Szechwan Noodles and Your Grocery Store

I am lucky to live within 15 minutes of two really great grocery stores that carry an array of produce and that also put said produce on sale at AH-MAZ-ING prices.  Our rule of thumb for grocery shopping is to purchase what’s on sale for .99 cents/lb (or less), and spend a total of $60 at the most.  But…if I see red peppers, cucumbers, and limes on sale, I have to splurge and get the rest of the fixings to go along with my most favorite go-to pasta meal:  Szechwan (Sichuan) Noodles from Moosewood Restaurant Favorites.  {Have I convinced you to purchase this cookbook yet?}  I keep this recipe permanently tagged in the cookbook–I can’t think of an easier, better tasting, and check-all-the-cravings dinner!

IMG_5251sezchwan noodles

The recipe itself calls for just cucumber, scallions, and bean sprouts to be added to the noodles.  But I love, love, love adding as many veggies as I can to make this dish a crispy crunchy satisfying treat of a meal.  The magic is in the spicy peanut dressing–it makes the noodles creamy, spicy, peanuty and so slurpably delicious!  Stir fry whatever veggies your grocery store has on sale this week, and then add the sauce to your noodles, throw a couple lime slices and sliced cucumber on the side, sprinkle roasted and salted peanuts on top, and you will thank the high heavens for the bowl of goodness in your hands.  And again, the next day, when you are eating leftovers for lunch.

Lest you think I am a professional with a studio kitchen of sorts, and the food and plating is all staged, I need to remind you that I am actually photographing my dinner for you.  Right after taking a few shots (or lots and lots of shots), I sit down and devour my plate of food.  I undoubtedly forget adding a few toppings here and there, and in this case, I realized I had forgotten to sprinkle roasted, salted peanuts on my dish after I had already inhaled half of the bowl.  My one suggestion:  Don’t forget your peanuts!


  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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This recipe is adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant Favorites Cookbook, with the adaptation being the addition of all the veggies!  Use whatever veggies you have on hand, the more the merrier–the yummy secret is in the spicy peanut sauce (which is straight from the cookbook, not adapted).  Most of your time will be getting your veggies prepped–they all need to be julienned to match the thickness of your noodles.  Once they are prepared, though, your cook time will be a snap.


  • 1/2 pound long noodles of choice (linguine, angel hair, soba, udon, rice, etc.)
  • 1 carrot, peeled and julienned in about 2″ sticks
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and julienned in about 2″ sticks
  • 1 cup snow peas, julienned on the diagonal
  • 1 cup broccoli florets, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup cilantro chopped well
  • 4-6 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 tablespoon Szechwan Seasoning


  • 1/3 cup peanut butter (I prefer using chunky)
  • 1/3 cup warm water (you can even use cooking water from your noodles; the warm water will help melt the p.b. and mix a smoother sauce)
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (or ponzu sauce)
  • 1 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1-3 teaspoons Sambal Oelek (Chinese Chili Paste with Garlic–you should be able to find it in any grocery store in the “Asian Aisle”.  Using less will equal less heat, using more will equal more heat.  You can add up to a tablespoon if you like lots and lots of heat!)


  • Mini cucumber, sliced thinly (or regular sized cucumber, quartered and sliced)
  • Lime quarters
  • Sprinkling of more fresh cilantro
  • Sprinkling of roasted, salted peanuts
  • Sesame seeds


  1. Boil water to cook your noodles and cook according to package directions.
  2. While the noodles are cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of sesame oil on medium-high heat in a large saute pan or stir fry pan.  Saute the julienned veggies (carrot through broccoli) with salt and pepper to taste until they are just crisp tender, not soggy.  If you have Szechwan Seasoning, add 1 tablespoon while sautéing.  If you don’t have the Szechwan Seasoning, you can add red pepper flakes for a little heat, and top with sesame seeds at the end, but otherwise the sauce will be your source of flavor.
  3. Whisk all the ingredients for the sauce.
  4. Drain the noodles and immediately stir with the sauce, cilantro, scallions, and sautéed veggies.
  5. Serve with optional toppings.


End of the World Tacos

I don’t know about you, but the first few times I cooked quinoa, it tasted like tree bark.  And not even that yummy, healthy tree bark that they make teas out of to soothe the spirit or improve 17 bodily functions.  Nope.  Despite all the rinsing and toasting and whatever-ing beforehand, it tasted like I just walked up to a rough and shaggy tree out in the middle of the woods and bit a huge chunk out of it.  And then threw it on my dinner plate.

A few years ago a friend brought us quinoa tacos for dinner and her quinoa was amazing–it tasted like fresh tomatoey, limey, tortilla-y goodness.  I asked her what her secret was and she said she just cooked it with salsa.  What??  Are you telling me the secret to cooking quinoa is with flavorful, non-barky items, instead of just the package-recommended water??  My personal preference has become cooking with red or rainbow quinoa, as they seem to have a more nutty (not bark-like) flavor.

And let me tell you I am always up for a good taco.  I’ve heard the end of the world is coming up on the 28th, so if this is one of my last meals, I’m definitely going out with a taco or two under my belt!  How about Cilantro Orange Quinoa and Black Bean Tacos with Orange Mango Guacamole?!  Most of your time will be chopping and dicing the ingredients, but once you get all the prep work out of the way, the cook time will be super fast.






cilantroorangequinoatoppingsAnd Voila:  A little orangey slice of heaven on your dinner plate.

cilantro orange quinoa feast 1cilantro orange quinoa close up 1


  • Servings: 4-6 (1 cup of quinoa goes a LONG way, this recipe uses just 1/2 cup still cooks up a mountain)
  • Difficulty: taco easy
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  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 to 1 whole jalapeño pepper (depending on the heat you like), seeds and ribs removed, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup rainbow or red quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • Juice from the same orange, and enough water added to equal 1 1/4 cups total
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • tortillas (If they are small, plan 3-4 per person, for large tortillas, plan 2)
  • Optional toppings:  Sliced cabbage, radishes, sliced red or green pepper


  • 2 avocados, smashed
  • juice and zest of 1 orange
  • 1/2 mango, finely diced
  • 1 tomato, finely diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and finely diced
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped


  1. Coat the bottom of a medium pot with olive oil and heat to medium.  Saute the onion, garlic, and jalapeño until the onion is soft and translucent.  Add the quinoa and saute until it is dry and slightly toasty.  Add the orange stock, zest, and cilantro.  Let come to a boil and then turn down the heat to low and cover the pot.  Let simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the stock has been absorbed and the quinoa is cooked through.  You’ll know the quinoa is done when the seed has turned sort of translucent.
  2. When the quinoa is done cooking, turn off the heat, add the black beans and stir.  Cover and let rest while you are preparing the guacamole, and it’ll be perfectly fluffy.
  3.   Gently stir all the guacamole ingredients in a large bowl.  You can also slice up any additional toppings at this point, and heat up your tortillas.  I prefer corn tortillas, but you can also use whole wheat or whatever you have on hand.  If you use corn, note they are more delicate than the regular flour tortillas, so you will have to either double wrap warm tortillas, or make them a little more sturdy by heating and toasting them in a little oil in a saute pan.

Where’s the beef?!

Fire up your grill one more time before it gets too cold–Smoky charred grill marks are for more than just summer burger cookouts!  When I was grilling the polenta and eggplant for this dinner a few nights ago, our neighbor’s dog wandered over.  “Oh, sorry!  He’s just sniffing around for any hot dog remains!”  My neighbor called out.  “Well, he’ll have to keep on looking!”  I called back.  Poor little dog, we didn’t have any hot dogs or leftovers to share from this delicious meal!  I don’t think you will, either, after this pairing:  Creamy polenta grilled crispy, smoky, and charred; grilled egg plant, rich and mellow; chunky citrus Mediterranean tapenade, briny and lemony–definitely a combination worth devouring entirely (and not throwing into a plastic container to reheat in the microwave the next day for lunch).

grilled polenta 3

Take 30 minutes at the beginning of your day to make the creamy polenta, pour it into a square cake pan and let cool.  These huge polenta squares will feed 4 starving friends and family, or you could cut each square into fourths and feed a party, or you can use two squares for this meal and save two squares to pan fry for dinner another night (yes, that’s a foreshadow for another meal to come…)  grilled polenta

I use a charcoal grill, so it takes about 30 minutes to get the coals to the optimum heat.  So that’s a simple multi-tasking solution:  while the coals are doing their thing, slice the eggplant and sprinkle with salt and place in a colander to drain for about 30 minutes.  Sprinkling with salt and letting the extra liquid drain takes care of any bitterness the eggplant inherently has.  After draining, lay on a paper towel and dab away the extra liquid before putting on the grill.

grilled polenta eggplant

While the eggplant is draining, roughly chop your tapenade ingredients.  A tapenade usually consists of very finely chopped or pureed olives, capers, and anchovies.  With my chunky-citrusy-parsley-tomato-olive-artichoke-hearts-roasted-red-pepper-and-no-anchovy mix, I guess I’m loosely interpreting my “tapenade” topper, but it works.

grilled polenta tapenadeOnce everything is stirred together and grilled up, sit down at your favorite picnic table and enjoy!

grilled polenta 1 grilled polenta 2 grilled polenta 4


  • Servings: 4 large or 16 small portions
  • Difficulty: medium, for time expenditure
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  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1 cup half and half (omit and just use water if you wish to make this vegan)
  • 4-5 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons butter (substitute vegan butter)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (substitute nutritional yeast flakes)
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • 1 eggplant, sliced in 1/2 inch rounds
  • 1 6.5 oz jar of marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1 roasted red pepper, roughly chopped (I used two large slabs from a jar)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced


  1. Grease an 8×8 square cake pan and line with a strip of parchment paper, 4-5″ in width and 12-15″ in length (this will help you pull out the polenta when it’s cooled).
  2. For the polenta, heat three cups of water to boiling in a medium pot.  While waiting for the water to boil, stir together 1 cup of polenta and 1 cup of half and half (or water) and 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.  When the water is boiling, whisk int he polenta/half and half mixture and immediately turn the heat down to low.  Over the next 20-30 minutes, continuously whisk the polenta and add water, half a cup at a time (similar to risotto), until it pulls away from the sides of the pot.  It seems like the polenta will be done cooking within 5-10 minutes, but the texture totally changes to be super creamy if you take the extra time.  Turn off the heat and add the butter and parmesan cheese (or yeast flakes).  Pour into the prepared cake pan, cover with saran wrap (so a skin won’t form on top), and let cool, at least one hour.
  3. Prepare your grill if you are using an outdoor grill that needs time to heat up.  If you are using a small pan grill, you can heat that up after preparing the tapenade ingredients.
  4. Prepare the eggplant slices by sprinkling generously with salt and setting in a colander in a clean sink.  Let them drain any extra liquid for 20-30 minutes.  Remove from colander and place on a work surface covered with a couple layers of paper towels.  Dab with more paper towels to remove extra moisture on top.
  5. Add all the tapenade ingredients (the marinated artichoke hearts through the lemon zest and juice) in a large bowl, also add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Prepare the polenta and eggplant to go on the grill.  Pull the polenta out of the pan and place on a cutting board.  Cut into four large squares (even if you are going to cut smaller later for smaller portions, it’ll be easier to have large squares on the grill), and oil well so it won’t stick on the grill.  Place eggplant rounds on a large plate, oil liberally and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  If you have enough room, grill the polenta and eggplant at the same time until golden on one side, flip, and grill the other side until golden.
  7. To serve, stack polenta square, eggplant round, then a few spoonfuls of the tapenade.  If you are cutting the squares into smaller portions, cut the eggplant rounds into fourths.

Noodles with Red Lentil Curry

red lentil curry ingredients


red lentil curry intro

This is it.  This is the perfect recipe to use up the last zucchini your garden may be giving you, as well as add a little curry heat to warm you up in the cool evenings.  I adapted this recipe  from Forks Over Knives–a super simple and super delicious two-pot meal (one for the curry, and one for the noodles)!

Just saute your veggies, add the lentils and curry, saute a bit more…

red lentil curry 1

Then add your greens and stock and let simmer for about 20 minutes, and voila!

red lentil curry 2

The recipe calls for spinach, but I had swiss chard on hand, so I used that.  In the past I’ve also used the green power mix from Costco.  I know this looks like a lot of greens, but they’ll cook down.  I’ve also used whatever pasta I had on hand–fettuccine, angel hair, or even short pastas.  This particular time I actually used what the recipe called for–brown rice noodles.  Adding lemon zest makes all your food dreams come true–it’s just the right amount of zip to brighten whatever you’re making.

red lentil curry 3 red lentil curry 4Using red lentils also makes me think the lentil sauce is going to be this appealing orange color, but probably due to the greens, the lentils don’t retain their orange color.  Feel free to use green or brown lentils if that’s what you have on your shelf.  Chef Sroufe notes in his recipe that red lentils cook quickly, have more flavor, and end up with a creamier texture, but I am no respecter of lentils, and they all cook within 20 minutes, so I think it’s personal preference (and pantry availability).


  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Forks Over Knives Cookbook


  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup lentils (red, green, or brown)
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder (you can add more if you want a bit more heat)
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 3-4 cups vegetable stock
  • 6 cups packed dark greens (spinach, swiss chard, kale, or a mixture)
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon, and a second lemon sectioned and served with bowls
  • 1 pound rice noodles or 1/2 pound of “normal” pasta (angel hair, fettuccine, or short pasta)


  1. Saute the onion and zucchini over medium to medium-high heat in a large pot.  Add a little salt and pepper to help sweat the onion and zucchini.
  2. Once onion is translucent, add the lentils, curry powder, and sesame seeds and stir until you can smell the curry.  Add 3 cups of vegetable stock and the greens.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and let simmer until the lentils are done (soft but not mushy), about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  You may need to add up to one more cup of stock during this process, to make it a little saucier.  Oh yeah.
  3. While the lentil curry is simmering, prepare the noodles according to package directions.
  4. When the curry is done, stir in the lemon juice.  Serve in bowls topped with lemon zest and lemon sections on the side.

Tomato Tart in a Little Green Dress

tomato pesto tart ingredients copy

How I ended up in Italy 3 weeks after graduating from high school is a long story.  The biggest part probably being the amazingly gracious family friends that agreed to host this lost girl who thought she would find herself amongst the cobblestoned streets and olive oil-scented air.  While the rest of my graduating class was living up the last summer of teenage “freedom” before starting college, I was working as a nanny for an Italian family in a small riverfront town.  While the mom of the family I worked for was not the typical Italian mama (no flour-dusted embrace, tomato-stained apron, hands waving “Mangia!  Mangia!” (Eat!) ), the upstairs neighbor was.  She made homemade gnocchi and pesto and tomato sauce, and brought it all down for the blonde American to taste.

I was probably the only person on earth, in Italy, who did not like olives, prosciutto, and pesto.  All that homemade green golden goodness just upstairs from me–and I took one taste of pesto and thought it was…thick.  I’m not sure how else to describe it!  It was a totally new flavor, and I simply did not like it.  Silly American.

My palate has grown up since that summer oh so many years ago, and I have to say pesto is now one of my most favorite ways to dress up any meal.  Seriously.  It’s like the little black dress of condiments…Little green dress.  You thought salmon wrapped in puff pastry was good?  Try spreading some pesto on the salmon before wrapping it up, and you can now charge your guests $10 more per plate.  A spoonful of pesto will make your Minestrone soup sing.

Put a little green dress on a tomato tart, and you will instantly become the belle of the ball.  I have brought this Tomato Pesto Tart to numerous get-togethers and brunches, and it has always disappeared within the first 60 seconds, and I have had to recite the recipe from memory to countless tomato-pesto-tart-wanna-be-makers.  And now, the secret is yours!

The key to a flaky whole wheat pie crust is keeping your refrigerated fats cold and your ice water ice cold.  When you use your hands to pull the pie dough together, you are going to knead it just enough, so the heat from your hands doesn’t heat up the butter and shortening.  You want to see “butter lumps” like this in your dough, then you know it’ll be extra flaky and crispy for your tart.  Gently fit it into your tart pan and get it ready to blind bake.  You can use a tart pan with the removable bottom, but I wanted to use this white porcelain one (mainly for aesthetic purposes).tomato pesto tart dough tomato pesto tart shell 2 tomato pesto tart shell 1

While your tart shell is blind baking, just whip up the rest of your ingredients–fresh garden tomatoes, your favorite pesto, fontina cheese, a little plain yogurt (or sour cream, or vegan mayonnaise) and then bake again until it all gets melty and your kitchen smells like a small corner of Italy.

tomato pesto tart tomatoes

tomato pesto tart 1

Serve with a little side salad and your dinner will be of the amazing-rave-to-all-your-neighbors sort.

tomato pesto tart 3

tomato pesto tart 4tomato pesto tart


  • Servings: makes one 8-10 inch tart
  • Difficulty: easy if you've made pie crust before; medium if it's your first time making pie crust, as it adds another element to the recipe
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(This recipe will make a double pie crust; for the tart, I just cut it in half)

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons ( 1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening
  • 8-10 tablespoons ice water


  • 1 cup fontina cheese, finely shredded and divided in half (you can substitute mozzarella)
  • 3 medium tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt (or sour cream, or vegan mayonnaise)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons pesto
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2-3 fresh basil leaves, julienned


  1. Start with the pie crust.  Place flours, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and mix well.  Dice the cold butter and add with the shortening to the flour mix.  Cut in with a pastry cutter until pea-size.  Add 4 tablespoons of ice water to the dough and stir with a spoon until it starts to stick together.  Add 4-6 more tablespoons until most of the dough is a ball.  Dump out on a floured surface and knead just until the dough forms into a ball.  Flatten into a disc, wrap in wax paper, and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425.  Roll out the pie dough on a floured surface into a 12-inch circle.  Fit the dough into an 8-10 inch tart pan and prick the bottom with a fork.  Fit a large piece of parchment paper into the pie shell and fill with beans or pie weights.  Blind bake for 8-10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes and let rest on a paper towel to absorb extra liquid.  Stir together half of the shredded fontina cheese, yogurt, parmesan cheese, pesto and pepper.
  4. When the tart shell is done baking, sprinkle with the remaining shredded fontina cheese and let stand for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted.
  5. Arrange the tomato slices over the cheese. Spread the pesto yogurt cheese mixture over the tomato slices, leaving a 1″ border around the edge.  Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese is golden.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  Sprinkle with fresh basil before serving.

Classic Basil Pesto

How I ended up in Italy 3 weeks after graduating from high school is a long story.  The biggest part probably being the amazingly gracious family friends that agreed to host this lost girl who thought she would find herself amongst the cobblestoned streets and olive oil-scented air.  While the rest of my graduating class was living up the last summer of teenage “freedom” before starting college, I was working as a nanny for an Italian family in a small riverfront town.  While the mom of the family I worked for was not the typical Italian mama (no flour-dusted embrace, tomato-stained apron, hands waving “Mangia!  Mangia!” (Eat!) ), the upstairs neighbor was.  She made homemade gnocchi and pesto and tomato sauce, and brought it all down for the blonde American to taste.

I was probably the only person on earth, in Italy, who did not like olives, prosciutto, and pesto.  All that homemade green golden goodness just upstairs from me–and I took one taste of pesto and thought it was…thick.  I’m not sure how else to describe it!  It was a totally new flavor, and I simply did not like it.  Silly American.

My palate has grown up since that summer oh so many years ago, and I have to say pesto is now one of my most favorite ways to dress up any meal.  Seriously.  It’s like the little black dress of condiments…Little green dress.  You thought salmon wrapped in puff pastry was good?  Try spreading some pesto on the salmon before wrapping it up, and you can now charge your guests $10 more per plate.  Does your Minestrone soup need some zip?  Add a spoonful of pesto and your family will be shouting “Wow!” with glee.

basil pesto

Traditional basil pesto originated from Northern Italy–just basil, olive oil, pine nuts, and a little parmesan cheese all blended up.  There are so many variations of a pesto–I’m sure you could make and eat a different type every night for a year!  Any combination of vegetables, herbs, nuts, and other flavorings will blend up a fantastic sauce–kale, roasted red pepper, and sunflower seeds; parsley, sage, and walnuts; arugula, spinach, and almonds–endless little green dresses at your fingertips!

A couple of years ago I planted about 6 little basil sprouts in my garden.  They very quickly turned into basil trees.  Full-blown TREES!  I used as much as I could over the summer, and in the fall invited a couple friends over for a pesto-making party.  We chopped down those trees and blended batch after batch after batch of fresh basil pesto.  I think I froze at least 6-10 bags of frozen, cubed fresh basil pesto.  It’s a little embarrassing to say that it’s taken me two years to get down to my last bag of pesto cubes.  I know they say 6 months tops in the deep freeze, but I’ve had this pesto since the fall of 2013–and no way I’m going to throw out this green golden goodness!  Still tastes great…even in the fall of 2015.


  • Servings: makes about 1 cup
  • Difficulty: super easy
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Adding a handful of fresh spinach or parsley leaves to the mix will ensure your pesto will retain its deliciously bright green hue 


  • 1 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves (no stems), or fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon Asiago or Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil


  1. In a blender or food processor, combine the first three ingredients and pulse until combined.  Add the next three ingredients and pulse again to mix.  With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil and process until a smooth sauce forms.
  2. Use right away, or keep in the refrigerator in an air-tight container and use within one week of making.  Alternatively, you can freeze in cubes (put a drop or two of olive oil on top) and keep in deep freeze up to six months.

Nothing Like a Waffle Celebration!

Waffles are pretty darn near the top of my list when it comes to thinking of celebration foods.    A good waffle is crunchy the outside, light and fluffy on the inside, buttery, and not too sweet, and definitely not dense.  This waffle celebration comes in the form of corn.  We are celebrating the last bits of farm-stand fresh corn you might have on hand, as I did.  We are celebrating the last bits of summer sun before diving head-first into the beauties of fall:  sweaters, crisp runs, and roasted winter squashes.

I wanted to make a vegetarian version of chicken and waffles, and use some fresh corn I had.  So.  I made basil cornbread waffles topped with white bean cassoulet and maple-glazed carrots and cauliflower.  Phew!  That’s a mouthful.  As are these waffles.  This meal is definitely not for the faint-hearted.  And definitely for the celebratory-hearted!

cornbread basil waffles bean cassoule

For the cornbread, I found this recipe a few years ago, and always keep a container of it in my cupboard, so I can throw together cornbread–or cornbread waffles–lickety-split.  It makes the moistest (moist-y-est?  most moist?)cornbread I’ve ever had!  I added the fresh corn cut from the cob and some fresh julienned basil, threw it on the waffle maker, and voila!

Cassoulet is traditionally a bean stew with meat, but I made mine without meat; just a lovely white bean stew.  I used dried white beans, and started from scratch, letting them soak for a full 24 hours.  You can let dried beans soak for just 8 hours, but I like to let them soak for a full 24, I think it yields a creamier bean.  After trimming the fresh corn from the cob, you can use the cobs with all that creamy corn “milk” to sweeten and thicken your bean stew.  This is what it’ll look like after simmering for a good 6-8 hours.  If using dry beans requires too much of your time and energy, feel free to use canned beans.  Look for the altered recipe suggestion in the recipe.

cornbread waffle beans

I also like using a flour/butter paste as a thickener.  This makes a luscious and silky stew without any lumps to be seen.  At this point, you could add some noodles and some fresh or canned tomatoes, some parsley, biscuits on the side, and you have a great bean stew dinner.  But we’re going to add another layer for our waffle celebration…cornbread waffle thickener

Pan-roasting carrots and cauliflower will make them sweet, and adding maple syrup will only sweeten the deal.  I used rainbow carrots for more color and fun, but if you have plain jane orange carrots in your fridge, use those.  A little lemon zest, a squeeze of lemon juice, and julienned basil on top, and your celebration is complete!

cornbread basil waffles bean cassoule


  • Servings: party-sized
  • Difficulty: this can be as easy or as difficult as you want to make it; canned or dried beans being a big part of that
  • Print


  • 3 cups of your favorite cornbread recipe
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen corn
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, julienned


  • 1 cup dried white beans, soaked for 24 hours (alternatively you can use 2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 6-7 corn cobs (if you don’t have fresh corn, just omit the cobs)
  • 1 bunch cilantro, stems and leaves included
  • 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature, and 4 tablespoons flour; mix together as a paste
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • 3 carrots, peeled, cut in half, and then cut in large chunks
  • 1/2 cauliflower head, trimmed and cut in florets
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen corn
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, julienned
  • 1/4-1/2 cup maple syrup, depending on how sweet you want this topping to be
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon


  1. FOR DRIED BEANS:  Start with the cassoulet, as that will take time to simmer, and you can do the other things while the cassoulet is simmering.  If you are using dried beans, this will be your first step, as it’s an overnight step.  Soak them in four times the amount of beans you have.  So if you are doing 1 cup of beans, soak them in 4 cups of water, and let them sit at room temperature 8-24 hours.
  2. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a large pot.  On medium to medium-high heat, saute the onion, carrot, and celery with salt and pepper until the onion is soft.  Add the beans, corn cobs, cilantro, and about 10 cups of water.  Allow to come to a soft boil, then lower heat to low, and let simmer for the next 6-8 hours.  Stir occasionally, and you will add another 6-10 more cups of water throughout the  simmering process until the beans are cooked through.  You will know it’s done when the beans and water come together as a thin stew, instead of looking like just water with beans in it.  Remove the corn cobs and whisk in the butter/flour paste.  This will thicken the stew and you can let it rest, covered, while you are getting everything else ready.
  3. FOR CANNED BEANS:  Still do everything in step 2, but you will only add about 6-8 cups of water after sautéing the veggies and beans.  You can still add the corn cobs at this point, but chop about 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minus the stems (as you won’t have that long simmer time for the cilantro to cook down and sort of dissolve/melt into your stew).  Simmer the stew about 20 minutes, and add the flour/butter paste.  You may not need to add as much of the paste to thicken the stew.  Start with 2 tablespoons and add more if desired (just remember it’s equal parts flour/butter, mashed together).
  4. While the beans are simmering, mix together the waffle ingredients.  Use your favorite cornbread recipe and mix according to directions.  Add 3 cups fresh or frozen corn, and the 1/4 cup julienned basil.  Make your waffles.  I usually let mine rest on a cookie rack so they don’t get mushy while I’m making everything else.
  5. In a large saute pan, add enough olive oil to coat the pan and heat to medium-high.  Add the carrots and cauliflower and season with salt and pepper.  Let the veggies cook until there’s a little golden color on them, then add the 3 cups fresh or frozen corn and stir, sautéing for a few more minutes.  Lowering the heat to medium, add the basil and maple syrup and let simmer until you can smell the basil.  Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter, whisking until it all comes together as a sauce.
  6. You are definitely going to need some acid to cut all these rich flavors, so you can add both the lemon juice and zest at this point, right into the sauce, or add just the zest in the sauce, then serve lemon quarters on the side so everyone can squeeze their own fresh lemon overtop their waffles.  Also top with more fresh basil.

Whole Fast Food and Silly Americans

The first time I saw bulgur wheat I was 21 and living in Brazil.  I was serving a mission for my Church, and my companion, who was Brazilian (missionaries go two by two, and call each other companions), decided to make a salad for lunch.  We ate most lunches with members–it was a daily fare of rice and beans and salad with lime–but we supplied our own breakfasts and dinners, and lunches on our “Preparation day” (our cleaning/laundry/errand running/letter-writing day).  And as missionaries are on a strict budget, breakfasts and dinners had to be affordable.  I’ll be honest, we usually only bought mangos, bananas and popcorn, and if we had extra at the end of the month we would splurge and buy cheese and crackers, jam, or yogurt for smoothies.

For this particular meal, my companion made it extra special and bought tomatoes, cucumbers, and bulgur wheat.  When I asked her what it was and how to cook it, she gave me a look that required no words (English or Portuguese) “Silly Americans, do you not know what bulgur wheat is?!”, and then proceeded to say, “It’s so simple, you just pour the amount of wheat you want in a bowl, boil a little more water than wheat, pour it over, cover it, and when it’s done, just add your tomato and cucumber.”  So simple, so yummy!

I am sure not all Americans are silly, but I’d simply never been exposed to bulgur wheat.  Maybe I had, but just didn’t know it.  You know how it goes, you’ve finally left the nest, you’re out on your own, and the whole world seems new because you’re seeing it through your own new, grown-up eyes.

(Side story:  I was talking with a mom after I’d gotten home from Brazil; her son had served a mission in Mexico.  He came home saying, “Mom, they had the best kind of fruit there–it was like an orange, only much, much smaller!”  His mom was sure he was talking about clementines, but he insisted they weren’t.  The next time they went to the grocery store, he excitedly ran over to these amazing mini-oranges.  They were clementines.)

Anyway, I’d like to think I’m less of a silly American now, and bulgur wheat is usually in my cupboard for a quick go-to meal.

Bulgur wheat is also called cracked wheat, and it’s considered a whole grain, which means it contains the endosperm, germ, and bran of a seed.  And being a whole grain, it’s loaded with fiber, and also has a fair amount of potassium, protein, iron, zinc, and niacin.  It’s most traditionally used to make the Middle Eastern tabbouleh salad, with loads of parsley, mint, lemon, tomatoes, and cucumbers.  Bulgur wheat has a sweet, nutty flavor, and, like my companion pointed out, is super easy to make–probably the fastest whole food out there!  Which I hope will make you think twice the next time you feel like you only have time to do a fast food drive-thru run for a meal!

tabbouleh ingredients whole

For my tabbouleh, I used what I had on hand–you are going to see me saying this A LOT.  Use what you have on hand!  That doesn’t mean if you are out of curry powder to go ahead and substitute paprika, because that’s what you have on hand.  Spices are one thing, and veggies are another.  The purpose of this salad is to add some fresh crunch to accompany the bulgur wheat, and some citrus for zip.  Experiment with flavors you like–I had tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, celery, basil, and lemon.  If you have green pepper, red onion, olives, feta cheese, parsley and lemon, use that.  Or cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, jalapeño, cilantro, and lime, use that.  It’s a super simple salad that can take on many different flavors.  And on the side?  I had fresh farm-stand peaches.  Tasted just like summer!

tabbouleh ingredients chopped copytabbouleh 3tabbouleh 4


  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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The purpose of this salad is to add some fresh crunch to accompany the bulgur wheat, and some citrus for zip.  Experiment with flavors you like–I had tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, celery, basil, and lemon.  If you have green pepper, red onion, olives, feta cheese, parsley and lemon, use that.  Or cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, jalapeño, cilantro, and lime, use that.  It’s a super simple salad that can take on many different flavors.


  • 1 cup bulgur wheat, uncooked
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup cucumbers, thinly chopped
  • 1/2-3/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely chopped (if you can use the inside stems with leaves attached, the leaves will add more flavor)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, julienned
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon


  1. Place the bulgur wheat in a medium bowl with a lid.  Boil the water and pour over the wheat, then cover and let sit for 10-15 minutes.
  2. While the wheat is “cooking”, you can get the rest of your ingredients chopped and diced. Place them all in a large bowl.
  3. When the wheat is soft, add to the large bowl with your veggies.  Add the lemon zest and juice, sprinkle salt and pepper to taste, and a drizzle of olive oil.  Stir and serve.

Serving suggestions:  You could just eat it as is, with a spoon, or scoop it up with crackers; Put it in a pita with spinach for a pita sandwich; scoop out a tomato and fill it with the tabbouleh for a “stuffed tomato”.

Mystery Box Salad

Do you ever feel like dinnertime is a cooking show mystery box challenge and you have to throw ingredients together and whip up some fabulous meal before your husband kids… someone…votes you off the island?  Although timers and cooking-under-pressure aren’t really my thing, I think I would survive a mystery box challenge–I’m a stay-at-home mama!  I create my weekly meal plan based on the ingredients I have in my fridge and cupboards at the time, no more, no less, and it gets pretty creative sometimes.

I will either throw the lucky ingredients together for a great mystery box dinner…and cross my fingers…(Green salad mix?  Cauliflower?  Apricots?  Shrimp?  How about a homemade green spaghetti pasta with roasted cauliflower and shrimp in a garlic cream apricot sauce topped with sunflower seeds and fresh basil?), or grab one main ingredient I have and consult a cookbook.  Fennel bulb?  Snap peas?  Grapefruit?  I used Martha Stewart for this dinner salad inspiration, and adapted her fennel and snap pea salad to include a few more ingredients I had on hand, because fresh fruit always wants to join the salad party.

fennel snap pea salad beginnings copy

fennel snap pea salad

And seriously, what goes with a salad better than roasted sweet potatoes and homemade buttery croissants?  And I swear, taking a bite of the licorice-y fennel with the roasted, salted pistachios tasted exactly like bacon.  Great combo!



  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Fennel and Snap Pea Salad from her Meatless Cookbook.  I used pear, grapefruit, and avocado as the “fresh fruit” portion of the salad, because that’s what I had on hand.  You could easily substitute nectarines, peaches, berries and lime or lemon (in the summer), or pears, apples, and oranges (in the winter).  Just be sure to include a citrus to section up in the salad and use the juice for the vinaigrette.


  • 1 fennel bulb, core removed and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup snap peas, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 pear, thinly sliced
  • 2 grapefruits, sectioned and juiced (put juice in a smaller bowl for later use)
  • 1/2 cup roasted/salted pistachios


  • juice from two grapefruits
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste


Put all salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Add salt and pepper to taste in the smaller bowl with the grapefruit juice, and whisk in the olive oil.  Whisk in just enough until the dressing comes together.  Pour over the fruits and veggies in the larger bowl and gently toss.  Serve with whole grain bread (or croissants!).