Main Courses, Pasta

Peas and Penne

I’ve got it in my head to try and eat more vegan-like, although I can’t seem to go full-vegan. I’ve been buying Vital Farms eggs for more than a year now, and I can’t help but believe that these eggs are not a breach of ethics to consume. In the end, I’m trying to eat ethically, and I’m not really sure what that means yet. It has been a long journey. And that journey has taken me to Kite Hill cheese. Enjoy


Peas and penne

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cup cleaned and sliced morel mushrooms

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1 package Beyond Meat grilled chicken strips, thawed

2 tablespoons vodka

2 oz Kite Hill soft fresh original

1/2 cup dry penne, gluten free

12 oz frozen peas, thawed

1 pinch nutmeg

salt and pepper

Prepare the pasta according to the package directions. Saute the mushrooms in the oil in a pan until crispy and slightly browned at the edges. Remove the mushrooms with a slotted spoon, and deglaze the pan with the vodka. Add the chicken and the garlic. Saute the chicken and garlic in the oil until warmed. Add in the peas and the mushrooms. Toss with the nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Add the cooked penne. Serve warm with slices of the Kite Hill.


Carrot Cake with Cinnamon Buttercream

I adore my sister in law. She is the sister that I never had growing up, and always wanted. When she entered our little family, I was a little nervous – you never know how new relationships are going to go, you know? Her first holiday with out family was Easter, and my mother made carrot cake. The plates were passed, and she grew quiet. She ate a few bites and paused. I never knew why people would eat carrot cake, she said. A cake, made of vegetables, not entirely appealing. But, sometimes you have to just put your head down, she said, and power through. But she liked this carrot cake, and the head down and powering through technique worked.

And now, I can’t eat carrot cake without smiling. I don’t know if this would pass the sister in law test, but it is pretty good.

Oh – and my sister in law blogs! They are presently engaged in a four-month world tour. Check it out here.


Carrot cake with cinnamon buttercream

for the cake:

2/3 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 1/4 cup grated carrot

1/2 cup raisins

2 eggs

1 cup gluten free flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup walnuts

for the buttercream:

1/3 cup butter

3/4 cup powdered sugar

2 teaspoon cinnamon

Make the cake. Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs until well incorporated. Slowly added the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Fold in the carrot, raisins, and nuts. Pout into a loaf pan and bake at 350 for one hour and five minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.

For the buttercream, whip the butter until fluffy, then add in the sugar and spice a little at a time until thick. Frost the cake roughly when cool.


Banoffee Pie

We’re celebrating a bit of an anniversary this week. The one week anniversary of my husband’s purchase of fourteen bananas. We are generally a banana-for-breakfast kind of family, but that a few too many bananas for even us to eat. We got down to it, but at the end of the week, we had four bananas left. As the old saying goes, if life gives you bananas, make banoffee pie. It is really rather simple.


Banoffee Pie

2 14oz cans of sweetened condensed milk

4 bananas

1 pint whipping cream

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 par-baked gluten free crust

1 oz dark chocolate, shaved (optional)

Place the cans of sweetened condensed milk, with the paper labels removed, in a large pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a simmer and keep it simmering for four hours. That sounds long, I know. You’re making caramelized sweetened condensed milk here, and that takes some time! Put the water to simmer, and read Outlander for a few hours, checking the water every once in a while to make sure that the cans are still covered by the water. You’re going to add water every now and again. Remove the cans at the end of the hour hours and set aside to cool.

Assemble your pie. Whip the cream with the powdered sugar until soft peaks form. Slice the bananas into roughly quarter-inch slices. Arrange the banana slices in the pie crust. Open the sweetened condensed milk and pour over the bananas, making sure to allow the caramel-y milk to drip to the bottom of the pie crust. Top with the whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Chill for at least four hours.

Main Courses

Eggplant Stir Fry with Amaranth Griddlecakes

I tried making a salad from amaranth a few weeks ago, and I learned a valuable lesson. Amaranth does not make a good salad, the grain is a little too sticky for a salad. It does, however, make a great griddlecake. Add a little flour and egg and you have a great little base for a savory topping. We added an eggplant stir fry – perfection.


Eggplant Stir Fry with Amaranth Griddlecakes

1 cup amaranth

3 cups water

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup corn flour

1/2 cup tapioca flour

1/2 cup 2% milk

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 onion minced

2 medium eggplant, skinned and cubed

1 bunch scallions, sliced on the bias

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons neutral oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons coconut aminos

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon grated piloncillo sugar

Make the eggplant stir fry. Saute the onion in the 2 tablespoons of oil until soft. Then add the eggplant. Up the heat on the saute pan to medium high and add the salt. Saute the eggplant until it is soft and browned. When the eggplant is cooked through lower the heat in the pan, add in the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the pepper and the coconut aminos, rice wine vinegar, fish sauce and sugar. Cook until the sauce is well mixed into the vegetables, and then add the scallions until just wilted.

Make the griddlecakes. Bring the water to a boil and add the amaranth, then bring the pot to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes. When the amaranth is done, set aside to cool. Whisk the amaranth into the eggs. Whisk in the baking powder, corn flour and the tapioca flour. Mix in the milk and the 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Fry in batches as you would pancakes, in oil and flip after bubbles form. Eat these immediately and top with the eggplant.

Appetizers, Sauces & Other Extras


So we’re deep into Lent now, and this is the time that I am most likely to break. Not even necessarily that I consciously decide to go against the grain, but that I forget that I’ve made a decision to eat closer to the ground and that bowl of salted caramel truffles is calling my name and it’s like seven on a Thursday and what am I still doing at work… I know that you’re busy reshaping the world powered by other people’s humble prayers and good deeds, but God, please take a minute to forgive this human’s seemingly inability to not stop off at the grocery store for a bag of popcorn. I’m weak. I’m human. This dip is a good thing to eat to remind yourself that real food tastes better than fake food. This takes no time at all, and serves as both a great accompaniment to vegetables as it does a conversation starter. No one will believe that you just put things in the blender. Blend away, sinners.



16 ounces roasted red peppers, drained

2-ish cups walnuts

6 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon molasses

1 cup virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt.

Blend until you’ve achieved a smooth texture.

***Note to the follower of this recipe. This dip is very forgiving – this is actually what I consider the cheater / I have to make something for book club and I have nothing in the house version of this dip. Today I forgot to buy a lemon – or did I buy a lemon and just can’t find it? – so apple cider vinegar went in instead. Feel free to sub in different nuts, I have found that cashews are a decent and creamier substitute for walnuts.

Salad, Sides

Winter Slaw

It is the middle of bitter February, and work is crazy busy. We’re implementing a new server at work. We’re adding a new service. And to top it all off, my boss has decided to re-work how we do billing. So, in addition to this disruption to my work-life, it is tax season, which means I’m a grass widow. If we’re looking for the silver lining in all of this crazy, it just means that I can add as much citrus and mint to whatever I want. My husband tends to shy from both of those ingredients. I’m sure that it has nothing to do with the time I experimented with grapefruit and beet ice cream… Boom. Slaw with citrus and plenty of mint.



Winter Slaw

1 head napa cabbage, thinly sliced

1 cup thinly sliced celery

1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped

1 tablespoon mint, chopped

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup almonds, chopped

1/2 cup mixed citrus segments

4 tablespoons light olive oil

3 tablespoons lime juice

3 tablespoons coconut vinegar

3 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon coconut aminos

1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes

Assemble your dressing. Vigorously shake the oils, lime juice, vinegar, syrup, aminos and chili flakes in a jar. Arrange the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Toss the salad with the dressing and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Main Courses

Texas-Style Chili

My family moved to Texas when I was in the third grade from Missouri, and we left after sixth grade. Growing up there meant that cowboy boots and red-lacquered nails were common place. Ladies served white-frosted hummingbird cakes, and the men drank Shiner Bock (well, so did the women). Mexican food was really Tex-Mex, but different from the “Tex-Mex” that you find in other states. People ate tamales and Christmas, and decorated their yards with luminarias. And then there was the chili. Texas Chili is built with large chunks of meat, no ground meat here. No beans either. This is about the meat and the gravy. Dig in.


Texas-Style Chili

4 pounds stew meat, cubed

1 onion, roughly chopped

3 jalepenos

2 poblano peppers

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1/4 cup masa flour

2 tablespoons coco powder

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon powdered cumin

1 tablespoon powdered coriander

2 tablespoons dried and powdered chiplotle

10 dried pequin peppers, crushed

3 cups water

56 ounces diced tomatoes

Neutral flavored oil


Brown the meat in a little oil. You don’t need to cook this all the way through, you just want to establish a little brown crust on the meat. When you have that, remove the meat and place in a crockpot.

Add the onion to the pan and brown in the remaining oil. If you’re out of oil, add a little more. Deal with your peppers. Address your heat level, if you’re not someone who likes hot, maybe you don’t add jalepenos at all. If you like heat, wash and dice your peppers. Remove the skin from the poblanos first by scorching them over high flame on a gas grill or gas burner. When the skin is black, put the peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for about twenty minutes. After that period of time, you will be able to remove the skin easily. Rough chop the poblanos and add these with the jalepenos to the onions. When the onions are translucent,  add the tomato paste, and cook until the paste is well mixed and fragrant. Add the spices, including the coco powder and masa, and stir to combine. At this point, add 1 cup water and mix to create a paste. Simmer for five minutes, then pour this paste over the meat in the crockpot. Stir to combine.

Add the remaining water and the diced tomato.

Cook on low in the crockpot for  six hours.

Main Courses

North African Inspired Stuffed Peppers

I’ve never been a huge fan of stuffed peppers. They always seem dry and bland, stuffed full of lean ground beef and rice. The idea, however, of a pepper (which I do love) stuffed with things (which I also love) is too good of a base idea to discount it completely. So I marched down to the local grocery store, stocked up on peppers and ended up with this.


I decided to use ras-el-hanout, a North African spice blend to liven up the peppers. The ingredients in this blend do change from seller to seller, but often you find warm woodsy flavors here. If you can not find a blend, try mixing some cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and black pepper.


North African Inspired Stuffed Peppers

Ten large bell peppers

2 pounds ground beef

2 tablespoons ras-el-hanout

2 medium zucchini, washed and grated

1 onion, minced

1/4 cup neutral flavored oil

1/4 cup masa flour

13.5 ounces coconut milk

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast


Brown the beef until cooked through. Mix in the spices and cook until fragrant. Remove the beef to a large bowl.

Add the onions and the grated zucchini to the pan. Cook until the onions are translucent, and the zucchini has yielded all of its moisture. Remove the vegetables to the bowl with the beef.

Pour the oil into the pan, and swirl to heat. Add the masa to the oil, and stir briskly. When the masa is completely incorporated into the oil, add in the coconut milk and nutritional yeast. Stir until combined. Add this mixture to the beef and stir to combine.

Wash and core the peppers and arrange in a large baking dish. Fill the peppers with the mixture. Add 1/2 cup water to the bottom of the dish to give the peppers a little room to steam. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.



Main Courses

Turkey Curry

When I was small, curry meant one thing: a small glass jar filled with gold powder labeled “curry.” So, naturally, I thought that this was the only curry. As were the other things found in small glass jars, dried dill and mint leaves and the small dimpled dots of black pepper. Which of course is not true at all, there are as many curries as there are ways to make barbecue sauce. This one starts with  paste made with fragrant cardamom, fresh shallots and chilies, which is poured over turkey in a crock pot – because new year, new dedication to a svelter you, am I right? This would just as well with chicken or pheasant I imagine. Or, this might be the perfect paste to rub on fish on the grill.


Turkey Curry

4 shallots, skins removed and roughly chopped

1 lemon, juiced and zested

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated

10 small red chilies, crushed

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

3 teaspoons powdered cumin

2 teaspoons powdered cardamom

1/2 teaspoons powdered cloves

2 teaspoons powdered coriander

2 pounds turkey breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces

1 14 oz can coconut milk

2 onions, diced

2 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup masa flour (optional)

Dump the shallots, the lemon juice and zest, the grated ginger, the chilies, the salt, pepper, cardamom, cumin, cloves and coriander into a blender and blend until you have a uniform paste.

Dump the paste, the turkey, the chicken stock and the onions into a crock pot and cook on low for 4 hours. Add the coconut milk and the masa (if using) and cook for another 30 minutes.

Serve on rice with cashews.

Main Courses

American-Style Cassoulet

This is a cleaning out the freezer dish. I have a husband who frequently brings home animals: rabbits, pheasants, quail, venison. This is a perfect way to clean out the odd bits of things that have found their way into your home, and a great way to address some of the issues that lean wild meats have (low fat content). Hours of cooking in the liquid tenderize the meat, and make it fork-tender. This does take a while to get going – but be patient – this one is is worth it.

Why “American-Style” this French dish would never involve whiskey or slab bacon. This is Mid-west America’s answer to the classic.


American-Style Cassoulet

1 lbs dried great northern beans

1 lbs nitrite-free bacon

4 lbs meat (this is largely up to you – you want a mix of fatty meats and lean meats in here. We regularly use about 1 1/2 lbs of game bird like quail and pheasant, 1 1/2 lbs of venison sausage, and 1 lbs of pork. You want a neutral sausage, don’t use a maple sausage.)

1 lbs carrot, peeled and diced

2 large onions, diced

16 cloves garlic, large dice

1 tablespoon tomato paste

14.5 oz can diced tomato

1/3 cup whiskey

1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried sage

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

4 bay leaves

4 cups broth (chicken)

Place the beans in a large bowl and cover with water. You want to use about six cups of water, and for the beans to be well under the surface of the water. Soak at least 8 hours, or overnight. Drain and set aside.

Fry the bacon and set aside. Leave the bacon fat in the pan, and saute the carrots in the bacon fat for five minutes on medium heat. After five minutes, add the onions. Cook the onions for about five minutes for another five minutes, then add the garlic. Let the vegetables sit in the pan for a few minutes, then add the salt, pepper, thyme, sage, and oregano. When the spices are well-incorporated, add in the tomato paste and cook for five minutes. Add the whiskey and cook until the whiskey is evaporated. Finally add the can of tomatoes. Mix this vegetable mixture into the beans. Chop the bacon into small chunks and add to the beans. Mix to combine well.

Brown whatever meat you are using in a pan with a little olive oil. You do not need to cook this all the way through, you just need to establish a crust on the outside. When I use a loose sausage, I form the meat into small meatballs and fry them on all sides.

Arrange your browned meats into three plates or bowls – one of the leaner meat, one of the fattier pork, and one of the sausage.

Arrange one-fourth of the bean mixture in the bottom of a casserole dish. Arrange the leanest meat on top of the beans. Arrange another one-fourth of the bean mixture on top of the meat. Arrange the fattier pork on top of the beans. Arrange the leanest meat on top of the beans. Arrange another one-fourth of the bean mixture on top of the meat. Place the sausage on top of the beans, and pour the remaining beans on top of the sausage. Press the mixture lightly with your hands to even the whole beast that you’ve created. Stick the four bay leaves into the beans. Pour the stock over the beans. You should just barely see the liquid through the beans.

Cook, covered, for two hours at 350.