cooking, food, NaBloPoMo, recipe

It’s Comfort Food Season!

One of the best things about fall – besides dry and crisp weather for amazing hair days – is the comfort food. 

When the leaves start changing, so do my cravings. After six months of salad, I’m ready for warm comforting meals.

The 3 Best Soups and Chilis for Cold Weather

1. Chili

Photo from The Wholesome Dish

What constitutes a good chili can spark many debates: beans or no beans, thick or juicy, and – of course – spice level.

I have made many variations of chili over the years, many times never following a recipe and just adding what feels right to the pot. And guess what? No matter what you throw in, chili usually ends up tasting halfway decent.

Last year I came across this chili recipe. It is simple, doesn’t take all day to cook, and is really, really good.

I share with you: The Best Classic Chili Recipe, courtesy of The Wholesome Dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 pound 90% lean ground beef (NOTE: I use a package of meatloaf mix here, a mix of beef, pork and veal and it adds another layer of meaty flavor)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 1 (15 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 (16 oz.) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce

Instructions

  • Add the olive oil to a large soup pot and place it over medium-high heat for two minutes. Add the onion. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the ground beef to the pot. Break it apart with a wooden spoon. Cook for 6-7 minutes, until the beef is browned, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the chili powder, cumin, sugar, tomato paste, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Stir until well combined.
  • Add the broth, diced tomatoes (with their juice), drained beans, and tomato sauce. Stir well.
  • Bring the liquid to a low boil. Then, reduce the heat (low to medium-low) to gently simmer the chili, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove the pot from the heat. Let the chili rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Garnish with all of your favorite chili toppings! I tend to put out cheese, sliced fresh jalapenos, avocado and sour cream.

2. Meat Soup

With a sexy name like “meat soup”, how could you not want to try this recipe? This recipe is from Mr. KK’s family, and is a staple during the winter. This soup brings Mr. KK back to his childhood, sitting at his grandmothers kitchen table, and – later in life – at home with his parents on a Sunday afternoon. His grandmother used to make it on the stove, but it is just as delicious (and easier!) in the Instant Pot.

And, being a family recipe, there are ZERO measurements for anything! The best kind of recipes!

Ingredients

  • Carrots (I use about 4-5 good sized carrots, cut into discs or half moons uniform in size)
  • Onion (The original stovetop recipe used just one full onion peeled and added to the pot; I chop an onion for the Instant Pot recipe)
  • Celery (About 2-3 stalks, diced)
  • Beef shank (The meatier, the better. If it has a LOT of meat on it, you can just use one; if it has too little meat on it, use multiple)
  • Beef stock (I use unsalted, and you use enough to cover the ingredients; you could also use a mixture of beef stock and water if regular stock is too salty)
  • 1 small can tomato sauce (an actual measurement from the original recipe!)
  • “Any seasoning you may want” (I will add salt because I use unsalted stock; you can also use other dried seasonings, however, I tend to skip them and just go with gold old kosher salt)

Directions

  • Put carrots, onion, celery in the Instant Pot.
  • Put your beef shank(s) on top of the veggies.
  • Add about 6-8 cups of liquid: either the beef stock or beef stock/water combo to cover the veggies and meat.
  • Add the can of tomato sauce.
  • Add your seasonings (just salt for me!).
  • Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes.
  • Manually release steamer.
  • When it’s safe, open the lid of the pot and remove the beef shanks (be careful, they may fall apart a little bit).
  • Shred the meat from the shanks into bite sized pieces and put back into the Instant Pot.

Now, you can absolutely eat this soup just like this. However, being Italian (and never truly full), we add a little pasta to our soup for make it more of a meal. The preferred pasta for this soup is: Acini de Pepe, which are small little pearls of pasta. You can find it as most grocery stores or Italian food stores.

If you are using pasta, cook the pasta separately from the soup according to the package. When cooked, add the desired amount of pasta to a shallow bowl and ladle the meat soup over it.

I then add a TON of grated parmesan cheese on top, which brings a more salty and nutty flavor to the soup.

3. Ina Garten’s Italian White Beans and Escarole

Image from The Food Network

Oh, Ina, how I love you. My girl crush is REAL.

My grandmother used to make escarole and beans (or, as we Italians pronounce it: sche-daul and beans). In her version, she put cut up pepperoni, which added a nice kick.

Ina’s version is meat free but full of flavor (likely from the 2 tons of cheese you put in). NOTE: this recipe is Ina Garten’s…I am not taking credit!

Ingredients

  • 2 (15.5 ounce) cans white cannellini beans
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 large head escarole, leaves separated, trimmed, washed and spun dry
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions

  • Drain the beans, rinse and drain again.
  • In large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat (I use my Le Creuset which works perfectly).
  • Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute until garlic is fragrant but not browned (SO important).
  • Add the chicken stock, the drained beans, red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper.
  • Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.
  • With a potato masher or large spoon, mash half of the beans in the pot and simmer uncovered another 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, stack escarole leaves on top of each other and cut them crosswise into 3-inch-wide strips.
  • Add the greens to the pot, cover, and steam the greens over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender, stirring the greens into the beans about halfway through.
  • Off the heat, stir in the pecorino and parmesan cheeses, taste for seasonings and serve warm.

I can’t tell you how creamy, garlicky and delicious this dish is. It would go well with some crusty Italian bread for sure.

Happy warm and comfy eating!

cooking, food, recipe

Ode to the Potato

Potatoes are one of the most perfect foods on the planet.

They are so versatile: you can bake them, roast them, hasselback them, mash them, french fry them, hash brown them, and even turn the into pasta. Very few foods an claim this amazingness.

As much as I love potatoes, I don’t eat the as often as I would like. This short, pear-shaped body would likely morph into a pineapple if I got the fries instead of salad every time.

But everyone once and I while, I treat myself (and, indirectly, Mr. KK). Last night was one of those nights. I busted out the big guns and made Gorgonzola Twice Baked Potatoes.

Gorgonzola Twice Baked Potatoes Recipe

Ingredients

2 Russet baking potatoes
Crumbled gorgonzola cheese (exact amount depends on your taste; I tend to use maybe 1/2 a cup or a little more)
2-3TBSP of sour cream
Milk
Salt and Pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Wash and completely dry potatoes. Place them on a baking sheet and piece them with a knife (about 5 good pierces per potato)
  3. Bake the potatoes in the oven until they are crispy on the outside and a paring knife glides in easily, about an hour
  4. Remove from the oven and let cool until you can handle them (reduce oven temp to 400 degrees)
  5. Hold the warm potato in your palm, and using a knife, slide off a little oval flap of potato. This will be the opening you will use to scoop out the potato. I usually do one that’s about a few inched long and an inch or two wide. It should just be across the length of the top of the potato (see photo below)
  6. Scoop out potato from both potatoes into a bowl. Mash with a potato masher to remove any lumps.
  7. Add cheese, sour cream, salt and pepper. Mix slowly. Add milk as needed to loosen the mixture just a bit – it should still have a very thick consistency and hold together.
  8. Put the stuffing back into the potato shells, place stuffed potatoes back on the baking sheet.*
  9. Warm and slightly brown the tops of the potatoes in the over for about 10 minutes (or as long as you need to get the filling hot and the cheese a little melty).

*At this stage, you can wrap the potatoes in foil and refrigerate for a day and then bake the next day in the oven at 350 until the are hot, then increase to 400 to brown the tops a bit.

Steps 4 and 5: the hollowed out potatoes. Just slide a small flap of the top so the potato holds its shape when it’s empty.
Scooped out potato and gorgonzola cheese.
Add sour cream, salt and pepper. After mixing start to add a little bit of milk to moisten the mixture just a little bit!
Refill your potatoes and brown them in the oven!

Are these good for you? Not likely. Are they delicious? YOU BET.

These are probably one of my favorite ways to enjoy a potato. Though roasted baby potatoes with oil, garlic and rosemary are a close second. And the french fries from our favorite beer bar. Oh, and gnocchi. Who am I kidding? I like ALL potatoes. Except scalloped potatoes, which I feel are that second cousin of the potato that no one wants to invite to family reunions.

Speaking of adoring potatoes, my child doesn’t like mashed potatoes. Let me repeat that: my child does not like mashed potatoes. I’m not quite sure how this relationship is going to turn out, to be honest.

cooking, food, NaBloPoMo, recipe

Cozy Meals for a Crazy Year

Is it just me, or is it hard to eat healthy when the weather cools down? I don’t know about you, but when it’s 25 degrees outside, I find it difficult to eat a salad.

Cooler temps call for warm, comforting meals. And in year when we’ve been dressing for comfort, there’s not reason we shouldn’t be eating for comfort, too.

I thought I’d share some of my favorite comfort food recipes for the upcoming winter season.

KK’s Top 5 Comfort Foods

Ina’s Penne Vodka

I’ve shared this recipe before by Ina Garten, but it’s worth sharing again. This pasta is rich and creamy – with a hint of heat from the red pepper flakes – and hard to eat just one serving. You will overeat this pasta, but it will be worth it.

Get the recipe here.

Beef, Tomato and Acini de Pepe Soup

Photo from skinnytaste.com

There are days when I just crave a big bowl of steaming, satisfying soup. I found this recipe in a Skinnytaste cookbook I bought after I received my Instant Pot. The meat and pasta make it hearty, and the half pound of parmesan cheese I put on top makes it’s kk-worthy.

Get the recipe here.

Spaghetti Carbonara

Image courtesy of Food Network.

I know it’s bad for you, but it’s SO SO SO good. Tyler Florence’s version of spaghetti carbonara is a lighter version, the “sauce” coming from the egg and the pasta water. It is velvety and creamy and perfect on a cold night with a glass of red wine. Sometimes, when I’m feeling crazy, I’ll make this recipe with bucatini.

Get the recipe here.

Sous Vide Ribeye

When I think of winter date night’s in, I immediately picture a juicy ribeye steak, onion rings and roasted broccolini and a full bodied cabernet. When it’s too cold to go outside and grill, I’ll prepare the steaks with the sous vide, and then sear them in a hot cast iron skillet with butter until there’s a crust. There is no recipe here. I simply vacuum seal the steaks in a bag with fresh herbs, salt and pepper and garlic, then sous vide them until the perfect medium rare. I then heat a cast iron pan until it’s screaming hot and I sear the steaks on each side for no more than a minute or two, and finish by basting with melted butter. OMG, heaven.

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich

I know fried chicken seems like a summertime dinner, enjoyed outside on a picnic table with a checkered tablecloth, but if you have the means to fry inside, fried chicken is one of those foods that just hits the spot and makes you feel good all over.

This recipe for fried chicken sandwiches is my girl crush Ina’s. And it was delicious. Don’t skimp on the pickles; I used homemade bread and butter quick pickles I made earlier in the day. Goes wonderfully with a hoppy IPA.

Get the recipe here.

Hopefully this provided some much-needed comfort food inspiration because honestly, vegetables aren’t cutting it right now.

cooking, Entertaining, food, NaBloPoMo, recipe

The Only Appetizer Recipe You’ll Need

Mr. KK and I have always been big fans of visiting Portland, Maine. Aside from the fact that it reminds us a bit of Boston with it’s cobblestone ankle-breaking sidewalks and amazing restaurants (can you say lobstah rolls?), but the beer scene is top notch.

Trips to Portland became a little harder when the Little Mister came along, and as much as we were raising a bar baby, it was getting hard to ignore the stink eye we’d get from the hipsters.

One summer we rented a beach house for the three of us in South Portland, a 10-minute drive over the bridge. We were just close enough to enjoy an afternoon in our favorite city, with the luxury of being walking distance to a great little beach. Our house was conveniently located next to a Scratch Baking Company, a bakery that had somewhat of a cult following. Every morning at 6am people would start lining up waiting for the bakery to open, just to get their hands on their famous bagels. With the line of people came chit chat, so every morning we were up at the crack of dawn listening to everyone in line.

Now, having a husband with a sweet tooth and a toddler who loved all things cake and cookie, being next to the bakery was a very convenient spot for us. I could literally roll out of bed, walk out the front door, and be in line in my pajamas. Not being much a bagel person myself, they had a coffee cake that was to die for.

My favorite item from this bakery, however, was not a baked good at all. Tucked into the cooler with the cream cheese were containers of homemade pimento cheese spread.

Now, if you’re from the south, you are well aware of how life-changing pimento cheese is. If you don’t know what pimento cheese spread is, well, I’m sorry. You’ve barely enjoyed life up until this point.

First off, it’s made with cheese. If you’re a cheese whore like I am, that should be enough of a selling point. Second, it’s cheese mixed with cream cheese. (I mean, COME ON.) But perhaps the best selling point, is that you can eat it on almost anything. Crackers? Sure. Pita chips? My favorite. As a grilled cheese. Woah. Spread on a chicken cutlet on a roll? Shut the front door.

The day I discovered the pimento cheese spread at Scratch Baking Company, my entire vacation changed. I bought a container every single day, and ate the entire thing throughout the day. I had dreams about this pimento cheese. We went back to South Portland a second summer and the first thing I did was go to this bakery and secure pimento cheese for the week.

But you don’t have to live in the south or visit South Portland in order to enjoy pimento cheese. In fact, I have made pimento cheese spread many times (is there anything better to enjoy at a Kentucky Derby Party?). However, I have discovered the best of the best pimento cheese recipe; the créme de le cream cheese, if you will.

And who other to give us this amazing recipe than my girl crush: Ina Garten.

In her latest cookbook Modern Comfort Food, Ina shares her take on this amazing appetizer. In fact, once you make this and serve it, you’ll never need another appetizer recipe again.

Ina’s Spicy Pimento Cheese Spread

Recipe and photos courtesy of Ina Garten.

Click here for the recipe and a video.

Ingredients

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup mayonnaise 
1 1/2 tsp granulated onion (not onion powder)
2 large garlic gloves
1 teaspoon celery seed 
Kosher salt
3/4 cup pickled jalapenos, drained and chopped 
1/2 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts (3 to 4 scallions)
1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers, drained (4 ounces)
4 cups shredded sharp while cheddar (10 ounces)
1 tablespoon Sriracha

Crackers and/or crudités for serving

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, onion, garlic, celery seed and 1/2 tsp salt with a wooden spoon. Add the pickled jalapenos, scallions and red peppers and grated Cheddar. Add the Sriracha and combine. Taste for seasonings and serve with crackers, corn chips or crudités. (Or with my favorite: pita chips).

I highly recommend you make a double batch: one batch for your guests, and the other to hide in the back of your fridge so you can shame it any time no one is looking.

You’re welcome.

cooking, NaBloPoMo, recipe

Recipe: quick & easy Midnight Pasta

It’s Thanksgiving week, which means the madness has begun. Weekends will be filled to the brim with activities and shopping, cookie baking and present wrapping. Which means time during the week after work is precious, and I need to make the most of it.

This is the time of year, when meal prep becomes ‘whatever’s easiest’. That may be thawing a container of beef stew (like we’re doing tonight) or making simple meals with foods you can find in your pantry (like last night).

Yesterday was a big push to blow all the leaves in the yard for Mr. KK (despite half the yard having snow on it) and starting the holiday shopping and entertaining Little Mister for me. Knowing I’d be doing a VERY LARGE grocery store trip early in the week for Thanksgiving, I needed to get creative with what I had in the house.

Enter: Midnight Pasta.

This pasta dish is easy to make with pantry staples, and originated as the dish Italians would make as a midnight snack.

midnight pasta ingredients
I know I said ‘pantry staples’ and no one has parsley in their pantries. For some reason, our parsley plant is hanging on outside, even after the first snow of the season. If you don’t have fresh parsley, you can use dried or skip altogether.

If you don’t like anchovies, you’re out of luck on this one. But I promise they create a deliciously salty pasta, you’d have no idea you were eating them.

Recipe for Midnight Pasta (aka: Pasta with Anchovies)

IMG_2562
Delicious midnight pasta with anchovies.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  •  Salt (for the cooking water)
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1 small can of anchovies, mostly drained
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, optional
  •  Parmesan for grating, optional (for me: lots of parmesan)
  • 4 slices of bread, pulsed into bread crumbs
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp. butter

Directions:

Put spaghetti in well-salted pan of boiling water. Cook according to package directions until al dente.

Melts 2 Tbsp butter in small sauté pan over medium heat. Add bread crumbs and stir to coat. Toast breadcrumbs, stirring to keep them evenly browned. Sprinkle zest of lemon into breadcrumbs. Remove from heat when toasty.

IMG_2561.jpeg

While the pasta is cooking, warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, without letting it brown. Add the anchovies, breaking them up with a wooden spoon. As they cook, they will start to melt. When anchovies are mostly melted, add capers and red pepper and cook for a half-minute more.

Reserve a 1/2 cup pasta water. Drain pasta and add it to the skillet with the anchovy sauce. Toss spaghetti to coat it with the anchovy sauce. Add a few tablespoons of pasta water to loosen up the sauce if necessary. Remove from heat.

Plate spaghetti and top with lemony breadcrumbs and parmesan.

Enjoy!