Mom’s Chicken Cacciatore

After spending a weekend with the family, I felt like my return to apartment life could benefit from some real home cooking. Time for a Mom Recipe, you know? I don’t know if Spring has sprung where you are yet, but even here in southern California the nights are chilly enough to encourage stewy, braise-y dinners. So readers, today you’re lucky enough to learn about one of our most popular family recipes: my mom’s chicken cacciatore.

Cacciatore is Italian for ‘hunter,’ and as I understand it, the idea behind the dish is that hunters are able to pick up wild mushrooms while out in the forest. I don’t claim any real Italian authenticity, but the thing that sets this recipe apart is the sauce. Ohhh, the sauce… It’s tomato-based, but doesn’t really even taste like a tomato sauce. Some kind of magic alchemy goes on between the wine, broth and aromatics that yields something complex, herbaceous, and completely revelatory.

Continue reading “Mom’s Chicken Cacciatore”

Florida Faves

Whew, back to reality. I’m back in San Diego again after a long weekend in the small town where I grew up in central Florida, to see my brother get married. In typical Florida fashion, the nice weekend was punctuated with pretty severe thunderstorms (complete with tornado warning) exactly at wedding-o’-clock. But it didn’t slow us down from having the best weekend! My little dog Chuy even got to come; I was nervous about hauling him on a airplane, but he loves my parents’ farm so much that I had to bring him along. Not completely stress-free, but he was a pretty good boy!

I was so preoccupied with the whirlwind of family events, that I kind of completely dropped out of social media. Whoops. But I still want to share a few shots of the special local foods and experiences that I like to enjoy when I travel home. It’s a nice opportunity to look back and get inspired by the flavors of the region. So let’s enjoy these glimpses of Florida’s Treasure Coast through the eyes of a visiting native / foodie dietitian!

Continue reading “Florida Faves”

RD Airplane Snack Survival Kit

Today I’m lucky enough to send an update from FLORIDA, where I’m spending the weekend (woohoo!). Traveling from my home to my hometown is an all-day affair, so I thought I’d take this chance to talk about how I keep myself nourished on a cross-country flight… because life’s too short to subsist on the world’s smallest bag of pretzels.

My kit includes things that:

  • Are without liquids – the only reason TSA will confiscate your munchies are if they are jealous that your lunch looks better than theirs!
  • Are shelf-stable at room temperature – cold-packs are a no-go through security, so we gotta stick with foods that will be safe.
  • Supply good doses of the nutrients and fiber that are tough to get enough of when traveling.
  • Easy to eat in cramped conditions.
  • Inoffensive to your seatmates – nothing is worse than sitting next to smelly food.
  • Interesting enough that we’re not tempted to ditch them in favor of whatever terrible airport food that we’ll regret later.

Get out a couple pieces of tupperware or some of my favorite reusable snack bags, and let’s fill ’em up with goodies!

Continue reading “RD Airplane Snack Survival Kit”

[Instant Pot] Chicken Tortilla Soup

Today I’m pulling through on my promise to share my successes with Instant Pot, my new electric pressure cooker (you can read more about my pressure-cooking obsession here). It’s been a revolutionary addition to my kitchen, but unfortunately for my readers its major role has been to constantly churn out oatmeal, rice, beans, and other essential staples too boring to blog about. But my favorite appliance is so much more than that! So I’m glad I finally got my act together to write up a recipe that puts Instant Pot in the spotlight.

But if you’re not into pressure-cooking, that’s no reason to pass over this recipe. I’ve been making this soup for years before I got wacky about pressurizing my foods. The flavors develop just as well after a simmer on the stovetop, and the process is still totally easy for a weeknight.

Continue reading “[Instant Pot] Chicken Tortilla Soup”

Baja Fish Burritos

Let’s talk. Today’s phenomenon? Food tasting better when someone else cooks it for you. There are exceptions, of course, but as the star Food Captain of my household, there’s something special about enjoying a meal that was crafted with love by hands that were not my own. There are a lot of factors at play, but I contend that one of the biggest draws is the potential for cooking revelations. Basically, I’m a fan of my cooking, but I know all of my own tricks. I experiment with new things, but every move I make is informed by my tastes and experience. When we’re lucky enough to be at another cook’s mercy, we get to experience food through their skills, their preferences, their history.

This recipe comes from a friend who is a Really Good Cook, who made me the best fish burrito of my life thus far. If you know how many burritos I eat, you’ll know how serious this is (hint: this is pretty serious.)

Continue reading “Baja Fish Burritos”

Super Greens Rice

It’s not every day that I stop to consider whether a side of brown rice should be made even healthier. Tell me, am I crazy? In my defense, my real intention was just to make our grains tastier. But when I decided to give them the pesto treatment, I couldn’t deny that I was upgrading the nutrition too. Instead of just a carby side, I ended up with a well-rounded, nutrient-dense food. A vehicle for healthy fats, leafy greens, and – obviously – more flavor! If it didn’t deliver in the flavor department, I hope you realize by now that I wouldn’t be telling you to make this.

Continue reading “Super Greens Rice”

Banana Jam & Hazelnut Sticky Buns

For those of you who aren’t already convinced to try a batch of my banana jam, today I’m bringing out the big guns. This recipe brings together all the best parts of cinnamon rolls and nutty banana bread, all in one sticky breakfast bun package. These are equally at home as a component of an epic brunch party spread, or simply on their own with a pot of hot coffee or tea, on a leisurely Saturday morning just because you love whoever you live with. Even if you live by yourself – you still gotta show yourself some love!

And really, this is a recipe for showing yourself some love on both ends of the spectrum. The kind of love that recognizes when it’s time to treat yo self, and the kind that takes care to supply your body with real nourishing ingredients. You get to enjoy a delicate texture while still feeling good about getting your whole grains, courtesy of my favorite whole-wheat pastry flour. Toasted hazelnuts take it to the next level of Special Brunchiness, although you can easily substitute almonds, walnuts, pecans, or whatever else you like; either way, you get an abundance of healthy fats.

Continue reading “Banana Jam & Hazelnut Sticky Buns”

Banana Jam

You’re looking at a luxurious breakfast, fragrant with flavors of the tropics. If you want to close your eyes and feel transported to a sunny veranda, I recommend this recipe as a starting point. You can almost feel the ocean breeze, and while it’s distinctly tropical, I can’t tell you if you’re in the Caribbean, southeast Asia, or on a Pacific island… that’s up to your imagination, and the flavors you choose to pair with it.

In addition to offering a vacation in a jar, this is also a recipe for those times when your bananas are browning faster than you can handle. I didn’t know that banana jam was even a thing until a friend from my RD program enlightened me, and I am so glad she did. If I end up with overripe bananas, I don’t often muster up the enthusiasm to bake banana bread. I usually just toss the neglected fruits in a freezer bag for smoothies, but I love having this easy option for a little something special.

Continue reading “Banana Jam”

Less-Mess Blender Trick: The Mason Jar Magic Bullet

For a big weekend project, it can be a necessary evil to destroy the kitchen with splatters, spills, and a mountain of dirty dishes. But in my daily life, I’m rather mess-averse. I don’t have a dishwasher in my apartment, and if a recipe is going to fill my sink up with multiple pots and bowls, it definitely makes me think twice before committing to a late night of scrubbing. Any trick that leads to fewer dishes to clean? I’m all over it.

By now, the trick I’m sharing today has saved me hours in dish-washing grief. Even more than most dishes, I hate dealing with a dirty blender… the huge, clunky pitcher and all the moving parts – just for one measly smoothie!

So, did you know that all standard blender bases are the same size as the opening of a regular (not wide-mouth) mason jar? To create your own “Magic Bullet” single-serve blender, all you have to do is unscrew your blender’s base/blades/gasket and screw them onto a simple canning jar. You can make small batches of blended foods right in the jar, and then use the same vessel for storage or consumption! I find that a pint sized jar is the most useful; just the right size for a bowl of hummus or salsa, and for smoothies I can drink it straight from the jar, or put on a canning lid and take it on the go!

In an effort to fight the worldwide epidemic of unnecessary blender-scrubbing, I made an amateur-hour attempt at creating this post’s pinnable images to let us visualize the possibilities. So if you found this helpful, please share!

Mason Jar Magic Bullet

I’ll admit, when perusing the blogs and reading about the next “amazing trick” for whatever kitchen task, I usually go into it expecting to have heard it before. I take after my lovely mom, who made sure I knew how to remove stray eggshells/keep biscuit dough cold/identify properly risen bread/etc. from an early age. I strangely pride myself on borderline obsessive knowledge of kitchen techniques, and even I had never heard of this trick until maybe a year ago! So I feel it’s my duty as a blogger who strives to make cooking accessible, to shout this one from the rooftops… this tip is a winner!

For full disclosure, it’s important to note that the glass in mason jars does not adhere to the same safety standards as the strongly tempered glass in blender pitchers. I have a hard time imagining the thing blowing apart, but I suppose it’s possible, so take that into consideration (no suing me, ok?). If you’re concerned about safety, throwing a towel over top of the jar while blending would presumably contain any breakage.

Have you heard this tip before? Do you screw a mason jar onto your blender? What other foods should I be blending??

Berry + Clementine Smoothie

It’s that time of year again, when our grocers’ produce sections pile up with bags and crates of juicy little clementines. In the past I had never fully jumped on the mini-mandarin bandwagon, but this season… I’m in deep. Maybe I’m homesick for Florida, or maybe my body wants vitamin C, but every time I open the fridge I feel the siren song of the bright orange bag. They’re so easy to eat out of hand, but I felt compelled to give them some special attention and try something different… to mix it up, if you will? (smoothie humor… yeah, sorry.)

Continue reading “Berry + Clementine Smoothie”