It always impresses me about Meagan’s cooking: she can take a nearly bare pantry and make something amazing out of scant ingredients. (A handy skill when you live way out in the middle of the woods like we do.) She’s done it time and again, and this was no exception…
“Let’s see, we’ve got chicken thighs, some sun-dried tomatoes, a few veggies left in the drawer… no problem!”
An hour later, we’re eating a dish that rocked our socks, warmed us up on a cool winter’s eve, and one we both agreed: “Put it on the blog!” Continue reading →
Anytime we hit a Thai restaurant this is our go-to: one bowl of steaming, coconut-y soup please, two spoons, and don’t skimp on the lime!
It’s a filling soup that hits everything on the palate: the sweet, the spicy, the salty, the sour – even the umami! (Thank you, fish sauce.) Only problem: sometimes (often, let’s be honest) the chicken arrives at the table a little overcooked and sad in that piping hot soup.
Our version takes the usual tom kha gai (chicken) and replaces it with cod. And the results are… Continue reading →
Modern humans are funny when it comes to breakfast.
Sure, we’ll grudgingly admit that “most important meal of the day” stuff. But our actions say otherwise: we spend the least amount of time preparing it, the least amount consuming it (twelve minutes, on average), and for the most part, begrudge slowing down to give it much thought.
We eschew thoughtful selection of nutrient-filled ingredients in favor of the quick, the ready-made, the pre-packaged. Pop a couple of slices of bread in the toaster and call it good. Pour some milk over a bowl of sugar-laden cereal and wolf it down. Or even (gasp!) whip up a quick meal replacement shake (blended skim milk powder, fructose, and chemicals – yum!) and go. After all, we have “important things to do”, right?
(The fact that our morning meal leaves us catastrophically under-fueled and over-toxified to do those important things doesn’t register, I guess. Anyway, that’s what energy drinks and caffeine are for, right? 😮 )
Listen, we’re not going to try to convince you to slow down and prepare a proper morning feast every morning. It sounds nice, but modern life says otherwise; we get that. But we will give you a recipe that, prepared in advance—on a lazy Sunday afternoon, for example—will provide you with days worth of breakfasts that serve up in minutes and will give you an actual nutritional boost (since it’s made from, you know… real food).
Once you taste this casserole (and feel what a real power breakfast feels like) we have a feeling your sad little toasted slices of wheat are never going to see your fast-breaking plates again. Thirty minutes of cooking for days worth of easily-served, nutrition-packed breakfasts to fuel your mornings? Sounds like good time investment to us.
Give it a try!
Breakfast Sausage Casserole
Active Time: 25-30 mins
Total Time: 55 mins
Makes 8 Servings
1.5 Pounds Breakfast Sausage, bulk or uncased
12 Eggs, beaten
1 Head Broccoli, stems removed, florets finely chopped
Remove from heat, and stir in greens to wilt. Season veggies with salt and pepper.
Pour veggies into 9×12. Add green onions and parsley. Mix in with meat and spread mixture evenly across the pan.
Pour eggs over the mixture starting around the edges and corners of the pan to insure even coverage. (It’ll work its way to the center easier than it will work its way to the corners.)
Stud the top of the casserole with whole grape tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
Bake 25-30 minutes, until eggs are set in the middle. Serve immediately, or allow to cool completely, cover and put in the fridge and enjoy for days!
This is a super adaptable recipe, which is great, because it’s an easy make-ahead breakfast. You just want to use approximately the same ratio of meat/eggs/veggies, and you can keep this casserole from getting boring.
Italian w/ Sun dried Tomatoes: Sub in Italian sausage and 3/4 cup of chopped sun dried tomatoes. Try asparagus instead of broccoli. Use arugula for the greens. Throw in some basil.
Viva Mexico!: Use chorizo and cilantro. Sub broccoli for some green peppers. Throw in some pickled jalapenos. Serve with avocado and salsa.
Other meats: Who said you have to stick with sausage? Shred up some chicken or throw in some pulled pork! And of course, let’s not forget… BACON!!
Seriously, the possibilities are endless. Let us know what variations you come up with in the comments below!
Poor cauliflower. It’s the vanilla of the vegetable world, for sure. Dull, slightly sulfuric-smelling, usually boiled or mashed (which doesn’t improve matters). We’ll admit it—we used to be pretty unenthused about this colorless cruciferous.
Until this little gem of a recipe came along…
The mixture of the sausage and tomato with the al dente, slightly-roasted surface of the cauliflower is something special, and we’d wager this to win in a fight against any bowl of pasta. It certainly has the pasta beat nutritionally: the cauliflower is a dense source of potassium, Vitamin C, and other beneficial phytochemicals.
In any case, it’s so tasty, we think you might just add it to your regular cooking rotation. We actually get excited when we bring home a nice, big head of cauliflower now, because we know what’s coming. Cauliflower!!
A few notes…
1) This is a highly adaptable recipe. There are so many ingredients that if you forget something at the store, it’s still going to end up tasting great. The basics are the meat, some veggies, tomato and the cauliflower. The rest is just icing on the cake. If you don’t like anchovy paste, skip it. If you don’t have or can’t find anise seeds, fine. Don’t have the time or energy to zest the lemon, we get it! But we do encourage you to try to find the fresh fennel. It’s the one thing that really elevates this dish and makes it stand out. It’ll still be good without it, but it’s fun to try something different every now and again, right??
2) This is always better the second day… Yay, leftovers!
3) If you are running low on time, you can chop the cauliflower into florets, and it will cook much faster. (But you will lose out on the style points of serving it whole.)
4) If, from time to time, you have a hankering for some pasta, serve this over zucchini noodles (raw shredded zucchini), and you’ll get the same comfort food feeling!
5) It’s a great dish to make if you have mixed vegetarian/non-veg company. Just brown the meat in a separate pan and don’t put the anchovy paste in. You can serve the meat separate and let the meat eaters add meat into their dish!
Roasted Cauliflower in Italian Sausage and Fennel Bolognese
Active Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1.5-2 hours
Yields: 6 hearty meals (or 12-15 servings as a side dish)
1.5 lbs. bulk Italian sausage meat (spicy or mild)
1 large head of cauliflower, leaves removed
1 large onion, chopped
1 head of fennel, separate stems, bulb and fronds, chopped and divided
3 sticks of celery, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 large or 2 medium zucchini, chopped
1 24oz jar tomato puree
2 tablespoon tomato paste
6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped, divided in half
1/2 bunch parsley, separate leaves and stalks, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon anise seed
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes (or skip it if you don’t like spicy!)
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
1 lemon, zested, fruit reserved
salt and pepper
You will need a large pot for this. 1 pot meal. We use a 7-quart Dutch oven.
Preheat oven to 475.
Add oil to Dutch oven over medium heat on the stove.
When the oil is hot, add sausage meat and brown.
Remove sausage from Dutch oven and set aside. Return Dutch oven to stove, adding more oil if needed, and increase to medium high heat. Add onions, stirring regularly to caramelize. When the onions are about halfway done, add chopped fennel bulb and 1/2 tablespoon of anise seed, and continue to stir frequently until the onions are done.
Add celery, carrots and fennel stems. Continue to stir regularly until carrots have softened a bit. (Don’t cook them all the way through, as they still have plenty of cooking to do in the oven!)
Remove pot from heat. Add tomato puree, tomato paste, zucchini, 1/2 of the chopped garlic, chopped parsley stalks, crushed red pepper, Italian seasoning, lemon zest and an inch or so of anchovy paste. Mix all ingredients well. Salt and pepper to taste. The sauce may seem quite thick at this stage, but while it’s in the oven, the vegetables will release a lot of moisture, making the consistency more like a marinara sauce.
Press the whole cauliflower (stem side down) into the sauce. About half the cauliflower should be covered in sauce and half uncovered.
Drizzle the cauliflower with olive oil and rub to coat evenly. Place a lid or foil over the pot, and put in the oven for about 30 minutes.
Check cauliflower with a fork, and when it starts to become tender, remove the lid, and return pot to the oven for another 20-30 minutes. Remove when the cauliflower is completely tender and golden brown.
You can finish it under a broiler to crisp the top a touch if you’d like. Squeeze lemon over the cauliflower and sprinkle remaining garlic over the sauce.
Cut whole cauliflower into 6-8 sections like a pie. Ladle sauce and cauliflower into bowls. It’s quite an impressive looking dish, so impress the family or friends and plop the whole Dutch oven down on the dinner table and serve from there. Top with chopped parsley leaves and fennel fronds and enjoy!
That’s okay. For years, we did too. They’re bitter and kind of unappealing, unless you’re one of those people that likes chewing on raw sprigs of green stuff. (Okay, we admit we do).
But there’s gotta be some good nutrition in those bitter, scraggly-looking greens, right?
There is. Turns out, carrot greens are a powerhouse of potassium (which can help lower your blood pressure) and vitamin K (which can help prevent heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, dementia and numerous other organ problems). There is also six times as much vitamin C in the greens as in the root (the carrot). Who knew?
The bitterness is a by-product of the alkaloids in the leaves, and is probably a defense mechanism of the plant to prevent being eaten by grazing animals.
But what if there was a way around that defense mechanism, so you can get to all the good nutrition hiding underneath?
Here it is: blanching and soaking.
Blanching consists of briefly cooking something then shock cooling it. It is used on all sorts of things to remove unpleasant surface flavors but preserve the nutrition that would be lost by over-cooking.
Follow this blanching and soaking procedure to de-bitterify your carrot greens and they can be used to flavor dishes or as a salad in their own right. No more tossing all that good nutrition into the trash!
(Plus, let’s be honest, with food prices on the steep and steady rise, who can afford to be throwing away armfuls of perfectly good plant edibles? Not us, that’s for sure.)
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 8 hours
Bring water to a boil over high heat. Lightly salt the water. Add greens, boil for 2 minutes using wooden spoon to keep greens submerged.
Drain and immediately submerge in ice water. Let soak 20 minutes, then drain.
Squeeze the greens and rinse, then place back in new ice water. Keep greens in ice water for 6-8 hours. Set them on the counter and drain and replace the ice water each time the ice has melted. Drain the water a total of 3-4 times, and then the greens are ready to use.
Stay tuned for more recipes that make delicious use of these under-appreciated leafy greens!
If you only learn how to make one thing in the kitchen, this should probably be it. There’s nothing like a crispy, juicy bird right out of the oven. If you’re anything like us, you’ll be fighting every instinct to savagely claw into the thing and devour it down to the bones before it ever sees a plate.
But roasting a chicken to perfection may seem like an intimidating and time-consuming task. Why not just reach for the grocery store rotisserie birds and call it dinner?
A) Roasting a chicken is ridiculously easy. Really, really, stupidly easy.
B) When you eat those store birds, do you really know what you’re consuming?
Some of them are time-stamped, so at least you know how many hours it’s been sitting there under the heat lamp. Some of them. But do the stamps contain any info about whether the bird was raised in a factory farm? Was it fed antibiotics? Or genetically engineered grains, like corn and soybeans? Was it exposed to arsenic? Was it gobbling down pesticides its entire life? Or did it enjoy an idyllic existence of chasing down and chomping on insects in an open field?
Roasting your own chicken puts you in charge. Find a quality bird from a source you trust. Then follow these simple instructions and sit back as your magic oven gnomes perform a miracle and dish you up some perfectly roasted yummy yardbird!
Perfectly Roasted Whole Chicken*
Active Time: 10 mins of prep
Total Time: 1 hr.
1 whole organic chicken
generous, heaping amounts of:
sea salt of choice
ground thyme (optional)
any other herbs or spices you desire
Make sure chicken is removed from the fridge at least 30 minutes prior to cooking. (If you cook a cold bird it will be pink and chewy next to the bone.)
Preheat oven to 450.
Remove the giblets from the cavity of the bird (if your butcher includes them)
Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and place in your Dutch oven or roasting pan (we sometimes use the cast-iron skillet and it works great!) Getting the skin really dry here is what is going to give it that perfect crisp when it comes out.
Rub salt, pepper and herbs over every portion of the skin. Be very generous and really try to coat the thing in spices.
Place it in the oven, breast down, for exactly 60 minutes.
And that’s it. Seriously.
The oven does all the work and it comes out looking like this, every time. No basting, no checking every ten minutes, no thermometers.
The keys here are using a room-temperature bird, getting the skin really dry, and being generous with the spices. Do these three things and the skin will crisp up perfectly, the bird will cook all the way through, and the meat will fall off the bone and swim in its own juices. (Which you’re going to want to use for dipping the meat into. MMMmmm.)
Speaking of bones… you’re not done with them. Throw them into a pot for bone broth. (Stay tuned for our broth recipe). Add whatever juices are left (assuming you haven’t dipped them dry) to the broth and enjoy an extremely nutritious, gut-healing, brain-soothing hot drink!
*This recipe is basically cribbed from renowned chef, Thomas Keller. The only thing he recommends, which we leave out, is to truss the bird before it goes in the oven. We’ve found it comes out just as good without the trussing, and makes it one step simpler.
Let us know how your chicken turned out in the comments below!
Go look at your favorite bottle of store-bought salad dressing. I can guarantee you the words “canola oil” or “soybean oil” occur somewhere on the label. Perhaps even some chemical additives and a heaping dose of sugar to mask the awfulness of the vegetable oils. Yuck.
It’s a crying shame, but if you want delicious, high-quality salad dressing with no funky business in it, you’re making it at home.
Thank goodness you’ve stumbled on this one!
Nothing but real food ingredients? Check.
The freshness of the dill, the tartness of the lemon, and the thick, buttery texture of this vinaigrette combine to make something magical. It’s easy to make, and you can enjoy it over roasted veggies, drizzled over a nice piece of salmon, or on a salad, of course.
(We used it on some roasted broccoli and it eclipsed pretty much everything else on the plate. When does that ever happen with broccoli??)
Yields approx. 1 cup.
Active Time: 10 minutes, Total Time: 10 minutes
¼ cup fresh dill
¼ cup white wine vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 small shallots
2 teaspoons brown mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Coarsely chop dill and shallots. Combine all ingredients and puree with immersion blender or in food processor.
Not quite so easy way (i.e., if you don’t have an immersion blender or food processor):
Mince dill and shallots. Combine all ingredients other than oil. Emulsification is key to getting the thick and creamy texture, so you’re going to need to whisk vigorously as you add oil in slowly. Start with a few drops of oil, and work up to a small stream. You can’t add the oil too slow, but you can easily add it too quickly, so err on the side of caution. You’ll see it start to thicken up, when this happens, it’s OK to add the oil a little more quickly. Continuously whisk the entire time until dressing is emulsified and smooth. Emulsification is tricky, and can take some practice. Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t set up—it’ll still taste fantastic!
(Hint: if you plan on making your own dressings and mayos, make an immersion blender your next kitchen-related purchase. You won’t regret it. You can find a decent one for $50-$90 and you will use it for a lifetime!)
Keep the dressing in the fridge. It tastes best after a day or so, but can be used immediately. Theoretically it should last a week refrigerated, but we’ve actually never found out, since it gets poured on everything! Seriously.
You probably hated eating Brussels sprouts when you were a kid. Same here. They were stinky and spongy and tasted pretty much what we imagined plant poop might taste like. And, according to any number of “Least Favorite Veggie” polls, we cling to this opinion as adults; Brussels always make the top five, at least.
Of course, that’s because they are never cooked right.
Well, we’re here to fix that. Once you try this dish, you’re not even going to believe these crispy little crucifers are even the same vegetable. And no, it’s not just the bacon that’s rescuing them (though we’re hard pressed to think of many things bacon doesn’t make better.) The caramelized texture on the outside with a little al dente bite of the bud itself make for a side dish that just might eclipse whatever main you’re serving.
We could add something here, too, about all the lovely Vitamin C, K and folic acid you’ll be getting by eating these guys, or tout the anti-oxidizing, anti-inflammatory and even anti-cancerous benefits that have been researched on these bite-sized little buds, but let’s be honest: it’s the flavor of this dish that’s going to bring you back, time and again. Just know, somewhere in the back of your mind: your body loves them.
Now your mouth will, too.
(And, please, if you have kids, stop punishing them with the plant poop version and make them this instead, and watch as they are converted to Brussels-lovers for life!)
6 oz. Thick-cut bacon (all natural, nitrate & BS free), sliced in 1/2″ strips
2 Medium Shallots
First, slice Brussels in half. The whole trick to this recipe is getting the Brussels all cut-side down in a single layer in the pan. So after you cut your Brussels, pull out your skillet, figure out how many cups you can put in at a time and determine how many batches you will need to do. Trust us, it’s much easier to do this now without boiling hot bacon grease in the pan!
Slice bacon in 1/2″ strips. While a large skillet is preheating on the stove at medium, separate bacon the pieces of bacon so they aren’t stuck together.
When skillet is hot, add in bacon and stir to continue separating the pieces. Get bacon into one layer and stir occasionally to make sure bacon cooks evenly, 4-5 minutes.
When bacon is beginning to get golden brown, but not fully done, add in shallots and turn heat up to medium high. Stir regularly to keep shallots from overcooking, 3-4 minutes.
When shallots are soft and caramelized, remove from heat. Tilt pan and scrap the bacon and shallots to the top of the pan, allowing the bacon grease to drain away. (Prop your pan up on a lid or cool burner if you need an extra hand.) Scoop bacon/shallots into a large glass or metal bowl and set aside.
Drain off and reserve bacon grease proportional to the number of batches you will be doing (e.g., 1/2 for 2 batches… 2/3 for 3 batches, etc.)
Return skillet to burner on medium high, and add first batch of Brussels. Stir to coat, then, using 2 utensils (I use a fork and wooden spoon), turn all Brussels cut-side down.
Allow to cook untouched 3 minutes, and turn one over in the center of the skillet to check caramelization progress. Flip it back down if not done and check in another minute.
When you have a golden brown and crispy Brussels, stir the whole pan. Stir occasionally for the next 4-5 minutes until the Brussels are crisp out and al dente in. Remove cooked Brussels to same bowl as the bacon/shallots. (Under cooking the first batches slightly, as they will continue to cook during the next batch!)
Add reserved bacon grease and repeat until all batches are done. Return everything to the pan, stir to mix and reheat. Serve immediately.
1) To repeat, the whole trick is all Brussels cut-side down in one layer!!! They can’t caramelize if they aren’t touching the pan!!!
2) If you are in a rush, you can skip cutting the bacon while raw. Fry the bacon whole, remove from pan. Cook shallots in the grease. Cut bacon into strips when cooled. However, we find that the bacon renders so much more fat when pre-cut (we’d love for someone to explain the science on that one!), so you may need to have a little extra bacon grease (or butter) handy finish off all your batches.