Coffee-molasses glazed pork chops

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This Alton Brown inspired glaze is so easy and versatile, you’ll want to keep it in your regular rotation. I used it on chicken thighs and pork chops, but I think that it would be great on roasted veggies, tofu, salmon and most other meats. I served it with a carrot-yam puree and seared broccoli.

  • 1 cup strong brewed coffee (I actually just dumped in fine ground coffee, about 1/2 cup, and some warm water. Worked well!)
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 3 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Marinate the protein in the a zip-top bag for 2-3 hours and then grill to desired doneness (3-4 minutes/side for pork chops). Strain the marinade into a small saucepan and reduce until syrupy. Drizzle a little glaze over each serving. If using on roasted veggies, I would suggest reducing the marinade down and tossing with the veggies during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

French onion soup – warmth in a bowl

I will confess upfront that this soup was consumed so fast that I didn’t get a photo of the final plated (bowled?) dish. I served it with toasted sourdough croutons and melted Gruyere cheese, and I can assure you, it was tasty.

I made the stock from scratch, using meaty short ribs, dried maitake mushrooms, and a bunch of veggies.

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Next, I slowly caramelized about 5 large sliced onions in lots of butter and 4-5 cloves of sliced garlic. I started them on the stove and then moved them to a 300 F oven, stirring them every 30 minutes until they were a dark brown.

I strained the broth, shredded the bits of meat and added those plus the broth into the pan of onions, scraping up all of the browned bits. I added a dash of Cognac and adjusted the salt and pepper. To serve, I topped individual bowls with toasted cubes of sourdough (I find cubes easier to eat than a whole toast) and shredded Gruyere, melted under the broiler.

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Fig bars (aka my new favorite cookie ever)

I have always loved any kind of fig cookie (or “fruit and cake” if you remember the commercial from the 80’s). A dear friend’s mother-in-law made homemade fig bars based on a Mark Bittman recipe, and I knew my life would never be the same. These are, hands-down, my new favorite cookie and will likely remain there for the foreseeable future.

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I love that they are less sweet than commercial brands, and you can add different dried fruits to the filling to mix it up. I’ve done cranberries + figs, and I want to try apricots next. The day they are baked, the pastry is crispy, almost pie-crust-like. As they age, the crust is more cake-like, and they are good for at least 4-5 days, unrefrigerated (as long as they’ve lasted in my house). I served them as part of a cheese plate, and they were amazing with a very stinky triple cream.

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar (can reduce if you’d like a less sweet cookie)
11/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
3 tablespoons grated orange zest
2 cups flour (can use whole wheat or gluten free)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces dried figs, chopped
1 cup orange juice

Combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat them together with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in 1 teaspoon of the vanilla and the egg until well blended, then add the zest.

Stir together the flour (I prefer whole wheat flour), baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture until just combined. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for about an hour. I found it helpful to divide the dough into quarters first and then chill individually so I could pull out one at at time to roll and fill.

Combine the figs (or other dried fruits) and orange juice in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until the figs are soft and the juice is fully absorbed. Purée with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of salt.

Heat the oven to 375°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll 1/4 of the dough into a long rectangle about 4 inches wide. I ended up having to use parchment paper to help with transferring the rolled cookie log onto the baking sheet. I also had to flip the dough as I rolled, re-flouring to keep from sticking. Divide the fruit filling into 4 even portions and spoon evenly down the middle of each piece of dough and fold up the sides of the dough around it lengthwise; press gently to seal. Bake on ungreased baking sheets, seam side down, for about 15-20 minutes or until the logs are evenly golden (I always had to bake for 20 minutes to get the golden color). Cut into squares while they are still warm and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

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Cooler-cooked steaks

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I finally tried the whole sous-vide thing, but I did it in a beer cooler! Thanks to The Food Lab, I also salted and air-cured the ribeyes for three days in my fridge. I’d do both of these things again, but I recommend reducing the number of curing days. For the record though, my partner says that it was the best steak ever and wouldn’t change a thing.

I paired the ribeye with grilled green beans and new potatoes and a homemade Bearnaise sauce (which is kind of like hollandaise but with white wine vinegar instead of lemon juice and the addition of tarragon).

First pat your thick-cut steaks dry and pat all over with kosher salt. Set them on a rack over a pan and place in your fridge for 12-24 hours. Brush off any remaining salt and seal the steaks in a vacuum sealed bag (or a ziplock bag). Then follow Kenji’s instructions for cooking meat in a beer cooler. I have to say, I was skeptical, but the ability to consistently attain the perfect temperature steak each and every time is pretty alluring. Plus, if you are having a bunch of folks over, the meat could be held in the water bath, and you can sear to order in a matter of minutes. No need to stand over a grill/stove while your guests are having fun, and lower chance of getting distracted and over cooking.

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Savory rice waffles (again)

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This post is only to remind you that you should make rice waffles for dinner very soon, and, more broadly, that you can put so many things in your waffle maker! These rice waffles were pretty basic, but topped with some seared bass, sauteed cabbage and a spicy black bean sauce.

Just take day-old (or week old, I’m not judging) rice, mix in an egg, some salt and any other add-ins (green onions, basil, chopped bacon, diced cooked shrimp). Cook in your waffle maker until the edges are nice and crispy. Top with sauteed veggies, meats, gravies, melted cheese, you name it. You can usually make a topping in the time it takes your waffle to crisp up!

Johnny cakes for every meal

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Johnny cakes are kind of like fried cornbread, but easier to make. While the roots of the name are debated, we definitely can give credit to Native Tribes up and down the eastern Americas for the dish itself. While you can make more of a cornbread batter and fry like pancakes, these are simpler, denser, and satisfyingly toothsome. I like them savory with melted butter or cheese, as a side for BBQ or braised meats, or sweet with a drizzle of maple syrup or  honey.

  • 1 cup course cornmeal (this is a great time to use that heirloom, stoneground stuff you’ve been saving, because the taste of the corn is front and center)
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water or milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (if you want them sweet, otherwise, you can leave it out)

Combine all of the ingredients, pouring in the boiling water or milk gradually until you get a wet mixture that will plop off the end of your spoon and flatten out slightly. Cook in a greased medium-hot griddle or pan for about 6-10 minutes per side, depending on how dark you like your edges. I like to keep them warm in the oven on a rack while I make a whole batch. The time in the oven also helps to soften the corn granules in the middle, as they can be a bit crunchy at first.

Sometimes you just need nachos

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With everything going on, sometimes you just need nachos. I am not saying that nachos fix anything, but they don’t hurt, that’s for sure. I’ll take all the comfort I can get, plus, I need fuel for getting back up to keep fighting.

These particular nachos included pinto beans, ground bison cooked with onions, garlic and my homemade spice mix (cumin, ghost chilis, chipotles, black pepper and coriander), cheddar cheese, pickled jalapenos, greek yogurt, cilantro and (jarred, *gasp!*) salsa. It was exactly what I needed. Also, please note that I do not endorse “scoop” shaped chips, but these were on sale. What can you do?

To make up for the fact that there is no recipe in this post, here is a photo of some chopped carrots that ended up looking like a heart! I was taking a picture of the knife to send to the gift-giver that gifted it to me, and I noticed the shape of the carrots afterwards.img_0308

Magic quiche (crustless egg pie)

My mom used to make a betty crocker recipe called something like “impossible hamburger pie,” that consisted of bisquick, eggs, and some kind of filling and cheese. I had the idea to try the same recipe structure, using gluten-free biscuit mix instead. It is fantastic, and easy, and can be made with nearly any ingredients. Perfect go-to weeknight meal (plus leftovers were delish for lunch).

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Magic Quiche

  • 1/2 cup gluten free biscuit mix (or regular mix)
  • 1 cup milk (regular or dairy free)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 lb meat or meatless filling (I used garlic pork sausage. You could use mushrooms, veggie meat product, ground beef or lamb, etc)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch kale, washed and chopped
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar or your favorite cheese

Whisk the biscuit mix, milk and egg together. Set aside.

Brown the meat or meatless filling in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and stir to cook until transparent. Remove to a greased pie pan. Cook the kale in the same pan with a drizzle of olive oil and pinch of salt until wilted. Add to pie pan. I sprinkled in some chopped basil, just because I had some growing at the time. Green onions and other fresh herbs would be great as well.

Pour the egg mixture evenly over the fillings in the pie pan. Top with the shredded cheese and bake for 30-35 minutes in a 400 F oven or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. As with most gluten free baking, the cook time can be a bit longer. If you are using regular biscuit mix, cut the time by 5 minutes.

Arepas with eggs, salsa, and cilantro-jalapeño crema

Fresh arepas are closer at hand than you might think, and an impressive addition to the classic brunch combo of eggs and salsa.

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  • 1 lb masa harina (fine corn flour), about 4 cups
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons fat (can be coconut oil, butter, lard, vegetable shortening)
  • 4 cups warm water

Mix masa, salt and fat together until combined, and then add the water, stirring to mix evenly. Let the dough rest, covered, for about 10 minutes. This allows the masa to hydrate, soaking up the water.

Portion the dough into about 8 equal balls and flatten to about 1/2 inch in thickness. Cook each arepa in a hot, oiled pan for 2 minutes on each side. This “seals” the arepa and ensures a crispy crust. Then put the arepas into the oven at 350 F for 10-15 minutes to finish cooking through. They are done when they sound hollow when tapped and are crispy on the outside.

You can slice these open to stuff with fillings, or top with eggs, salsa and crema, as I did. I’ll let y’all cook your eggs how you like and pick your favorite salsa recipe, but here is a simple recipe for the crema.

Cilantro jalapeño crema

  • 1 cup cilantro, washed and dried (can use leaves and stems too)
  • 1 jalapeño, stem removed
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 cup sour cream or greek yogurt
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix in blender until smooth and season to taste. This is great as a salad dressing or dip as well.

Pesto-caesar with kale, christmas beans and toasted pepitas

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Dark green dino kale (the flat, oval shaped kind), heavily massaged and coated in a pesto-caesar style dressing and toasted pepitas with pretty, speckled christmas beans and cornbread on the side. The christmas beans are also called chestnut beans, and are in the lima family. They have a nutty-sweet, smooth interior, and are just lovely. Unlike most beans, they keep their pretty pattern even after cooking.

Pesto-ceasar dressing

  • 2 cups basil, washed, stemmed
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan, romano or other hard Italian cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 anchovies, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • white wine vinegar or lemon juice to taste, start with 2-3 tablespoons
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 bunches Tuscan kale
  • 1/4 cup toasted pepitas

Put all of the ingredients into a blender and let whir until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. I will admit that I actually add an entire tin of anchovies, but I don’t recommend that unless you really love that fishy, umami, which I do! You can also leave them out completely to make this a vegetarian dressing.

Wash and de-stem the kale, tearing into small pieces. Massage the kale with a few tablespoons of dressing for at least 5 minutes. This will improve the texture immensely. Add more dressing to taste and sprinkle with toasted pepitas.

Toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

  • 2 cups raw, shelled pumpkin seeds
  • 1 egg white, beaten to loosen
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground sumac

Mix all of the ingredients together and spread out on a greased or lined cookie sheet in one layer. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, or until turning golden and starting to puff out in the middle. The pepitas will change shape from flat to more football shaped as they toast. In case you are wondering, the egg white helps the spices to stick and creates an extra crispy coating. You can leave it out if you prefer, and use a drizzle of olive oil and water instead.

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