basic, perfect polenta.

I’ve been trying to get better at meal planning for the week, as I already make about 24 stops at Wegmans/Trader Joes/public market/natural foods store each week. It never fails, I inevitably forget an ingredient or pick up a quick meal. I always have the best intentions to do a weekly shop…

A few weeks ago, I picked up some hot turkey Italian sausage at a great price, but never had time to make it, so I promptly tossed it in the freezer. When I did said weekly meal prep, I decided to cook up that sausage with some marinara. I wasn’t in mood for pasta, so I decided to make the classic Italian side dish, polenta.

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Mm, polenta. Have you ever tried it? Polenta is not for weeknight cooking. Classic polenta is made from humble cornmeal, and it takes a while for the cornmeal grains to swell up and cook properly to become tender, yielding that creamy finished texture, not unlike grits.

Polenta is remarkably simple, in both technique and number of ingredients. I used homemade stock for mine, but if you use store bough stock, please try and buy low sodium, as you’ll want to adjust the salt you use. Most recipes have you add the cornmeal to boiling water, a la quinoa or pasta, but not here! I think that contributes to the risk of lumpy polenta; no thank you! We want smooth and creamy: starting both cold and lots and lots of whisking will alleviate that risk.

Leftovers can be cut into squares or triangles and fried crisp in a pan with some oil; you’ll see the leftover polenta will thicken up considerably.

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Serving this under sliced Italian sausage and marinara sauce was a hit, and a delightful change from pasta. This homey, cozy side dish is perfect for short January days.

basic, perfect polenta.
adapted from New York Times Cooking. 

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ingredients
4-5 cups vegetable stock or water
1 cup coarsely ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese plus 1 tablespoon (I have used an Italian cheese blend with mozzarella, fontina, romano with success).

directions
In a deep saucepan or saucier (2-3 quart), combine the stock, cornmeal, olive oil, salt and pepper over medium high heat. Whisk often (consistently, if not constantly), until the mixture comes to a boil.

Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking often, until mixture starts to thicken, about 5 minutes. Polenta mixture should still be slightly loose. Partially cover and cook for at least 45 minutes, whisking every 5 minutes or so. When polenta becomes too thick to whisk, stir with a wooden spoon, adding the additional cup of stock if needed (I always add 5 cups in total). Polenta is done when it pulls away from the side of the pot, and individual grains are tender and creamy.

Turn off heat and gently mix 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese into polenta until cheese has melted. Cover and let stand 5 minutes to thicken; stir and taste for salt before transferring to a serving bowl. Top polenta with about 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for garnish.

Serves 4-6.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible** 

oatmeal + coconut breakfast muffins.

Hello there! As I’ve mentioned a few times, I am not a sweets person. That’s partly due to the fact that I have a very savory palate, but I think it’s also because I’m not really a baker. Savory recipes? Love. Cooking savory dishes tends to be more forgiving and they allow me to be more creative and ‘of the moment’, while baking requires more precision and attention to detail. Due to the exact nature of baking, I always shied away, until someone told me, “if you can do chemistry, you can bake, and vice versa”. Well, I loved chemistry in college, so I had to be able to translate into my kitchen! With recipes like the one I have today, it’s incredibly simple and the hardest thing about baking is learning how to measure properly!

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I love breakfast food. Especially breakfast pastries. Donuts, croissants, crepes, all are very, very good. I do think a well made muffin might be my favorite. They are basically sweetened, denser bread, all in its own cute little package! Divine. However, they are basically a caloric nightmare, with some bakery style muffins topping 500 calories. That’s insanity. Also totally unnecessary!

These oatmeal coconut muffins are absolutely delicious and unlike many bakery-style muffins, they will keep you full for longer than an hour! Oats are full of good for you fiber and complex carbohydrates, which take longer to digest, saving you from the dreaded blood sugar crash!

The flavor of the coconut really comes through thanks for the oil and the flaked coconut. Make sure to lightly soak the coconut in some milk. I used coconut milk, but any nut or regular dairy milk is fine as well. These are great for a quick breakfast on the go along with some fresh fruit, and you’ll be full until lunchtime!

oatmeal + coconut breakfast muffins. 

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ingredients
2 eggs
1/3 cup honey or agave
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached flour
2.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup unsweetened coconut, plus 1/4 cup reserved
A few tablespoons of coconut milk
2 cups rolled oats

directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add flaked coconut to a one cup measuring cup, and then add a few tablespoons of milk (coconut or regular) to the cup. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

In the bowl of a mixer with the whisk attached, combine the eggs, honey, buttermilk , vanilla and oil and whisk on medium until well combined. If the coconut oil is at room temperature, you may have a few lumps of solid oil.

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, soda and salt. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients until just combined. Add in oats and coconut (make sure to strain off the extra liquid) and mix well to combine.

Add to a greased muffin tin, filling 3/4 of each cup. Top with additional flaked coconut and bake for 17-19 minutes, inserting a toothpick to check for doneness.

Notes: These are delicious on their own, but feel free to add chocolate chips, dried cranberries, walnuts… the option are endless!

Makes 12 muffins.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible**

southern ham, greens + black eyed pea soup.

Hi there! I hope you’ve been enjoying the holiday season, and your Christmas and Hanukkah were (and are!) filled with joy, celebrations, relaxation, and of course, delicious food!

My dad and I cook Christmas dinner for our family, and this year we cooked a whole beef tenderloin, a grilled whole salmon, and I was responsible for everyone’s favorite hasselback potato gratin (probably everyone’s ‘favorite’, because it’s positively laden with cream and cheese, and I only make it once a year because it’s so unhealthy but OH-SO good. I use Kenji Lopez-Alt’s recipe, which can be found here). I also made these beans, which are simple and delicious. Everything was lovely and delicious, and I ate way too much. As you do for the holidays.

Speaking of holidays… let’s usher in the first holiday of 2017 with this soup.

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This recipe is one that I came up with a few years ago, when I was flipping through a cooking magazine and stopped on a warm ham, black eyed pea, and barley salad. I morphed that salad into a soup, surprised my boyfriend who loved black eyed peas with it, and it quickly became a favorite. Legend has it in the South that eating black eyed peas on New Years will bring you prosperity in the following year. So it’s the perfect time to bring you this recipe.

Starting this recipe by frying up a few pieces of bacon imparts a nice smokiness that will carry over to the finished soup. Because we’re using bacon and ham, go light on the salt and only use if needed; tasting often as you cook and develop the flavors. The collard greens and barley will cook for almost an hour, allowing the soup to develop a deep, complex flavor. At the very end, we’re going to add in a splash of hot sauce and cider vinegar, which adds a delectable bit of kick that finishes the soup beautifully.

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As it’s traditional in the Southern US to eat black eyed peas on New Year’s Day, they’re traditionally made with fat back ham, bacon, ham hocks, or other smoky pork. They’re typically eaten with some type of slow cooked green, like collards, turnip or mustard greens. A lot of preparation goes into those dishes; so I love that this soup incorporates all those elements into a one pot dish.

I hope 2017 is a healthy and limitless one for you and all of your loved ones!

southern ham + black eyed pea soup. 

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ingredients
1 medium onion, large dice
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cans black eyed peas, rinsed/drained
1/2 bunch collard greens, thinly sliced
6 cups low sodium chicken broth (up to 2 additional cups to thin out, if needed)
2 pieces bacon, diced
2 cup diced ham
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 cup pearl barley, rinsed
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. cider vinegar
Tabasco
salt and pepper to taste

directions
Cook bacon in large pot until browned. Remove and drain. Dice onion, carrot and celery into a large dice. In large pot that bacon was cooked in, saute garlic, onion, carrot and celery in bacon drippings over moderate heat until onion is translucent.

While onion mixture is cooking, discard stems and ribs from collards and finely chop leaves. Set aside.

Add broth, oregano and barley to the onion mixture, add bacon. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium/medium low and let simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Add collard greens and chopped ham and let the whole mixture for about 20-25 minutes longer, until collards and barley are tender.

Mash half of the black eyed peas with a fork, and add the beans to the soup. Simmer 10 minutes longer, add pepper, salt, Tabasco and cider vinegar to taste. (Because the ham and bacon are salty, additional salt may not be needed). Serves 6.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible** 

spicy sweet potato latkes.

Hi there! Today we’re celebrating Hanukah here at PTL. For once I’m actually ahead of the game and posting this in ample time of the holiday. This year Hanukah falls on December 24th, and goes through the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. What a festive end to the year!

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The pinnacle food of Hanukah is the latke. If you’ve never had latkes, let me implore you to try them. They are incredibly simple to make, and mine are an easy twist on the classic. As latkes are cooked (pan fried, actually) in a whole mess of oil, I decided to up the nutrition profile slightly by using sweet potatoes. Now I could have very easily lessened the amount of oil here, but since Hanukah is about celebrating the miracle of the oil lasting eight days and nights (among other things!), we’re going full speed ahead here.

Because I like spicy with my sweet potatoes, I added in a healthy amount of hot sauce (about 1.5 teaspoons/20 dashes). It’s A LOT of potatoes, so these only ended up with a mild kick. Scale up and down to your preference.

It’s VERY important to not skip the salting and draining process of the shredded potatoes. We want crispy latkes, and removing excess moisture is paramount to that process. Once you’ve cooked the latkes, remove them to a paper-toweled plate to drain off any excess oil. Then place them in a warm oven (200 degrees) on a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Do not stack them — remember, crispness is the goal!

You can make these ahead, to reheat from refrigerated simply place them in a 450 degree oven for 5 minutes, turning once halfway through, checking to ensure they don’t burn. Serve.

Happy Hanukah!

spicy sweet potato latkes.
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ingredients
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
1 medium russet potato, peeled
5 scallions, thinly sliced
10-20 dashes hot sauce (use chile-garlic paste, Sriracha, Frank’s Red Hot, your favorite)
1 teaspoon sea salt + 1/2 teaspoon
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 eggs, whisked
2/3 cup unbleached flour

directions

Shred the potatoes using a food processor fitted with the grating blade (alternatively, you can use the large hole side of a box grater for a real workout!). Add the shredded potatoes to a fine mesh strainer that it sitting a top a bowl. Sprinkle the potatoes with a teaspoon of sea salt and mix together. Let sit for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, use a wooden spoon to push the mixture down and to the sides of the strainer to push any moisture out. Less moisture will yield crispier latkes, which is what we’re going for.

In a large bowl, add the salted potatoes, scallions, hot sauce (to your preference, 10 dashes of Frank’s Red Hot was about 3/4 teaspoon), black pepper, sea salt and mix. Add in whisked eggs, and mix to combine, Finally, add in 2/3 cup flour, and mix gently to combine, ensuring no pockets of raw flour remain. With clean, damp hands, form into 2.5 inch patties (about 1/4-1/3 cup of mixture)

Heat about 1/2 inch of grapeseed or avocado oil over medium/medium high heat in a large, deep skillet. Fry the latkes in batches, cooking about 3 minutes per side, making sure that the oil isn’t too hot (above 350 degrees). If the oil is too hot, the latkes will burn before the middle is cooked.

Drain onto paper towels, and place into warmed oven until ready to serve. Serve with applesauce and sour cream.

Makes about 18-20 latkes.

**Please use all organic ingredients wherever possible** 

quick + easy creamy tomato soup.

As mentioned a plethora of times, I love soup. It’s especially enchanting during these fall and winter months, when the daylight is fleeting, the wind is whipping, and you’re shivering just going from your car to your front door. Soup is the answer. So is vodka, but that’s a story for another time.

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Growing up, I never ate creamy soups. We ate broth based soups, and although a variety of tomato soups were always on the menu, I didn’t have cream of tomato until I was at least 20. I remember seeing it on a menu at a fast casual restaurant, and being wary to order it. I remember thinking “will I like it? I don’t like milk or cream”. I did.

I had a hankering for soup recently, and I had some leftover half and half from a different recipe so I decided to make creamy tomato soup. Let me tell you, I used canned and jarred tomatoes to make this a quick recipe, and I’ve found my new obsession: passata.

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Pictured above, passata is essentially a puree of uncooked tomatoes, and I describe in more detail at the end of this post, including substitutions if you can’t find it.

This soup hit the spot for me, and because I used half and half in place of the cream (only 2/3 cup!), you can feel good about eating a great big bowl! Also? A grilled cheese accompaniment is not mandatory, but highly recommended. I love fontina on pumpernickel. Enjoy!

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creamy tomato soup.
adapted from food + wine magazine. 

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ingredients
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil
1 onion, diced (about 1.5 cups)
3 garlic cloves, smashed
3.5 cups fire roasted diced tomatoes (from 1 28 ounce can)
1.5 cups passata (uncooked tomato puree)*
1 cup vegetable broth
2/3 cup half and half
1 tablespoon coconut palm OR unrefined white sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
sea salt and black pepper

ingredients
In a large, heavy bottomed pot, melt one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about five minutes. Add the undrained tomatoes, passata, vegetable broth, sugar, crushed red pepper, oregano, celery seed, smoked paprika and season with about a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, breaking up the tomatoes with the spoon/spatula. Reduce heat to moderate and simmer for 10 minutes.

Working in batches or using an immersion blender, puree soup until smooth. If using stand blender, transfer blended soup to a clean pot over low heat. Add half and half and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 as a main dish, 8 as a starter.

*Please use organic ingredients wherever possible* 

NOTE: Passata is an uncooked tomato puree that is strained to have the seeds and skins removed. It originated in Italy and common in Europe. It differs from the tomato sauce or puree that you commonly find in U.S. grocery stores as it is uncooked and typically has nothing added to it, thus having a very fresh and light flavor. It is typically found in your grocery store’s tomato aisle, with specialty products, or in the Organic section. It is usually in a tall glass carafe or a box.

If you cannot find it, don’t despair! You can simply use an equivalent amount of whole/diced tomatoes, or tomato puree or sauce, being aware that the tomato puree or sauce will be much sweeter, due to the amount of sugar that is typically found in these products. The brand of passata I use is pictured above, and is labeled as ‘strained tomatoes’.

green beans with caramelized onions + toasted almonds.

I think green beans may be my favorite vegetable. They are so versatile, easy to prepare, and a real crowd pleaser. I don’t think I can think of anyone I know that doesn’t like them… can you?

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This recipe is time consuming, as caramelizing onions cannot be rushed! However, once the onions are done, this recipe couldn’t be simpler! Promise. Blanch the beans, toast the almonds, toss everything together, DONE. The onions provide a sweetness and richness, and the almonds add a crunchy, toasty note. I love recipes like this: just a few ingredients work synergistically to create a rich, complex dish.

I brought this to Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s house, and one of the guests asked me for the recipe, as her 14 month old daughter kept asking for more beans. Baby approved? We’ve got a winner on our hands.

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green beans with caramelized onions.

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ingredients
2 pounds green beans, trimmed
2 sweet onion, sliced
4 tablespoons unsalted, grassfed butter
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
1/2 cup sliced almonds
sea salt and black pepper

directions
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Slice the onions 1/4 inch thick, and add to the skillet along with 2 tablespoons of butter. Cook, stirring often for 40-50 minutes, or until often are soft and lightly golden, being careful to not burn/crisp them. Add the second two tablespoons of butter halfway through the cooking process. Add the thyme leaves during the last five minutes (35-40 minute mark).

While the onions are cooking, heat a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the sliced almonds and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden and fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of sea salt. Add beans and blanch for 4-5 minutes, until crisp tender. Remove and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and preserve the green color.

In a large bowl, add the onion mixture, toasted almonds, and green beans and toss together. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt and black pepper to taste.

Serves 8.

*Please use organic ingredients wherever possible* 

 

brown rice noodles with cabbage + leeks.

I’ve always wondered why people stay away from Asian-inspired cooking… too intimidating? Too many ingredients? Unfamiliarity? Whatever the reason, I find that people are timid when attempting Asian-inspired dishes. I’m not sure how authentic this dish is, but it’s simple, fast and delicious. Also? It’s perfect for everyone. EVERYONE. Gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, and even vegan – this dish will please just about anyone that you serve it to. Pasta with cabbage is a traditionally Polish dish, Haluski. We’re going to switch it up today, using brown rice noodles instead of egg noodles, and napa cabbage stir fried with a simple sweet and salty sauce.

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These are a little spicy, a little sweet, a little tangy, and super satisfying. If you did want to add more protein, I would probably add extra firm tofu. Just cube it, and lightly saute it before adding the vegetables. Then remove and add back at the end with the noodles to reheat through.

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Top with scallions, a drizzle of sesame oil and sriracha if you want some extra heat. Yum!

brown rice noodles with cabbage + leeks. 
adapted from Family Table. 

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ingredients
8 ounces brown rice noodles, cooked according to package directions
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1/2 head napa or savory cabbage, cored and sliced to 1/4 inch thickness
3/4 cup shredded carrots
1 leek, washed well, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 cup rice vinegar
6 tablespoons gluten free soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons coconut sugar (or unrefined sugar)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1.5 teaspoons sriracha
3 scallions, light and dark greens parts, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds to garnish (optional)

directions
In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat the oil and garlic cloves together over medium heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the garlic is fragrant and sizzling, and then remove the garlic with a slotted spoon.

Add the cabbage, leeks, carrots, ginger and crushed red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring often for 7-10 minutes, or until just tender.

In a small bowl, add the vinegar, soy sauce/tamari, coconut sugar and whisk until well combined. Add the sauce mixture to the pan, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, or until reduced by half.

While the vegetables are cooking, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil and add a pinch of salt. Cook the rice noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water. Set aside.

Remove the pan from the heat, and add the vegetable mixture into a large bowl. Add the rice noodles and toss well. Drizzle in sesame oil and sriracha. Top with sliced scallions, sesame seeds and serve.

Serves 3-4.

*Please use organic ingredients wherever possible*