I think to buy very often, but this looked like a good, easy slow cooker recipe. I was glad I tried it-it’s a keeper. The meat is very tender and the dish isn’t too sweet. Just make sure to buy the right type of pork chop for this recipe.


20 oz. can pineapple chunks in juice

¼ cup brown sugar

1 Tbsp cider vinegar

1 Tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp curry powder

½ tsp ground ginger

½ tsp red pepper flakes (or less if you don’t like things too spicy)

6 bone-in blade-cut pork chops, about ¾ inch thick (7 oz) – cut 2 slits, about 2 inches apart on one side of each chop (prevents curling)

1 Tbsp water

2 tsp cornstarch

2 scallions, sliced thin

Mix pineapple, juice, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and spices in the slow cooker. Season pork chops with salt and pepper and nestle them into the sauce. Cook 6-8 hours on low or 3-5 hours on high. (I’ve tried this both on high and low – the pork was much more tender cooked on low, but I was in a hurry the second time.)

Remove pork chops and cover loosely with foil. Let liquid settle for 5 min, then skim the fat off the surface with a large spoon. Whisk the water and cornstarch together in a small bowl then add to sauce. Simmer (uncovered) until reduced to 2 cups, about 12 min. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in scallions and serve over pork chops with a side of rice or noodles and a salad.

(Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution)

100% Whole Wheat Pancakes

After a short adjustment period, these have replaced my former favorite pancakes. The white flour ones taste a little better, but these not only taste almost as good, but I feel a lot better after eating them. I don’t get the same sugar-shock I feel after regular pancakes (it also helps if I skip the syrup :)). I like to keep a stash of these in the freezer and just pop them into the toaster for a quick breakfast or snack. They are good with whipped cream and fresh fruit, or even plain with a glass of milk in the middle of the the night.


2 c (11 oz) fresh whole-wheat flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 1/4 c buttermilk or 2 cups milk with 1/4 cup white vinegar
5 Tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for cooking
2 eggs

Whisk dry ingredients together in one bowl and wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Make a well in center of flour mixture and add wet ingredients. Whisk until smooth.
Heat 1 tsp oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over med until shimmering. Wipe out oil with paper towel, leaving a thin film on bottom and sides of pan. Add 1/4 batter in 3 places and gently spread into 4 1/2 inch circles. Cook 2-3 min, flip, 1-2 min.
(Recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated July/August 2015 )