Tag Archives: cooking

You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello!

Hi friends! Semester’s over. MCATS are done (hopefully). And I’ve moved into a new place with a cramped but lovely kitchen– with windows. Yep, time to start blogging again.

Tonight I’m cooking dinner for the boyfriend, who is going away for a time to work on his doctoring skills. And what better way to say “safe travels” than with vegetarian lasagna?

And not just any lasagna. The BEST lasagna. Loaded with broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, and fresh basil.

I don’t really have a lasagna recipe– more like, I know how to make it roughly and I improvise. So I will lay out a plan of attack for you here, with some ingredient suggestions, and show you how to do the layers.

You Will Need:

Sauce, either store-bought or homemade. I made my own with diced tomatoes, tomato paste, oodles of basil, oregano, salt, lots of crushed red pepper and garlic. You will need a LOT of sauce. At least a quart. Maybe more.

Noodles. Cook them until they’re just about edible. You want them tough still, but at the point where another few minutes would render them al dente.

Cheese. In two forms. First, you need a few cups of mozzarella. Then, you need a container of ricotta, with an egg and at least a cup of parmesan mixed in. You could throw some feta in there, too. I like to saute some frozen chopped spinach (just to dry it out a bit) and put that in, and some salt.

Veggies. Saute some broccoli florets, stick-thin carrots… you could use peppers, too. You want them dehydrated so they don’t make the lasagna mushy. I like also to douse them in red wine, to tie them into the dish some more.


Turn your oven on to 350. First, you put a little bit of sauce on the naked pan. Then you lay down a layer of noodles. I use a scissors to make sure they fit right. Then, dollops of the ricotta cheese blend. Some mozzarella if you want. Then veggies. Then sauce. Then start over with noodles– but this time, go in the other direction so your layers are perpendicular; this will keep the lasagna together. When you’re out of space, top with mozzarella. Stick it in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Then, VERY IMPORTANT: Resist the urge to jump right in while it’s hot out of the oven. The lasagna needs to sit at least 10 minutes or it will fall apart and all your beautiful layers will devolve into a mass of noodles, broccoli, and cheese…. then again, there are worse things.

Lasagna is one of my favorites because, although it takes some prep work, it serves as great leftovers for the rest of the week. Once I’ve eaten it all, though, we’ll get down to business with some thai-inspired carrot soup….



Filed under Meals, Vegetarian.

Soft, Salty Pretzels

My family is big into Sam’s Club.

When we were kids my brothers and I could drink a gallon of milk a day, and once we learned how to use the oven, we burned (usually figuratively, sometimes literally) through frozen pizzas at an alarming rate. One of my favorite things from the jumbo-sized retailer were microwaveable soft pretzels. Except they weren’t actually very good– they were hard and flavorless and probably packed with preservatives. But I loved the idea of a soft pretzel– a little salty, warm and fluffy… and today, I made them myself. Forget the giant box in the freezer section. These are fun to make and not as hard as you’d think! The recipe is a halved variation on this one.


1 teaspoon yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 cup warm water (maybe plus a little more. I added a few more teaspoons but I often do.)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup bread flour

1/2 teaspoon iodized salt

1 T baking soda

some cornmeal to dust the baking sheet

3 cups of water, plus 1 teaspoon

1 egg

kosher salt

Make Em:

Proof the yeast in the water with the sugar added. Combine the flours and salt, then pour in the dissolved yeast and mix to form a sticky dough. Knead until smooth and elastic, maybe 5 minutes or so. The dough at this point should be sticky, but not stuck to your hands… add flour as necessary. Let rise one hour, covered, in a warm place.

Divide the dough into six balls. Roll each ball into a long, thin rope about a 15-18 inches long. Form a circle, leaving a few

inches on each end. Twist the ends once and then bring them to the inside of the circle in a pretzel shape. (Although you could put them in any shape you please, really. Pretzel bread, circles, hearts… follow your bliss.) Pinch the ends into the circle. Let rest while you boil 3 cups of water with 1 tablespoon of baking soda added.

Like this.

Preheat oven to 425. Reduce heat on water to medium. Drop pretzels, one by one, into simmering water. Flip after fifteen seconds (they should be floating) and then drain on a plate. Repeat with remaining pretzels. Once drained, place pretzels on baking sheet dusted with cornmeal. Mix one egg with one teaspoon of water and lightly brush pretzels with egg wash. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake 12 minutes until golden and fabulous.

Makes six pretzels… four if you immediately eat two of them. Enjoy!

Ready for the Oven

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Filed under Bread., Non-Breads


So I made Chicken Curry last week– and then I got really excited and didn’t photograph it, sorry… I’ll make some more and share it with you. To go with this last post, Chicken Curry, one needs naan. Ironically, I messed up the recipe for that and didn’t make it successfully until tonight… more on that below.

Naan is “bread” in several central Asian languages. Traditionally one makes naan, at least for Indian cuisine, in a tandoor– a clay oven. I have no clay oven. Stove-top’ll have to do.

I’m taking my cues for this endeavor from a blog with possibly the coolest name ever, Avocado & Bravado.


1/2 cup warm water

2 tsp yeast

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2-1/2 cups flour (she uses all-purpose, I’m going with 1/2 all-purpose and 1/2 bread)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup Greek yogurt

1 egg, beaten

butter for greasing, cooking, and brushing (Or ghee, clarified butter, if you have it. I do not.)

Make Em:

Combine yeast, water, and sugar to proof. Meanwhile, mix the flour, salt, oil, yogurt, and egg. Mix well, then add the yeast mixture and mix again, kneading to form a soft dough. Add more flour as needed. Divide into eight balls. Grease a large bowl and put the flour inside, covered with Saran wrap, to rise for about an hour.

Once the balls have risen to about double their original size, flatten them with your hands and then stretch them out thinly into flatbread. You could use a rolling pan, but I thought pulling on it was more fun. 

Heat a little butter (just a little!) in a large pan. Add the naan, one at a time, and cook until “blistered and golden brown.” Flip and repeat on the other side, and repeat with all eight balls. Brush with butter, if desired, then serve.

Kitchen Catastrophe! The first time I tried to make naan, I was in a hurry so I put it in the oven on warm to rise. Except I didn’t cover it. Lesson learned: If you’re gonna rise dough in the oven… cover it, or you’ll be sad.

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Filed under Bread., Breads

Best Hummus Ever.

Not much else to say, really. This stuff is a good source of fiber, monounsaturated fats, and a little protein. And it goes on pita, bread, vegetables, in sandwiches… yum. Recipe sourced from here.


1 15-oz can garbanzo beans/ chickpeas

1 clove garlic (or 1/2 tsp minced garlic from the jar)

2 T tahini sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

2 T water

juice from 1/2 a lemon

2 tsp cumin

salt, to taste

Paprika as garnish

Make It:

Rinse the chickpeas really well in a colander. Dump into a food processor or blender along with garlic, tahini, olive oil, water, lemon juice, and cumin. Puree until smooth. The amount of water may vary based on your taste. I had to stir my mixture with a spatula a few times to get it to blend… worth it. Best hummus ever.

Possible variations: Add roasted red pepper and cut back on olive oil, add fresh herbs such as cilantro, and of course, you can add Sriracha to anything for some heat!

How do you like your hummus?

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Filed under Appetizers, Vegetarian.

Daal and Pumpkin Soup

It’s starting to get warm here in Virginia, so let’s work in one last soup recipe while we still can.

This one looks absolutely fabulous: pumpkin and red lentils, ginger and cilantro… I know this is a wintry recipe, but it looks so GOOD!


2 onions, chopped

1/2 tsp minced garlic

“a walnut-sized knob of ginger,” minced (I used a cheese grater)

1 tsp tumeric

1 tsp chili powder

2 cups water

4 cups vegetable broth

8 ounces (a cup, roughly) red lentils

9 oz pumpkin puree

2 T chopped cilantro

salt to taste

Make It:

Saute the onions in a saucepan with a little butter on lower heat so they brown– not quite carmelizing, but just so they get translucent and soft and delicious. Add the garlic and ginger and stir to heat– your kitchen should start to smell pretty good! Pour in water, broth and lentils, add tumeric and chili powder, then cover. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer for twenty minutes so the lentils can absorb the water and broth. Once the lentils are soft (they won’t absorb all the water, test some to make sure they’re edible) stir in the pumpkin puree and cilantro. Heat to boiling then reduce, stirring. Salt as needed. Puree in a blender until smooth, serve.

I really do love soup… it makes me sad it’s not a “warm weather” food… except gazpacho! We’ll have to make some of that, too, once it gets good and humid. Something to look forward to!

What sorts of seasonal foods do you like year-round?


Filed under Soups and Salads, Vegetarian.

A-Game Brownies (with Brown Butter!)

As in, I have an exam, and I’m gonna bring my A-game… right after I make these brownies.

This recipe requires brown butter, which adds a new dimension of richness to baked goods. Or sauces, if you’re French. It’s pretty easy to make, but you have to be vigilant. You simply melt butter over medium head in a saucepan, stirring, until it browns and smells sorta nutty. And then you add cocoa, sugar, eggs, mint, and a bunch of other things, stick in the oven, and BAM!– brownies. Of the highest caliber.

This recipe is based on the one I found over here, although I made significant changes.


10 tablespoons (that’s 1-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter

2 teaspoons water

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

3/4 cup cocoa powder (unprocessed, and better quality will yield better results)

1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp mint extract

almost 1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp cinnamon

2 eggs

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup chopped up chocolate, or semisweet chocolate chips

Make It:

Preheat oven to 325.

Brown the butter as described above. Remove from heat, and mix in sugars, water, extracts, salt, cinnamon, and cocoa powder. Stir vigorously for several minutes until it’s smooth. Mix the eggs together in a bowl, as if you were making scrambled eggs, and then stir them into the saucepan mixture. Mix everything up well! Add the flour. Mix some more. Add the chocolate. Mix some more. There’s a lot of mixing involved… worth it. Promise.

Line a square 8-inch baking dish with foil and grease the foil. This will make cutting up the brownies WAY easier because you can just lift them out of the pan and onto a cutting surface. Pour batter into dish, bake for 25-28 minutes. They’ll cook in the center as they cool, which will make them nice and chewy.

Well done. Now I gotta study!

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Filed under Chocolate, Dessert.

Making Friends With Crepes

So there’s a crepe restaurant here in Charlottesville. And everybody loves the crepe restaurant. Except me. I’m not really all that into crepes.

See? Everyone but me.

I had them in Paris, back in the 90s, and they were fine, I guess– lackluster pancakes, really. I just wasn’t all that enthused. But now, it’s 2011, and I have some leftover melted chocolate from the strawberries, which I’ve mixed with peanut butter. Which would be really good on… crepes.

We’re going to get liberal with this recipe from Alton Brown.


1 egg

1/4 cup plus a splash more of milk

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup flour

1-1/2 T butter, melted, plus extra for the pan

1 T sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

Make Em:

Mix all the ingredients in a blender, then let the batter sit in the fridge for an hour. (Mr. Brown says this will keep the crepes from tearing.) Then heat up a nonstick pan and coat it with butter. Pour batter into the pan like you would pancakes, flipping and cooking on each side. This should make 6-7 crepes.

Crepes can be served with lemon and powdered sugar, or strawberries, or banana, or plain, or whatever. You can also make them savory, with sausage or spinach… I mean, it’s flour and an egg, right? It goes with everything. I’m serving mine with sliced strawberries and chocolate/peanut butter sauce.

Yum! I may just like crepes after all.

Do you have a food that you never really liked until one day, you just… did? What is it?


Filed under Bread., Non-Breads