Shake off the Winter Doldrums With Spring On a Pizza

Shake off the Winter Doldrums With Spring On a Pizza

Welp, there it is. My first grass covered sneaker Saturday morning – the first of plenty. Cutting the grass is one of those chores that I not only don’t mind, but actually kind of enjoy, especially at the beginning of the season. I get so tired of the gray by the end of the winter. When all the green starts returning I kind of turn into this

(Just ignore the fact that these were taken in winter – dogs just get excited all the time – they don’t know any better.)

The spring air and the influx of color definitely give me an energy boost.

I feel the same way in the stores at this time of year. New green abundance shows up – asparagus, watercress, fiddleheads (here in the North East, anyway – idk about other parts of the country), artichokes, peas. So yum and inspiring! There are so many great ways to use these, in salads, pastas, dips, sandwiches. Today, though, calls for pizza. It’s a weekend afternoon, we’ve worked hard and now it is time for some tasty, healthy comforting spring on a plate. When you try this out, feel free to use your favorite pizza dough recipe,or alternative – cauli-crust, gluten free, etc – or use this one that I like. Hopefully you can eat it surrounded by green and flowers and with your grassy sneakered feet up.

Spring Fling Pizza

Serves 4

Ingredients:

½ pizza dough recipe

12 oz ricotta cheese

About 10 thin or 8 large stalks of asparagus, woody ends cut or snapped off, stalks shaved or cut thinly

1 ½ cups watercress

2-3 oz prosciutto

3 radishes, thinly sliced

1 scallion, sliced

Several tbsps chopped fresh dill

Olive oil

Pepper

Method:

Heat oven to 450.  Stretch and/or roll out the pizza dough into a circle or rectangle and place it onto a lined or oiled pan.  Brush some olive oil over the pizza then spread the ricotta over it. Crack some pepper all over the cheese.  Next, pile on the asparagus and watercress. Place the prosciutto around on top of the vegetables then sprinkle on the dill.  Cook for 12-15 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned in spots. Remove from the oven and scatter the radishes and scallion over the top before serving.

Note: I have written this in a way that is meant to work in any kitchen with any supplies.  If you have a pizza stone and peel or backyard pizza oven or some other perfect set up, then by all means use your best available method.  This pizza (as any, imho) would be delicious on the grill.

Apples and Celery

Apples and Celery

Do you ever want something, but not really that thing, but kind of that thing, so you have to come up with a new thing? Like when it sounds good to be lounging on the beach in the warm sun with an over the top cocktail but it’s winter and vacation is months away so you sit under your strongest lamp with a rum and pineapple juice that has a crazy Lego thing cobbled together to approximate an umbrella? No? Just me? Ok, how about when you see an outfit combo that hits all your “THAT’S what I’m talking about” buttons but it comes with a price tag that hits your bank account’s “look away” alarms? You don’t give it up – you adjust and recreate. You take the spirit of the thing and drape it over your own interpretation. You work it for yourself. It was kind of like that when I came up with this recipe. I saw someone mention a smoothie with apples, lemon, celery, and parsley. That sounded intriguing, except for the smoothie part, so I tossed around the flavors until I hit on this non-chunky-liquid way to enjoy them. Bingo. Success. Those flavors, in the form I want. I am sure this salad would work well with your favorite fancy non-Lego-umbrella cocktail.

Apple Celery Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 large apples, cored and thinly sliced

4 celery stalks, sliced (preferably on the diagonal)

¼ cup chopped parsley

2 tbsps olive oil

2 tbsps whole grain mustard

Juice of ½ lemon

Salt

Pepper

Method:

Mix together the oil, mustard and lemon juice with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Toss this with the apples, celery, and parsley. Taste to adjust salt and pepper.

Back to School Calls for Mac and Cheese.  Plus Other Stuff.

Back to School Calls for Mac and Cheese. Plus Other Stuff.

The first day back to school after a vacation is always a tough one. The week of later bedtimes, days of freedom and lowered demands make the return to regular life feel a little grind-y (for me as well as the kids). To ease the transition I like to have something nice on those days. It might be a doughnut on the way to school or a special activity planned after. It always involves extra hugs (mostly for me) and a beloved dinner. This time that dinner ended up being mac and cheese. Now, I don’t want to brag (or maybe I do), but my home made mac and cheese is something to celebrate. It’s not difficult or complicated, just simple and delicious. I make many variations – with bacon and smoked cheese, or beans and pepper jack, for example, but for the small mac fans in the family, the folks effected by the school return, straight up traditional is the way to their hearts.

Here’s the rub, though – one family member with a lactose intolerance and another who has gone keto*. Welp, THAT complicates things. Luckily, the mac and cheese recipe is simple enough that it leaves time and room to make other components of the meal. This night that was teriyaki steak tips and a simple oiled and salted pile of spring mix (my absolute fave). Perfect. Everyone happy. Maybe even happy enough to get up a little easier for the next round of school. Find the recipes below.

Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients:

1 lb elbows or any short pasta, I like to use penne

4 tbs butter

¼ cup flour

3.5 c milk, warmed

½ lb sharp cheddar, grated

½ lb emmental or jarlsberg, grated

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional, only for baked version:

4tbs butter, melted

2 c bread crumbs

Method:

Put your water on to boil.  While waiting for it to boil is a good time to grate your cheese.  If you bought time saving pre-grated, all the better. Pour yourself a glass of wine or make a cup of tea. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook for a minute or two so your cheese sauce doesn’t taste like flour. Add about half of the milk and whisk until smooth and then do the same with the other half.  Cook this over medium until it thickens up. Meanwhile, the water has likely boiled so pour in your pasta. Check it after about 8-10 minutes. Very important – do not let it go mushy! It is ready when there is no hint of crunch but you still feel some *there* there.  It shouldn’t all but disappear between your teeth. Drain when you deem it done. Back to the sauce – mix in the grated cheese a couple of handfuls at a time. When it is all incorporated, taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Pour in the pasta and mix until all the pasta is covered.  If you are not baking, it is ready to be spooned out and enjoyed. If you are going for the baked version, preheat the oven to 375. Place the mixed mac and cheese into a casserole pan. Mix the bread crumbs into the melted butter and spread the mixture evenly over the mac and cheese. Bake this for about half an hour, until the bread crumbs are nicely browned and the casserole is bubbly.

Teriyaki Tips

Ingredients:

2 lbs steak tips (or turkey tips if you can find them)

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

⅓ cup soy sauce

¼ cup maple syrup

1-2 inch piece of ginger, grated

Salt

Oil

Method:

Lightly salt the tips.  Mix together the garlic, soy sauce, syrup and ginger.  Toss the tips well in this mixture and let them sit for 10-15 minutes (longer if you have the time).  Heat a bit of oil in a pan over medium high heat. Add the tips in batches, being careful not to crowd them into the pan.  Cook for a few minutes on each side. The time will vary greatly depending on the size of the pieces, how well done you like your steak, or if you are cooking turkey tips.  As you likely know, the turkey needs to beef cooked fully through – there is no rare option here. You have wiggle room with the beef. I will sometimes cut larger pieces for faster cooking, but usually cook ours 3-4 minutes per side (cooking on just 2 sides – they almost always have irregular shapes) and that gets us medium rare on big tips.  You will just have to check and experiment.

*I mention keto, but this tips recipe is NOT. Said diner has relaxed his keto-ness some, so though this works for him, if you are following a strict keto diet, this is not for you. I haven’t tried it but you could try subbing the maple syrup with erythritol sweetener.


To Honey Or Not To Honey?

To Honey Or Not To Honey?

A while back I made a mistake in my meal plan (if you don’t know about the meal plan you can learn about it here).  Now, this did 2 things: 1) freaked me out because I hate mistakes – not because I rationally think they are a big deal but because my irrational anxiety brain freaks out.  It just does.  But 2) it made me think about how that mistake highlighted my whole goal of helping people confidently step away from always needing a recipe when they cook.

Here is how it went down.  A subscriber wrote and pointed out that in the method portion of the recipe I mention adding the honey but there was no honey listed in the ingredients.  Oops.  I fixed it asap, but also thought back to why it happened and how it could be a helpful thing on which to shine a light.  I knew immediately the reason: I was undecided about the honey.  I made a carrot salad and had tried it both with and without honey, and liked it both ways.  I hadn’t decided right down to the wire, so even changed my mind mid recipe writing – decided no while listing out ingredients, but apparently yes while writing up the method.  Because, guess what – they were both good!  Long story short, a recipe is more often that not a guide rather than a rule.  Try things out.  Mix things up.  Follow your own path.  Here is the recipe.  Try it both ways and see what you think.

Shredded Carrot and Radish Salad

Ingredients:

4 medium/large carrots, grated

4 medium/large radishes, grated

1 tbsp chopped chives

2 tsp honey

2 tbsp lemon juice

¼ cup olive oil

Salt

Pepper

Method:

Mix juice, oil and honey until the honey has dissolved into the liquid.  Toss the carrots, radishes and chives together with the dressing. Add salt and pepper to your liking.

The Girl Needs Her Nut Milk But Waste Makes Me Nuts

The Girl Needs Her Nut Milk But Waste Makes Me Nuts

I have a kid who has developed a smallish obsession with iced coffee and alterna-milk.  If she goes to the fridge on any particular morning and finds that there is only milk from a cow, she questions me, in a way that only a 14 year old can, “why do you hate me?”  And, honestly, I am mostly happy to make it for her, because I am a mom, and caring for my people with food is what I do.  The thing that gets me, though, is I really hate waste.  I am a big fan of nose to tail, leaf to root, bark to pulp, and whatever other neat phrase you can think of to convey “use it all”.  As such, I am sometimes reluctant to make the nut milk, because I know I will need a second plan to utilize the left over meat.  Sometimes this is easy to do but sometimes, well, I just don’t feel like it.

Faced with a morning where we had run out of the last batch and neither of us thought ahead to soak some almonds the night before, I turned to our good friend, Cashew.  Cashews don’t need the big soak that almonds do so they are great for the last minute whirr through the Ninja.  She went running, I got to milking.  A couple of cups of nuts (or, I guess, technically, seeds) went into the blender along with two dates, a splash of vanilla and then water about double the amount of cashews.  Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.  At this point, you seasoned nut milk makers and drinkers might be thinking, “but you can totally drink un-strained cashew milk.”  Sure, you can.  We don’t.  Too, um, cashew-y?  So I got this kind of thing going on.

Milk went into the fridge next to the cold brew and I was left staring at this.

That spoon, by the way is the one that comes with our Ice Cream Sundae Delivery service.  You heard that right: ice cream sundae.  Delivered to your door.  With cute reusable spoon.  We live in a magical place.

But, back to the task at hand, staring at this soggy cashew meat, I decided  to turn it into some little chocolate snacks, so I squeezed it through some cheese cloth, mixed in cocoa powder, honey, a bit of nut butter and oats that I toasted (just takes a few minutes).

 

On the first go it didn’t quite have the right consistency so I added a bit more nut butter to go from this

 

to this

And yes, that is a lego man in the background, because small people.

Roll’em up. pop ’em in the fridge for a few minutes and then this one, in from her run

could sit down to this

Want to try these for yourself?  As you could see, I didn’t have a recipe and you can do the same.  I believe in you!  My rough amounts were 2 cups of cashew paste, 2 tbsp honey, 2-3 tbsp nut butter, 1/4 cup cocoa powder and half-ish cup oats.  But just mix and try, taste and squeeze.  When it tastes and feels right, it’s right.   I wish you a very good day of running and rolling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I First Met: Cold Sesame Noodles (hint: it was the ’80’s)

When I First Met: Cold Sesame Noodles (hint: it was the ’80’s)

For a year after high school and before I trucked off to college, I had a glorious break hanging with family and their new little dude.  It was the late eighties and the food trends were things like California rolls, blooming onions, 7 layer dip, dips in bread bowls (haha this is still a staple of our Thanksgiving weekend), and blackened anything.  And there were also yuppies.  And yuppies who ate things like cold sesame noodles.  And so this is where I first knew of this dish’s existence – in a yuppie house (said with love) in NJ with a baby after high school.  Sounds vaguely like a twisted children’s book – but I digress.

Cold sesame noodles, sometimes called cold peanut noodles, sometimes with sesame paste (aka tahini), sometimes peanut butter, sometimes both.  Often with cucumber, sometimes carrots, sometimes spicy, sometimes not, now just as likely with zoodles or squoodles or sprouted things.  Sometimes udon, sometimes, soba, sometimes regular old linguini.  No matter, though, because it is all about the sauce.  Unctious, umami-rich, a little salt, a little tang, a lotta yum, the sauce is the dish.  That makes it expansively adaptable, as long as you’ve got that tasty sauce.  I actually hadn’t had or thought of these cold noodles in quite a while and I am not sure what brought them back to me these last weeks – perhaps the recent visit from that baby who is now (yikes, what?!) 30, a stellar chef and star creator of all things smoked, or perhaps the constant search for non-hot things to serve in these dog days – but I am sure glad to have gotten reacquainted.  What follows is my current version.  Enjoy with or without neon jellies and a Tab.

Ingredients:

8 oz package of udon noodles (can sub any other long pasta)

8 oz vegetable noodles – zucchini, carrot, squash, etc

½ cup peanut butter

2 tbsps tahini (ok to omit)

4 tbsps soy sauce

2 tbsps rice vinegar

2 tbsps sesame oil

2 tbsps brown sugar

5-6 tbsps hot water

1 tsp sriracha or hot sauce of choice

1 tbsp sesame seeds

Method:

Boil water for the noodles.  While the pasta noodles cook (don’t put the veg noodles in the water yet), prepare the sauce by placing the peanut butter, tahini, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, brown sugar, water, and hot sauce in a blender.  Blend on high until well incorporated. If it seems too thick add more water. When the noodles are close to done, after 8-10 minutes, depending on your noodles, add the vegetable noodles to the same boiling water.  Cook these for 1-2 minutes, until they just soften a bit but don’t get mushy. Drain all into a colander. In a large bowl, toss the noodles and sauce together until all the noodles are well covered with sauce. Top with sesame seeds before serving.

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