You know how when you eat with that same someone in various restaurants over the years, you can nearly look at the menu and figure out what they’ll order? “I knew you’d get that.” Hm. Right again. Such smugness. It’s not totally always, but my husband will regularly choose the fish tacos should they have, like magic (not), appeared on the list. And if he has a choice of beans (pintos or black), he’ll choose black even though at home he swears by my pinto beans. So if I’m one smart cookie, I’ll keep nearly-always-the-choice fish tacos on permanent rotation at our house. And I do. But they need a little tweaking or updating from year to year, especially during FRIDAY FISH weeks. This time, not only did they morph into “Fish Fajitas,” but they’re made in the air fryer. Because I could. But could you bake them in the oven? (See recipe) Of course. Might you fry them in oil? Sure. But I hope you’ll choose the air fryer method. It’s fast; it’s healthy; it’s fun.
Last year, I made a ham for Super Bowl Sunday and was never happier than I was with that choice for a big game day spread. Rolls and biscuits, butter (think a sorta-kinda American jambon-buerre, though ham and biscuits -with butter- is a world unto itself in the American south), spicy mustard, all the cheese you’d need, and tons of pickles. A few basic sides…oh, wings, of course… and we were good to go. But the best part may have been what came a couple of days after the baked ham, which was a big pot of ham and beans with a fresh pan of hot cornbread.
While I’m not a football fan, I’m happy to provide the halftime food, reading the Sunday New York Times for the rest of the afternoon while everyone else yells at the tv. And if you’re skipping game day all together, as some do, you can still make my ham and beans because they’re good just about any time and not much is simpler to cook or clean up as it’s a one-pot meal.
If you’re like lots of other folks come January, you might be cutting back on this or that–maybe carbs, red meat, fat, sugar, or alcohol. Or did you make a commitment to increase your veggies? Sigh. Same here; I’m watching what’s going in with the hope of making up for the few extra pieces of bread and glasses of wine I enjoyed during the Mexican cruise. But there’s no need to suffer and every reason to adore the meals meant to increase health and decrease the waistline. This Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Broccoli Bean Bowl (how do I name these things?) is a new favorite at our house and because it’s made up of mostly pantry and colorful vegetable bin ingredients, it goes together pretty quickly and fills you up. While the Brussels sprouts and broccoli roast, there’s time to chop the rest of the vegetables and grab the last few ingredients that serve as a dressing. Garnishes of juicy cherry tomatoes and perky olives top the whole thing off and, while I didn’t think hard about it at first, this vegetable-heavy meal scores at the checkout, too at about $4 or less per serving (depending on how you make it or which sales you hit.) And if that’s not enough, you’re getting about 15 grams of protein in each 2-cup serving! Between the tender-crisp roasted sprouts and broccoli, the crunchy fresh vegetables, the creamy beans, the bright lemon, and the briny high notes, my bowl sings of balance, textural difference, and colorful vibrance. Since the ingredient list isn’t terribly short (chop, chop, chop), I offer a quicker option without a few of the fresh vegetables. (Perhaps as a side for a game day spread? Add feta for fun.) Many home cooks look at long ingredient lists and quickly move on, so I offer this option if that’s you. I keep any number of vegetables at one time because I like God’s own garden in my salads and a mixed variety of choices for dinner without making another grocery run. And, as a mostly retired person, I don’t mind lots of chopping. I know not everyone is like that. Ti piace, as my choral conducting professor at University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, Minnesota) used to say. You like it! Do as you please. Make it just the way you want it. (Or, as we Americans might say, “do it your way.”) Ti piace always sounded better!
If your refrigerator is full to over-flowing with Thanksgiving leftovers (aren’t you lucky) and you’ve juuuuust abooooout had your fill of turkey sandwiches and reheated vegetables, it might be time for a big pot of turkey soup.
I’m not a football fan. At this point in my life, I don’t think it’s going to change. I’m occasionally somewhat nasty or worse about it, but skip that here because in the U.S., if there’s a get together on any Sunday afternoon in January or early February, it’s likely to involve football. Hmm. The Super Bowl (February 13, 2022–6:30 pm ET) is coming like a freight train barreling down the track to your family room as well as to your kitchen and mine. So just to get my two cents in, I usually make a concerted effort to at least add something tasty and even healthy to the game day food lineup. This year, it’s an addictive, pantry-centric southwestern black bean dip that’s perfect with a cold beer at kickoff or even for dinner some other time. (Why can’t we have dip for dinner? I think we can. I’ll write you a note.)
In 2020, our ubiquitous all-American cookouts — which roar on ad infinitum Mother’s Day through Labor Day — were often a tad sad little affairs if we had them at all. Instead of the jumbo party packs of burgers and brats, unending veggie or cheese trays, boxes of big cupcakes, and the super-sized bag of red, white, and blue paper napkins to last all summer long, we were buying a single pound of ground beef, 4 buns, a pint of vanilla, and left the colored napkins on the shelf. Fireworks, if available on the 4th, were viewed from apartment building balconies or hillside decks. We were masked and our celebrations felt the same.
You might — or might not — know that around my own house I’m known as “The Soup Queen.” I’m proud of my moniker and after all these years of souping, I choose to believe I deserve it. I can make a fancy-schmancy soup, having bought every single ingredient for it at a certain expense (Let’s say a gorgeous seafood stew for Christmas Eve, for instance), but there’s also the very good chance I’ll look in the refrigerator and pantry to come up with dinner based on what just happens to be lying around looking sad and sorry. Folks who know me have probably had a pot or bowl of soup left on their doorstep at some time or another — maybe when they weren’t feeling up to snuff or when I had more soup than my freezer would hold. Others have shown up for a dinner party only to find two big pots of soup on the stove and a big basket of bread on the counter along with several bottles of my favorite wines. My friend Jean, who gets a little soup every week lately as she’s recovering from a back injury, likes to say, “Please keep me on your soup list!” It makes a woman feel good.
DEVILED EGG DIP–Leftover boiled eggs are whirred up with typical deviled egg ingredients for a yummy, addictive dip! Lovely for those attempting to make deviled eggs, but have found the eggs are not happy being peeled. Also perfect for those just too lazy to make deviled eggs or who can’t find their deviled egg platter. Same great taste/less hassle.
Yesterday was a long day. While Easter is always Easter, it can be many other things as well. Stuff on opposite ends of the teeter-totter. There are worship services; there are egg hunts. Kids eat chocolate bunnies; adults feast on deviled eggs. Tulips adorn tables; lilies are carried to hurting friends. Children are born; others folks cross the river, as my nephew’s wife did in the early part of the day. Some are buried, as was my mom in the Easter of ’85.
Just a short drive from our house in Colorado Springs is our favorite Italian market and deli Mollica’s, which is perhaps best known as a popular, packed lunch spot on Garden of the Gods Road just west of I-25. Mollica’s is the happy kind of place that still serves old school “red sauce” meals like spaghetti and meatballs or a very good lasagna (all made with fresh pasta) as well as yummy pizza and calzone — though I couldn’t call it a “pizza place.” A large part of the lunch menu has always been devoted to stellar sandwiches (think grinders from house made sausage, scratch meatballs, heroes, and hot Italian beef) and a full line of filling salads that of course are served with fresh bread and butter. While I’m ready to eat anything Mollica’s makes –check out their dinner specials, too — I nearly always choose a salad because I can also get a cup of their minestrone–a simple and herby vegetable soup that just hits the sweet spot in my tummy. Occasionally I wonder why I don’t make some minestrone at home, but for some reason, I rarely do. That just changed.
My post about the cookbook gifts for Mother’s and Father’s Days a couple of weeks ago resulted in a tasty stack of books hanging around my office and kitchen. While I cook off the top of my head for the most part, I also know the road toward growth and innovation is paved with reading, seeing, tasting, talking, cooking and testing new dishes. When I had a minute or two –and let’s face it, we’re pretty much still staying home, so I do have time — I kept flipping through those books, enjoying them more and more. Given ingredients are a bit scarce, even though I wanted to cook a whole bunch of different recipes, unless I wanted to wait a week for the next grocery run, I probably had to punt to put one on the dinner table.