Archive for the ‘Easy!’ Category

Asparagus Parmesan Spears
After such a long and unpleasant winter, I’ve been really, really savoring the return of warm weather. The twiggy trees outside our apartment are now lush with foliage, the sun is up when we awake and its light lingers in the sky long after we’ve arrived home from work, and laundry goes so much faster since sweaters and jeans have been replaced by tank tops and light, swishy skirts. ‘Tis the season of sunglasses and short haircuts and flip flops and farmer tans (the only kind of tan I get, thank you).

But above all else, ’tis the season of local produce, each week appearing in more abundance and variety at farmers markets around the city. And though leafy greens tend to be the very first fresh items available, the truest harbinger of the coming summer bounty is the mighty asparagus spear.

Springtime spears
These tender shoots are the rock stars on the local produce stage, producing a short-lived but iconic album every year to their adoring fans. For a brief moment, there is a glut of asparagus, piled high on market tables for eager customers to sort through, seeking the perfect stems. And then, just as suddenly, the harvest is over. This year, during these short lovely weeks of asparagus, I stumbled across this simple recipe that has quickly become my favorite.

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Simple Glazed Carrots

My grandmother, who I’ve talked about quite a lot on this site, passed away this week just a few days before her 97th birthday. She was an inspiration to me in almost every way that affects this blog: canning, gardening, cooking, and even just appreciating the delight of fresh, homegrown food. She always insisted that the best recipes were the simplest ones, and that “modern recipes” just had too many unnecessary ingredients. I frequently watched her shake her head and scoff at magazine recipes bedazzled with so many obscure herbs and spices that you’d hardly be able to taste the feature of the dish (let alone afford to make it). Since she was renowned for what she could do with food from seed to table, I usually find it’s best to heed the advice she seemed to live by: grow food, buy fresh, cook simply, and savor the resulting meal.

To honor my grandmother, I want to share with you some of the simple, basic recipes that I rely upon heavily in my daily cooking. I admit, I feel both ridiculous for sharing them and also ridiculous for keeping them from you for so long. Sometimes it’s hard to decide what to share here in this space, and I often think, “nah, they don’t wanna hear about this, it’s nothing fancy.”

But then I remember that many of these dishes have entered my kitchen in only the last few years: why should I assume that they are already in yours? It seems unfair to keep them to myself. Plus, while I’m sure we all love the idea of elaborate culinary projects resulting in surprising and impressive dishes, my guess is that most of you (like me) are ultimately just trying to put dinner on the table every night without relying on a microwave dinner or a frozen pizza. For me, having an repertoire composed of simple, savory dishes is the key to making this happen.

Thin and simple carrots
This is one of my favorite side dishes both in flavor and style, it goes well with just about anything, and it starts and ends with a bunch of carrots. Though many of us get our carrots mostly in the form of stripped-down nubbins that appear on veggie platters at office parties, this dish uses the whole thing. For this particular dish, I like to use the thinnest carrots I can find.

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Fluffy Frosted Sugar Cookies
As someone who bakes rather a lot of cake, it might surprise you to know that I actually don’t bake many cookies. If you invite me to a dinner party, you’re more likely to answer the door to find me carrying a teetering stack of tender cake layers, smeared with berries and whipped cream, than a plate of half a dozen cookies. Well, I should clarify: I make a LOT of chocolate chip cookies, as it is Brad’s favorite and one recipe that I could likely make in my sleep. No, I haven’t posted that recipe here yet, but I promise I’ll remedy that situation soon.

In the meantime, though, I desperately want to talk about this cookie.

Frosted Fluffy Sugar Cookies
If you’ve ever enjoyed one of those Lofthouse cookies, or the grocery-store knock-offs, this recipe is for you. Not only are these cookies SHOCKINGLY easy to make, but they are soft and fluffy and flavorful and cute and everything you want them to be without the weird sugar-y aftertaste of their inspiration.

Simple cookie ingredients
We start with a pretty basic array of ingredients. Flour, baking powder, and salt combine to form the dry set, butter and sugar cream together to form the base, and egg, vanilla, and just a bit of almond extract wrap it all up.

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Egg in a Hole for Breakfast

It’s entirely possible that I’m the last person to arrive at this party, but these days I find I really, really like soft-cooked eggs. Growing up I thought I only liked scrambled eggs, hard-boiled eggs, and deviled eggs (who doesn’t?) but recently, I’ve discovered the pleasure of the slightly runny yolk.

And THIS, it turns out, is the best way I’ve found to enjoy it. I feel a little generous even calling this a recipe because it’s SO quick, SO easy, and amazingly, deliciously good.

Simple ingredients
I’ve seen this recipe with a number of different names. Egg in a Hole, Frog in a Hole, Egg in the Middle… but the principle remains the same. You take a piece of bread. And you punch a hole in it. And then you put an egg in the middle and cook. Simple!

Making the hole
I like using a round cookie cutter for this, but you could get cutesy and use a heart, a square, or whatever shape you want. The important thing is to not make it too small. Trust me, if there isn’t enough hole, the egg will just overflow and not cook and you won’t be able to flip it and all will be ugly for your breakfast.

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Charred Corn Salsa
It felt like spring the latter half of this week. The sun was shining, the last of the snow that has persisted in our street for weeks has melted, and it was nice enough to wander about without a jacket. The thrill of the weather finally breaking is one of my favorite moments each season!

Ingredients
Perhaps associated with the first burst of warm-ish weather, I tend to also get an itch to vacation at this time of year. It might also be years of Spring Break indoctrination, but I suddenly yearn to pack my bags for some tropical adventure! Not that I actually did a lot of that growing up, but the once or twice that we did vacation somewhere warm over Spring Break were enough to permanently spark anticipation every February. Unfortunately, we have no imminent vacation plans for this spring. So! To ease my wanderlust, I’ve settled by making some charred corn salsa.

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Potato Leek Soup

Happy December, friends! I feel like the super-late date of Thanksgiving has caused December to sneak up on me even more rapidly than usual. For me, December usually equates to a significant uptick in baking, candy-making, and gift-crafting that keeps me in the kitchen late into the night breaking up toffee and tying ribbon around pretty little boxes of mulling spices before packing them gently in bubble wrap and shipping them to friends and family across the continent.

And as much as I might like to convince myself that I can survive on party mix, mini cheesecakes, and pomegranate salsa, I work really hard to make sure I also have some real food in my fridge to sustain me. Something, warm, easy to prepare after late nights of baking, and filling enough to get through the busy days. To keep cooking to a minimum, I often turn to soups.

I had a bit of a soup explosion last fall and posted A LOT of them on the site: Butternut Squash Soup, my Favorite Chili, Sweet Potato Soup, Colorado Cape Cod Chowder, and more. This year I’ve been repeating many of those soups, but I did discover a simple potato leek soup recipe that I HAD to share with you.

Simple ingredients
Like so many soups, this one has fairly humble components: potatoes, leeks, and an onion make up the base, and a little butter, salt, pepper, and cream bring it all together.

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Skillet Corn with Zucchini & Onion

For most of my life, I’ve eaten corn one of two ways: from a can or on the cob. (And I’m talking about kernels of corn here, not the corn syrup, corn meal, corn starch, and other corn products that certainly make up most of the “corn” in the average American diet.) In the summer, there was no greater thrill than Dad bringing home a bag full of fresh Colorado sweet corn, and I still look forward to the arrival of corn on the cob every time the season rolls around.

But it’s really only in the last few years that I’ve started appreciating fresh corn as an ingredient, as something more than just a cob of kernels slathered with butter. Fresh corn has flavor and texture that give everything from pizza to fajitas a little something extra.

In this dish, corn is not just an ingredient, it’s the star of the show. With two of my other favorite veggies to support it.

Simple summer veggies

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Wedge Salad for dinner
It’s amazing how quickly the thrills of summer transform into those of fall. It’s not just about the temperature, either (in fact, that hasn’t particularly changed). The tree outside my apartment has begun dropping leaves to the ground, and with each trip to my car in the morning, those leaves announce the arrival of autumn with a delicate crunch beneath my feet.  The light deepens to gold a bit more each day, and the anticipation I’ve grown accustomed to feeling around this time each year is beginning to grow.

And yet a week ago, my heart was full with summer. And so was my pantry. I’d harvested the last batch of tomatoes from my garden, and after celebrating some of them with some BLT sandwiches, I wanted to try them in a different configuration: as a salad!

Wedge Salad

This salad is inspired by one that Brad and I usually split at one of our favorite restaurants, and it’s simple enough that I’m frankly stunned I’ve never attempted something like it at home.

It starts with iceberg lettuce.

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Homemade Ranch Dressing
Raaaaaaaanch dressing!

Is there nothing it can’t improve?

Obviously a delicious dip, for veggies, chicken wings, chips, crackers, french fries, pizza (?)… but ranch is also a tasty mix in for mashed potatoes or even pasta, an excellent salad dressing, and of course, a pizza topping. I have no idea if its popularity extends to other continents, but in the USA, ranch dressing is king.

Herbs and seasoning

Now I know that most people probably have a favorite brand (or brands) of ranch. For many of us, this might be the one we had in elementary school but don’t know the name to. There’s a gazillion varieties in the grocery store. I have on occasion, in an effort to expand my ranch dressing horizons, tried branching out and away from the Kraft and Hidden Valley I grew up with. Sometimes, these are successful ventures, and sometimes, they are gross.

This week I ventured VERY far and tried my hand at homemade ranch. I’ve always been curious about doing so, but honestly, it’s difficult to justify buying a quart of buttermilk when all I need is half a cup. This weekend, however, I had the fateful alignment of both buttermilk AND sour cream in my fridge for other projects, and with fresh parsley and chives in season, the time was ripe.

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Smooth Garlic Hummus

I think I was in sixth or seventh grade when I first heard about hummus. One of my classmates probably brought it in their packed lunch, with a pack of carrot sticks or some pita bread. My hometown was (and still is) definitely the kind of place where sixth graders are excited about eating hummus and carrots for lunch.

Unfortunately, I was horrified by the idea of eating hummus. For the better part of my childhood, I thought that hummus (ground chickpeas with tahini paste) and HUMUS (fully decomposed soil) were the same thing. I was all for eating the fruits of the earth, but the earth itself? NO WAY.

The connections one makes as a child are truly fascinating, aren’t they?

Smooth Yummy Hummus

Now, however, I know the truth. I know that in fact, that extra “m” makes a HUGE and delicious difference. What’s more, hummus is an incredibly easy and inexpensive snack to make.

And it starts, of course, with chick peas.

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