Spicy Coleslaw

More and more, I am finding myself making salads that are more structured, with cabbage and other items, as many recipes are not eaten within one day in my house, and I find myself eating at the leftovers for a couple of days.  When I came across this recipe for coleslaw (which I have not always loved), I knew I wanted to try to make it.  In this case, I found the heat of the flavor to be a decent background note, and note at the forefront of the food I was eating, which I appreciated.  Mark Bittman, it seems, is not a fan of mayonnaise-based coleslaw, so this was a good opportunity to make a salad without a mayo creaminess.

Spicy Coleslaw

Spicy Coleslaw

2 Tbsp Dijon mustard, or more to taste
2 Tbsp lemon juice, or more to taste
1 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp minced fresh chile (like jalapeno)
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 medium Napa cabbage
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
4 medium scallions, chopped
salt and fresh ground black pepper

Whisk together the mustard, lemon juice, garlic and chile in a large bowl.  Drizzle in the oil a little at a time, whisking constantly, so that the mixture comes together and emulsifies (or puree the ingredients in a blender, and transfer to a large bowl.)

Trim or pull the outer leaves from the cabbage and then remove the core with a paring knife.  Switch to a chef’s knife and cut the cabbage into halves or quarters, then thinly slice each piece.  The slices will naturally fall into shreds.

Add the cabbage, bell pepper, and scallions to the bowl, and toss to combine.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to let the flavors mellow and the cabbage soften and exude some juice.

Heirloom Beans

One of my colleagues had a family member in the hospital for a number of days and to help ease the end-of-day cooking, I wanted to bring some food to their house.  In addition to smoking a pork shoulder, I found this recipe for baked beans in Ted Allen’s In My Kitchen cookbook and I was excited to make some beans from scratch (a skill that I haven’t quite built up in the way that I wish I had).  These were a slightly spicy, not-too-sweet version of baked beans that had a deep, rich flavor to them, thanks to the various vegetables within the beans.

Heirloom Beans.jpg

Heirloom Beans

1 lb dried beans
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne or 1 chopped jalapeno chile
1 smoked ham hock or 3 slices smoked bacon or ham, diced
3 sprigs thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 Tbsp red wine vinegar, to taste

Rinse and pick over the dried beans, discarding any small stones or other debris.  If you have time, put the beans in a bowl, cover with water by 2 or 3 inches, and soak for up to 6 hours.  If not, just plan on simmering them a little longer.

In a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat, warm the oil, and then cook the onion, celery, and carrot until tender, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic, bay leaf, and, if using chili powder, cumin, and/or cayenne, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the beans, ham hock, thyme, and water to cover the beans by about 1 inch.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer gently, partially covered, for 30 minutes.  Add 1 teaspoon salt and simmer for 30 minutes.

After an hour, spoon out a few beans and taste for tenderness.  Keep cooking and testing as needed, checking at least every 15 minutes, as things speed up towards the end of the process.  Add small amounts of hot water, if needed.  When the beans are tender and the liquid is creamy and thickened, they’re ready.  Remove the bay leaf.  If you want thicker liquid, hit the mixture briefly with the immersion blender.  Season with salt and pepper as needed before serving.

Dried Apricot and Couscous Salad with Curried Apricot Vinaigrette

For a recent funeral at church, I found myself making this couscous salad as something that would hold up for the day and might be a nice change as we transitioned into spring.  (I still can’t believe the snow has melted and spring is here).  This recipe, from Salad Days, had a nice mixture of couscous and dried fruit, with a slightly more complex flavor arrangement, which was pleasing.  Although the recipe looks slightly complicated, it was ready in less than an hour.

Dried Apricot and Couscous Salad.jpg

Dried Apricot and Couscous Salad

2 1/2 c water
2 c couscous
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 c scallions, chopped
1 1/2 c dried apricots
1 1/2 c dried currants
1 1/2 c roasted pecans


1/4 c rice vinegar
1/2 Tbsp sweet, not spicy, curry powder
3 Tbsp apricot preserves
1 tsp sweet onion
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 c fruity green olive oil

Prepare couscous.  Put water in a 2-quart saucepan, bring water to a boil, and add couscous and salt.  Stir to combine, remove the pan from heat, and let couscous stand, covered, for 5 minutes.  Fluff couscous with a fork, and transfer to a large glass bowl.  Stir in 1 Tbsp olive oil, and cool completely, stirring occasionally.

Prepare dressing.  Place all ingredients except for olive oil in kitchen blender or small food processor.  Blend together until smooth and completely blended, pour into a 1 quart glass bowl, and gently whisk in olive oil until combined.  Pour into glass jar, and set aside until ready to assemble the salad.

Rinse scallions and chop.  Cut dried apricots julienne.  Combine all salad ingredients into the bowl with the couscous.  Fold in 1 c of the vinaigrette and gently toss together.  Add more vinaigrette if necessary.

Roasted Almond-Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recently, one of my neighbors passed away and as their family gathered to mourn and celebrate his life, I found myself seeking a meal or something to take to their house.  After hemming and hawing a little bit, I decided that some cookies might be the best option, and this recipe from The Good Neighbor Cookbook seemed appropriate and had been on my list for quite some time.  The almonds are not a strong flavor and relatively backgrounded in the cookie.  They didn’t spread quite as much as I would have preferred, but flavor-wise, the cookies were great and a welcome gesture when I arrived at their house that night.

Roasted Almond-Chocolate Chip Cookies

Roasted Almond-Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 c flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp kosher salt
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c brown sugar
3/4 c sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla
2 c chocolate chips
1/2 c unsalted roasted almonds, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Working with a stand mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar, and sugar on medium speed until creamy, 2 to 3 minutes.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture.  Stir in the chocolate chips and almonds.

Drop the dough in heaping tablespoon-size balls 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheet.  Bake, rotating sheets halfway through the baking time, until the edges are golden and the centers are just set, 12 to 15 minutes.  Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets before transferring them to a wire rack.

Whopper Cookies

Last week was Spring Break on campus.  After a few events where I had gotten bags of candy that included lots of whoppers, and no one had eaten them, I decided to use those whoppers in a cookie format.  As I looked for a pretty standard chocolate chip cookie where I could substitute whoppers I ran through the food processor, I ended up adapting this recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Bake Everything.  I’ve been really enjoying his cookbook lately.  The cookies were delivered to our campus safety office, where I’m told they were quickly devoured (and shared with others who happened to stop through).  The malted milk ball flavor caramelized in the baking process, so if I was seeking that flavor more strongly, I would likely add some malted milk powder to the mix in the future.

Whopper Cookies

Whopper Cookies

2 c flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 c brown sugar
3/4 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
8 oz chocolate whoppers, chopped

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Mix the flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl and set aside.  Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy; add eggs one at a time, then mix in the vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients to the dough and stir until they are just incorporated.  Fold in the whoppers.

Drop the tablespoon-size mounds of dough onto ungreased baking sheets about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned.  Cool for about 3 to 5 minutes on the sheets before transferring the cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Buffalo Chicken Bacon Soup

With the exception of making a REALLY big batch and feeling like I was eating this for most of the last month, this soup was really tasty.  Since the new year, I have been on a relatively consistent buffalo chicken kick.  When I came across this recipe online, I wrote it down, promptly ignored wherever it came from (sorry to the original poster, and threw the soup together.  It’s thick and creamy, a good buffalo chicken flavor, and pretty much everything I needed for this last round of winter swinging through the midwest (which has hopefully disappeared at this point!)

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Buffalo Chicken Bacon Soup

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cooked and shredded
1 c chicken broth
8 oz cream cheese, cut into small cubes
4 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 pkg ranch dressing mix
8 slices cooked bacon, chopped
1/4 c wing sauce

Add chicken and chicken broth to a large pan.  Heat until warm.  Stir in cream cheese, ranch dressing, cheddar cheese, and bacon, until all is melted and blended.  Add in hot sauce and mix well.  You may wish to save some bacon crumbles for serving.


Smoked Pulled Pork

One of the things that jump-started my interest in using the instant pot a bunch this year (and perhaps the smoker– thinking about calling this the year of meat) was this smoked pulled pork that my dad and I made together over winter break.  It turned out great and perhaps was the best pork we’ve tasted yet.  I will definitely do this again.

Smoked Pulled Pork

Smoked Pulled Pork

6 lbs pork butt, cut into chunks
Seasoning — whatever is your preference
1 1/2 c water

Begin by smoking outside until it reaches 150 degrees — about 2 hours.  Place in the Instant Pot, along with 1 1/2 c water.  Seal and cook on manual for 45 minutes.  Let it release naturally for 15 minutes before forcing release.  Shred.