The Awkward Olive Does Lunch: Autumn coleslaw and how to make a dressing without a recipe

Last month, one of my best friends got married in Hood River. The day after the wedding a bunch of us gathered for a communal cooking/ pot-luck style dinner on the porch of one of the houses we had rented for the weekend. We chatted, the laughed, we ate, we reminisced, we ate some more.  It was amazing to be able to spend some quality time with some of my closest friends, and it was also really inspiring to see what everyone was cooking.  I know I tend to get stuck in a food rut, always going back to my go-to salads and quinoa dishes, so it was really fun to see what some of my friends had in their culinary repertoire. And the thing I took away with me was this amazing fall slaw.  It’s the perfect transitional salad for this time of year. Cabbage and apples are starting to come into their prime, cooler days (we are going to get those soon, right?) crunchy textures, bright colors… it seems to be the epitome of Autumn in a bowl. the

Feasting

Feasting

IMG_4436

The sum of our efforts

The sum of our efforts

I’m kind of a sucker for good coleslaw… that being said, I almost never ever made coleslaw because I was a little daunted by the dressing. I know, its a lame excuse, but I’m not a huge follower of recipes, I don’t really like to measure, and since I didn’t have a go-to coleslaw dressing stashed away in my culinary knowledge, making coleslaw at home just felt a little in-accessible. I’m kind of a no-muss no-fuss salad dressing type of gal… a little fresh olive oil, a splash of balsamic, a little salt, maybe some fresh herbs… on rare occasions I will actually put these things in a jar with a little bit of stone ground mustard and actually “prepare” a dressing… but for the most part, I just drizzle the ingredients directly on the salad and consume. I’ve always felt that when you use high quality ingrediants they speak for themselves, and while I love the idea of “fancy” dressings with names like green goddess and roasted corn husk vinaigrette, I typically stick with the clean and simple flavors of olive oil and vinegar.  So being faced with task of pre-making a coleslaw dressing felt somehow hard… boy was I wrong.

I did a little bit of research AKA looked on pinterest to see what other people where putting in coleslaw dressing… some of it sounded interesting, some of it sounded unnecessary, and after about five minutes, I had a new found feeling of coleslaw confidence. “Oh… I can totally make this.”  So I headed off to the kitchen.  Per my usual style, I eye-balled everything, guessed on proportions, and was pleasantly surprised by how it tasted. Dressing success! Until, of course, I remembered that its a little hard to blog a recipe that isn’t actually a recipe.  Though I’m sure some people out there appreciate the “a little of this, a little of that” method to making things in the kitchen, I know it drives other people nuts… But I’ll try to meet you somewhere in the middle.

How to make coleslaw dressing without a recipe.
  • apple cider vinegar ( about 2 TBS)
  • greek yogurt (1 heaping spoonful) 
  • poppyseeds (a sprinkling)
    olive oil (a small drizzle) 
  • honey ( best guess is 1 TBS?) 
Put in a jar, shake it all around until the honey is incorporated. Refrigerate.  Put over slaw & serve.   If you like, you can add in chia seeds instead of or along with the poppyseeds. If your dressing feels too thin, the chia seeds will help, because they become a little gelatinous as they expand… also they are super amazingly good for you, so why not add them?
Notice I didn’t give you  firm amounts for anything… because really you can make coleslaw for 1 or you can make coleslaw for the masses.  Use your best judgement.  This amount of dressing usually is enough for me to make 2 GIANT servings of coleslaw (imagine if coleslaw were a dinner salad instead of a side. )   I like to pair this dressing with a simple, 3 ingredient slaw. It’s perfect for an easy lunch, its quick, easy, and delicious.

Autumn Coleslaw

Autumn Coleslaw

Simple Autumn Slaw
Chop desired amount of cabbage, top with cut up apple & toasted almonds. Dress, and eat!

Purple Cabbage

Purple Cabbage

Honeycrisp Apples from the local Farmer's Market.

Honeycrisp Apples from the local Farmer’s Market.

oven roasted almonds

oven roasted almonds

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The Awkward Olive Does Lunch: the joy of déjeuner. Easy orzo salad with smoked salmon and lemon

Awkward Olive Does Lunch: The joy of déjeuner.

Awkward Olive Does Lunch: The joy of déjeuner.

 

When I first announced that I was changing jobs one of my friends asked me “Does this mean that you are going to have more of a fashion focus on your blog?” To which I kind of had to laugh a little bit. Though my life is definitely headed in a more fashion forward direction, I realized that now I have a lot more time to cook for myself at home, and also cooking is going to become much more of a necessity. Gone are the days of eating anywhere between 5-10 meals at Red Hills Market, gone are the days of “oh I didn’t have time to get groceries, I’ll just go to work 30 minutes early and grab a bite.” Instead, I’m embracing the brown bag lunch mentality.

Though I’m sure my daily social media outlets are going to shift a little more towards fashion and a little less on food, I feel as though my blogging efforts might swing the other way, as cooking at home and feeding myself are suddenly a much larger part of my daily routine.  Also with gardening season just getting underway, and the start of the local Farmer’s Market in a few short weeks, I’ve decided to add a monthly or perhaps bi-weekly installment on the blog entitled “The Awkward Olive Does Lunch: the joy of déjeuner”  which will explore some of my lunch making and packing adventures, and hopefully be inspiring to those of you packing your own lunches from time to time.  Because let’s face it, sometimes lunch requires a little inspiration…

This past weekend I accidentally spent my entire grocery budget for the week on Quin candy.  Le Sigh. #sorrynotsorry  I’ve been savoring the cherry cola gumdrops all week, trying to convince myself that living off  of candy and water seems like a kind of magical lifestyle choice. (not really… but kind of really. )  So as I was planning out my lunches for the week I had to turn to my pantry and get a little creative.

All the Gumdrops and Dreams come Chew

All the Gumdrops and Dreams come Chew

Stopped into Sprinklefingers to stock up on all the Quin Candy Goodness

Stopped into Sprinklefingers to stock up on all the Quin Candy Goodness

This time of year I start to crave bright flavors like asparagus and lemon, simple sauces, and satisfying dishes that are a little on the lighter side. The weather last week was mostly beautiful, and I found myself eating breakfast, and sometimes lunch and dinner out on the back patio soaking up little bits of Spring. My herb garden is starting to come alive, and right now the chives are really prolific, so as I was riffling through the pantry trying to come up with a make-ahead, packable, last me all week dish that didn’t require a trip to the grocery store (which I think will be a re-occurring theme on  AODL) I was trying to be inspired by the light and bright flavors that I’ve been craving.

The Chives, going nuts

The Chives, going nuts

 

The Answer: Easy orzo salad with  smoked salmon and lemon.

 

Ingredients:

  •  Orzo pasta
  • 1  6 oz can of smoked salmon
  • 1 bunch of fresh chives
  • 1 lemon (for zest and juice)
  • Crème Fraiche
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Optional : Jacobsen Salt Co. Lemon Zest Salt.

 

  • Cook the Orzo according to package directions. I never measure Orzo, just eyeball how big of a salad you want to make, and call it a day.
  • While the pasta is cooking, wash and dice the chives and then put them in a large mixing bowl with the salmon.
  • Zest the lemon, and place the zest in a small bowl.   Juice ½ of the lemon and set juice aside.
  • When the orzo has reached it’s desired done-ness, strain and rinse with cold water.  Give it a light drizzling of olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking together, and continue to let cool.  Once the pasta has thoroughly cooled  add it to the bowl with the chives and salmon, and add in the lemon juice.
  • Add 1-2  large spoonful’s of crème fraiche to the lemon zest and mix together before incorporating in with the rest of the salad.  Add olive oil, and salt and pepper and mix together.
  • Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to let the flavors meld.
  • When ready to serve, or when packing for a lunch, add a light drizzling of olive oil, a dollop  of plane crème fraiche, and a sprinkling of  the lemon zest salt.
orzo salad with smoked salmon and lemon

orzo salad with smoked salmon and lemon

This salad was everything that I was craving last week.  The crème fraiche was a wonderful addition, because it added a little je ne sais quoi  to the salad without making it too heavy.  (I realize that you might not have a tub of crème fraiche sitting in the fridge… but this time of year you should! Its full fat dairy at its finest. You could also probably make the salad without it, but as I said, it’s the je ne sais quoi factor) The lemon and the chive pair beautifully, and the smoked salmon adds a bit of protein and healthy fat to keep you satiated throughout the day. It was the perfect packable lunch salad, and one I’ll definitely make again.

Also, as a side note, the Lemon Zest Salt from Jacobsen Salt Co. was pretty much made for this dish. I have it listed as an optional ingredient, but  do yourself a favor, and seriously consider it a secret ingredient for success.

Jacobsen Salt Lemon Zest

 

 

 

Roasted Beet Risotto, a shout out to chèvre, and some potentially awkward typos.

I’ve been really into beets lately. And by lately, I mean my entire adulthood… as a child, not so much… (for unknown reasons my mom tried to feed me canned beets as a kid… definitely not the first exposure any child should have of this amazing root nugget.  Thankfully that is one of the picky eating things that I did outgrow…anyway.. )  Wednesday evening I was killing some time before heading off to yoga, and stumbled across this absolutely gorgeous cake from Local Milk.  Um, beets? Red Velvet? Chevre thyme frosting. SIGN ME UP!  Even though I still had to teach a yoga class, and even though I was looking at a trip to the grocery, an hour to roast the beets, and then making a cake from scratch, I could not be deterred.  (I should probably note that I accidentally took a nap in the afternoon… so I was feeling a little extra motivated.)

The cake was just as amazing as I expected, and you should all go out of your way to make it, or find someone who likes making cake and have them make it for you! Overall it wasn’t complicated, though a few aspects of the recipe didn’t work entirely the way I thought it would, mostly the part about reducing the beet puree,. Somehow I ended up with about 3 cups of beet puree rather than ¼ of a cup… I could have just put more in the cake batter, but was un-sure…. I mean I can improvise on most any recipe, but baking is one of those tricky ratio things, and I wasn’t going through all the trouble of making a late night cake from scratch just to screw it up!  So this left me with about 2 cups of roasted pureed beets… what’s a girl to do?

Also, before I go on about what I did with the beets, can I just say that chevre thyme frosting is a game changer. For reals.  Move over cream cheese frosting, there is a new star in town.  When I followed the recipe it was a little too thick to drizzle, so I did add a little bit of Meyer lemon juice. Perfection.

Tonight after I got home from work, I was hanging with the dog and trying to come up with some inspiration for dinner, and then I remembered the container of beet puree in my fridge. It was just begging to be a risotto, and after a few moments of flopping around and motivating myself to head out to the store for Arborio rice, I decided on a game plan. (note to self. If you mis-spell Arborio spellcheck will ask if you meant to spell abortion. It’s probably best not to mix these two words up when you are talking about trying to  get motivated to head out and get some of said word. Especially when you are blogging about it. And since I’m not always awesome at proofreading, if I accidentally talk about abortions later, you should just assume that I’m actually talking about rice )

I will fully admit, this was one of those thrown together dinners that wasn’t exactly measured, and almost no photos were taken, but once I sat down and took a bite I sort of sighed and said “well I have to blog about this…” But let’s face it. Some of the best dinners are the ones that aren’t well photographed and well planned out…. And as I sit here and try to backtrack and write a recipe, I will just say this… go with your gut. It’s risotto… if it needs more broth, add more broth. If you want more beets, add more beets. Trust your culinary instincts… but I’m rather confident that this recipe will at least be an appropriate guideline to get you to a magically delicious dinner.  I would apologize for the lack of amazing photos, but lets be real, it was too good to stop eating and stylize things… at least I got this shot with minimal spillage and some garnish  (#sorrynotsorry)

beet risotto with chèvre and mascarpone

beet risotto with chèvre and mascarpone

Beet Risotto with Chèvre and Mascarpone     (could easily be made vegan by omitting the cheese.)

  • 1 cipolin onion, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • olive oil
  • ½ cup of white wine
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 ½ cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 cup beet puree* (can be made in advance)
  • 2 oz chevre
  • 2 large spoonfuls of mascarpone cheese.
  • parsley for garnish
  • salt to taste.

* Beet puree:

  • 2-3 medium beets.
  • ¼ cup of water.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Wash the beets, and pierce a few times with a fork.  Line a pan with foil, add the beets and about ¼ cup of water. Seal the beets with additional foil and roast in the oven for about an hour.   Use a paper towel to peel the skin off the beets (be careful not to burn yourself) and  chop into large pieces. Place beet chunks in food processor and add the liquid from the roasting foil, and perhaps another ¼ cup of water.  Process until smooth.    Set aside.  (or use some for the Red Velvet cake.)

Risotto:

Drizzle olive oil in medium pan, and begin to heat. Add the onion, garlic, and celery and begin to sauté ( about 3-5 minutes)

Add the Arborio rice to the pan and cover with the olive oil. Sauté rice a few minutes until it starts to toast. It will smell a little nutty.

Add the wine, and stir… it will be absorbed by the rice fairly quickly. Add the remaining liquid ½ cup at a time, allowing the rice to almost fully absorb the broth each time. (stir stir stir… even if you don’t know anything about risotto you probably know that it required a lot of stirring)  After the final liquid has been absorbed taste a grain of rice. If it is still pretty crunchy you might need a few more rounds of liquid.

Once the rice has gotten to the desired texture and consistency, add in the beet puree. Stir, and continue to cook for 5 minutes (continuing to stir frequently).

Before adding the cheese... it looks like pomegranates... or ground beef... I swear to god its delicious.

Before adding the cheese… it looks like pomegranates… or ground beef… I swear to god its delicious.

Add the chevre and the mascarpone cheese and a splash more of vegetable broth. Stir until the cheese is incorporated into the entire dish.

Serve immediately with a sprinkle of parsley, a drizzle of olive oil, and a little bit of finishing salt.   (you know me… Red Ridge Olio Nuovo, and Jacobsen finishing salt)

Voila, Dinner.  If your friends are a punny as mine you too will be getting text messages that read  “risotto? I’ll “beet” right over”   (no joke… this is a real like story).

Easy Appetizer: Winter Endive Bites with persimmon and pomegranate

Winter endive bites with persimmon and pomegranate

Winter endive bites with persimmon and pomegranate

Happy National Appetizer Day!  (What? Really? There is such a thing? I had no idea until Sunday night when I saw a sign announcing it at Trader Joes, but since I had already been mentally composing this blog post about my favorite go-to appetizer, I thought it was kismet.)

I’ve always thought that as an adult, one should have a go to, meal, dessert, and appetizer in his or her cooking repertoire. Ideally the dishes should be easy, tasty, and just a little bit unique…  ( Mine are: endive bites, coconut oven fried chicken, rosemary thyme sugar cookies. ) Even if you don’t cook for yourself on a regular basis, you still need to be able to have those meals you can pull together to impress a date, the in-laws, or survive a work potluck or bake-sale.  These items don’t necessarily need to be cohesive, and they most certainly don’t need to be complicated… but having these go to meal components up your sleeve will most definitely come in handy.

Tangent: You might also want to consider adding a vegan dish to your repertoire.  Because lets face it, we all have vegan friends, and they like to eat delicious things too, and though they are choosing to miss out on things like crème fraiche, you also don’t want to be the friend who serves them things that taste like cardboard because you can’t figure out something delicious and plant based to make. Fact: Cooking vegan is NOT THAT HARD… and yet I know so many people who down right panic at the idea of eliminating meat, and dairy.  Last year I had two Vegan and gluten free friends over for dinner… we had a delightful meal of black rice, raw zucchini noodles and tahini dressing with roasted vegetables…(ok, confession, I rarely cook meat a home, because it grosses me out, and since I rarely cook it it makes me nervous… so when I’m at home I’m mostly a vegetarian… so I’m allowed to go off about how vegan cooking isn’t that hard… because  if you take eggs and cheese out of my diet… I pretty much live in a land of quinoa and roasted veggies…) and as we sat there, they told me about all the dinner party horror stories they had from people who just couldn’t quite get a grip on vegan cooking. Here is a hint… just because you are limiting your ingredients does not mean you have to limit the flavor.  Plants are delicious, seasonal plants are even more delicious… you can still use things like salt, and spices, seeds and a myriad of other things to make your food taste awesome.

Also, to all my vegan friends out there. Don’t freak out when you cook for non-vegan people. You don’t need to defend how you eat or what you made for me… and don’t sit around fretting about if I’m going to be satisfied with the meal, or if I am judging you… I will be satisfied, and I’m not judging you (and most other people probably aren’t either). Fact: you eat this way, and it satisfies you, Cooking for someone is a wonderfully nice thing, and educating someone on new ways of thinking and eating is pretty neat too. Just because I choose to eat eggs and cheese doesn’t mean I think you are crazy for choosing not to eat those things.  So just relax, keep doing what you do…

But I digress, and this IS supposed to be about appetizers.. and is, in fact, not a lecture on life skills and eating habits….  So onto Winter Endive Bites.

Here is what I love about endive bites. Everything.   They are ridiculously simple, but  seem a little bit fancy, so you kind of get extra bang for your buck. You can make them in about 5 minutes, put just about anything in them, and they act as their own cup, so they are a completely self contained nibble that works great for passed apps, or stationary h’orderves.  The endive is crunchy, so you automatically have texture built in, and the bitterness of the green is remarkably versatile.

You could come up with hundreds of different fillings to put in endive bites, but one thing to consider is texture, color, taste and overall presentation. (another favorite is roasted beets with walnuts and blue cheese… or blood oranges with fennel, parley and chévre) What I love most about this particular recipe is the marriage of sweet and savory. The persimmon has a little sweet nuttiness to it, and the pomegranate is simultaneously sweet and tart. The pistachios add some texture, and then the gremolata brings in a little zing.  There are a lot of flavors at work, but they all meld together to present this really gorgeous bite.

persimmons, cubed.

persimmons, cubed.

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Winter Endive Bites with persimmon and pomegranate 

Serves 5-6

  • 2-3 heads of endive
  • seeds from ½ of a pomegranate
  • 2 persimmons
  • 1 handful of shelled pistachios (pulsed in a food processor a few times, or lightly smashed)
  • 2-3 spoonful’s of gremolata*
  • olive oil (I recommend using a slightly fruity olive oil in this recipe. I used the 2013 olio nuovo Koroneiki olive oil from The Oregon Olive Mill… which was very ripe, and has a lot of green banana flavor. )
  •  Finishing salt to taste (obviously I use Jacobsen Sea Salt Cause it’s amazing.)
  1. Cut the bottoms off the endive and separate the leaves. Wash and dry the endive leaves and set aside.
  2. Cut the persimmon into small chunks and place in mixing bowl with pomegranate seeds and pistachio. Lightly mix together and then add 2-3 spoonful’s of gremolata. Drizzle with olive oil. Taste, and add salt as needed.
  3. Scoop the mixture into endive cups, and serve immediately.

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*Gremolata

  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced.
  • 1 bunch of parsley, chopped.
  • Mix gremolata ingredients together in small bowl and set aside.

*Gremolata is one of my new favorite things. It is great in soups, on salads, mixed in with rice, on fish… the list goes on. For this recipe, I recommend making it separately and adding it to the rest of the filling, that way you can keep the excess gremolata to garnish other dishes throughout the week.

Note. The gremolata will last a few days in the refrigerator but due to the texture of the persimmons, the fruit mixture doesn’t keep as well.

Accessorizing my oatmeal: a little healthy breakfast pizazz

I wouldn’t say that I’ve been on a health kick necessarily ( yeah, I’m still eating bacon cookies and cheese pizzas at work with some frequency) but over the last few weeks I have been trying to make a conscious effort to cook and eat healthy while at home. The green smoothies are evidence of that, and as my work days get longer, I’m realizing that the best thing I can do is set myself up for a successful day with healthy food. There are an onset of 12 hour days in my future, and I’m also training for a half marathon… IE my body needs to be fueled appropriately… ( sometimes with pizza & bacon cookies ok! )

This morning I came home from a run and was racking my brain as to what I should eat for breakfast. I was laying on the floor next to the pantry and glanced up into the shelves to see if I could get some inspiration… Quinoa? Cheerios? Toast? And then my eyes fell upon a mason jar full of oatmeal. I couldn’t even remember the last time I had oatmeal, but on this overcast morning something warm and filling sounded perfect.

I decided immediately to add a little pizazz to my breakfast, and immediatly went to my freezer and pulled out almonds, walnuts, and flax seed, blended together with a dash of cinnamon, this created a nutrient dense and delicious topping. I then took it a step further by adding in some chia seeds and coconut oil, and just a splash of agave for some sweetness. Can you say power house breakfast? Loaded with fiber, protein, omega 3s, B vitamins etc. ( ok yes, also a fair amount of fat from the coconut oil & the nuts… But it’s the good kind! ) this was just what I needed to fuel my body post run/ pre-yoga.

I might not always eat as healthfully as I should, or as healthy as I would like, but you have to start somewhere, and today I started with supercharged oatmeal.

Recipe:
( I pretty much just eyeball everything, so use your best judgement/ make to taste)

1/2 cup oatmeal prepared normally

Topping:
Small handful of walnuts
1-2 TBS golden flax seed
2 TBS sliced almonds
Cinnamon to taste
1 TBS chia seed
Spoonful of coconut oil.

Blend flax seed, walnuts & almonds together ( I used the magic bullet, but a food processor or coffee grinder would work) add in cinnamon & pulse a few more times.

Add topping to oatmeal, along with chia seeds & coconut oil.

Mix & enjoy! ( add milk or soy milk if desired)

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Little nugget of a post

Ok, bare with me readers, I’m writing this teeny tiny post from my i-phone. Just a quick update, I still don’t have a new computer ( I bought a Dyson vacuum instead… Hello grown up. But I must say it’s pretty much the best purchase I’ve ever made!) it has also been 80 degrees, and pretty much most of my spare time is being spent in the garden. Aka all my blog hours are spent outside or vacuuming… But it’s an ok thing. I promise to keep blogging, I write full blown blog posts in my head… If only they could make their way to cyber space without me actually having to type them. But be on the lookout for some gardening posts, kitchen tours, half marathon training, dinner party-ing, wonderful spring/ summer blog posts. Hang in there & I promise to write more soon! In the meantime here are some pictures… ( I hope it works posting it from this ap!)

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Snappy Tomatoes: Putting a little pep into your Monday, and a way to curb the Hangries

Here’s the thing: I got a job, and start on Friday! (more on this later) in the meantime I’ve been scrambling around trying to get my life in order with my final week of free time. Naturally I took the weekend to play play play, and spent 4 days eating, drinking, socializing, having good conversations, shopping, laughing, swapping stories, running, catching up, and hanging out as much as possible! SO fun, but I am a little exhausted. =) It really made me realize how much I miss personal connections. Yes, I have them, but blogging aside, I tend to be a really quiet and private person, and sometimes I forget how much I love that human interaction. Just being able to pick up the phone and have a random conversation, or tell a quick little “this totally made me think of you today” is probably what I miss most about being in a relationship.  Obviously, social media makes having these types of connections a little easier, I can post a picture of what I’m doing on instagram, or facebook, and people can like, comment and interact, but it’s still not the same as sharing those interactions and anecdotes one on one…

My week is of course filling up with projects… the house needs to be deep cleaned, the garage organized, there are craft projects awaiting, yoga classes to plan… but first things first, today I decided to spend most of the afternoon frolicking in the sunshine. (I did a fair amount of yard work, actually). I decided that since my free time will soon be much more limited, I was allowed to savor the afternoon, sipping on pink wine, playing with the dog, and basking in the sunshine.  Of course, at 7PM, after I had run a few errands, (and went over to my brother and sister-in-laws, to assist with some fruit tree pruning) I realized that the only thing I’ve consumed today is a bowl of cheerios, two cups of coffee, and two glasses of rosé. I’m a regular poster child for healthy eating habits over here… How does this even happen? I must have been really distracted by the sunshine, because typically if I don’t eat most of the day I get HANGRY (Angry out of hunger) and floppy, and irritated… All of these things hit me the second I walked out of the grocery store, but I think it is somewhat of a miracle that I’ve been able to last the day… Man cannot live on bread alone… but apparently this woman can survive on cereal and cheap wine?

Once the Hanger pangs set in, I zipped home, and decided to whip together one of my favorite basic comfort-food casseroles. It is quite possible I have blogged about it before, but quite frankly, it deserves at least a few posts, because it is that awesome. I give you Snappy Tomatoes:  Firstly, this dish is hilarious, and not one I would typically be drawn to. I like fresh, local, green dishes, and this is definitely not that. Not even close. It more resembles tomato soup in casserole form, and though it isn’t green, or fresh (or healthy?) sometimes you just need a quick and easy casserole.

Mixed up and ready for the oven

Mixed up and ready for the oven

 

Ready for eating!

Ready for eating!

 

The recipe is my Grandmother’s and is published in her church cookbook from North Dakota… I really cannot say enough things about these recipes… Do people still make church cookbooks? Are they still hand-typed, and filled with gems like “Vegetarian Bologna” (do we even want to know what might be in that? I stopped reading after bacon yeast.) I suppose these days we can just find recipes online, and rather than getting together with a group of ladies and comparing notes, and exchanging recipes, we just read each other’s blogs… but there is something undeniably charming about these old school recipe compilations.

Vegetarian Bologna?

Vegetarian Bologna?

 

Snappy Tomato Recipe

Snappy Tomato Recipe

 

I always use more paprika, and more onion than called for in the recipe. I also substituted  olive oil for butter, just because I was feeling extra hungry, and didn’t want to take the time to melt the butter.  I used cheddar cheese this evening, but I think cottage cheese or even ricotta cheese would be pretty delicious… the recipe is quite basic, so it’s really easy to give it your own flair.   The recipe makes just the right amount for 2-3 people (or yourself with leftovers… or not… depending on how Hangry you might be…) and is a perfect little dish for a Monday evening. Simple. Basic. And a little snappy.

Simple meals, burnt kale. It happens.

Last night my dinner was really simple. I love taking a few key ingredients, and making a completely simple and satisfying dish.  Some left over sausage, soft boiled eggs, a healthy scoop of quinoa, a handful of roasted or steamed greens, a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of salt… these are the meals I eat over and over, my basic fall back meals… They are hearty, and satisfying, and best of all they are easy.  These are the meals that I make when I get home late after teaching, and the meals that will be recycled throughout the rest of the week in some form or another. Call me bizarre but kale and quinoa are my comfort foods… (ok, ok, so is cheese… and pasta… and polenta… and a lot of other things).

From time to time  I do start to feel a little bit bad about my quinoa addiction… someone will post on my facebook wall about how Bolivian natives can no longer afford their one time staple grain because the demand here is so high… I guess you win some and you lose some…

There was going to be a photo or two to accompany this post, but I burnt the kale. I mean really super badly burnt the kale… The once green and thriving leaves were brown… way beyond kale chip, way beyond crunchy, but in a moment of desperation, I threw them on the plate anyway. I was feeling bad that my lunch consisted of a box of mac & cheese, and there was no way that something green (or at least something that had at one time been green) was going on my plate… it actually wasn’t terrible, but it definitely was not photograph-able, and sometimes that is just the way it goes.

Maybe it’s a karma thing.  I was feeling a little defeated when I came home at 8:45, a meal plan already formed in my head, and all the kale in my refrigerator was moldy. I tried for a few minutes to sort through it, maybe find something salvageable… but moldy kale is moldy kale…there were no survivors. But wouldn’t you know it, I just happen to have a raised bed full of kale in my back yard, and I was feeling rather proud of myself for having a winter vegetable supply, so I got out the flashlight and headed out into the darkness, returning with a handful of baby kale. “Look at me, I’m so resourceful, I just saved dinner!” is pretty much what I was thinking to myself as I washed the leaves, drizzled them with oil, and threw them in the oven to get crispy. And crispy they got. I was feeling superior, and on top of things, and oh, so practical… and then I burnt the crap out of the kale. At least it added some texture?  You know what they say, waste not, want not…