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.

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

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

Hotdog Chili

What is it about hotdogs? We love them, and we love to hate them. We might get a little squeamish seeing Pizza Hut’s latest option, the “hotdog pizza,” but we all relish the opportunity to eat one slathered with mustard at a baseball game. This chili is dotted with hotdogs (think chilidog) and full of flavor. Try this with your favorite hotdog toppings – mustard, diced onions and maybe a little chopped pickle.


Hotdog Chili

2 medium onions, chopped

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon oregano

1 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon salt

3 fresh fresno chilis

2 chiplotles in adobo, minced

15 oz canned tomato sauce

28 oz canned fire-roasted diced tomatoes

2 pounds ground venison (or beef)

2 packages of 8 hotdogs (we use Applegate)

Olive oil

Toppings of your choice (try chopped raw onion, yellow mustard, relish, sauerkraut)

Saute the onions in two tablespoons of olive oil. When the onions are translucent and softened, add in the tomato paste and the spices. Cook the onion mixture until the tomato paste has browned. Dump the onion mixture into a crockpot.

Brown the ground beef or venison. Add to the crockpot.

Prepare your fresno chilis. Wash the peppers, and remove the stem and seeds. Chop the chilis into a small dice. Add the fresno chilis and the minced chiplotles to the crockpot.

Add the canned tomato sauce and the canned fire-roasted diced tomatoes to the crockpot and stir to combine. Cook the chili on low for six to eight hours.

Chop each hotdog into fourths and fry in oil until the hotdogs are browned. Add the hotdogs to the crockpot and stir to combine. Cook the chili with the hotdogs for 30 minutes.

Serve with your desired toppings.

Salad, Sides, Snacks

B-Sprouts with umami sauce

The husband and I were super busy today running around and somewhere in between moving the hostas in the front yard and buying get-well-soon gifts for a friend we forgot to eat lunch. And breakfast. And it was suddenly two in the afternoon and we didn’t want to ruin dinner. Enter brussels sprouts with a nutritional yeast sauce – its fast, its full of fiber and nutrients and scores high on the comfort food quotient.

The b-sprouts.

The b-sprouts.

B-sprouts with umami sauce

1 package microwaveable frozen brussels sprouts

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Microwave the brussels sprouts according to the package directions. While the sprouts are in the microwave, mix the remaining ingredients in a medium size bowl. When the sprouts are done, add to the sauce mixture and toss. Eat and enjoy.

Main Courses

Shrimp with Tomato Broth and Potato Croutons

We like date nights at home. We get out the bananagrams, open the wine and put some Frasier reruns on Netflix. Yeah, we know how to throw a party! We’re tons, and I mean tons of fun. And we always start date nights at home with dinner. I found these beautiful shrimp at the grocery store and sauteed them with a little tomato broth.

Shrimp with tomato broth.

Shrimp with tomato broth.

Shrimp with tomato broth and potato croutons

1 lbs large shrimp

2 cloves garlic

1 large russet potato

1 bottle clam juice

2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped.

2 lemons

2 tablespoons shakshouka* spice

olive oil


First chop your potato into small cubes, the size should roughly approximate one of your fingernails. Fry them in olive oil until golden brown. Set aside on paper towels.

Make the tomato broth. Slice the garlic and lightly fry in one tablespoon of olive oil until toasted, then add the tomato and the bottle of clam juice. Simmer slightly for five minutes, then blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Add one tablespoon shakshouka spice Simmer softly while you saute the shrimp.

If you’re shrimp aren’t clean already, clean them. Remove the tough shells and slide your knife into the flesh on the back and remove the vein. Then saute in one tablespoon of ghee and one tablespoon of olive oil. Cook until the shrimp have lost their opaqueness and appear white. Season with the remaining shakshouka spice.

Serve by placing one cup of the broth into a shallow bowl. Arrange a pile of shrimp in the broth and scatter a handful of potato croutons on top.

*Shakshouka is a North African spice blend comprised of  cumin, paprika, parsley, chives, onion, red pepper and coriander. Whole foods carries a version of this spice blend at their stores.

Main Courses, Sides

Lazy Day Chicken and Gravy with “Cheesy” Mash

The days that you just do not have time to do the dinner routine often out number the days that you do. If it isn’t one thing, its another, amiright? And while I’m no advocate of the culture of busy (although I’m human, and I fall victim), I do acknowledge that some days there are too many things to do and no time to whisk a sauce slowly over a burner. Those days are crock-pot days. And this is one of those easier than easy crock-out recipes.

Lazy day chicken and gravy.

Lazy day chicken and gravy.

Lazy day chicken and gravy with “cheesy” mash

1 chicken, approximately 4 lbs

2 leeks

4 cloves garlic

1 can chicken broth (14 oz)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

6 tablespoons ghee

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

3 lbs little red potatoes

salt and pepper

Clean and slice the leeks. If you haven’t worked with leeks before, know that they are dirty. If you slice off the bottom, and slice off the tops, being the bits that look more like leaves than stalk. Okay, so slice that stalk down the middle and separate the layers in a colander and rinse under water until there is no more dirt. Throw the sliced leeks and the four whole cloves of garlic, the tomato paste with one tablespoon of ghee in the crock-pot for one hour on the low setting. At this point you can walk away. Go ahead, leave it alone while you walk the dogs or fold the laundry.

One hour later, your leeks and garlic should be soft. Now you can add the chicken. So throw the whole chicken in the crock-pot. Please check first you have removed any neck or gizzards that may be in the cavity. Anyway, yes, throw the whole thing in, sprinkle with salt and pepper and any other herb that you fancy. Add half of the can of chicken stock. Cover and let it go for seven hours on low. When the chicken is done, remove from the crock-pot and blitz the vegetables and liquid that remains in a blender – that’s the gravy!

To make the mash clean and quarter the potatoes. Throw the potatoes in a pot and cover with water and boil for thirty minutes or until fork tender. When fully cooked, drain and put them back in the pot off the heat. Mash by hand with the remaining broth, ghee, and nutritional yeast. Serve the chicken and potatoes with the gravy.

Main Courses

Ropa Vieja

Some days absolutely nothing will do but ropa vieja. Days where the air hangs thick on your body and the sun shines bright and you can’t help but drink buckets of iced tea on the porch. Days where even the river flows sluggishly towards the sea. Ropa vieja is made for these days, with the bright briny olives and the slightly spicy beef over rice.

Ropa vieja

Ropa vieja

Ropa Vieja

2 lbs flank steak, cut into four even pieces

2 red bell peppers, sliced

1 medium yellow onion, sliced

2 jalapenos, minced

4 garlic cloves, sliced

1 14 oz jar tomatoes

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon oregano

2 bay leaves

1/2 cup aji stuffed green olives

1 head cauliflower

1 tablespoon ghee

2 limes

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Place the beef in a crock pot and layer the peppers and onions on top. Sprinkle the herbs on top of the vegetables and pour the tomatoes over everything. Cover the crock pot and cook on low for eight hours.

Remove the green leaves from the cauliflower. Quarter the cauliflower and feed it through your food processor equipped with the grater wheel. Saute the cauliflower in the ghee until soft. Remove the cauliflower from the heat and mix in the juice from two limes and the cilantro.

When the beef is done, shred it with forks and top with the olives. Serve over the cauliflower.

Main Courses

Little Yellow Cod Cakes with Melted Eggplant

Maybe you like eggplant, maybe you don’t like it. Maybe you have only eaten eggplant that has been breaded, fried and smothered in tomato sauce and cheese. For get that kind of eggplant, because this isn’t anything like that. This is smooth and silky eggplant. It turns out that if you bake eggplant at high temperature for hours it steams inside its own skin and becomes absolutely lovely. I’ve topped it here with dainty little turmeric-scented fish cakes.

Lovely little fish cakes

Lovely little fish cakes

Little yellow cod cakes with melted eggplant

Two large eggplant

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 lemon

1 tablespoon olive oil, and more for frying

3/4 lbs cod or other firm white fish

1/2 cup coconut flour

1 egg

2 tablespoons capers

2 tablespoons chopped dill

6 green onions, chopped

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric


Take a fork and prick the eggplant all over, then wrap tightly in foil. Bake for one hour at 400. When they are done, you will know because they will squish under your finger with no pressure at all. Remove them from the oven and remove the foil. Slice from top to bottom and scoop the flesh into a colander to drain. Sprinkle with salt and stir with a spoon to chop up the flesh a little. Stir in the garlic, the juice from the lemon (reserve the zest), and one teaspoon salt. Set this to the side.

Chop the cod into small cubes and set them in a mixing bowl. Add the coconut flour, the egg, the capers, the dill, the lemon zest, the onion and the spices. Mix until combined. Form the mixture into twelve little cakes and set on a plate. Chill the cakes in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Fry the cakes in two batches in the remaining olive oil until brown on all sides.

Serve on a little pile of the eggplant.