Thursday, August 29, 2013


A good friend introduced me to migas when we were living together nearly 10 years ago, and I immediately loved them. It's a simple dish with very little requirements - egg and some kind of bread or tortilla. The rest varies by region and household. Although the migas  I make today are a bit more involved than the ones I first had, the basics are still there- crisp corn tortilla, fluffy curds of eggs. I add a good helping of black beans, salsa verde and cheese to round it out a bit. Some crema drizzled over the top never hurts either.

Special enough for company, and much less fussy than an omelet, migas sometimes get put on heavy rotation around here. It's an inexpensive and quick 'breakfast' meal that is really good at any time of day. Pair it with your favorite morning potato, and you'll have quite a stick to your ribs kinda meal.

Since we don't have a dishwasher, I'm usually looking for ways to avoid using unnecessary dishes. This is a neat one I read about a while back, and now makes me look at the bottom of canned beans to find the proper design. There needs to be the same lip as there is on the top, which enables you to use a can opener on the bottom. Yes, not all cans are created equal. By using a can/bottle opener for the bottom to create a few holes, once opening the lid you've got a DIY colander! Check it out:

It may be only my perception, but the beans seem to get rinsed off faster this way, without getting agitated by a toss in a colander. 

Another crucial element to a good batch of migas is proper corn tortillas. The more thick and fresh, the better. Here is my favorite local brand, which you can get pretty much any where in Milwaukee-
no substitutes! Or, I suppose you can use your favorite corn tortilla. Migas, to me, aren't the same with flour tortillas, but if you can't stand corn tortillas, give them a go. 


6 large eggs with a splash of ice water, beaten till foamy

1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed well

4 corn tortillas, cut into 1/2 inch square pieces

1/2 cup canola or other neutral oil

3/4 cup salsa verde or tomatillo salsa

1 cup crumbled queso fresco, or favorite cheese of choice (I've used Parm in a pinch, and it's
   surprisingly really good in these migas!)

fresh cilantro (optional)

Place a large (preferably 12") non-stick or well seasoned cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add the canola oil and let it get very hot while you chop up your tortillas. Add them to the hot oil and fry for about 6 minutes, stirring frequently, till they are evenly golden brown and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel lined plate to absorb some of the oil. Set aside.
Remove all but 1 Tbsp of oil from the pan. Dial heat down to medium and add the black beans. Cook for a few minutes till they start to sizzle, stirring occasionally. Add the beaten eggs and begin to scramble. Pour in the salsa verde a couple minutes shy of how you like your eggs done and give the eggs a stir - I prefer mine quite moist, so I do this while there is about 1/3 uncooked egg in the pan. Add the fried tortillas and cook for a minute or so more. 

Once the eggs look almost done, turn off the heat and add the cheese. Let the eggs hang out for a moment while you pull together your plates and any other sides. Give the migas a good stir and serve them up immediately with some of your favorite hot sauce on the side.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My Go-To Pasta

I've been making pasta like this for about as long as I can remember, so I never thought of it being something I could translate into a recipe. As we were inhaling it the other day though I thought to myself, why not? It probably seems insanely easy to me because I've made it over 100 times (probably just really easy for some), but maybe others will take it as something slightly different from their go-to weeknight meals. 

So, here it is, in all its simplistic and kinda cheating glory. My daughter has always loved this dish, and I usually make it right before the weekend hits so that she and my husband will have something more nutritious to eat while I'm at work besides blueberry scones from our local coffee place. It keeps really well in the fridge for up to 4 days, or you can definitely freeze it up to 2 months. Toss it into some airtight containers and into the freezer, and you have some homemade frozen dinners!


1 lb Trader Joe's high fiber penne (or your favorite tubular pasta)

1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce plus 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes w/ no salt added OR
   1/2 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce plus 1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes w/ no salt OR        
   1 28 ounce + 1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes... no salt added

3 Tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic, peeled

12 - 16 ounces button or cremini mushrooms, quartered or thickly sliced, your preference

2 small zucchini peeled (optional) and sliced into half moons

1/2 medium or 1 small onion, finely chopped

1 lb sun dried tomato and basil chicken sausage OR your favorite chicken sausage OR 
   leave it out

1/2 cup reserved pasta water

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Parmesan cheese 

Place a large pot of water on the stove and crank the heat to get it boiling. Place your largest (I use a 16" round and 2.5" deep saute pan) pan over medium heat and get your olive oil in. Add the onion with a pinch of kosher or sea salt and stir occasionally for about 5 minutes.

While your onion is softening up, toss your garlic into a food processor and pulse till well chopped. Add the canned diced tomatoes and process till relatively smooth. If you don't have a food processor, a blender or immersion blender would work too, just don't let it go for too long. Let the tomato/garlic puree hang out while you prepare the rest of the sauce.

Add the mushrooms to the somewhat softened onion with a pinch of salt and saute till they release most of their moisture. Add the zucchini and cook for about 4 minutes. It'll look about like this:
Remove the sausage from its casing and break it into pieces as you add it to the pan. Cook for about 6 minutes, mashing the sausage with the back of a wooden spoon to break it up a bit. If you like your sauce extra chunky, leave it be. 

Add the tomato/garlic puree to the veg and sausage. Let it cook for a few minutes before adding the spaghetti sauce (if using). Reduce heat to low and stir occasionally while you get the pasta going.

By now your water should be at a ripping boil. Add about 1 Tbsp of kosher salt and drop in your pasta. Cook for half of the manufacturers recommended cooking time. Reserve at least 1/2 cup of the pasta water before you drain the par cooked pasta. 

Dump the pasta into the sauce (or, if you don't have a pan large enough to accommodate the sauce and pasta, carefully pour the sauce into the pot the pasta cooked in, followed by the drained noodles) and stir pretty much continuously for the remainder of the manufacturer's cooking time. At first it will look like this,
but as it cooks some of the sauce will absorb into the pasta, making it extra tasty, and it will look more like this:
Deeper in color, and much more flavorful than pasta cooked till al dente, then added to the sauce. I read an article by Christopher Kimball of Cook's Illustrated that featured this technique, and it really does works every time. Half the cooking time of whatever pasta you're using, cook it the remaining time in a lovely sauce. Many people say they love pasta even more on the second day... well, that's because it has absorbed a lot of the sauce. You get this result the first time with this dish, which I love.

Turn off the heat and add the butter, stirring well till it is completely melted and combined. You may think to yourself, 'butter in tomato sauce? I'm just going to skip it.' Just try it. It's not life altering, but it makes the dish memorably good, instead of just okay.

Serve with lots of grated Parmesan and share it with people you love. Or even just like a little, since you didn't really break a sweat making this dish. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Vegetable Fried Rice with Soy Poached Chicken

I've always loved fried rice, but never made it at home. We used to get Chinese take out frequently enough that I never had the desire or need to make it at home. Since we've cut down on eating out, I've been craving it something awful. I figured, how hard can it actually be to make? Not very! I know the instructions seem way too long for this to be an easy meal, but it's only very descriptive since the length of cooking time varies for the veg, and to keep it simple a little order is needed. 

The only 'trick' involved in making this dish is using 'day old' rice, which really means cold rice. You can definitely make the rice the day you want to prepare fried rice, you just have to ensure the rice is completely cold before doing so. Being an infamously impatient person when it comes to food, I surprisingly find it easier to make the rice the night before, and let it cool enough to put it in the fridge. Then I can make it whenever I want over the next few days - no pressure.

This dish comes together in a snap, and we've started referring to it as 'garbage rice', much in the same vain as garbage eggs. You can throw whatever is in your fridge that looks good in here. I'm only including in the recipe what I used for the batch pictured, but you can really get creative here. Or not. That's the beauty of fried rice. Add some protein and make it a complete meal, or keep it very simple for a side. 


1 1/2 cup uncooked brown rice, or your favorite
2 3/4 - 3 cups water (if using brown rice, use all 3)
2  Tbsp canola or neutral oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil

1 lb button mushrooms (or any other favorite),
   thickly sliced
7 - 10 radishes, halved then cut into sixths
1 cup frozen peas (I prefer petit pois)
1/4 purple cabbage (or your fave variety), thinly
1 bunch (usually 6 - 10) scallions, sliced thinly on 
   the bias, with a bit set to the side for garnish
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
~4 Tbsp post poaching liquid, Bragg's Amino Acids or fave soy sauce

for the chicken (optional)

2/3 cup Bragg's Amino Acids or low sodium soy
1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock  
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 inch knob of peeled ginger, smashed
1 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp sake (optional)                                      
1 - 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

other ingredients you may have on hand or want to try...

bamboo shoots, baby corn, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, eggplant, zucchini, tofu, pork or beef, edamame, sliced turnip, sweet potato, snow peas, kale or any other green, quinoa in place of rice... go crazy.

If using brown rice, bring 3 cups of water to boil in a medium sauce pan. Add the rice and bring back to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 40 minutes, then remove from heat and let sit covered (don't peek, no matter how much you're tempted) for 15 more minutes. Remove lid and fluff with a fork. To cool down fast, spread rice out on a cookie sheet till room temp, then place it in the fridge to get cold. If using rice on a later date, you can still use the same method, just pack it up in an air tight container and toss in the fridge.
*If using a white rice, add a bit of oil to you pan and saute the rice till it becomes more opaque, then add the water. Bring to a boil and cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. The remaining preparation is the same as with brown rice.

I like to make the chicken first, so it can cool while I prepare the fried rice. Combine the Bragg's or soy, garlic, ginger, mirin and sake in a small pot. Cut the breast(s) into 2 equal pieces. Place into the poaching liquid and turn heat on to low and cover. Keep an eye on this, as you don't want it to do anything more than a gentle simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, then remove the chicken and set aside. Crank the heat up to medium high for 5 minutes to reduce the poaching liquid a bit. Set aside till cool enough to touch, then shred with your fingers into bite size pieces.

In a very large pan, add the canola oil and dial heat up to medium high. Add the mushrooms and cook till they've released all their liquid, about 4 minutes. Add the cabbage and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the radishes and cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook till it becomes fragrant, about 1 minute. Don't forget to stir occasionally between the additions. 

Dump in all your cold rice at once and stir very well. Add the frozen peas and shredded chicken and stir well. Push the rice up to the sides of the pan to make a little 'well' in the middle of the pan. Add the 1 Tbsp of sesame oil and the beaten eggs. Scramble your eggs, leaving big curds if that's what you prefer, or stir constantly to get a smaller curd. Stir the rice into the eggs, then add the scallions. Add ~4 Tbsp of the poaching liquid (more or less, depending on your tastes. Start with a little - you can always add more) and stir well. Taste for seasoning and serve with a sprinkle of sliced scallion and extra soy sauce or poaching liquid. Any extra poaching liquid can be stored in a squeeze bottle or airtight container and kept in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Corn Pancakes with Bacon

I love savory pancakes, and these are no exception. There are only 3 things you absolutely have to follow to give these little corn cakes the best flavor. A well seasoned cast iron skillet, lots of bacon and corn flour. Oh, and corn of course. I used fresh corn here since its so plentiful right now, but frozen corn that has been thawed out should work great too.  

Even though this is a savory pancake, I adore them with lots of good maple syrup. They're good enough to eat plain, yet the syrup paired with the smoky bacon is a winning combo. With some perfectly ripe tomatoes, this is pretty much a quintessential summer meal that is great for any time of day.


3/4 cup corn flour
1/2 cup AP flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs, whisked till very frothy
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 medium ears of corn with the corn cut off and the  
   ears scraped of all the 'milk', or 1 1/2 cups frozen
   thawed corn
6 strips good quality bacon, bacon fat reserved for
   frying the cakes

Set an 8 - 12" well seasoned cast iron skillet over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook till very crisp. Once the rendered fat left in the pan has cooled some, pour it into a glass bowl and set aside.

Sift dry ingredients into a medium glass bowl. Add the milk, melted butter and oil to the beaten eggs. Cut the corn kernels from the cob right in the bowl of milk and eggs, taking care to scrape the cobs well with the back of your knife to get all the sweet corn 'milk' from the cob. Add the sifted dry ingredients and crumble the cooked bacon into the wet ingredients. Whisk together till just combined - be careful not to over mix. 
Reheat your cast iron skillet over medium low heat. Add a scant Tbsp of reserved bacon fat.  Place just under 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake into the skillet, and cook till there are quite a few air bubbles on top of your pancakes and the edges start to turn golden brown. Flip and cook a minute or 2 more. Set the pancakes aside. Add some bacon fat into the skillet before each batch of pancakes, and fry them up till all the batter is used.

Serve the pancakes straight out of the skillet as they're ready, or keep warm in a 200* oven. Top with lots of butter and warm maple syrup.

Recipe adapted from Blueberry Flax Pancakes, which was originated by Lucian Truscott IV

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Snackies Volume I

Granted, snacks such as these are usually found as cocktail party fare, but not lately in our house. The little one is quite fond of snacks, and unfortunately she is growing out of being content with a little bowl of black beans for one. Her tastes, not so surprisingly, seem to mirror mine, and these are a couple (of many) of my favorite snackies to have around the house. 

Who doesn't love mixed nuts? And gougères, aka crisp yet melt in your mouth cheese balls, are so addicting you will be slightly unnerved once you see how many you can house down.
These are also perfect to make in advance. The nuts keep well in an airtight container for up to a week, and the gougères can be frozen. Just 5 minutes in a 350* oven does the trick. 

Spiced Nuts


1 cup pecans
1 cup walnuts
1 cup almonds
or 3 cups of any combination of nuts you prefer, as long as they are roasted, not raw
2 egg whites, beaten till very frothy and slightly stiff
1.5 tsp kosher salt or sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground rosemary or 1 Tbsp finely chopped 
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
pinch of cayenne, or to taste

Preheat oven to 350* and line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.

 Add the spices to the beaten egg whites and gently fold them in thoroughly with a rubber spatula. Add the nuts and gently stir, ensuring they all get evenly coated. Spread them out evenly on the lined baking sheet and bake for about 15 - 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set cool on sheet for about 5 minutes before placing them in serving dish, or storage container. Let cool completely before covering to store. 

Gougères by Alain Ducasse


1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
Large pinch of kosher salt
1 cup AP flour
4 large eggs
1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese, plus extra for
freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400*. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats. In a medium saucepan, combine water, milk, butter and salt and bring to a boil. Add the flour all at once and stir it in well. Turn heat to low and keep stirring the dough till it begins to pull away from the pan and leave a bit of a film behind, around 2 minutes.

Place the dough in a large glass bowl and let cool for about a minute. Beat the eggs into the dough one at a time, ensuring each one is completely amalgamated before adding the next. The dough will look pretty off putting after you initially add an egg, but don't worry- just keep stirring and it comes together to form a beautifully satiny batter. Add the cheese and a pinch of pepper and nutmeg.

You can transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round or star tip and pipe tablespoon size mounds onto the baking sheets 2 inches apart or simply scoop the batter out with a tablespoon and drop them onto the baking sheets. Either way, they turn out beautiful and delicious. Sprinkle with some cheese and bake for ~22 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Serve immediately. 

If you are making them ahead, bake them for only about 20 minutes so they aren't quite completely golden brown. Allow to cool and freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet. Empty the sheet into a freezer bag. Keeps well for a month.

Alain Ducasse's Gougères from Food and Wine
All photos by Renee Hendrix

Monday, August 12, 2013

Indian Style Chicken Fajitas

We're wild about chicken tikka masala in our house, and this recipe uses a very similar preparation with the chicken. I thought about using it in another dish, and what could be more perfect than fajitas? Paired with a refreshing and creamy raita, they couldn't have turned out better. 

This recipe comes together fast, and my 2 year old loved it. Its a lovely little twist on a classic favorite, and fun enough to make for company. It can easily be made vegetarian by subbing some extra firm tofu for the chicken thighs.


3 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs or

   1 lb firm or extra firm tofu
16 oz plain whole milk yogurt
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
pinch cayenne pepper
5 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
1 - 2 red peppers thinly sliced, or any
combination you prefer
1 medium - small red onion, thinly sliced
milk mayonnaise made with 1/2 cup fresh
cilantro (optional)
1 Tbsp canola oil

6 spinach or plain flour tortillas 

for the raita:

1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 English cucumber, seeded and finely 
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

Combine the plain yogurt with the next 9 ingredients in a medium glass bowl and stir well to combine. Add the chicken thighs one at a time, thoroughly dredging each one in the yogurt marinade before adding the next. Cover with plastic wrap or a tight fitting lid and let marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour, or up to 4.

Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the raita in a medium glass bowl and stir well. Season to taste. Cover tightly with plastic and place in fridge for at least 1 hour for the flavors to marry. 

When ready to cook the fajitas, line a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil and set in a large cooling rack, like this one. Spray well with canola oil. Turn your oven's broiler on to high (you can also grill this if you like). Pull the chicken out of the dish on piece at a time, running hand along chicken to remove most of the yogurt. Lay atop the rack in a single row. 
Place under the broiler and cook for 12 minutes a side, flipping the chicken after the first side has received a nice char. Remove the chicken and set aside to let cool, then slice into thin strips.

While the chicken is broiling, set a large non-stick pan over medium high heat and add the canola oil. Add the onion and saute for 4 minutes, or till they begin to soften. Add the peppers and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Warm the tortillas in a dry skillet or nuke them for several seconds in the microwave to soften them. Add an equal amount of chicken to peppers and onions. Drizzle with cilantro milk mayo and serve raita on the side or in the fajita. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Three Cheese Baked Ziti with Spinach

This is one of my husband's favorite dishes. I always make it on a Friday so him and the little one can slowly house it over the weekend while I'm at work. And of course, it's another vehicle for spinach. It couldn't be easier, and I nearly always have the ingredients on hand. There is a lot of cheese in this, so instead of grabbing a jarred pasta sauce, which is the easiest route, I tend to go for unsalted diced tomatoes from a can to make a quick sauce. It only tacks on a few more minutes, but it is definitely worth it for the flavor you end up with. 

You can also get this pasta dish assembled ahead of time and keep it in the fridge for a few days before you bake it off. Need to freeze it for up to 3 months? No problem. Ensure it's tightly wrapped with plastic wrap, then foil, and place in the deep chill. Just thaw it in the fridge at least 1 day in advance before baking @ 350* for ~90 minutes, till the cheese starts to turn golden and the sauce is bubbling up on the sides.


1 lb ziti, cooked a few minutes
   shy of al dente
1 28 oz can + 1 14 oz can unsalted
   diced tomatoes, pref organic
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried marjoram
2 garlic cloves, chopped
pinch of salt and pepper
1 1 lb bag frozen chopped 
   spinach, pref organic
~6 ounces soft goat cheese
~8 ounces fresh mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 350*. Set a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil. Meanwhile, set a large (12") non-stick skillet over medium heat and add 1 Tbsp or so of olive oil. Add the onion and saute till translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the frozen spinach and cook, stirring occasionally for 8 more minutes. Blitz the tomatoes, garlic, oregano and marjoram in a food processor and add to the spinach. Simmer on low for about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the pasta 3 minutes shy of al dente per brand's instructions. Drain well, and place back in pot. Pour over the spinach and tomato sauce. Crumble in the goat cheese and give only a couple of stirs. Having a few pieces of whole soft goat cheese in here is lovely- you don't want it completely integrated. 

Pour the pasta into your favorite 9 x 13ish casserole dish that has been lightly spritzed with olive or canola oil. Shred the mozzarella with your hands and evenly top the pasta with it. Sprinkle with Parmasan. Bake on the center rack of your oven for about 30 - 45 minutes, or till mozzarella is completely melted and the Parm has started to brown. Allow casserole to sit for 5 - 10 minutes before serving. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Celery and Walnut Salad

Celery is usually one of those vegetables essential for certain things; tuna salad, mirepoix, chicken almond ding. Rarely have I thought of it as the center of attention... unless it was the base for ants on a log. This salad is surprisingly delicious, and the intensely lemon vinaigrette really alters the flavor of the celery. Some walnuts and Gruyere round out the salad, and you're left with something unexpectedly great. This is a fun thing to prepare for guests, since you'll be almost guaranteed a surprise reaction from them once they try it. 

I've adapted this a bit from Ina Garten's recipe, mainly because I wanted to use Gruyere instead, and it makes a very large amount of vinaigrette. I halved it here since I didn't want as much left over- and you'll still have a good amount remaining. It keeps well for a few days in the fridge, and tastes amazing on steamed green beans.


~5 cups thinly sliced celery (on the bias), about 2 
   bunches, with leaves
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 cup shaved Gruyere
salt and pepper

for the vinaigrette:

juice of 2 small lemons
zest of one lemon
~1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (you may want to add 
   more, since this is very lemony)
1 shallot, minced
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp kosher salt
pinch of pepper

Whisk together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette and set aside. Add the celery to a large bowl and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add about 1/2 of the vinaigrette and toss well. Cover with plastic wrap and keep in fridge for at least 1 hour before serving to allow flavors to marry. 

When serving, give the salad a final toss, taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Top with toasted nuts and cheese.

Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa's Celery and Parmesan Salad