Ooey Gooey Brownies – 4/67

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For some reason, these brownies are part of my family’s Thanksgiving tradition. There is nothing remotely Thanksgiving-y about them. They have chocolate, fluff, and peanut butter — nary a mention of pumpkin, a sprinkle of spice, or a slice of apple to be found. The other incongruous thing about these “ooey gooey brownies” is that they’re from Cooking Light, circa 2000. So that means a) my Mom’s been making them for 18 years and I’ve never helped make them (oops) and b) they are trying to be healthy? The recipe calls for skim milk, fat free sweetened condensed milk, and an egg white. Brownies just don’t seem to be the place to cut down on calories. So I used full fat milk, a whole egg (#yolklove), and I could only find regular sweetened condensed milk, so that’s what I used.

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These brownies definitely don’t suck. The ooey gooey ness gives them that home baked allure, all oozing chocolate, creamy goodness, just on the right side of “do you eat this with your hands or a fork” that makes people want to go in for a second. They were certainly a hit at the holiday party we brought them to.

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But! I kinda want to play with this recipe when I have a moment. It leaves an awkward amount of leftover sweetened condensed milk, which I think could be easily incorporated into the brownie batter. I’m not sure we need to cook the brownie base twice. My marbling sucked. And I definitely should remake it in the right sized pan, oops. When I have another chance to give desserts to a crowd, and am not ashamed to use so many store bought products, I’ll play around. Will keep you posted on #projectblasphemy. 

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(Also I’m not reaching for the scraps as much as I normally would because we have two things of candy cane ice cream and two things of hot fudge from Ample Hills that Daniel and I made together(!) at a recent workshop in the freezer/fridge (respectively). This shit is gooooood. I wish I could live on ice cream.)

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one year ago: not much in these categories today, since I managed to update my blog a mere 6(!) days ago…
two years ago:
…but I did return to this zoodle recipe recently and still love it
three years ago:
anyone have a good hot sauce recipe? asking for a friend/wedding party favor
four years ago: 
mushroom and farro stuffed acorn squash 

Ooey Gooey Brownies

From my mom, originally from Cooking Light in September 2000

¾ cup sweetened condensed milk, divided
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ cup milk
1 box devil’s food cake mix (I think it was 15.25 oz)
1 egg
Fluff – didn’t measure, but I used half a 16-oz container (originally recipe calls for 1 ¾ cups or 1 7-ounce jar, but that seemed fussy to measure and Target only had giant containers)
About ½ a package peanut butter chips, divided
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with cooking spray and set aside. (My pan was 14 x 10-inch, which led to a slightly too shallow brownie.)

In a big bowl mix together ¼ cup sweetened condensed milk, butter, milk, cake mix, and egg. Press ⅔ of the batter into your prepared baking pan. I found that pressing the batter with wax paper coated with cooking spray made this simple. Bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine ½ cup sweetened condensed milk, fluff, and about ½ – ¾ cup peanut butter chips in another bowl. Stir together until smooth.

Take brownie pan out of oven, and spread fluff mixture evenly on top. Dollop spoonfuls of remaining brownie batter over the fluff layer. Use a knife to swirl the layers together. (I failed at this, as I may have used too much brownie in bottom layer, and remaining batter was too tough to swirl. Alas.) Sprinkle top with another ¼ cup or so of peanut butter chips. Return pan to oven and cook for another half an hour, or until fluff layer starts to brown. Cool completely in pan before cutting with a sharp knife.

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Zoodle Latkes

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Look, I agree. Latkes don’t need to be anything more than shredded potatoes fried til crispy, sprinkled with flaky salt and eaten as is. Applesauce dollop highly suggested.

IMG_7846 IMG_7847So…zucchini? And… spiralized? Yeah, I know, it’s unnecessary. But look! how! fun! it is!

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This is a perfect breakfast for one, while your fiance goes to a motorcycle show with his buddies and you pray to whoever that he doesn’t buy anything. With one butt you can only be in one place at a time, according to old family saying, soooo we can extrapolate to… with one butt you can only have one motorcycle per decade? That sounds like as good an adage as any.

IMG_7852 IMG_7857Update: He didn’t buy a motorcycle. Phew. He did, at a later date, buy multiple fancy music-making synthy devises, because apparently with one butt you can indeed play more than one of those at one time. My analogy has failed me. 

Happy Hanukkah, however you decide to latke this year!

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one year ago: nothing of note, but I did revisit this kale caesar last night and am still quite in love with it
two years ago: key lime pie with saltine crust
three years ago: rellenitos de plátano (stuffed and fried mashed plantains!)
four years ago: messy and delicious buttermints 

Zoodle Latkes

a swanky original

1 zucchini, spiralized
½ onion, thinly sliced/shredded
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon flour
Neutral oil to fry
Salt and pepper

Fried egg to top, highly suggested

Squeeze liquid out of your zucchini over a sink. Place zucchini strands in a mixing bowl, and add onion, egg, flour, and a bit of salt and pepper.

Add ¼ inch of oil to a big skillet, and heat over medium-high heat. When it seems hot hot hot, add dollops of your zoodle batter to the pan, and slightly flatten. Cook about 3 minutes per side, until crispy. (I made this into two big latkes, but wished I had done 4 small ones instead. The edges were nice and crispy and the insides were cooked, but too thick to be the perfect texture throughout. Oh well, the more you know.)

Take latkes out of pan and place on paper towel-covered plate. Sprinkle with a bit of salt immediately. Let rest for a moment.

Top with a fried egg and hot sauce for a perfect breakfast.

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Hot Artichoke Dip – 3/67

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I’ve always loved Thanksgiving. I mean, we all know I love food. And a whole day (or letsbehonest, a whole! weekend!) devoted to food?? I’m down.

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We always have two celebrations, one with each side of the family, and then since we’re all together anyway, add a gift-exchange component to the day. On one side that means a Yankee swap, on the other it means socks. Both sides do fairly traditional Thanksgiving meals (although one turkey is always better than the other, not saying which). One side does cherry pie, the other does pumpkin. One leans into the marshmallows on the sweet potatoes, the other tries to get rid of them every year. And one side has artichoke dip.

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Artichoke dip at Thanksgiving is, I concede, gratuitous. But even though something is unnecessary does not mean it is unwelcome. I Love artichoke dip. Well, I love all things artichoke (oh wow, only one other recipe with them on the site!), so it’s no surprise that when mixed with roughly 6 kinds of dairy products and then baked until golden and bubbling and filling the house with incredible smells, I’d be a fan.

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This is my first Texas Thanksgiving, and when faced with the thought of missing my family’s traditions for a year, artichoke dip rose to the top of the list. How else would I ruin my appetite before the turkey meal?? Turns out, there are endless ways to do this, including decadent quiche for Thanksgiving brunch, cheesy salty Tex Mex the night before, and the Williams’ family own impressive appetizer spread, including deviled eggs, bruschetta, shrimp on cucumbers, and various pickled things. Texas always provides. And now I can provide Texas with artichoke dip! Family mushing in action. 

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one year ago: nothing of note, but I also made this cauliflower tart for the Big Meal. So good, so rich.
two years ago: nothing of note, but I also made this mushroom farro stuffing yesterday. This had lots of fans!
three years ago: blueberry lemon cake with ginger cream cheese frosting
four years ago: sweet sesame cauliflower, snow pea, and kale salad 

Hot Artichoke Dip

From Aunt Beth B – I one-and-a-halved Beth’s recipe, with some extra artichokes. The following is how I made it.

12 ounces cream cheese (one and a half bricks)
¾ cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded mozzarella
¾ cup grated parmesan
2 14-oz cans artichokes in water, drained and chopped

Preheat oven to 350F. Using electric beaters, mix together cream cheese and mayo until combined. Add cheese and mix until just combined. Fold in artichokes, and a dash each of salt and pepper, with a spatula.

Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. (Original recipe called for a pie pan, but I ended up using a small-ish casserole dish and a little square pan for the extra. I think I prefer it in a thinner layer because more surface area = more browning.) Bake until golden and bubbling — original recipe said 20 minutes but mine took closer to 40.

Serve with crackers and veggies, to kid yourself about any health value.

 

A Very Good Lentil Salad – 2/67

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Daniel decided very last-minute to make something for his “Lyftsgiving” celebration. (Update! He works at Lyft!) I was 100% sure he was going to swirl some harissa into store bought hummus, give a drizzle of olive oil, and call it a day (my recent favorite party trick), but instead he wanted to do a recipe from the binder (awww). He woke me up to ask if we had cardamom for the lentil salad he was making. (We did.) I love you, honey, but I never expected to be woken up by you telling me you’re making lentil salad.

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It turned out great! Daniel added a couple extra things to Nina’s base recipe to bulk it up a bit. Good riddance, last batch of CSA radishes. Until next year! 

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Update: I was looking forward to eating leftovers of this salad all weekend but someone had to leave them at work on Thursday, then stayed home sick on Friday, so here we are on Saturday and we’re still sans lentil salad. Hmph.

one year ago: nothing of note – but last week I made the most amazing broccoli by steaming it, then stir frying in a bit of sesame oil and a lot of ginger. Mmm.
two years ago: soy-dashi simmered kabocha squash 
three years ago: sweet/spicy Chinese peppers and eggplant stir-fry
four years ago: Indian spiced cabbage and onions

A Very Good Lentil Salad 

(Originally called “The Best Lentil Salad, Ever”. I mean, it was delicious, but I just don’t know if I’ve had enough lentil salads to deem this one the BEST.)

From Nina, from the blog My New Roots

Cook up 2 ¼ cups Du Puy lentils (known for their ability to stay intact even after a long simmer) in 4 ½ cups of boiling water. (This took about 15 minutes – Daniel just followed the cooking instructions on the bag, being sure to keep them al dente.) When done, rinse in cool water.

Meanwhile, prep the salad mix-ins. He added one diced red onion, ⅓ cup capers, ½ cup raisins (chopped a bit), a handful of diced radishes, one diced and seeded jalapeño, some crumbled feta, and a couple handfuls of torn baby spinach. Meant to add some basil, but whoops, that’ll have to be for leftovers. Put everything in a big bowl.

To make dressing (seems like a lot of ingredients, but it comes together quickly and is mostly just spices), combine in a jar and shake: ⅓ cup olive oil, ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 tablespoon mustard, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, ½ teaspoon turmeric, ½ teaspoon ground coriander, ¼ teaspoon cayenne, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg (actually he forgot this and it was still great), salt and pepper, plus a bit of ground cloves and cardamom (we only have whole seeds for those, so Daniel ground a bit up in the molcajete and I’m not sure about quantities. The dressing ended up very floral, a little cardamom heavy.)

Combine everything in the big bowl and season to taste! Lunch for dayyysss (or Lyftsgiving side for a night.)

 

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Tortellini, Spinach, & “Sausage” Soup – 1/67

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Dear blog followers, all 7 of you, what would you say if I changed this up a little bit?

This past weekend, I was delighted to be surrounded by the wonderful women in my life at my bridal shower. It still seems sorta surreal, the feeling of 35 women from all moments of my life answering Ilanna-related trivia questions and getting to know each other over silly games. There were cousins (flying in from Michigan!), aunts (Vermont!), grandmas (well, they’re local…), generations-old family friends (Toronto!), Daniel’s amazingly supportive family (Texas!), and a smattering of my friends from middle school, college, and life in New York City. The only word I can use to describe the weekend is faklempt — overwhelmed by love and kindness and good wishes. Thanks, mom and sister, for putting this all together.

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The brunch will live on by the recipe book these women put together for me, filled with holiday favorites, easy dinners, and lots of desserts. I’m so lucky to have this collection of recipes (and new kitchen implements and ingredients) to cook from for the next forever. (Although it’s not exactly like I’m a little country Pollyanna who’s never cooked a meal and is now forced to make dinner every night for her new husband, who then scolds her for overcooking the chicken. Actually, to be honest, I probably would overcook chicken if I tried to make it since I have no idea how. Well then.)

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All this to say, Daniel and I want to cook every recipe from this new binder by our first anniversary. By March 16, 2020, we will have made all 67(ish) dishes so lovingly bestowed on us. I’ll try to blog them. We’ll see how quickly this fails (please don’t hold it against me if this is the only one.)

To start, tortellini “sausage” spinach soup! Easy and perfect for this day, the first day I had to break out my giant winter jacket. I took a couple liberties with it. Reminds me of the meals we’d make in college in my senior year apartment 🙂 

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one year ago: tapado (coconut fish stew) (also this totally wasn’t a year ago, but… it was in 2017?)
two years ago: mizuna miso soup (soup theme!!)
three years ago: butternut and black bean stuffed poblano peppers
four years ago: cheesy bulgur risotto with broccoli and tomatoes 

Tortellini, Spinach, and “Sausage” Soup

4-6 servings

Saute one chopped onion in olive oil in a big pot until it’s soft, about 10 minutes. Add 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 or 2 chopped carrots, a big pinch of red pepper flakes, some smoked paprika, and some veggie sausage, cut into small chunks. (I did two “sausages”, though the recipe called for a pound, and it was enough.) Cook for another 10 minutes or so, until sausage is browned and carrots have softened.

Add: 32 ounces broth, a 28-oz can crushed tomatoes, a bunch of chopped basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn down heat. Simmer for 25 minutes.

Add a 9-oz package of refrigerated tortellini and two big handfuls of baby spinach. Cook for 7 minutes, uncovered, until tortellini is soft. Serve each portion with extra basil and grated parmesan.

Thanks to Daniel’s cousins Michele and Robin for the base recipe and the bowls! 1 down. 66 to go.

 

Baked Eggs and Spinach, Spanish-ish Style

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Reasons I should be eating cake for breakfast today instead of greens:

  • I survived this week.
  • A week which consisted of dress rehearsal and final performance for my, shall we say, incredibly stubborn current group of senior citizen actors I devised a play with. Hoo boy this was a tough one. Cake deserved.
  • A week which also consisted of rehearsals every day for the show I’m directing for Bond Street Theatre — our production of The Law of the Jungle — originally created in Afghanistan and currently restaged with teens from our weekend workshop series. Friday was opening night, and they killed it! Cake definitely deserved.
  • A week which also consisted of visiting the final senior center theater program I oversaw, wayyy out in East Elmhurst, Queens.
  • Monday is the first day of Urban Stages Summer Camp, for which I’m the director. The staff is trained, the theater is set up, the campers (more than we’ve ever had!) are ready to descend. And this administrator is feeling confident. (Cake!)
  • Other things accomplished this week to celebrate: we submitted visas for our upcoming China trip(!), got a good start on our wedding website, ordered a test save the date, and I found time to make muffins.
  • Also this country is going to shit and it’s terrifying, so I think cake for breakfast is the least of our concerns.

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Reasons I should be eating greens for breakfast instead of cake:

  • My fridge has been taken over by CSA greens. Like SERIOUSLY taken over. Send help.
  • (Also, I definitely ate this with half a leftover raspberry lime muffin I made for my teens, so I ended up with the best of both worlds.)

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Practicality, psh — these eggs also taste great. I say “Spanish-ish” because this recipe contains two of my favorite Spanish ingredients — smoked paprika and manchego cheese — but I don’t actually know if this is consumed in Spain. But I do know it’s delicious and that now I have one less bundle of greens to deal with in the fridge.

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four years ago: easy rhubarb cake 
three years ago: mustard greens with oyster sauce and garlic oil 
two years ago: Lebanese un-stuffed eggplant with yogurt sauce 
one year ago: tapado (Caribbean fish, coconut, and plantain soup)

Baked Eggs and Spinach, Spanish-ish Style

a swanky original

½ pound spinach (about 3 big handful)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 giant garlic clove, minced
big pinch red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon red wine vinegar
a couple splashes hot sauce (this is my favorite and adds even more smokiness)
Non-stick spray
2 eggs
shredded manchego (or cheese of choice)
fresh oregano, minced (optional)
s&p

Preheat oven to 375F.

If starting with farm-fresh spinach, remove stems and rinse. (My favorite way to do this is in a big bowl — fill with greens and cold water, hold greens to one side and drain, and repeat three times. Takes a little while but is quite effective.) Dry on clean kitchen towels, or a salad spinner if you didn’t break yours last week (oops). Give a rough chop.

Heat a big saute pan over medium heat. Warm olive oil. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for about a minute, until your kitchen smells great. Add spinach all in one go, and sprinkle with generous pinches of salt, pepper, and the smoked paprika. Then mix together. As spinach cooks down, add vinegar and hot sauce. Turn off heat when spinach is dark green and totally shriveled. For me this took about 3-4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Get out two oven-safe ramekins and spray with Pam or other non-stick spray. Arrange half of spinach in each. Make a little divet in the middle and crack one egg into each divet. Sprinkle eggs with salt, pepper, and manchego cheese.

Put ramekins on a rimmed baking tray (for easy maneuverability) and bake until whites are set but the yolk is still a bit runny. (In my notoriously slow oven this happened around minute 21, but I began checking around 15 minutes.) Sprinkle with oregano and extra hot sauce if you’d like. Let it sit for a moment before eating — everything will be hot!

Other things I’ve made with CSA ingredients this week:

  • a salad to use up lettuce, fresh oregano, and radishes
  • a Callaloo soup that I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of (I blame the okra)
  • raspberry lime muffins
  • lettuce wraps with hummus and curry roasted cauliflower

5 Easy Weeknight Vegetarian Dinners + zippy crunchy cheesy BEST KALE SALAD

…for when you’re a single lady (just for the week while your fiancé is at a coding convention (I’m marrying a lovely nerd) or a longer stretch, no shame either way). Easy dinners with extras for lunch.

The original point of this site was for me to document what I make, to save recipes to return to, and hopefully inspire a couple other folks out there in the void to cook an extra vegetarian meal each week. To that end, let’s deem this an appropriate post, totally on theme, and just give an understanding wave to a) the fact none of these are original recipes and b) the photo quality. I mean, we’re talking about easy, quick dinners. If that’s your goal, you probably don’t have time to set up lighting equipment, sufficiently move aside the cooking implements on your one usable surface (iloveyounewyorkcity but damn am I ready for a larger kitchen), and style things.

An update about kale salad: I’ve said some mean things about it on this blog before. But I’ve totally become a convert. For a variety of reasons: it’s so much more filling than lettuce, keeps so much longer in the fridge, you can keep the assembled salad already dressed in the fridge for lunch the next day, and it’s just as good raw or cooked. This dressing is from the smitten kitchen cookbook (her first). For me, the non-negotiable ingredients are dried cherries, goat cheese, and toasted sunflower seeds. And then I add whatever else is hanging around.

So here we are — a week of single lady eating in the swanky sweet potato kitchen:

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Simply Recipe’s Red Lentil Dal: One of my favorite recipes, on a constant rotation around here. It’s healthy, uses things I have lying around, is super inexpensive, and makes a ton. Highly recommend you keep red lentils around for this purpose. I never boil and peel the tomatoes, just add them earlier than suggested. Served here with brown rice and these Brussels sprouts that were good enough to make again. One batch = lunch all week.

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No recipe on this one — just a bastardized fattoush-ish salad that’s basically my “last meal” meal. Broken za’atar pita chips and stuffed grape leaves from Sahadi’s (heaven on earth), plus chopped lettuce, tomato, cucumber, parsley, and a very quick tahini dressing (big spoonful tahini, some fresh lemon juice, a splash of water, a little minced garlic if I’m feeling fancy, plus salt and pepper). Some feta if I find it hiding in the fridge. I could eat this everyday.

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Spaghetti Squash Sesame Noodles: I really want to like spaghetti squash. This was a decent attempt at achieving this quest. Some can’t-go-wrong flavors — sesame oil, sriracha, soy sauce, rice vinegar. Alas, it still tastes like those things over squash. Meh. Also I was hungry 15 minutes later (yay popcorn!) but maybe that’s just me…

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Spanish-Influenced One Pot Quinoa: I loved this dinner. I basically love any excuse to buy marinated artichokes because I eat half of them before dinner, but this would’ve been good even without that splurge. Super easy, and I like the leftovers both cold and reheated. Plus this is a very adaptable recipe that would be good with whatever veggies you have lying around.

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Ah yes, the smitten kitchen salad I raved about before. Here’s my version. It makes frequent appearances around here.

omg four years ago: rhubarb and chickpea stew with herb-lemon yogurt sauce
three years ago: tatsoi and tofu stir-fry with soba noodles
two years ago: rice noodle salad with carrot-ginger dressing 
one year ago: eggplant salad and goat cheese sandwiches (mmm I could go for this right now)

zippy crunchy cheesy kale salad (aka BEST KALE SALAD)

dressing and ingredients suggestions from the smitten kitchen cookbook

Dressing
3 tablespoons olive oil
1.5 tablespoons white wine vinegar or light balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon mustard (I’ve used whole grain and spicy smooth)
1.5 teaspoons honey
s&p

Salad Ingredients
1 bunch kale (lacinato/dinosaur if possible)
1/2 a small log of goat cheese
small handful dried sour cherries, cut in half
about 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
another crunchy vegetable — finely chopped radishes, red bell pepper, or celery would all work well here
toasted garlic panko (totally unnecessary but makes a plain old salad feel positively daring)

To make dressing, simply mix all ingredients with a fork in a small bowl until combined.

Wash and dry kale leaves. Remove and discard ribs. Create stacks of leaves, roll them up, and cut into thin strips. Put in a big bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and some s&p. Massage for at least one full minute, until leaves shrink and turn a darker green.

Let greens sit while you prep the rest of the salad ingredients. Add them to the bowl (minus panko), add most of the dressing, and mix with tongs to combine.  You may want to add goat cheese later so it doesn’t totally disintegrate into salad, forcing you to add extra. Sprinkle individual portions with toasted panko.

Leftover dressing made spaghetti squash surprisingly delicious. Especially with a 6-minute egg atop.

Gochujang-Roasted Squash Pasta Salad

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Some things that have happened since July 3rd (the last time I posted here… yikes!)

  • I saw the total eclipse on my birthday on a ranch in Idaho, after two days of amazing hikes with my family. Can’t think of a better way to ring in my 28th year. Also, Hanna made me an amazing red wine chocolate cake that I might need every year from here on out…

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  • I made another wedding cake! (Although this one not of the tiered, and therefore uber-impressive, variety.) Despite its’ singular level, it was a giant success and work of love, and I couldn’t be happier to bestow it upon dear friends. Congrats, Michael and Joanna!

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  • And while we’re on this wedding tangent, Daniel and I got engaged! I am the luckiest lady in the whole world. After 4½ years together, he’s not ready to call it quits yet! Thankfully it happened right before the Texan pig roast and not at it, as I can’t believe that would be the most auspicious way to start the next chapter of my life. (But hey, I tried the pig! And didn’t hate it. But no need for any more pig for another 5 years or so.)

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  • Daniel, my adorable fiance, started a new job. He went out to California for three weeks, leaving me by my lonesome. I kept busier than I meant to, but did make some great dinner + leftovers for myself. One week was a giant batch of sweet potato curry, one week featured cauliflower potato soup, but the third week had this salad on repeat: Gochujang-roasted squash pasta salad. Let’s just say it was a week of exciting lunch times. California shmalifornia.

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  • Daniel and I embarked on a gnocchi-making project, a homemade pho adventure, introduced friends to NYC’s best deep dish pizza, had a “battle of the city” (NYC vs SF) pupusa contest (NYCs are cheaper and bigger), discovered the cutest onigiri restaurant near my work, and ate a good many heirloom tomato and white bread sandwiches. I think this is the part of married life I’m looking forward to — the little discoveries we keep finding together, the nightly ritual of sharing a meal, and working side-by-side on projects, big and small. This is how you measure, measure a 5-month-gap. 😉
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Proud of our veggie pho! From Bowl by Lucas Volger

Honestly, when I was making that Gochujang-roasted squash pasta salad I wasn’t really concerned with documenting or taking pictures. But after I ate it for lunch a couple days in a row, I figured it was worth sharing with the world. If you’re looking for something easy, healthy, filling, and cheap, look no further. As such, please allow me a slide for the photos, and use your judgements when following this loose recipe, you talented cooks, you. 

one year ago: key lime pie with salty cracker crust
two years ago: quichon de verdures (Mayan veggie stew)
three years ago: buttermints and mushroom and farro stuffed acorn squash

Gochujang-Roasted Squash Pasta Salad

(squash recipe from Bon Appetit)

1 smallish butternut squash
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (I used black this time but either works)
1 big tablespoon gochujang (Korean pepper paste — could try with sriracha or sambal oelek)
2 tablespoons neutral oil (canola, veg)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 cucumber (unpeeled is fine)
1 red bell pepper
Some big handfuls baby spinach, torn
2 scallions, minced
Bow-tie pasta (I boiled up about a ¼ of a box)

Dressing Ingredients:
Honestly I didn’t measure anything here. I’d start with 1 tablespoon soy sauce, ½-1 teaspooon toasted sesame oil, a big squeeze of honey, and some splashes rice vinegar or lime juice.

Step 1: Squash. Preheat oven to 425. Make squash marinade by combining sesame seeds, gochujang, oil, and soy sauce in a big bowl. Peel squash and slice into small disks. Add to marinade bowl and mix so squash is evenly covered. Transfer to a single layer on baking sheets. Roast up for about 25-30 minutes, or until caramelized and soft and nutty and perfect.

Step 2: Salady things. Cut bell pepper into thin matchstrips. And do the same with the cucumber, getting rid of some seeds. Rinse out that bowl you made the squash marinade in and use it to assemble salad ingredients: spinach, bell pepper, cucumber, scallions, cooked pasta.

Step 3: Dressing. Make some dressing! You don’t need much, since squash is already very flavorful. You just want a little something to add some flavor to the greens and pasta. Start with the dressing recipe above and adjust to your liking. (Don’t try adding tahini, it was a total mistake.)

Step 4: Finish and eat! Add cooked, warm squash to salad bowl (it will wilt the spinach a bit). Add dressing. Taste and doctor until you reach your personal Gochujang-Roasted Squash Pasta Salad nirvana.

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Uh, right, not squash pasta salad, you’ve seen enough of that. I wanted to end on a pupusa note. Yum. 

Tapado: Caribbean Coconut Fish and Plantain Soup

 

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Somehow we ended up with a table-full of green plantains last night, which it turns out are NOT the ones you make yummy sweet fried plantains with. Is that common knowledge? I felt totally uninformed and unworthy of my food blogger status. Well, now I know (and so do you!).

The internet told me I could deep fry them, tostones style, or make a dough out of them and stuff them with meat or whatever, bolo style. All options sounded fine, but in a eureka moment, I remembered cooking with green plantains once (I think they were green bananas then, but I believe they can be used fairly interchangeably), at a very steamy cooking class in Livingston, Guatemala.

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I got out my journal, go me for being obsessive about notebooking, and immediately found the recipe I jotted down after the class. It was a very simple affair, made of what was local and available, namely lots of coconuts and fresh fish, with very little else.

Livingston, Guatemala is totally different from the rest of the country. It’s a Garífuna enclave on the Carribean coast, where it is steamy, humid, and damn tropical. Almost all food has to be brought in by boat and is hence pretty pricey. Its budding tourism industry is one of the prime sources of income for the area, but there’s not much to do in the oppressive heat — despite being on the coast, the only nice beach is accessible only by boat and the hostel options are all of the dreaded “party” variety, where invariably some huge Australian dude has slept all day and now has 40s of beer taped to his hands and is challenging other dudes into pull-up contests. #yolo #traveltolearnaboutothercultures #ohmy.

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Some enterprising folks at Rasta Mesa started a cooking class to teach us bumblers how to make the traditional and ubiquitous soup of the region, tapado. It was a laid-back, steamy afternoon, with children running around and intermittently (and impressively) playing drums. “Class” was in the loosest sense of the word — I got the feeling the instructors were just making themselves dinner and we were around to help chop some vegetables and maybe babysit. Which was totally fine with me. The experience was only tainted by the one hostelbro who decided to get over his hangover, leave the hostel for the first time, accompany us to class, and flirt with all the women present. Despite his presence, it was a tranquil and delicious afternoon that I’m glad has come back to me.

tapado-4Note on recipe: When we made this in Guatemala, we used small white fish, hacked into thirds, with their bones and eyeballs still intact. The versions I saw around town had all sorts of seafood; I decided to use just shrimp but use whatever you prefer. For a vegan meal, you could use roasted sweet potatoes or green pepper chunks instead of fish. If you don’t have access to green plantains, don’t use bananas or yellow plantains, they’re too sweet and soft. The green variety is not sweet at all — it’s very starchy. Try subbing potatoes or yuca.

one year ago: rice noodle salad with carrot-ginger dressing and unstuffed eggplant with yogurt sauce 
two years ago: kale Caesar salad and black bean mango corn salad
three years ago: easy rhubarb cake and roasted beets + greens with mint yogurt sauce

more Guatemalan food: rellenitos de plátano (for when you need to get rid of yellow plantains) and quichon de verduras (Mayan veggie stew) 

Tapado

adapted from cooking class at Rasta Mesa

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ pound raw shrimp (mine were tail-free but either way is fine)
Pinch each of: garlic powder, granulated onion powder, cayenne
Salt
1 onion, diced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (save the juices)
1 jalapeño, diced
2 cans full fat coconut milk
Small handful fresh basil leaves
2 green plantains, peeled and in bite-sized chunks
Juice from ½ a lime
Chopped basil and/or cilantro, to serve (optional, but nice)
Cooked white rice, to serve

Heat a big saute pan (for which you have a lid) over a high heat. Toss shrimp in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of oil, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, and salt. Add to very hot pan and cook on each side for just 2-3 minutes, or until they just turn pink. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to same pan. Lower to medium heat. Add onion and a bit of salt, and scrape up any bits left by the shrimp. Cook onion for 3-4 minutes, or until it’s just turning translucent. Add tomatoes and their juices and jalapeño. Cook for another 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the onion and tomato have broken down and become somewhat jammy.

Add both cans of coconut milk, one can’s-worth of water, small handful whole basil leaves, the green plantains, and bunch of salt. Bring to a boil, then partially cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until plantains are totally cooked. Partially mash some of the plantains with the back of a wooden spoon to thicken the soup. Add lime juice and shrimp — cook for another 2 minutes or so until shrimp are reheated.

To serve, ladle into a bowl, add a spoonful of white rice, and sprinkle with fresh basil and cilantro.

 

Easy Garlicky Tomato Zoodles

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I once overheard someone I admired in college say that she would never be with someone who doesn’t like onions, since she just loved them so much and never wanted to be made to feel bad because of her persistent onion-breath.

At the time, I thought my correlation was that I would need to be with someone who would take me and my ice cream habit at face value and not try to change me.

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Luckily for my heart (uh, both the one that pumps blood and the Daniel I live with), the past six years have seen a decrease in the ice cream habit, and a new rise in savory cravings. (#aging #secondpuberty?). I’m not quite as obsessive as that onion girl back in the day who got the lead in every play, but I get her now. If Daniel had a problem with garlic breath, we may not have made it this far. Luckily, he’s on my wavelength, and we both believe the garlickier, the better.

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Garlic is the star in this suuuuuper easy zoodle bowl. I have jumped on board the zoodle train, and I am not ashamed. They’re just so cute and make you feel so dang healthy.

However, to negate the whole no-pasta thing here, I did add a whole lotta goat cheese and some toasted (garlicky) panko crumbs, and by some I mean an indecent handful. So this isn’t completely virtuous.

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I am not one of those people who will tell you “you won’t even tell it’s not spaghetti!”. Because, uh, you can tell. This doesn’t taste like spaghetti. But it is a bowl of twirlable and slurpable noodle-like strands, in a delicious (garlicky) tomato sauce you might expect to find with spaghetti.

This feeds one, and one person only. It’s been my go-to meal when I’m on my own for dinner these days — it’s incredibly fast and uses one(!) pan. I’m not sure if this recipe is particularly unique in the blogosphere, but it represents an average weeknight meal for me, and maybe this is something you’re curious about, potential internet friends.

So! Use all four garlic cloves and love it. Your house will smell amazing, your breath will frighten away all but the most loyal, and it will taste fantastic.

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one year ago: pomegranate molasses and za’atar granola 
two years ago: nothing of note, but I made this Indian chickpea and cabbage for dinner last week and it was great.

Super Easy Garlicky Tomato Zoodles

a Swanky original

1.5 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
Big pinch red pepper flakes
1 cup tomatoes, roughly chopped, with their juices (I used red + yellow)
1 teaspoon tomato paste, if you have some lying around
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 zucchini, spiralized (this is the spiralizer I use — it’s fine, not great; works well for a small apartment)
1-2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon soft goat cheese (perhaps you too have extra lying around from last week’s eggplant sandwiches?)
s&p

Garlic Panko Crumbs (recipe below) (Optional)

Heat olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium low heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for about 2 minutes, until garlic is beginning to brown. Heat is NOT your friend here — you don’t want the garlic to burn! Err on the side of too low and cook for longer.

Turn heat up to medium and add the tomatoes, basil, tomato paste (if using), and s&p. Cook until tomatoes begin to disintegrate and bubble, stirring frequently. For me this took 3 minutes. Add your zoodles and 1-2 tablespoons of water. Cook for another 2 minutes or so, or until zucchini has reduced in size and is cooked through but retains some crunch.

Turn heat to medium-low, add goat cheese, and stir until cheese is dissolved and sauce has thickened. Spoon into a bowl and eat as is, or top with garlic panko crumbs.

Garlic Panko Crumbs

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup panko
salt

Wipe out pan you made zoodles in. Over medium-low heat, add olive oil and garlic and cook for just one minute, or until garlic loses its raw smell. Add panko and a healthy dose of salt; toss so panko is thoroughly coated with garlic olive oil. Continue toasting for another minute or so. Sprinkle on top of zoodles, or keep in a little bowl and pour onto every bite. 🙂