Save your green with easy-to-mix salad dressing

Inexpensive ingredients for a delicious salad dressing are already in your pantry. Photo by Laura Groch

Inexpensive ingredients for a delicious salad dressing are already in your pantry. All you need is a simple recipe like this one. Photo by Laura Groch

If you’ve been checking out my posts, you know I keep returning to certain themes: Thrift in the kitchen. Eating real food. Preparing food yourself so you know what’s in it.

So in this season of salads and cold dishes — and especially for the picnic-happy holiday that is July 4 — I wanted to bring you a recipe that hits all those notes.

It’s a simple recipe for an oil- and vinegar-based salad dressing (not the kind of white Continue reading

It’s spring, so let’s eat some flowers!

Tofu Lettuce Tacos With Cilantro And Mint

Tofu Lettuce Tacos With Cilantro And Mint from “Edible Flowers” by Kitty Morse. Photo by Mike Pawlenty.

I’ve been smelling the delicious scents of just-opening flowers on our evening walks with the dogs. Spring really is in the air!

So this is the perfect time for me to tell you that “Edible Flowers: A Kitchen Companion” by Vista cookbook author, teacher and expert Kitty Morse is in its second edition, published by Chefs Press. Kitty graciously let me share some of the recipes (and photos) from the new book. (Also, these two are vegetarian recipes, please note.)

All her books, by the way, feature beautiful photos to go with the recipes. And if you are at Continue reading

Pancakes: Squaring the circle

baked pancakes

Who says pancakes have to be round? Baking them on a cookie sheet makes the job go twice as fast, too. (Photo by Laura Groch)

Oooh, pancakes! What a fun breakfast treat! And yet what a pain in the neck they can be for us cooks, who have to keep working while everyone is eating, and while trying to eat our own pancakes, which invariably grow cold while we are tending the griddle.

Even for the two of us, making pancakes seems always to be a major production. So I tested a different way of making them that lets everyone eat together: Bake them in a flat Continue reading

Easy, hearty shepherd’s pie takes the edge off winter

shepherd's pie

A scoop of piping-hot shepherd’s pie will warm you on a cold evening. Photo by Laura Groch

Wet, wintry weather makes me want hearty, hot meals. Soups and stews come to mind, warming the kitchen as they cook and warming the body as we eat.

The humble but sturdy shepherd’s pie also fills the bill. This is an easy-to-make, forgiving dish that can be as economical or as extravagant as your budget allows.

It’s also extremely flexible: You can use whatever’s at hand without having to rigidly adhere to a list of ingredients, which freaks out some cooks.

(And p.s., looking ahead to Super Bowl feeds, this would be just as bowl-worthy as chili for your crew.)

My pie — baked in a casserole dish, not necessarily a pie plate (see? flexible) — Continue reading

Struffoli: Not all it’s cracked up to be

Struffoli

Mom and me and the struffoli: Sometimes traditions are better remembered than observed. (Photo by Laura Groch)

With most of the holiday fun and fuss behind us, it’s a good time to look back on tradition: what family rituals still work, which ones should be adjusted, which ones need replacing.

I offer you the story of the struffoli.

One December afternoon after school, my little brother and I returned to my paternal grandmother’s house, where we would do homework and watch TV until our parents came home from work to pick us up.

Throwing my book bag on the floor and shedding my winter gear, I was suddenly aware of something out of the ordinary. It sat proudly on Continue reading

Enjoy your holiday, but don’t forget to look around

I wouldn’t leave you high and dry for Thanksgiving Day without pointing you to a few trusted recipes.

First up, the sweet potato-and-apple dish that brought me back to the sweet potato fold: You can find it here.

Nor would I leave you without a peek at our Italian family’s stuffing recipe, which you’ll find here.

And, in case you’d like to be reassured that even seasoned cooks can make kitchen blunders, check out the tale of my 2014 turkey here.

I do hope you can relax and enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner, whether it’s a Continue reading

Happy Pre-Thankgiving!

impossible pies

Besides bagels, cream cheese and salmon, we served Impossible Ham ‘N’ Swiss Pie (left) and Impossible Green Chile-Cheese pie at our Pre-Thanksgiving. Photo by Laura Groch

We just finished a casual but fun family gathering. What? When Thanksgiving is just around the corner?

Well, yes, because family and friends are often heading to other in-laws’ or other friends’ homes to share this holiday and/or Christmas. So our branch comes together sometimes before Christmas, or in this case, before Thanksgiving, for a get-together.

I’ve heard other folks have christened this idea as “Faux-” or “Fake- Continue reading

When life gives you portobellos and peppers, sauté them

portobello mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomatoes

Portobello mushrooms are great in a stir-fry fajita-style with peppers, onions and tomatoes. Photo by Laura Groch

Necessity is the mother of invention, and sometimes bargains can be the parents of creativity. Especially in the kitchen.

I snagged a package of three portobello mushroom caps for 99 cents in the marked-down produce section of my supermarket recently. I knew portobellos were expensive, so this was truly a deal. But if you can’t figure out what to do with your deal, it’s money down the drain.

I also picked up a bag of three bell peppers for 99 cents. Hmmm. I had Continue reading

Let’s get mushy, pumpkin lovers

pumpkin mush

Pumpkin Mush is homey and hearty, and you won’t bump into it coming and going. I added some dried cranberries to this version. (Photo by Laura Groch)

We’re not even into November, and already people are professing to be sick of pumpkin. The ever-lovin’ merchandisers of the world are putting it into everything but deodorant and detergent (and can those be far behind?). Pumpkin breads, cakes, cookies, pies, risottos, soups, coffees, pancakes — no wonder we’re sated with this squash.

At the risk of adding to the pumpkin parade, I’ve got a recipe that you probably Continue reading

Here’s a scoop — make your own chocolate syrup

So. Hot. Need. Ice. Cream.

You can easily make your own chocolate syrup with just five ingredients. Photo by Laura Groch

You can easily make your own chocolate syrup with just five ingredients. Photo by Laura Groch

With chocolate syrup, of course.
Here’s how to make chocolate syrup on the cheap, and without any artificial ingredients.
One of the things I like to do in this blog is to offer easier, cheaper ways to make food. We used to call them helpful hints; today they’re called “kitchen hacks.” (Whatevs.) It’s all still about saving money and time, and sometimes making things a bit more healthful.
I know: What’s so healthy about chocolate syrup? It’s full of sugar. Well, OK — too much sugar is bad for you, so please don’t eat the entire potful of chocolate syrup I’m going to show you how to make. (One pot is not 1 serving.)

Continue reading