A Kitchen Gift Guide – Part Two: Edibles

This is part two of a kitchen gift-guide I’m writing as the holidays and their shopping are at full tilt. The first post covered equipment and the following guide has edible items.

Like the equipment guide, this is not a comprehensive list of things that should be in someone’s pantry. These are things that I like and have found that not everyone has them in their kitchen. I’ve not been paid, compensated, or asked to feature any of the following items although this post does contain some affiliate links.

Aleppo pepper – $6.25 for 1.9oz

From Turkey and used frequently in Eastern Mediterranean food, crushed Aleppo pepper also seems to have quite the fan club among BBQ-lovers. I am not a raving BBQ fan but I am sweet on this pepper. When eaten straight it tastes a smidge like an Ancho pepper. It is somewhat chocolatey, but the peppery flavor is certainly there along with moderate heat. I use this in a bunch of recipes from Wolfert’s The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean and The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen. When I’m feeling fancy I use Aleppo pepper instead of standard crushed red pepper. In less refined matters, I am not ashamed to say that I also put it on pizza in large amounts. In short, it’s good for all occasions.

Kashmir Mogra Cream Indian Saffron – $12.55 for .5g

Saffron is expensive– if you’ve any notion of herbs and spices, you know this. You may not know that only a little saffron is needed in any given recipe and that bit goes a long way. When it is added in excess, it makes the dish taste bitter and metallic. Half of a gram of saffron doesn’t seem like much to give as a gift, but it is plenty. Saffron is called for in everything from Italian to Indian to Spanish to Iranian food and there is nothing that comes close to saffron’s flavor and the color it gives to food. If you’re set on giving someone who cooks an herb or spice but are clueless as to what they like to make, I promise saffron will not sit unused in their kitchen.

Piment d’Espelette – $14.25 for 1.4oz

Piment d’Espelette is a pepper grown in a southern French town named (wait for it) Espelette. Common in southern French cooking, lately I’ve seen it cropping up in newer cookbooks and lots of blogs. On my bookshelves it is repeatedly on ingredient lists in Ad Hoc, Around My French Table, and (obviously) The Cooking of Southwest France. Currently, it is a little hard to find but Amazon carries the brand I have in my spice drawer. Different peppers can’t really be substituted for piment d’Espelette. It has a big, tomato-like taste and substantial heat, all while being lemony and bright. It would be a nice gift for someone who appreciates spicy and their taste buds at the same time.

Smoked Spanish Paprika (Sweet)
– $10.25 for 2.64oz

Paprika and parsley share a similar history in my kitchen. Paprika never tasted like anything to me and I always omitted parsley from dishes because of the same thing. One day I replaced my paprika with fresh stock and eventually started using flat-leaf parsley instead of curly-leaf parsley. Now I shake my head at my old self and try to get everyone on my Fresh Paprika Flat Parsley bandwagon. I use hot Hungarian paprika or sweet Spanish smoked paprika depending on the recipe, but Spanish smoked paprika is my favorite. It is smokey, sultry, and REALLY DOES HAVE A FLAVOR. Paprika does (seriously!) need to be fresh to be worthwhile. Anyone who loves cooking Spanish food would love this, especially if paella is their thing.

Ras al Hanout
– $7.95 for 2oz

I haven’t had a chance to use it yet, but ras al hanout is a Moroccan spice blend that I keep running into everywhere. I first saw it in Couscous and Other Good food from Morocco, then in Radically Simple, and after that it kept popping up. Most recently Ideas in Food had a very inspiring post about it. Like a BBQ rub, the composition of ras al hanout varies depending on from whom you buy it. According to Zamouri Spices’ website, their blend from is made up of over 30 spices and herbs. I generally don’t buy spice mixtures, but I am so inspired by all of the recipes I keep seeing that I’ll forego ‘generally don’t’ and happily add this to my spice drawer. Like those tart pans, receiving spices that inspire you is a two-fold gift.

Ground Sumac – $3.95 for 2.0oz

Sumac is a stunning shade of purple, contrary to what this photo shows. Like Aleppo pepper, it is used often in Eastern Mediterranean food. Sumac has a tart lime taste and I was swept off of my feet by it when I used it in Sumac Chicken with Bread Salad from Finamore’s Tasty. I’ve sprinkled it on hummus, rubbed it on kebabs and, since it is so citrusy, I think it would be right at home on fajitas or street-style tacos. My sister had an aversion to this spice (she called it “the itchy spice” in reference to poison sumac) until I made her the aforementioned sumac chicken. I received an e-mail requesting the recipe not long after. Don’t let the name turn you away from sumac. It is neither poisonous nor itchy (it’s pretty and purple! That’s more than some people have going for them!), and well-loved by everyone I’ve introduced to it.

Fleur de Sel
– $8.99 for 6.1oz

Fleur de sel is how I imagine snowflakes would taste if they were made of salt. Fleur de sel is flakes of almost impossibly crunchy salt usually used for ‘finishing’ dishes. Since it doesn’t dissolve immediately, flakes are sprinkled on food before serving for a hit of salt with a lot texture. I like it because you can use it in sweet applications (caramels!) or in savory dishes (scattered over fish or beef right before serving). If your giftee is way into salt, you could give them a set of a few different specialty salts, like this one, which has fleur de sel, Alaea salt, and black lava salt. I’ve never had those last two, but I’d really like to say “Could you pass the black lava salt, please?”

Vanilla Beans – $6.99 for .25 POUND of Tahitian vanilla beans

Years ago I found this seller on eBay when I was browsing a thread at eGullet on making your own vanilla extract. I ordered a pound of beans which came with a free quarter-pound package of beans (about 30-40 beans). They were beautiful, fat, fresh, pliable beans.

This year I finally managed to get through the quarter-pound package. That was a lot of beans.

What this means is that can possibly do all of your kitchen-related holiday gift shopping for under $10.00. If you have three or four people who love cooking, you could buy these vanilla beans, divvy them up into pretty glass bottles, tie some ribbon and bells around them and you’re done. Each jar will have a lot of beans in it and you will look amazing. Have you seen the price for two shriveled vanilla beans at the grocery store? Exactly. Bakers will especially appreciate a gift of these beans since they are called for in many frostings, custards, and glazes.

Walnut oil
– Three 16.9oz bottles for $21.97

I am an olive oil person. I’m fascinated by olive oil’s flavors; one type may taste grassy, the next like butter. Unless I’m using extreme heat, I use it whenever I cook. I have a confession, though: I love walnut oil. When I have it on hand it is my default choice for salad dressings, swirling into soups, and brushing onto sandwiches in mayonnaise’s (or olive oil’s) stead. Unlike olive oil’s loud and enthusiastic flavor, walnut oil is gentle and quiet. That is not to say the flavor is demure, it just doesn’t haul back and sock you in the face like olive oil sometimes does. Walnut oil can go rancid quickly, so it’s best to use it up in a timely manner (no problems with that here) and store it in the refrigerator between uses. If you don’t have three people to give walnut oil (since this links to a bulk package), you can find single bottles at well-stocked grocers. Make sure the oil is in an opaque bottle and that it is ‘roasted’ or ‘toasted’ walnut oil. The opaque bottle and roasted factor keep the oil from going rancid as quickly. I’d wrap this up for anyone who likes salads, sandwiches, or soups.

The last leg of this marathon will cover media. Books, magazines, journals… all of my favorite things. I’ll try not to rhapsodize too much.

A Kitchen Gift Guide – Part One: Equipment

A handful of people have asked me about what gifts to get for people who love to cook at home, so I thought a shopping guide might be helpful for those wandering the aisles of specialty kitchen stores, sifting through the offering of unitaskers upon unitaskers.

This is part one in a series of posts I’ll be writing in the upcoming week(s) as holiday shopping gets into high gear. Kitchen equipment is first, with Ingredients and Media to follow.

First and foremost, know that this is not an exhaustive list of equipment that someone should have in their home kitchen. You will notice that there are no knives, pots, or baking pans in my list. I’ve not been paid, compensated, or asked to feature any of the following items. I simply love them and, at one point or another (or now), would’ve loved to open a box containing them. I think most other cooking-inclined people would, too.

The prices displayed are from Amazon.com. Prices fluctuate on Amazon a lot, so the prices may have changed since the publishing of this post. This post contains some affiliate links.

High-Temperature Digital Thermometer – $20.17

I am big on enabling people (in positive things, of course). A high-temperature thermometer, a/k/a a candy thermometer, opens up an entirely new realm of cooking. You can make candy, perfect chicken fried steak, fudge, fried chicken, frostings upon FROSTINGS, and many more things that are not very good for you.

The thing about making and eating things that aren’t very good for you is that when you do eat them, they better be the BEST horrible thing for you that you ever ate. A thermometer will help you get your oil hot enough for stupendous fried chicken. Get your sugar to the correct temperature and you’ll have a syrup or candy or caramel. This is the Number One kitchen gift I recommend (that’s why I put it first. ahHA!). With ONE gift you’ve given the lucky thermometer receiver a million new recipes.

Note: Amazon shows some negative reviews for this particular brand but I’ve never had a problem with mine.

Digital Food Scale
– $25.00

Another gift that falls into the Enabler group of presents is a scale. Give someone a candy thermometer and they can try a bunch of new recipes. A scale works the same way: there are lots of recipes that are only given in weights or ratios. Like the thermometer, a scale also brings a higher degree of precision to a kitchen. Measuring cups vary widely across brands, and ingredients can be packed into cups improperly. Using weight as a measurement instead of volume is much more accurate. With a scale there is a lot less playing rodeo with a bunch of different measuring implements: simply add the weight called for of one ingredient, zero out the scale, and pour in the next one. While I use mine most for baking, I also pull it out frequently when I am measuring meat or developing recipes.

Mini Tart Pans
– $15.99

Although I normally refer to tarts and pies as ‘my dearly beloathed,’ mini tart pans make me want to try pie crust ONE more time. I think it is because (most) everything is better in miniature and the idea of giving each person their own teeny tart makes me want to personalize desserts or appetizers for everyone. Of course, that leads to searching out new recipes, trying new flavor combinations, and generally being inspired. It is the gift of inspiration in bakeware. And now you’re the best gift-giver ever.

Bowl Scraper attachment for KitchenAid
– $27.45

I don’t have one of these but I would like one very much. I normally get one or two spatulas dirty when making cakes and have to stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times during mixing. Looking like a squeege that got bent out of shape, this attachment is built to eliminate scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl. Brilliant! You need to know what type of KitchenAid your giftee has, so maybe invite yourself over for dinner sometime and do a cruise by their KitchenAid. By getting rid of the need for spatulas during mixing, the attachment would save dishwasher space and time, essentially bringing about world peace.

Pre-cut Parchment Rounds – $4.02

Unnecessity of unnecessities. That’s why it’s a present. Why are cut flowers so nice when you’re on the receiving end? They don’t multitask, after all. You like them because they’re pretty and they make you smile. Unless you’re allergic to them.

That’s beside the point.

Pre-cut parchment rounds are my cut flowers. With these I don’t have to do the kitchen equivalent of folding a fitted sheet just to make sure my cake sponges don’t stick to the bottom of the pan; I simply slip a round into the pan and save the paper rustling for present opening. They are a definite luxury and not something I have all the time, but I’d love getting them for a gift. Fortunately for you, they are inexpensive and, if the receiver is a baker, quite thoughtful.

Knife Sharpener
– $169.95

This is not the sexiest of gifts. It does not wink at you or slip into something more comfortable. What it does do is make knives screamingly sharp. With a sharp knife you can cut tomato slices paper-thin and you don’t have to resort to cursing silverskin off of meat. Now we’re moving towards something more attractive. Your present-receiver can do justice to the expensive-ass knife set they bought as soon as they graduated college and got their own place (because they haven’t sharpened their knives since!). Knives need sharpening through a machine (or on a whetstone, but I am not recommending that for the average home cook) about once a year and in the long run it is cheaper than taking them somewhere to be sharpened.

Plus, it’s pretty fun. My husband got me this knife sharpener for my birthday one year and I spent the whole day smiling and sharpening knives. Make of that what you will.

Microplane Grater
– $11.19

This is great for a stocking stuffer or for the present-givers who are on a budget (i.e.: everyone). I use this grater more than I use my standard graters. I consider it a kitchen essential, one that many kitchens lack. Perfect for zest without the pith and cheese of all types, it creates soft, fine shavings. Lemon zest makes a regular appearance in recipes I prepare frequently so I use and love my Microplane to death. I recently started using it on soft cheese as well as hard cheese and not much beats little poufy cheese clouds on top of everything.

Coffee Grinder for Spices
– $18.88

Every now and then, when my husband is especially trying, I contemplate using his coffee grinder to make a spice rub. There’s nothing like a bit of cumin coffee to get your morning really going. Revenge aside, a coffee grinder specifically for spices is fantastic to have in the kitchen. I put this in my gift guide because it is an item that most people will not buy because they ‘don’t really NEED it.’ Yes, they could just buy pre-ground spices, however whole spices retain their potency much longer than their ground counterparts. If someone is equipped with a grinder, they can buy spices whole with the ability to grind only as much as they need. The rest stay fresh and can be kept for longer than ground spices with more punch in the end result. Many curry recipes call for pastes made from toasted and freshly ground spices, and who doesn’t want to make a mean curry? This is another Enabler gift. This particular brand of grinder will GRIND THE SHIT out of anything, including star anise, and it has different coarseness settings. Like the knife sharpener, a coffee grinder isn’t especially snazzy, but if you were to include whole, pretty spices in the gift it would be a lovely present.

Cuisineart Ice Cream Maker
– $57.49

If ever my house was on fire and I had to save only one small appliance, it would be my ice cream maker.

These are the things I think of when I can’t sleep.

Ice creams, sorbets and granitas each have all of the spectacular elements of cooking: flavor play, transformation, texture, temperature… And then there are all the toppings that can be made to go along with the ice cream! My heart is all aflutter over frozen desserts. While hand-crank ice cream machines are fine and dandy, I’m willing to bet you a pint of Ben & Jerry’s that the ‘rustic’ fun of churning that ice cream by hand is going to wear off after the first batch. This machine is easy. Make a custard (or not. There are a lot of custardless ice creams. Like polenta ice cream or coconut ice cream with saffron or regular old vanilla), cool it, and then pour it in the machine for half an hour. Boom. Ice cream. As a giver of this gift, I can practically guarantee that the receiver will thank you by making you some ice cream. It’s a win-win situation.

Cast-Iron Pizza Pan
– $34.97

I’ve been through several pizza stones in recent years and am loathe to buy one more crack-prone stone or deal with tiles (the cheap alternative) in my oven. In lieu of a stone, I have been making pizzas in my cast-iron pan. I get the pan very hot, pile the crust and toppings in it, and put everything in the oven. I love these pizzas: the crust is amazing from the combined heat of the oven and pan and the crust even holds when lifting the pie out of the pan. Plus, the pan handle makes for easy in and out of the oven. The only thing I don’t love about the pizzas is the size. My pan is only 9″ and it makes a pizza big enough for two people. Don’t get me started on the logistics of making pizza for more than two people with only one pan. I had resigned myself to small (but delicious) pizzas until I saw this pizza pan. It even has handles! Like the bowl scraper, I don’t own it, but I’ve been dropping thinly-veiled hints (mostly “I would like this for Christmas”) for my husband. Steak is the only thing that he likes more than pizza, so in reality, we would both benefit from a big, cast-iron pizza pan (our waistlines doth protest). Besides pizza, I can only imagine how it would cook a bunch of fennel, endive, or even a bunch of cauliflower slices– think of the mass caramelization (the waistlines doth rejoice!)! If you can think of no one on your shopping list to give this to, I’ll gladly take it.

If none of these recommendations seem to fit any of the people on your list, maybe spices or cookbooks would be more fun to give. A Kitchen Gift Guide – Part Two is full of pantry items (that aren’t flavored olive oil and vinegar) and Part Three has media items stacked up on one another.

If you can’t wait for those posts, you can always opt to give some coal.

Kale, Sausage, and Potato Soup

Most people think that my mother taught me how to cook.

We have a lot in common.
She cooks a lot, I cook a lot
I have lots of cookbooks, she has lots of cookbooks.

She did not teach me how to cook, however.

I’m sure I could’ve asked her to teach me.
She did try to teach me how to make bread one time
and I didn’t try to make bread for years afterwards.

It was not her fault.
I was one of those kids who liked to cook everything over high heat
then wonder why the crust was burnt and the inside raw.

I’m much better about that
(most of the time)
but my mother and I are still very, VERY different cooks.

My mom never met a recipe she loved for how it was
and cakes are her sworn enemy
…probably due to her recipe aversion.

I taught myself how to cook when Trevor was studying for the MCATs.

The standardized tests for entrance into medical school warranted serious attention
and 8 hours of studying on top of 3 hours of daily college classes
didn’t leave him a lot of room for cooking
or for eating.

I decided to cook for him.
That way, I figured,
he wouldn’t one day find himself unable to get out of his swivel chair because of malnutrition.

Scared to waste food and money by mangling perfectly fine ingredients,
I started cooking out of the few cookbooks I had
mostly chicken dishes.

Trevor didn’t waste away
and I got really good at cooking chicken.

I never stopped cooking after that.
People always tease Trevor
saying that he must be a really shitty cook
but he’s actually a very good cook.

(We won’t mention the one time he made cornbread that I privately dubbed ‘cornbrick.’)

He doesn’t cook because he loves my cooking
and PROBABLY because it’s significantly less work for him.

Eh heh.

Different though we are
Trevor also loves my mom’s cooking.

Every now and then I will unwedge a binder from the crammed bookcases
a binder full of notes and printouts
scribbled half-recipes and ingredient lists cut from packages
and pull out one of my mom’s recipes.

Of course, I use the term ‘recipe’ loosely;
like everyone elses beloved family member
her recipes are ‘a little of this, some of that, a few of those.’

A recently added recipe to the binder is another one of my mother’s.
It’s recipe for soup with a lot of kale
some sausage and potatoes
something fitting for the cold day that appeared out of nowhere.

We’ve had a weird fall here, with snow last month
one side of our yard home to blooming yellow flowers
the other, trees with fiery leaves.

It’s quite the technicolor show.

When I went to go collect the greens from the garden for the soup
I also brought in a few branches from a very red bush outside.

I’d like to believe I got all of the caterpillars out of the kale.

I haven’t run into any while eating the end result
Such is a hazard of cooking from the garden.

I like kale a lot.

(You know this because the last recipe I posted had kale in it.
Sorry about that.
We have a lot of kale in the garden.
Next year: less kale.)

Since I like kale so much
I decided I was going to put a lot of it in the soup this time around.

Like the kid who wanted to cook everything with the equivalent energy of the ENTIRE SUN
I realize, in hindsight,
that I need to learn moderation.

One of these things is not like the other.

Side note:
Flexible cutting boards are not my favorite cutting boards.
They get the job done
but I’d much rather thick plastic or wood under my knife.

I don’t feel like I’m cutting on anything when I use these.

I didn’t have enough small potatoes for the soup
so I grabbed a big potato
and cut it in half lengthwise before slicing it crosswise.

More on the cutting board topic:
the trick of putting a wet towel under your board really, really works.

You can even use a scrinched up paper towel
(one is just fine)
and you’ll find that you’re not battling your board from dancing off the counter.

The easiest way to take sausage out of its casing is to take a sharp knife
run it along the length of the link
then peel the casing off.

I remember that a few times when my mom was working on this soup when I was younger
she didn’t remove the casing from the sausage
and the slices ended up looking like I feel after too much Tex-Mex–
all muffin-toppy.

(I figured I should clarify that statement as it could have different meanings to different people.

I broke down each link into about 6 meatballs.

Incorporating the sausage into the soup is the hardest part
(after eliminating kalerpillars).

Like casing issues
I kept running into broken meatballs
since they would stick to the bottom of the pan when I tried to brown them
then crumble when I tried to stir.

I wanted the fond
so a nonstick pan or boiling them were out of the question.

Using more oil didn’t sound appealing, either.

The dumplings I made the day before came to my rescue.

The previous night
I steamed pork dumplings and had been off in lala land for a while
thinking about the texture of the filling and how it transformed
from globby to cohesive– all from steam.

I’ve made dumplings several times
I’ve made this soup several times
but for some reason
the two finally came together this time around
UNITED AS ONE to solve my broken meatball problem.

That’s how I like to think of it, anyways.

I chopped a large sweet onion
then threw it into a big pot with some olive oil.

Once the onions were soft
I placed the meatballs on top of the onions
turned the heat down to low
and covered the pot.

After a few minutes
I lifted the lid off
and there were steamed meatballs
keeping it together.

I stirred them to see if they would continue to hold their shape
and sure enough
it worked.

I increased the heat to let the meatballs brown some.

I would’ve liked for them to brown more
(the lighting in my kitchen was weird here and shows the meatballs more golden than they actually were)
but my onions were in danger of burning.

Garlic and flour went in
one after the other
and after each was toasty
I added chicken stock, potatoes and a bay leaf.

I brought the mixture up to a boil
then left it to simmer for about 20 minutes.

The potatoes were soft
the sausage long since cooked through, but not dry.

Since the sausage I used was sweet
I added crushed red pepper to the pot.

the kale.

You know what’s too much kale?


This was after half of it had already cooked down.

I ended up taking out a good quarter of the kale once everything was cooked.

After I finished kale fishing
I stirred in the cream
and the soup was done.

Like many other soups
it benefits from a night in the refrigerator
warmed up the next day for lunch
preferably with some crusty bread
and fall colors all around.

Kale, Sausage, and Potato Soup

A recipe based on one of my mothers, I’ve played around with it a little because I guess I still have a hard head about following directions from my mom. If you have a recipe for an Italian sausage mixture that you like, use it in place of the purchased sausage. You want a little bit of fennel seed in somewhere in the soup, though. A Parmesan rind in the broth while the potatoes are cooking would probably be very good. Grated Parmesan on top is not a bad idea, either.


  • 1 lb Italian sausage
  • 1 large yellow onion (about 12 oz), chopped
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 2 lb potatoes, scrubbed and sliced crosswise into medium rounds
  • 4 medium cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 TB flour
  • 9 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 3/4 lb kale, stemmed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper


  1. Remove sausage from casings and form into medium-sized meatballs.
  2. In a large pot, heat the oil and add the onion.
  3. Sauté onions over medium high heat until just beginning to soften.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and gently place the meatballs on top of the onions.
  5. Cover the pot and let meatballs steam for 3-4 minutes until the sausage mixture lightens in color and begins to firm up.
  6. Once the meatballs are firm enough to stir, increase the heat to medium-high and brown the meatballs as much as you can without burning the onions.
  7. After the meatballs have browned, add the garlic to the pot and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  8. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until it smells toasty.
  9. Pour in the chicken stock and add the bay leaf and stir well well, scraping the bottom of the pot to release the fond. Make sure the stock covers the potatoes. Supplement with water if you need.
  10. Increase the heat to high and bring soup to a boil.
  11. Once the soup boils, reduce the heat to low and partially cover the pot.
  12. Cook until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart completely, about 20 minutes.
  13. With the heat still on low, add crushed red pepper and mix well.
  14. Place the kale in the pot, stir, and cook over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes until wilted but not mushy.
  15. Take the pot off of the heat, stir in the cream and add salt and pepper to taste.
  16. Serve immediately, garnished with crushed red pepper if you like.

Quick notes

If you don’t want to use heavy cream, you can use milk (of whatever fat percentage you’d like) and potato puree to thicken the soup. Once your potatoes are cooked, remove a few rounds to a blender with a bit of the broth and milk and blend until smooth. Add everything back into the pot and repeat until you have the desired thickness. Just remember not to puree all of your potatoes.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 6-8

Keep Your BBQ Sauce Off of my Pizza

Unlike the times before it
last week’s pasta making was successful.

Given my previous attempts at making noodles
I probably should’ve started the project the day before
but lady luck stood by a few hours before the supper club
and I had beautiful strands of beet pasta swaying on clean chairbacks.

My kitchen looked festive
and I think hats and horns wouldn’t have been out of place.

I kind of wanted to put on a flapper outfit.

I was disappointed that the pasta didn’t stay magenta.
It faded into BubbleYum pink
(just like this)
which was… interesting.

I didn’t overcook the noodles;
I put them in the boiling water and the color immediately leached out.


Here’s this week’s menu plan
a little late:

Pizza with leafy green salads

Last night was movie night at the last minute, so for dinner we had frozen pizza.

When I picked up the pizza at the store I didn’t realize it had BBQ sauce on it.

There are three things that should never be on my pizza:
Cheddar Cheese
BBQ Sauce

Last night I had a salad, theend.

The unfortunate BBQ sauced pizza made me wish for homemade frozen pizzas.
I freeze pizza dough all the time but haven’t frozen a composed pizza. I’m curious to see how that would, ah ha, pan out.

Dumplings with homemade wrappers

Trevor has been off of work today and yesterday, so today I made chicken fajitas for lunch.

I hope to squeeze out enough time between kitchen remodel work and baby wrangling to make a combination of this recipe and one from The Dumpling.

I have hopes, but they are not very bright.

I need to work on my nonexistent pleating skills, too. Given the time restraints put on me by Tiny, it may end up being the seal-n-go method.

Carnitas with homemade corn tortillas and queso fresco

Trevor was in the grocery store with me last week and came across pork shoulder on sale while I was looking at something else.

He brought it over to the cart and asked if we could make carnitas.

I nearly did the moonwalk in the aisle for two reasons:
1)The man barely asks for anything other than pizza, steak, or macaroni and cheese
2) He knew that pork shoulder was for carnitas

By all means, let us do carnitas.

Kale, potato, and sausage soup

This is ripe for a blog post. My mother gave me this recipe and I’ve modified it to my liking.
I’ll negotiate with Tiny and see if he’ll let me photograph and write this week.



Ordinarily I wouldn’t do leftovers back to back, but Trevor’s schedule is crazy this week and freshly made dinners would be wasted on these days.

Mutti’s Louisiana Chicken Stew with pickled peaches

Mutti, my grandmother, made a gumbo that is one of my favorite meals. Growing up, we all called it Louisiana Chicken Stew and it wasn’t until I started playing with gumbo recipes that I realized her Louisiana Chicken Stew is a gumbo.

Now ‘gumbo’ sounds funny. Gumbo, gumbo gumbo!

She gave me her recipe for the stew and (quick) pickled peaches for my wedding
and it was my favorite present.

The leftovers are even better than the meal the first time around, as usual for stews and gumbos.

I’ve linked up to Menu Plan Monday.

Menu Plan, Menu Plan, Menu Plan All the Way

I’m listening to Christmas music
and I’m Ok with that.

I am surrounded by people who are adamant about waiting until after Thanksgiving to get the Christmas music going
but I like to multitask.

I may have Dean Martin warbling about his love keeping him warm
but on the dining room table are various dried corns, two types of wheat, teeny white pumpkins, and gourdsgourdsGOURDS.

There are also a few pumpkins on the doorstep
so I have my holidays covered until the end of the year.

I wait to break out the Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving
but music is a go after Halloween.

YOU can’t hear it
so you can’t complain.

The week’s meal planning is more fall than winter
with fresh carrots ending up in a soup I’ve never tried or eaten before.

I picked one row of carrots from the garden this weekend,
surprised that they grew so well
even though we planted them a little late.

There is still another row to come up
but there were a lot of slugs and worms in the carrot tops
so that row is ALL Trevor’s.

Escargot is not on this week’s menu
and it never will be, either.

I realized that half-way through making a meat sauce for spaghetti tonight
that I accidentally planned two pasta dishes this week.
We have a supper club that meets once a month
and this Friday happens to be a meeting with pasta as a main.

Spaghetti is Tiny and my favorite food
so it’s only Trevor who is complaining
who also had tortellini last night at work, too.

Forget decorative gourd season.
In our house, it’s pasta season.

Capellini with Meat sauce

I made my pasta sauce with 85/15 ground beef, sliced garlic, onions, fresh thyme, oregano, and parsley, garden tomatoes, and garden tomato sauce. I will sulk when we use up all of the tomato items we canned from the summer. I used Spanish onions which were a little sweet, but I liked the sliced garlic in place of the regular minced garlic.

Almost Confit” Chicken from Radically Simple
Cannellini beans
Frisee salad with piquillo peppers and balsamic vinaigrette

Through trial and error (and lots of crunchy beans) I figured out how to use my pressure cooker for dried beans. I will save so much money by eating dried beans that I will be able to buy canned beans with all the money I’ve saved!


I think I’ll throw some Parmesan rinds into the pot. I have no idea what dressing I’ll make for the salad.


We having Tiny’s one year photography session on Wednesday. I’m planning some small bites and possibly cake so I don’t want to deal with those and dinner on the same day.

Carrot soup with fried tops
Leafy salad with a lemon shallot vinaigrette from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

I think I am going to use a little bit of Heidi Swanson’s soup recipe with a garnish I saw in Rozanne Gold’s Radically Simple.

I could drink the salad dressing from ATK. I will try to restrain myself.

Beet Pasta with two sauces

This is supper club night. The theme is “favorites from childhood, kicked up.”

I haven’t narrowed down what my “two sauces” are other than one will be cream or vegetable based and one will be a meat sauce. I’ll play with The Flavor Bible and figure something out.

I’ve made mediocre pasta every time I’ve tried to make fresh pasta. I have some nerves.

Appetizers, sides, and desserts are the responsibility of the other members of the supper club.

Skirt steak with chimichurri from Seven Fires
Roasted endive from Seven Fires
Mashed potatoes

Like the salad dressing up there, I have to stop myself from tipping the little bowl of chimichurri into my mouth. What is it about condiments?!


Probably steak sandwiches or mashed potatoes with a chimichurri swirl or lemon shallot vinaigrette with a side of chimichurri.

Side projects for the week are bread, yeasted waffles one morning, melting peppers from Slow Mediterranean Kitchen, jalapeno jelly with the bushel and a peck in my refrigerator, and maybe, oh maybe, some cake for a very cute one year old.

I linked this up over at OrgJunkie.com because I like seeing what other people are eating, too.

A Very Angry Wrist Pens a Menu Plan

I’ve done something to my wrist
something that made it very, very, angry.

Thankfully, it is my left hand
so my dominant right can do mostly what it needs to do
unless the left is needed to help.

You know,
I only need my left hand for things like picking up a baby
holding something while chopping
getting dressed
changing a diaper
or a million other things I need to do all day long.

Nothing of import has been completed today.
However, there is still time
so maybe I’ll lug around my useless hand and check off a few to-do boxes
counting myself lucky that my wrist is still attached to my arm.

I HAVE managed to make out my menu plan for this week.
One box checked.

On Saturday I watched snowflakes the size of dessert plates land in my backyard,
thankful I managed to save the bell peppers from the garden the night before.

some of the bell peppers

By the end of this week I may not be as thankful.
I’ve tried to wrangle green bell peppers into the menu without being too much at once
but I’ll know how well I did at the end of the week.

I think most of them will end up chopped and frozen
but we’ll eat a good amount fresh.

Like some other folks at OrgJunkie.com, I menu plan on Mondays, too:

Monday: Pepper Steak with steamed rice
Tuesday: Chicken Gumbo with Pickled Peaches
Wednesday: Stuffed Bell Peppers
Thursday: Curried Butternut Squash Soup with Spinach Quiche

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are still up in the air
(so much for checking off this box)
as one of my dearest friends is coming to visit me for a long weekend
so we’ll cook together.

I will be glad to have another hand in the kitchen this week
especially since mine is such a dud
but moreover I’m thrilled that the hand belongs to such a lovely person.

I’m leaving the weekend open for cooking and eating together
something I’ve missed doing with her for a long time.

The more I think about it
the more I am happy that the weekend is unsketched.

It will be fun to nibble on new things
figure out what is missing a taste of something
laugh, laugh, laugh when something fails specTACularly
and cook with love.

Oh, I like this week’s menu plan very much,
green bell peppers be damned.

in the kitchen letting it all hang out