Faux Pho

This pho, while not strictly traditional, has a nice taste and satisfies those mid-week noodle in broth cravings nicely.

Faux Pho


8 c. beef broth
2 stalks celery
2 small carrots
2 cloves garlic, well and truly smashed
1 shallot, chopped
2 star anise podsa
12 peppercorns
1 Tbsp. grated ginger

1c. when chopped red yard long beans (or any other bean, really)
1/2 lb. baby pac choi
1 package per person instant noodle soup Udon noodles (I used the brand from the picture, which I picked up at Super Target)

Ground ginger
Fish sauce
Soy sauce
Lime juice

First, make the stock. The goal here is for a flavorful stock in its own right. You want something that tastes good before you add all the fixins.

Add the stock to a medium pot over high heat. While your stock is coming up to the boil, slice your celery into thin moons, your carrots into thin rounds, and smash the garlic. Add to the pot as you go.

Once the broth and its additions come up to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer 30 minutes. You can go longer if you would like, just don’t loose too much volume. You want the flavors to marry and the stock to pick up some great fresh taste from the veggies and spices.

While your broth is working, prepare your vegetables. I went with red yard long beans and pac choi, since that’s what came in my CSA share this week. My rule of thumb for any asian soup is this: a green + a color. Any green + something from any other color. Slice the beans thin (about 1/4 inch long) and chop the pac choi into bite-sized pieces.

At the 30 minute mark, strain your broth to take out the solids. They’ve given their all at this point and you have fresh things to add to the pot.

Add the beans and simmer 5 mins.

Add the pac choi, simmer an additional 2 minutes. Kick the heat up to a boil

Add the udon and boil 3 mins or until done.

Split into 2 bowls and season with fixins to your particular taste. I used 1 tsp. ground ginger, 1 Tbsp. fish sauce, 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. cilantro, 1 tsp. sriracha and 1 tsp. lime juice.

Serves 2, with enough broth left over for a third serving.

Kohlrabi & Apple Slaw Noodles

Kohlrabi & Apple Slaw Noodles
I’m cautiously optimistic that this single dish will pull me out of my cooking rut. This was great, though next time I may double the sauce amount. It came out on the dry side for my taste so I finished with an additional drizzle of sesame oil. A nice touch, but the sweet/sour/bright sauce would have been even better.

1 Kohlrabi bulb, julienned
Kohlrabi greens, ribboned
2 small carrots, julienned
1 Fuji apple, julienned
2 cloves garlic, slivered
8 oz. fettuccini-width rice noodles
1 Tbsp. sesame oil

For the sauce

4 tsp. honey
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 dried chili peppers, de-seeded & minced
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. water
2 tsp. pomegranate molasses
2 tsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. ponzu

Set a large pot of water on to boil for the noodles. Boil noodles 6 minutes (or the lowest cook time listed on the noodle package – you want al dente). Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking.

While you’re waiting for the noodles to cook, make the sauce. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk. Adjust seasoning to taste. You want it to taste great on its own.

Add the sesame oil to your your largest pan over high heat. When the noodles go into the boiling water, toss the kohlrabi bulb and garlic into the pan. Cook, stirring, until the noodles are done.

When the noodles are done, add them to the pan. Keep everything moving so the noodles don’t stick all over the place. Add the kohlrabi greens and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add the sauce, carrots and apples. Stir fry an additional 2 minutes to combine everything well.

Serves 4

Charcutepalooza Challenge 12 – Cinci By Way Of Charcuterie Chili

This is it. The end of my ‘Charcutepalooza A Year of Meat’ challenges. The very last one. I must admit to being a bit sad about my timed meat adventure ending. I learned a lot this year. Not only about food, but about where it comes from, food traditions, and even a bit of science. I also learned a bit about myself, and how far I can comfortably go to prepare something (like sausage, bacon or duck confit) that I’d always taken for granted.

This year has opened my eyes not only to the breadth of preserved meats out there, but how much of it can very easily be made at home. These things are not out of my league, they’re dead simple.

All it takes is a little time, a few special tools, lots of pork and patience. Having a partner in crime like my Dearest Husband the master sausage maker doesn’t hurt, either.

As I reflect back on this past year, I can say with all confidence that it has been one of my proudest on the culinary front. Not only have I been busy salting, curing and smoking my own meats, but I have started the first fledgling forays into canning.  Zombie apocalypse? Bah. I’m good. I have duck prosciutto and summer jam.

This month’s challenge was to be a charcuterie master class of sorts – we had to use 3-4 different charcuterie elements in a single celebratory dish to show off a bit. So what did I do? I decided to go back to my roots and share a dish I loved as a kid with my hubby.

Ok now Buckeyes, don’t get up in arms. I know this isn’t traditional Cincinnati Chili. I know. Settle down. Breathe. This chili is made in the same spirit and has damn near the same profile of that ‘mole of the midwest’ Buckeyes have come to know and love.

Mmmm… quasi sacrilicious

Cinci By Way Of Charcuterie Chili

As I was coming off of an epic charcuterie fail I decided to use this dish as an opportunity to serve the bits and bobs of charcute I’ve collected over the past year.

Original Cincinnati chili calls for 1 1/2 lbs. of ground beef.  I went in a different direction.

I used some bacon from this challenge (ok, not from this challenge exactly since I’ve been making about a batch a month since the beginning of the year – this stuff goes quick!)

Some leftover brisket from this challenge (unbrined)

Some leftover breakfast sausage from this challenge (and yes the notes of ginger tasted just fine)

and the topper: the very last bit of the duck confit from this challenge.

2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. paprika
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. coriander
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cayenne
2 cloves, crushed
1 lb. brisket, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
4 oz. home made bacon, sliced into 1/4 inch batons
8 oz. breakfast sausage, broken up
4 oz. duck confit, shredded
1/3 can (~ 6 oz.) canned plain tomato sauce
1/2 can (~ 1 c.) canned plain diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 square (~2 Tbsp.) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 (15 oz.) can kidney beans
Huge handful shredded extra sharp cheddar per person

In a dutch oven or other large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, brown the bacon, brisket and sausage in batches, removing each batch as it is browned. You’re aiming to develop flavors here. If your fond (the brown bits) on the bottom of the pot is getting too burnt, add a little water to loosen. Save it if you can, but if you can’t, pitch it.

After the meats are browned, add 1 tsp. olive oil to the pot along with the onions and garlic. Cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the meat back to the pan along with the spices, beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Add water until the mixture is covered by 2 or so inches. I made my chili in a 5 quart dutch oven and added water to the fill line.

Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer 2 hours until everything is very tender and delicious.

Let sit, uncovered, a few hours until ready to serve. You want to give the flavors a chance to mix, mingle and marry.

When you’re ready to serve, turn the heat on to medium while you cook the spaghetti (following package directions).

When your spaghetti goes into the pot, add the duck to the chili. Stir to combine.

Serve the chili over the spaghetti and top with a huge handful of cheese per serving.

Serves 6 – 8, depending upon your serving size.

Candy Bacon Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Vinaigrette



Candied Pecans & Bacon, what’s more Thanksgiving than that?

Candy Bacon Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Vinaigrette

Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine’s Brussels Sprout Slaw with Mustard Dressing and Maple-Glazed Pecans

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 c. pecan halves
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. whole grain Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 1/2 lb. brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed and bottos trimmed
4 oz. home made bacon, sliced into 1/8 in. batons
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 325 F. Wrap a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with nonstick spray. Add the pecans. In a small bowl whisk maple syrup, big pinch salt and a pinch of pepper. Pour over nuts, toss to coat. Spread over pan in a single layer. Bake 5 minutes. Stir. Bake an additional 6 minutes or until the nuts are toasted and the sugar is bubbling. Transfer the foil off of the pan & separate nuts. Set aside until cooled.

Meanwhile, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, lemon juice and sugar. Add the oil & whisk to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the bacon batons to a large pan over medium heat. Cook until fat has rendered and bacon is crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.

Using a food processor fitted with a shredding blade, shred the Brussels sprouts.

Add Brussels sprouts to pan with bacon fat and raise the heat to medium high. Cook, stirring frequently, until sprouts just begin to soften. Transfer to a large bowl.

Add bacon and toss with enough dressing to coat. Let stand 30 mins to an hour to let the favors marry. Top with pecans and serve.

Roasty Toasty Winter Bisque

Creamy Liquid Nutrition

Roasty Toasty Winter Bisque

Did you know that you can peel pumpkin, butternut squash or any other thin-skinned winter squash with a speed peeler? Well, I didn’t until I saw one of the pumpkin pros on Food Network’s Halloween Wars do it, and man, does it make a difference. You see, I used to use a Chinese-style meat cleaver to break into my squash, and rather than dirty up a perfectly good knife to use as a peeler, I would use said cleaver to peel my squash. Now, over the years I’ve gotten pretty dexterous with that cleaver, but using a speed peel wastes way less of the tender flesh, and may even be a bit easier. Maybe. It freaks onlookers out less, too, which may or may not be a good thing, depending upon your proclivities.

You know what’s great about winter soups? They’re healthy as shit. You’re basically eating liquid vegetables here, and the dairy? I can totally handle 2/3 c. + a little fat spread out among 4 servings if it comes with an entire day’s worth of vegetables. 4 4 3 2, bitchez! (yes I’m aware there’s now some plate thingie instead of 4 4 3 2, but lessons with songs die hard)

If you don’t want to spring for a whole container of creme fraiche, Greek yogurt might make a good substitute here. Or cream cheese. Anything creamy in the dairy family would do, even sour cream. You’re going for a little zing, a little cream, a little thick. Go on, play with your food. You know you want to.

Roasty Toasty Winter Bisque

Adapted from Roasted Pumpkin Bisque from Whole Foods

5 lb. winter squash – I used a sugar pie pumpkin and butternut squash
2 yellow onions, chopped
1 Tbsp. thyme, chopped
3 Tbsp. olive oil
6 c. chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 c. white wine (whatever you have on hand that’s drinkable)
1 tsp. ground cardamom
Juice of half a lemon
Roasted squash seeds (see recipe below)
2/3 c. creme fraiche (optional)

Preheat your oven to 425 F. Toss the squash, onions, thyme & oil and spread onto baking sheets in a single layer. Salt & pepper to season, and roast 30 mins. or until tender and just starting to brown around the edges (you may want to stir once or twice to prevent burning and feel useful – if that’s you, knock yourself out. I didn’t and mine was just fine). Once the squash is done to your liking, remove from the oven.

This would be a great time to add those squash seeds to the (now vacant) oven.

Transfer squash + friends to a large pot. Add the broth, wine & cardamom and simmer 10 minutes. Blend with an immersion blender** (or however you blend soup – in batches in a blender, whatever) until smooth. Add the lemon, stir and taste. Does it need salt or pepper? Add it now. Bring your soup back up to a simmer and kill the heat. Remove from the burner and whisk in the creme fraiche. Serve with crusty bread or a nice peppery arugula salad.

Serves 4 for dinner, or 2 for dinner with 2 big lunch portions.

Roasted Squash Seeds

Take the seeds from your peeled squash from the above recipe. Clean and place in a small bowl.

Add 1 tsp. each cumin, chipotle powder, cinnamon and brown sugar. Toss with a splash of olive oil and a big pinch of salt.

Spread out on a baking sheet and bake ~5 mins. or until browned but not burnt. Be careful here. Ideally, the oven would be at 350 to bake squash seeds, but I like to live on the edge. Just babysit your seeds and they will be fine. A little blackened on the edges is tasty, too, just make sure they’re done enough (read: dry and browned) or the texture will be off.

**A note on immersion blenders: If you make soup more than once a year and/or enjoy the occasional smoothie, buy one already. You can get them on sale for under $25 almost any month of the year if you look, and they are worth it. They hardly take up any space, and if you will use it more than once a year, it is a great investment. This is a tool I broke down and finally bought this year. I thought for years that they were a: too expensive, b: too much of a unitasker and c: something I could totally live without – people lived without them for thousands of years, after all. *Horn Sound* Wrong (except for the thousands of years bit).

For the kitchen accident prone like me, this method of soup blending has become invaluable. There is zero chance of spilling mass amounts of hot liquid on yourself or for dinner to come crashing to the ground because you lack the arm strength to pour soup from a huge pot safely. Also, splatters with the immersion blender are waaaaayyy smaller than splatters with a bar blender. Just sayin’. Having one of those puppies blow up in your face because you put the soup in while it was too hot and the steam got over zealous isn’t the most fun you can have on a weeknight. Nor is leaking soup out of the bottom of your food processor.

Isn’t $25 worth peace of mind? For me it has become so. I love my stick blender. And as an added bonus, it feels “chef-y” too. So there’s that.

The ‘I Need Healthy In My Life’ Grain Salad

This light & cleansing dish will set you back on track

The ‘I Need Healthy In My Life’ Grain Salad

This is a great good-for-what-ails-you one bowl dinner, perfect to get yourself back on track after a weekend of decadence.

Adapted from Radish and Pecan Grain Salad from Food 52

2c. mixed cooked farro, pearl barley and brown rice
1c. arugula
1c. parsley
1/2 c. fresh tarragon
1/2 lb. pecans, toasted and chopped
1/4 c. walnut oil
1/4 c. tarragon vinegar
1 c. radishes, sliced wafer thin
1/4 c. shallot, minced
1/4 c. olive oil

Set a large pot of salted water on to boil while you prepare the salad.

While the water is coming up to a boil or while the grains are cooking, mince the parsley, tarragon and shallot. Slice your radishes wafer thin.

When the water has come up to a boil, add the farro, pearl barley and brown rice. Cook until tender, 30 – 45 mins. If you’re worried about everything not cooking at the same time, cook big batches of each separately and freeze the leftovers in zipper bags for a quick weeknight meal base.

When the grains are done to your liking, drain into a colander and set aside to cool.

While the grains are cooling a bit, place your pecans into a dry pan over medium-high heat. Toast until fragrant and beginning to color. Remove from the heat and chop.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl of grains, toss, season to taste with salt & pepper and serve.

Serves 2 for dinner with enough leftover for lunch.

Faker Pot Roast

Beefy, Satisfying Goodness

This recipe takes leftovers from a pretty good dinner and transforms them into satisfying comfort food that won’t break the calorie bank.

Dinner 1: Slow-Cooker Chipotle Beef Tacos with Cabbage and Radish Slaw from Real Simple Magazine

This dinner was pretty good. The beef smelled great, but came out somehow lacking in the spice and smoke department. Don’t get me wrong, this beef was good — juicy, perfectly tender and all around a nice main component — it just wasn’t the ballsy spicy richness I half hoped it would be. It tasted more like a pot roast.

Which got me thinking….

Dinner 2: Faker Pot Roast

Mmmm…. pot roast. Pot roast is one of those dishes that picks you up, gives you a nice snuggly blanket, a soft place to sit and a nice book to read. Pot roast tucks you in. I remember as a kid opening the door to the house on cold winter nights and being buffeted by the wall of warm beefy goodness only pot roast that’s cooked all day in the Crock Pot can provide. Good times.

I wasn’t feeling making another haunch o’beast, so I decided to do the next best thing. I winged it with ingredients I had on hand.

Faker Pot Roast

This spin on pot roast transforms humble leftovers into a deeply satisfying super quick to throw together weeknight meal.

Leftover slow cooker chipotle beef, approximately 1 1/2 cup.
1 c beef broth
1/4 c. red wine
1 1/2 c. carrots, sliced into 1/4 inch thick coins
1 leek, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/4 inch thick moons
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 lb. egg noodles
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1 Tbsp. butter

Warm 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large high-sided pan over medium heat. Once the oil is up to temperature, add the leeks, onions, carrots, wine and broth. Sautee 5 mins.

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Once the water is boiling, add the egg noodles. Cook to al dente according to package directions

Continue cooking veggies 10 minutes, or until the carrots are soft. If at any time things look too dry, add additional wine and/or stock.

About 2 minutes before cooking is finished, add the leftover beef. Stir to combine until the beef is warmed through. Add the noodles and toss to combine. Remove from the heat. Add the butter and parsley and stir to combine until the butter has melted.

Serves 2

Duck Tacos with Smoked Chipotle Sauce and Chickpeas

Mmmmmm….. Daffy

My debut recipe for this month’s Charcuetpalooza challenge, duck confit, was duck tacos. I couldn’t think of anything that would balance the ducky fattiness better than green apple, and what better way to get both to our mouths at once than a taco? Tacos are awesome!

A note about removing the duck from the fat: I’m completely sure I did this wrong. I had put the pot of confit in the fridge to set up and it didn’t dawn on me that cold fat is hard. Like, really hard. Bend your fork if you try to ice-chipper-the-duck-out-of-the-pot-with-it hard. So, I ended up gently heating the pot of confit on the stove and fishing the duck out of the warm fat. Be careful if you use this retrieval method. I then got the bright idea to switch the confit to smaller containers so I wouldn’t have to go through the same drama again, and ended up getting fat all over my kitchen. And on the dogs. So, tread carefully and it might not hurt to have a helper and/or funnel for pouring. It turns out, fat strewn about the kitchen isn’t the most pleasant thing in the world. The dogs were excited. Me, not so much.

Duck Tacos with Smoked Chipotle Sauce and Chickpeas

The tacos

2 legs confited duck
1/2 Granny Smith or other tart apple, julienned
Corn tortillas

In a pan over medium to medium-high heat, sautee your duck legs until the skin is nice and crispy. Beware sputtering fat. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool.

Once the duck has cooled, carefully remove the skin and shred the meat with your fingers taco-sized.

Don’t get rid of that skin! chop it up fine and top the tacos with it. Trust me: y-u-m.

The chickpeas

2 roasted poblano peppers peeled, de-seeded & chopped
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 palm cumin
1 tsp. powdered garlic

When your duck is finished crisping, toss the chickpeas into the leftover fat. Watch your temperature; I added my chickpeas when the pan was on medium-high, and had exploded chickpeas all over my kitchen to go with the duck fat. You’re looking to cook the chickpeas over a hot enough temperature that they crisp up, but not so hot as to be dangerous. Or, if you’re like me, throw caution to the wind and burns be damned.

Once your chickpeas are looking nice and toasty, add the poblanos & spices. You’re looking to warm them, not burn them, so you will only need an additional minute or two on the heat.

The sauce
Adapted from Gluten Free Girl’s Smoked Paprika Chipotle Sauce

16 oz. jar light veganaise (you could sub regular mayo, but the thought made me queasy)
3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
3 Tbsp. smoked sweet paprika
1/2 palm ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
2 big pinches salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender and let it run until fully combined. If the ingredients aren’t whizzing to your liking, add a splash of water to serve as blender lube. Taste. Add seasoning as needed.

Assembling your tacos

Depending upon the brand of tortillas you have purchased, you may need 2 tortillas per taco. We sure did. Assemble your tacos: duck on the bottom topped with a little sauce, some apple and finished off with duck skin was our preferred layering technique.

Serve with a side of chickpeas.

Fiesta Quinoa

Informed by a vague Mexican vibe, this lively (and healthy!) salad packs a nice kick

I didn’t tinker much with this recipe. The fresh healthy combo of Mexican-ish ingredients looked intriguing and I thought this dish would be just the thing to cure our recent string of ‘no taste dinners’ (at least so says my DH. I’ve been tinkering on my own for awhile and have been kind of stuck in an olive oil/garlic/parsley/Parmesan rut).

I did however, significantly up the spice quotient in my version of the recipe. The original called for timid half teaspoons; as we all know, I just can’t live with half a teaspoon. I estimate I actually used a little over a teaspoon of each spice in my final version. I went with the more reasonable doubling of the original spice for clarity purposes here.

A note on chipotle powder: Don’t be scared. This isn’t cayenne. Chipotle powder is mildly spicy and has a nice deep smokiness that works really well here. Sure you’re getting smokiness from the cumin, but the smokiness you get from chipotle powder is a little different and totally worth checking out if you have not already.

Fiesta Quinoa
Adapted from Spicy Black Bean and Quinoa Salad by lastnightsdinner on Food 52

1/2 c. quinoa
1 c. water
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. chipotle powder
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
3 scallions, sliced thin
2 roasted red peppers, chopped
1 15oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
Kosher salt

In a small pot, bring the quinoa and water to a boil. Cover and drop the heat to simmer. Simmer about 15 minutes, or until the quinoa coils release and the water has been absorbed.

While the quinoa is working, make the dressing. Whisk the lime juice, lime zest, big pinch salt, chili powder, chipotle powder and cumin. Stream in the olive oil and beat until a nice dressing forms.

Combine the cooked quinoa, beans, red peppers, scallions and cilantro in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss well to incorporate.

Serves 2 for dinner with enough left over for lunch.

Ketchup for Grownups

Mmmm….. Nope, no purple squeeze-bottle ketchup here

This sweet/tart/savory condiment is the LBD of condiments, pairing equally well dressed-down on top of a burger, dressed-up as the star in a quick weeknight sauce or dressed to the nines as the main performer on a toasted baguette. You’ll want to keep plenty on hand. This recipe makes enough to fill 3 pint jars: two for you, and one to give away to your nearest and dearest.

Ketchup for Grownups
Adapted from Sweet & Savory Tomato Jam from In Jennie’s Kitchen

3 1/2 lb. Roma tomatoes (or whatever looks the best that day), chopped roughly
1 onion, diced, about 1/2 c.
1/2 c. dark brown sugar (a slack half cup)
1/2 c. white sugar (a slack half cup)
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. coriander, ground
1 1/2 tsp. cumin, ground
1 1/2 tsp. caraway seeds, whole
1 1/2 tsp. hot paprika
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 c. Granny Smith apple, diced
1 c. water

Add all ingredients to a large pot over high heat. Bring up to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until thick and jam-like, about 3 hours. Transfer to sterilized jars and stash in the fridge for up to two weeks, or break out your favorite canning rig and can, making sure to boil for 15 minutes.

Serve slathered on a burger; with simple ricotta, burrata or goat cheese on a toasted baguette; as a topper for chicken; mixed into a nice big bowl of grains or pasta; with grits, greens & smoky bacon; or on crackers with cream cheese for a late night snack.

Makes 3 pint jars.