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Mussels with Cider, Shallots, and Bacon

Mussels with Cider, Shallots, and Bacon

If you have a large pot and a few pounds of mussels, you can have a dinner party worthy meal on the tables in no time at all. Mussels are one of the easiest meals to prepare. All you need to do is give the mussels a quick scrub and soak, cook up a few aromatics for a broth to steam the mussels in, and five minutes cooking time. For Mussels with Cider, Shallots and Bacon, I decided to add some autumn flair but using apple cider instead of the more typical white wine as the base of the broth.

The website Serious Eats has a more detailed article on cleaning mussels if you would like a step-by-step guide. I have also included a video below. But, I promise, it is really easy and takes no time at all. Once you get the hang of it, you will be preparing mussels all the time!

While mussels and French fries (frites) are a popular combination in Belgium and France, I prefer to serve mussels with slices of nice bread. My favorites are a beautiful baguette or ciabatta. You will want to use the slices of bread to soak up the delicious broth.

So, let’s walk through the process. Heat a large pot over a medium flame and add oil olive and butter. When the oil and butter start to bubble, add the chopped bacon and cook for a few minutes.  Next you will add the shallots, garlics, and thyme and cook until they are soft. Finally, add the cider and mustard. Bring the broth to a boil before adding the cleaned mussels. The only need a few minutes to cook. Seriously easy, right?

Mussels with Cider Shallots and Bacon-2

If you would like a tasty beverage to accompany your mussels, I recommend either a crisp white wine, sparkling wine (bubbles go with everything), or a Belgian beer.  I love to serve this meal not only because it is delicious but it is a slow-paced meal which encourages conversation as you work your way through the mussels. Slow food at its best!

How to Make Mussels with Cider, Shallots, and Bacon

Mussels with Cider, Shallots, and Bacon Pin

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

Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing

Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing

Aren’t sliders adorable? I think most things in miniature form are cuter than their full size counterparts. Think babies, puppies, kitties, and burgers. However, why should meat-eaters have all the slider fun? They shouldn’t, right?

Now that we are in agreement on that, let’s talk about these Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing. Boiling the beets along with a variety of aromatics imparts great flavor into the beets. The Green Goddess Dressing is creamy, herby, and delicious, which complements the earthiness of the beets. Red onions offer crunch and bite to the slider. The combination is top notch.

Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing

I estimate that approximately 99% of slider recipes that I come across feature some sort of meat filling. You know that I am always up for a challenge. Therefore, I want to create delicious options for vegetarian sliders. These Beet Sliders are not only gorgeous; they are perfect to eat while drinking a glass of wine or a beer and listening to Budos Band.

I would plan to serve two to three sliders per person for a perfect small plate offering. I adore small plates. Small plates always feel like a party. I would much rather have a few small plates than one entrée any day. Honestly, every day that would be my preference. Small plates are perfect for the chronically indecisive, possibly commitment challenged.

Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing

I digress. Let’s move on the these sliders. The key to any burger is getting the bun and burger to match up in size. Be sure that your beets are as big in the widest part as the bun they will eventually sit on. Once the beets are cooked and peeled, you will want to slice them into about one-inch rounds.

While the beets cook, whip up the ingredients for the Green Goddess dressing and thinly slice part of a red onion. I always recommend wearing latex or rubber gloves when working with beets. Beets stain everything they encounter so exercise care when preparing them.

If you are beet lover, you may want to check out these other recipes:

Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing

 

Lemon Roasted Potatoes

Lemon Roasted Potatoes

Perhaps it is my Irish roots or maybe it is just because potatoes are damn delicious, but either way, I love potatoes. And, as long as I have potatoes in the house, I know I can put a satisfying meal on the table in no time. You do not need me to enumerate all the amazing things that you can do with potatoes. Okay, I will anyway. I love them roasted, mashed, baked, fried, shredded, spiralized, scalloped, or hasselbacked.

As you can see in my previous posts for Roasted Carrot Hummus and Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce and Pomegranate Seeds, roasted vegetables are my absolute favorite. The roasting process brings out incredible flavor and texture in vegetables and these lemon roasted potatoes are delightful.

Lemon Roasted Potatoes

The potatoes in this Lemon Roasted Potatoes recipe get crispy and golden brown on the outside and stay tender on the inside. The flavor of the garlic and lemon mellows in the roasting process and actually develop a sweetness. I have added the chipotle chili powder and cayenne to balance the sweet with a little bit of heat. The rosemary adds an earthy fresh flavor. But, if rosemary isn’t your thing, feel free to swap it out with some parsley but don’t add it until the end of the cooking time.

Lemon Roasted Potatoes are a lovely side dish to accompany any number of protein-filled main dishes. They would be a delicious side to salmon or chicken. On the other hand, if you are looking for a meatless menu idea, I think the potatoes would be delicious served alongside a Middle Eastern mezze platter of cut up veggies, pita wedges, hummus, and olives.

Alternatively, you could toss some asparagus spears in the oven while the potatoes are cooking. I would add them to the oven when you have about 20 minutes of cooking time left on the potatoes. Then, poach or fry an egg and serve on top of the potatoes. So good, right?

How to Make Lemon Roasted Potatoes

Lemon Roasted Potatoes

Southwestern Potato Salad

Southwestern Potato Salad

Once the sunlight grows long in the evenings after Daylight Savings Time, my brain automatically moves into summer mode. The sloth in me suddenly disappears and I want to do all the things outside.

One of those things that I must start doing immediately is cooking out of doors. I dust off the BBQ grill and start planning get-togethers with family and friends. BBQ time means potato salad time. However, this Southwestern Potato Salad recipe is not some ordinary potato salad, it is a kicked up version full of flavors you love from southwestern cuisine.

Southwestern Potato Salad

Bobby Flay’s recipe for Southwestern Potato Salad on the Food Network website was the inspiration for this recipe. Once again, I found the photo associated with the recipe on their website lacking. Admittedly, potato salad is not the most photogenic dish in the world but I challenged myself to improve the recipe and photo.

I added roasted chilies to the potato salad that I am surprised that Bobby had not included in his version. I also added hard-boiled eggs to garnish the top of the potato salad because my people love hard-boiled eggs. If your people do not love hard-boiled eggs, you can omit them.

Southwestern Potato SaladHere are few other recipes that I found on Food Network’s website that I had to make and photograph in order to pin it to Pinterest. You will understand why this important if you are a Pinterest user. If you are not an avid Pinterest user, but want to be (and you should) then hit me up. I will help you down the rabbit hole that is Pinterest. It is so fun, I promise!

If you ever see any Food Network recipes that have no pictures or worse yet, terrible pictures, drop me a note with the link. I am up for the challenge!

Southwestern Potato Salad

Blow-Your-Mind Black Bean Chili

Blow-Your-Mind Black Bean Chili

Are you ready for football to be over for the season? I know that I am.  Honestly, this year I couldn’t care less about either team that is playing in the Super Bowl. The only thing I am excited about is hanging out with friends and eating delicious food.

After Thanksgiving, the Super Bowl is the next big event in the Olympics of food.

You want to bring a dish to the party that will be delicious and Instagram-worthy. You may want it to have some sort of nutritional value. I always prefer homemade food, cooked from scratch, because I am weird like that. I want my food to be made from ingredients from the Earth rather than chemicals in a factory.

Blow Your Mind Black Bean Chili

My daughter often laments when she visits my house that my kitchen is full of ingredients rather than food. I take this as a compliment, although, I know it is not intended as such.

Super Bowl Appetizer Ideas

So, for weeks I have been trying to decide what to bring to the Super Bowl party that we will be attending this weekend. I can’t decide between snack food such as a dip with chips and veggies like this Roasted Carrot Hummus or Guacamole with Clementines or bringing something more substantial.

Blow Your Mind Black Bean Chili

Some of the people attending the party are meat and potatoes people and a few are vegetarians. So, I want to bring something that will appeal to everyone.

Keeping that in mind, in addition to the dip recipes listed above, I have a really delicious chili recipe to share with you. The Super Bowl and a pot of chili go together like wine and cheese. Am I right? Chili is a perfect party food. It can be made ahead of time and then kept warm in a slow cooker so it is ready to eat at half-time.

Blow-Your-Mind Black Bean Chili

This Blow-Your-Mind Black Bean chili is sure to please your football loving friends. I am so in love with this chili recipe! It is full of black beans and wheat berries (more on these in a minute) which makes it a super satisfying.

Blow Your Mind Black Bean ChiliThe addition of mushrooms also lends meaty texture to the chili which may keep the carnivores at the table from grumbling. The smoky flavor comes from chipotle chili powder. If you like extra heat and smoke, you could add a chopped up chili pepper and some of the sauce from a can of chipotle chilies in adobo sauce. The chili is meatless which is perfect if you have vegetarians coming to party and hearty enough that the carnivores may not miss the meat.

If you aren’t familiar with wheat berries, I encourage you to give them a try. You boil the whole grains in liquid, usually water or broth, until cooked through. The process is similar to cooking rice. They have a chewy texture and a nutty flavor. You can find wheat berries in the bulk section of many super markets or packaged in the grocery aisle with other whole grains. Wheat berries are sometimes referred to as hard red winter wheat.

Blow Your Mind Black Bean Chili

Plus, suggest having a selection of toppings available so that guests can customize their chili bowls just the way they like them. Some of my favorite chili toppings are:

  • Avocado
  • Green onions
  • Lime wedges
  • Grated cheese
  • Crushed tortilla chips
  • Sour cream

Blow Your Mind Black Bean Chili

White Beans and Tuscan Kale

White Beans and Tuscan Kale

I love to spend a few hours cooking on Sunday in order to set myself up with healthy, satisfying meals for the week. One dish that I often cook on Sundays is a large pot of beans. Canned beans are convenient but there is something special about cooking dried beans which you can infuse with your favorite flavors. Plus, cooking them at home also allows you to control the amount of sodium that you put into the beans.

Heirloom Beans

Recently, I have become obsessed with heirloom beans. Luckily,there are few companies that are preserving the incredible diversity of beans beyond what you will find canned in the grocery store. There are two companies whose gorgeous beans I haven’t been able to resist in the past. With names like Tongues of Fire, Orca, and Rattlesnake, these heirloom beans are really beautiful, like little works of art. They make me want to buy all the clear glass containers to store them in my pantry. #pantrygoals

Rancho Gordo is a California-based company that specializes in dried heirloom beans. The other is Zursun Heirloom Beans, an Idaho-based company that also sells an amazing collection of dried beans, many of which, you may not have ever seen before. I know I haven’t seen them available anywhere in regular grocery stores. I encourage you to check out the selection of beautiful beans that both companies sell.

White Beans and Tuscan Kale

About This Recipe

In this recipe, I used Zursun’s Flageolet beans which are a favorite of the French for their cassoulet. These white beans are prized for their delicate flavor and pretty pale green color. You could use any dried white beans and they would be perfectly fine.

While the beans cook, they soak up the favors of the sage, garlic, and Parmesan cheese. The beans cook until they are creamy consistency. You add the kale, spicy red pepper flakes, and more cheese right at the end and cook until the kale wilts.

White Beans and Tuscan Kale

You end up with a stew-like consistency. You can ladle it into a bowl or spoon it on top of slices of toasted crusty bread. This meal is so hearty and satisfying; I guarantee that you will love how it warms you up from inside on cold winter days. If you have any leftover they will taste even better the next day in your brown bag lunch. I promise!

White Beans and Tuscan Kale

White Beans and Tuscan Kale

Roasted Carrot Hummus

Roasted Carrot Hummus

I saw Giada De Laurentiis make this recipe for Roasted Carrot Hummus recently on her Food Network television show Giada Entertains. I grabbed my computer during the episode and searched for the recipe on the Food Network website.

I was able to locate the recipe for Roasted Carrot Hummus but the photograph of the food on the website seemed a disservice to the appetizer that Giada demonstrated on her show. Isn’t the photo above of the Roasted Carrot Hummus much more appealing than the one posted below from the Food Network website?

Roasted Carrot Hummus

The photo of Roasted Carrot Hummus from the Food Network website

The experience that I had watching Giada’s show and many other similar experiences on the Food Network website inspired the new series that I am starting today. The focus of this series is take awesome recipes from the Food Network and to cook them at home. Then, the important part, we are going to take good photos of the recipes. The Food Network’s website has consistently terrible photos of their recipes. Did I mention that?

Roasted Carrot Hummus

I often feel frustrated when I want to pin a recipe from Food Network to my Pinterest account. The photographs of the food that come up are rather uninspired. I work hard to curate Pinterest boards that are full of tantalizing recipes and sometimes I won’t pin a recipe despite how good it sounds because the photo is bad.

So, I am taking on the challenge of a photography project to create beautiful photos of recipes that I see on the Food Network. This way I can pin the recipe and hopefully give the recipe the Pinterest love that it deserves.

Next up in this photography challenge

Here are few examples of delicious-sounding recipes that are paired with sad photos on the Food Network website. I plan to make and photograph these over the next few months.

Parmesan Pomodoro

Original photo from Food Network website

Rigatoni with Greens

Original photo from Food Network website

Southwestern Potato Salad

Original photo from Food Network website

See what I mean? Life is too short to post recipes with mediocre pictures.

Don’t you think the pin below would get a lot more repins on Pinterest than the one next to it?  This is important if you are an avid Pinterest user.

If you come across a poorly photographed recipe on the Food Network, shoot me an email with a link to the recipe and I will add it to the list of recipes that need to be photographed again. Also, I need a good hashtag for this project. If you can think of something clever, leave me a comment below.

Onto to the recipe, I made a few adjustments to the original recipe. I added tahini, cumin, and reduced the amount of oil.

Roasted Carrot Hummus

Parmesan Broth with White Beans and Kale

Parmesan Broth with White Beans and Kale

You don’t throw away those end rinds of Parmesan cheese, do you? Please don’t. Ever. Take them and place them in a freezer baggie and freeze them for future use. Or, next time you are at a grocery store that has a nice cheese section, look around, sometimes stores will sell the rinds. Buy them. Every single one that you can find and stash them in the freezer like you are a squirrel hoarding acorns for the winter. These little flavor bombs are perfect to add to soups, stews, a pot of beans, and, of course, making Parmesan broth.

Parmesan Broth

Making a pot of Parmesan broth is ridiculously simple. Plus, the smell of Parmesan broth cooking on your stove top will infuse your kitchen with the most delectable smell. The broth can be ready in under an hour. Then, you can decide whether add a few more ingredients and have dinner on the table or if you want to use the broth later, place it in the fridge or freezer for future use.

To make the broth you will put water, an onion, cloves of garlic, and the Parmesan rinds into a pot or Dutch oven. You don’t even have to peel the onions and garlic! Simmer for 45 minutes. Then, strain the soggy solids out which will have given up every ounce of flavor, and there you will have Parmesan broth. Now comes the fun part. What ingredients will you add to transform this broth into a scrumptious bowl of soup?

Parmesan Broth with White Beans and Kale

The world is your oyster here! Feel free to add whatever soup ingredients that you like. I decided to add a can of white beans, some leftover cooked quinoa, and kale. The addition of these ingredients transforms the Parmesan broth into an incredibly satisfying and hearty meal.

This recipe was inspired by the incredible Julia Turshen cookbook ‘Small Victories’. I would encourage you to track down a copy. Julia is a cookbook author, food writer, and hosted the first two seasons of Radio Cherry Bombe which featured interviews with amazing women in the world of food.

Small Victories book cover Turshen

In the recipe from Small Victories, Julia added peas and some small pasta to her Parmesan broth. One of the features of the cookbook that I really enjoy in that she offers variations for all her recipes. I find that those suggestions inspire my creativity and also encourage me to look around my fridge, freezer, and pantry to use ingredients that I already have on hand rather than running to the store. One of her variations recommended beans and greens which I almost always have on hand. Plus, I had some leftover quinoa in the fridge so I threw that into the pot too. The result was an perfectly warming meal on a frigidly cold night.

Parmesan Broth with White Beans and Kale

Parmesan Broth with White Beans and Kale Pin

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