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.

Before you start baking, read these tips

Crispy Chicken Tenders with Piccata Sauce — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, Family, November 1st, 2013

Crispy Chicken Tenders with Piccata Sauce - The WeekenderIn the last few years, the bulk of my friends have become parents. It has been a joy to watch these dear people grow families and to see their once-tiny, squawking babes turn into little humans with preferences and desires.

One thing I’ve learned is that once kids enter the picture in your social circle, it becomes a whole lot harder to throw a traditional dinner party. And so, I stopped having them. Instead I started inviting people over for more casual gatherings and welcomed their children.

In the process, I’ve become a connoisseur of meals that allow you to cook once and satisfy everyone. Burrito bars are one good option, because they allow for mixing, matching and liberal applications of hot sauce for the parents.

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Pumpkin-Ginger Bread Pudding — The Weekender

by in In Season, October 25th, 2013

Pumpkin-Ginger Bread Pudding - The WeekenderThis time of year, there is no more popular or trendy ingredient than pumpkin. It is everywhere you look, from muffins to salads (all those pumpkin spice lattes don’t count, as there’s no actual squash in them, just pie spices). With such ubiquitous distribution comes the inevitable backlash. Some folks are truly dead-tired of all the pumpkin.

Let me take a moment to intervene on behalf of pumpkin (and all the rest of the sweet, orange-fleshed winter squash). I beg you: Don’t dismiss it just because it’s going through a period of oversaturation.

Instead, think of all its virtues. It’s a great source of beta carotene. It’s full of healthy fiber. And with just a little roasting, the flesh becomes intensely sweet and creamy. Truly, what’s not to like?

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Fleuri’s Curry Lentil Soup — The Weekender

by in In Season, October 18th, 2013

Fleuri's Curry Lentil Soup - The WeekenderI’ve worked from home full time for just over two years now. Other than the inevitable occasional stir-craziness, I love everything about reporting to my little home office each day. Truly the only thing I really struggle with is what to eat for lunch each day.

During the warmer season, it’s easy enough to throw together a salad as my midday meal. Once the days start to cool, however, a giant serving of crunchy greens is the very last thing I want. That’s when I put operation soup into effect.

On Sunday afternoon, I make a pot of soup that I can eat from all week long. Then I can scoop a bowlful out each day at about 1pm. Paired with a few crackers or a piece of toast, it makes lunchtime so much easier.

I like to go for vegetable-based soups for these lunchtime meals because they hold up well during the course of the week. Split peas are good, as are roasted pumpkin with coconut milk soups. Right now, my heart belongs to Fleuri’s Curry Lentil Soup from Rachael Ray. It’s creamy, it keeps like a dream and it’s just perfect for The Weekender.

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Pollo Asado — The Weekender

by in Recipes, October 11th, 2013

Pollo Asado - The WeekenderLike so many other Americans, my husband and I eat a lot of chicken. I roast them whole, grill marinated breasts for slicing over salad, and regularly stew thighs for soups and enchiladas. Because this particular protein makes such regular appearances on our dining table, I’m always on the lookout for methods that will breathe new life into this poultry staple.

One way to reinvigorate the chicken habit is with a new marinade. I tend to be loyal to either teriyaki sauce or a slurry of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, fresh rosemary and garlic. Both are delicious, but they can get tiresome over time. So when I spotted The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Pollo Asado, with its marinade of orange, lemon and lime juice, I felt called to give it a try.

Because I have a fairly small household, I halved the amount of chicken, but I kept the volume of marinade the same (because it’s easy enough to squeeze some citrus). After the chicken had spent a couple of hours in the fridge, I heated a grill pan in the oven (it was a rainy day and the logistics of outdoor grilling were beyond me) and cooked the chicken until it registered 165 degrees F.

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Greens with Spiced Butter and Fresh Ricotta — The Weekender

by in In Season, Recipes, October 4th, 2013

greens with ricottaI am of the belief that collard greens are perpetually misunderstood. Most people I know think these greens can be served only one way — paired with a hunk of smoked meat and cooked until they’re limp and olive-colored.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against this particular approach and have always appreciated a serving of long-braised greens. It’s just that I think it’s time to broaden our approach to the humble, healthy collard. Who knows, maybe we’ll make it as popular as its cousin kale!

My collard conversion started a few years back. I had gotten yet another bunch in my CSA share and needed desperately to free up some space in the crisper. Without time for a long braise, I decided to treat the collard greens like Swiss chard.

I cut them into thin ribbons and sauteed them in olive oil with lots of slivered garlic until they were just limp. My first bite was uncertain, as I assumed they’d be tough and chewy (because why else would you need to cook them for hours?). But I was delighted to discover they were tender and had married deliciously with the garlic.

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Apple Galette with Goat Cheese and Sour Cherries — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, In Season, September 27th, 2013

Apple Galette with Goat Cheese and Sour Cherries - The WeekenderThough I adore the strawberries, plums and peaches of summer, by the time fall rolls around each year, I am ready for apples. To me, they are a sign of cooler weather, cozy evenings and a slightly slower pace of life.

When they’re in season, I often buy apples by the half bushel. One of my favorite local orchards offers an amazing deal at our Sunday farmers market. You can fill up an entire crate of apples for $20. It means that they’re able to move a mountain of apples and I feel like I’m getting a bargain. The only trouble is that I then have 20+ pounds of apples to eat, use and preserve.

And so, I get to sorting and cooking. I fill up one whole crisper drawer with the best-looking apples for eating whole or slicing to dip in peanut butter (that is one of my all-time favorite snacks). I make applesauce, apple butter and little jars of honey-colored jelly.

Before you start baking, read these tips

Smoked Chicken Minestrone — The Weekender

by in Recipes, September 20th, 2013

Smoked Chicken Minestrone - The WeekenderAbout a week ago, the weather in Philadelphia went from unbearably hot to blessedly cool. The air is crisp during the day and just chilly enough in the evening that socks and a second layer are necessary. After an oppressively warm, muggy summer, it is once again a joy to go outside.

I find myself making some of my normal autumn habit changes: I’ve traded my cold-brew coffee for a morning mug of hot, milky tea. Cozy scarves are back in the wardrobe rotation. And I’m making pot after pot of soup.

During the warmer months, dinnertime salads are my weeknight standby. I keep cleaned lettuce, kale or spinach in the fridge, and many nights I will top bowls of greens with chopped cucumber, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs and cold chicken. Once the fall weather arrives, however, I am happy to swap out the salad routine for batches of soup that last all week.

In the last seven days, I’ve made creamy broccoli and cheddar, beef and red beet borscht and Guy Fieri’s Smoked Chicken Minestrone. The broccoli puree and the borscht are familiar recipes, but the minestrone was new. The recipe spoke to me because it included instructions on how to smoke chicken in your oven. I’ve long thought that home smoking was something best done in an outdoor rig, so I had to try this in-house technique.

Before you start smoking your chicken, read these tips

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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