Two-Meat Chili with Scallion Cornbread — The Weekender

by in Recipes, January 10th, 2014

Two Meat Chili with Scallion Cornbread - The WeekenderOne of the things I’ve learned in my years as a home cook is that you can never have too many reliable chili recipes. When I’m cooking for my sister, I go with a recipe for white turkey chili. Whenever my husband does a low-carb stint, my go-to is a batch made with ground beef and lots of vegetables. And when the weather turns frigid (like it has this week), I need a meaty, rich version that will keep us warm and comforted.

One such hearty recipe is Nancy Fuller’s Two-Meat Chili. Served with her Scallion Cornbread, it’s a good meal for days when the mercury drops. You start by crisping a few strips of minced bacon. Once it’s brown and rendered, you pull out the bacon to use in the cornbread. Then you brown your onions and peppers in all that good bacon fat. After that, the spices, tomatoes, beef, pork, beans and broth join the party.

It simmers for nearly an hour, until it has thickened and filled your house with the heady scent of meat, peppers and spices. Topped with shredded cheese and sour cream, it is the perfect thing for parties, tailgates and your next Weekender.

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Turmeric Roasted Chickpeas and Lentil Salad — The Weekender

by in Holidays, Recipes, January 3rd, 2014

Turmeric Roasted Chickpea and Lentil SaladIf you’re anything like me, you’re feeling decidedly overfed right about now. A late Thanksgiving overlapped with Hanukkah, which rolled right into the holiday party season, which was topped off by Christmas and New Year’s. I feel like I’ve been eating nonstop for the last five weeks.

And so, while I’m not setting any hard-and-fast resolutions, I am making a point of eating a little bit better with the arrival of the new year. For me, this means less meat and sugar — and more vegetables, legumes and whole grains.

I find that resetting my eating habits has everything to do with advance planning. Instead of waiting until I’m hungry to start thinking about the next meal, I make a few hearty bean or grain salads to keep in the fridge. Then making a meal is as simple as putting a few handfuls of baby arugula or tender spinach in a bowl and spooning the premade salad on top. It acts both as a dressing and a hearty, filling element.

One dish that is very good for this keep-in-the-fridge treatment is Guy Fieri’s Turmeric Roasted Chickpea and Lentil Salad. You toss a drained can of chickpeas with a little oil and a few spices, then roast them until they’re crisp and meaty. While they cook, you simmer lentils with half an onion, a hunk of lemon and a few crushed garlic cloves until they are tender. The drained lentils get tossed with the chickpeas, along with some minced roasted red pepper and torn parsley. It is filling, flavorful and just the thing for a post-holiday Weekender.

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Quiche with Country Ham — The Weekender

by in Holidays, Recipes, December 27th, 2013

Quiche with Country Ham - The WeekenderOf all the traditions my husband and I have started since getting married, our annual New Year’s Day brunch is my favorite. It started as an informal thing, just a few friends gathering to eat homemade waffles and watch the television coverage of the Mummers Parade (a beloved Philadelphia institution). However, over the years, it has grown into something of an event.

The festivities start at 11am and run into the late afternoon. Friends bring their kids and something for the table and we eat, watch the parade and share our hopes for the fresh, new year.

Guests show up with sweet rolls, deviled eggs, fruit platters and makings for mimosas. I fill in the gaps with whole-wheat waffles, a big green salad and a few quiches of various types. I particularly like making the quiche, because they can be prepared and baked the night before and then just warmed in the oven a bit before we eat.

Because I’m something of a planner, I start mapping out my menu well before the big day. I’ve already settled on one of the quiches I’ll be making for the party. It comes from recent Food Network Star winner Damaris Phillips: Quiche with Country Ham.

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The Pioneer Woman’s Favorite Christmas Cookies — The Weekender

by in Holidays, Recipes, December 20th, 2013

The Pioneer Woman's Favorite Christmas CookiesWhen my sister and I were young, we had a standing Christmas- cookie-decoration date with a family friend. Eleanor’s kids were grown, but she loved mixing up several batches of dough (some colored red and green with food-safe dye), pulling out the cookie cutters, and helping us make and bake fancy tray after tray of cookies.

I looked forward to that afternoon in Eleanor’s kitchen every year. Even after I got too old for the annual cookie party, I thought about it fondly (and dreamed about her delicious, buttery cookies).

When December rolled around this year, I found myself craving the experience of making and decorating holiday sugar cookies. I used to have a copy of Eleanor’s recipe, but no matter how much I looked, I couldn’t put my hands on it. And so I went looking for options and found The Pioneer Woman’s Favorite Christmas Cookies.

It uses vegetable shortening in place of butter and adds a little bit of orange zest to the dough, but otherwise seems very close to the recipe I once knew. And truly, it’s a delightful dough to work with. It comes together quickly, rolls out beautifully and holds its shape nicely while baking. If you’re still in the midst of your holiday baking, stir together a batch of this dough and cut out some cookies for your Weekender!

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Chocolate Truffles — The Weekender

by in Holidays, Recipes, December 13th, 2013

Chocolate Truffles - The WeekenderNearly every year, I make at least half a dozen varieties of holiday cookies to share with friends, neighbors and relatives. I have a few standbys (sugar, gingerbread, chocolate crinkles) and a few wild card slots (this year, they are thumbprints, almond flour shortbread, and oat cookies with cranberries and pistachios).

In addition to those cookies, I also try to include one extra sweet in my holiday treat assortment. In the past I’ve made oven-roasted caramel corn, easy fudge with sweetened condensed milk and crunchy pepita toffee.

This year as I was scanning recipe websites, looking for that extra something sweet to put in my treat packages, I spotted Ina Garten’s recipe for Chocolate Truffles.

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Hot and Sticky Noodle Bowls — The Weekender

by in Recipes, December 6th, 2013

Hot and Sticky Noodle Bowls - The WeekenderWe are now officially in the time of year known as “the holiday season.” You can tell it has arrived by the uptick in events on your social calendar and ever-present cookies and treats in the office break room.

During these last few weeks of the calendar year, it can be increasingly hard to do things like get to the gym regularly and ensure that you’re having healthy, homemade dinners. I can’t help you with the gym issue, but I do have a suggestion as to how to get a meal on the table in the midst of the weeknight holiday rush.

Steal a couple of hours on Sunday and prep a couple make-ahead meals. If all you have to do on Tuesday is boil some water and reheat some vegetables, you’re far more likely to resist the siren call of takeout.

One of my favorite make-ahead meals is the Hot and Sticky Noodle Bowls from Rachael Ray’s show Week in a Day. You season and cook some chicken and vegetables, then cool them and stash them in the fridge. When you’re ready to eat, just cook some spaghetti noodles, reheat the chicken mix and toss it all together. Truly, it’s easier than ordering pizza and should become part of your Weekender routine.

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Grilled Hasselback Sweet Potatoes — The Weekender

by in Holidays, November 29th, 2013

Grilled Hassleback Sweet PotatoesI am something of a sweet potato fanatic. As soon as the weather starts to turn crisp, I stock up on those dense orange tubers and eat them at least three times a week. I’m especially fond of them when they’ve been sliced into rounds, rubbed with a little olive oil and roasted until crisp in a hot oven.

This year for Thanksgiving, I didn’t get the chance to make a sweet potato dish (I was assigned mashed potatoes), and so, in order to satisfy my obsession, I’ve been making an array of sweet potato dishes that would have fit in nicely as part of a celebratory meal.

I’ve made a vanilla-flecked puree. I’ve formed grated shreds into fritters. I folded together a batch of sweet potato biscuits for a weekend brunch with friends. And I made Bobby Flay’s Grilled Hasselback Sweet Potatoes with Molasses Nutmeg Butter.

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Winter Slaw — The Weekender

by in Holidays, November 22nd, 2013

Winter Slaw - The WeekenderIn my family, having a salad on the Thanksgiving table is a controversial issue. My mother, an avowed vegetable enthusiast, lobbies for it every year. My dad is firmly attached to tradition and so had long been entirely opposed to the presence of raw greenery.

He thinks that the menu should remain unchanged and the side dishes should be limited to stuffing, mashed potatoes, pureed winter squash, buttered green beans and a quivering log of canned cranberry jelly. The issue is made harder by the fact that he is the designated holiday cook in our household and so much of the prep falls to him.

In recent years, my mom and I have had some success in convincing my dad of the merits of a hearty autumnal salad as an addition (not a replacement) to the holiday table. He has reluctantly conceded, provided we select a salad that maintains a sense of seasonal integrity.

And so, during the last few years, I’ve dreamed up an array of salads and relish-like concoctions that satisfy a hunger for raw, crunchy things. For this year’s salad, I have my sights set on Tyler Florence’s recipe for Winter Slaw.

Before you start cooking, read these tips

Cauliflower Mac ‘n’ Cheese — The Weekender

by in Recipes, November 15th, 2013

Cauliflower Mac N Cheese - The WeekenderWhen I was growing up, macaroni and cheese was a very special treat. The only time the boxed version made an appearance at our table was on the rare occasion when my parents went out in the evening and left us with a baby sitter. The sitter was given strict instructions to serve it with carrot sticks and glasses of milk, which dampened the joy of dayglow pasta just a little.

It wasn’t until I went away to college that I discovered two things about macaroni and cheese: It is dead simple to make from scratch, and if you stir in some kind of vegetable in with the pasta, you can call it a complete meal.

Once I was living off-campus and had a real kitchen at my disposal, I had my way with the world of mac and cheese. My roommates and I made cheesy shells with cheese, stirred ribbons of zucchini in with leftover spaghetti noodles, and we even did a batch of smoked salmon and cream cheese mac and cheese once for a brunch potluck. They were all tasty dishes that left me with a healthy respect for the power of cooked pasta and a quick batch of cheese sauce.

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Brownie Batter Cookies — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, November 8th, 2013

Brownie Batter Cookies - The WeekenderI believe everyone should have one cookie recipe that they know by heart — one that can be easily whipped together to welcome new babies, offer up at potlucks and make on a whim when you need a touch of sweet homemade comfort.

For some people, that cookie is a basic chocolate chip. For others, it’s a rough and tumble mix of oats, nuts and dried fruit. And I know other folks who can make peanut butter or sugar cookies with their eyes closed.

The basic requirements of this type of cookie are that the ingredients can be kept in the kitchen cupboard, that you need only a bowl or two to make it, that it drops from spoon to baking sheet with ease (no roll-out cookies need apply) and that it tastes good. Being sturdy enough to withstand the U.S. Postal Service is not required, but it’s a plus.

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