Roasted Asparagus: Two Ways

easterEaster always signifies to me the end of winter and the first real springtime meal of the year. With Easter so late this year, I’m already in full swing with the spring vegetables and recipes: radishes, baby beets, and asparagus. When I see California asparagus in March, I know spring has arrived. (To get local asparagus, I’ll have to wait until at least May!) With the traditional Easter dinner always a bit on the heavy side: ham, potato salad and/or sweet potatoes, I like to counter it with some roasted asparagus to signify the new season and to lighten up the meal!

These are two ways I roast asparagus that are easy and delicious. Hardly any fat and calories and true confession, I’ve been known to make a sheet of this for a solo dinner. Balsamic vinegar is always a wonderful addition to any dish, since a little goes a long way.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and the Easter Bunny is good to you! I am taking a week or two off to celebrate my birthday as well as take part in an exciting event (check out this week’s endorsement following the recipes)!

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Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic-Shallot Butter
This recipe originally appeared in the November 2002 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Make the butter ahead of time, if you like. Roast the asparagus and toss it with the butter just before serving.

Yield: 8 servings

3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 pounds asparagus spears
Cooking spray

Combine shallots, butter, vinegar, thyme, salt, and rind, stirring well with a whisk.

Preheat oven to 450°.

Snap off tough ends of asparagus. Arrange asparagus in a single layer on a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Cover with foil; bake at 450° for 5 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender. Pour butter mixture over asparagus, toss gently to coat. Serve immediately.

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Browned Butter
This recipe originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Toss roasted asparagus in browned butter, seasoned with soy sauce and a splash of balsamic vinegar, for a super easy side dish that’s big on flavor.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 5 spears)
Hands-on: 7 Minutes
Total: 25 Minutes

40 thick asparagus spears, trimmed (about 2 pounds)
Cooking spray
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons lower-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Arrange asparagus in a single layer on baking sheet; coat with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 400° for 12 minutes or until tender.

3. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat; cook for 3 minutes or until lightly browned, shaking pan occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in soy sauce and vinegar. Drizzle over asparagus, tossing well to coat. Serve immediately.

Note: Finish the asparagus just before serving dinner. Cooking the butter until it browns slightly gives the dish a nutty flavor; watch carefully, though, since it can burn easily.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week
three squaresThis week, I am endorsing myself! I have the wonderful opportunity to moderate a food discussion with author and food historian, Abigail Carroll, at this year’s Newburyport (MA) Literary Festival on April 26. The session is titled “The Invention of the American Meal” and we will discuss Abigail’s book, Three Squares, and the history of our American eating habits. I found her book a fascinating glance at history regarding the three square meals we eat every day.

Here is a link to the festival’s website, http://www.newburyportliteraryfestival.org. If you are in the area, I’d love to meet you in person! Hopefully I will return with a recap of the event, if all goes well!

Fish in Coconut Curry

I tend to be a creature of habit (and those who know me well won’t be surprised by this admission). Almost every Saturday, I go to my spin class, buzz home for breakfast and a shower, go to the post office and library, and then out to lunch and grocery shopping. And since I tend to have more time on Saturday nights to cook dinner, I like to buy something special. This usually tends to be fish since it is fresh and follows my rule of buying and cooking fish on the same day. So I am always looking for new and delicious fish recipes.

And this recipe doesn’t disappoint! Originally appearing in the April 2014 issue of Cooking Light (it also appears in the cookbook Global Kitchen), this warm fish dish is flavorful and relatively easy to make even for the less advanced cook. Just a little bit of chopping, toss everything together, and dinner is ready! I love Asian, Indian, and Thai foods, so with the curry powder and coconut milk, it was a perfect combination of all three. I served it with coconut rice; for my version I cook brown rice and add a little bit of coconut milk to the water and shredded coconut if I have it on hand. Grated ginger is also a good addition.

A few of my changes; since halibut wasn’t available, I used cod in replacement. Instead of light coconut milk, I used ½ cup whole and ¼ cup of water. I forgot the cilantro, but I think it would be a great addition. For vegetarians, I think you could substitute chickpeas or tofu for the fish. My only quibble was no zing! I love all things spicy, so I added some crushed red pepper to my serving, but next time I’ll add some jalapeno with the red pepper to spice it up!

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Fish in Coconut Curry (Mtuzi wa Samaki)
This recipe originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.  

Tanzania sits at a crossroads in the spice trade routes from India. That’s why Indian spices ended up in so many Tanzanian dishes like this fish curry. The dish originated in Zanzibar but is now enjoyed all over the eastern coast of Africa. Coconut milk enriches the curry and gives it a tropical flavor. Serve over boiled yuca, potatoes, or rice.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 1/2 cup sauce, 5 ounces fish, and 1 lemon wedge)
Hands-on: 20 Minutes
Total: 47 Minutes

Ingredients
1 (1 1/4-pound) skinless halibut or other firm white fish fillet
1 1/2 teaspoons Madras curry powder, divided
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 3/4 cups chopped tomato (2 large)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup light coconut milk
4 lemon wedges
Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

1. Sprinkle fish with 3/4 teaspoon curry powder, 3/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add fish; cook 4 minutes or until deeply browned on bottom but undercooked on top (fish will finish cooking later in sauce). Remove fish from pan.

3. Add onion and bell pepper to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add ginger and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add remaining 3/4 teaspoon curry powder, remaining 3/8 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, tomato, and lemon juice. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 10 minutes or until tomato breaks down, stirring occasionally. Mash tomato with a wooden spoon.

4. Stir in coconut milk. Return fish along with accumulated juices to pan, browned side up. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook 8 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Cut fish into 4 equal portions. Spoon sauce into individual, shallow bowls; top each with a piece of fish. Serve with lemon wedges and chopped fresh cilantro, if desired.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week
416guNJMdHLI thought I was the only one in the world obsessed with Laurie Colwin and her food writing, but it turns out there is a whole new generation that is discovering her. A former essayist for Gourmet magazine, Colwin died at the young age of 48 of a heart attack. Her two books, Home Cooking and More Home Cooking sit on my writing desk as inspiration more than anything; reading her writing is like sitting down with a friend, it’s effortless. Last week’s Dining section of the New York Times included a wonderful story on Colwin and her new young followers. Here is a link to the article, I hope you enjoy!

Forcing the Season: Quinoa and Vegetable Salad

I’m not sure what it’s been like in your neck of the woods weather-wise, but here in Vermont it was an exceptionally chilly March. Temps this past weekend were more like the middle of the month more than the end of the month. Teens during the day, below zero at night, the only saving grace is it has been really sunny during the day. Wanting to shed my usual winter fare of heavy chilis, soups, and dinners, I decided to create a springtime salad dish one evening in an effort to force the season. And when I heard the forecast of a winter storm approaching, I decided there was no time like the present!

Cucumbers, tomatoes, and chick peas are my usual fare for grain salads, but I thought I would put a tabbouleh slant to things by adding some sad-looking parsley in the vegetable bin, plus some chives. Chives are my favorite alliums, and since my own chives are hidden under a pile of snow, it will be a few weeks before I can snip some. The parsley is optional; if you don’t have it on hand, leaving it out won’t ruin the recipe. Fresh mint would be delightful substitute, but only if you have it on hand.

I decided to buy red quinoa instead of the “regular” (what color would you call that, beige?) and either can be used in this recipe. I like it when I cook it in chicken broth, as it adds a lot of flavor, but since I didn’t have any on hand, I used water.

Perhaps the recipe worked; the winter storm that was to arrive ended up being just rain and the snow is slowly melting. I’ve heard the chirp of the red-winged blackbird and I can see grass outside my window—it’s not yet green, but it will be very soon!

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Quinoa and Vegetable Salad
Try your own version with different salad vegetables. Cooked chicken could be a wonderful substitute for the chickpeas—or an addition! For a little extra zing, top with some more fresh lemon!

2 cups of water
1 cup of quinoa
1 cucumber, peeled, sliced horizontal, seeded and chopped into half moons
1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup parsley, chopped (optional)
The juice from one lemon (or more)
¼ cup chopped chives
¼ cup feta cheese
Salt and pepper

1. In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the quinoa and reduce heat. Cook until the quinoa is done cooking (30 minutes, give or take) and all the liquid is dissolved. Let it cool.

2. Add the cooled quinoa to a mixing bowl, add the cucumbers, tomatoes, chickpeas, and parsley, if using. Mix well. Add the lemon juice, chives, and feta. Top with additional lemon juice if desired. Serve over a bed of lettuce or on its own!

Recipe Revisit: Spring Matzo Ball Soup

DSCN4285As I was trying to decide what I was going to write about this week, I decided to revisit the very first recipe I shared three years ago, my Spring Matzo Ball Soup, which I actually made for lunches this week. Chicken soup of any sort is comfort in a bowl for me, and adding dumplings, noodles, or in this case, matzo balls, makes it all the more comforting.

I took my original recipe and added and subtracted a few ingredients based on what I had on hand. I usually have some homemade chicken broth in the freezer, but you can certainly make this with boxed broth. I love the flavor of the added fresh dill, it tastes like summer to me, but of course, it’s optional, or you can use another herb. Carrots, celery, and onion are a classic soup combination, but I’ve also added turnip and parsnip if I have it on hand. And if you have some leftover chicken in the fridge, by all means throw it in!

Our early spring, along with our winter, has been terribly chilly, so a big bowl of this for lunch is what Mother Nature ordered!

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Spring Matzo Ball Soup
Since the matzo mixture needs to rest for at least 20 minutes, make that first before you start working on the soup. I like my soups less brothy, so you may want to use more.

5+ cups chicken broth
2 tsp. olive oil
I cup carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup celery stalks, diced
1 cup onion, diced
A splash or two of white wine (optional)
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
A few snips of fresh dill weed
Salt and pepper
Matzo ball mix (see recipe below)

1. In a large Dutch oven, warm the olive oil, and add the vegetables. Saute until soft.

2. Add in the broth, wine (if using), and tomato paste. Bring it to a boil.

3. When the matzo is ready, wet your hands and form matzo into round, one inch balls (about 7-8) and place on top of the soup. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes. Add the dill weed, if using, at the last minute.

Homemade Matzo Balls
I can’t take credit it for this, my good friends at Manischewitz can, as it is what I follow when I make matzo balls. They are the best!

2 eggs
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 c. matzo meal
1/2 teaspoon of salt (I usually leave out)
2 tablespoons water or broth
A little bit of fresh dill weed

Beat the eggs, blend the eggs with the oil, matzo meal, salt, and dill weed. Add broth or water, mix until uniform. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Orange-Mustard Glazed Pork Chops

This is what last Tuesday and Wednesday looked like. Fingers crossed it's the last storm of the winter!

This is what last Tuesday and Wednesday looked like. Fingers crossed it’s the last storm of the winter!

Every couple of years or so, I buy a jar of orange marmalade. I love the stuff, but I eat it on only one thing, English muffins. Which I buy maybe once a year when I get a craving. So I always have a jar in the fridge, just sitting there, lonely, waiting to be eaten. Thank goodness I had some on hand, because these pork chops were delicious!

I thought I had bone-in pork chops in the freezer, but it turned out to be three boneless chops. No matter, you just need to watch the cooking time to make sure they don’t get dried out. I also used a half-cup of orange juice out of the carton, although I’m sure using fresh squeezed will give it even more flavor.

So if you’re like me and have a jar of marmalade in your fridge, give this recipe a try. It made a quick and easy dinner on a work night. Serve it with some brown rice and a green salad, and make sure you leave enough leftovers for lunch the next day!

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Orange-Mustard Glazed Pork Chops
This recipe originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Marmalade provides pectin to give the glaze syrupy body and balances the sweet orange juice with a touch of pleasant bitterness.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 1 chop, about 3 onion wedges, and about 3 tablespoons sauce)
Total: 40 Minutes

Ingredients
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (about 2 oranges)
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 (6-ounce) bone-in pork loin chops (1 inch thick)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 rosemary sprigs
1 medium red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Combine juice, marmalade, and mustard in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until syrupy.

3. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Add to pan; cook 5 minutes or until browned. Turn pork; add rosemary and onion to pan. Pour juice mixture over pork; bake at 425° for 10 minutes or until a thermometer registers 140°. Place onion and rosemary on a platter. Return pan to medium-high heat; add lime juice. Cook 4 minutes or until liquid is syrupy. Add pork to platter; drizzle with sauce.

Luck O’The Irish For St. Patrick’s Day!

four-leaf cloverCongratulations to Linda J., the winner of the Global Kitchen cookbook giveaway! Thank you to all who participated!

While I don’t have a speck of Irish blood in me, I always like making a recipe or two for the holiday. First off, it’s a big mark that spring is coming (although they are predicting 12-20 inches of snow for today! Yikes!) and the food is always delicious and hearty. Who can say no to some corned beef, cabbage, a slice of bread, and a Guinness?

This recipe for Irish Oatmeal Bread is really delicious. You get two big loaves of dense, chewy homemade bread. It makes a great peanut butter sandwich if you are going on a hike or a nice addition to soup for lunch. It also makes great toast!

A standing mixer is suggested since the dough is so dense, but I don’t have one so it’s a lot of elbow grease on my part. I mixed it with my favorite wooden spoon that I’ve had for close to 25 years, but twice in the last week when I was mixing dough, I heard a small crack. So be sure your spoon is a sturdy one!

In terms of changes, I made a couple. I only had dark brown sugar on hand, so I decided to substitute maple syrup. Also, one of my bread pans seems to have disappeared, so I made a nice, round boulé for my second loaf. Just to note, this is time consuming; it took me the better part of four hours from start to finish. So plan to make it on a morning or evening when you don’t have to go anywhere–or during a snowstorm!

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Irish Oatmeal Bread

This recipe first appeared in the January 2004 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

This recipe yields a dense dough, so use a stand mixer for mixing. Make sure the oatmeal mixture is cool before combining with the yeast mixture. If you have oatmeal at breakfast and make a sandwich with this bread for lunch, you can meet the recommended 1 1/2 cups oatmeal per day.

Yield: 2 loaves, 14 servings per loaf (serving size: 1 slice)

2 1/4 cups boiling water
1 3/4 cups steel-cut oats
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
Dash of granulated sugar
2 packages dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons each)
1/2 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
3 cups whole wheat flour
Cooking spray
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Combine the first 5 ingredients in the bowl of a stand-up mixer, and let stand 25 minutes.

Dissolve granulated sugar and yeast in warm water; let stand 5 minutes or until foamy. Add to oat mixture. Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Gradually add 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour and 3 cups whole wheat flour to oat mixture. Beat at medium speed until well blended. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of the remaining all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel sticky).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Divide in half. Working with one portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), roll each portion into a 14 x 8-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Roll up each rectangle tightly, starting with a short edge, pressing firmly to eliminate air pockets; pinch seam and ends to seal. Place each loaf, seam sides down, in a 9-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350º.

Uncover dough, and brush egg evenly over loaves. Bake at 350º for 45 minutes or until loaves are browned on bottom and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from pan, and cool on wire racks.

Weeknight Dinner Series #7! New Food Labels! A Cookbook Giveaway!

There is a lot of excitement this week! March 7th marks the third-year birthday of My Vermont Kitchen; I’ve made it through my infancy and the terrible twos! It’s the first week in March, where a sigh of relief can be heard round the world that yes, the long, dark, and cold winter is slowly winding down. This month always has warm days and cold nights, the perfect recipe for maple sugaring. The chirp of the red-winged blackbird will be making its way to the meadow by St. Patrick’s Day. Plus we spring forward this weekend! I can feel the spring in my outside steps already!

So the news first. The United States Food and Drug Administration announced last week that food labels are getting an overhaul for the first time since the early 1990s. Taking the nutrition course I mentioned last week, one week was devoted to reading food labels, which was a real eye opener. The new label changes are meant to be easier for the average consumer to understand and will focus on calories and sugar content in particular. Hooray to this, as sugar content was not on the labels before because there was no set standard for sugar consumption. But given the obesity and diabetes epidemic in this country, I am pleased to see this addition. This article printed in the New York Times clearly explains the matter in more detail.

This week’s recipe: Chicken and Leeks. While it has a boring name, this is a simple weeknight supper that takes about 30 minutes to make and it’s a delicious and nutritious! Rarely do I make pan sauces, and I’m really not sure why, because they are fairly easy. You can always cook the leeks in the pan with the chicken, but in this case, I cooked them separately. And don’t be like me–watch the pan sauce! I reduced it a little too much, but it was still delicious! Serve along side with rice and a salad, or steamed broccoli with lemon and butter.
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Chicken and Leeks
Extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds of chicken tenders
1 cup chopped leeks
½ cup chicken broth
A glug or two of white wine (Optional. If not using, just use a little more broth.)
1 Tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Place enough olive oil in the bottom of a large skillet and warm. Add the chicken and cook until they are tender, turning frequently, so both sides are golden brown. When finished cooking, put on a plate and set aside.

2. As you are cooking the chicken, add 1 Tablespoon of butter to a small skillet. When it’s melted, add the leeks and cook until soft and a little brown.

3. Place the chicken skillet back on the burner and slowly add the chicken broth, scraping up the browned bits with a wooden spoon or spatula. Bring to a boil, add the wine if using, and reduce down until it is the consistency you like. Add the leeks and chicken to the pan, cover with the sauce and serve.

Free Cookbook Giveaway!

global kitchenAs a member of Cooking Light magazine’s Blogger’s Connection, I sometimes get a few perks and this time I get to pass something on to one lucky reader! Just this week Cooking Light’s Global Flavors will be in bookstores! And this cookbook is fantastic! Written by New York Times best-selling author and food writer David Joachim, you’ll find recipes from all over the world, but they’re easy to make and accessible for the home cook. You’ll find recipes from East Asia, India, Southeast Asia and Australia, the Middle East and Africa, Europe and Eurasia, South, North, and Central Americas. I sat down to breakfast the other morning and was salivating over all the dishes. I’m especially excited to make Chicken Tikka Masala, Indonesian Stir-Fried Noodles, and Hungarian Goulash (although there are tons more I’m going to try!)

The contest is easy! Just leave a comment with what your favorite global meal is, I’ll put all the names in a hat, and the Eater of the House will pull out a name. I’ll contact the lucky winner to get shipping instructions. Deadline is Tuesday, March 11 at midnight Eastern Time. Good luck!

Mid-Winter Chili: Vegan Style

It's amazing how things can change in just a couple of weeks. The birds have come out of hibernation and we've been graced with bright, sunny days! Spring is indeed coming!

It’s amazing how things can change in just a couple of weeks. The birds have come out of hibernation and we’ve been graced with bright, sunny days! Spring is indeed coming!

In an effort to wile way the long winter, signed up for a seven-week online class at Vanderbilt University through Coursera: “Nutrition, Health and Lifestyle: Issues and Insights,” taught by Jamie Pope, MS, RD LDN. Each week has a different focus, and I have been learning even more about nutrition, food labeling, supplements, and more to add to my cooking arsenal. Last week’s focus was on plant-based diets. And in a twist of serendipity, I had made this vegan chili a day or two earlier!

Chili is one of the easiest and quickest meals to make, basically you put everything in a pot and heat it until it is warm and the flavors have mingled. And this recipe is no different. After going to two stores, one of them the co-op, which has most everything vegetarian and vegan, I came up empty-handed on the sausage. So I substituted a bag of Boca meatless ground crumbles, which will change the flavor of the chili (and also adds gluten), but it was still delicious.

This dish is perfect if you have a group of ravenous teens, a potluck, or another large group of people to feed because it makes a mountain! My freezer is full of containers for later lunches and dinners. And for those watching pennies, I figured this cost roughly $10 to make, and at 10-15 servings, give or take, less than $1 per serving!

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Can’t-Believe-It’s-Vegan Chili

This recipe originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Instead of sour cream or cheese topping, go vegan all the way and top with some diced onions, creamy avocado, and/or sweet potato!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 (12.95-ounce) package vegan sausage, chopped (such as Field Roast Mexican Chipotle)
2 cups chopped tomato
1/2 cup white wine
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried ground sage
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
6 cups Vedge-Style Vegetable Stock or unsalted vegetable stock
3 (15-ounce) cans unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
2 (15-ounce) cans unsalted kidney beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
2 cups chopped kale
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

Preparation
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and next 3 ingredients (through sausage); sauté 4 minutes. Add tomato and next 5 ingredients (through red pepper). Bring to a boil; cook until liquid is reduced by half (about 1 minute). Stir in stock. Combine 2 cans cannellini beans and 1 can kidney beans in a medium bowl; mash with a potato masher. Add bean mixture and remaining beans to pan. Bring to a simmer; cook 5 minutes. Add kale; cover and simmer 5 minutes. Sprinkle with oregano.

Yield: Serves 10 (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)

Total: 35 Minutes

Retro Dessert: Floating Island

One of my all-time favorite movies is “Desk Set.” A little known Tracy and Hepburn film, Katharine Hepburn plays a research librarian at a television network in New York City; Spencer Tracy plays an efficiency expert. It’s great fun and I watch it every December because the movie starts in November and a big scene takes place at Christmastime. (So I was especially excited to go to Rockefeller Center last December to live my version of the movie!)

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There is a scene where, following a big rain storm, Tracy is soaked and ends up having dinner at Hepburn’s apartment; he makes her fried chicken and she makes floating island for dessert. Her boyfriend shows up, suspects their cozy dinner is something other than what it is, and assumptions and confusion ensues. Of course, it ends happily.

I’ve been making this dessert since the first time I saw this movie probably 20 years ago. A soft custard pudding, it has a meringue “island” floating on top. It is a perfectly comforting and homey dessert that takes little time and makes just the right amount for two. I had to research the history of this dessert and I thought it was American through and through,  but turns out it is European!

Floating Island
This recipe, from Betty Crocker’s New Dinner For Two Cook Book, says to make this in a double boiler. If you don’t have one, like me, a thick-bottomed saucepan works just as well.

Make Soft Custard (below). Make a meringue of 1 egg white and 2 tbsp. sugar. Drop meringue as “islands” on custard in serving dish. Chill before serving. (MVK’s Note: Making the meringue takes about 10 minutes at least with a hand mixer set on high.)

Soft Custard
¾ cup milk
2 egg yolks (or 1 whole egg)
2 tbsp. sugar
Pinch of salt
½ tsp. vanilla

Scald milk in top of a double boiler over direct head. Beat egg yolks in a small bowl. Blend in sugar and salt. Gradually stir in scalded milk. Return to double boiler. Cook over simmering (not boiling) water, stirring constantly. When custard coats silver spoon (thin coating), remove from heat. Cook quickly. If custard should start to curdle, beat vigorously at once with rotary beater until smooth. Blend in vanilla. Pour into serving dish. 2 generous servings.
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Turkey (or Chicken) Tetrazzini

Every year when Thanksgiving rolls around, I see lots of recipes online and in cooking magazines of how to use up the leftover turkey and I always find a recipe for Turkey Tetrazzini. I’ll be honest, I’ve never made it before, I don’t even know if I’ve eaten it before, but I knew it was a dish of turkey, mushrooms, and noodles in a creamy sauce. So one day when I found some leftover Thanksgiving turkey in the freezer, I decided to set out create my own dish!

Both times I’ve made this it’s been weekend evenings, and while I’ll admit it’s not exactly time consuming, it uses a lot of pots and pans, so there’s a bit of cleanup. I’ve made this with turkey and chicken, and both were delicious (with an enthusiastic thumbs up from the eater of the house).  It’s also a flexible dish, and you can add more veggies if you want. I tried to cut down on some of the calories by using some chicken broth in the cream sauce, so it’s not as rich as it could be but is still flavorful. We’re still in comfort food weather here, so this is a perfect weekend meal, served with a side salad or steamed broccoli.

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It doesn’t appear it by the photo, but there are mushrooms in this dish!

Turkey (or Chicken) Tetrazzini

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped red pepper (about one pepper)
¼ cup chopped red onion
1 ½ cups chopped mushrooms

2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ cup milk
¼ cup chicken broth or stock
A splash of white wine or vermouth (optional)

½ pound of spaghetti (whole grain preferred), broken in half
2 cups cooked turkey or chicken, diced
1 Tablespoons panko or breadcrumbs

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add the peppers and onions, cook for a couple of minutes, then add the mushrooms. Cook for about four minutes until the veggies are no longer hard, but are not completely soft. Add to a large mixing bowl.

3. While the vegetables are cooking, fill a Dutch oven with water and bring to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook for 7 minutes. Drain and add to the veggies.

4. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the flour and whisk until it is a thick paste. Slowly add the milk, whisking the whole time. Add the stock, and continue whisking until the mixture is a thin sauce. (*Note: If it’s still thick, just add a little more liquid, either milk or stock, and whisk.) Add the wine or vermouth if adding. Season with salt and pepper. Add to the mixing bowl.

5. Add the cooked turkey or chicken to the mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Add it to a greased casserole dish and sprinkle with the panko or bread crumbs.

6. Bake covered for about 20 minutes.