[25/100] Homemade Resource Round-Up

These recipes aren’t mine, though I’m happy to have memorized most of the methods by now.   Over the last year or so, we’ve shifted to making some things from scratch at home in order to have more control over ingredients and/or cost per unit, and also discovered some methods of cooking that make things easier.  This is a brief round-up of resources to be referenced over time (sort of like my “how to bake a potato” post). 

1. How to cook bacon in the oven.  By far, the simplest way to make a bunch of bacon all at once, without a lot of mess.  (You’ll even be able to pour off the grease once the pan has cooled a bit so you can use it for cooking later, if that’s your thing.) A web search will turn up myriad opinions about specifics, ranging from “cook at 375 degrees for 15 minutes” to “cook at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.” It’s all just about calibrating temperature and time for your preferred crispiness, but I think this link has the best set of pictures and explanations.

2. Homemade vinaigrette.  This is my favorite recipe for vinaigrette, which includes some Dijon mustard and a little honey — they add a bit of thickness and some sweet/savory “notes” (pretend that I know some culinary terms).  I make it about once a week in a mason jar, which gets stored in the fridge and shaken up whenever I want a drizzle of YUM on my salad or with some grilled meat.  Very flavorful. I have been known to lick the jar.  Don’t tell. Mine comes out a bit darker than what you’ll see in the picture at this URL.  Also: olive oil will solidify at refrigerator temperatures.  Don’t be alarmed.  Give it a few minutes to come to room temperature on your counter and then shake it up before pouring. If this kind of dressing isn’t your thing, then it’s well worth the difference in taste and freshness to investigate making small batches of whatever sort of dressing prefer. If you don’t like balsamic vinegar at all, then there’s no hope for you, but we can still be friends.  Probably.

3. Baked sweet potatoes.  I have something of a love affair with sweet potatoes.  You *can* cook them exactly the same as regular baked potatoes (as described in an earlier post), but due to their much denser texture, I’ve had better luck with using the “wrap ’em in foil” method.  It hardly counts as a recipe.  No URL for this one, sportsfans.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub clean under water and dry (don’t peel).  Poke some holes — I use a fork, stabbing nine times because I’m weird about the number nine.  Wrap with foil.  Place directly on the oven rack and bake for about 1:10 (that’s one hour and ten minutes).  Gently squeeze the sweet potato bundles after the time is up; they should feel quite smooshy.  Cooking time might vary by 10 minutes or so in either direction, due to the differences in size and thickness of your tubers.  (That sounded a bit naughty.)  Let them cool a little while, open, and enjoy!  This method of cooking will separate the “meat” from the skin very easily, if you don’t like the skin.  MORE FOR ME.  Foil-wrapped sweet potatoes keep well in the fridge and reheat really nicely, but be prepared for some sticky juices when you unwrap.  I’ve heard that they can also be cooked in the crock pot (on low for 8 hours, wrapped in foil), but have yet to test that method. 

4. Magic almond butter.  I’ve heard that, if you’re expecting almond butter to taste like peanut butter, then you’ll be disappointed.  If you’re not expecting that, then it’s delicious.  I like it with apple slices or on a toasted English muffin (nooks and crannies FTW!).  Almond butter can be pretty pricey by the ounce at the grocery store, however.  This URL provides the most comprehensive description of the process I’ve found.  What it takes is almonds, your food processor, and TIME — specifically, about 20 minutes of noise.  Yes, it really does take that long for the magic to happen, but it *does* happen! I make about one cup at a time and all I add (toward the end) is a bit of sea salt to taste.  I don’t bother with drizzling in any oil or whatever, but you might experiment for your own tastes.  Keeps well in a mason jar in the fridge for a week or two.

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 16, 2014 in Recipes


[24/100] Homemade Granola

[24/100] Homemade Granola

I can’t believe this hasn’t been posted yet.  We’ve been making it for months now — and the kids make it now, even — and I think it’s pretty well calibrated to our tastes.  Credit where it’s due, though:  found the basis for this recipe via Martha Stewart at  We’ve changed it quite a bit, however.  You’ll need:

  • four cups old-fashioned oats (the rolled kind)
  • one cup sliced almonds (raw will be best)
  • one cup pulverized pecans (or 1/2-cup pecans and 1/2-cup almonds)  
  • one cup dried cranberries (craisins)
  • 1/2-cup sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3-cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4-cup honey
  • 1/2-cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix your dried ingredients in a large bowl — oats, almonds, pecans, craisins, coconut, cinnamon, salt.  Start the oven preheating to 325 degrees, and prep a large cookie sheet with either some vegetable cooking spray or parchment paper.  In a small- to medium-sized saucepan, warm the oil, honey, and brown sugar slowly, then bring to a low boil.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract (the mixture will “flare” a bit, but don’t worry…it won’t catch fire).   Quickly empty the warm liquid into the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly to coat.  Empty the mixture onto the cookie sheet and spread evenly.  

Cook for about 20-25 minutes, stirring a few times to everything browns evenly.  It’ll smell toasty when it’s done, but pull it out before it’s deeply toasted or it’ll be overcooked.  Let cool and then crumble up by hand.  It’ll keep in a sealed container (unrefrigerated) for a week or so, but you’ll likely finish it up before then.  Tasty on its own or stirred into some yogurt.  Serving size is about 1/3-cup.  It’s much better than it looks in the photo, which is my actual hand holding a fresh batch we baked in our actual kitchen, rather than some random photo from the web.  So there’s that.  

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 6, 2014 in Recipes


[23/100] Sweet Potato Hash

[23/100] Sweet Potato Hash

Just discovered this blissful weekend breakfast dish, though I bet you could eat it happily any time of day.  It ain’t pretty, but dear heavens it’s good.

This recipe serves one, but it’s pretty easy to scale up to two.  It’s not really something easily made for more than two people at a time…which is cool for me, because it only makes sense for me to cook this on a weekend morning when nobody else is around anyway.  You’ll need:

  • One small- to medium-sized sweet potato, grated — I think teeny-tiny chopped pieces would do, but I really love the texture of the shredded sweet potato and how quickly it cooks up.  You’ll get one serving from about half a sweet potato, and the other half will keep (unshredded) and wrapped up in the fridge for a day or so).
  • About a handful of finely chopped onion — I’ll dice up one onion at the beginning of the week and use it up one handful at a time.  I estimate a single serving will use up about 1/4 cup of onion bits.
  • 2-4 slices of your favorite bacon — less than two slices probably won’t give you enough bacon grease, so make as much as you’d like to serve for yourself

You’ll use one large, nonstick pan for the whole process.  Start by cooking the bacon over medium heat.  Once it’s done, set it aside to cool on a paper towel and leave the grease in the pan.  (Incidentally, the time the bacon takes to cook is just about the right amount of time to get the sweet potato shredded.)  Throw the onions and shredded sweet potato into the pan; stir it around so it’s all nicely coated with the bacon grease and the spread it out in a thin layer.  For the next five minutes, you’ll stir and flip it around a few times, until it’s browned and a bit crunchy.

I’ll usually empty the hash onto my plate — onto a smallish bed of greens, if I’m clever — and then put the pan back on (sometimes with a bit of butter if needed) and then cook up an egg or two over-medium to have on the side.  Oh, yeah.  And the bacon.  BOOM.  Breakfast magic.  I swear, I don’t get hungry for at least four or five hours after this.  You’re welcome.



Leave a comment

Posted by on July 5, 2014 in Recipes


[22/100] Stuffed Chicken Breasts (which aren’t scary at all)

We had some goat cheese around the house (from Thanksgiving), and I was looking for a yummy recipe that we wouldn’t have to go shopping for and which would use up some other ingredients before they went bad.  It was also one of those rare weeknights when nobody had anywhere else to be so we could take our time.  That said, stuffed chicken breasts can be on the table in less than an hour.  Family gave it two thumbs up and three smiley faces.  Even better:  they’re a much simpler and more adaptable dish than I’d ever guessed, and I don’t think I’ll ever have to refer to the recipe again.

Credit where it’s due: I started with Ina Garten’s recipe, found at


In my search for such recipes, I also came on a few that called for caramelized onions or some sort of balsamic vinegar reduction, so I added that twist, which I think went a long way toward making this super-juicy, but resulted in a far less photogenic result than pictured above (which is from the Barefoot Contessa website).  One thing I like is how easily I was able to scale this up for more people.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • a casserole dish — about 9×13 for six chicken breasts (smaller if you have fewer mouths to feed)
  • One onion, sliced into crescents — there’s no harm if you’d rather chop it up into tinier pieces, but I liked the look and texture we got from rings and half-rings
  • Olive oil (about 1 Tbsp)
  • 1 cup of balsamic vinegar — this amount worked great for 8 chicken breasts, but if you use half this amount then also plan on only using half your onion (unless you really really like onion).
  • boneless chicken breasts — Ina used them skin-on, but I went with skinless.  I recommend using fresh chicken breasts, because the frozen ones just aren’t quite thick enough to slice through the center, but feel free to prove me wrong.  The chicken breasts we had were pretty big; most of us had a half-breast as our serving size, though some went back for seconds.
  • About 2 oz of cheese for each chicken breast — you could use goat cheese, like we had, or whatever yummy cheese you think would work well.  Something that has a bit of body and a stronger flavor will do better than a mild cheese.
  • About 2 Tbsp of some other chopped vegetable — we used sun-dried tomatoes, but I think something like artichoke or sautéed mushrooms would work, too.
  • Toothpicks — one or two for each chicken breast
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prep the casserole dish with non-stick spray and set it to the side.

In a shallow saucepan, sauté the onion over medium heat until translucent.  Add the balsamic vinegar.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer until reduced to about half volume (it’ll take something like 10 minutes.)  A note on reductions: “reduction” is just a fancy word for something that’s been simmered until it gets thicker (because a certain volume of it floats away as steam).  Very smooth and flavorful!

While the sauce is “reducing,” butterfly your breasts.  With a sharp knife, you’ll slice the chicken not quite in half across its, uh, equator.  Don’t go all the way through.  What you want to do is be able to open it up like a book.  A raw, chicken-y book.  If this doesn’t make any sense, you can go to YouTube and search for “how to butterfly a chicken breast.”

Once the chicken book is open, you’ll smear your cheese inside, pack whatever else you want to put in there (like the sun-dried tomatoes), and then lovingly set the breast in your casserole dish.  Repeat until all chicken breasts are resting happily.

By this time, your sauce should be ready.  (It doesn’t matter a whole lot if it’s reduced by precisely 50%, but that’s what you’re aiming for.)  First, scoop a little bit of the sauce inside each chicken book…er, breast…and then use the toothpicks to anchor the stuffed breast together.  This part is kind of important.  Stuffed chicken breasts are structurally unsound.  If you skip this step, be prepared for the yumminess to be much harder to dish out at the end of it all.  You can get fancy and try to “stitch” the sides together with the toothpick.  I just skewered them and called it good.  Salt and pepper generously.  Finally, drizzle the sauce over and around all the chicken breasts.

Bake (uncovered) for about 30-40 minutes.  You’re looking for the inside temperature of the chicken to be 160 degrees.  When they’re done, let them rest for about 10 minutes before *removing the toothpicks* and serving.  This gives you a good amount of time to steam some veggies or make oven rolls to slop up the sauce.


Posted by on January 2, 2014 in Recipes


[21/100] Crispy Chicken Fingers

It’s almost too much to call this a Recipe.  Really, it’s more of a Method.  Making oven-baked crispy things isn’t quite rocket science, and there isn’t a lot of variation in the recipes.

In general, you’ll have some sort of meat (boneless or bone-in), sometimes cut to finger-food size and sometimes not.  This meat will first be coated with some sort of moisture- and stickiness-creating substance, maybe egg or even mayonnaise.  Then, it will be coated with some sort of crumbly stuff seasoned to taste, such as pulverized corn flakes, bread crumbs, or even a store-bought mix.  Bake, serve, enjoy.

HOWEVER.  Last night, after having made this a few times, all four kids seated around the table announced that these were so good, they didn’t want to eat frozen chicken nuggets ever again.  Life being what it is, they probably will, but I was so delighted that I called my father to brag about it.

This will prepare about 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  (Very easy to double, if you want to freeze any for future consumption, but I haven’t tried that yet and don’t know how they’ll take to it.)

  • one egg, beaten
  • two tablespoons of butter, melted — And by this, I mean “measure two TBS of butter and then melt it,” not melt some butter and then measure two TBS of it.  Sometimes, that makes a difference.
  • one cup corn flake crumbs — You can use the store-bought crumbs (which we have found both in the gluten-free section and in the regular baking section),  or pulverize your own corn flakes.  Last night, I used about half of the store-bought (unseasoned) corn flake crumbs and about half of my own pulverized corn flakes.  I intend to increase the ratio of non-store-bought flakes in future iterations.
  • seasonings — I tend to purchase my crumbs unseasoned (like I buy my butter unsalted), so I can pick and choose whatever seasonings I’m in the mood for.  Last night, we went with some garlic salt and white pepper, along with a bit of Fox Point seasoning from Penzey’s.
  • meat — Like I said, we were cooking up chicken fingers, with each chicken breast slicing up into about four “fingers.”  If you want to get fancy, you could marinate the meat ahead of time.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Assembly time is about ten minutes, depending on whether you have an eager ten-year-old helping you or not, and whether you remembered to thaw the chicken out beforehand.  Prepare for yourself a cookie sheet, covered in foil, with a cookie rack resting in it (ever so lightly coated with non-stick spray…or not).  Like this (with apologies for my failure to get text to wrap artfully around the picture):


I don’t care what seasonings you add, but this is a pretty important step to achieving Crispy Chicken Finger magic.  Otherwise, you have to cook the fingers much longer for crispiness, and by that time the meat is overcooked and not very tasty.  The aluminum foil is optional; I’m just a lazy cleaner-upper, and that step makes life easier for me.

Beat your egg in a smallish bowl.  Blend the corn flake crumbs and melted butter to a consistent…er, consistency, and then add seasonings of your choice in a shallow, wide bowl (even a plate will do).  I have to admit here that I have never once measured these seasonings; I just sort of add this and that to taste.  When in doubt, overseason, because the corn flake crumbs can be bland-bland-bland. With your meat all sliced up, go in assembly-line fashion to dip the meat into the egg, dredge it in the flakes, and then place on the rack with a little space between each piece.

Cooking time will vary with the size you’ve cut your meat to.  Our chicken fingers generally take about 25 minutes.  I’ll typically use that time to steam some veggies or make a side salad for a quick school-night meal.  If the crispy coating still seems a bit “wet” when you check, then give them a few more minutes.  When they’re done, they’ll separate easily from the rack.  (If the coating starts to look toasted, then they might have cooked a bit too long.)  Yum!

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 18, 2013 in Uncategorized


Tags: ,

[20/100] Omelets inna Cup

Let’s talk about breakfast for a change.  I used to call these “eggy cups,” but FionaPie called them “adorable little omelets” and I couldn’t resist re-naming them.  

For starters, this recipe lets me use all eight of my ramekins (always a bonus in my book).  It’s gluten-free and low-carb and — though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it healthfully low in fat — it does include two superfoods, controls portions, and creates a re-heatable and transportable breakfast.  WINNING all around.

In the time it takes to preheat the oven to 325 degrees, I can usually have these assembled.  You’ll need:

  • cookie sheet, covered in foil — the foil is important, because otherwise you’ll be trying to clean bubbly cheese off the sheet and that’s a pain in the butt I’d rather avoid
  • ramekins (one for each serving you want to prepare; I don’t bother making fewer than four at a time, but I suppose you could do just one if it suited you) — spray the inside lightly with cooking spray


From there, you’ll create the layers.  From the bottom up, I tend to go with:

  • sliced meat (optional) — I use deli slices of ham or turkey, but you could use shredded-up bits of chicken or whatever is handy.  I’ve also made these without meat, and they’re just as yummy.
  • green power-veggie — These days, I use (thawed) frozen, chopped kale.  You’ll need about 1/4-cup per serving.  Spinach works too, but FionaPie prefers the kale.
  • eggs — crack one into each ramekin. leaving the yolk intact if you can.  I used to try to center the yolk in the bed of veggies, but nobody will ever see that and it makes no difference at all in the taste.  
  • some sort of complimentary veggie — Tonight, I used a slice of tomato on top of each egg, because that’s what we had in the kitchen.  Other times, I’ll spoon some salsa on top.  FionaPie suggested mushrooms next time.  
  • shredded cheese — This is a topper.  You want enough for each cup to be covered and bubbly with cheesy goodness as it bakes.  

Admire your work, and pop them in the oven for about 25-30 minutes.  The time can vary, but what you’re looking for is the yolks to be set.  If you were going to eat them right away, then I think mildly soft yolks could be okay, but I worry about safe storage if they’re not cooked through.  Your call.  

After they’ve cooled off, cover each with foil and refrigerate until breakfast.  They reheat nicely with a paper towel on top for about 50 seconds in the microwave.  Dear lord, please cover them, because they will POP and get eggy cheese all over the inside of your microwave and then you’ll cry.  Okay, maybe that’s just me.  Eat ’em right outta the cup or ease them on to a plate or into a bowl…top with extra yumminess if you want (like maybe some more salsa?).  Enjoy!

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 11, 2013 in Uncategorized


Tags: ,

[19/100] Food Onna Stick (or, the Art of the Kebab)

I think this entry falls into the “I never promised you haute cuisine” category, in which I have to remind myself that I’m not writing this to show off my cooking skill.  Nope.  I’m writing this to create something of a family recipe book, accessible online to all the kids who have favorite meals or who might want to cook something from home once they’re out on their own.  As I get closer to my goal of 100 recipes (which may or may not be the end of the experiment), it’s helping me to adjust how I think about my capability and imagination.  


Grilling is a pretty nifty way to prepare foods in the summertime – way fewer dishes and a cooler kitchen are only two of the benefits.  I love creating a little bit of a picnic on the patio, and somehow everybody wants to be more involved when fire is involved.  It just creates something of an atmosphere I can’t describe, but love anyway.

I used to be a little bit pyro-phobic myself . . . until about two years ago, when I had to be the “fire master” for my daughter’s Girl Scout camping trip.  The girls had planned a weekend of food to be cooked over the fire, the leaders had purchased all the groceries, and then – on the morning of our arrival at the campsite – they all looked to me, because I’m the one married to a Boy Scout leader.  Apparently, girl-child had volunteered me for this task with absolute confidence in me, but without mentioning it prior to our arrival.  Um, I said.  I’d certainly watched enough scout bonfires being built and read enough of the fire-building merit badge requirements (or whatever) to understand it in theory.  So, faced with the shining faces of a good dozen or so girls and their moms, I decided to *pretend* that I wasn’t scared at all.  And it worked!  We all learned some great skills and ate well, thankyouverymuch. 

I don’t build every fire we have these days, but I’m much more likely to encourage having one, and we’ve been talking a lot about how great it would be to have a fire pit in the back yard.  Yesterday, my husband bought one.  And last night, we COOKED DINNER with it.  Specifically, we cooked food onna stick.

There are a lot of ways to prepare food on the grill, but I’m going to talk right now my love for kebabs.  They’re easy to scale for a small meal or a larger one, the endless variety of ingredients lets me serve a lot of food groups in one shot, and the smaller size means it’s easier to be sure something is cooked thoroughly in a shorter amount of time.  It’s sort of the “random vegetable soup” or “dinner omelet” of the grilling world, I think. 

Let’s say right off that you can probably kebab just about anything, so what I’ll describe here sure isn’t the only way to do it . . . feel free to riff on your own theme and use what’s handy for you.  Here are the basics:

  • Skewers:  If you’re going to use wooden skewers, make sure you soak them in water for some time before building your kebabs, to keep them from burning.  We use the metal ones because it breaks my husband’s Scottish heart to see me throw away wooden skewers after only one use (and because I hate cleaning them).
  • An assortment of veggies and fruits to skewer:  Last night, we used grape tomatoes, button mushrooms, onions, and pineapple chunks.  If everything is cut to about the same size, it’ll (theoretically) cook in about the same amount of time.  I like using grape tomatoes because regular tomatoes get all drippy when you slice them up.  Also, I think red onions seem to work better than other onions for this purpose.  Husband prefers the “meatier” mushrooms like Portobello. 
  • Meat, if you like it, cut into chunks.  (True confession:  We’ve made low-brow kebabs with just Spam and pineapple chunks, brushed with barbecue sauce.  It was AMAZING, no lie.
  • Some sort of marinade for the meat.* I marinated the chicken for about an hour before.  Some folks like to marinate the meat for 4-8 hours or even overnight, but we were just too overcome with spontaneity for that shit.
  • Maybe a flavored sauce to brush on the kebabs while they cook.  Plain barbecue sauce usually works just fine, though we didn’t use any last night.  I forgot to set it out, and everything was just fine without it. 
  • Nice coals.**  Don’t rush the coals.  You want the flames to have died down so you’ve got a nice, shimmery heat coming off them.  (One of those charcoal chimney starter things works really well to move the process along a bit faster.) Use a poker to smooth them out into a bed a few inches below the surface of your cooking grate.  That’s what gives you even cooking.  For what it’s worth, the amount of time it took me to chop up all the veggies and marinate the chicken was about the amount of time it took for the coals to be ready.  (Don’t get me wrong:  This is not difficult cooking.  But, unless you’ve got a propane grill, this is not a meal for the impatient.)

The portions for last night’s meal were too large for me to use my adorable little ramekins for the ingredients – so we used cereal bowls to set up our “assembly line” instead.  I wish I’d gotten a picture of all the amazing colors.  Assembling the kebabs doesn’t take a lot of skill.  Simply build each kebab by sliding a succession of yummy things onto the skewer.  You’ll want to leave an inch or two of space at each end so there’s something for your tools to grab as you move the skewers around.  Otherwise, go crazy. Most folks will work their way down the line of bowls, creating a pattern.  Like maybe:

Meat     Veggie  Pineapple           Mushroom          Meat     Another veggie



It keeps them from sticking to the grate if you brush it with a little oil first, or spray with with Pam or something.  Don’t move them around too much, but rotate them a bit at a time until they’re nice and cooked all the way ‘round.  You may want to check the done-ness of the meat the first few times, just until you get the hang of how long it’ll take. 

One skewer per person is a good serving size to start with, but most of our family will end up eating two (sometimes three!) each.  You could even make breakfast kebabs or dessert kebabs, if you like.  They even make easy leftovers – just wrap them up in foil, skewer and all, to reheat in the oven later.  Enjoy!

* I think we’ve talked about marinades here before.  Super-easy and very forgiving of mild errors and experimentation.  If you’re in any doubt, go ahead and Google “homemade marinade” for a lot of resources.  Give it a shot.  You’ll be making your own in no time!  Just remember to discard any marinade that’s been in contact with raw meat.  You should NOT use the marinade to brush the kebabs while they cook.  If you like, however, you can double the recipe and *set aside* some of the mixture when you first make it, so there will be a “clean” sauce to use when the kebabs are grilling.  Got it? 

** In a pinch, kebabs can be made on an indoor (stovetop) grill or even our trusty George Foreman grill.  

Leave a comment

Posted by on June 24, 2013 in Uncategorized