Before the Summer Slips Away {marinated tomato bruschetta}

If you made a list of everything I’ve done this summer, in order of frequency, cooking would fall lower than just about anything else.  I have not cooked anything.  ANYTHING.  A large part of this truth is because we bought a house and I immediately jumped into action, using up everything that was already in our fridge and freezer, throwing out the remains of sauces and mixes saved up (and expired anyway) over the years, and running things off to storage, or to my in-laws, where my husband and I will be residing until the next, approximately, forever.  Cooking was, for once, the last thing on my mind.

marinated tomatoes.

And the other reason I haven’t been playing in the kitchen as much is the same reason I cite every summer.  There’s not much that needs doing in the kitchen.  Take these marinated tomatoes.  Slice up some tomatoes (I recommend home grown–these were gifted to me by a friend with a garden), and let them hang out with garlic, olive oil, and basil for a few hours, and heap them onto toasted bread.  That’s “cooking” in the summer.  And nothing tastes better.

marinated tomato bruschetta.

To make a baguette’s worth of marinated tomato bruschetta, you will need:


  • 4 medium or 3 large heirloom tomatoes, seeded and chopped into bite sized pieces.
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced, plus two cloves, peeled
  • large bunch of basil, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • one baguette

Combine all ingredients except peeled garlic cloves and bread in a bowl.  Set on the counter at room temperature for 4 hours (though you could get away with less; whatever, it’s summer, it will still work).  When ready to eat, slice baguette into three-quarter-inch-thick slices.  Chop the tip off each peeled clove, and give each slice of bread a good swipe.  The oil will seep into the bread and I promise goodness will ensue.  Toast or grill your slices, and then pile high with the tomato mixture.


Flavor of the Week [asparagus and whipped ricotta pizza]

CV(D) caught on to my always-keep-pizza-dough-in-the-freezer strategy, and now she has me running to Trader Joe’s to not only pick them up for myself, but also for her.  Love it.  Anything for a friend.

Trader Joe’s pizza is a great go-to dinner option, when you need something quick, and you have several ingredients lingering in the fridge.

asparagus and whipped ricotta pizza.

This is not news.  I’ve shared it before.

But pizza is one of my very most favorite foods, and we eat it a lot, so here I am again, extolling its virtues.

This (more or less) was our most recent flavor combination.

Roll out a Trader Joe’s pizza crust.  Dump whatever is left of your favorite ricotta into a bowl and whisk till it’s silky smooth.  Spread on the dough.  You could totally top this with a half cup or so of shredded mozzarella cheese, but I showed restraint here–demonstrating a new skill of mine in the kitchen.  Mince a couple cloves (2?  3?) of garlic and throw on top of that.  Top pizza with a bunch of chopped asparagus, some sliced Prosciutto, and, if you’re my husband, olives.  Throw some grated Parmesan on top of all that if you’re in the mood.  Again, I held off on that here–who am I?  Bake according to the directions on the pizza crust, or your favorite pizza making method.

Trader Joes

I have a serious thing for Trader Joe’s.

Their food is amazing, not much of it makes me feel guilty, and a weekly trip down their aisles costs me way less than a weekly trip to the big-name grocery stores.

Unfortunately, Trader Joe’s could not be more inconvenient for me to get to.  Nor could it be more crowded on weekends, when I do the bulk of my shopping.

So now, when I make my weekend plans, I google the closest TJ’s, and make a stop there before I head home.  When we were in Charlottesville for AGOMYR’s wedding, we hit it up before our 3 hour ride back to DC.  That’s how inconvenient it is to go to the TJ’s around me.  I would rather keep their frozen food in the trunk of my car for 3 hours, than drive into the heart of the city and park my car in a space that’s too small, all the while fighting off my Lululemon-clad peers, just to get my hands on their pre-made salads.

bbq chicken salad

Oh, their pre-made salads are good.  But they’re one of the few grocery items at Trader Joe’s I’d call expensive.  And one in particular happens to be laced with a mayo-based dressing. It also happens to be amazing and hard to resist.

tossed salad

Lucky for the world, Tracy freshened the dressing up with a combination of yogurt and barbecue sauce, making it less fattening, while keeping it oh-so-tangy.  I took a couple liberties with her recipe, based on what was in my fridge, and put together a huge bowl of Trader Joe’s Barbecue Chicken Salad for dinner last night.  I ate the whole thing, guilt free.

Then I started dreaming of a vegetarian version, plus black beans and quinoa, sans chicken.

To make a giant bowl of salad, that is probably too large for you, but doesn’t intimidate me in the slightest, you will need:

  • A mixing bowl
  • Romaine lettuce, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 slices of tomato, small diced
  • 1 ear of corn, cooked, kernels removed (about 3/4 C if you’re using canned or frozen)
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 1 scallion, diced
  • 2 oz. chicken breast, cooked, and chopped into bite-sized pieces (I buy bags of pre-cooked chicken breasts from, you guessed it, Trader Joes.  They are always in my freezer when the need arises.)
  • 1/4 C shredded cheddar (Which is in TJ’s version, but not in Tracy’s.  And I’m with her, it doesn’t need it.)
  • 1 T barbecue sauce
  • 1 T plain yogurt (Greek is fine)
  • a squeeze lime juice
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 5 or 6 tortilla chips, crushed

Place a heaping amount of lettuce in the bowl.  Add tomato, corn, avocado, scallion, chicken, and cheddar, if using.  In small bowl, combine barbecue sauce, yogurt, and lime juice.  Pour over salad and toss till combined.  Add a nice helping of salt and pepper, and toss again.  Top with chips.  Serve immediately.

This salad is pretty much this salad.  And so you might be reading it, wondering why I’d post something so closely related.  It’s the dressing.  The dressing is everything.

When in Doubt, Make Muffins

The worst feeling in the world is when something happens and you want to help but there’s really nothing you can do.

(See title.)

Making muffins is a thing you can do.

savory muffins.The muffins might be for someone else.

Or they might be for you.

For dinner.

They typically require minimal time and effort when compared to their cupcake brethren.  They bake up just as quickly.  And they are comforting.  Which helps everyone.

spinach and cheese muffinsThese muffins are a savory, spinach and cheese combination that hit the spot on a Pinterest and basketball-packed Friday night.  They are crumbly, and their resemblance to biscuits is uncanny.  But they’re made with milk, in lieu of (too much) butter.  As they also include a leafy green, I am convinced they are nutritious.  And I can’t think of a meal that wouldn’t be improved by their presence on the table.

To make 15, you will need:

  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 C flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cayenne powder (1/2 – 3/4 if you’re feeling tame)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 C buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 4 oz. fresh spinach leaves, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease 15 muffin tins, or fill with paper liners.

Melt butter in skillet.  Saute onions over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, till lightly browned.  In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder cayenne powder, salt, and cheeses.  Stir egg into buttermilk mixture till combined.  Slowly whisk buttermilk mixture into dry ingredients.  The dough is shaggy, and not at all like a batter.  I got in there with my hands to get everything mixed together.  Fold in onions and spinach.

Scoop muffins into muffin tins and bake for 30 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

*I originally pinned a gorgeous image from here, but turned to the standard, American measurements I found here when adapting my own recipe.

**This is the second recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook I’ve swooned over this week.  Sounds like a purchase is in order.

Pulled Pork, Upcycled

When I was 15, I would, on occasion, flip through Wooden Nickels’ copies of Women’s Day in search of something I wanted to cook for dinner.  I wrote the items on the grocery list, someone who was not me went out to buy them, I cooked dinner, which meant I did not have to do the dishes, and then I was off the hook again until another recipe caught my eye.  Meaning weeks.  If not months.


Oh how times have changed.

assembly line

I am now the chief grocery shopper and meal preparer in our little abode.  This means if I’m not on it, no one else is.  Luckily I can still wriggle out of doing the dishes on occasion.

lineupWhat this really means, dear readers, is that I have become quite adept at taking leftovers and upcycling (I hate that word) them into entirely new, and wholly distinct meals.  This ensures that my trips to the grocery store are less frequent and that dinner is already half-prepared at least one night a week.

servingWhen you make Ree’s spicy pulled pork (which is, if you’ve missed me shouting from the rooftops, a revelation) for a family of two, you are going to find yourself with leftovers.  And though pulled pork is one of your husband’s favorite foods, you will find that it is, in fact, the kind of food that is best enjoyed in moderation.  You will find it freezes beautifully.  But you will still find more leftovers than you can handle.  With some ingenuity, and a dash of Pinterest, you’ll find you can turn said leftovers into pork enchiladas that are equally irresistible in their own way.

To make 10 (or so) enchiladas, you will need:

  • 3 C pulled pork, seasoned however you usually season pulled pork (BHG’s idea on that here)
  • 10-12 tortilla shells (I do not enjoy corn, so I always use flour, though they don’t stand up to baking as well)
  • 28 oz. can enchilada sauce (though I don’t always use the whole thing)
  • 4 oz can green chiles, drained
  • 2 T chopped cilantro, divided
  • 1 scallion, sliced thinly
  • 8 oz. shredded Mexican cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Pour half of enchilada sauce in small bowl and mix with chiles.  Pour half of this mixture in the bottom of a 9×13 (or thereabouts) casserole dish.  Set aside.  Mix pulled pork with enough enchilada sauce to coat it thoroughly.  I wish I could give you a precise amount, but it’s going to depend on how much pork you have.  You want enough sauce that every strand of pork has some clinging to it.  Stir in half the cilantro.  Spoon a couple tablespoons of pork onto a tortilla shell and top with a scant tablespoon of cheese.  You want to do this close to the edge of the shell.  Roll tortilla tightly and place, seam side down in the dish.  Continue until the dish is full.  I always have fun trying to fit justonemore.  Pour remaining enchilada/chile mixture on top.  Cover tightly with foil and bake 25 minutes.  Remove foil, sprinkle remaining cheese, cilantro, and scallions on top, and bake 5 more minutes.  Serve hot.

*If you had tomatoes lying about, chopping some up and sprinkling on top would be a beautiful thing.


If you’re looking in your refrigerator, dear readers, wondering what on earth could come from the lack of ingredients resting before your eyes, consider the frittata. It’s something I’ve mentioned before.

This particular week found us with almost a dozen eggs (10, to be exact) on their last legs, 2 leftover (cooked) sausages, some broccoli that had seen better days and the remnants of a box of pasta from the night before.  And a vacation looming before our eyes.  Translation: no trips to the grocery store to restock the fridge, just a dinner that has to come from what’s already there.

Here’s how I took a bunch of loser ingredients, and turned them into a killer dinner (that would also make a killer brunch).

With a little inspiration from The Kitchn.

The eggs got whisked, the cream splashed in (what I had left in the bottle, between 1/4 and 1/2 cup), the sausage crumbled, etc, etc.

Oh, and there was cheese, too.  No good dish is without it.

It all went into the oven for about 25 minutes, and breakfast for dinner was born.

More specifically, the best breakfast for dinner this kitchen has seen in some time.  All with loser ingredients, that would have earned a trip to the trash can had they been left untouched a mere day or two later.

Open up your fridge and see what you can throw into your eggs.  You might be surprised at your own genius.

To make a Broccoli and Pasta Frittata for 8, you will need:

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced (I used a red onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 10 eggs
  • 1/3 C cream (or whole milk, or not)
  • 4 C broccoli florets
  • 1/2 box pasta (whatever cut you have is fine)
  • 2 links cooked sausage (these were are leftovers, you could throw in leftover chicken, or leave the meat out and make this vegetarian), crumbled
  • 1 – 1 1/2 C grated cheese (I used cheddar, but there’s no reason mozzarella, Gruyere, colby jack, and more wouldn’t work)
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper

To get started (and I did this the night before, while making a whole box of pasta), boil the pasta according to package directions.  In the last 3 minutes, throw in broccoli.  Drain the whole mess.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and butter a 9 x 13 casserole dish.

Saute the onion in olive over medium heat till softened, and just starting to brown, about 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic clove and cook for about 30 seconds, just until fragrant.  Add red pepper flakes and some nice pinches of salt and pepper.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Whisk the eggs and cream together until frothy in a large bowl.  Add cheddar cheese.

Place pasta, broccoli, sausage, and onion mixture in the casserole dish.  Pour egg mixture overtop, and pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes, till eggs are set (when they puff up a bit).

This Above All

To thine own self be true.

I absolutely love Ina’s green beans with crispy shallots, and find that it will complement just about anything you could dream of putting on your table.  So on a never-ending quest to eat more fruits and vegetables, I turned it into a salad, complete with pesto, toasted almonds, and quinoa. Now it’s a meal unto itself.

Now, I make a big bowl on the weekends, and finish it off for lunch throughout the week.

Know what you love, and build on it.  A simple side dish could become a meal, a salad, a casserole, and who knows what else?

Let yourself get crazy in the kitchen.

To make Green Bean Salad with Almonds, Shallots and Quinoa, for a couple days, you will need:

  • 1/4 C sliced almonds, toasted
  • 2 or 3 shallots, minced
  • 1 lb. haricot verts, trimmed
  • 1/2 C pesto
  • 1 C cooked quinoa (or other leftover grain like couscous or barley)
  • 1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
  • A couple splashes of white wine vinegar, if you’re into that kind of thing

Saute the shallots in a tablespoon of olive oil till they are crispy, about 8 minutes.  Remove shallots and set aside, leaving oil in the pan.  Saute green beans till nice and hot, and as cooked through as you like them.  For me, that’s about 4 minutes.  Dump the almonds, shallots, green beans, and quinoa in a bowl and toss till mixed.  Stir in pesto and white wine vinegar, if using.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Lazy Dinner, Option 2

Lazy dinner, option 2 is my favorite kind of lazy dinner.  The kind where you take stuff that you need to use up, throw it in a pan with some eggs and walk away from the table like you meant for it to turn out that well.

Plus it counts as breakfast the next day, too.

It’s a frittata, which is a surprisingly comforting dish.  I didn’t meet frittatas until just after college, but I wish I had known them sooner.

A frittata is like a quiche without the crust, or an omelet without the flip.  When making a frittata, the only thing you need to worry about is your favorite mix-in combination.  Leek and mushroom?  Broccoli, ham and cheddar?  Peppers and spinach?

This time around I did potato and prosciutto, a la Giada.

A good rule of thumb for your frittata base is to whisk 6 eggs, 1/4 C milk (2% or fattier), plenty of salt and pepper, and basil.  Stir in 2 C worth of mix ins and fry that baby up.

Preheat the broiler.  Coat the bottom of an oven-safe skillet with olive oil and heat it up.  Add your mix ins first if you need to cook them (in this case, the onion and potato).  Cook over medium-low heat till done, then add egg mixture.  Let cook on stovetop for 3-4 minutes, until eggs are almost set.  Finish in the broiler for another 4 minutes.  Sprinkle with lots of cheese and more basil, salt and pepper.

Lazy Dinner, Option 1

Lazy dinners are for those nights when you don’t think you have the ingredients for an impressive feast, but you know you shouldn’t reach for your favorite Chinese delivery menu.  They’re made with ingredients that are in your pantry already, but force you to combine them in new ways.

We’ve eaten two worth noting recently.

Inspired by Polwig, and the last of the farmers’ market tomatoes, I pulled together a tomato, ricotta and prosciutto salad.  As I was out of basil, this one got a couple dollops of pesto and a drizzle of olive oil before winding up right in front of me at the table.  It was a fun change of pace from my beloved Caprese, and substantial enough that it held me over till my next meal.

To make tomato and prosciutto salad for 1, you will need:

  • 1 tomato, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 3 T ricotta
  • 2 slices prosciutto
  • 2 T pesto
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Arrange tomatoes on a plate and top with ricotta.  Tear prosciutto slices, and distribute on top of tomatoes.  Top with pesto.  Drizzle with olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a generous serving of fresh ground black pepper.

*A note – you could totes smush all this goodness into a panini too.

On Meals Best Eaten Alone

Dear readers, if you find yourself sans company one night,

With some peas in the freezer,

And a smidge of extra pancetta,

Plus a dollop of ricotta,

You might have dinner.

It’s packed with enough vegetables that it doesn’t feel quite as bad for you as you might think.

Tossed with some leftover pasta and eaten from a big bowl, with your feet up?

It’s luxurious.

To make a bowl for dinner and lunch the next day, you will need:

  • 2 slices pancetta, chopped (or 2 or 3 slices bacon)
  • 5 oz. frozen peas
  • 3 T ricotta cheese (get some snooty stuff from Whole Foods if you want to be impressed)
  • 3 oz. pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • lots of freshly ground black pepper

Fry up the pancetta in a hot skillet, till the pieces are brown and crisp.  Set pancetta in a medium bowl.  Pour off almost all the fat and discard.  With the remaining fat in the skillet, let the peas hang out in the skillet for about 3 minutes.  Add them to the bowl, and stir in the ricotta and pasta.  Toss till everything is coated in cheesy, creamy, goodness.  Grind tons of black pepper all over and toss once more.  Eat in front of some girly show you’d be too embarrassed to ever tell anyone you watch.  Repeat at lunch the next day.