All Posts By Marisa McClellan

Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, also called Food in Jars, will be published by Running Press in spring 2012.

Zucchini Chili — The Weekender

by in Recipes, September 13th, 2013

Zucchini Chili - The WeekenderChili is one of my fall and winter weeknight staples. It’s one of those things that cooks up easily, is fairly forgiving and can expand endlessly. Whenever I pull out my chili pot, I make it a point to cook up a batch big enough to last for at least two nights and a couple lunches.

My standard approach involves lots of vegetables, a pound of ground turkey, plenty of spices and two or three cans of beans (I tend to use black and pinto beans, but anything I have in the pantry is fair game).

After years of eating bowl after bowl of my improvisational chili, however, my husband sweetly requested that I try to vary my chili game a little. And so, I started auditioning new recipes.

As I’ve searched, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not really looking for authenticity (my regular recipe includes Swiss chard). Instead, I want a one-pot dish that has a lot of flavor, features vegetables and beans, and if it includes meat, uses a relatively small amount.

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The Sloppy Lo — The Weekender

by in Recipes, September 6th, 2013

The Sloppy Lo - The WeekenderDuring my first few years of elementary school, my family lived in Los Angeles. Because it was almost always warm enough to eat outside, my school didn’t have a cafeteria. Instead, we just had an outdoor courtyard with plastic picnic tables and a small window through which hot lunches were dispensed.

I was mostly a brown-bag kid in those days, but occasionally, when something on the monthly menu particularly spoke to me, my parents would give me a dollar and let me buy lunch. I always asked to buy lunch on the days when they served sloppy joes.

I think part of the reason had to do with how it was served. The saucy meat came packaged in a little aluminum tray, covered tightly with foil. On top, they’d stack a waxed paper dish that held the bun and a plastic cup of applesauce or fruit cocktail. You’d go to your seat with a carton of milk, a napkin and a plastic spork to assemble your very own sandwich. I loved it.

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Cowboy Bacon Beans — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, Recipes, August 30th, 2013

Cowboy Bacon BeansThe impending Labor Day holiday means that summer is rapidly drawing to a close. All across the country, people are starting to shift into their back-to-school and work routines. There’s still a little time left before you pack up the citronella candles, however, to squeeze in one more fiesta.

The secret to end-of-season party giving is to keep it super simple. No need for complicated cocktails or loads of decorations. Buy watermelon, corn on the cob and tomatoes. They are at their best right now and need nothing to be delicious.

Tell your guests to bring something to throw on the grill (and make sure you have a couple packages of backup hotdogs, just in case). Put out an easy green salad. And for your single cooked item, make a pot of The Pioneer Woman’s Cowboy Bacon Beans.

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Ratatouille with Poached Eggs and Garlic Croutons — The Weekender

by in In Season, August 23rd, 2013

Ratatouille with Poached Eggs and GarlicEvery August, I spend a few weeks going a little bit crazy for ratatouille. There is something magical that happens when you combine eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, garlic and whatever herbs you happen to have around.

Part of the reason I’m so fond of this late-summer dish is that it’s one I grew up eating. My mom often made it when we were young with produce straight from the garden. Sometimes she served it chunky, but more often, she’d push it through a food mill and call it soup. It’s funny how much more willing we were to eat it when it was smooth and without any visible bits of veggie.

My Grandma Bunny was also a huge fan of ratatouille. She frequently made it in a large skillet, topped it with a layer of grated Parmesan cheese and popped it under the broiler until the cheese bubbled and browned. Served with chicken thighs marinated in lemon, garlic and olive oil, it was regular dinner for our extended family.

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Creamed Corn Succotash with Cotija — The Weekender

by in In Season, Recipes, August 16th, 2013

Creamed Corn Succotash with CojitaThe first 25 years of my life, I ate fresh corn just one way: It was shucked, boiled until tender and slathered with butter. And while that’s a delicious way to handle the sweet corn of summer, I’ve learned during the last decade that there are many other ways to do it justice.

It was a batch of grilled corn that first opened my eyes to corn’s flexibility. I was at a cookout and a friend set shucked and lightly oiled cobs on a hot barbecue and kept turning them until the kernels were speckled and golden. Topped with mayonnaise and a little grated cheese, it was transcendentally good.

Once the corn floodgates were open, it was a quick trip to corn salads, salsas and chowders. Really, the only thing I’ve not done with corn is make jelly from the corncobs (a traditional Southern preserve).

This summer, the corn has been particularly abundant, and we’ve been getting a dozen or more ears each week at our farm share pickup. I’ve done every one of my regular preparations, and still, there’s more. Happily, I’ve recently discovered another recipe to add to my repertoire. It’s Bobby Flay’s Creamed Corn Succotash with Cotija, and I can’t stop eating it.

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Fresh Peach Cake — The Weekender

by in In Season, Recipes, August 9th, 2013

Fresh Peach Cake - The WeekenderA ripe peach is one of the true joys of late summer. When they’re in season, I buy at least five pounds at a time from my Saturday morning farmers market. Through the course of the week, I slice them over yogurt for breakfast. Come lunchtime, I heap them on toast with a little fresh ricotta and mint. When I’m on my own for dinner, I tumble them into a bowl of greens with crumbled feta (my husband doesn’t dig fruit in salads). Just before bed, I’ll grab one as a snack and eat it messily over the sink.

However, despite my best efforts, there are sometimes a few stray peaches left at the end of the week that are starting to get slightly too soft to be eaten raw. That’s when I turn to baked goods. There are all sorts of transcendent peach-based quick breads, tarts and scones out there, but there’s a particular cake that’s claimed my heart this summer: Ina Garten’s Fresh Peach Cake.

Before you start baking, read these tips

Basmati Rice Pilaf with Prosciutto, Garbanzo Beans and Orzo — The Weekender

by in Recipes, August 2nd, 2013

Basmati Rice Pilaf with ProsciuttoFor most of my life, I thought rice pilaf came either from a small cardboard box or a steam table at my college cafeteria. It never occurred to me that it was something that could be made from scratch with just a few pantry ingredients.

Happily, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that a pilaf is a dish that can easily be made at home and without any packaging at all. When cooked from scratch, it bears more than a passing resemblance to risotto and goes well with all manner of saucy foods.

This time of year, I like to make a batch of oven-roasted ratatouille and spoon it over a layer of pilaf. The rice soaks up the juice and while other ingredients bring flavor and texture to the meal.

Right now, my go-to pilaf is Guy Fieri’s Basmati Rice Pilaf with Prosciutto, Garbanzo Beans and Orzo. The prosciutto lends a porky meatiness, while the garbanzo beans add light protein. It’s a perfect pairing and a quick summer meal just right for The Weekender.

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Blueberry Buttermilk Corn Muffins — The Weekender

by in In Season, Recipes, July 26th, 2013

Blueberry Buttermilk Corn MuffinsWhen my husband was little, he and his brother went to spend the night at their aunt’s house. The next morning, she made pancakes for them. Scott thought that the pancakes were studded with chocolate chips, so took a giant stack. Turns out they were filled with blueberries.

Because he wasn’t mentally prepared for blueberries, he spit out the first bite in surprise and yelled “yuck.” His aunt was mightily offended and despite his protestations, made him eat the rest of the stack. He has not touched a cooked blueberry since.

What this means practically is that when I’m cooking and baking for the two of us, I take care to avoid making things that involve blueberries (it’s the nice thing to do). I dearly love a blueberry baked good, however, and so at least a couple times a summer, when blueberries are in season, I make up some treat that my friends and neighbors might like so that I can have all the enjoyment of it without eating the whole thing on my own.

Before you start baking, read these tips

Slow Cooker Georgia Pulled Pork Barbecue — The Weekender

by in Recipes, July 19th, 2013

Slow Cooker Georgia Pulled Pork Barbecue - The WeekenderWhen I was in my early twenties, I went crazy for slow cookers. At the age when most young women are spending their discretionary cash on shoes or nights on the town, I was saving my pennies for a sturdy slow cooker with a built-in timer and an auto-off feature.

In those days, money was tight (as it so often is in those first years out of college) and so I was always looking for ways to trim my food budget. I took lunches to work, had friends over for dinner instead of going out and turned all my scrap celery leaves, carrot peels and chicken bones into stock.

My fleet of slow cookers made a lot of that frugal eating possible. I regularly used a tiny one to make overnight oatmeal (with a little dried fruit, it was delicious and cheap). I made batches of lunchtime soup in an ancient 4-quart cooker I’d gotten for 75 cents at a yard sale. And I bought tough, unlovable cuts of meat and cooked them tender in my oval 6-quart cooker.

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Roasted Apricots with Mascarpone and Pistachios — The Weekender

by in In Season, July 12th, 2013

Roasted Apricots with Mascarpone and PistachiosOf all the wonderful fruit that comes into season during the summer months, apricots are my very favorite. It hasn’t always been this way. When I was growing up, it was nearly impossible to find truly good apricots unless they came from someone’s backyard tree. As those were pretty darn hard to come by back then, I spent most of my formative years eating terrible, mealy grocery store apricots.

Five or six years back, I discovered just how good a locally grown, never-refrigerated apricot can be. Because I know their season is short, I always order at least half a bushel from one of my local growers. (I get the seconds, because they’re so much cheaper and really, who cares about a few bruises and blemishes?)

Once those apricots are in my kitchen, I spend the next week finding ways to use them up. I make jam. I make chutney. I can them in halves in honey syrup. I eat the ripest ones in just a couple greedy slurps. Once I’ve done all my favorite things, there are still more apricots to be used. That’s when I start digging through my collection of apricot recipes, looking for other things that are begging to be made.

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