Grandmother Phillips’ Fried Okra


I remember my father’s paternal grandmother as a strong, Southern woman. She was a force. I only saw her on holidays but I will never forget her cooking, which we ate at home all throughout the year. She used to freeze her fresh-from-the-garden, hand-battered okra and we would take it home in bags every winter. That fried okra was a precious commodity, rationed carefully until the next Christmas.

Grandmother Phillips had a garden in her backyard. She grew everything in it. I remember describing her to friends as a farmer, though she did not sell her produce for a living. She canned and froze everything. She was an expert in preservation. Preservation of food and of tradition and of family.  The garage of her old home was lined with walls and walls of cans: cucumber, okra, squash, peas, peaches– you name it, she had it canned from her garden.


At Christmas we would visit her home in (relatively) rural, northern Alabama and there would be an endless array of options. People would comment about how excessive the spread was, but Grandmother Phillips’ would never pare it down. Only after her death did I come to see how food is a love language for Southern folks, and I was (at least partially) descended from Southern folks, and my grandmother was showing her love for us by feeding us well.

After she died I remember looking into our freezer and seeing one last bag of her homemade fried okra. I don’t remember the last meal we ate with that one remaining batch of Grandmother Phillips’ okra, but I’ve been trying to recreate the recipe for most of my adult life.


We recently joined a CSA program, which gives us plenty of fresh produce to consume weekly. Grandmother Phillips would probably call it lazy eating, but it gives us plenty of okra to experiment with and I have finally been able to get satisfactorily close to her fried okra.


It has a ton of flavor and it freezes very well. It is easy to prep, as far as fried foods go, and it can be reheated in the oven, which I love for the easy clean-up.


A single batch will serve five adults as a generous side portion, but we often dole out smaller portions and let half of it sit in the freezer for an easy side on another night.

Grandmother Phillips’ Fried Okra

(serves ~6)

1 cup whole milk*
1 tablespoon white vinegar*
2 pounds fresh okra
1 cup AP flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (just a dash if you don’t like spicy)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
canola or avocado oil
*OR 1 cup buttermilk

First, combine the milk and vinegar in a measuring cup. Let it sit for 15 minutes. (Alternatively: skip this step and use 1 cup buttermilk.)

Next, wash and slice the okra into 1/2″ – 1″ thick rounds.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the okra and milk. Let this sit for at least 20 minutes.

Then, in a large bowl, mix the remaining, dry in ingredients.

When your okra is done “marinating”, drain the excess buttermilk and toss it in the cornmeal mixture. I find it best to toss the okra in batches as to avoid the pieces clumping together.*

Pan fry in a high-temp oil over medium heat. I find that this, too, works best in batches and there is no need to keep the okra on one side and tediously flip every piece halfway through cooking. It is fine to toss them in the pan and shake it around every now and then to evenly brown each piece.**

Drain the okra on paper towels and sprinkle with a fine, table salt. After cooling, it can be placed in a bag and frozen for later.

*If you have the time and patience, batter each okra circle one at a time. Try to keep them as separate as possible!

**One of the greatest things about this okra is that each bite is a little different. It is fully homemade and thus “rustic” in both texture and flavor. Do not concern yourself over perfect knife cuts or even browning, as this okra should be a delicious, low-stress side!




Tangelo Sweet Rolls


It has been a very long time since I lasted posted, and (unsurprisingly) a lot has happened. My husband and I are expecting our first child in October!! It is a very exciting time for us, and the first trimester was a roller coaster of nausea for me. Our cooking has been minimal the past few months, as I have been living off of my cravings for subways sandwiches and mashed potatoes!

I have also been craving  citrus fruits way more often than I ever did before! Perhaps I need the calcium? Either way, we found a way to make citrus fruits unhealthy and sugary and delicious- put them in sweet rolls! These are essentially cinnamon rolls with a fruity filling instead of the more traditional nut and spice filling.


Typically these kinds of sweet rolls are made with oranges, but we made them with tangelos (the zest and juice). I preferred the tangelo flavor because it is tangier. Also, the rind is much brighter in color, which makes for great photos when you add in the zest!

You can serve these for breakfast, dessert, or as a snack! It does make a large batch, and they don’t stay moist for too long- so I recommend making these when you’ve got lots of hungry mouths to feed!


The recipe was inspired by an orange roll post from Lemon-Sugar, who uses traditional citrus and no zest! It was super easy to make, even in our small kitchen with no mixer. It is rather time consuming, but these tasty treats make the wait worth it!



Tangelo Sweet Rolls

(makes roughly two dozen rolls)


for the dough
2 1/4 tablespoons instant yeast
1 3/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup salted butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
5 1/2 cups AP flour
2 tsp salt
2 eggs

for the filling
1 tablespoon tangelo zest (from about 1 tangelo)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed tangelo juice
1/2 cup salted butter at room temperature [especially if you don’t have a mixer, it’s best to take this out as early as possible so that it can completely soften]
1 cup sugar

for the icing
1 teaspoon orange extract
1/4 cup freshly squeezed tangelo juice
1 tablespoon tangelo zest
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream


First, make your dough. Preheat the oven to 200° F and after it has preheated, turn it off. Combine the warm water with the yeast to proof your yeast- you may even wish to add a pinch of sugar for the yeast to feed off of. Let the yeast proof for about ten minutes. I usually proof yeast in the oven, but it was very reactive and I just left it on the counter this time around!

While the yeast is proofing, melt the butter in the microwave. I did probably one minute on 50% power, just enough to get it melted, but no more. Whisk the honey into the butter.

In a large bowl, measure out four cups of AP flour. Combine with the salt. Fold in the proofed yeast.

When the honey-butter mixture has cooled down a bit, whisk in the eggs. Then, add this to the larger flour mixture.

Fold it all together with a rubber spatula. In different environments dough will form in a unique way. My recommendation is to keep folding until it all comes together in one big heap. If you can stick your finger to it and pull away dough (meaning, it’s super sticky), add a bit more flour. Add 1/2 cup at a time, and do not go over 6 cups! We needed about 5 1/2 for ours, thus we added 1 1/2 cups to the original dough. Work it as little as possible in between additions. You do not want your dough to get tough and you don’t need it to lose all stickiness. It should be pretty sticky, but it should at least all stay together even when you put a finger on it.


Butter the bowl well and cover it in plastic wrap. Place it somewhere warm- either your oven or maybe even a microwave! Let it rise for 1 hour.


While the dough is rising you can make the filling, which takes like two minutes. With the remaining 58 minutes you could watch your favorite show or go to the gym to make up the the insane number of calories you will be consuming from these rolls. William and I chose the former. 🙂

To make the filling, start by washing and zesting a tangelo. We got one tablespoon of zest and 1/2 cup of juice from a single tangelo. Juice the tangelo and strain the juice into a bowl. Combine 1/4 of the juice with all of the zest in a bowl. Add in the sugar and room temperature butter. Blend them together until a paste is formed.




When the dough has finished rising, and is about doubled, prepare a large work surface by covering it in parchment paper and sprinkling it with flour. Punch down the dough while it is still in the bowl. This gets all of the added air out and allows for the rolls to cook more evenly. Spread the dough carefully into a large rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick.


Take your filling and drop spoonfuls across the entire sheet of dough. You will then need to spread the filling with your hands. Your dough should be sticky and the filling is a bit granular from the sugar, so the process will take some time and patience. Spread the filling generously across the entire rectangle of dough.




Next comes William’s favorite part! Rolling the dough. This is not an easy task, but it’s fun- don’t let yourself get frustrated with any mess you make, it will all be tasty and beautiful in the end! You need to roll the rectangle into a very long cylinder. Try to keep it as tight as possible, gently pressing down and squeezing the dough when necessary. If you need to stretch out the dough to help this process, you can, as long as you don’t poke too many holes in it!


When all is said and done, hopefully you have a giant cylinder of dough snaking its way across your countertop!


Butter several pans. [We really like using round glass or ceramic pans for rolls, it seems like they cook better in these and the heat more effectively reaches the center of the pan, fully baking all of the dough.] Using your sharpest knife, cut 2-inch slices and carefully place them in the pan. It helped having two people in the kitchen for this. When you move them, you do have to be pretty careful to keep them together and not let any filling fall out.


When all of the rolls are cut and in their pans, let them rise for another half hour.


Preheat your oven to 375°F. When you bake the rolls, be sure to bake them all on one rack, to insure even cooking. We did 20 minutes on the top rack, and 5 minutes on the bottom rack. During the last five minutes we also needed to cover them with tin foil so that the tops would not be too browned.



I will say, the baking is always a little stressful for me. We do not have the best oven, and it doesn’t seem to heat things very thoroughly. This can be especially problematic with breads, and sometimes the center goes uncooked. This technique of moving our pans around worked very well for us and they were all perfectly cooked!



While the rolls are baking, you can make the icing. It’s super easy! In a medium sized bow, whisk together another 1/4 cup of juice, and another tablespoon of zest, along with a bit of orange extract. We did need to zest one more tangelo for this, but if you have a really good plane grater, you might not find it necessary! Combine this with the powdered sugar and cream. You may need to add additional cream (1 tablespoon at a time) to get the consistency that you like.


I prefer fairly thick icing, as it photographs better and coats the rolls a bit better.



When the rolls come out they are ready to be glazed and served! [Do not skimp on the glaze, yes, you have enough to cover them!!]









Vegetarian, Alabama-style Jackfruit BBQ


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)!


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.


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!


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!


Alabama-Style Jackfruit BBQ

(makes 4-5 sandwiches)

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)


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.


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.


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.


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.




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!





Make a mess and enjoy!



Squash Blossom Frittata



I love frittata for weird reasons. I find that there is a bit of nostalgia in this lovely, Italian dish. I remember Auburn tailgates and family brunches that always included a frittata of some sort, and although I could seldom partake (they usually included sausage), I always loved how neat and beautiful they looked in their pan. Frittata is an Italian word that means “having been fried”. Oddly enough, we don’t really fry this dish– it’s baked!


The frittata is such an incredibly elegant dish to have for breakfast, and it is SO easy. This particular frittata variation is inspired from one of my new, most favorite Southern cookbooks: Root to Leaf by Steven Satterfield. I really recommend this book for anyone interested in new and delicious Southern cooking with a bit of a twist.

The cookbook follows the seasons, so each recipe features a local and seasonal ingredient. Squash blossoms are intriguing, though, because they can be summer or fall ingredients as you eat with the seasons. Right now, the squash blossoms we eat from the farmer’s market (even in California) are from mostly summer squash (zucchini) plants. In a few month’s time, we will see pumpkin squash blossoms, as the seasons transition!


As a vegetarian who is interested in eating natural and whole foods, I am so in love with this concept of eating with the seasons, and I commend Satterfield on his creative use of vegetables. Although the cookbook is not vegetarian, it is based off of a food philosophy that advocates for more vegetables and less meat overall (think Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food— which just so happens to be one of my favorite books of all time).

Being able to pick these ingredients up at the farmer’s market, and then make the dish the same day is especially useful when dealing with something like squash blossoms. They go bad very easily, so you truly need to make the frittata within a day or two of buying them.



Squash Blossom Frittata
serves 6-8

8 eggs
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/4 red onion (1/3 cup chopped)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sliced mozzarella or ricotta cheese
2 green onions
8 squash blossoms (cleaned and washed)

frittata ingredients

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

First, whisk together the eggs and whipping cream in a medium-sized bowl.

Chop the red onion and add that into the egg mixture along with the salt and pepper.

In a large, heavy pan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the egg mixture into the pan and stir continually over low heat for about 7 minutes or until the mixture is warm, but not cooked.

Remove from heat and add in the sliced cheese. Sprinkle the white parts of the green onions into the pan.

Next, arrange the squash blossoms in the pan. Make sure their insides have been cut out and the stems cut off. Coat them in the egg.

Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes.

Serve immediately topped with added cheese and green onion.


Smashed Potatoes

smashed potatoes all dressed up

This was a dish that I had seen many times but had always been hesitant to attempt. One of the worries I had was that the potatoes would dry out and end up tasting chalky, this recipe solves that problem and in doing so imparts a spectacular flavor on these potatoes.

This dish was made vegetarian but you could easily make it either vegan or meaty with a few swapped ingredients.



1 lb baby butter potatoes
2 cloves garlic
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh sage
2 sprigs fresh oregano
1 Knorr veggie broth bouillon cube
4 tablespoons salted butter (divided into single tablespoons)
2 cups water
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Optional Ingredients
chopped rosemary (topping)
grated Parmesan cheese (topping)

smashed potato ingredients

To start, combine the water and the bouillon cube in a wide pot (be sure it’s large enough, this is where I made a mistake) over high heat until it begins to boil. Feel free to help the bouillon cube dissolve by crushing it with your spoon and stirring the pot. At this point, add in your herbs and two tablespoons butter to help season the broth and let it stew for about 5 minutes. It’s this delicious broth mixture that gives the smashed potatoes so much flavor and at the same time allows them to stay moist.

herbs, butter, veggie broth

After the butter has melted, gently add your potatoes, making sure they are partially covered with liquid and have enough space around them. As you can see in my picture, the pot I used was a bit too small and I ended up having to change to a larger one later. Making sure they have enough space is crucial, as they will need to spread out when you gently smash them.
potatoes in the broth

Let these cook, covered, until tender enough that a fork will somewhat easily pierce a potato (about 15 – 20 minutes). At this point remove the cover and gently press down on each potato until you feel the skin give way. Don’t push too hard or the potatoes will not hold together and you’ll have a mess on your hand!

squished potatoes

Cook these until the liquid has completely evaporated, and after for an extra 3 – 5 minutes to get a nice crispy edge. At this point, remove your pan from heat and gently remove the potatoes from the pan.

potatoes out of the pan

Scrape out the contents of your pan before returning it to the stove top.

scrape the pan

Upon returning the pan to the stove-top, add in the last two tablespoons of butter. This will help the other side of the potatoes get nice and crispy.

butter in the pan

After the butter melts, add the potatoes back in with the previously crisped side facing up.

second round potatoes

Cook these for another 3 – 5 minutes or until browned. Remove them from the pan and serve! We added extra chopped rosemary, some grated Parmesan, salt, and fresh black pepper to ours.

Piaju with Dill Raita


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 (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.


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



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


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



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.


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.



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


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.



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.



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).


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.


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.



Serve fresh with raita and enjoy!




Minestra con pasta e fagioli



I am exploring a new cookbook, Share: the cookbook that celebrates our common humanity. It was published by Women for Women International, an organization that helps women in war torn countries. Aside from learning about their stories, I’ve found some neat recipes that I never would have tried before.

This book is really fun to flip through because the recipes come not only from the women being helped, but also the women doing the helping. This provides for an interesting look at food around the world– who’s using enriched ingredients, which traditions favor simpler dishes, etc. I hope to make many of these recipes, especially those that are a bit more unique. However, I started off with a hearty stew that pretty much any mediterranean foodie knows: pasta e fagioli.


Pasta e fagioli is a very traditional, Italian stew (pasta and beans), and I want to talk a little bit about the terminology here. I have labelled this post in particular as minestra. Any students of Italian will naturally question this, because the word that most commonly refers to “soup” is zuppa. The history of these terms is fascinating, and really important in terms of how we should view dishes like these.

In Italian, zuppa refers to a soup with broth and chunks of bread, no pasta. Apparently, the term actually comes from a Gothic word meaning “soaked bread.” On the contrary, my new favorite, minestra, is a soup that does usually involve pasta. Nowadays, this soup is typically considered a first course (not fancy enough to be an entree). However, minestra was originally the main (and only) course given to slaves in ancient times, and the term comes from the Latin ministrāre, ‘to supply.’ (Thanks to this Italian Life for the crash course!)


Obviously, I geeked out a bit at that! On a more serious note- I don’t believe we need to look at this simple minestra as just a first course. This soup was originally meant to sustain men and women throughout an entire day. It might be vegetarian, but it’s jam-packed with protein and carbs. I “beef” it up a bit by adding in a fabulous herb mixture, but this soup can truly be anything you want it to be. The base is a vegetable broth with pasta and beans. You decide the rest.

Because it’s summer, and I am on a farmer’s market roll, I decided to throw in some seasonal veggies as well. Thankfully, this soup also doesn’t take long (about forty to fifty minutes in all).



Minestra: pasta e fagioli
serves about 4, as a main course

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves
3/4 large onion
5 small carrots (with stems)
2 ribs celery
14oz can cannellini beans
14oz can diced tomatoes (if you can find San Marzano, bless the town you live in for carrying them and please make use of them!!)
4-5 cups vegetable stock (I use Knorr bouillon cubes, because it’s cheaper)
1/3 cup frozen peas
1 medium zucchini
2 bay leaves
1 cup macaroni

optional for topping
parmesan cheese (leave off for vegan option)
dill, Italian parsley, and carrot-top herb mix
salt and pepper


The most tedious thing about this recipe is all of the chopping you are going to have to do! (It’s totally worth it though, so don’t let that scare you!)

First, chop the garlic and onion. [Pro-tip: Bring a miniature cutting station to your living room couch and a bunch of tiny bowls. I watched some Mad Men while making this, so I was chopping everything and separating it out before I even approached the stove!]


Next, chop off the stems of the carrots (but save those leafy greens for later). Peel the carrots and quarter them. Honestly, you can probably get away with just slicing the carrots, but I knew I wanted a softer stew, so I went ahead and cut them into smaller bites. I even added in a big carrot because it seemed like a good amount of orange…I wouldn’t recommend it, because it ended up leaving me with little broth and LOTS of stuff in my soup! In the end, it will be delicious anyway.


Trim and chop the celery, adding it into the bowl with the carrots.



In a large pot, heat up the olive oil and add in the garlic and onions.


After about a minute, add in the carrots and celery. Make sure you stir everything a bit so that the onions do not overcook at the bottom of the pot.


Let this cook for about five minutes. During this time you need to rinse and drain the cannellini beans, and prepare your five cups of broth. Drop two or three cubes of Knorr bouillon into 5 cups of boiling water and stir until the cubes have dissolved. If you are using pre-made broth, you’ve saved yourself some time (and an extra pot)!

When the carrots are tender but still have their color, add the beans, diced tomatoes, and broth into the pot. This mixture needs to simmer for about twenty minutes.

During this time you can: watch more Mad Men, finely slice a zucchini (if you want to add that), and chop up your herb mixture.


For my herb mixture, I used 1/4 cup dill, 1/2 cup Italian parsley, and the stems from my carrots! I washed them all and bunched them all together and chopped them. This was hastily done because I was hungry for soup, so you could probably mince them carefully and separately and it would be fancy and beautiful, but that’s not really what minestra is about, so I say just go for it and slow down just to enjoy the flavors at the end!


After the twenty minutes is up, add in the peas, zucchini, bay leaves, and pasta. Stir everything together really well, and leave it to simmer for another ten minutes.

Next, serve each bowl with a heaping pile of fresh herbs and Parmesan. Add some salt and pepper to the top for taste.






Olive Oil, Lemon Bars

lemon bars

Something I love about living in California is the number of fruit trees. You will find oranges, lemons, limes, and figs casually hanging above many local yards. Recently, one of William’s coworkers brought us a few, fresh lemons. The timing was convenient, seeing as I had been craving lemon bars for awhile.

lemon bars

It’s interesting how the mind works. I follow the New York Times on Facebook and they had just posted a link to a lemon bar recipe. I will not lie, that recipe influenced not only my cravings but also this recipe! We pretty much followed the NYT to a tee, so if you’d like to see their video, it is linked here. I will admit that this is one of the only times when I do not approve the use of added salt. For some reason I can’t handle salt on lemony things that should be sweet, sugary, and tart! I want that tartness and that sweetness! We took the extra salt out, but added a savory note with a garnish of fresh rosemary. You might try adding rosemary-infused olive oil as well, if you’d like to balance out the sweetness, but I am not convinced that salt will do that here.

lemon bars

The crust is a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth, shortbread dough (very similar to the pâte brisée that I use with the tomato tart). We followed her recipe anyway, and it worked fine!

I hope you all enjoy this as much as we did! (It can be stored on a platter for several days in the refrigerator, though the yolky flavor will come out more with each passing day.)



for the crust
10 tablespoons cold, salted butter
1 1/4 cups 00″ flour (you can use AP flour here as well)
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon white sugar
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

for the curd
5 lemons (for 1 tablespoon zest and 3/4 cup lemon juice)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons salted butter
1/4 cup olive oil or rosemary-infused olive oil
confectioner’s sugar
fresh rosemary
parchment paper

lemon bars

First, make the dough for the crust. I recommend chopping the butter into cubes and placing it in the freezer, especially if you are planning on using a food processor to mix the dough. The benefit to using the machine is that it allows you to thoroughly mix the butter in while it is still cold, which bakes into the buttery, flaky layers that you ideally want in a shortbread crust. If you do not have one, don’t fret! You can still make this by hand, but I would let the butter soften up a bit before you begin, as it will make the mixing much less time consuming!

Combine the butter, flour, sugars, lemon zest, and salt all into the food processor!

lemon bars

Pulse it until a crumbly dough forms. Depending on the type of butter you use, I’ve found that the dough can come out somewhat dry. It should not feel like a powder, it should be a bit damp and should easily come together when compacted. If this is not the case, you can add in ice-cold water, one teaspoon at a time! Keep checking the consistency after each teaspoon to get the right dough: not wet (just damp), but not a dry flour, and easy to press together into one mass!

Next, prepare the pan for baking. Cut out a rectangle of parchment paper to hang inside of a 9″ x 9″ pan. This is SO important because it will make the process of removing the bars 1,000x easier!! Preheat the oven to 325°F. Press the dough into the prepared pan.

lemon bars

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the edges are a golden brown color!

lemon bars

While the crust is baking, you can prepare the olive oil, lemon curd! Wash the lemons and grate them for 1 tablespoon of zest. Cut them in half and juice them for 3/4 cup lemon juice! You might need to strain out the seeds.

Measure out the rest of the ingredients, so that you are prepared to combine them quickly. Making the curd is a temperamental process, but certainly doable!

lemon bars

Whisk the lemon juice (not zest), eggs, sugar, and cornstarch in a pot over medium heat. The cornstarch will not activate until the liquid boils, so you need to make sure you are patient here and get it to a boiling point and it begins to thicken. After you notice the bubbles from boiling, immediately take the mixture off of heat. Do not leave it on too long here. Melissa Clark at the NYT explains that curdling can happen to the eggs if you leave it boiling for too long, and that will not be salvageable. Strain this thick mixture into a large bowl to get out any missed seeds or weird dark parts from the eggs (which I hate).

lemon bars

Into the large bowl, add the butter and whisk until it is melted. Add in the lemon zest and the olive oil and whisk it all together!

lemon bars

Pour the lemon curd over the crust, and jiggle it around until it is even.

lemon bars

Bake again for another 10 minutes (just until the top is set). Put the bars into the refrigerator until they are completely cooled. This can take a few hours.

Once they are cooled, pull them out of the pan using the parchment paper as handles.

lemon bars

Cut them into small squares (we did a 5 x 4 to make twenty servings).

lemon bars

Sift powdered sugar onto the top and garnish with rosemary for a savory twist!

lemon bars


lemon bars

lemon bars

lemon bars

Bomb-Ass Potato Salad

potato salad

I call this bomb-ass potato salad, because I know that nobody will be interested in making or eating it if I title this post “vegan potatoes.” Bleh. Whenever people hear the word vegan, they walk the other way! Let’s just say that this is a dish that just so happens to be vegan, but you can easily sub regular mayo for the vegenaise and add bacon bits to make it carnivore-friendly! I think it’s nice to make available a sneaky vegan dish like this, because at picnics and other large gatherings there will always be friends and family with dietary restrictions- and we want everyone to enjoy the food together, so why not make it inclusive?

This is a great recipe that we discovered while on the Daniel Fast. It’s a vegan potato salad that is sooo tasty! The celery gives it a nice crunch, the potatoes a good creamy texture, and the dill and mustard provide bright flavors! It works well with veggies but can also be good on crackers. I have never put potato salad on a sandwich before, but I don’t see why you couldn’t! It is a great recipe for BBQ’s and picnics that is yummy, but also accessible because, as I said, anyone with dietary restrictions is likely to be able to enjoy it.

There are so many ways to get creative with this one; I would highly recommend that you taste it along the way to get the exact flavor you like! Plus, getting a little snack in makes the cooking process more fun!

potato salad


Potato Salad

(makes about 5 servings)

2 pounds red potatoes
2 stalks celery
1 tablespoon minced, fresh parsley
1/2 cup minced, fresh dill
juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons vegan mayo
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
kosher salt and pepper to taste

potato salad


First, scrub those potatoes clean and put them up in a pot of salted, boiling water. You want to boil them, skin-on, until a fork slides easily through (let’s call it 10 minutes, though it might take a bit longer).

Cube the potatoes and throw them into a large bowl. I like to keep the skin on because I love having potato skins in my potato salad, but if you’d rather lose them- peel the potatoes first!

potato salad

Wash and slice the celery, adding it into the potatoes.

potato salad

Wash and mince the parsley and dill. Throw those in with the potatoes.

potato salad

Juice the lemon and add the juice to the mix.

potato salad


Finally, mix in the mayo and mustard. You can also add salt and pepper to taste, I recommend about 1/2 a teaspoon of each (but you should taste test before you throw it all in there, unless you know that you like salty foods!).

potato salad

Serve with crackers, vegetables, or even bread!

potato salad



potato salad


The Best, Homemade Guacamole


Guacamole is one of those things that I will never ever buy from any restaurant or any grocery ever again. I have found how I like it, and I will forever be biased towards this guacamole. It’s not a strange, green paste. It’s chunky, it is very clearly avocado with fresh veggies. I love diced onions and tomatoes. Nothing is macerated or processed. In addition, I add in garlic, which I think makes everything better! However, the most important ingredient in this guacamole is cilantro. Cilantro is the pulse of guacamole, the dip just comes alive with a brightness and a freshness after cilantro is added! I advocate very very generous use of cilantro, but I understand that many people do not like the taste of cilantro. I would encourage any naysayers to at least try a little bit in this dish. It really does complete the flavor profile and add depth to the dip.

I also love to add a little lime and a nice heaping serving of kosher salt! These two flavors are incredible with the fatty, smoothness of the avocado. The acid of the lime is great because there isn’t really another fresh, acidic flavor represented here! The lime also keeps the avocado from turning brown so quickly.

Overall, the idea behind this guac recipe is to create a brighter, chunkier version of typical guacamole. Originally, when I came up with this recipe, I just thought: what do I want with my avocado? I decided not to look at any other guacamole recipes, and just to wing it. What resulted (and was perfected after a few tries),  turns out to be something that is reminiscent of traditional guacamole, but with hopefully fresher flavors than you are used to!

The recipe is so easy to make too! It is great with chips but I will even eat spoonfuls of this by itself, because it is that delicious!




The Best, Homemade Guacamole


(makes about 2-3 large servings)

2 medium-sized, ripe avocados (I used one regular and two miniature avocados)
2 roma tomatoes
1/2 small clove of garlic
1/3 yellow onion
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 lime
kosher salt and black pepper to taste



First, I scoop out the avocado into a bowl. I used miniature avocados because I just found out that they exist and I think they are the cutest things, so I had to include them!


At this point, you shouldn’t even worry about trying to mash them.


Next, dice the tomato, and mince the garlic. Then add both of those into the bowl.


Dice the onion and add that in!


Next, chop up the cilantro, and add it in. Then, squeeze out the juice from the lime on top of everything in the bowl.


You can chop the cilantro more finely if you’re not sure about liking the big chunks, but I think it is just amazing this way! Also, the end result resembles all of the ingredients more closely instead of looking like green mush!


Mix everything together really well, but not too much! You want it to stay very chunky!



Add in the kosher salt and pepper (I usually do about a teaspoon of salt).


Enjoy it with chips or by itself!