Comfort food – Beans & Greens

Mr. Pie and I had a lovely nine day adventure to Hawaii to begin our year. We were lucky to stay in two places that had full kitchens, so we did a lot of our own cooking. This is one of the best things about vacation, as far as I am concerned. While I enjoy eating out as much as the next person, I am happiest when it’s an option, and not an obligation. We made some pretty delightful food on our trip, which we plan to replicate for the blog soon. Keep your eyes peeled!

But the best part of vacation eating is coming home and eating in my own kitchen again, hands down. Even if it was not exactly clean when we came home, and had no groceries in it to speak of.

And what’s even better than cooking in my own kitchen after vacation? Someone else cooking for us, of course!I had grand plans for making some comfort food, but got nowhere. Thankfully, Joe stepped up to the plate, took his first run at my favorite bean-cooking method, cooked more bacon than I would have, and generally made my night. Hurray, Joe!

This is a super easy, very adaptable recipe that gets a lot of use in my family. It’s absolutely fine to use canned beans, if you have them. Use whatever kind of greens you like. Mustard greens looked good to me at the store, but I’ve had great success with kale and chard as well. Add some chili flakes or a splash of wine. Make it yours!

Beans and Greens!

Using my magic beans method, cook beans until tender. When your beans are cooked, fry bacon in a wide pan until crispy, then add mustard greens, cover, and cook them until they’re wilted but not soggy. Add beans, mix, top with hot sauce, enjoy!

Dutch Baby for One

One of my go-to brunch foods is the super-easy Dutch Baby, or Big Pancake (it has lots of names, it’s always Dutch Baby to me). This giant puffy pancake starts life as an unassuming puddle of batter in a well-buttered pan on the stove, and through magic in the oven becomes a puffy, crispy giant popover of awesomeness. And it’s super easy, so easy that I can start it before the coffee is ready and still be confident of success.

The standard Dutch Baby recipe is kind of huge, serving 6-8. That’s totally fine when we’re feeding a hungover household, but sometimes nobody else is home, and I need a little Dutch Baby love. Thus, the “for one” adaptation.

When I make a full-sized recipe, I use the blender, though I have done it by hand to equally acceptable effect. Today we’re using the immersion blender, because it’s easy. If you don’t have one, a fork will do the job just fine (the batter volume here is a little too small for normal-sized blenders.)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine milk, egg, sugar, salt, and flour. Blend together until flour is fully incorporated and batter is smooth. Let it rest up to half an hour. You can use it immediately, but giving the gluten time to relax will yield a more tender pancake.

Melt butter in small frying pan over medium high heat. Add pancake batter, allow to bubble just a moment, then put it in the oven for 20-25 minutes. (I like mine good and brown, so I always cook them 25 minutes, but your mileage may vary.)

Remove from oven, transfer carefully to a plate, dust with powdered sugar and lemon juice (or whatever you like on your pancakes), and enjoy! I love the way that every Dutch Baby has a character all its own – no two ever look quite the same!

There are lots of variations on this out there in recipe-land – often calling for vanilla or cinnamon in the batter. I have made it with half wheat flour and half cornmeal, which turns out pretty well. That version also had fresh herbs in the batter, and we used bacon fat instead of butter. Best. Baby. Ever.

Homemade chai made easy

I love chai tea. It’s spicy, it’s (usually) caffeinated, it’s full of honey. It’s both physically and emotionally warming (at least, to me). It’s a nice alternative to more coffee in the afternoon, when I need a warm pick-me-up but don’t want to spend the whole night awake.

It’s also ridiculously easy to make. Really.

The first time I made it at home, the recipe I used was really complicated, and involved too many steps of heating and reheating. The finished product was tasty, but the steps involved were burdensome. When I wanted to try again several months later, I couldn’t find the recipe again (oh, fickle internet), but instead stumbled upon a collection of allegedly authentic Indian recipes, which were remarkably easier!

The short version: Make a spice-infused syrup, add milk, steep tea bags, enjoy. That’s my kind of recipe.

I’ve included the spices that I used today, but they’re more of a suggestion than anything else. If you like a spicier chai, use more ginger and black pepper. If you prefer it mild, cut those things back, maybe increase the cardamom. Most of the chai that you’ll find in coffee shops has vanilla in it, but I’m not big on gratuitous vanilla, so I didn’t add any. You should feel free to, of course. I use whole milk; use the milk (or substitute) of your choice. Next time, I might use half and half. Live dangerously!

Gather your spices in a sauce pan:

Add water, simmer until the water is good and fragrant, and taking on color. If you like strongly flavored chai, simmer longer to make a spicier syrup.

Once you’ve got the level of spiciness you want, add your sweeteners and cook until they’re fully dissolved. Then add your milk and bring the mixture back up to not-quite-boiling.

This is a good time to taste it and make sure the sweetness is right for your taste. Then add your tea bags! I’m using generic ceylon from the grocery store. You could use good tea, if that’s what you have. Or rooibos, for a caffeine-free option. Steep for 3-5 minutes. Now it’s starting to look like chai!

Enjoy!

Yes, that’s a Curious George jelly jar.

Prelude to Pie Cookies

I noticed a problem with the recipe. It’s been updated. Carry on!

As I mentioned on Twitter earlier, I bought cranberries over the weekend. I saw them in the grocery store and found myself powerless to resist them. After the holidays I tend to forget how much I love the tartness of cranberry. Did you know what the “wet-pick” method of harvesting yields fruit that goes directly to juicing or freezing? All those bags we see in the store are picked by hand, not by the iconic flooded-field method. (Cranberries are grown in Washington, but I’ve never seen them in the farmers’ markets – you?)

At first I thought I might just hold on to them until Thanksgiving (They last forever! Seriously, like a year in the fridge), but then I realized that they needed to go into pie, and urgently. So, tomorrow’s Apple Pie Cookies will be extra special: Apple Cranberry.

I made a small batch of fairly classic cranberry sauce to go into my cookies. It’s also, conveniently, just the right amount of sauce for a 1 or 2 person household.

This sauce would be perfect if you happened to have some turkey cold cuts in the fridge and wanted to spice up your sandwich, or if you’re roasting a chicken and want to get into the Thanksgiving spirit.

Wash and sort the cranberries, combine all ingredients except water in a saucepan, cook over low heat until the cranberries start to burst and become soft. Remove from heat, stir in the water, then apply liberally to toasted bread topped with turkey and gravy. Or refrigerate overnight, to get a more balanced flavor.

Mr.Pie Gets Pickled

I am a huge fan of things that are spicy. So, one of my contributions to the household fermented goods is pickled peppers and spicy pickled carrots. This is the recipe I use to make two 32oz mason jars of wonderful spiciness. It is, for the most part, a take off from a David Lebovitz recipe.

  • 1 cup (250ml) white vinegar or unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 cup (250ml) water
  • 3 clove garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt (not grey, or iodized salt)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, lightly crushed
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 bay leaf


1.) Set aside your peppers and vegetables and put everything else in a non-reactive saucepan. Bring the vinegar, water, and spices to a boil and then turn down to a simmer for 5-10 minutes.

2.) While your brine is cooking, slice your peppers and garlic into 1/4-1/2 inch discs. I leave the baby carrots whole.

3.) Pack about an inch or two of jalapeños into each jar and some of the garlic, followed by the rest of the peppers and/or carrots. If you like powerful heat, fill one of jars with only jalapeños and garlic and the other with carrots and garlic (this is how I do it). If you want a little less heat put a mixture in both.

4.) Take the brine off the heat and pour the still hot brine into the jars and screw down the caps loosely. Once the jars are cool to the touch, refrigerate for at least a week before using.

[Note: If you want to limit the heat in this pickle separate out some of the seeds. The seeds are what makes the peppers hot.]