My Favorite Recipe

In preparing for our big move, I’ve had to really think about our meals this week. Half our kitchen is already packed and the rest is either in the dishwasher currently or waiting for my husband to use (like the coffee maker he’s used exactly twice since purchasing with our wedding Crate&Barrel giftcard at the beginning of the year). I’m not bitter. Just impatient. Movers will be here in 4 days and rather than just letting me pack it and continue to purchase his iced coffee elsewhere, he insists he’ll want to brew coffee….

I digress. My husband’s packing style and the frustrations it causes me could have its own post. This is supposed to be about the meal I’ve discovered can be made super-lazy-substitute-style and is delicious and also cleans up SO easily because it’s one pan (okay, two including the rice).

I used to be wary of Indian food. The first time I tried any, we had a local Indian restaurant sponsor an open house at the apartment community where I worked. One resident told me her son loved their Butter Chicken, so I tasted some — and went back for like fourths. It blew my mind and made me sad that I hadn’t been more adventurous in my food choices until then (Since, I’ve discovered I also love Thai and Ethiopian food, so hooray!). I found a recipe to make Butter Chicken at home and realized that other than garam masala, I had all the spices I needed already. That recipe can be found here and I highly highly highly recommend it. It’s my favorite thing I know how to cook. Because my husband is paranoid of things like salmonella, I stir-fry the chicken until cooked before adding it into the sauce, but otherwise follow the recipe to a T (including cooking the chicken more in the sauce. Between the olive oil I saute the chicken in and the sauce, the chunks stay super moist — and I hate myself for that word choice).

One night I was craving the sauce, but we had no chicken and no desire to go to the store. I subbed in chickpeas and even my husband loved it. More recently, since my immersion blender has been packed, I used a can of tomato sauce in place of diced tomatoes. Ultimately, I prefer the more authentic pureed texture, but in a pinch — or if you’re feeling lazy — very little is sacrificed in terms of taste by using sauce over tomatoes.

Below is the recipe I used last night, scrounged together with what I had on hand. It turned out better than any other time before, so it’s probably what I’ll follow going forward, especially if chickpeas are involved.


Butter Chickpeas:

Ingredients:
1 can of chickpeas/garbanzo beans
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 Tbs garam masala
1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs minced onion
1 Tbs garam masala
1 Tbs paprika
generous pinch cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 cup milk (I use Lactaid 2%)
2 Tbs butter

  1. Combine first section of ingredients in ziplock bag and shake/mix until chickpeas are coated evenly with spices.
  2. In large skillet, heat olive oil over Medium. Add spices (onion through salt) and cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.
  3. Stir in tomato sauce until spices dispersed throughout. Cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Stir in milk until dispersed throughout.
  5. Add chickpeas. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes (I cook until 2 cups of instant rice seasoned with turmeric is ready).

It’s excellent over rice. That’s all I’ve tried, but I bet it would be good on its own or over potatoes, maybe? Also: the first jar of garam masala I bought was Archer Farms brand (Target) and it was delicious and mild. When it ran out, I bought a bag of the stuff from Wegmans (Laxmi Brand) and whooooo does it have some heat. Fortunately, my husband and I like spicy food. Still, if — like me — you don’t have much experience with Indian spices and would be purchasing garam masala for the first time, especially if you prefer little to no heat, I’d recommend heading to Target for the spice. Those are the only two brands I’ve tried, so I can’t make personal recommendations beyond them.

This dish also reheats really well, so I’ll get to enjoy the leftovers while my husband is out with his buddies tonight (and maybe sneak the coffee maker into a box while I’m at it).

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Uh-Oh, Spaghettios

I forgot that used to be a thing, until someone showed me a joke:

her: “I’m breaking up with you.”

him: “Is it because I keep saying ‘uh oh, spaghettios’?”

her: “Actually, yes.”

him: “Uh oh, spaghettios…”

Now it keeps popping into my head. Which leads me to think about — what else? — spaghettios. I love spaghettios almost as much as Kraft mac n cheese or hot dogs. It’s so easy to pop open a can and have that cheesy-tomato goodness in my belly in a matter of minutes. But I am an adult now, and therefore I must limit my lazy junk food splurges to desperate times (like when I’m really needing quick comfort food, or at the beach with my garbage friends). The good news is there are plenty of “adult” (read: homemade) versions of the comfort food I so enjoy. I’m still searching for the *perfect* macaroni and cheese recipe, but I’ve found enough good ones that I can whip up a decent pot when the craving strikes. I save the hot dogs for the ballpark (or a particularly fantastic grilling day). That leaves spaghettios as my only semi-justifiable lazy-splurge.


Until recently.

I stumbled across the original recipe on Pinterest (I am obsessed with Pinterest recipes), but you can find it here. I can never thank Nikki Gladd enough for the post that gave me permission to eat spaghettios like an adult. I’ve made my own tweaks and adjustments, which to me give the dish even more of an authentic taste, still while maintaining an air of healthiness.

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The recipe says use a saucepan, but as you can see, any pan will do in a pinch!

The most important item: spaghetti rings. I found them at Wegmans (which is hands down the best grocery store.)

I skip the garlic. I’m a big fan of garlic, but I’ve found eliminating it from this particular dish actually makes it better (which is rarely the case). The other major trick I found is cooking the noodles directly in the sauce, rather than separately and combining with the sauce at the end. The starch from the pasta thickens the sauce and the tomatoey-taste fattens the pasta.

Check out the full recipe if you’re feeling like reconnecting with the kid inside you (or if, like me, you feel a little guilty for all the canned junk you eat).

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Homemade Spaghettios:

  • Olive Oil for pan (~1 tbs)
  • 1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 can Tomato Sauce
  • 1 scoop Tomato Paste (~1 tbs. The time I made this the best, I used a regular spoon and eyeballed it)
  • 3 cups water
  • 8 oz spaghetti rings (or other round pasta)
  • Generous pinch of granulated sugar
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 2-4 tbs butter (you can cut down to make it even ‘healthier’)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • ~1 cup shredded cheese (I used pre-shredded Mexican cheese. I also just dropped two handfuls in rather than measuring an actual cup)
  1. In medium saucepan, saute the red pepper flakes in olive oil over Medium heat for about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the tomato sauce, paste, water, pasta, sugar, salt and pepper.
  3. Bring to low boil, stirring frequently to keep pasta from sticking to bottom of pan.
  4. Add butter. Stir until melted.
  5. Stir in milk.
  6. Simmer over Medium-Low for about 10 minutes or until pasta is cooked.
  7. (If sauce seems too runny, add a second scoop of tomato paste to thicken. Stir until fully distributed, then turn off heat) Add cheese one handful at a time, stirring between to melt fully.
  8. Enjoy!

This recipe makes about 4 servings.

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Whiskey Mushroom Risotto *Updated with Photos*

Guys, last night, I made something pretty fantastic. I did not take any pictures because I wasn’t sure it would turn out well (and then once we knew it turned out well, we were too busy scarfing it down to pause for artistry). I promise to update this with pics the next time I make the dish — which will probably be pretty soon since my husband loves Mushroom Risotto.

Usually when we make risotto, I saute the mushrooms in red wine and butter the way my mama taught me (with a nice large glass for myself, of course). Last night, we were out of Red. I had an opened bottle of White I usually use in soups and such, but it struck me that we have a full liquor cabinet that gets almost no cooking love from us at all. I made the off-handed suggestion of trying whiskey in place of wine, to which my husband enthusiastically agreed. He set about stirring that risotto like a champion, and I tasted my options and settled on Eagle Rare for this dish.

There’s only the barest hint of grains on the tail end of the dish, enough to notice but not enough to overwhelm. The whiskey mixes deliciously with a pinch of thyme and the melted butter, and gets absorbed at the last minute by the fat risotto grains. Even if you don’t like drinking whiskey (I personally am not a fan), give this dish a try!

Whiskey Mushroom Risotto – serves 4

1 tbs Olive Oil
1 cup Arborio Rice (Risotto)
3 cups Chicken Broth
2 tbs butter
2 shots of whiskey (I used Eagle Rare, but a cheaper brand would probably work just as well)
1 package Sliced White Mushrooms
1 tsp Dried Thyme
Pinch of Kosher Salt and Fresh-Cracked Pepper

  1. Heat olive oil in sauce pan over Medium. Add the risotto and saute ~2 minutes, until they start to turn golden.
  2. Add 1 cup of broth, stirring constantly until all absorbed. Add another cup of broth. Continue until all broth has been absorbed.
  3. Meanwhile, melt butter in saute pan over slightly more than Medium (but not quite Medium-High).
  4. Add whiskey and mushrooms. Toss to coat.
  5. Saute 3-4 minutes, until mushrooms start to soften.
  6. Add thyme, salt and pepper. Continue sauteing until mushrooms are soft and brown, ~3-4 more minutes.
  7. Pour mushrooms and remaining sauce over the risotto. Stir until liquid mostly absorbed. Can garnish with a sprinkle of freshly-grated Parmesan cheese and sprig of fresh thyme.

*NOTE: If you can get yourself a risotto-stirrer, it makes everything so much easier. In the past, my husband and I have traded off turns stirring, but this time he did it the entire time like some sort of Herculean hero, and it was amazing. For me. He complained of a sore arm, but I was too busy enjoying our culinary masterpiece to pay attention.

My risotto stirrer hard at work

I should probably learn how to plate better

The Safety in Art

Some people — my husband among them — turn to art for an escape. They like light-hearted movies, happily ever afters, comical adventures, feel-good music. Life is hard enough and sad enough and real enough that they look for leisure activities that distract from reality.

For me, the best art makes me feel everything. Happiness, joy, hope — but also devastation, loss, fear, rage. Is it strange that I feel most alive when I’m drowning in a good book or being ravaged by good music?

The first time I saw Titanic (at like twelve years old), I wandered around the house, limp and weepy, for days. My parents said that was why I shouldn’t have watched it — I was too young, I couldn’t handle the tragedy. They didn’t understand I was celebrating it. It was the first time my heart had been trampled by a fiction-wrapped truth, and I knew I would never be able to experience true art any other way.

I want my heart clawed from my chest, dragged over broken bottles and ruptured sidewalks, then buried under hot coals before it’s returned to me, encased in scar tissue but beating ever stronger because it has felt what it is to live. Life is the pain as much as it is the triumph. It’s the breaking as well as the growing. The terror and the joy and I want it all.

Maybe it’s (weirdly, inexplicably) safer to feel over art. In life, we have to express a certain measure of toughness. Can’t let them see me cry, can’t scream, can’t swear or rage or beat someone with a baseball bat. But in art, we can. Listening to the right song at the gym gets us running faster, shadow-boxing harder. If I come home with tears on my cheeks, it’s more acceptable to say “a song hit me really hard” than it is to admit “someone honked at me at the end of a long, boring day and it made me cry.”

So maybe art gives us all a safe haven. An excuse to delve beyond the surface, or a chance to hide beneath a blanket of distractions. Maybe for some, it’s enough to pick and choose the happy.

For me, I need it all.

And Now the Apartment Smells Like French Fries

So there’s a cold going around, because it’s that time of year. Also because some people like to show up at work and cough and sneeze and touch everything and moan about how they hope no one else gets this cold because it’s just awful.

I’m not bitter.

I just have a sore throat and my nose is runny. But I’ve been assured if I picked up the office cold, it would have happened before now. Because I mean, it’s been three whole days since they were really feeling badly.

Regardless of the culprit, despite the day randomly feeling like spring instead of January, I needed soup. Loaded up with carrots and turmeric and ginger, just in case it *is* possible to catch a cold from someone three days after the fact.

We’ve recently changed our diet at home, because one of us needs to try out the FODMAP elimination diet and the other is spectacularly supportive. So coming up with a healthy, anti-cold soup without using my usual go-to ingredients like garlic and onion presented a challenge.

Because of the low-FODMAP diet (basically, we’re temporarily cutting out simple carbs/sugars, but we’ve also had to cut out a lot of spices, dairy, wheat…like pretty much everything) we’ve started eating more potatoes (and eggs, if you’re wondering what else is left). Therefore, my husband recently learned how to peel and chop potatoes. He loves when I let him help in the kitchen, so, as I was feeling scratchy and stuffy and not-happy, I figured our soup would be potato-based and set him to carefully cubing potatoes. We threw in carrots and celery, along with a bunch of turmeric, ginger, and a few other spices I know are easy on the tummy (at least in small little sprinkle-quantities). I “cheated” and sauteed a crushed clove of garlic in olive oil for about a minute before removing the garlic and adding the rest of the veggies. Obviously, this would be great with minced garlic and chopped onions, so feel free to add along with the other veggies.

Low-FODMAP Cold-Fighting Potato Soup:

Ingredients:
3 large brown potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 medium carrots (or about a dozen baby carrots), peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed with the flat side of the knife
olive oil, for sauteeing
Salt and Pepper
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
Turmeric
Ginger
Oregano
Basil
juice of 1/2 a lemon

  1. In large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat olive oil over M heat. Add garlic and saute about 1 minute, until fragrant. Remove garlic and discard.
  2. Add vegetables. Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper. Saute until slightly golden, about 7-10 minutes.
  3. Add the broth and water. Bring to a boil. Stir in generous sprinkles of turmeric and ginger, and pinches of oregano and basil. Cover and reduce heat to M-L.
  4. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until all veggies are soft.
  5. Stir in lemon juice.
  6. Remove from heat and puree smooth, in a blender or with an immersion blender. Return to pan and heat through.

This could be good with a generous pinch of cheese on top. We stirred in avocado chunks into our individual bowls, which was delicious, too. And, it reheats well for lunch the following day — always a plus in my book!

Bonus: all those browning potatoes will leave your apartment smelling like French fries, in the best possible way.

Have you ever watched YouTube videos of food on mute because you’re hungry and the day is dragging?

That’s pretty much how my week has been. I just discovered Binging with Babish and I cannot. stop. watching. food.

And now all I want is a burger, like immediately.

Yes, this post is mostly just a video of some dude cooking the Pulp Fiction burger, which is unfortunate for my first post of 2017, but it’s been a long few days back at work, and I’m exhausted.

Plus, one of my resolutions is to quit apologizing for being who I am. So even though I’m a little lazy, I am who I am and I’m not going to apologize.

This is me, 2017! It’s the year of loving my flawed self.

Did you make any resolutions this year? I’d love to hear them!

 

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Our wee little Chrismukkah corner…pending a *real* tree

And by that I mean baking season. Fireplaces curling smoke from chimneys. A hint of snow seasoning the air. Christmas trees glowing from living room windows. Festive music in every store, pumping up shoppers while slowly destroying the poor workers’ souls.

It’s CHRISTMAS TIME!

My husband said the most awful thing I’ve ever heard yesterday: “You know Christmas is just one day, right?”

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After demanding he get out of my life, I told him in no uncertain terms do I get to have a Christmas SEASON (and really, it’s limited to the confines of post-Thanksgiving to 12/25 so it’s not even technically a full season, so there), and I mean he gets 8 whole freaking days for Hanukkah, so he can just shut his mouth and let me do my Christmas thing.

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We just spent a week-plus in California with my in-laws for Thanksgiving, and I had many adventures I’ll be sure to write about in the coming weeks, but right now, I want to talk about cookies. My sister-in-law and I discussed a baking cookies before, during, and after Thanksgiving, but the timing wasn’t right (there were SO MANY DESSERTS already). When we got home, amidst setting up the tree and singing Christmas songs off-key, it felt like a cookie kind of day. The sky was that snowy-gray, the apartment was toasty-warm, and my fantasy football team was holding steady against a team I was sure I’d lose to.

All that was missing was a flurry of Earl Grey Lavender Cookies.

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The original recipe I used is here. I went a little wild and halved the recipe, making a small batch of my standard Earl Grey Lavender Cookies (using Adagio teas Earl Grey Lavender loose leaf tea — seriously my favorite tea ever) and experimented with the other half to create a Cocoa-Coffee Shortbread.

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*This is the result of three chopped kisses…wayyy too much

Because this recipe yields like two dozen cookies, I wasn’t trying to risk all that goodness on an experiment. Plus it’s super easy to halve, especially if you just got an amazing set of measuring spoons that range from 1/8 tsp to 2 tbs from Crate & Barrel for your birthday (husband win). For the Cocoa-Coffee batch, I subbed just under a tablespoon of Peet’s coffee and one finely chopped dark chocolate Hershey’s kiss (man am I product-placing like a champ right now or what?) in place of the tablespoon of tea leaves. These cookies came out a shade overcooked — they’d probably be best coming out of the oven right at 12 minutes. The tea cookies I had to leave for another 3 minutes or so.

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In case you need a little extra calories (wink), a swipe of Nutella across the top of the still-warm coffee cookies is heavenly. Come on, it’s the holidays. Calories don’t count at Christmas! And as we’ve already established, Christmas is all month long!

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Base Recipe – Tea Shortbread Cookies

  • 2 cups Flour
  • 2 tbs Tea Leaves
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 3/4 cup Confectioners Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup Butter
  1. Sift/whisk together the flour, tea leaves, and salt, until the leaves are spotted throughout.
  2. In stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream flour mixture with confectioners sugar, vanilla, and butter.
  3. Put dough on a piece of plastic wrap and roll into a log, twisting both ends to seal closed. Place in fridge for about 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Cut dough in 1/4-inch sections and arrange on silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet ~2 inches apart (they do spread a little).
  6. Bake 12 minutes or until the edges are just turning golden.
  7. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

Experiment with the add-ins! My best so far has been the Earl Grey Lavender, but I’ve tried other herbs, too. The coffee is pretty tasty. Thyme was…less enthusiastically received.

I’d love to hear what you try!