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I got to spend my Thanksgiving with a whole host of wonderful, food-loving people…21, to be exact.  When I asked the host what I could bring, she said the only thing they were lacking was a sweet potato dish.
although really…I think we would have been just fine.

Now, sweet potatoes have always been sort of a thorn in my side.  I really hate to admit that there are vegetables I don’t like, and it wasn’t until just recently that I realized I’m actually even allowed to make that claim, as a quarter-hippie, locavore-whole-foodie.  But let’s say that if hypothetically there were vegetables that I’d pick last for kickball, sweet potatoes would be on that list.  But you know, I’m always up for a challenge.

So I knew I wouldn’t be doing the old traditional sweet potato mash with marshmallows on top, and that it would have to be something a little off-the-wall and creative to satisfy both me and Thanksgiving tradition.  Enter my current favorite food blog.
Yes, I think a swiss chard sweet potato gratin is exactly what we need to salvage this assignment.
This dish required quite a few different stages, which seemed totally fine for the day I had set out for myself: a 100% no-work morning (for the first time since, I believe, New Year’s Day), a homemade latte, some back episodes of CraftyPod and This American Life coming through my kitchen speakers, and every pot and pan clean and at my disposal.
Can you believe nature made this color up?!
First, to prep the chard, I de-stemmed and chopped big rough leaves from the three massive bunches I purchased the other day — some rainbow, some regular.

The stems got sauteed with a lot of butter, onion, and fresh grated nutmeg.  I’m not a huge fan of the stems actually, so I sauteed the leaves separately; that way I could dole out the stems conservatively as I assembled the layers later on.

Next came the cream sauce.  I love putting tons of garlic in my cream sauces, so I started with something that looked like this.
Then I continued with my normal cheese sauce recipe (minus the cheese), added more nutmeg, and set that aside while I assembled the gratin.

The casserole begins with a layer of sweet potato discs (see!  You wouldn’t even know there were sweet potatoes in here if it weren’t for this sneaky step), and then continues with repetitions of salt, pepper, chard, cream sauce, gruyere cheese, and more sweet potatoes, until everything is all used up.  Oh, but always finishing with a nice thick layer of sauce and a sprinkling of cheese, of course.  

I baked it at 400 degrees for an hour, with no covering, so that any additional moisture from the greens and sauce would evaporate.  Really, anything coming out of the oven after that long with browned cheese on top can’t help but look tantalizing.

Oh!  And I also made some cranberry sauce, too.

Fill a pot with water and boil these local little taut-skinned berries down with a handful of frozen strawberries and a few peeled satsumas…
And a glug or two of brown sugar cinnamon syrup (I use Torani, usually for my coffee, but it often comes in handy for cooking, too!  I will be totally honest here and admit that I purchase these wholesale from Cash & Carry).


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So, you know what’s coming up this week…Thanksgiving!  I have all Thursday morning set aside for nothing but cooking before heading over to my friend Andrea’s house for a massive onslaught of indulgence, most likely in many forms.  So today, I did a little shopping.

rainbow chard ($6.87) — this is soon destined for fame
carrots ($0.85)
celery ($0.32)
milk ($2.99)
egg nog ($2.19) I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I treat myself to this once a year and cut my morning lattes with itsweet potatoes ($3.52)
napa cabbage ($1.25)
yellow onions ($2.11)
fresh cranberries ($7.98)
Brussel sprouts ($1.25)
fresh herbs ($0.57)
italian parsley ($1.29)
frozen strawberries ($3.00)
avocado ($0.99)
ground turkey ($2.94) — I know, why buy this the week of Thanksgiving?!  For some reason this and the napa cabbage wouldn’t stop calling to me.  We’re going to see what a little cumin and jerk spices can do…
gruyere cheese ($5.76)

TOTAL: $43.88

Roasted Eggplant, Tomato Sauce, and Ahi Tuna Steaks

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This was an iron chef kind of meal.  Nothing in mind to make for dinner, but a green pepper and gargantuan eggplant that needed to be used up. 

Sometimes I like to chop up eggplant into little chunks and use it in a sauce, or puree it and make babaghanoush, but tonight I was in the mood for something meatier, like thick roasted slices of eggplant, mushy but charred at the same time.

I sliced the eggplant, and lined them up on a baking sheet before spreading them with olive oil, and sprinkling them with chopped garlic, salt, and nutritional yeast.  I covered them with another layer of foil and baked at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, and then to crispen the tops, broiled for about two minutes with the foil off. 

Simply sauteeing the pepper would have made this meal too bland — there needed to be some red in there.  I found the letovers from a large can of juicy diced tomatoes in the freezer, which was precisely what this meal needed.

Prep-wise, all I had to do was chop half a yellow onion and the green pepper into small squares, and saute this in my small soup pot with some olive oil, salt, red pepper flakes, and the fresh herbs that I had on hand — oregano and marjoram (I don’t even chop these, just flake them off the stem straight into the pot).

To that I added the frozen brick of tomatoes and a little water, and covered on high-medium heat until it had all melted into a rich, bubbling sauce.  Then I added some leftover red wine that I had in the fridge to give it a smokier flavor, and let it bubble for awhile with the lid off, to reduce.

Last but not least, the quick and easy protein was a package of Trader Joe’s ahi tuna steaks.

Pre-marinated, all you have to do is defrost and sautee, with some lime juice over top to finish.

Split Pea Soup

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I think it says something when the first thing you do after flying across the country for 11 hours is run out and buy some veggies, doesn’t it?

I just spent 5 days in Orlando and Miami, having a much-needed girls’ vacation weekend and visiting family, and while I got to spend two solid days basking in this

by the end, I was desperately eager for some good Oregon lovin’.

  • 1 red onion ($0.72)
  • spring greens ($1.96)
  • 3 carrots ($0.97)
  • fresh herbs ($0.57)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper ($0.45)
  • ginger root ($0.36)
  • 2 yellow onions ($2.11)
  • 1 green bell pepper ($1.73)
  • dozen eggs ($1.99)these are the New Seasons brand: cage free, antiobiotic/hormone free, locally grown, and still this cheap??  I don’t get it.
  • almond milk ($2.49)
  • heavy whipping cream ($2.99) time to make a new batch of butter soon!
  • half & half ($2.29)
  • 1 grapefruit ($1.43)
  • 1 Fuji apple ($1.06)
  • 1 bunch cilantro ($1.49)
  • 1 bunch purple kale ($2.29)
  • 1 bunch broccoli ($3.50)
  • 1 huge eggplant ($3.93)
  • 1 bulbs garlic ($1.80)
  • 1 Haas avocado ($0.99)
TOTAL: $35.12
I have this really dorky ritual of playing Raina Rose’s “O Oregon” on a straight loop, immediately upon arrival back home, for as long as it takes me to unpack from a trip.
So I guess it should be no surprise that I indulged in the rare treat of returning home from an east coast trip before midnight by cooking up a little something.

I was craving vegetables, in a veritable onslaught, and so without even thinking I threw together a broccoli-edamame-soba noodle salad for my week’s lunches.  But I just showed you that recently, so instead I’ll walk you through what I did after that, still not satisfied that I had filled my quota.
Split pea soup is one of the easiest soups to make, and provides a hearty, filling, meat-free meal, all in a single pot.

The first step, as with almost any soup, involves chopping up some onions and garlic (I did 1 medium yellow onion and 3 cloves of garlic).
Saute these in some olive oil, in the bottom of your soup pot.  After about five minutes, add some broth.  I keep my homemade chicken broth frozen in leftover cottage cheese containers, so they’re easy to just crack open and dump in, the heat from the saute mixture slowly melting the bullion glacier.  (Substitute veggie broth or bullion here for a veggie-friendly soup, obviously!)

While the broth is melting, chop up your veggies.  I went with a carrot and the stalks from the broccoli I had just used in my salad, but celery would have also been a welcome addition.
Bring the mixture up to a boil, and once the broth has melted or incorporated, add some more water (I fill it near to the top of the pot, so that there is a lot of leeway for it to boil off and reduce, yielding a nice thick well-cooked soup). 

Love these guys.  Buy them in bulk, store them forever, and they will keep you full all day, nearly for free.  Split peas are one of those fantastic beans that don’t require soaking, draining, or blending — much like red dahl.  Just boil them long enough and they will eventually explode, and turn your soup into a wonderfully thick puree — no blender necessary!  I added 1 cup once the soup reached a rolling boil, and kept it boiling on medium high for almost an hour.

Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve with toast or nice crunchy croutons.

Friday Chicken Pasta

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I was contemplating what to make for dinner tonight while I was biking home from work — something quick, basic, and green.  After last night’s Supper Club, I needed something a little more cleansing to offset the comfort food.

I knew the only veggie I had left in my fridge was a monster head of kale, so this meal came together pretty effortlessly.

Remember all those lasagne noodles I made the other night?  Well, they’re still around and need to be used, so I flash boiled them in a frying pan (this is going to be a one-pan meal, btw) so soften them up again — I was lazy and just left them in my fridge in the colander so they were a little clumpy and dried out by this point.  Three minutes in shallow boiling water softened them right back up.

No longer in lasagne mode, I was picturing more of a warm pasta salad, so I rolled the long lasagne noodles up into little squares and sliced them into strips.

I drained these and dumped them into a big salad bowl and tossed them with my favorite olive oil to keep them nice and slippery, then added salt and cracked pepper.

On to the kale.  In case you didn’t know, kale is my favorite vegetable.  Usually I can’t go more than five or six days without an intense craving for perfectly wilted kale, and I’ve been known to devour an entire bunch of it in one sitting.  I mean, it cooks down small, but still.  I make it pretty much the same way every time, with spices being the only variable, depending on the context:

  • Slice the bunch of kale from head to toe, into strips  
  • Heat olive oil, red pepper flakes, and salt, and “spices” (tonight: mustard seeds) over medium-high heat.
  • When the spices are toasted (or in mustard seed’s case, when they start to pop!), dump the entire bunch of kale into the pan 
  • This will seem ridiculous/impossible, because there’s no way an entire bunch of kale can fit in a saucepan, but just force it.  It cooks down so much, you’ll feel silly using your wok.  Literally just force it in with your hands, and after a few seconds you’ll feel the leaves start to wilt and shrink down 
  • Just when you think the bottom layer is about to burn, you pull out the big guns:

    • Give a good four or five squirts of lemon juice over the leaves, and it will simultaneously act as a mini steaming agent, while giving the kale a nice tanginess. 
    • Now you can feasibly stir the kale with a wooden spoon, but don’t do it for too long!  You want to remove it from the heat just as soon as it becomes manageable, so you don’t overcook it.  I like it when the leaves still have some texture, and the stems still have some crunch.

      Into the bowl it goes.

      And then finally, my go-to protein.  I always have roasted chicken in my freezer, that I can quickly brown in this same sautee pan, with just a little salt and nutritional yeast to make the outside taste crunchy and glazed.

      That got diced up and thrown in with the rest, and then I added just a single tablespoon of this:

      I love having a few key Trader Joe’s tapenades in the fridge, for an occasion such as this.


      Mushroom Garlic Lasagne

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      My day began with a morning trip to the southeast before I could start my work, because I had left an incredibly necessary component at the store this weekend.  I’m not a big fan of going in to work on my days off, but at least it meant I got to swing my new favorite grocery store while I was down there!

      1 package lasagna noodles ($2.49)
      half gallon milk ($2.99)
      feta cheese ($3.59)
      1 honeycrisp apple ($0.82) — in case you haven’t noticed, wintertime is for veggies, summertime is for fruit
      bag of red quinoa ($8.99) — planning a red quinoa salad for later this week
      pound+ crimini mushrooms ($5.54) — you’ll see why soon!
      1 red onion ($0.63)
      bag of mixed greens ($2.31)
      bunch of kale ($2.29)
      1 acorn squash ($1.41) — roasted and chopped up in the sesame quinoa salad!
      hunk of Parmesan ($3.85) 

      TOTAL: $34.92

      Remaining for the month: $115.09 

      Sometimes when I’m reading food blogs I’ll bookmark particularly yummy looking posts and tag them with “recipes totry” in Delicious, then on days like today when I actually have time to think about what I want to eat before I go grocery shopping, I’ll pick out ingredients on purpose.

      In Smitten Kitchen’s rendition of this recipe, she claims to have used FOUR pots and pans (a big deterrent for me, from the get-go) but in my version I only counted two, including the Pyrex I baked it in, and in which it will remain until it has been totally eaten (hopefully not until the end of my workweek!).

      This meant cooking the pasta first — the key to consolidating dishes is to move your way to least to most dirty cooking processes.  Boiling pasta is basically just like cleaning the pot, right?  

      So I cooked an entire box of lasagna noodles in salted boiling water with a splash of olive oil.  An entire box is definitely more than is necessary, but when are you ever going to use half a box of lasagna?  I’ll use the leftovers to make some sort of roll-ups to take to work later in the week.  Maybe chicken-pesto-mixed-greens?

      Once I drained the pasta and set it aside to cool, I was back to an empty pot.  So I took these guys and sauteed them up in a few tablespoons of butter, olive oil, and a little salt (the liquid doesn’t evaporate as well in this deep a pot so I had to drain them before using them in the lasagna).

      With those out of the picture, now I could make the bechamel sauce and dirty up the pot for real.  Bechamel is a super simple cream sauce, that always starts with equal-ish parts flour and butter — in this case I started with about half a stick of butter and half a cup of flour.

      Melt the butter, then add the flour and stir it around until it forms a paste.  Now you can add the milk in slowly, and as you stir, the flour will thicken the sauce without it clumping.  This is how I start my cheese sauce, and usually here I’ll toss in some fresh rosemary or sage, but this sauce has a really great garlic flavor and I didn’t want to obscure that, so instead I threw in three huge cloves of chopped garlic, about a teaspoon of grated fresh nutmeg, 1.5 teaspoons of salt, and a bunch of ground black pepper.

      After this sauce thickened I started layering in the Pyrex — noodles, sauce, mushrooms, and grated parmesan cheese, ad infinitum until I ran out of the first ingredient (mushrooms).

      Make sure Parmesan is the final layer, and then pop it in the oven at 375 for 45 minutes.