Hello Fun Seekers

The Passionate Pursuit of Delight

Author: Diane Hartford (Page 2 of 10)

Veggie Pot Pie

Veggie Pot Pie

Who can resist taking a fork and plunging it through a light flaky crust into a warm, flavorful gravy that is filled with vegetables? Not this girl. There is something so satisfying about assembling this Veggie Pot Pie, warming up the house with the oven while it bakes, and then hovering around the stove inhaling deeply the delicious scent while waiting for the pot pie to finish baking.

As I have mentioned before in the recipe for Tomato Galette, homemade pie crusts and I seem to be in a battle of the wills. I will cut to the chase here, I lose that battle over and over again. Because of that, I always keep a prepared pie crust from the refrigerator section in my freezer. I cannot wait for the day where I change that narrative for myself and start making pie crusts from scratch. I know that day is coming, I am just not sure when.

Veggie Pot Pie

Veggie Pot Pie is quick and easy to make. You can use any veggies that you and your family like but I typically go with onion, carrot, garlic, celery, peas, and mushrooms. If you eat meat you can add leftover rotisserie chicken from the store to the pot pie filling mixture.

A few ingredients that I like to add to my filling are a splash of soy sauce and a teaspoon of miso paste, if you have it on hand. Both of those ingredients add so much flavor to the filling.  You can make the pot pie in a pie-sized baking dish or if you prefer, you can make individual servings in smaller ramekins. If you make individual servings I would place the ramekins on a baking sheet so the pot pies are easy to place in and remove from the oven.

Veggie Pot Pie

I only use a top crust for this Veggie Pot Pie and as you can see from the photo the top crust is pretty basic. Someday, I aspire to be pie fancy like the crusts in this video.

How to Make Veggie Pot Pie

Veggie Pot Pie

 

Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers

Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers

What the heck do vegetarians eat? I hear this all the time from friends and family who want to invite someone they care about over for dinner. But, when that person is a vegetarian many cooks get stumped. Ask my Mom. She will tell you. That poor woman has two daughters are totally or nearly vegetarian and two grandkids are vegetarian. She will tell you that she hates inviting us over for dinner because she has no idea what to make. So, Mom, Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers is one great alternative to consider. It is hearty enough that even carnivores (like your husband) will feel satisfied.

First, a little background about Picadillo which is a popular dish in Spain and many Latin American countries. Picadillo is typically made with ground beef, tomatoes, and a variety of spices. It is often served with rice and used a filling for dishes like tacos or savory pastries.

Lentil Picadillo Stuffed PeppersI like this healthier version of Picadillo swaps out ground beef for lentils. Lentils are inexpensive to buy, low in fat, high in fiber, and full of protein. By sautéing aromatics like onion and garlic with chili powder, cinnamon, Italian seasoning, cocoa powder, and tomatoes, you can achieve a rich flavorful broth to coat the lentils.

This version of Lentil Picadillo is most similar to the Picadillo found in Puerto Rico which includes green olives for a salty bite and raisins for a sweet chewy texture. In Puerto Rico, Picadillo is a common filling for empanadas or fritters. In this recipe, I add cooked rice to the Picadillo and stuff it inside a sweet red bell pepper before baking.

Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers

Finally, lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers is a great make ahead meal. You could prep the Picadillo on the weekend and then on a weeknight, stuff the peppers and bake.  A healthy, homemade dinner will be on the table in under 30 minutes. What is not to love about that? Also, can you say lunch leftovers? Just try not to gloat as your coworker pulls her sad little Lean Cuisine out of the microwave.

How to Make Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers

Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Pepper

October Chill Spotify Playlist

October Chill Spotify Playlist

Photo by Nathan Riley on Unsplash

Listen up all you creepers, Courtney is back with a super spooky Spotify playlist. The October Chill Spotify playlist will ensure that the chill in the air matches the chill running down your spine. So, grab a cozy scarf and something warm to drink and prepare for goosebumps.

“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!”

― Bram Stoker

October is the time to soak up the spookiness all around you. One way I love to amplify the chill in the air is with this creepy, scary, and deliciously evil playlist. This one is perfect to play while getting together with friends for costume parties, carving pumpkins, or just sipping on a hot toddy on your patio while you’re wrapped in cozy blankets and sweaters.

creepy doll

Photo by Rain Wu on Unsplash

The Songs

It starts out with Eel’s “Flyswatter” to cover you in creepy crawly goosebumps. I follow that up shortly with Sea Wolf’s “Leaves in the River.” This song sets the October weather and ambiance stage perfectly. I feel like I am right there with these two walking home from the Halloween party at which they met.

I’ve also included a few songs by the National including “Afraid of Everyone,” “Anyone’s Ghost,” and “Demons.” The National love the dark songs as much as I do.

Ghost latte

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

And speaking of dark songs, I added Johnny Cash’s “I See a Darkness” as well as “Dark Night of the Soul” by Danger Mouse featuring David Lynch. That is a right spooky tune right there. If I had to pick a favorite song on this playlist, I think it is currently My Morning Jacket’s “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream, Pt. 2”, and the one with the best title is of course Sufjan Stevens’ “They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From the Dead!! Ahhhh!”

The playlist has over two hours of tunes perfect for October like Tom Waits’ “Cemetery Polka.” It ends with a truly frightening song by Shivaree from The Kill Bill Volume 2 soundtrack, “Goodnight Moon.” Yeah right, just try to sleep after listening to this one.  Bwa Ha Ha Haaaa……

If you love the tunes that Court is throwing down, be sure to check out her other Hello Fun Seekers playlists:

Roasted Carrot and Goat Cheese Sandwich

Roasted Carrots with Goat Cheese

Life is too short for the same old, same old sandwiches. How many peanut butter & jelly, tuna, or egg salad sandwiches can one person eat in a life time? Sandwiches are simple, portable, and can be quite delicious with just a little bit of effort and creativity. I love sandwiches that have a mix of colors, textures, and tastes.

In this roasted carrot and goat cheese sandwich you get sweetness from the roasted carrots, tangy creaminess from goat cheese, and a bit of salty bite from the green olives. Are you familiar with the spice blend za’atar? It is a Middle Eastern seasoning made from dried herbs, spices, and sesame seeds. I buy za’atar at the Middle Eastern market. You can also order za’atar on Amazon.

You may recall this recipe for Za’atar Roasted Tomatoes and Pita Chips from earlier this year.

Roasted Carrots with Goat Cheese

If you aren’t a fan of goat cheese you can use cream cheese instead. The cream cheese will have less tang and a smoother texture. Plus, it might be easier to find and more economical but I love goat cheese so usually use it for this sandwich. Also, if you aren’t a green olive lover you can leave them out, use black olives or substitute capers instead.

You will want to use a bread that when toasted is hearty enough to hold up to spreading the thick goat cheese mixture. I used plain white sandwich bread but I can think of a few other breads that would make a great sandwich. I like the idea of a walnut raisin bread or a honey wheat bread.

Next time I make this sandwich, I will use thicker carrots and slice them slightly on the diagonal in order to get more surface area to roast. I also think that thicker slices of roasted carrot will make the sandwiches more substantial when you go in for a bite.

Roasted Carrots with Goat Cheese

What are your slightly out-of-the-box sandwiches you like to make and eat? I am always looking for something new.

How to Make Roasted Carrot and Goat Cheese Sandwiches

roasted carrot and goat cheese

Almond Butter and Peach Toast

Almond Butter and Peach ToastThe end of peach season can nearly move me to tears. A perfectly ripe peach is as close to heaven as I can imagine. Dream sequence: I am standing in my kitchen, leaning over the sink, and bite into a big juicy peach.  The flesh just gives and the juices start running down my arm. The warm peach is so delicious that I can’t bother to grab a dish towel. Okay, enough of this nonsense, let’s get back to the recipe.

Back to the almond butter and peach toast though. You don’t really need a recipe, it’s just an assembly job. Peaches and almonds pair perfectly, so if you haven’t already, I highly recommend giving almond butter a try. I prefer to buy almond butter at grocery stores where I can grind it myself from almonds. Grinding your own guarantees that there is no additives or other junk in your almond butter.

Almond Butter and Peach ToastAlmond butter and peach toast is so simple but the genius comes from using quality ingredients. Get a nice artisan loaf of bread or try to make your own. I often use this no-knead bread recipe when I make bread. The results will blow your mind. It’s so easy and the end product is a tender crusty loaf that will impress your friends and family.

But, let’s get real, the star of this dish is the perfectly ripe peach. When peaches are season, I will stop at nothing to get them from the farmers markets, produce stands, or best of all from a friend’s tree. Then, I use them in every way possible. I have canned peach salsa (yum!), made this Peach, Zucchini, and Basil Pizza, and this peach tart.

Almond Butter and Peach ToastWhen I buy too many peaches, I will make this Almond Butter and Peach Toast for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s so quick and easy to prepare but so completely satisfying. I add the sliced almonds and hemp seeds for a little texture and crunch.

Almond Butter and Peach Toast pin

Zucchini Scramble Toast

Zucchini Scramble Toast

It all started when my Mom showed up with three zucchini from her garden. She was heading out of town but her garden was still producing like crazy. Of course I could use them, no way would I let them go to waste. That is what I told both of us.

My garden has two zucchini plants so I already had zucchini pickles in the fridge. I’d made zucchini pie at least three times. Crispy zucchini chips? Yup, I had made them at several times. Chewy zucchini oatmeal cookies? I made those too.

Zucchini Scramble Toast

Coffee has a way of clearing my mind and as I sipped my morning cuppa, I eyeballed the zucchini, thought about eggs, and that day old loaf of bread on the counter and Zucchini Scramble Toast was born.

I shredded the zucchini and thinly sliced part of an onion. All the veggies needed was a quick sauté in olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Once the vegetables softened, I added a couple of lightly beaten eggs to pan and let the eggs set for about a minute before gently pushing them around the pan. Just a little more salt and pepper to the eggs and scrambled until set. Remember the eggs will continue to cook for a few minutes after you remove the pan from the heat.

Zucchini Scramble Toast

While the eggs were cooking, I toasted and buttered the bread. When the eggs were done, I divided the eggs evenly onto the toast. I sprinkled chopped tomatoes and fresh herbs on top. Chives and basil are terrific on the toast.

The beauty of Zucchini Scramble Toast is that while it is perfect for breakfast, it also makes a super quick weeknight supper. Plus, with the price of avocados these days, it may be time for the avocado toast trend to exit stage left. Who wants to help me start the next ‘toast’ fad?

So, Mom, if you are reading this, I used up all three zucchini. I hope you are having a great time on your trip and when you get home, come over for Zucchini Scramble Toast and a cup of coffee. I want to hear all about your adventures.

Zucchini Scramble Toast

Tomato and Caramelized Onion Galette

Tomato and Caramelized Onion Galette

It’s almost like heaven. Fresh, garden tomatoes are everywhere! Neighbors bring them over, coworkers bring them to work, farmers markets have them in a rainbow of colors, and if you are very lucky, you can go into your own garden and pick them just before you eat them. A neighbor was drowning in tomatoes and brought me over some beauties. I made tomato sandwiches, gazpacho, and with the two most perfect specimens I made a tomato and caramelized onion galette.

A galette is similar to pie but it is baked on a baking sheet instead of in a pie pan. Galettes are typically more rustic in nature and you typically don’t see fancy crimping or decorating like you do on pies. Galettes can be sweet or savory. This savory tomato and caramelized onion galette would be my first choice over any fruit pie, any day of the week.

Tomato and Caramelized Onion Galette

Baking isn’t really my forte so you won’t see a ton of recipes that feature baking rather than cooking. In my mind, cooking is like jazz music, you can freestyle the heck out of most recipes. But, baking is a whole different thing. Baking is like the symphony, where each individual component is perfectly precise and deviations from the plan are not appreciated and can often sink the endeavor.

For these reasons, I typically buy pie crusts in the refrigerator section of the grocery store rather than attempting to make them from scratch. I have several friends who make pie crust from scratch and they tell me it is a cinch. The few times I have tried, I ended up with pile of buttery crumbs. But, if you make excellent pie crusts from scratch, by all means, use those. In fact, why not drop a link in the comments below to the recipe you use. Maybe I will get the nerve up to try again.

But, the real star of this dish is the tomatoes. Don’t you dare use grocery store tomatoes for this recipe! I only make this tomato and caramelized onion galette during the summer months when garden fresh tomatoes are available.

Caramelized onions add a wonderful flavor which complements the tomatoes. You can skip the onions if you don’t have the time or inclination to caramelize the onions but I rarely skip this step because I love what they bring to this dish. I slice the onions vertically. See the video below if you aren’t sure what I mean.

Regarding the cheese, I love the tangy creaminess from the goat cheese but I wouldn’t drive to the store to get goat cheese if I had feta or Parmesan in the fridge. I like to serve this galette with a salad and a crisp white wine.

Tomato and Caramelized Onion Galette

Looking for other tomato recipes? Check out these posts:

Tailgating Playlist

tailgate

My friend Courtney is back with another rump-shaking Spotify playlist. Court is a University of Utah football fan through and through. One of the many things that I love about her is that saw a need in her tailgating group and took action which she explains below.

If anyone can rise to the challenge of creating a Spotify playlist that meets the musical needs for a multi-generational crowd, Courtney is the one. So, get your tailgating food packed up and bring along a portable speaker so you and your tailgating crew can enjoy the pre-party before the big game.

 

Courtney tailgating

I’ve been tailgating and attending football games with the same group since 2008 (Sugar Bowl Championship year!) They were tailgating together for years before I joined them. Up until a couple of seasons ago, it was a pretty dialed in operation, with the exception of one thing: the music.

little tailgater

Our group ranges from Baby Boomers to Gen Zers. Every time someone tried to play music, someone else would be complaining, “what is this?? It’s terrible!” And it usually was. I knew I had to do something, but was I up to the challenge? Putting together a playlist that all of these people with varying musical tastes could enjoy for hours?

I wasn’t sure, but Coach Whitt gave me a great pep talk (in my mind) “EVERYTHING YOU’VE GOT! LEAVE NOTHING IN THE TANK! IT’S RIGHT THERE FOR THE TAKING! GO TAKE IT!”

OK, coach!

Tailgating Swoop
The Music in the Tailgating Playlist

What I came up with includes gems for the Baby Boomers by Paul Simon, Led Zeppelin, Johnny Cash, and Elton John. For the Gen Xers we’ve got stuff by Modest Mouse, Tom Petty, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Beastie Boys. For the Millennials I added The Black Keys, The White Stripes, Amy Winehouse, and Beyoncé. And for our Gen Zers, we’ve got songs by Lorde, Imagine Dragons, Alabama Shakes, and Alt-J. On top of those, I added songs sure to pump you up for the big game like Spoon’s “The Underdog” and DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win.”

tailgating gamesNow instead of complaining, we bop our heads up and down while we pile up our plates, shake our hips while we play holy board, dance while we top off our drinks, and tap our feet while we discuss our team’s #throwgame, and whether or not this year, our new offensive coordinator can improve our production.

VICTORY!

It is a true crowd-pleaser with songs sure to get you ready for the big game. I hope you and your tailgating group enjoy! Go Utes!!

Tailgating playlist

Be sure to check out Courtney’s other playlists

Crispy Zucchini Chips

Crispy Zucchini Chips

Oh, garden, my garden, let me count the ways that I love thy bounty. Seriously, am I the only one who waxes poetic about the amazingness of a humble garden? I don’t think I will ever get over the magic of planting a few seeds in the ground, providing water regularly, and coming home each day to magic. Absolute and total magic. Zucchini, tomatoes, fresh herbs, greens, and beans delight me daily during the summer months.

I am a vegetable lover through and through and I never tire of summer and the incredible food that I can grow with minimal effort and expense. Picking veggies and herbs then walking a few steps into my kitchen is what fuels my fire of local and seasonal food. I bank the sights, smells, and sounds of summer while weeding and watering, to draw upon through winter. But, I know not everyone feels this way about vegetables and that some of you may face challenges of cooking for people or kids who proclaim to hate vegetables. Well, I have an idea for you.

Want to sneak some additional vegetables into your family’s meals? Then I highly recommend making theses crispy zucchini chips to accompany your next burger or BLT. You will love these baked zucchini chips. The coating is crispy, light, and full of flavor. The beauty is that they are baked not fried. Plus, your non-veggie loving family members will eat them. I promise.

Crispy Zucchini ChipsEven my vegetarian, non-vegetable loving son will devour these Crispy Zucchini Chips. So, when zucchinis are coming on strong I make crispy zucchini chips at least once per week. If you or your kids like to dip, you can serve crispy zucchini chips with ketchup, marinara, ranch dressing, or my favorite, Green Goddess dressing.

Also keep in mind, as I have mentioned before, I use a mandoline to slice the zucchini evenly. The OXO brand that I have lets you set the slices to the exact thickness that you want. To make the coating extra crispy, I use a combination of seasoned bread crumbs and panko bread crumbs which can found with the ethnic food aisle of the grocery store. To boost the flavor of the coating, add some salty parmesan and a bit of kick from cayenne pepper.

I like to use zucchini that are on the small side because they are tender and don’t have many seeds. I hope you like this recipe and you may find that you don’t want to give your extra zucchinis away.

How to Make Crisp Zucchini Chips

Crispy Zucchini Chips

Spicy Cucumber Salad with Peanuts

Spicy Cucumber Salad with Peanuts

I have been making Spicy Cucumber Salad with Peanuts for years, well over a decade, in fact. This is one my go-to recipes that is in heavy rotation especially during the summer months when I crave cool, crisp, and refreshing meals. I prefer to use English (or hot house) cucumbers for this recipe because of their thin skin and few seeds but if you grow your own cukes, by all means, use them.

The funny thing about cucumbers is that I didn’t like cucumbers (at all) until I was an adult. I adored pickles as a kid but wouldn’t touch cucumbers with a ten-foot pole. That’s weird, right?

Spicy Cucumber Salad with Peanuts is super easy to make. You combine a few ingredients like rice wine vinegar, water, sugar, crushed red pepper flakes in a small sauce pan and simmer until the sauce is reduced by half. The dressing is terrific blend of sweet, spicy, and acid.

While the dressing cools, slice the cucumbers very thin.  Using a mandoline makes this job a snap and results in perfectly uniform slices. The video below shows how to use a mandoline and features the exact same OXO brand mandoline that I use. I love it because I can set the width of the slices and it makes slicing so easy, just be very careful because the blade is sharp. Always use the included safety guard when using the mandoline.

After slicing the cucumbers, I recommend putting the slices into a colander and sprinkling them liberally with salt. The salt will draw the moisture out of the cucumber which results in crisp slices in your salad. Be sure to rinse the salt off the slices and then use a paper towel or clean kitchen towel and pat the slices to remove excess moisture before adding the dressing.

Just before serving Spicy Cucumber Salad with Peanuts, sprinkle the salad or individual servings with chopped up dry-roasted peanuts. The peanuts add that salty crunch which is the perfect foil for the cool, crisp cucumbers.

Sometimes I will make a pot of rice and serve the Spicy Cucumber Salad with Peanuts in a bowl with a scoop of rice. I love to make Spicy Cucumber Salad with Peanuts to accompany Hawaiian Poke. Check out my recipes for Spicy Ahi Tuna Poke or Ginger Salmon Poke with Mango and Avocado. Grilled meat or fish would also make a great accompaniment to this salad.

How to Make Spicy Cucumber Salad with Peanuts

Spicy Cucumber Salad with Peanuts

Spicy Cucumber Salad with Peanuts

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