Roasted Lemon-Dill Salmon (pes, gf) and Really Easy Butternut Squash Soup (v, gf)

You know those meals that look impressive but are super easy to throw together? The hands-off, like, Williams Sonoma photo shoot, break out your all-white everything serveware at your winter home in the Swiss Alps fancy? Yeah. Those are my favorite. Here’s one to add to your arsenal.

ROASTED SALMON WITH LEMON AND DILL

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 lb salmon plank
  • 1 lemon
  • 10-15 fresh dill sprigs
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt & cracked black pepper
  • parchment paper

Directions:

On a baking dish, place the salmon on a sheet of parchment paper. The paper isn’t a must but will simplify cleanup. Generously salt and pepper the salmon. Cut the lemon in half and juice one half. Slice the other lemon half into thin, crosswise slices.

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Quickie: Shiitakes & Soba (v, gf)

Mushrooms! So tasty, so good for you. Shiitakes, specifically, are a well-known source of iron and immune-boosting properties (hear ye, hear ye, vegans and vegetarians: rich veggie iron source). The ever-popular goop recently published a piece on the health benefits of mushrooms (more on that here) and ideas on how to work them into your diet; here’s my very quick, single serving, weeknight-friendly take on their “Stir Fried Noodles with Mushrooms.” Enjoy!

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SHIITAKES & SOBA

Adapted from goop

Ingredients:

  • 1 bundle soba noodles or 1 cup cooked soba (note: soba noodles must contain ONLY buckwheat flour to be considered gluten-free) mushrooms 5
  • 1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 lb fresh shiitake mushrooms, wiped clean with a damp paper towel and sliced; Whole Foods sells an especially tasty 1/4 lb package
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1-inch chunk fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
  • 2-3 green onions, sliced
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • drizzle sesame oil
  • sesame seeds

Directions:

Cook your soba noodles according to package directions, drain, and set aside. Chop your aromatics while the noodles cook (love the word aromatics). Meanwhile, heat the coconut oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until browned, stirring to ensure they don’t stick, about 5 minutes.

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Add the ginger and garlic and cook another minute, stirring. Add the cooked noodles, green onions, soy sauce, and sesame oil, tossing to coat and heat everything through. Remove to a bowl, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and enjoy! Really tasty 10-minute dinner! The best kind!

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Shrimp “Ceviche” Salad (pes, gf)

So, it’s totally true that cooking is like working a muscle. The more you work that muscle, the easier it is to use. The less you work it, well, that muscle gets weaker. If I don’t cook on a regular basis, my culinary creative juices dry up like a sad roadside drainage ditch. Exhibit A:

ditch

so sad. so not cooking.

Who wants to eat there? Bleh. Luckily, the more often I cook, inspiration flows back like a tumbling tropical waterfall. Exhibit B:

waterfall 2

take me there? now? I’ll cook!

Much more appealing!! Do you find the same thing happens in your kitchen? It’s 100% the case in mine. Speaking of which, let’s flex those cooking muscles and talk ceviche. Typically, ceviche is a raw fish and/or shellfish dish in which the seafood had been “cooked” by citrus juices. To explain those salmonella-hazy quotation marks and to quote Chowhound, “citric acid changes the proteins in the fish, unraveling the molecules and altering their chemical and physical properties. When fish is bathed in citrus juices, this process… turns the flesh firm and opaque, as if it had been cooked with heat.”

ceviche

Since there are just two of us at home and we’re leftover-heavy on the food rotation, I opt to pre-cook my seafood when making dishes like these. It’s a safe option when keeping this stuff on hand for a few days and the classic, citrusy flavor isn’t compromised. This is a “cut it all up and stir it together” recipe- great for busy nights or when you’re trying to use up veggies in the fridge. So! Let’s get to it.

SHRIMP “CEVICHE” SALAD

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cooked, diced large 
  • 1 bell pepper, your choice of color, diced large
  • 1 large avocado, pitted and chopped into large dice
  • 1 small container grape tomatoes, halved (the tomatoes, not the container)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup cilantro, packed and finely chopped
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 3-4 tbsp olive or canola oil (taste preference here: olive oil has a distinct, earthy taste; canola is neutral)
  • 1/2-1 small red onion, small dice
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • kosher salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • honey, optional
  • optional spices, such as chili powder, cumin, oregano
  • spinach or salad green of your choice

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Party Popcorn! (veg, gf)

Brought this sweet, salty, spicy snack to a punch party last weekend. PunchPartySayWhaaa? Ya. PUNCH PARTY. A party where a very generous, very fun cocktail-minded couple serves several authentic, throw-back, boozy bowls of punch- fancy little punch cups and all.  God love ’em for doing it.

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I needed a quick recipe and wanted to use what I had in the cupboards. Hmm, can of pumpkin purée? Not exactly a crowd-pleaser…. Cat food? Better not…… Box of arborio rice? Too crunchy…. AHA! Popcorn kernels! Et voilà- a star was born. A thrifty, 5-minute party snack hit for the ages. The punch party patrons partook with pleasure. Please, prepare your own personal pot (insert When Harry Met Sally paprikash joke below).

PARTY POPCORN! EMOJI

Adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/4 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 c pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2-1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

Directions:

This recipe moves quickly, so set yourself up first. Grab a small saucepan for the glaze and a wide, lidded one for popping the popcorn. Ready a large bowl and a spatula for glazing the popcorn and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper to turn the finished product onto. In the wide pan, heat the tablespoon of canola oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the popcorn kernels and shake the pan around like a madman/woman until all kernels are popped. This will happen fast- about a minute thirty or so.

Shake, shake, shake until the popping slows down. Remove the pan from heat and dump into the large bowl. On to the glaze! Add all remaining ingredients to the small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium, stirring constantly. Boil for about a minute, then remove from heat to cool for another minute.

Pour the glaze over the popcorn in the large bowl and toss to coat with the spatula. It will be hot, so watch those delicate digits! When the popcorn is coated, spread it out onto the parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and let cool. Break up any large clumps and serve! Try not to eat the whole dish before your guests arrive…

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Cut to tomorrow (ooh! time travel)!: I highly suggest nursing your next-day case of the zings with a jazz brunch, a proper bloody Mary, and a trip to your local art museum. Worked for me, but it was also 63 degrees outside- in December. Just the way I like it!

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Aformentioned WHMS joke, as promised. Oh, Nora.

Snack Du Jour: goop’s Chai Gingerbread Detox Shake (gf, veg)

A genius post-Thanksgiving damage control shake in a facepalm seasonal flavor combo.

Adapted from goop, herself.

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sneaking in my pot of rosemary as a backdrop

CHAI GINGERBREAD DETOX SHAKE

Ingredients:chai 1

  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tbsp almond butter
  • 1-2 small scoops vanilla whey protein, optional
  • 2 cups hot, brewed chai rooibos tea OR 1 cup brewed tea if not using protein
  • 1/2 cup almond milk if not using protein

Mix dry ingredients in a blender bottle. Shake them up. Add the hot tea and almond butter and shake again. Add almond milk, if using, and shake again. Et voilà. Since I’m so proud of my rosemary, which survived an entire season in my care, please enjoy this gratuitous photo:

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HAVE A VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Quickie: My New Favorite Baked Potato (gf, veg)

Perpetual baked potato cravings have become somewhat of a thing with me. My go-to is classic: a plate-sized Yukon gold smashed with butter, kosher salt, cracked black pepper, and lots of sour cream. The winds of change had me in their grips the other day, inspiring me to mix it up. I madly added things from the fridge like a [hungry and impatient] mad scientist and chuckled when I realized that my combo was green- a Frankenstein potato!

Behold, my creation!

destiny! destiny!

destiny! destiny!

BAKED POTATO WITH AVOCADO AND GREEN ONION  

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium/large Yukon gold potato
  • butter
  • salt and pepper
  • avocado
  • sliced green onions

Bake or microwave your potato. I am a microwaver. When I want a baked potato, I want it within the next ten minutes. No judgement here for my lazy, impulsive kinsfolk. Cut in half, smash up with a fork, sprinkle with salt and crack on pepper, add a few pats of butter and smash up a little more, smash on some buttery avocado, and top with green onion. Hell of a snack.

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Butternut Squash and Kale Mash with Toasted Walnuts and Sage (gf, veg, v option)

Greetings, hungry blogosphere! Today’s post is sinfully tasty vegetarian feast and a retooled version of a recently republished Ree Drummond recipe. That Ree Drummond? The accidental country girl-slash-Pioneer Woman? Yep, that one, I luh her. I’ve subscribed to her blog for years (haven’t seen the show so I’m absolved if it’s terrible). She’s a very funny writer who cooks like a real person who feeds other real people in real situations and really loves real food. No “poached quail eggs in nests of freeze-dried seaweed” from The Pioneer Woman. Phew! “Thanks, Ree!” cried happy stomachs everywhere.

another reason I like Ree: she occasionally  punctuates her posts with cheeky pictures like this one

another reason I like Ree: she occasionally punctuates her posts with cheeky pictures like this one

The Pioneer Woman’s butternut squash and kale recipe is no exception to her practical/delicious formula. It’s simple, fast, healthy, hearty, and can be used in roughly one bajillion ways. Get a load ofof Ree’s fabulous suggestions for using the mixture: in quesadillas! stirred into risotto! in a grilled cheese sandwich! in a pita with chicken! puréed with broth to make soup! tossed with bowtie pasta, olive oil, and Parmesan! as an appetizer, on crackers with goat cheese! alone, on a plate!

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Basically, regardless of which of the bajillion ways you serve this dish, it will be delicious, so make a big pot. I added onion, sage, and walnuts to my version and we enjoyed it with turkey cutlets Dave made. He was the Marlboro Man to my Pioneer Woman as we cooked. Ree Drummond joke. NBD.

kale dinner

BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND KALE MASH WITH TOASTED WALNUTS AND SAGE

Inspired by The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients:kale 1

  • 1 12-oz bag chopped kale, or 1 head kale, roughly chopped with stalks removed
  • 1 bag cubed butternut squash or 1 butternut squash, cubed and peeled with seeds removed
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground sage
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • a few grates of fresh nutmeg
  • cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup raw walnuts

Directions:

In a deep saucepan or cast iron skillet, heat the butter and olive oil over medium. When the butter has melted and is slightly foamy, add the onion and sauté until translucent. I love this smell.

kale 2

Add the butternut squash, salt, sage, nutmeg, and chili powder and saute about 5 minutes, until all sides have had a some time with the direct heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover with a lid, steaming for 5 more minutes until the squash is soft. The steaming makes this dish a mash; if you’re looking for a more caramelized consistency, be patient and sauté until golden brown.

While the squash steams, toast the walnuts in a small nonstick skillet over medium, tossing so they don’t burn. They’re done when they’re a fragrant, toasty brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

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When the butternut squash is soft, remove the mixture to a large bowl and return the pan to the stove, turning the heat back up to medium high. Add 2 tablespoons water and bring to a simmer. Add the torn kale leaves and stir around for a few minutes, letting them wilt. If they get dry, add another tablespoon water.

When the leaves have wilted and broken down (break them! break their spirit!), stir them into the squash, tasting for seasoning and grinding in as much pepper as you’d like. Top with the toasted walnuts and serve!

Chicken Roasted with Mushrooms and Shallots & Garlic Mashed Cauliflower (gf)

We’re officially on the gluten-free express train. Our kitchen was mostly gluten-free before Dave’s diagnosis but now there’s actual gluten protocol to follow (i.e., no gluten at all en la casa). This isn’t a huge deal, as I can always scarf chewy chunks of Panera baguette in my car and continue to have glutinous adventures at work, where we eat as if it’s the last day on Earth everyday (they get me).

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The new rules have inspired creativity [when I’ve had time to cook], as evidenced in last night’s ingenious mashed cauliflower. What a great idea! Total mashed potato fake-out. Yes, potatoes are gluten-free but cauliflower is a lower GI food, has more vitamins, blah blah blah. The mashed cauliflower can be as light or as creamy and indulgent as you’d like and, as for the roasted chicken, it’s delicious and easy and everyone loves roasted chicken. That’s all the intro roasted chicken ever needs. ‘Twas a hearty, warming, comforting dinner perfect for fall.

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CHICKEN ROASTED WITH MUSHROOMS AND SHALLOTS

Adapted from the Food Network

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 chicken leg quarters, skin-on
  • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pint white mushrooms (about 12), washed well and sliced
  • 4 large shallots, quartered
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary

GARLIC MASHED CAULIFLOWER 

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets, OR 2 bags pre-cut cauliflower
  • 1 clove garlic, minced OR 4-5 cloves roasted garlic
  • 1 tbsp cream cheese, softened and/or 2 tbsp chèvre
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 3 tbsp butter, softened OR 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/8 tsp chicken bouillon or chicken base
  • cracked black pepper
  • fresh snipped chives

Directions:

Both of these recipes are pretty quick. The chicken pan roasts, then finishes in the oven; the cauliflower boils and is puréed. Facilisimo. Let’s start with the chicken and then make the cauliflower as the chicken roasts. Preheat your over to 350. In a cast iron or other oven-safe pan, heat the olive oil over medium. If you’re making cauliflower now, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken leg quarters liberally with salt and pepper and add, skin-side down, to the hot oil.

Cook for 5 minutes, letting the skin brown. Flip over and cook the backsides for 5 minutes as well. You may want to use a splatter guard, as the olive oil will be deliciously crackly and splatter-prone.

When both sides have browned, top the chicken with the sliced mushrooms, shallots, and rosemary, tucking the veggies in between the chicken pieces. Slide the pan into the hot oven and let roast for 20 minutes. Cauliflower time! If you haven’t already, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the cauliflower florets and boil for 6-8 minutes, until softened. Drain well in a colander, but don’t let the cauliflower cool off too much- you’ll use its heat to melt and disperse the cheeses and butter (mmm, melting cheeses and butter).

When the cauliflower has drained, add it to a food processor or put it back into the pot you boiled it in if you’re using an immersion blender. Add your chosen cheeses, garlic, bullion, milk, and pepper. Blend. Taste for seasonings and consistency and adjust as needed (salt, pepper, more milk, more cheese, etc.). Eat a few spoonsful and top with chives. Back to the chicken!

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photo credt: Dave Cruse

The amazing part is, your chicken is done. It will look fabulous. Remove the chicken and veggies to a platter, discarding the rosemary sprigs, and let rest for 5 minutes before serving to lock in the juices (I love saying that). Lock ’em in. Now would be the time to make a simple pan sauce or sprinkle with lemon juice, if you’d like. The dish is certainly tasty enough to not need a sauce, but it wouldn’t hurt. Pour a glass of wine (pairing recommendations here), scoop up some cauliflower, cut a piece of chicken, and enjoy.