Cajun Vegetable Pasta
Posted on March 30, 2021
I should give the caveat that this not any sort of authentic “cajun” pasta – it’s really a riff on popular menu items at restaurants like Cheesecake Factory and it’s basically a creamy pasta with cajun seasoning to liven things up. Generally, it’s made with chicken, but this version uses roasted vegetables instead. Because the vegetables shrink so much, you could probably double the amount if you wanted to – I probably will the next time I make this!
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 green bell pepper, sliced
- 1 red onion, sliced into half moons
- olive oil
- cajun seasoning (I use Tony Chachere’s)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 8 oz short pasta, uncooked
- 2.5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 15 oz diced tomatoes, not drained
- 2 oz cream cheese, cubed
- heavy cream
- vinegar-based hot sauce (I use Tabasco)
- juice of 1/2 a lemon (optional)
- parmesan cheese (optional)
- Parsley (optional)
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Toss the red pepper, green pepper, and red onion on a sheet pan with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a generous sprinkle of cajun seasoning. Roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring and flipping the vegetables halfway through the roasting time.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the garlic is golden and fragrant. Add the pasta, broth, tomatoes with their liquid, and another generous pinch of cajun seasoning to the pot and bring to a simmer. Make sure the pasta is completely submerged by the liquid. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, uncover the pot and stir in the cream cheese until melted. Add the roasted vegetables to the pot and stir to incorporate. If there is an excess of liquid remaining in the pot, turn the heat up to medium high to get a vigorous simmer and reduce the liquid. When you get the consistency that you want (creamy and fairly thick), stir in a splash of heavy cream and a few dashes of hot sauce. Taste for seasoning and, if needed, add more hot sauce, cajun seasoning, or salt to taste. Don’t be shy with the salt – since the pasta cooked in the sauce, we need to make sure there is enough sodium to bring the flavors forward.
Squeeze the lemon juice into the pot and top individual servings with parmesan cheese and parsley! Enjoy!
Instant Pot Chicken with Green Olives and Kale
Posted on February 21, 2021
I adapted this recipe from one of my current favorite cookbooks, “Instant Family Meals” by Sarah Copeland. The recipes are simple, but slightly elevated, and have all turned out perfectly (which is truly a marvel – I’ve found that appliance-focused cookbooks like this can be really hit or miss). I like these sort of recipes because they taste like they took forever to prepare when, in reality, they’re super easy – viva la Instant Pot!
- 1.5-2 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Olive oil
- 1 white onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/2-3/4 cup pitted green olives, sliced
- 4 large leaves kale, rinsed and torn into very small pieces
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Cooked rice or polenta for serving
Place the chicken in a large bowl and sprinkle evenly with the salt and healthy doses of red pepper flakes and black pepper. Massage the spices into the chicken and let the chicken rest at room temperature while you chop and prep the remaining ingredients.
Once everything is chopped, torn, and prepped, turn your Instant Pot on to the Saute function. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil and place the chicken, skin side down, into the pot (I had to do this is two batches). After 5-10 minutes, the chicken skin should be browned and there should be some nice brown bits on the bottom of your pot. Remove the chicken from the pot and add the second batch of chicken (you don’t need to brown on both sides – we are only browning the skin side to get some fat into the pot).
Once all the chicken has been browned and removed from the pot, add the onion, garlic, olives, and kale to the pot. Stir them around for a minute or so to coat them in the chicken juices that have accumulated in the pot. Press Cancel on your Instant Pot to turn off the Saute function.
Add the chicken broth and vinegar to the pot and stir everything to combine. Nestle the chicken back into the pot. Cover your Instant Pot, turn the valve to Sealing, and set it to cook on High Pressure for 10 minutes.
Once the Instant Pot has finished cooking, cover the valve with a dishtowel and carefully perform a quick release by moving the valve to the Venting setting. Once all of the pressure has released, open the pot and remove the chicken to a plate.
Add the butter to the remaining broth and vegetables and stir it until it melts into the liquid. We are waiting now for the chicken to cool enough to shred and return to the pot (if you like, you can serve the chicken at this point with the skin and bone – this is how Sarah serves it. I always prefer shredded chicken to bone-in chicken for most dishes, which is why I am deviating from the original recipe here).
Return the Instant Pot to the Saute function to thicken and keep warm while the chicken cools.
Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin, shred the meat, discard the bones, and return the shredded meat to the pot. Stir the chicken into the sauce and taste for additional heat (red pepper flakes) or salt.
Sarah recommends serving this over polenta, but I use any excuse to eat rice, so that’s my chosen accompaniment here. Dig in!
Posted on January 28, 2021
I am not, by design, a meal-prepper. It takes a really delicious recipe to make me want to eat it for 4-5 days in a row. I am happy to report that this recipe has been meal-prepped (and eaten) no less than 3 weeks running. It’s really delicious and it’s healthy, too.
I used this method for baking the chicken, which I HIGHLY recommend. You will never encounter dry chicken breasts again. Seriously. The Piri Piri seasoning blend I use here comes from Carla Hall’s excellent Soul Food cookbook, which I also highly recommend. These two elements together come together for some seriously tasty chicken!
For the Chicken:
- 1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1/4 cup salt
- 12 cups warm water
- Olive oil
- Piri Piri Seasoning Blend (follows)
For the Piri Piri Seasoning Blend:
- 2 and 1/4 teaspoons paprika
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon confectioner’s sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 3/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
At least 4 hours before you plan to bake the chicken (and up to 24 hours beforehand), whisk together the warm water and 1/4 cup salt until dissolved in a large bowl. Add the chicken breasts to the bowl, making sure the chicken is covered by the water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake the chicken.
At some point while the chicken brines, make the Piri Piri Seasoning Blend by adding all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisking until completely combined.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line a large baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Remove the chicken from the brine and dry thoroughly on paper towels before transferring to the baking sheet. Rub 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil on each chicken breast and sprinkle the Piri Piri Seasoning Blend evenly on the chicken breasts. Really work the spices into the chicken and oil so that the chicken breasts are evenly coated in the spices.
Bake the chicken until a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees in the thickest part of the chicken breasts (if you don’t have a meat thermometer, I highly recommend one. They aren’t expensive and they will save you from overcooking your proteins!). This has taken as little at 20 minutes and as much as 45 minutes for me. I would check the chicken after 20 minutes and continue to check every 5-10 minutes until the chicken is done.
Let the chicken rest for at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving, or storing for meal prep. I really like this chicken cold from the fridge, served alongside roasted vegetables or in a low-carb wrap.
Posted on January 28, 2021
I call these “semi-virtuous” cookies because they contain mostly virtuous ingredients, although they’re not so healthy that they’re boring. Don’t skimp on the chocolate chips – you’re already skipping the butter, refined sugar, and flour – the inclusion of chocolate chips is non-negotiable. I should also mention that the cookies come together really quickly with the use of a food processor, my MVP in the arena of kitchen gadgets.
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1 ripe banana, chopped
- 1 egg
- 1/8 teaspoon almond extract (or about 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1.5 cups old-fashioned oats
- 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips, plus more for topping
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a food processor, puree the maple syrup, banana, egg, and almond extract until completely smooth. Add the salt, baking soda, cocoa powder, and old fashioned oats. Pulse vigorously for a few minutes, until the mixture is well combined and some of the oats have broken down into a flour-like consistency (a mixture of whole oats and chopped oats is okay). Add 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips and blitz just a few times to incorporate them into the batter.
Dollop the batter onto the baking sheet, using 1-2 tablespoons of batter per cookie. The cookies can stay pretty close together because they don’t spread much. Top each cookie with a few extra chocolate chips to ensure that each bite of cookie has a bit of delicious chocolate chip in it (let’s be honest – these cookies are just an excuse to eat chocolate chips!).
Bake the cookies for 10 minutes and remove from the oven. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before enjoying or transferring to a plate to cool further. These taste best slightly warm and will dry out the longer they sit at room temperature (a quick reheat in the microwave will get you back to that melty-chocolatey consistency).
Makes about 16 cookies
Chicken and Rice Soup with Ginger, Turmeric, and Chili Garlic Sauce
Posted on January 26, 2021
To be honest, I had no intention of posting this recipe online. But once I tasted it, I knew I wanted to write down the variations I took from the original recipe so I could make it again. This is a perfect winter dinner – it’s warming, spicy, and filling without being unhealthy or too rich.
- 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
- 5 green onions, white and light green stems finely chopped (dark green stems discarded)
- 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 knob ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 4 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1.5 cups uncooked short-grain brown rice
- 12 cups chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Black pepper to taste
- 1 package bone-in split chicken breasts
- 1-3 tablespoons Huy Fong Foods Chili Garlic Sauce
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the green onions, garlic cloves, ginger, turmeric, coriander, and a pinch of salt and pepper to the oil. Saute for about five minutes, until the mixture starts to soften and get fragrant.
Add the brown rice to the pot and stir for about two minutes to toast the grains and coat them in all the spices and oil. Once the rice is well-coated in the oils, add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Once the liquid is bubbling away, add the 2 teaspoons salt and pepper, then slip the chicken breasts into the liquid.
Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot, and let the soup simmer for about 45 minutes – until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken to a plate and let the soup continue to cook for an additional 25 minutes.
Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin, shred the meat off the bones, and return the shredded chicken back to the soup. Add 1-3 tablespoons Huy Fong Foods Chili Garlic Sauce and stir to incorporate. Serve!
Adapted from this recipe in the New York Times.
Spontaneous Pasta with roasted asparagus
Posted on December 5, 2020
I apologize in advance for having exactly zero measurements for this recipe. I woke up tired from staying up to0 late and just kind of threw together stuff I had in the pantry and fridge. Regardless, it’s pretty easy and a great way to sneak a green vegetable into a meal!
- 1 bundle thin asparagus, chopped into pieces, white ends trimmed off and discarded
- Garlic olive oil (or regular)
- 1 white onion, sliced
- Salt, pepper, sugar
- 5-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- Red pepper flakes
- 14 oz can petite diced tomatoes
- A big splash of heavy cream
- A big squeeze of refrigerated Basil paste (like this)
- 1/2 package bucatini or spaghetti, cooked according to package instructions
- A big handful of grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and toss the asparagus on a sheet pan with some garlic olive oil. Roast the asparagus for 15-20 minutes, until crispy in places and bright green in color (you can work on the rest of the dish while the asparagus is roasting).
Heat some olive oil in a large skillet over medium low heat. Add the onion and pinches of salt, pepper, and sugar. Cook over medium low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is caramelized. When the onion has caramelized, add the garlic cloves and a big pinch of red pepper flakes to the pan. Cook for a minute or two, until fragrant (if the pan is very dry before you add the garlic and red pepper flakes, add a splash of water or additional oil to the pan first). Add the tomatoes to the pan and cook over medium low heat for 10 minutes or so – some of the water from the tomatoes should cook off and the whole thing should get just a touch thicker. Add a big splash of heavy cream and the Basil paste and stir it into the tomatoes until completely combined. Taste for salt, pepper, or additional red pepper flakes. Once the cream is warmed through, take the sauce off the heat.
Add the cooked pasta and roasted asparagus to the sauce and stir to combine. Throw in a big handful of grated Parmesan cheese and serve!
Leftover Turkey Soup with Lemon, Dill, and Jalapeno
Posted on November 27, 2020
Leftover turkey can be dry and boring, especially if you continue to pair it with gravy, stuffing, etc. etc. If you’re ready to taste something different with your leftover turkey, give your microwave a break and try out this soup!
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 jalapeno, finely chopped (remove the seeds and membranes if you prefer less spice)
- 5-6 dill sprigs
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
- 5 oz leftover turkey meat, skin removed and shredded
- 1 cup cooked rice
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium-sized pot. As it heats up, chop and add your onion, celery, jalapeno, dill, bay leaf, garlic, and lemon pepper to the pot. When the soup comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 45 minutes – or until the vegetables are cooked to your liking.
Taste the soup for salt (this will likely depend on how salty your broth was to begin with) and add the turkey meat and rice to the pot. Stir for a minute or two until the turkey and rice have been warmed up. Remove the bay leaf and (optionally) the dill sprigs if you don’t want them in the soup – I don’t mind the sprigs but it’s totally your call. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon into the soup and serve!
A Very Good (and easy) White Bread
Posted on November 23, 2020
Funny story: I was an extremely picky eater as a child. I had a fixation with Oscar Meyer Hot Dogs (no other brand would do – I would demand to see the packaging before taking a single bite) and white bread. We’d have to ask my parents, but I’m pretty sure those were the only two foods I ate for at least a year, maybe longer. My favorite snack was a sprinkle of table salt on a slice of white bread, smashed thin and rolled up like a burrito.
So you can imagine how traumatized I was when I spent the night at a family friend’s house and they only had seedy, wheat-y, healthy bread. I asked our family friend, “What’s wrong with your bread?!” I’m pretty sure I didn’t eat on that trip, but you can rest assured that the next time I spent the night, I came prepared with a loaf of my own sugar-laden white bread.
While I’ve given up hot dogs for good, I still have a taste for sweet, gummy white bread – and I still like to eat it sprinkled with salt.
Note: I’ve written some instructions below, especially aimed at those that haven’t made much bread before. If you know what you’re doing, you can get the straightforward (bare bones) recipe from Allrecipes here.
In a large bowl, whisk together:
- 2 cups warm water (I’ve heard it should be the temperature of a baby’s bathwater, although I don’t have children. I imagine this means fairly warm, but not scorching)
- 2/3 cup sugar
Once the sugar is dissolved, sprinkle and stir in:
- 1.5 tablespoons active dry yeast
After about 5-10 minutes, this mixture should proof, meaning the yeast will foam and bubble up. If nothing happens, you probably have some old yeast and should start over! If the mixture does get foamy, stir in:
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
Now, we’re going to add 6 cups of bread flour into the yeast/water mixture, 1 cup at a time. After adding each cup, gently stir the mixture until the dry flour is incorporated into the liquid. You will see with each addition of flour that the liquid gets less liquid-y and more dough-like. Make sure to incorporate the dry flour that forms along the edge of the bowl, as well as pockets of dry flour that may be hiding at the bottom of the bowl.
Once the dough is all mixed together, generously sprinkle some additional flour onto your work surface (feel free to use your kitchen counter; I prefer to do this on a butcher’s block or bamboo cutting board). Turn the dough out onto the work surface and sprinkle some extra flour on top of the bread.
We’re going to knead the bread for a few minutes. We want it to get a smooth, elastic-like texture. If your dough is sticking to your hands or the work surface, add some more flour. When I was new to making bread, I was always scared that I was going to add too much flour and make the bread dry. Don’t worry too much about this – always add extra flour in small increments and you’ll be fine. I like to knead by using one hand to turn the dough 90 degrees and the heel of my other hand to fold and press the dough. If you’re not sure what this is supposed to look like, there are some great videos on YouTube that show you how to do it.
When your dough is smooth, pour a little bit of vegetable oil in a large bowl and spread it around with your fingers. Transfer the dough to the bowl and roll it around in the bowl so all sides of the dough have touched the oil. Cover the bread with some Saran Wrap and place in a warm, dry place to rise. We keep our house pretty cool and drafty, so I always store my rising dough in the microwave with the door closed.
After about 1 hour, the dough should be doubled in size (or, at least, quite a bit bigger). At this point, we want to punch down the dough and knead it in the bowl for just a minute or two. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into two equal-ish pieces.
Pour a little bit of vegetable oil into 2 9×5 inch loaf pans and spread it around with your fingers. Gently shape the two dough pieces into loaves and place them in the loaf pans. Put the pans back in the microwave (or other warm, dry place), cover loosely with more Saran Wrap and let rise again until the dough is about 1 inch taller than the top of the pan (the original recipe said this would take 30 minutes, it look my loaves about 40 minutes).
While you’re waiting for this second rise, go ahead and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the dough rises above the loaf pans, transfer the pans to the oven (be sure to remove the Saran Wrap!) and bake for thirty minutes. After thirty minutes, place the loaf pans on a wire rack to cool.
My husband said this tasted like the Amish Bread he grew up eating in southern Indiana and recommended you slather it in apple butter. I’m sticking with salt.
Tuna and White Bean Casserole
Posted on November 23, 2020
It’s a popular, and perhaps cliche, thing to say that the joy of cooking comes from sharing your creations with the ones you love. What if the joy of cooking comes from your love of eating?
My husband and I fall on opposite sides of the flavor landscape: I prefer acidic, aggressively seasoned food with lots of spice and heat (perhaps because of my upbringing on creole and southern food) while my husband prefers creamy, rich food with lots of dairy and starch (most likely because of his upbringing in the Midwest). So, needless to say, I often feel as though I’m cooking to suit my own palate rather than please my husband, or vise versa.
But sometimes the stars align and we find a recipe that matches our individual tastes and makes us both extremely happy. Take, for instance, this Tuna and White Bean Casserole. It’s full of salty anchovy paste, red pepper flakes, and lemon (my taste) and mashed beans, milk, cheese, and potato chips (my husband’s taste). This isn’t the sort of recipe that looks great at face value, but it tastes really great and you’ll be surprised how much flavor you can get out of these simple pantry ingredients. In the original version of this recipe, author Melissa Clark describes it as Tuna Noodle Casserole, minus the noodles.
For the casserole:
- Olive Oil
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 15 oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 2 5 oz cans tuna packed in olive oil
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the topping:
- 2 cups potato chips
- 1/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
- 3 tablespoons butter, cubed into small pieces
- Lemon wedges, for serving
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large oven-safe skillet, heat a few tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally until they start to turn golden brown (about five minutes). Add the anchovy paste, red pepper flakes, garlic cloves, and a big pinch of salt to the skillet and stir for a few minutes until the anchovy paste melts and the garlic is fragrant.
Add in the beans and white wine. Increase the heat to medium high so that the wine begins to bubble and reduce. Stir the beans around, breaking them up with a wooden spoon as you go. We don’t want completely pureed beans, but we want about half of them to be smashed so their starchiness will thicken the casserole. After a few minutes, you should have a thick bean mixture and the wine should be evaporated.
Take the skillet off the heat and add in the tuna (don’t drain the cans – add the oil in the cans directly into the skillet), lemon zest, milk, and Gruyere. Mix everything together until the tuna is flaked and the milk, zest, and cheese are well incorporated. Add a generous amount of black pepper and taste for salt. Remember that we’re adding salty potato chips on top, so feel free to leave the filling just a tad less salty than you might otherwise.
Crush the potato chips in your hands directly on top of the tuna and bean mixture in the skillet. It’s okay if some chips are completely crumpled, but we do want some larger shards to remain. After you get a nice, thick layer of chips across the skillet, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and drop small cubes of butter all over the surface.
Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. At the 20 minute mark, turn on the broiler to let the chips and cheese brown a bit. Remove the skillet from the oven and serve. Finish each serving with a healthy squeeze of lemon juice to brighten things up.
A healthier Zucchini Bread that you’ll actually like
Posted on November 15, 2020
Truth be told, I NEVER would have baked this recipe if not for a friend who cut out gluten and refined sugar. She and I had been walking through her neighborhood each week and she kept hinting that she wouldn’t mind a sample of my kitchen creations. I decided to bake up a batch of banana bread that I found through Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain website, a reliable resource on one of my (failed) Whole 30 attempts. I delivered the bread to my friend, wary that it was going to be awful, but proud for at least attempting it. When my friend decided to taste it and offered me a slice, I was hesitant. But lo and behold, this banana bread was delicious. I was shocked!
Surprisingly, all of Danielle’s quick bread recipes (including this zucchini bread) are quite delicious – they rely on almond flour, which has a slightly sweet and nutty flavor, and is possibly the only gluten-free flour that tastes good. If you don’t believe me, taste test some garbanzo bean flour and get back to me.
With the inclusion of mashed banana and egg, this bread has an almost sponge-y texture (in a good way) and is one of those creations you keep nibbling at as long as it remains in your kitchen. I’ve made this recipe at least two or three times since delivering a loaf to my friend and I’ll probably keep this recipe in my baking rotation for years to come. My husband, who tends to be even more averse to healthy food than me, even loves it.
- 1 medium zucchini
- 1 ripe banana
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- Splash of vanilla extract
- 1.5 cups almond flour
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place a sheet of parchment paper in a standard-sized loaf pan and make sure there is a 1 inch overhang on each side. Spray the parchment with cooking spray.
Using the small holes of a box grater, grate the zucchini (you should have just a bit less than 1 cup). Place the grated zucchini in paper towels and squeeze out the excess moisture.
In a food processor, puree the banana until smooth. Add the eggs, maple syrup, and vanilla extract and blitz until completely combined.
In a large bowl, whisk together the almond flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Add the contents of the food processor to the bowl and mix together with a spoon until the wet and dry ingredients are well combined. Fold in the zucchini and mix vigorously so that the zucchini strands are broken up and incorporated into the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes. Let the bread cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then lift it out of the pan by the parchment overhang and let cool completely on a wire rack.
Adapted from this recipe by Danielle Walker.