Pantry Raid

I was bragging a couple weeks ago about my superhero power in this blog post so I thought I’d better demonstrate said powers.

This recipe is in heavy rotation March thru September at Chez Vee*. It’s simple, fresh, protein packed and bright. The ingredients are flexible, not only to your preferences, but to what you have on hand.

Also, I guess this is really two very simple recipes.

Tuna & Chickpea Salad

5 oz chunk white albacore tuna (chunky is best, but any tuna will work)
15 oz can chick peas or cannellini beans (drained)
1/2 of a red onion (chopped)
extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1-2 lemons (bottled is fine)
Chopped Parsley (curly or flat-leaf, also fresh arugula or spinach are great)
Salt & Pepper

Directions

I a bowl, mix the chick peas, tuna, red onion and parsley with a glug or two of extra virgin olive oil and as much of the lemon juice your heart desires. Salt and pepper to taste. If serving with a salad with feta, you may want to go easy on the salt.

Serve with toasted pita, naan, flatbread, crackers, or whatever you have on hand. Or nothing, if you’re into that kinda thing,

This salad is also great as a pasta salad… just add cooked pasta (orecchiette and cavatappi are perfect) and adjust oil, lemon and seasoning. Arugula and spinach make this version even better.

Greek Tomato Cucumber Salad

1 cucumber (peeled, I sometimes leave a little stripe of skin, and sometimes scoop out seeds)
Fresh tomatoes (any kind, just sliced close to size of cucumber if not cherry)
1/4 red onion (chopped)
feta cheese (crumbled or chunks, cotija will work too)
chopped parsley (see above)

Directions

Toss all of this lightly in a bowl with either store bought greek dressing or a homemade vinaigrette. This can be as simple as some extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar or lemon juice shaken in a jar.

Rule of thumb 1:4 1 part vinegar; 3-4 parts oil

You may add fresh or dried herbs and maybe a smidgen of dijon mustard. You just want it to taste bright.

Note: I’d like to make it clear that while the Greek dressing pictured above is just fine, John the Greek Original Salad Dressing is better… but requires a 42 mile round trip. Full disclosure, I usually use store bought dressing for this salad.

Lagniappe

My friend Rachel gave me a Zyliss Herb Mill for a wedding gift and I love using it for this recipe because just hold it over the bowl, cram leaves and stems into the little hooper, give it a few cranks and it comes out just perfect for this, or for a gremolata or chimichurri. I’m not a fan of one hit wonders in the kitchen, but this tool is a favorite.

Note: Zyliss does not make this model fashioned after a french mouli anymore, but there are similar new products out there.

Norpro Deluxe Garden Parsley Chive Herb Mill 
Stainless Steel Herb Mill

Or you can treat yourself and find a beautiful vintage Mouli Parsmint on eBay or Etsy.

* Chez Vee is the nickname we gave our home. We’re dorks.

Social Distancing… Now We’re All Cottage Core

Image by Kerstin Riemer from Pixabay

This article caught my eye last week, and at the time I found it a bit twee. Today, the reality of working mostly from home for the next couple weeks has my mind just reeling with all the knitting, gardening, and cooking that is possible between emails, Slacks, conference calls and production work.

Really, the biggest gain are the 2+ hours of commuting every day. I’m excited to have time to cook weekday meals, which have become a rarity at Chez Vee.

Years ago, a fellow waiter asked me what my superpower would be if I had one. I proudly replied, “The ability to create tasty and nutritious meals with barely anything in the cupboard.”

He blinked at me and said, “How sad.”

I disagree. After all, an apron is just a cape on backward.

I have a lot of great stuff to cook, but am also excited to dust off my cape and use my super power.

Stay healthy y’all!

Read the article here

A Perfect Roast Chicken in Your Dutch Oven

If you’re like me, you’ve probably been relying heavily on your Instant Pot and allowing your once trusty and well used dutch ovens to sit there just waiting to be loved again. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Instant Pot, but in all that hastiness I miss the lingering fragrance of a slow roasting chicken, beef roast, or baking bread, along with the anticipation it creates.

I am going to revisit a few of my favorite dinners, which are best suited to baking, roasting, or braising in a dutch oven.

The following chicken recipe is perfect. No lie. The brilliance of how the crusty bread and vegetables create a rustic dressing is really nothing short of genius. So simple and so amazing.

My 21-year-old oval 5 qt. Dutch oven has been benched for a while, it’s the perfect shape and size for a chicken and trimmings.

I roasted mine with ciabatta, carrots, and red potatoes because I’d already used my butternut squash for soup, and was not planning to put on real pants and go shopping. I drizzled extra virgin olive oil on everything before popping it in the oven. The recipe didn’t cal for it, but I felt it needed a litle. Next time I may make it without. Oh, and I didn’t bother trussing it either.

The ciabatta proved to be the perfect choice, the edges were toasted and the rest chewy and flavorful. A baguette would be great too. You want lots of crust in this dish. Trust me. The carrots and potatoes were yummy, but I’m already thinking of other veggie combinations:

  • mushroom, leek, and fennel
  • wild rice, mushroom, and leek
  • Sundried tomato and artichoke hearts

Note: Just leave all the leftovers in the Dutch oven and refrigerate. I popped mine in the oven at 350º for about 30 minutes to reheat. The trimmings were even better reheated. I swear.

I took this one step further and tossed in some aromatics, filled the pot with water, and placed on the stovetop to make stock. Why not?

Here is a link to the recipe here

PS. Try this Buttermilk Roast Chicken and catch up on Conan O’brien Needs a Friend

Bring These to Your Next Cookie Swap

Coconut Macaroons

But if you work at a certain Texas magazine… don’t, because I’m bringing these.

I’ve been bringing these to every cookie swap since forever. I’ve recently started making these with almond flour instead of all-purpose. The structure is still the same, and my gluten free friends can enjoy them too. You can use half the extract that I do, but they will be less fragrant.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

2/3 cup all purpose or almond flour
14 ounces shredded coconut
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons Mexican vanilla or almond extract

Mix dry ingredients together. Mix in condensed milk and vanilla. I use either a 1″ or 2″ cookie scoop. They only need to be about 2 inches apart since they don’t spread much. Bake about 20 minutes or until golden brown at the edges. I like the edges a little crispy (see above)

Dip the bottoms in some melted chocolate if you must, but I like these just as is.

Cool on rack and enjoy. But be sure to enjoy at least one of them warm. Makes about 2 dozen cookies… depending on the size of your macaroons.

Five Things to do This Week to Make Thanksgiving Easier

Photo by Pixabay

There is a lot of menu planning, food shopping, and prep to do for Thanksgiving, even if you’re hosting a small group.

Now’s a good time to confess I hate dislike the term “Friendsgiving”. I feel it makes it seem less than, like a conciliatory celebration. We’ve been hosting friends, their friends, and their aunts since 1996, and it is no less a Thanksgiving than one spent with a family of origin. End of rant.

The real reason I am here today is as a public service announcement for the often forgotten tasks to do this week that will make your holiday less hectic.

  1. Restock bulk herbs and spices. Beat the crowds in the bulk aisle by shopping during one of your lunch breaks this week.
  2. Take those knives to get sharpened. You may have a ceramic sharpening doohickey at home, but nothing beats a professional sharpening.
  3. Iron any table linens if you plan to use them.
  4. Schedule grooming appointments for your dogs. Your guests will thank you. Just keep your fingers crossed they don’t get skunked between now and next Thursday.
  5. We like to send our guests home with some leftovers, so order to-go containers like these now.

PS. Make some no-cut fabric napkins this week, if you’re feeling crafty.

“Now listen…”

Now Listen…

This is how our neighbor Julia began her sentences when she was making a point. She was usually pointing a finger at me too.

When we first bought our home we had a lot of work to do, we installed central air, pulled up carpeting, refinished the hardwoods and seemed to have a paintrush in my hand Friday-Sunday. We stayed in our rental in Austin for a month, and drove out here every night after work and on the weekends to work. I would leave work, go by and grab Roscoe and head out to the “new house”in Elgin. Our meals were mostly of the drive-thru variety. 

One Sunday morning during that month Julia invited us to come by for lunch at noon. We cleaned ourselves up and head on over at noon. She had been cooking all morning for us. She’d made fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn pudding, green beans, rolls, and chocolate pie. We were blown away at such hospitality and knew we’d made the right move to this small town. We love telling that story to people who wonder why the hell we moved from Austin to a small town who’s claim to fame is sausage and bricks.

While we were getting excited for our first Christmas in our new home, I’d noticed she had all the candied fruits and nuts to make fruit cake, but she’d recently taken a fall and said she wasn’t up to the task that year. I’d never made one so volunteered to help her. Once the fruit cake was baked, she covered it with cheesecloth and pulled a plastic wrapped bottle of Mogen David from her deep freeze, unscrewed the cap and drizzled it over the top. Julia was a good Baptist woman so I assume this bottle had been in her home since I graduated high school in 1983.

The next morning, I walked next door to give her the molasses I’d picked up for her at HEB, so she can make her rolls. Mind you she was moving in a week and was hell bent on baking rolls for her family’s holiday meals. She’d tried to substitute with the sorghum she had, but she said they tasted nasty. She told me that she started baking her rolls every October, and just put them up in the freezer until they came by to fetch her to spend the holidays with them. She was really sad that she wouldn’t be able to do this anymore.

Julia gave us the buffet that is now the work table in my print studio. She gave me her yarn tote too, though it fell apart years ago. She crocheted, she said it was her constant companion and reached for it beside her chair every night when she was watching TV, much the way I do with my knitting.

In September of 2007 Julia was beginning to pack up her to move into assisted living close to her son and his family. She was a few months shy of her 90th birthday and had been living alone since her husband Roscoe died in 1993. She was a pistol, and lived in that house since before ours was moved from San Marcos and plunked down next hers in 1950.

As we were getting closer to actually inhabiting each room of our home, and hanging artwork and family photos, Julia was next door taking hers down. 

We miss her being next door, but luckily the new owners are great neighbors and renovating the old house to reveal its original beauty, they love it as much as Julia did. 

I only wish I’d remembered to ask her for the recipe for those rolls…

Spread it on!

Tex-Mex Pimento Cheese

Serve this spread with the usual crackers, spread on a sandwich in place of a slice of regular cheddar. I promise it will not disappoint.

Makes 4 Cups (recipe easily halved)

2 cups jalapeño jack, shredded
2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
1/3 cup chopped pimentos
1/8 cup chopped pickled jalapeños
1/2 cup mayonnaise (Duke’s is my favorite)
1/4 sour cream
Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
1/2  teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2  teaspoon granulated onion
1/4  teaspoon cumin
1/2  teaspoon chili powder
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of sugar

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a standing mixer bowl. Mix thoroughly with the paddle attachment until creamy and the pimentos are well distributed. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.

Pimento cheese will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about a week.

Pro Tip: While you can certainly use pre-shredded cheese (and I have in a pinch) your spread will be creamier and the shreds less separated if you grate your cheese with a box grater.

Homegrown Tomatoes, How do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

Caprese Salad with homegrown heirloom tomatoes and Fredericksburg peaches.

1 In a Caprese Salad. This is my favorite lunch (and dinner) all Summer, every Summer. What tastes like Summer more than sun-warmed homegrown tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil drizzled with sweet balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil? Nothing. IMHO. Summer in every bite.

Pro tip: Peaches, or any stone fruit, are the perfect addition to this salad. I’ve tried peaches, plums, nectarines, and apricots. A – m – a – z – i – n – g.

Hogeye Festival Update. Why? Because Olive U

Game of Scones_ spreader Potluck Tableware Bean and Noodle photo by Stacey Van Landingham

“GAME OF SCONES” Cheese/Butter Spreader. Photo by Stacey Van Landingham

Also, because I cannot wait for GOT Season 8. C’mon already. Cue the opening credits, jam, and clotted cream.

Olive U_pickle fork Potluck Tableware Bean and Noodle photo by Stacey Van Landingham

“OLIVE U” Olive/Pickle Fork. Photo by Stacey Van Landingham

Because OLIVE U… and picking up pickles and olives with your fingers or toothpick is barbaric.

Pile of freshly tagged Potluck Tableware

Ready for Hogeye. photo by Stacey Van Landingham

Please come visit our booth at the Hogeye Festival tomorrow, Saturday, October 27th. My crew She Creates Union will be selling original designs and hand made items. Be sure to check out our new website Emma created SheCreatesUnion.org.

Festival attendees who sign up for my email list will be entered into a drawing for a “Mind Your Own Biscuits” Spreader. You don’t have to be present to win, but you do need to to sign up in person. I’ll be drawing for the winner Saturday night at 11pm.

See you there!