Potato Salad with Peas and Mint

I love to cook.  I love trying new recipes and experimenting with flavors and spices.  Before I went to college, I was sure I was going to go to culinary school.  I started working in restaurants when I turned 16.  I started out in the kitchen and thought I’d found my niche until I realized that I would never have a weekend off and I’d have to spend hours slaving in a hot kitchen and all for a measly salary because, let’s be honest, there are few out of hundreds of thousands that actually make it big.

So now my husband and friends get to reap the benefits of my cooking adventures.  Joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) has been the best decision ever for someone like me.  Each week is like an episode of “Chopped”.  What will be in my CSA box this week?  What recipe can I come up with that uses as many of the ingredients as possible?  I’m a freak, I know, but it’s fun.

This week brought us red skin potatoes, mint, goat’s milk feta, ramps, popcorn, maple syrup, spelt flour, and eggs.  I first thought of just a pea salad with mint and red onion, but then I thought about throwing the potatoes in and then topping with the feta…YUM!!  It was one of my better ideas.

Potato Salad with Peas and Mint
Adapted from this recipe I found

2 lbs redskin potatoes, chopped into bite sized pieces **It’s better if you chop the potatoes smaller, so they blend with the peas better
12 oz peas (thawed if frozen)
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
2 ramps, chopped (or substitute a shallot or onion)
2 tablespoons vinegar (I used apple cider because that’s what I had, I think red wine would be my first choice)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
Fresh cracked black pepper and kosher salt to taste

Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold, salted water.  Bring the potatoes to a boil on high, then reduce heat to medium and allow to gently boil until fork tender.  Drain potatoes.  Mix potatoes with the next 5 ingredients.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Top with crumbled feta. I like to mix everything while the potatoes are still warm so they soak up the oil and vinegar.  Serve cold or at room temperature.


Rosti Casserole with Baked Eggs

Yesterday was an exciting day.  A day I had been anticipating for weeks.  It was the start of the CSA I signed up for.  All day, all I could think about was what was going to be in that box. Most ingeniously, I received an e-mail a couple days ago letting me know what might be in the box, so at least I was somewhat prepared.  With baited anticipation, I prepared by searching through recipe books to figure out what I was going to do with turnips, a heaping pile of potatoes, and another dozen eggs I wasn’t expecting.  Fate brought me to my Cooking Light cookbook where in the first few pages I discovered a recipe for Rosti Casserole with Baked Eggs.  Turnips?  Check.  Potatoes?  Check.  Eggs?  Check.  It was a match made in heaven for this CSA box.

Rosti Casserole with Baked Eggs

1 1/4 cups fat free Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups grated, peeled turnips (2-3 small)
1 1/4 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup onion (the original recipe called for 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated whole nutmeg
2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and grated (the original recipe called for 1 30 oz package of frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed)
Cooking Spray
8 large eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine yogurt and flour in a large bowl, stirring well.  Add turnip and next 7 ingredients to yogurt mixture.  Spread potato mixture evenly into a 13 x 9 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, or until bubbly and brown around the edges.  Remove from oven.  With the back of a spoon, make 8 indentations in the top of the potato mixture.  Crack 1 egg into each of the 8 indentations.  Return dish to the oven and bake for 8 minutes, or until egg whites are firm and egg yolks barely move when the pan is touched.  Garnish with chives and additional black pepper, if desired.

My First Chicken

Today I cooked my first free range, organic chicken and it was amazing.  To be honest, before this I’ve never even cooked a whole chicken.  I followed this recipe over at Local Kitchen, with only minor adjustments.  I used fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme and just regular milk.   I even had to chop off it’s neck.  It sounds a lot worse than it was.  I honestly was gearing myself up for it the entire day before, but the chicken and I made our peace and it came off quite easily.

So the consensus?  It was good.  Really good.  The main difference was the texture of the meat and the durability of the bones.  You’re eating muscle that was actually used.  It really makes you realize how bad the other chickens must be if you can break their bones in half with your bare hands.

I wish I could show you a pretty picture of this after it was plated with an amazing cauliflower puree and delightfully rich gravy, but it was devoured within seconds of hitting the plate.  I’m surprised we even used forks.

Whole Wheat Pancakes with Mango & Blood Orange Compote


When I hear the word “compote” I think of that nasty thick fruit stuff that is usually served on pancakes.  But then again, I had a bad first experience.  I was volunteering at a pancake breakfast and my job was the apple compote server.  It was disgusting stuff.  A thick mass of congealed apple chunks and cinnamon from a huge industrial sized can and dumped into a chaffing dish.  Needless to say that after that, I was done with compote.  That is until recently when I was going through a new cookbook and saw a recipe for compote.  A picture was involved and I was intrigued.  It looked like fruit in syrup, not a congealed mess.  This is what compote is supposed to be. Fruit in a simple syrup.  Simple and delicious.

I would have loved to have added anise extract to this compote because I think it would have made it over the top awesome, but alas, I only had an empty bottle of anise extract and therefore I could not (who puts back an empty bottle of extract?).  If you try it, let me know how it goes.  Otherwise, it was pretty awesome by itself.


Mango & Blood Orange Compote

1 mango
3 blood oranges
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/8 teaspoon anise extract (optional)

With a sharp knife, cut the peel and pith from the oranges.  Working over a bowl, cut between the membranes to release the orange segments and juices into the bowl.  Dice the mango and add to the oranges.  Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Remove the syrup from the heat and add extract (if using) and pour over fruit.  Stir gently to incorporate.

Whole Wheat Pancakes

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups milk, plus more if necessary

In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and add in honey, eggs, vanilla, and milk.  Stir until all ingredients are incorporated.  Add more milk to achieve desired consistency.

Preheat a heavy-bottomed skillet or griddle over medium heat.  Spray with cooking spray.  Pour approximately 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan for each pancake.  Cook until bubbly, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Turn, and continue cooking until golden brown.  Serve topped with Mango & Blood Orange Compote.

Chicken Tomatillo Stew

I’m kind of embarrassed to post this. This is not gourmet, and really this recipe is the shortcut of all shortcuts. But sometimes the simple things are just so darn good, and this recipe is share-worthy.  So here’s the deal… the main ingredient is jarred salsa.  There, I said it.  I probably could roast tomatillos and serrano peppers, but I live in southwestern PA and it’s just not that easy to find the amount of tomatillos I would need to make this.  Just kidding, I’m just really that lazy.  Who wants to roast and peel peppers when I could just pop open a jar of salsa?  Me.  Don’t judge.

I’ve made this about a million times and this is my favorite salsa:

It’s not only the perfect balance of heat and flavor, but this is the ingredient list:  tomatillos, onions, serrano peppers, iodized salt, and cilantro.  That’s it!  No phosphorus sulfate or cfhjihfvivhid (things I can’t pronounce), so it makes me feel better about using jarred salsa.

This makes a huge batch, because we like leftovers.  You will probably want leftovers too.

Chicken Tomatillo Stew

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
5 1/2 cups salsa verde (or 3 16 oz jars)
1/2 large onion, chopped
4 -5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon oregano
Salt & Pepper
Olive oil

Cut chicken in 1 inch chunks.  Pat dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.  Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium soup pot over medium-high heat.  Working in batches, brown chicken on both sides.  Don’t worry about cooking it all the way through, only 1 -2 minutes per side, add more oil as necessary.  Set chicken aside.  Add onions to pot and saute until translucent.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 -2 minutes.  Add salsa and chicken to the pot.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Add cumin, cinnamon, and oregano.  Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.  Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.  Serve plain or over rice.

Grapefruit Salad with Spiced Pecans and Blue Cheese

So this was lunch today.  I thought about posting just the Grapefruit Vinaigrette, but really the whole thing deserves credit.

I love grapefruit.  I think grapefruit is one of those things you either love or hate, and I love it.  Since citrus season is in full effect, the fridge is chock-full of ’em.

Citrus pairs remarkably well with blue cheese.  Toss in some spicy pecans and some sweet grapefruit vinaigrette and you have the makings of an awesome salad.  I should mention that although the vinaigrette is made with grapefruit juice, it really isn’t sour.  Of course, if you want it to be more sour, up the juice or decrease the amount of honey.

P.S. – I’m also not going to tell you how much stuff to put in your salad.  I think that’s up to you.

Grapefruit Salad with Spiced Pecans and Blue Cheese

Mixed Salad Greens
Grapefruit Wedges
Blue Cheese crumbles
Spiced Pecans

Grapefruit Vinaigrette

1/2 cup grapefruit juice
1 tablespoon honey
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
1/4 cup olive oil

You can do this in a food processor, blender, or bowl.  Put the grapefruit juice and honey in the mixing container of your choice.  Mix and while processor or blender is on (or if your using a bowl, whisk furiously), slowly add olive oil and emulsify.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

For Salad:
Put mixed greens on a  plate.  Top with grapefruit wedges, blue cheese, spiced pecans, and grapefruit vinaigrette.  NOM!

Spiced Pecans

Mmmm… spiced pecans.  I like mine without all the sugary stuff and just straight spicy.  They are awesome to munch on as a snack, but usually I throw them in salads.  You can really use any nut for this recipe, pecans are just my favorite.

Spiced Pecans

1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 garlic salt
2 cups shelled pecans
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat Oven to 325 degrees.

Mix together spices in a small bowl and set aside.  In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium low heat.  Add spice mixture and cook until fragrant (no more than 1-2 minutes), stirring frequently.  Add pecans and stir until coated with spices.  Transfer pecans to baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.  Allow to cool, serve.

Oatmeal Waffles with Strawberry Jam Syrup

Sometimes on Sunday mornings, I like to make big breakfasts.  I think it makes the perfect start to a super lazy day.

Most baked good I’ve had with oatmeal as the main ingredient are heavy and dense.  That is not the case with these waffles.  These oatmeal waffles are awesome.  Crispy and brown on the outside, and super light and fluffy on the inside.  They are also extremely versatile.  Add fruit or nuts to the batter before cooking and they still come out great.  Same goes with the syrup, if strawberry isn’t your thing, any jam works great.

Oatmeal Waffles

2 eggs, separated, room temperature
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup flour (white or wheat, use wheat to keep these whole grain)
1 1/2 cups milk
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Strawberry Jam Syrup

2/3 cup seedless strawberry jam
3 tablespoons water
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat a waffle iron.  Warm jam with water, cinnamon stick, and nutmeg over low heat until warm and smooth.  Remove cinnamon stick, but keep syrup on low heat until ready to serve.  If syrup gets too click, or clumps again, just add another tablespoon of water.

Beat egg white in a small bowl until stiff, set aside.  Mix together the dry waffle ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.  Combine egg yolk, milk, melted butter, and vanilla.  Add to dry waffle ingredients, mixing only until large lumps disappear.  Fold in beaten egg white until just blended.  Do not over beat batter.

Spray the waffle iron with non stick cooking spray or brush with oil and cook waffles, keeping them warm and crisp in a low oven.  The batter should fill a 4 section iron 2 times, making 8 waffles.  Serve waffles topped with fresh fruit (optional) and drizzled with strawberry jam syrup.

Hawaiian Fried Rice

I’m not really sure if I can call this recipe Hawaiian Fried Rice, but Scallop and Pineapple Fried Rice is just too long of a name.  Besides, I forgot the egg, so I’m not even sure if I can call this fried rice, but for brevity’s sake I’m calling it Hawaiian Fried Rice.

There’s a local restaurant near me that very infrequently has a special called Hawaiian Fried Rice.  They serve it in a scooped out, halved pineapple and it is by far my favorite fried rice.  They serve it so infrequently that I can’t even remember what’s in it, except for scallops and pineapple.

This recipe pays homage to that special, and it’s pretty tasty if I do say so myself.

TIP:  It helps to have everything prepped and ready to go when making fried rice, since everything goes so fast (hence why I forgot the egg).

Hawaiian Fried Rice

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 pound sea scallops
Salt & Pepper
1/2 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 cup frozen corn (this is just what I had available, feel free to substitute peas or a vegetable medley)
1 cup pineapple, diced
6 cups cooked, cool rice (I used brown rice, but anything except for sushi rice will work)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup chopped cashews (or macadamia nuts)
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup green onions, chopped (garnish)
2 eggs, beaten (optional)

In a large saute pan or wok, heat the 2 tablespoons oil on medium high heat.  Pat the sea scallops dry with a paper towel.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sear the scallops in the hot oil,  3-5 minutes per side until cooked through.  Remove the scallops from the pan and set aside.  Add the onions, garlic and ginger to the pan.  Saute until the onion is translucent.  Add your frozen vegetables and pineapple to the pan.  Saute for 2-3 minutes, or until vegetables are warmed through.  Add the rice, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar to the pan.  Mix everything together.  At this time, if you are adding the egg, make a small well in the rice.  Pour the beaten eggs into the well and scramble the eggs.  When they are cooked, incorporate the rice into the well, mixing the eggs into the rice.  Add the cashews, raisins, and scallops (with any juices that may have collected) to your fried rice, mix everything together and saute until everything is warmed through.  Serve immediately and garnish with green onion.

Bacon and Lentil Soup

The best part of cleaning out my refrigerator?  Finding a pound of bacon I didn’t know I had.  After pondering for a few minutes about what I was going to do with my unexpected find, I had an epiphany.

I’m going to make Bacon and Lentil Soup.

This soup was the greatest idea I’ve ever had.  Not only is it just really, really good, it’s really inexpensive to make and (minus the bacon and bacon fat) good for you!

Bacon and Lentil Soup

1/2 lb bacon (about 5-6 slices)
1 large onion, chopped
3 large carrots, chopped
1 cup lentils (I used regular brown, but I’m sure green or red would be great too)
8 cups chicken broth, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
Splash of balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup green onions, chopped

Cut the bacon in strips.  In a large pot, cook the bacon over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy.  For best results, put the bacon in the cold pot and let them come up to temperature together.  Low and slow is the key to rendering bacon fat.

Transfer the crispy bacon bits to a paper towel to drain.  Drain excess fat from the pot, leaving about a tablespoon of fat in the pot.  Saute the onions and carrots over medium heat until the onions are translucent.

Add the lentils and 4 cups chicken broth.  Simmer for about 40-50 minutes until the lentils are tender.  Taste the lentils, that is the only way to tell if they are ready.  Add the remaining 4 cups of stock.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, this will vary depending on the bacon you use.  Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and the reserved bacon bits.  Simmer for an additional 10 minutes, or until soup is warmed through.  Serve with chopped green onions as garnish.