Potatoes, eggs, peas and cheese

My friend Erin made this recipe for me over the weekend (a favorite from her childhood), and I realized this morning that I had both leftover potato fries and peas, so I made it for myself!

It is certainly not the most beautiful of dishes, but it’s a very satisfying breakfast that tastes great with a spoonful of salsa or a few shots of hot sauce.

You can make it in any amount, depending on what you have around. Just figure about one tablespoon of butter for each medium sized potato.

Potatoes, eggs, peas and cheese

1 Tablespoon butter
1 baked potato (cooked) cut into chunks
1/2 cup cooked peas
2 eggs
1/4 cup shredded cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. When it’s melted, toss in the potatoes and let them warm up for a few minutes. Add in the peas. Next, crack in the eggs and quickly stir them around so the yolk and white scramble together. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat, mix in the cheese, and serve.

Quinoa with Corn and Scallions

This recipe has been a long time coming. I’ve meant to experiment with cooking quinoa for ages because I’ve read and written articles about how great it is for you in terms of protein and fiber. For vegetarians, it’s even more important to eat foods like this because they make you feel satiated.

The only time I’ve ever really had it I didn’t like it at all. So I was a bit skeptical of cooking it. But I found this recipe in my new “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” cookbook, and it sounded delish so I made it tonight.

It was awesome! I had two helpings. After which I was so full I couldn’t dream of eating dessert. Yessss.

I did not have fresh corn and I tripled the cheese (come on, it was only 1/3 cup), but other than that I followed the recipe. Well, except I used no-chicken broth instead of the stock it called for. I am a hopeless recipe changer.

So here’s my version. Make it ASAP; it is lovely. And do throw in whatever other veggies you have around to make it even healthier.

Quinoa with Corn and Scallions

1 bag frozen corn
2 cups no-chicken broth
1 cup quinoa, thoroughly rinsed (very important!)
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Nuke the corn. While that’s cooking heat the broth in a pot to boiling. Add the rinsed quinoa along with the salt and pepper, cover and reduce to medium, cooking for 15 minutes. After that remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes more.

Meanwhile, heat a saucepan to medium and melt the butter. Add the chopped scallions and corn and saute for a few minutes, just until the corn starts to brown. Add the corn mixture to the quinoa, mix well and top with cheese.

The greatest cookie of all time, in my opinion

I’m sure there’s a lot of sentimentality that goes into why I believe Nestle Tollhouse’s chocolate chip cookie recipe is the greatest of all time, but I don’t care. I have never, ever made this recipe and had it turn out bad. It always works, it’s always wonderful. And there’s something about that crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, slightly salty but very sweet flavor that makes me go ga-ga for these cookies. I always will. They’re just that good. Even the legendary New York Times fancy schmancy cookie can not beat this one, if you ask me. So there.

Last year I wrote a story about how you could take this recipe and make 6 different versions of it. I didn’t consult any other recipes to create those, by the way, I just threw in this or that, and because this recipe is so incredibly flawless, it worked every time. Well, almost. The coconut one managed to not taste enough like coconut. Maybe it needs an extract? But anyway, here’s what I made, and I’d encourage you to break out of the mold and try it too. I don’t recommend making six batches of this dough in one day, though. Yeesh.

-Good old chocolate chip
-White chocolate chips, dried cranberries and chopped walnuts
-Add cocoa to the dry ingredients, mint extract and swirled mint chips
-Split the dough in half, add cocoa to one half, chill the doughs, then roll them up and slice them for swirl cookies
-Add a cup of coconut and chocolate chips and bake as a bar cookie

And my favorite of the bunch, red velvet sandwiches with cream cheese frosting.

After you’ve mixed up the dough, leave out the chocolate chips and add a whole bottle (that’s right, a whole bottle) of red food coloring. Skimp on this and you will get pink cookies. The liquid will thin the dough, so add a little more flour and chill the dough before you bake them (you could also use gel paste food coloring, which wouldn’t affect the consistency).

Make the cookies smaller, maybe a teaspoon of dough at a time, and let them cool before you put a swipe of cream cheese frosting in between two cookies. I have no problem with store-bought frosting, if it means I don’t have to clean the mixer again.

See, so pretty. And tasty.

Tortilla Soup

Here’s part-two of our fiesta.

This is another recipe I adapted from a childhood fave. I believe it came from my best friend’s mother, Trish, the awesome cook who grew fresh veggies in her garden and made salsa and this wonderfully soothing soup with a kick. I always thought it was weird, the idea of tortillas in soup, until I realized you could toss in a handful of bottom-of-the-bag tortilla chips and call it good.

Or, for a healthier version, you could cut corn tortillas into strips and toast them for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees.

The original recipe also called for roasted chicken pieces and chicken broth. If you want to make it meaty, just bake some boneless chicken breasts with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and cut them into 1-inch pieces. You can toss them into the soup at the same time as the beans and corn, or even leave out the beans altogether.

That’s the great thing about this soup – it is awesomely versatile. If you like it mild, skip the jalapeno. If you want it to burn your face off, throw in that jalapeno seeds and all.

But here’s how I like it. This recipe is super healthy and vegan. I ruin that by adding a few shreds of cheddar cheese. But, like I said, up to you.

Tortilla Soup

1 large onion, chopped
2 T. olive oil
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 T. spice blend of cumin, chili powder and salt (a taco mix would do)
1 32-oz container no-chicken broth
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 14 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn

Add-ons: Tortilla chips, cheddar cheese, sour cream, avocado slices

Heat a soup pot to medium, add the oil and saute the onions and garlic. Toss in the bell peppers and jalapeno and cook a few minutes until the onions are translucent and the peppers are soft.

Mix in the spice blend. Then add the no-chicken broth, tomatoes, beans and corn. Simmer for 15 minutes. Then turn off the heat and serve.

There’s no way it could be that easy, right? Well, it is that easy, and that’s why you should make it, and then crunch up the chips in your hands and lick off the salt. Or don’t – it’s your soup.

Holy Guacamole

Because Mike and I felt like having a little fiesta in this 30-below weather, and because avocados were so surprisingly ripe at Hy-Vee today, I give you the only recipe for guacamole you’ll ever need.

But first! I give you my most frequently used spice blend, which you’ll need for this recipe, and it goes like this:

3 T. ground cumin
3 T. ground chili powder
1 T. Celtic sea salt

Why so little salt? That particular kind goes a looong way because it’s in a very natural form, and that’s a good thing, right? I buy my spices from Penzeys, or at Mexican or Indian grocery stores where they usually have a wide array of affordable bulk spices.


3 ripe avocados
2 cloves garlic, minced
About 1/8 of an onion, diced
As much fresh jalapeno as you can handle, diced (I use maybe 1/4 of one, seeded)
The juice of half a lemon
2 T. of your spice blend
10 grape tomatoes, halved, or half a seeded tomato, diced

As you can see, this is a very imprecise recipe, so if you have more avocado, add a little more of each ingredient. The important thing is to use fresh ingredients. If you get a little too much garlic, so what?

Scoop out your avocados and dice them up. Squeeze in the lemon juice so your avocados don’t turn brown.

Add the garlic and mash it all together with a fork.

Add the onions and jalapenos, then the tomatoes.

Mix in the spice blend. Taste it. If it needs a little more seasoning, adjust it here.

And for God sakes don’t feel guilty about eating guacamole. Avocados are full of good fats. This recipe is vegan, raw even. If you’re not going to eat it with other veggies just go easy on the chips. Lots of guacamole on a little chip. Cerveza. Tortilla soup (recipe coming). Perfect dinner for a ridiculously cold night.

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Hello, lover.

I was looking for a new Christmas cookie to make, and I remembered I saved this recipe I had come across checking Web sites for my freelance work. I think I saw the name Todd English, and after going to his restaurant, Figs, in Boston, thought instantly of one of the best dinners I’ve ever had. Just simple and good food, and so I hoped his recipe for Chocolate Sandwich Cookies would be simple and good cookies.

They are. Yum.

I did have one issue with the recipe — the dough was way too loose, even after I put it in the fridge for much longer than the 30 minutes it called for. I would just recommend using less water at the end, lest you end up with overly chocolatey fingers.

I also skipped the homemade frosting (I really hate getting out the mixer and washing all those components if I don’t have to) so bought a can of Pillsbury cream cheese frosting and called it good. To cut out the circles, I actually used a little biscuit cutter. If you wanted to do a less messy cookie day with little kids than the elaborate sugar cookies we used to make, this might be a good substitute.

Wild rice stuffed acorn squash

This would be a great recipe for a Thanksgiving table. It has all the flavors of a turkey stuffing, but it’s vegan — with protein coming from wild rice and ground pecans. The consistency is like mashed potatoes.

I can’t say I was a big squash fan (other than grilled zucchini and yellow squash in the summer) before this recipe. The only time I’ve really cooked with it was when I spent 3 hours making Ina Garten’s from-scratch pot pies. It had pieces of butternut squash inside, but I don’t think they got cooked enough to melt in your mouth. They were just sort of stringy and odd. But in this recipe the squash is basically obliterated by heat and caramelized with a sweet crust – yum.

Wild rice stuffed acorn squash

Adapted from Epicurean

2 small acorn squash
1/2 cup wild rice
1 1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons fresh sage (or 1 dried)
1 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 onion finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup pecans plus pecan pieces for topping

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Oil a baking sheet (I suggest one with a Silpat on top). Cut each squash in half as shown. Scoop out the guts and place cut-side down on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes or until the flesh is soft. Reduce heat to 375.

In a saucepan, cook the wild rice in the water, simmering until it is tender and starting to split. You may have to add a little more water or drain some off. Depends on your rice.

Finely chop the sage. In a saute pan, heat the olive oil and saute the carrot, onion and sage over medium heat until softened. Stir in the thyme, marjoram, pepper, nutmeg and salt and remove pan from heat.

When the squash halves are cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh with a big spoon, leaving a bit behind so the skins stay in tact. (I tore two of them, but they still held well enough together). In a large bowl, mash the flesh with a potato masher. Use a food processor to grind the pecans finely. Add the ground pecans, sauteed vegetables and wild rice to the squash bowl and mix thoroughly. Stuff the mixture into the shells and sprinkle with pecan pieces. Place in a casserole dish big enough for them all to fit snugly. Bake for 30 minutes.

Feel good about a really healthy dinner.

Huevos Rancheros

This has become a staple of our breakfast, well maybe lunch, repertoire.

Huevos Rancheros

from the Corey/Hall kitchen

Saute maybe a quarter of a chopped onion in a little oil. Dump in a can of beans, add some taco seasoning (I make my own with cumin, chili powder and sea salt). Simmer over medium for just a few minutes.

In another shallow pan, cover the bottom with oil and heat to medium. Crack in two eggs and let them fry, flipping once, until they’re as done as you like them. It only takes a few minutes to get them over hard.

Pile up on a wheat tortilla and top with salsa or fresh tomato sauce. Yum!

Hello, fall: time to make apple crisp

I wanted to make an apple pie because I’ve never made one before. But pies are a tad involved, so I took a shortcut and made an apple crisp instead.

My rhubarb crisp recipe was so successful I just used it as a guide, substituting apples for the rhubarb and strawberries. You could do this with just about any fruit. But it is deeeelish with apples this time of year.

Apple Crisp
adapted from Simply in Season (click here for the exact recipe)

Preheat oven to 350. Peel, core and chop 6 apples.

Heat them with sugar and vanilla until they start to boil.

Then mix up a little cornstarch and water, add that to the fruit, and continue cooking until the mixture is thick and bubbling.

In a big bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, pecans, salt, cinnamon and butter. I used a pastry cutter to get perfect chunks. When the mixture forms clumps in your hands but still separates, you’re good to go.

Spread 2/3 of the crust in the bottom of a greased 9X13 casserole dish. Add the fruit.

Sprinkle the rest of the crust on top. Bake for 40 minutes.

Eat with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.