Saturday, June 30, 2012

Baked Plums with Ricotta, Honey and Almonds

Baked plums with ricotta, honey, and almonds
I love summer fruit - so juicy, so fragrant!  But those little guys are fragile and a few days in your produce drawer can make them squishy and bruised.  If you have peaches, plums, nectarines or apricots that have seen better days, bake them in the oven!

This technique is easy as can be and works for any stone fruit.  Feel free to experiment with the spices you use when you bake them, and again with what you serve them with.  I served my plums with ricotta, and it was a nice, neutral palate for the sweet-and-sour tastes.  If your plums are really sweet, try it with Greek yogurt; if your plums are a little more sour, go for vanilla ice cream.  Don't like nuts?  Crush up some ginger snaps or amaretti.  You can dress these up and serve them at a dinner party, or do them on the grill instead of in the oven for your next barbecue!

Baked Plums with Ricotta, Honey and Almonds


  • 4 plums (or peaches or nectarines or whatever you have)
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons honey, plus more for serving
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1/4 cup crushed almonds, or other nuts, or cookies

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Wash the plums, then cut in half and remove the stones.  Place all plum halves, cut-side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon, and drizzle with honey.  Bake for 20 minutes.
  2. Fresh from the oven.  Love that color!
  3. When cool enough to handle, you can easily remove the skins if you want.  I like them, and they add fiber, so they stayed on for my family.  To serve:  Place 1/4 cup ricotta in a bowl, along with 2 plum halves and some crushed nuts or cookies.  Add a shake of cinnamon and drizzle liberally with honey.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chicken Satay Skewers with Peanut Sauce

Summer is here, time to get grilling!  While I love barbecue chicken, it's nice to mix it up a little.  Time to try some Thai!

When trying a new recipe, I like to read as many different versions of it as possible, online and in cookbooks, and then synthesize my own.  For example, about 75% of the recipes I read for the chicken marinade included yogurt, so I decided to use that as a base.  Only 25% used coconut milk, and since I didn't have any in my pantry, and since it was in the minority of recipes, I decided to exclude it.  If you have a favorite cookbook that you trust, or a favorite online resource that never steers you wrong, by all means, use their recipe to the letter the first time you make a dish, and change it next time to suit your tastes.  But I sometimes I like to formulate my own recipe, knowing the preferences of my family and the ingredients in my fridge.

So here goes, my attempt at Thai Chicken Satay Skewers.  And you know what?  They came out really well!  My husband did the grilling, my family did the eating, and everyone liked them.  Synthesis:  Success!

Chicken Satay Skewers


  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (use powdered if you don't have fresh)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • 10 wooden skewers, soaked in water for 20 minutes before grilling
  1. Slice chicken thighs into 1" strips.
  2. Mix together everything else and stir in the chicken pieces.  Let this marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
  3. When the grill is hot and the skewers are soaked, thread the chicken onto the skewers.  Grill for 5-8 minutes per side.  Serve with peanut sauce and fresh cilantro.
Peanut Sauce

  • 1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce (or more to taste)
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil, or 1 teaspoon grape seed or other mild-tasting oil
  1. Blend in the food processor.  That's it!  If you want a thinner consistency, add more coconut oil, or water if you like.  
We had a few skewers left over.  They made an excellent salad the next day!  I chopped the chicken and tossed it with salad greens and chopped bell pepper.  To turn the peanut sauce into salad dressing, I thinned it out with grape seed oil in the food processor, and added a little more lime juice.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

Spaghetti Stew

Is it glamorous?  No.  Is it beautiful?  Heck no!  But spaghetti stew is comfort food at its finest, and one of the tastiest ways to use up those singletons.

What's a singleton, you ask?  A singleton is one zucchini in your veggie drawer.  A singleton is one tomato, getting softer each day, in your fruit bowl.  A singleton is one veggie, or a small portion of food, that you can't make anything with on its own, but is still useful.  The trick is to find uses for your singletons before they get buried or hidden in your fridge and they go bad.

Spaghetti stew can be made almost entirely of singletons.  That's what mine is:  except for the bag of carrots and the celery, every other vegetable was a singleton, aging but still good.  I made a pot of elbow macaroni to mix in with the kids' stew, but my husband and I ate it as-is, with a little parmesan cheese.  So good it doesn't even need the noodles!  And despite the name, I recommend shorter pasta over spaghetti, because you want everything to be bite-sized.  Macaroni, ziti, rotelle, you name it. 

Is it pretty enough to serve to company?  Probably not.  (Go with the pork chops for that.)  But if you want something thrifty, tasty, and healthy (minus the pasta, it's all veggies and lean protein), this is the stew for you!

Tell me - what do you do with your singletons?

All you singletons, time to mingle!

Spaghetti Stew


  • 1 large onion, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (approximately - you just want all your veggies about the same size - smaller than bite-sized, but still big and chunky)
  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, sliced into thin coins
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, any color, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into thin half-moons
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 4-8 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 jar marinara sauce, or 2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  1. In a very large stew pot or Dutch oven, sauté the onion and meat in the oil.  Brown the meat and season with salt and pepper.  Add the garlic and stir so nothing sticks or burns.
  2. Add the rest of the veggies.  If you are still slicing as you go, add them in order of cooking time:  carrots first, since they are hard and take longer to cook, then the softer veggies.  Stir in the dried herbs.
  3. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine.  Add the marinara and wine and stir.  Cover, turn down the heat to a simmer, and let cook for about 30 minutes.  You want the veggies to be cooked through but still retain their shape and some firmness.
Serve with lots of grated parmesan.  You can serve this over pasta, or with big slices of bread.  We're watching our carbs, so we ate ours with a side of roasted broccoli, and of course, the rest of the red wine!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Green Beans with Bacon

I'm a terrible menu planner.  I do it all backwards.  I go to the store and buy things that look good, and then come home and don't know what to make with them.  Case in point:  a big bag of really beautiful frozen green beans.  Trader Joe's has them right now:  vibrantly colored haricots verts, the young, skinny French green beans, at a terrific price.  I couldn't resist.  But then I put them in the freezer and couldn't decide what to do with them.  When in doubt, turn to bacon!

The finished dish reminds me of pasta carbonara.  It tastes salty and rich, but it doesn't pack the caloric punch of spaghetti.  And to make things even easier, I used canned Parmesan cheese.  I know, gross, right?  For some presentations, only freshly shaved cheese will do, but in this recipe, it fits the bill.  By all means, use fresh green beans and high-quality cheese, but I guarantee, even with these short cuts, this is a side dish your pickiest, veggie-hating friends will love!  

Green Beans with Bacon


  • 2  or 3 slices of bacon
  • 1 pound frozen haricots verts
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (or more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  1. Dice the bacon and fry in a very large pan or Dutch oven.  When done to your liking, remove the bacon to a bowl, turn off the heat, and leave the bacon grease in the pan.
  2. While the bacon is cooking, put the beans in a covered microwave-safe dish and add 2 or 3 teaspoons of water.  Read the cooking directions on the back, and subtract 2 minutes.  Mine said to cook them for six to eight minutes, and I cooked them for four minutes, stirring halfway through.
  3. When the beans are done - you want them undercooked - add them to the pan with the bacon grease and sauté over medium heat for 3 minutes.  You want them to still be firm, so don't overcook them now!  When done, remove from heat, and add back the bacon, plus the cheese and lemon juice.  Toss with tongs and serve.
These are so satisfying and delicious, I ate the whole batch for lunch.  These don't even need any salt at the end!  Four ingredients plus ten minutes gets you a healthy side dish (or meal, in my case)!