In the past entries, Ben and I have mentioned our brunch club, where a small group of our friends will meet at a restaurant and catch up on what’s new and old in our lives. We like to try new places and on a couple of rare occasions we’ve gathered at one of our homes to enjoy brunch in. One of those times, I made an “egg bake” that combined several of my favorite foods into wonderful little individual servings. Modify it as you wish, but it’s definitely a tasty treat that is perfect for a brunch of one to one dozen….depending on how many ramekins you have in your kitchen.
This past year was a very exciting year for Ben as he had the opportunity to shoot several cookbooks. These books are not small projects. It’s easy to pick up a cookbook and take for granted how much work goes into the production of them- from the writing and editing, to the layout and design, to the styling of props, and the creation of the food, not to mention the lighting and capturing of each image- it’s meticulous work. Ben’s been fortunate to work on these projects with a strong team of artists, editors, creative directors, and wanted to celebrate the success of one these books by giving back by way of food on plate. We hosted a cocktail party at the studio, and Ben created a menu with 8, yes 8 different small plates for everyone to try. The mushroom flatbread was such a hit that we figured, if it’s good enough for our party, we think it might be good enough for yours.
My dad has a green thumb, and so does Ben’s dad. The fall is the best time to go home to visit the parents in Iowa and score fresh, organic, home grown with love produce which can be anything from peppers, tomatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, to apples. My parents are will grown enough vegetables that will last them through the winter by storing potatoes and onions in a cool dry spot, and freezing chopped peppers that will be ready to go for one of my dad’s homemade pizzas- which you can’t beat. One of our last visits we brought home what seemed like a bushel and a big peck of Yukon potatoes, so we put them to work in pot with some leeks, some sausage, and some other ingredients and came up with a winner that I can guarantee will warm your belly and make your taste buds dance in the cold months to come.
Summer Summer Summer Time
Thank goodness we can all put that dreary, freezing, wet, slushing, messy, cold, cold, cold winter behind us. I know it’s not officially here yet, but with the scorching 90+ degree days that Mother Nature has bestowed upon us, I feel like she’s been priming us for another hot (and really humid) summer. Along with the seasonal change comes the fresh produce at the farmers’ market. Lots of vibrant colors, flavors, and textures all in the various forms of fruits and vegetables enable us to shake up our eating habits- hopefully for the better. Last year Ben and I perfected this beautiful panzanella salad that makes you feel like you’re tasting the vegetable rainbow (Skittles reference), so you can guarantee that we’ll be taking full advantage of our local farmers’ bounty with their goods to make this goody.
You Say Tomato, I Say Tomatillo
Forever now, anytime that I ever cooked anything that was of Mexican or Tex-Mex nature, I would jazz it up with a homemade pico de gallo that I learned at a restaurant (which will remain nameless) that I waited tables at years and years ago. I clearly remember that first time tossing fresh tomato, onion, lime, cilantro and jalepanos with naked hands. The memory of it still burns a little. You may be wondering why- that’s how they did it in the kitchen…while wearing latex gloves. Anyway, lesson learned, and it became my stand by- fresh, citrusy with just a hint of heat. Recently Ben and I have developed a new love for tomatillos and the wonderful verde sauce that I have been making. It all started with a trip to the grocery store shopping for the week’s menu, and there they were on sale 1 pound for a mere $1. Tomato. Tomatillo. I thought that I’d give it a whirl, and I’m so glad that I did.
Taking simple ingredients and turning them into unique treats is the goal of any cook. With a sweet potato, there are so many different ways to prepare this modest vegetable- baked, candied, mashed, pied, casseroled, pureed, roasted. I feel one of the best way to enjoy sweet potatoes is when they are cut into wedges and fried into a crispy wonderful finger food. The sweetness of this simple rustic treat pairs nicely with this easy to make dipping sauce.
Ben and I aren’t ones to shy away from carbs. We love our pastas. We love our breads. We love potatoes, and we eat our fair share of all of the above. We also like to change things up. Now I know that the Atkins Diet has been a very big deal in the past 5 plus years, and it provided lots of alternatives for your typical favorite carbs, one of those being cauliflower in lieu of potatoes. With that said, I have to say that we do not count calories. We do not count carbohydrates. We do not count fat grams. We do gauge the “healthiness” of our meals by the amount of different colors that make up a dish and whether or not we added indulgent butter or sour cream. On occasion, Ben will make a great cauliflower mash instead of mashed potatoes, because honestly, we don’t eat enough of it and this is a really good way to have it. This recipe is truly delicious full of flavor and as an added bonus- a little friendlier to the waistline.
We love the versatility of carrots. They’re great in soups, stews, stir-fry, cakes, and salads. For our Thanksgiving dinner we gave them a holiday touch to accentuate its natural sweetness that would fit in nicely to your upcoming holiday dinner. This simple cooking process will add depth and body to a often overlooked vegetable. You know how carrots go with peas, so we decided to pair them with some lovely pearl onions, an homage to my late Grandma Ida Mae who loved pearl onions, and created a keeper that we think you’ll enjoy.
It’s getting to be that time of year- the season of sides. Yes, the holidays generally bring on the turkey birds and the honey hams, but those show pieces are nothing without the sides. Ben and I are pretty much in agreement that we generally get more excited about the sides during holiday dinners and get togethers, so we’re going to try to help revamp, introduce, or maybe just reintroduce some ideas that would be great additions to your holiday spread.
So, today I Googled “Most Disliked Vegetable,” and the worldwide web revealed a resounding dislike for brussel sprouts. As a child, my only recollection of brussel sprouts was lived through Kevin Arnold from The Wonder Years growing up in the turbulent social times of the 60’s sitting at the kitchen table proclaiming his disgust for the mini cabbages. I was never forced to eat brussel sprouts (actually I was never forced to eat anything- I just had a robust appetite for whatever was put in front of me). Actually, Ben introduced me to brussel sprouts just a few years ago. I have to say that I do enjoy them and feel so strongly about this easy recipe that we will change your opinion of the brussel sprout so much so that you may move this vegetable up to your top 10 vegetable list. It’s quick & easy, and it’ll look great dished next to the cranberries on your holiday plate.
It’s hard to believe that fall is already upon us. Football season has officially started- thanks Chiefs for giving Kansas City a “W”. We’ve been able to turn off our a/c on occasion. Oliver’s shedding has reduced significantly. Friends are lighting up their fire pits. The Halloween paraphernalia is hitting the store shelves. The new fall prime-time television season is about to start which means new premieres and the final season of The Office with the beloved Steve Carrell. Just as life changes with the season, so does the local produce. One of our family favorites that gets worked into our fall/winter food rotation are our Acorn Squash Potatoes. It’s quick, easy, tasty, and good for you. Not only that, but it’s the type of dish that will turn squash skeptics into fans of this affordable and healthy produce. It’s packed with nutrients, and when cooked well, gives a sweet, earthy flavor that is wonderfully rich. This squash potato combination is great because you can dress it up or dress it down. We had it for dinner last night with chicken sandwiches, and we don’t have a holiday dinner without it. Hope you enjoy.