Entrees

Potato Galette with Mozzarella and Rosemary

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In a household with two working adults, a baby, needy pets, and a never-ending list of things to clean it is necessary to find simple dinner options. They need to be filling, yet fast. Extra points for little to no cleanup!

Ever since Ava started enjoying solid foods our family has begun to eat dinner together each evening. Our eight month old does not always make this easy, but it is so fun to eat alongside her and give her a bite of our food every now and then. A typical evening for us involves cleaning up Ava’s bottles from daycare, preparing our own dinner, choosing and preparing her meal, and keeping her entertained. Recently the cats have demanded to eat alongside their human servants, so we also feed them at the same time. In addition, Ava has a few budding allergies we are working to prevent by feeding her small, measured portions of allergens every day at dinner…. it is chaotic to say the least.

This galette tastes as if it takes much more time to make than it really does- cheesy, buttery, flaky, and savory. We have eaten it in combination with a salad [in which case this serves 4], but also as a stand alone meal [serving 2]. Cleanup is fairly straightforward, and the ingredient list is by no means exhaustive.

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Yes, there are nights as a working parent when you have the energy to make yourself an elaborate dish. There are nights when you just can’t– and it takes all you’ve got to drag yourself and your family to the nearest drive-thru. This dish is for the nights in between, when you want a home cooked meal and a night around the table without the hassle of much actual cooking.

Potato Galette
makes 4 galettes

Ingredients
5 golden potatoes, small
3 large sprigs fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons olive oil
buffalo mozzarella [16-20 1/2″ slices]
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
4 tablespoons shaved parmesan cheese
1 puff pastry sheet [roughly 9×13″]
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes [optional, but highly recommended]

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper and remove the puff pastry from the freezer to defrost.

Wash the potatoes and slice them into thin circles. Wash and mince the rosemary. This is the most time consuming part, but you don’t have to mince it too finely if you are okay with larger pieces of herbs in your galette. I pretty much always get sick of chopping before it’s completely minced!

Combine the rosemary and potatoes in a bowl with the olive oil. Add salt and pepper to this mixture, if you like. I recommend being generous with the spices!

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Using the same cutting board, slice the buffalo mozzarella into 1/2″ rounds.

When the puff pastry is defrosted and malleable enough to work with, unfold it and cut it into quarters. Take a paring knife and lightly trace a 1″ border around the edge of each square. Prick each piece with a fork.

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To assemble: layer first with the buffalo mozzarella [single layer of this works best to prevent melting over].

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Next, add the shredded mozzarella and shaved parmesan. Again, I recommend restraint with the cheeses to avoid a mess.

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Finally, place the potato mixture on top. I love the potato part of this galette, so I usually layer them on thickly- overlapping in a scalloped pattern or like shingles on a roof.

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Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden brown. While they are baking you can do most of the clean up [1 bowl and 1 cutting board]!

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Top with red pepper flakes and enjoy!

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Winter Veggie Stew

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Apologies for the absence- a couple things have happened in the past month or so, including a wedding (yes, ours) and a honeymoon (also ours!). We are back to cooking and today we are pining for the long, lost seasons! In California everyone raves about the weather, but we miss having actual weather- and four, distinct seasons!

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Because the rest of the country is still sort of experiencing what some might call “winter,” we decided to make a stew with a few seasonal, winter veggies. To be fair, calling this a stew is a bit generous. It’s a fairly thin soup that isn’t chunky. However, it has all of the super comforting and cozy makings of a good stew, so we’re going with it!

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This recipe was inspired by a NYT recipe, you can find that here. I do love the NYT cooking section, however I often find their vagueness disconcerting. They leave much of the decision-making up to the reader, which is fine for experienced cooks who know all of their favorite flavors and combos, but not really useful for your average person who just wants to follow a recipe and get a tasty meal out of it.

We developed our own version that changes up the ratios to make this soup not only heartier and healthier, but also less wasteful. One notable thing we southerners tend to do is try to use every part of the veggies we are cooking with. That’s what we did here. No discarding of vitamin-rich greens, and very little peeling. (It also happens to be less work- yay!)

One caveat for this recipe- you will need a blender or food processor. You will also want some string for your bouquet garni. (Don’t be offput by the fanciful French. It’s just a bunch of yummy herbs for a “broth” base).

Winter Veggie Stew

8 servings (2 cups, 120 calories each!)

Ingredients

for the bouquet garni
3 bay leaves
2 tarragon stalks
4 sage stalks
3 thyme stalks
3 rosemary stalks
2 parsley bunches

4 carrots
2 celery stalks
3 leeks
3 garlic cloves
2 turnips
1 lb russet potatoes [yes, it’s possible you’ll only need one, giant potato for this!]

salt and pepper
1/4 cup crème fraîche + more to top [if you want to keep it vegan, skip the crème fraîche!]

optional to top
french bread
parmesan cheese

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Begin by creating your bouquet garni. Wash all the herbs and stack them in a giant pile. I recommend placing the bay leaves in the center to keep them from falling out. Tie them together with string like this:

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Place your bouquet garni in about 6 cups (1 1/2 quarts) of water. You will want the largest pot you have for this!

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Next, prepare your veggies. This is the most time intensive process of the entire meal, and it’s a great opportunity to get your family in the kitchen to help out! You need to: wash, peel, and dice the carrots; wash and dice the celery (please include the leaves, no need to waste them!); wash and clean the leeks, slicing all but the yellow portions on the innermost layers; mince the garlic; clean, peel, and dice the turnips; clean and dice the potatoes (or potato).

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After your veggies are prepped, you’re ready to begin the super easy cooking process!

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Throw all of the veggies into the pot of water along with 4 teaspoons salt and 4 teaspoons pepper. You’re making about 16 cups of soup, so don’t worry if this sounds like a ton of spice. Simmer all of this for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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After your soup is done with its initial cooking, carefully remove and discard your bouquet, I recommend even counting the bay leaves to ensure none of them escaped during cooking!

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In batches, blend your soup to a thick, but creamy consistency.

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Place it all back into the pot, and add in 1/4 cup of crème fraîche. If you are vegan, you can skip this part!

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Serve topped with parmesan, additional crème fraîche, or even some french bread!

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Enjoy!

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P.S. You can freeze this soup and it gets even better when you reheat it! Great for meal-preppers, who like to have go-to healthy meals in the freezer for a quick dinner on a busy weeknight!

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Mini Breakfast Casseroles

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The process of creating a miniature breakfast casserole was simple. We love breakfast, breakfast foods are delicious and easy to cook. We love miniature versions of things, they’re cute, this is just a fact. When these two ideas are joined together they yield a wonderful, flavor-packed, and easy-to-make breakfast delight.

An additionally exciting note is that with breakfast casseroles, you can truly tailor them to your own taste preferences. It’s honestly really hard to go wrong with flavor combinations when it comes to these. The final thing to keep in mind is, to have fun while making them because these little breakfast dishes aren’t just adorable, they’re delicious too!

 

Mini Breakfast Casseroles
(makes 4)

Ingredients
Two, thawed hash-brown patties (we love to use Trader Joe’s brand frozen patties)
2 tablespoons yellow cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons white cheddar cheese
8 strips Morningstar veggie bacon (this could be substituted with real bacon if desired)
4 eggs
splash of milk (we used around 2 tablespoons)
1 Serrano pepper
4 tomatoes
1/3 cippolini onion
salt and pepper to taste

To start, preheat your oven to 350° F.

We made these using four small to medium sized ramekins. Grease the bottom and sides of your ramekins with either butter or some type of cooking spray. Then, cut your hash-brown patties in half and squish them into the bottom of your ramekin. Dust them with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Place these in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, we want these to start getting crispy so they add a nice textural note to your little egg nests.

While the hash-browns are baking, this is a perfect time to start prepping your filling. Dice the tomatoes, the pepper, and the onion. You can either grate your cheese or just chop it into small cubes. Whisk your eggs together with the milk and set them aside in a bowl.

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Once your hash-brown filled ramekins have been taken out of the oven, you can start the assembly. First, place two strips of bacon in the shape of a cross on top of your ramekin and then push them in so that they are both touching the inside of the ramekin and the top of your hash-brown.

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Second, distribute your filling (tomatoes, pepper, and onion) evenly among your four ramekins.

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Third, pour your whisked eggs into each of the ramekins making sure to fill them evenly (that way they all cook at the same speed).

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Finally, top with your grated cheese!

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Place the ramekins back into the oven for another 20-22 minutes or until the egg is fully cooked. Take them out and enjoy!

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Vegetarian, Alabama-style Jackfruit BBQ

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I highly recommend trying this BBQ recipe, even if you are normally a meat-eater. Using jackfruit in lieu of pulled pork is nothing new in Asian cuisines, but we are bringing it down to the Deep South! We pair a braised jackfruit BBQ with traditional Alabama white sauce, and it is absolutely delicious!

This is a vegetarian spin on an old and classic BBQ sandwich. You can even make it vegan by leaving off the white sauce (or making vegan white sauce)!

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Jackfruit is a stringy, Asian fruit that can be eaten sweetened or in a brine. It can be bought fresh at supermarkets during certain times of the year- however it is difficult to find and doesn’t quite match the texture of BBQ, when cooked from the fresh fruit.

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That being said, you should try to look for canned jackfruit. Be very careful when you are looking for this product canned. Be sure that you find jackfruit in brine, NOT in syrup. You cannot use the syrup jackfruit for this recipe, so it’s a waste of your money (and personally, I think the syrupy jackfruit tastes awful). If you insist on finding it in a store- check an Asian supermarket. When my mom prepared this BBQ in Alabama, she was able to find it with ease at Birmingham’s Asian supermarket. Here in California, though we have multiple Asian markets, none of them carry canned jackfruit. All of that is simply to say: my recommendation is actually to just buy canned jackfruit from Amazon. You can be sure you are getting the right kind, it is reliable in terms of delivery dates, and you don’t have to drive anywhere!

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William and I had planned on making this months before we ever got around to it because we had the hardest time finding the right jackfruit. However, all of our efforts ended up being worth it because it is so yummy! It is also super easy!

Enjoy!

Alabama-Style Jackfruit BBQ

(makes 4-5 sandwiches)

Ingredients
1/2 Anaheim pepper
1 serrano pepper
1/2 large, yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 20 ounce cans jackfruit in brine
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup traditional, red BBQ sauce (make sure this is vegetarian friendly!)
salt and pepper to taste

traditional buns and any fixin’s including Alabama white BBQ sauce (a recipe for this unique and amazing vinegar-based sauce can be found here)

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First, clean and mince the peppers. Make sure you clear out all those seeds, and I’d recommend rubbing your fingers with a bit of olive oil beforehand to prevent that burning from occurring afterwards.

Chop the onion finely- you can dice it if you like, it can be in pieces a bit bigger than the peppers!

Mince the garlic.

Combine the peppers, onion, and garlic in a large, shallow pan with the olive oil. Let these cook on very low heat for about 5 minutes.

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Next, tackle this jackfruit! You will need to rinse it in water to clean off the brine. Then, carefully cut out any pieces of the core that you can see. It is the whitest, most solid, and almost spongy part of the fruit. This part of the jackfruit isn’t bad to the taste, but it will mess with the texture of your BBQ, and we don’t want that! Once you have your jackfruit cleaned and de-cored, you can set it aside.

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Turn back to your pot and turn the heat up just a bit to get a simmer. Stir your onion mixture. Add in the cumin, paprika, and liquid smoke.

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If you are using a pre-made vegetable broth, add it into your pot. We use a bouillon base and added that with water. Stir everything together and turn up the heat to a good simmer.

Let this mixture simmer for a few minutes before adding in the jackfruit and BBQ sauce.

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After adding in the BBQ sauce and jackfruit, let the mixture cook on lower heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point you can season with salt and pepper. Do a taste test after 15 minutes and if it’s tender enough for you- you’re ready to build your sandwich! Let your own BBQ preferences be your guide to how long you should keep this on the stove!

Build a traditional sandwich using buttered, sesame seed buns, pickles, and Alabama white sauce!

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Make a mess and enjoy!

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Bruschetta con Burrata

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Rich, Italian foods are always immensely satisfying and this is one of them. Savory olive oils, tart tomatoes, milky burrata cheese, and fresh basil– it all makes for one delicious bite! Pretty much anyone can make a good bruschetta with a variety of ingredients, but this particular combination has become our go-to. We have tried tons of different kinds of breads and different ingredients, but we landed on this recipe and we haven’t changed it in about a year. We make it probably once a month (it is incredibly delicious, but it’s not really very healthy).

Bruschetta is a fairly traditional Italian dish that has become popularized all over the world. In Italy, there are many, regional variations. The Toscana region often prepares a simplified version with salt, pepper, and olive oil. This fettunta is usually more of a vehicle for tasting the first batches of olive oil for the season. In the Campania region, the dish has been served for a very long time and, unsurprisingly, it has evolved. Often, you will see bruschetta here with mushrooms, squash, and even sausages. There are many other variations, but here in the States, we usually see it with basil, tomatoes, and olive oil. I’ve added burrata in the Campanian style to counter the acidity of the tomatoes, and I believe it works very well.

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You can eat these as a snack or a full meal. We usually opt for the full meal with a glass of white wine. It doesn’t take much time, and the full recipe makes about 24 pieces. Each slice is around 115 calories, as I said, it’s a treat! However, every piece does have 3 grams of protein (which is pretty good for a vegetarian bruschetta). Obviously, there are tons of changes you could make to this recipe to spice it up or simplify it!

Enjoy!

Burrata Bruschetta

Ingredients
1 Trader Joe’s herb loaf
1/2 cup olive oil (I use dark, flavorful varieties, but if you prefer a lighter oil, go for it!)
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 lb cherry or grape tomatoes (I usually do half red cherry, half multi-colored, mini heirloom)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
fresh basil (several stems, enough to chiffonade about 2 tablespoons)
1 carton Trader Joe’s burrata (equivalent of 2 burrata balls, about 8oz total)
optional
truffle olive oil drizzle to finish (adds a nice, savory flavor that works especially well if this is to be an entree)

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First, prep a baking sheet. Cover it in tin foil and preheat the oven to 375°F. Slice the herb loaf into 1″ strips and then cut each strip in half.

Mix the olive oil and garlic salt in a small dish. Brush each side of every slice with the garlic olive oil.

Next, begin chopping the tomatoes. You want to cut them into fairly small pieces that still retain their shape and some of their juices. Either quarter or sixth each one. Put them in a medium-sized bowl. Add in the salt and pepper and stir it all together. Next, chiffonade the basil. Mix it in with the tomatoes carefully. Taste the mixture to make sure it is to your liking, and make any adjustments necessary. I usually add in a bit more basil.

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Bake the olive oil bread for about 5 minutes. Watch it carefully, you want it just lightly toasted but not too crispy.

Next, slice the burrata carefully and arrange a little bit on each slice of bread. Some pieces will have more cheese than others, but that is okay! You can stretch the cheese by spreading some of the creamier inner part onto a few slices. Bake the cheese + bread for another few minutes. Do not wait for the cheese to melt, you just want it to warm up.

Finally, arrange about a spoonful of the tomato mixture onto each slice.

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You can also add extra basil and truffle oil to the top! Serve immediately and enjoy!

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Homemade Pizza

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It’s a simple fact: everybody loves pizza. Pizza is just delicious, and there’s not much more to say about it.

For some people, fast food pizza suffices- for the Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, and Dominos fans. For others, there’s that local joint that is the only acceptable option and serves the best- albeit simple- pies around. For still others, there is that pizza place that serves flatbreads, or pizzete, using Neapolitan style dough, traditionally prepared, with fancy topping options– fior del latte mozzarella, anyone?? For William and myself, all of these places will do. We don’t discriminate against pizzas, we love them all!

However, making a pizza at home is really something we do for a different reason. There is truly an artistry to making your own pizza, and there is added fun in that creative process.

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It all starts with the dough. You baby this dough, let it rest for at least 48 hours to develop a rich, yeasty flavor. When I prepare the dough for pizza, it gets its own special treatment of toppings: brushed with strong olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, sometimes a bit of garlic powder or onion flakes. The crust of the pizza is often the first thing that touches your tongue when you’re eating it- so you’ve gotta make it good.

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Then, the sauce. We do two variations: homemade pesto, and homemade tomato sauce. I know, it’s weird that I use the same tomato sauce on pizzas as I do for pastas, but it’s really flavorful and it’s thicker so you do not have the problem of all of your toppings sliding off the side of your pizza. Both options are great, but you’re only limited by your imagination. I know some people who don’t like any sauce at all, some who use olive oil- or even infused olive oil. This is a creative experience, so every person making a pizza can do their own thing with it. That is part of what makes it SO fun!

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Next, the toppings!! Oh, the toppings! You have so many options, you can really put anything you want on a homemade pizza as long as you can find it at the store :). My standby is a nice Margherita. It’s traditional, but easy and satisfying. I use buffalo mozzarella, chopped cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil. William loves his salamis. He also enjoys putting minced, fresh garlic on top and placing it under the broiler for a bit.

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There are a few tips I can give about toppings: avoid cheeses that are super soft or too creamy (like burrata) as they will melt all over the place and basically liquefy. Don’t put fresh herbs or greenery on the pizza while it is cooking, wait until after and treat it like a garnish, unless you want them wilted and limp. As for fresh tomatoes, if you wanted a roasted char, I suggest cooking them separately, you are unlikely to get that by simply placing them on the pizza in your standard, home oven. Usually, I place them on the pizza after cooking. Other than that, treat your dough like a canvas and place the toppings wherever you want! You can even try to make actual images out of it. This is a really fun meal and activity when you have a group of people (like your kid’s slumber party) and everyone wants something slightly different.

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A note on tools: I am IN LOVE with my pizza stone, really. It is definitely one of the best kitchen purchases I have ever made (second to my favorite, rubber spatula). Get a good pizza stone. You know you want to. Just do it. I also have a pizza peel and a nice pizza cutter (we make pizza a lot….). They aren’t necessary but they’re fun to have. Also, make sure you have some parchment paper or wax paper on hand for this, especially if you’re going to be making several pizzas at a time. They are perfect as staging areas for a pizza to be made, and it’s super easy to flip the pizza over onto the pizza stone using the paper without damaging the shape of the crust.

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Plan ahead. This dough can be made the day-of, but it isn’t as good. If I want pizza, and I want it now, I am going to go to the store and buy a pre-made dough, or just order take out. This amount of effort is usually reserved for a weekend dinner or special occasion.  However, the dough recipe I use makes four servings, so William and I typically make a full recipe and have homemade pizzas two days later, and then enjoy homemade pizzas again in a week or two with the rest of the dough.

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Homemade Pizza

makes enough dough for 4, 12″ pizzas

Ingredients

2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons yeast
1 tablespoon sugar

5 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Any sauce and toppings you want!

Each pizza will take 2-3 tablespoons of sauce and 1/2 cup shredded cheese (3-4 ounces of sliced, buffalo mozzarella)

Begin by preheating the oven to 200° F. After it has preheated, turn it off and open the oven door.

Combine the warm water, yeast, and sugar in a glass container, stirring them together gently. Place the bowl in the warm oven and leave the oven door cracked. Let the yeast proof for about ten minutes.

While the yeast is proofing, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and proofed yeast to the bowl, folding everything together until it comes together in a large ball.

homemade pizzaLet it rest in the bowl for ten to twenty minutes.

Next, divide the dough into four even pieces and place them in a large container. Coat them with olive oil and seal the container with plastic wrap. Place them in the refrigerator for 48 hours to finish rising.

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After the dough has risen, you can make each individual pizza. Preheat the oven to 425° F, with the stone inside. After the oven has preheated, let the stone “cook” for ten to fifteen more minutes.

On a piece of parchment paper, flatten the dough into any shape you want (I’m into circles, William loves squares). For a thin crust pizza, you really need to get it super flat, so it might be bigger than 12″. The dough should be 1/4″ thick, as it will rise some in the oven. It should not be too sticky and it should be very elastic. Brush your crust with olive oil and sprinkle it with sea salt or kosher salt. If you would like to add crushed garlic or onion to add flavor to the crust, you can do this now.

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Use the parchment paper to flip the dough onto the pizza stone. Cook it for five to ten minutes. It’s up to you how crisp you want your crust to be. It will not cook too much more with the sauce and toppings, so don’t worry about it burning!

Take the crust out of the oven. Add your sauce and the toppings you plan to cook.

Put the oven on broil and cook the pizza for another five minutes, watching it closely.

Add salt and pepper to the top along with any additional toppings you prefer. A sprinkle of truffle olive oil is great! Fresh basil and tomatoes are also delicious!

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You can easily make these in succession if you’re having a party and everyone is making their own. We are able to do it without any issues with only one oven!

Enjoy!

 

 

Smashed Potato Soup

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Whenever I want a hearty, vegetarian-friendly soup I go to this potato soup. Recently, I spruced it up a bit to make it more flavorful and easier to actually make.

Many potato soup recipes call for a blender or food processor. I have several issues with this. First, on a really basic level it concerns me to put boiling liquids into any machine that will spin them around at high speeds. It just doesn’t seem super safe. Second, I will be honest with y’all, it’s just too much effort. I have to get the cuisine art out of the top shelf, which requires William’s help because I can’t even reach it, I have to put the thing together, then I have to take the soup in batches and process it, probably burning myself in the process and accruing double the dishwashing duty I had originally planned for. Just…no. Finally, I really like preserving the natural texture of mashed potatoes. I think they are delicious, and in soup form with cheese, fake bacon, and all sorts of other things on top– I mean, it’s amazing.

Really, that’s why I’m calling this “smashed potato soup”. It’s probably the weirdest thing about the recipe, but you do have to spend some time smashing the potatoes against the side of the pot. However, it gives you complete control over the texture of your soup and it means no messy/dangerous boiling-liquids-in-the-food-processor situations! 🙂

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Smashed Potato Soup
makes about 6 servings (assuming 2 cups per person)

Ingredients
3 tablespoons salted butter
2 large shallots, minced
1 head of garlic (peeled, whole)*

3 lbs yellow potatoes, diced
2 large leeks cleaned and cut

5 cups vegetable broth

2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon herbs d’Provence
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, rinsed and chopped
1/3 cup sour cream

optional toppings
cheddar cheese
fake bacon
sour cream
chives

*You can slice off the end and it makes the entire clove much easier to peel.

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Melt the butter in the bottom of a large pot over medium-high heat. Add in the minced shallots and the garlic head. The garlic should be peeled, but does not need to be chopped as it will naturally dissolve into the soup! Let this simmer for a few minutes, until the onions and garlic become browned and fragrant.

Add in the diced potatoes, leeks (chopped and cleaned), and vegetable broth. Simmer for twenty minutes.

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Add in the bay leaves, salt, pepper, and other herbs. Let simmer for another twenty to thirty minutes. Continually stir the mixture, checking on the doneness of the potatoes. Depending on what type of soup you want (brothier vs creamier), you can let the soup simmer for less time or more! The longer it simmers the more smashed the potatoes will be, and the creamier the soup will be.

Once they become soft enough to smash, use a large spoon to slowly smash them against the side of the pot. The soup will slowly become thicker. The thickness is totally up to you! If you would like to completely process the soup in a food processor, you can, but I prefer the hand method so I can get the exact thickness and potato chunks that I want!

Peel the carrots. Chop the carrots and celery. Add these into the soup and cook for another 10 minutes. Continue stirring and smashing the potatoes.

Add in the sour cream and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

After this, your soup is ready to serve with any and all desired toppings!

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Enjoy!

Conchiglioni Ripieni al Forno (Baked, Stuffed Pasta Shells)

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This recipe is one of my favorite meals when I want a big plate of pasta! It is easy to make and delicious!

Recently, my grandmother made something similar to this for me and I won’t lie- hers was better (but isn’t that always the case?). I believe she stuffs the conchiglioni with ricotta and mozzarella, but I like to sub in some cottage cheese to make it less fatty. This probably contributes to the change in flavor and texture. If you want to go all out, and not worry about the nutrition of it, I’d actually recommend using all ricotta. In my state of pre-wedding figure-concern, I felt the need to switch it up. It was still delicious, and super easy!

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Conchiglioni Ripieni al Forno

serves 8-10

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups cottage cheese
2 eggs
2 tablespoons minced, fresh parsley
2 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt

12 ounces conchiglioni grandi

32 ounces pasta sauce (store bought, or homemade like this)

several large pans (13 x 9)

fresh basil and parmesan to top

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First, create your filling: combine the cheeses, eggs, parsley, pepper, and salt in a large bowl.

 

Cook the pasta according to box instructions. Use a good amount of salt, pepper, and olive oil in the boiling water so that the shells are flavorful and do not stick to one another. Let them cook to be al dente and drain them to cool.

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Take half the sauce (about 2 cups) and spread it across the bottom of one 13 x 9 pan. Stuff each shell with a tablespoon or two of filling and carefully place it into the pan.

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Top with parmesan and bake at 375° F for about thirty minutes, or until the cheese is browned and the sauce is bubbling. Do the same with a second pan and the remainder of the shells and filling.

Top with fresh basil. Serve immediately (I count around four shells per serving).

Enjoy!

Vegetarian Tamales

tamales

Tamales (pl.): masa-wrapped, cheesy-vegetable goodness cooked in a corn husk. The actual nomenclature is a hotly debated issue, but I will chalk it up to import error and just give y’all both terms! Spanish singular: tamal; English singular: tamale.

Tamales really are such a treat. They are often considered to be extremely difficult to make, but honestly, this recipe did not take us more than two hours. Many tamales have meat fillings, which require extensive cooking of their own, and that is what makes them so difficult. However, these vegetarian versions were easy enough that we even decided to make two varieties, which made eating them really fun!

tamales

 

As a history buff, I can’t neglect the tamal’s incredible origins. This is such a cool food in that you can truly see its origins (even in the modern dish). Aztec and Mayan populations are known to have eaten tamales. You can imagine corn being picked and milled for flour, with the husks being saved for later use. Clearly, this dish is about utilizing every bit of a plant, and this was a great technique for doing so.

In ancient Mesoamerican cooking, a common technique for steaming involved digging a pit in the ground, lighting a fire, and covering the food with brush and leaves to let it slowly cook. Many people still use this technique today all across the globe, and there are tons of names for it: the New Zealand hangi, Samoan umu, Mayan pib, and the Peruvian huatia. Although today most of us will use a steamer or double boiler to cook tamales after they are wrapped, the ancient technique of using the corn husk remains.

tamales

 

As a side note: if you are interested in global food connections, look up zongzi. These are essentially an ancient East Asian version of tamales, which use rice products instead of corn products!

 

Vegetarian Tamales

makes roughly 17-25 tamales, depending on the size of corn husk 

for the masa dough
2 sticks salted butter
4 cups masa harina
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons ground pequin chiles (alternatively: chile powder)
4 cups vegetable broth (pre-make if using bouillon cubes)

tamales

for the fillings
1 zucchini
3 green onions
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 bunch cilantro
2 roma tomatoes
1/2 lime
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon pequin chile
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 poblano pepper
6 ounces queso fresco
kosher salt and pepper to taste

for assembly/cooking
corn husks
string
steamer/large colander

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First, place 20-30 corn husks in a large bowl filled with water. Weigh them down and let them soak for at least 30 minutes.

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Next, prepare the masa dough. Take the butter out to soften, and combine the masa farina, baking powder, salt, cumin, and chili powder in a large bowl. If you are using dried pequin chilis, you can use a coffee or spice grinder turn them into a powder. Personally, I prefer them because that have a more complex flavor and add a little bit more heat to the dough!

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When the butter is soft enough, mix it in with the dry ingredients to create a crumble. (You’ll probably need to use your hands!) Finally, slowly add in the vegetable broth until everything is combined.

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Next, prepare your fillings! Wash and chop the zucchini and green onions. Mince the garlic. Combine these in a pan with the olive oil and sauté for 3 minutes.

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After the zucchini has cooked a bit, add in the vegetable broth.

While the zucchini mixture is cooking, wash and chop a bunch of cilantro. I find it easiest to simply chop off the stems en masse and mince from there. Wash and chop the tomatoes, and squeeze the juice out of your 1/2 lime! Add the cilantro, tomatoes, and lime juice into the pan. Stir everything together, adding in the cumin and chili powder.

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After much of the liquid has cooked off (this might take a bit of patience), stir in the cheddar cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

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For the second, milder filling: simply chop the poblano pepper and queso fresco. Stir them together with salt and pepper to taste. I found this filling a great contrast to the heavier zucchini filling, and it was really nice to be able to have one of each with my meal.

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Now you are ready to assemble your tamales! For each one, you want to take a corn husk and spread some masa dough onto it. We found that it was easier to spread with fingers than a spoon.

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Be generous with the masa, as it will bake around the filling and keep it from spilling out.

Top the masa with a tablespoon or two of your desired filling.

tamales

 

Next, carefully use the corn husk to wrap the filling in the masa dough. I will say that we did not start off using this technique (we just closed the corn husks like burritos). Making sure that the masa dough is actually encasing the filling will make your final product prettier, and yummier (in my opinion!). Cover the tamal with the husk and wrap it in string to keep it closed.

tamales

 

At this point you can place the tamal in a colander or your steamer.

Continue this process with each tamale, until you run out of filling or masa!

 

1: Spread masa dough onto corn husk with hands.

tamales

2: Add filling on top of masa dough.

tamales

3: Wrap dough around filling.

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4: Fold in corn husk, however you prefer and tie with string.

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tamales

 

tamales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Place all of your wrapped tamales into a colander or steamer.

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If you have a steamer, steam them for 90 minutes. If you don’t, you can use this neat trick from Tasty Kitchen: put two quarts of water in a large pasta pot, over medium-high heat. Put the colander with the tamales in over the top (we got lucky and ours sealed perfectly!). If there is not a great seal, you can use tin foil to fix this. The tamales should not be touching the water. Cover the pot and steam for 90 minutes, checking every now and then to ensure your water hasn’t all boiled off.

tamales

After 90 minutes, cut them open and enjoy!

tamales

 

I later made a chile sauce to go on top, but they are delicious even without it!

tamales

 

Piaju with Dill Raita

piaju

Ramadan is coming to an end soon, but I thought I’d go ahead and post this awesome snack! I know I’m about a month too late, but hey, you can have delicious snacks like this after Ramadan too! From what I’ve read, piaju is a pretty standard snack during this month of fasting. They are excellent because they’re small, but filling. Also, they’re fried and delicious!

I used a basic recipe and then changed it up to make it what I want, so this is by no means a standardized version. Also, when I decided to include a “raita,” I totally made up the recipe, so I can’t promise that it stays true to traditional Indian (or Bangladeshi) cooking. The raita is not vegan, but the piaju are still delicious without it!

piaju

Piaju (also known as dahl pakora) are little fried lentil-onion balls. They function as a snack, but obviously during a time of fasting such as Ramadan they essentially become a meal. The lentils really do fill you up. I will typically have a few piaju and then a small salad as a meal.

This recipe is supposed to make about 20 balls, but the American in me just couldn’t resist supersizing them, so I only got about ten out of it. This was a perfect meal for two people, but they are sharing portions and easy to eat on the go, so you really could serve this up as a party food. It all depends on your circumstances, but the flexibility is great.

piaju

Note: you’ll want a food processor for this recipe.

piaju

Ingredients

for the piaju
3/4 cup dried, red lentils
1/4 teaspoon fresh, grated ginger
3/4 large, yellow onion
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 serrano pepper
1/2 jalapeño pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon asafoetida

piaju

for the “raita”
1/4 cup plain, Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon minced, fresh dill
1 small clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon poppy seeds

lemon slices for serving

piaju

 

First, wash the lentils and soak them in a bowl of hot water for thirty minutes.

While the lentils are soaking, peel and grate the ginger (you’ll want an inch or two of fresh ginger to get 1/4 teaspoon). Put the ginger into your food processor.

Next, chop the onion. I’d recommend chopping it pretty finely, let’s call it diced. You don’t want it to be too thick because the frying will not cook this mixture all the way and raw onion can be strong in large bites. Wash and de-stem the cilantro. You’ll want to chop it a little bit, but it doesn’t need much. Clean and mince the peppers. [I always cover my hands in olive oil when I am doing this, it protects your skin from pepper burns.] Combine the onion, cilantro, peppers, and spices into a large bowl.

piaju

After the lentils are done soaking, rinse them and put them in the food processor with the ginger. Puree these together, until you have a slightly coarse/thick paste.

piaju

 

I had to work slowly, stopping every now and then to push the paste back to the bottom of the food processor.

piaju

Once that is done, scoop the paste into the large bowl and mix with the cilantro and onions. Now you have your “dough”!

Form the dough into little balls (you can make them whatever size you want). Place them in the freezer for about half an hour.

piaju

 

While the piaju are chilling, make the raita. Place the yogurt in a small bowl. Rinse, de-stem, and mince the dill. Mince the garlic. Add the dill, garlic, and spices into the yogurt and mix thoroughly. If you like your raita to be less thick, you can also add in a little bit of lemon juice.

piaju

 

After the raita is made, you can begin prepping your oil for frying the piaju. I used a very tiny pot for this, because I hate frying things. I hate the way it makes the apartment smell, and I hate the mess it creates. Using this small pot helped a lot. We used only 1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil, and had very little odor or splatter. You want the oil to be fairly hot (throw a crumb in and if it begins frying vigorously, you’re good).

piaju

With the hot oil, you’ll want a slotted spoon for placing the piaju in the pot and getting them out. Also have ready a plate with paper towels for draining. We kept our pakora in the freezer and just took them out one at a time for frying and this worked very well.

piaju

When you fry them, a few bits will come off naturally, but don’t worry too much about this. Just keep the oil hot. When you first place the piaju in the pot, you want to move it so it does not get stuck to the bottom, but then just leave it alone! This is difficult, but give it a minute to brown and finish frying, then take it out of the oil and place it on the plate to drain. Repeat this process with each ball, until they are all fried. If you make more, smaller balls, you can fry more than one at a time.

piaju

 

Serve fresh with raita and enjoy!

piaju