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Greek Panzanella + Notes from a Lake Kitchen

July 27, 2019

We’re spending a month by the lake in our new (to us) camp about an hour north of Portland, Maine, near Sunday River and it has made me think a lot about food. We’ve had the house since January, but then it felt more like a ski house kitchen, and I had crock pots of short ribs and spaghetti and meatballs on heavy rotation. This summer we’re here for a whole month because our kitchen and floors are getting redone after we had a leak (and why this blog is so silent lately!). It definitely feels like the longest vacation we’ve ever had, which has been lovely and the days are passing like caramel melts in your mouth, sweet and slow.

I wasn’t sure this would be the case. A summer version of The Shining did cross my mind when I was packing my six kids to come up here. But walks by the lake every morning, swimming and reading every afternoon have given us such great family time and enough structure without any stress which feels…amazing. As Winnie the Pooh says in the recent Christopher Robin movie, “doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.” And of course he is right.

When you’re on vacation, you want to eat delicious food but don’t want to clean up. Going out to eat is how many people resolve this but going out to eat with the twins gives me indigestion and makes me want to take a nap immediately, so we avoid it.

At home we rely on our pizza delivery place, but here they a) don’t deliver and b) don’t always know what the difference is between 30 minutes and 75.  So we’ve been making our own. It’s swayed us mightily since they are always easy and good. I’m somewhat obsessed with the margherita pizza we’ve been making and I don’t see that obsession going away anytime soon, though sautéed Brussels sprouts with pancetta is a close second.

For breakfast I’ve been living off of avocado toasts (the twins love it) and my favorite mushroom and goat cheese fritatta.

For dinners I wanted to try out a few new recipes and promptly realized why a stocked pantry is so necessary to cooking. Buying all the asian condiments like hoisin sauce and fish sauce and rice wine vinegar will add to your bill considerably. And may make you wish you did in fact go out to eat. But still this 30 minute Asian beef bowl – which was born from my 13-year olds craving a dish he had had on vacation one time – was worth all the condiments, and it was really good with some broccoli and red peppers sautéed with soy sauce and sesame oil drizzled on it. And this thai chicken flatbread pizza was so good too.

It’s the rhythms of food that always appeal to me, and that stands out so much here. Chopping an onion, mixing a vinaigrette, turning yesterdays meal of roast chicken or grilled veggies into something delicious. Forming these little rituals that will become ways to connect us to our time here through the years. And that’s what seasonal eating is, just relishing the present moment with all its delights. When our neighbor, Bobbie, who has a camp right next to us invited me over for a visit, she offered me some raspberry pie with her fresh raspberries picked from her patch at home. It was like summer sunshine exploded in your mouth. And another friend and her mom were here for a visit and she made raspberry jam that we’ve been spreading on toast. It’s making me want to go home and plant as many raspberry bushes as I can fit into our yard.

I love finding treasures offered up by the local food stores. The road to the ski mountain Sunday River is loaded with wonderful markets and organic offerings, and I found Miso and fresh greens and the best rosé in a can which fits perfectly into the stroller cup holders. I also found great asiago bread at the store in town and toasted it’s delicious – it’s a lot like the cheese bread we get in Pemaquid, Maine. They also have great ciabatta bread and another bakery sells pain au chocolat too. These are the beginnings of our food memories here, and they’re making me so happy.

I turned the leftover bread into panzanella salad this week and decided to make it a greek version – I have a long standing love of Greek salad and could eat it for lunch every day so I always have the makings on hand.

And I don’t know about you but I can’t get enough cucumbers and tomatoes in the summer, preferably with some kind of vinegar.

So much goodness in one bowl. I love the briney olives with the creamy salty feta and chewy bread that’s absorbed all the vinegar.

 

In short, eating on vacation in July is the essence of simple. And the best part is all the walking and swimming and playing in the sun keeps you feeling great.

Next week I’ll be back in my newly refurbished kitchen and taking all the inspiration from this month with me. Stop back here if you want to see what it looks like!

Well, I just heard a splash that means the kids are swimming and I think I’ll go join them. They made up a new game that involves racing off the dock, and that’s pretty much what we dreamed of when we bought this place.

Happy Eating, xoxo Katie

Greek Panzanella Salad

Ingredients

1 small French bread or ciabatta loaf, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 orange or yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 large shallot, diced or 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

8-10 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup Greek olives (or more if you love them like me)

8 oz. feta cheese, cubed or crumbled

For the vinaigrette:

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons Red wine vinegar

1/2 t. dried oregano

1/4 cup good olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions:

Make the vinaigrette, then mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and pour vinaigrette over them. Toss to coat, and enjoy!

Chicken, Bacon, Spinach and Tomato Pasta Bake

May 17, 2019

You guys, it’s been a while since we had a casserole here on THO. But I have a friend who just had a baby girl (hi Meaghan!). When I thought about what meal I could bring her I was bored with every casserole I had made before.

Enter this Chicken BLT one.

I’ve been on a BLT kick ever since I ordered one at Panera a few weeks ago. So simple! So delicious! My daughter even asked me if I had bought a large package of bacon or something because I had been cooking with it a lot. Does bacon come in bulk? If so, sign me up.

We all loved this dinner, it’s comfort food and it freezes and travels well, so it makes a great dish to share. Like most casseroles there are a few steps, but you could bake it in the same pot as the pasta is cooked in and you stir it all together if you wanted to.

The thing that makes this SO delicious is I cooked the tomatoes and the spinach in the bacon grease so it would take on the bacon flavor. I got the idea from a pasta dish at the Mother’s Day brunch we went to, where I bit into a cherry tomato and was like, that tastes like bacon! Wait, it’s been cooked in bacon grease!  This had to be duplicated. And voila! It works perfectly here. I love when greens are cooked in flavor too.

I didn’t use bacon grease for the roux as I thought it would make the dish too heavy. Instead in the same pan as I cooked the diced chicken (to save time though you could use rotisserie or bake the chicken in the oven and then dice it) I made a roux with butter, onions and chicken stock and just a little cream and parm to make it delicious.

Then I poured it over the pasta to combine it. It’s important to let the sauce coat the pasta first and then add the tomatoes, spinach and bacon so you don’t burst the tomatoes or crumble the bacon too much.

Then you toss it all together and add this delicious parm and panko topping that really mimics the toast in a BLT.

Drizzle the top with a little olive oil so it turns brown in the oven (channeling my inner Giada here since she does this topping for every casserole she makes).

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until the panko turns golden, and then when you remove it, add another little crumble of bacon because why not?

True story, when I was taking these photos, I was getting my kindergartener ready to go to LaCrosse practice, and I took a few bites from this plate. It was so ridiculously good that the whole time we were at practice I was counting the minutes until we could go home and have this for dinner. (I finished reading My Brilliant Best Friend to keep my mind off of it thankfully).

Here’s to new babies, comfort food, and good books!  Happy Eating, xoxo Katie

Chicken, Bacon, Spinach and Tomato Pasta Bake

Ingredients:

1 pound penne pasta

1 pound of bacon

2 c. cherry tomatoes

4 c. packed fresh spinach

1 Tbsp. olive oil

3 chicken breasts, diced (or meat from 1 rotisserie chicken)

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

1 onion, diced

4 Tbsp. of butter (½ a stick)

¼ cup flour

2 cups chicken stock

¼ cup cream

½ + ⅓ cup freshly grated parmesean

⅓ cup panko

Directions:

Cook pasta in salted water according to package, drain, and return to pot, drizzling with a little oil so it doesn’t stick. While it cooks, fry bacon (may need two pans or to work in batches if pan is too small). Once it’s cooked, remove and place on paper towel lined plate. Pour off all but 2 T. of the bacon fat. Add tomatoes and spinach to remaining bacon fat and cook on medium heat, tossing in pan instead of stirring so you don’t break tomatoes. Cook for 3-4 minutes until spinach is wilted and tomatoes are slightly blistered, taking care not to overcook. In another large pan, heat olive oil on medium high heat, then add diced chicken, salt and pepper. (If using precooked or rotisserie chicken you can skip this step). Cook until chicken is nicely brown, then remove from pan on a plate and set aside. In the same pan, melt 4 Tbsp. butter, and then add diced onions. Cook until onions are soft, about 4-5 minutes. Then whisk in flour for 1 minute. Then add chicken stock and whisk well. Then whisk in cream and ½ cup parmesan and mix until its melted into sauce. Taste for seasoning, adding salt if needed. Pour this mixture over the pasta and stir to combine. Then add the cooked tomatoes, spinach and chicken. Seperate 3 strips of bacon, and cut up the rest and add to the pot. Gently combine all these ingredients so as not to break the tomatoes and then pour them into a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Combine panko and remaining ⅓ cup parmesan and sprinkle over the top, then drizzle with a little olive oil. Cook at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until panko is slightly browned. Remove and sprinkle with remaining 3 strips of bacon, cut up.

Slow Cooker Noodle Bowls

April 5, 2019

 

 

You guys…I didn’t know how much I needed noodle bowls in my life until I started skiing at a mountain with a noodle bowl bar. You get to choose the broth: chicken, beef or miso. And the meat: chicken, beef brisket or pork belly. And the noodles: ramen, udon or soba.

The first time I ordered one it was late in the day and they only had Udon noodles left. And basically now I’m hooked on them. They are so chewy and light and velvety. The perfect mix in a bite of meat and broth and crunchy veggies.

When we’re skiing, I dream about the tender meat, and salty broth, and spicy bits of jalapeno and sriracha sauce and those luxurious noodles.  And afterwards, this food makes you feel SO good. Super nourished and comforted and charged with good things so you can ski for hours.

I usually have to fend off all of my kids from grabbing all the noodles, so I decided to try to make noodle bowls at home.

What I did not realize was how easy it could be in a crock pot. Or what an awesome family meal this is, since picky eaters usually love the noodles and the egg (why does the egg just make this dish?) and can be coaxed into some grated carrots. It actually would make great party food too – lay out all the toppings and let friends build them selves a customized bowl to their liking.

All you have to do is cook the chicken and broth with some aromatics and mushrooms for a few hours, and then add the noodles five minutes before you want to serve it.

Then you layout all the toppings…

And then you start to assemble…

Oh man. They are just so good. And I know that you could look around for complex broth recipes and boil pork knuckles with cinnamon and star anise like real pho broth. But the thing is I’m probably never going to make those because I don’t have time.

This broth takes 10 minutes has a complex flavor from the garlic and ginger and onions, as well as the soy sauce and rice wine vinegar.

You could obviously swap beef broth and some cuts like flank steak or brisket to this recipe, and you could also use Ramen or Soba noodles instead. And if you’re looking for any of these ingredients, an Asian section at most grocery stores should have the Udon and Ramen noodles, and I also found some Miso Broth that I can’t wait to try too.

I hope you try these soon, because they are life changing. I don’t say that lightly but THEY’RE THAT GOOD.

Slow Cooker Noodle Bowl (I doubled this to feed 8 and have some leftovers):

Ingredients:

1 diced onion

6 garlic cloves, minced (may only want to do 8 when you double it)

1 T. fresh ginger, minced

4 cups chicken broth (1 32 oz. boxes)

1 lb. chicken breasts

8 oz. sliced shitake mushrooms

¼ soy sauce (more to taste for serving)

¼ rice wine vinegar

½ t. pepper

1 package Udon or Ramen noodles

 

Toppings:

Shredded Carrots

Bean Sprouts

Cilantro

Sliced Jalapeño

Hard-boiled egg, cut in half lengthwise

Sriracha sauce

Directions:

Add onions, ginger, garlic, chicken breasts, chicken broth, mushrooms, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and pepper to crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 3 hours.

When finished, remove chicken breasts and let rest, and add noodles to crock pot. Let cook for 5 minutes while you prep toppings. Slice chicken breasts then add back into crockpot, stirring to be sure noodles are broken up.

To serve, ladle broth, noodle, chicken and mushrooms into bowl. Add fresh vegetables and herbs, two halves of the hard-boiled egg, and Sriracha and jalapeños for heat.

Weekly Meal Plan 10/29

October 28, 2018

Last week, we got a half cow from our farmer in Vermont, and I was cleaning out our freezer to make room. My meal plan was more ‘use up frozen things’ than a neat and tidy meal plan, so I didn’t post one, sorry if you looked for it! But I’m making it up to you by posting this week a little earlier, hoping to get on a schedule to post Sunday or Monday.

Sunday 

Pasta with Bolognese Sauce (recipe coming!)

Monday 

Empanadas – it’s our Columbian au pair’s birthday so we are loading up on these from a restaurant in Boston. I  am going to make them according to her family recipe soon but if you need one this recipe looks great. I’m also intrigued by the way this one tastes but not sure if all the ingredients are easy to find.

Tuesday

We are trick or treating – I usually make pasta with a pumpkin sauce like this one.

Wednesday

Pot Roast in the InstaPot

Thursday

Beef Stroganoff

This is such a great way to use up leftovers from a roast or extra steak. Even though Rachael Ray calls for beef tenderloin in the recipe, I’ve used every type of beef under the sun and the sauce just makes it. My kids love this dinner.

Friday

Pizza

Saturday

My Kids Favorite Chili 

 

 

 

Mushroom + Goat Cheese Fritatta

October 25, 2018

I love frittatas so much – they are such a blank canvas that you can do anything with.

But I have a soft spot for this combo of mushrooms and goat cheese – that tang from the goat cheese with the umami from the mushrooms – such great flavors.

Making one feels like the same amount of work as scrambled eggs or an omelet. It takes maybe 10 minutes longer, but then you have a delicious breakfast or lunch waiting for you for the rest of the week. Of course you could make this for 6-8 people and I do! Sometimes. But I often just make one for me (plus the babies love frittatas now too!) for a very quick breakfast or lunch during the week that is so satisfying.

They also are the perfect meatless meals. Once or twice a week we try to skip out on meat for the day, and although pizza usually fills the dinner time slot, this is a great dish any meal that day. The mushrooms are kind of meaty, the eggs full of protein. It makes you so satisfied after you eat it you won’t miss meat or carbs.

And at the risk of blowing your mind, I recently saw Ina Garten make a frittata in a baking sheet pan, then cut it into squares as an appetizer for a party. It instantly made dozens of filling apps and the effort was so minimal. If you tripled this recipe, you have that amazing option too.

I learned the weirdest fact about mushrooms – they actually taste better if they are slightly wilted/old/looking pretty soggy. Somehow the flavor concentrates as they are aging. So don’t be afraid to use some that look like they are on their way to the nursing home. (Mold or bad smells should be trashed of course).

In addition to mushrooms and goat cheese I also love leeks and shallots, so I used those instead of onions, though they are inter-changable. Unless you’re feeling the French ingredient vibe like I was apparently. I wrote this recipe how I made it – to speed it up I cooked the mushrooms in a separate pan, so they didn’t get crowded. Sometimes I even cook a bunch of mushrooms ahead and use them up through the week in things like omelets, salads, or frittatas. I always add tarragon to them while they are sautéing since tarragon brings out great mushroom flavor.

Then I add them back to the pan with the leeks and shallots and pour the egg over them, then crumble the goat cheese and the chopped parsley over the top.

Let it set for a few minutes, then slide it into a preheated oven. You’ll know it is done when you touch the center and it is cooked, not wet. In less than 15 minutes you’ll have this:

Hope you find a way to make this for a great weekend breakfast, or if you’re like me, just make it for yourself and you’ll have a weeks worth of amazing, fast, healthy meals. Happy Eating! xoxo Katie

Mushroom + Goat Cheese Frittata

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Serves: 6
Prep Time: 30 Minutes Cooking Time: 10-13 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 8 oz packages of mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon tarragon, dried (or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, diced (or 1 large)
  • 1 leek, white parts only, chopped
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 8 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • ¼ tsp. Pepper
  • 3-4 oz. of goat cheese (feta or gruyere work too)
  • Handful of chopped parsley for garnish

Instructions

1

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat, then add butter. When it’s melted, then add mushrooms, tarragon, and a pinch of salt. Sauté for 7-10 minutes, until the mushrooms are soft and slightly browned and fragrant. (I cook these separate so the pan doesn’t get too crowded, other wise the mushrooms steam instead of sauté.)

3

In a second pan, heat olive oil, and add shallots and leeks with a pinch of salt. Stir to avoid browning too quickly, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms to the pan when they are cooked.

4

In a bowl, mix eggs, milk, salt and pepper. eggs and season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Pour eggs over leeks and shallots, then add the goat cheese and parsley evenly throughout. Cook, undisturbed, until edges are set, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until top of frittata is just set, 10 to 13 minutes.

5

Invert or slide frittata onto a plate and cut into 6 wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Chicken Fricassee

October 17, 2018

Have you ever made a dish that you remembered to be just amazing, and then a year went by and you weren’t sure if it would be AS GOOD as you remembered? But then you made it and you realized, YUP it is that good, possibly even better than you imagined.

Just me?

Chicken Fricassee is the dish to make for your next Boss over for dinner/Priest over for dinner/Dinner Party/Birthday/Holiday or just a very special Tuesday night. It’s a classic that should be revived because everyone needs to try this to know that food can taste this good. (It actually dates back all the way to a medieval cook book from 1300’s).

The reason it’s lasted so long through history is because its DELICIOUS. The alchemy of the lemon juice, and the wine, and the fresh herbs, and the vegetables, simmered with cream and egg to make a velvety texture, and then tender chicken that soaks up all the juices, along with rice and bread – it actually makes me close my eyes to take in all that is happening in my mouth, which is my test for the best things I have ever eaten.

Julia Child in Mastering the Art of French Cooking describes a fricassee as “halfway between a sauté and a stew” in that a saute has no liquid added, while a stew includes liquid from the beginning. Technically in a fricassee, cut-up meat is first sauteed but not browned, then liquid is added and it is simmered to finish cooking. But most recipes have you brown the meat first, so I guess there is some room for interpretation.

I knew this to be a classic French dish, but when my au pair from Columbia tasted this she said “you are cooking with flavors from Columbia. This is the type of dish we would make after everyone has been partying all night, and they are hungry again at 1 or 2 in the morning, and this is what they all eat to feel better again.” (If that doesn’t make you want to try this recipe I don’t know what will). But I looked and there is a popular Spanish dish called fricasé de pollo that has spread to other Spanish speaking countries so clearly this dish has travelled not only through time but geography, again because it is DELICIOUS.

To make it, you start by cutting up your veggies (doing this prep before makes assembling this dish so much easier, I highly recommend it) and the chicken (I like smaller pieces than a whole breast):

After you’ve browned the chicken take it out of the pan to rest and start building flavor with the familiar flavors of mirepoix + mushrooms (I used a leek instead of onion but it is good either way). Then you add flour + white wine to this and let it reduce:

^I can’t tell you how good this smelled. The wine, the veggies, the bay leaf. You’ll just have to make it so you can smell it too.

Then, add chicken broth and herbs, and while that heats up, stir together cream and egg yolks. Then – and this is the most complicated part of this recipe but still doable –  you add a little bit of the hot liquid to the cream + egg mixture to temper the eggs so they don’t scramble, but instead create this velvety, creamy, rich complex sauce that holds everything together.  (I used a 1/4 cup instead of a 1/2 cup as the recipe calls for to be extra sure I didn’t add it too quickly!)

Then you add this creamy mixture back to the pan and let everything simmer. Then at the end you add lemon juice and fresh tarragon. These flavors go together so well that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and does that thing that makes me love cooking so much – it becomes something special and magnificent and memorable.

My kids love rice pilaf, so I serve it with that but mashed potatoes or crusty bread soak up all that delicious flavor. Or you could just drink it straight. It’s that good.

Last night I was still dreaming of it before I went to bed, and I made a small bowl. And I sat there and thought ‘this is what I would order in any restaurant and be totally blown away and happy.’

I don’t have to wish you Happy Eating with this dish – if you make it I know you will have Happy Eating. Cheers!

xoxo Katie

Chicken Fricassee (I doubled this recipe – printer version here): 

Recipe from the blog Everyday Occasions

4 chicken breasts (I cut them in half for kid portions)

4 chicken thighs (remove skin)

sea salt & black pepper

3 tablespoons of butter

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 small onion, diced (I used one leek instead, so delicious)

2 carrots, diced

1 rib of celery, dice

8 oz. of mushrooms, sliced

2 tablespoons of flour

1 cup of white wine

3 cups of chicken stock

fresh thyme

bay leaf

1/2 cup of cream

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

fresh tarragon

Serving suggestions : Rice, French Bread or Mashed Potatoes

Pat chicken with paper towel.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Melt butter in a heavy dutch oven. Add oil and brown chicken for 4 minutes on each side.  Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Cook onions, carrot, celery and mushrooms in the same pot until almost soft.  Sprinkle with flour and cook for another minute until flour is absorbed. Pour in white wine and cook for another minute, stirring.  Add chicken stock, thyme and bay leaf.

In a small bowl, mix cream and egg yolks.  Add a small amount of the hot stew mixture to the cream and yolks, stirring constantly.  Your goal is to slowly warm the eggs so they don’t scramble. Once warmed (after about 2 cups of stew mixture is added), pour into the stew pot with vegetables and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the mixture reduces and thickens.

Add chicken back into the stew.  Keep simmering until chicken is cooked through.  Keep warm on low simmer or in the oven (about 250) until ready to serve.  Before serving, add lemon, 1 tablespoon of butter and fresh tarragon. Serve with rice, french bread, or mashed potatoes.

See  this and more great recipes from Jenny Steffens at http://jennysteffens.blogspot.com