Sunday, October 21, 2018

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

A common side dish in this house is Brussels sprouts. Most often I prepare them in the skillet--either halved or shredded. Both are great methods to prepare them. Most recently, I've been roasting them in the oven. Roasting allows for crispy edges and you can season them however you like. You can experiment with different seasonings to find something that you especially like.

Now if you think you don't like Brussels sprouts, you're probably recalling the bitter vegetable that you were forced to choke down over the holidays. But over the last quarter century, farmers have been selectively breeding them to reduce the bitter compounds (glucosinolates) that have turned you off of this healthy vegetable. It's time to try them again. Brussels sprouts are high in Vitamin K and C and also provide protein. 

Roasted and Seasoned Brussels Sprouts

  • Brussels sprouts - enough for a side dish for each person, trim off stem, pull off outer leaves, and cut in half
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Your favorite seasonings
  • Olive oil

Preheat to 400 degrees.

Prepare Brussels sprouts and put them into a quart-sized plastic bag. Add to the bag the olive oil, salt, pepper, and your favorite seasonings. Shake the bag (Shake and Bake style!) to coat the Brussels sprouts with the oil and seasonings. This time, the seasonings I added were some roasted garlic powder and some of Penzey's Mural of Flavor. This is where you can experiment with various seasonings to find a few variations that you like. Add a bit of soy sauce for an Asian twist. Add a bit of your favorite hot sauce if you like. You can try it out with a different seasoning mix each night. But never omit the salt (unless you are under doctor's orders) as the salt helps a great deal with the flavor. 

Place the coated sprouts face down on a baking sheet and pop them into the pre-heated oven. Every 5-10 minutes give them a stir. Cook 30-40 minutes depending on how blackened and crispy you want them. When finished, remove from the oven and let cool for a bit. Sprinkle with some finishing salt and more pepper and serve as a side dish. 

Another technique is to add some grated Parmesan cheese (actual cheese, not the stuff in the green can) during the last few minutes of cooking. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Parsley Pesto

This is a quick, easy, healthy, and tasty weeknight salad that I recently adapted from a Cooking Light magazine and I've made this recipe a few times now. Use this as starting point and tweak it to your liking.

I made a number of changes to the original recipe. But we picked this recipe to try because of one ingredient: roasted garbanzo beans!

Now the concept of roasting garbanzo beans is a new to us. We like them and there are always a few cans in the pantry. But roasting these things turns them into something dangerously addictive (in a good way!). They are THAT good. Suddenly, they are tasty nuggets that are meaty and chewy. They are utterly transformed and vastly improved. It's an amazing transformation.

We got introduced to the concept through a Blue Apron recipe. The roasting of the garbanzo beans seemed like an unnecessary step but I thought I would just follow the recipe. Once they cooled enough to try one I was hooked. It was hard not to keep stealing a few as they cool. They could stand on their own as a healthy snack food.

The recipe also includes some parsley pesto. I have a go-to recipe for traditional pesto with basil. I make batches of it during the summer months and then freeze them in ice cube trays to use throughout the year. I've also made pesto with other ingredients including parsley, carrot top greens, arugula, and cilantro. Parsley pesto is a nice, mild pesto and it's great to have some on hand frozen. Defrost a cube to add to eggs, fish, or chicken if you eat meat. So I have multiple bags of various types of frozen pesto cubes in the freezer at the ready.

Finally, the original recipe called for some pulled chunks of rotisserie chicken. Since we don't eat meat, we substituted Tofurky's tasty "Slow Roasted Chick'n." This has been another revelation. This chicken substitute is pretty dead on and it has opened up some new recipes for us to try.

Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Parsley Pesto

Serves 2
  • Parsley - 1 large flat leaf bunch cleaned and dried with leaves pulled off
  • Pine nuts - 1/3 cup
  • Parmesan cheese - 1 cup grated
  • Garlic - 2-3 cloves minced
  • salt and pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Chicken - 1/2 - 3/4 of an 8 oz package of Tofurky Slow Roasted Chick'n or about 4 cups of  shredded rotisserie chicken
  • Edamame - 2 cups, shelled and cooked
  • Garbanzo beans - 1 15 oz. can drained
  • English cucumber - 1, chopped
  • Arugula - 4 handfuls
Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Parsley Pesto
Combine first five ingredients in a food processor bowl. While processing, slowly add olive oil until you reach the desired consistency. To preserve for the future, spoon pesto into oiled ice cube trays and freeze overnight. The next day, set out for a few minutes and then separate the cubes from the trays. Place cubes in freezer bags and store in the freezer for future use. For this recipe, use 3-4 frozen cubes of parsley pesto.

Roasted Garbanzo Beans
Drain and rinse the beans then place them in a single layer on a doubled paper towel. Cover with paper towels and let them dry completely. Transfer beans to a large bowl and add olive oil, salt, and pepper and stir to mix. Place beans in a single layer on a (parchment paper lined) cookie sheet and place in pre-heated oven for 20-22 minutes. Roll beans over halfway through the cooking time. Watch the beans closely during the last few minutes. Remove when done and let cool. 

Place the chicken (in whatever form) in a skillet with a little olive oil over medium high heat. Cook until there's a some browning on both sides.

Assemble salad
In a large mixing bowl, combine arugula, edamame, roasted garbanzo beans, and cucumber. Mix in parsley pesto and stir to coat the ingredients with the pesto (it's actually better to mix by hand to get a nice coating on everything). Drizzle with some olive oil if you think the mixture seems dry. Divide the mixture between serving plates or bowls and top with the cooked chicken. 

Monday, July 30, 2018

Spaghetti al Limone

The backyard lemons continue to be in full bloom. As in the last post, I am always looking for ways to use up the backyard bounty of lemons.

I got this recipe via email from my Milk Street subscription. What appealed to me were the simple ingredients, quick preparation time (hello weeknight meal!), bright flavors, and the use of a lemon.

With this recipe, I also appreciated the use of starchy pasta water along with a generous bit of butter to thicken the sauce instead of some recipes which call for cream. This leads to a cleaner, lighter, and brighter finish.

This Italian-based recipe comes from the Campania region of Italy where there is an abundance of lemon trees along the Amalfi Coast.

Spaghetti al Limone (serves 4)


  • 5 tablespoons salted butter, divided
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • red pepper flakes, to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon to start then adjust accordingly)
  • 10-12 ounces spaghetti or linguini
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine (plus extra for the chef!)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup of chopped parsley (or basil leaves)
  • finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste

  • Prep lemon zest, herbs, and mince garlic. Preheat 2 quarts of salted water for pasta.
  • In a large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons butter (I also added some olive oil to the mixture). Add the minced garlic and cook stirring for about 30 seconds.
  • Add the red pepper flakes and cook for one more minute
  • Add the white wine and simmer until reduced, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Bring pasta water to a boil. Cook the pasta until 2-3 minutes short of the directions (pasta will continue to cook later in the skillet).
  • As pasta nears time, ladle of 1 1/2 cup of pasta water then drain pasta
  • Return the skillet to medium high heat, stir in the reserved pasta water, and bring to a simmer. Add the drained pasta and stir to mix. 
  • Lower the heat until gently simmering.
  • Add 2 remaining tablespoons of butter,  a very generous grind of black pepper, the lemon juice and zest, and the parsley.
  • Continue to simmer until the sauce has thickened and the extra water has evaporated. This is a key step. You don't want a watery sauce so simmer until the pasta glistens with starch and fat and the sauce has thickened.
  • Transfer to serving dishes and serve with some grated Parmesan cheese
  • Garnish with a lemon slice or a sprig of fresh parsley or basil

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Bee's Knees

With the weather warming up and no more rain in the foreseeable future, it's time to start exploring some warm weather cocktails. Add to that a lemon tree in the backyard bursting with lemons.

I was recently introduced to this drink through a friend who saw the recipe in a recent issue of Food & Wine magazine. Like me, he has a lemon tree and is always looking for ways to use them up.

The drink is a nice balance of tart and sweetness with neither dominating the drink. You can use any type of gin. I opted to use a St. George Terroir Gin that was given to me by a friend.

The first step is to chill a glass in the fridge ahead of time so it's ready when it's cocktail time. The recipe calls for a coupe glass but I didn't have any of those and used a traditional martini glass instead.

Also, honey can be difficult to work with due to its viscosity. So make a honey syrup (not unlike simple syrup) with equal parts honey and water. Either use a stove top or microwave to mix the ingredients together. It will keep in the fridge for a while.

Bee's Knees (makes 1 cocktail)

  • 2 oz. (1/4 cup) gin
  • 1 Tbsp. honey mixed with 1 Tbsp. warm water
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake well. Strain the drink into a chilled glass. Make a garnish of lemon peel and add it to the drink and serve. 

Here's a video on how to make it:


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Just About Done!

The best Christmas gift we got was that our downstairs room remodel is basically done. The final inspection is scheduled for tomorrow. There are a few items on the punch list, but we have begun to move the furniture in. We even watched a football game on the TV with the fireplace below warming the room.

The shelves are mostly empty and there are additional details we want to add but it is finally a usable room. This whole project got started one year ago. Rain delayed the foundation work for months on end which then delayed the interior remodel. But we are finally happy with the finished product.

My New Year's resolution is to return this blog to the topic of food and cooking. I have new cookbooks and new ideas to share in 2018.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Beyond Burger

I recently caught the end of an interview on the radio. It was an interview with Ethan Brown talking about his company, Beyond Meat, and his efforts to create a plant-based protein that can be a meat substitute (though he would shudder at that description). The company makes a burger that is starting to show up in supermarkets. But the company actually started with frozen bags of plant-based chicken.

Brown's philosophy and approach are different from others in this market. Rather than focus on creating a pretty good meat substitute (as I described it earlier), he is setting out to make meat out of plant products. To him, it's an important change of perception. He is not looking to make a meat substitute. He wants to make meat out of plant-based products. Plant based version of the same
ingredients that you find in meat. Wanting to have a legacy of doing good in the world is Brown's main motivation. He also believes that marketing matters. You won't find the Beyond Burger over with the other meat substitute products. Instead you find them in the meat section right next to ground beef. Because, to him, it's meat and it should be in the meat section of the supermarket.

The protein comes from peas. Pea protein isolate, to be exact. The animal fat is replaced with canola and coconut oils.

So after hearing the interview, I kept my eye out at the supermarket. I've had the Beyond burger twice now. Both of the times I've made them I just used a stove-top, non-stick skillet. I haven't yet tried to barbecue them. Like ground beef burgers, everyone has different preferences on how they like their burgers. I can see that this product can be similar. The directions say to cook for 3 minutes per side. This
seemed too short for me. I cooked it a few minutes longer in order to get some browning on the outside. Even though I cooked it longer there was still some pink in the center (courtesy of the added beet juice).

I also appreciated that almost all of the packaging could be composted or recycled.

The latest version, pictured here, was made with melted cheddar, pickles, lettuce, mayo, and mustard all in between a fresh ciabatta bun. Do yourself a favor and skip those mass-produced burger buns and get some high quality bread instead. No matter what's inside.

The Beyond Burger taste is very good and satisfying but not 100% like eating a beef burger (which I haven't had in many years). The appearance and the texture are very close to beef burgers. But after having years of Morningstar, Garden Burgers, and other substitutes, I would say that Beyond Burger is a giant step forward.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Vetrazzo Countertop Installed

The Vetrazzo counter top was recently installed on the wet bar counter top downstairs on our remodel project.

We have been looking at Vetrazzo for a number of years and have hoped for a chance to find a use for it. Once this part of the redesign began to form in our designer's plans, we immediately jumped on the opportunity to use Vetrazzo.

You may or may not have heard of Vetrazzo, but what attracted us was the use of recycled glass and the sustainability of the product. I will let Wikipedia take it from here:
"Vetrazzo recycled glass countertops were invented in Berkeley in 1996. A materials scientist, Don McPherson, pursuing his PhD combined recycled glass and a cement binder to create a sustainable, polished countertop. The company at that time was known as Counter Productions. The production batches were small and handmade, demanding a more streamlined and repeatable process. 
In 2006, a former customer and designer named Olivia Teter was looking for a new project and found the company in financial straits. She, together with James Sheppard and Jeff Gustafson, partnered to raise capital, buy the product formula and assets behind the Vetrazzo countertops, and co-found what is now Vetrazzo LLC. 
The Vetrazzo manufacturing facility was located in Richmond, California in a recycled Ford assembly plant. The plant is on the National Register of Historic Places and hosts the Rosie the Riveter Museum. It utilizes daylight, controls air pollution with a special negative-pressure dust booth, recycles water and hosts a 1 megawatt solar system manufactured by building tenant Sunpower Corporation. 
In June 2010 Polycor acquired Vetrazzo and move the plant back Georgia where it now shares a manufacturing space with the Georgia Marble company."
We were made aware of Vetrazzo soon after it was invented through an article in Sunset Magazine. We were updating a kitchen in our first condo at the time and seriously considered using Vetrazzo on the kitchen counter top. We ended up going with something else but we have always been looking for the opportunity to use it. We ended up going with the Floating Blue color scheme. It's made of recycled glass, concrete, and composite. We are quite happy with the final product.