Cherry Tomato Quick Kimchi

I recently read an article in which the author ponders the word kimchi not as a singular noun, but as a verb, in that you can kimchi just about anything. And “quick kimchi” at that! If  you can quick pickle, why not quick kimchi?

Having made kimchi before, I know it’s a process—chopping, brining, packing, and then the fermenting—it’s at least a week before you can enjoy this addicting Korean side dish. So to see an article that offered a recipe for a speedy option, I was intrigued.

The article included three quick kimchi recipes: smacked cucumber, fennel, and grape tomato. I had picked up an heirloom cherry tomato medley package the other day and had all the other ingredients, so that’s the version I went with.

This doesn’t have quite the funk of traditional kimchi, but it’s still delicious, addicting even. A little smoky, a little nutty, with the sweetness of cherry tomatoes and the heat of Korean chili pepper (gochugaru), it’s a unique dish with lots of uses. I served it with arugula over buttered baked potatoes and called it a meal. The next morning it was on homemade toasted bread and topped with a fried egg. I imagine it would be great with rice and crispy tofu or grilled portabella mushrooms. It’s even wonderful eaten out of the bowl all by itself while you’re waiting for your potatoes to bake! I see myself making this often throughout the summer as my cherry and pear tomato plants start producing. Enjoy!

Cherry Tomato Quick Kimchi

  • Servings: 2 1/2 cups
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From this NYT Cooking recipe

Note: Gochugaru (Korean chili flakes) is not the same as crushed red pepper flakes. It’s slightly sweet and smoky and has less heat than crushed red pepper or cayenne. You can probably find it at a well-stocked grocery store or Asian market, but if not, it’s easily available online.

1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes (about 2 to 3 cups), halved lengthwise

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar

½ teaspoon finely grated garlic

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon gochugaru (Korean chili flakes)

2 teaspoons tamari or soy sauce (can sub fish sauce if not vegetarian)

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Thinly sliced scallions, chopped chives, cilantro, or flat-leaf parsley leaves for garnish (optional)

In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes with the salt, transfer to a colander, and let sit in the sink to drain, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in the same bowl, add the vinegar and garlic and set aside.

After 30 minutes, add the sesame oil, gochugaru, soy or fish sauce, and sugar to the bowl with the vinegar and garlic and whisk to combine. Use a paper or cloth kitchen towel to pat the tomatoes dry, then add the tomatoes to the dressing and toss until well coated.

Garnish with the optional scallions or herbs before serving. This is best eaten right away, but can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Makes about 2 ½ cups.

Oregano-Hazelnut Pesto

Right now, we’re experiencing the kind of growing weather where everything is thriving. That perfect combination of sun, heat, and humidity that has your garden practically exploding. Especially my herbs. It’s times like this that I start to panic and wonder how will I ever use all the basil, sage, thyme, tarragon, and oregano.

Today my panic was focused on the oregano. Our tomatoes are weeks from being ready so that great tomato-oregano combination won’t happen for a while, but my oregano plant badly needed trimming. I began to wonder if there is such a thing as oregano pesto or would that be too strong a flavor? Yes, oregano pesto is a thing, my online research told me, and I was intrigued by a recipe that used hazelnuts in the pesto. That partial bag of hazelnuts buried in my freezer would finally get used!

It’s been a while since we’ve had pasta, so why not an oregano pesto penne pasta? Shallots for good measure, some quality parmesan because hello, Italian pasta dish, and a little lemon zest to finish. I’ve included the recipe below the pesto instructions–I think you’ll like it!

Fully prepared not to like this oregano version, I was pleasantly surprised and now have a new favorite pesto. The oregano was not overwhelming, and the hazelnuts brought a lovely, unique flavor. I’m looking forward to using some the of the leftover pesto on pizza this week. Enjoy!


Oregano-Hazelnut Pesto

  • Servings: 1 1/2 cups
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Inspired by this recipe

1 cup fresh oregano leaves (discard the stems)

½ cup unsalted hazelnuts

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil


In a small skillet, toast hazelnuts over medium-low heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Stir often so they don’t burn. Cool slightly.

Place oregano leaves, hazelnuts, lemon juice, and garlic into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until well mixed. With machine running, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Scrape down sides and process until mixture is mostly smooth. Add salt, to taste.

Refrigerate, covered, until use. Keeps about 4 days. Freeze for longer storage.

Great on pasta (recipe follows), a little mixed into scrambled eggs, as a dip for good quality bread, in place of red sauce on pizza, or a dollop swirled into a bowl of soup. Makes about 1 ½ cups pesto.

Penne Pasta with Oregano-Hazelnut Pesto, Shallots, and Lemon Zest

8 oz. penne pasta, regular or whole wheat

1 medium shallot, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Oregano-hazelnut pesto (about half of above recipe)

¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, optional

Grated zest of one lemon

Cook pasta in a pot of well-salted boiling water, according to package directions. Reserve about ½ cup of pasta water before draining.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes.

Return drained pasta to pan and add shallots, pesto, parmesan (if using), and about a third a cup of reserved pasta water. Toss to coat pasta until sauce becomes creamy. Add a little more pasta water if necessary. Transfer pasta to serving bowls, top with lemon zest and additional parmesan, if desired. Makes 3-4 servings.

Strawberry Dutch Baby

It just doesn’t seem appropriate now to write about light-hearted things like recipes and food with the recent murder-by-cop of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the ensuing riots (not to be lumped in with the peaceful protests), which have now spread across the country. I want to share recipes, but it seems so frivolous and unimportant at this time. However, we all need to eat, so here goes…

I’ve heard of Dutch babies before but had never had or made one. Lately it seemed recipes were everywhere I looked, and I took that as a sign I should join the party.

Apparently Dutch babies aren’t actually Dutch. They are a German pancake that earned the moniker Dutch when someone confused the word Deutsch with Dutch. So, there you have it.

Regardless of the name or origin, they are easy, versatile, and delicious. I’ve made sweet versions with both apples and strawberries and I plan to make a savory one soon (just omit the sugar in the batter and add a few grinds of black pepper) with some veggies and a sprinkling of grated cheese when done. And unlike regular pancakes, you can relax while it’s baking with no need to stand over the stove flipping flapjacks. Enjoy!

Strawberry Dutch Baby

Adapted from New York Times Cooking

One Dutch baby serves two generously and four for a lighter meal. You’ll get more of the signature puffing and rumpling if your milk and eggs are at room temperature to start.

3 eggs, room temperature

½ cup milk, room temperature (I used skim)

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional if using strawberries, but a must with apples)

Pinch of nutmeg

Pinch of salt

3 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes

About 3/4 cup of sliced strawberries or apples

Pure maple syrup, for serving

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. and place a 10-inch cast iron pan in the oven.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt until very well combined (could also do this in a blender, but I didn’t want to have a blender to clean).

When oven reaches 425, carefully remove pan from oven and add butter. Once it’s melted, scatter strawberry slices on bottom of pan. Pour batter into pan and carefully return to the oven. Cook for about 18 minutes, until pancake is puffed and golden (do not open the oven door—try to determine if it’s done through the window). Turn oven off and leave pancake in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cut into wedges. Serve with pure maple syrup or whatever toppings you’d like. Makes 2 generous or 4 smaller servings.


Layered White Bean and Spinach Enchiladas

Last week I cooked up a pot of cranberry beans with a little onion, carrot, and celery and then couldn’t decide what to do with them, so they sat in the fridge for a few days until I got some inspiration. With it no longer being wise to run to the grocery store on a whim, cooking during a pandemic has become adjusting recipes to what you have on hand. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately, with mostly good results.

Not sure what made me think of a recipe I cooked a few years back for layered enchiladas. The original recipe calls for chicken and I probably made it with seiten or mock duck in its place. I figured the cranberry beans in the fridge could be the “meat” and spinach would be included too because when I ordered a package of baby spinach in my co-op curbside pick-up order, they gave me a one-pound package. That’s a lot of spinach to use up while it’s still fresh—it’s been going in everything lately!

I made a quick homemade enchilada sauce, but you could use store-bought if you’d rather. Because my cooked beans already had onion in them, I didn’t add more, but I included them in the recipe instructions assuming most people will either use canned beans or won’t have added onion when they cooked their dried beans.

Cranberry beans (also called borlotti beans) are soft and dense with a velvety, rich texture. I ordered mine from Rancho Gordo, which I’m told has some of the best heirloom beans around. You could use any dried white bean or pinto bean, and canned would work as well, but the texture will be a little different.

Out of necessity, pretty much all recipes right now are flexible, so you can vary the cheeses, the additional vegetables, and as I mentioned, the bean variety. Not being sure how all these flavors would come together, I was fully prepared for this to not really work. But it did. It was damned delicious, in fact, and was actually one of the best twists on a recipe I’ve ever made. Pete and I agreed it needs to be shared. Enjoy!

Layered White Bean and Spinach Enchiladas

Adapted from this Williams Sonoma recipe.

1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 cups cooked cranberry beans or other white beans (or substitute rinsed, drained canned beans)

1 3/4 cups red enchilada sauce (canned or homemade—this is the recipe I used)

9 corn tortillas, each about 6 inches in diameter (mine were 5” and worked fine)

3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

3/4 cup shredded smoked cheddar cheese

3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Sliced green onion tops for garnish

Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, 6 to 7 minutes. Add beans and spinach to pan and cook until spinach has wilted and reduced.

Spread 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 3 1/2-quart round Dutch oven. Arrange 3 tortillas in a single layer on the sauce, overlapping them as needed to cover the sauce. Top with a generous 1 cup of the bean-spinach mixture, 1/2 cup of the sauce and 1/4 cup of each cheese. Repeat the layering 2 more times, alternating the direction of the tortilla layers and finishing with 1/2 cup sauce and 1/4 cup of each cheese.

Transfer to the oven and bake until the ingredients are heated through and the cheese is melted and the sauce bubbly, about 30-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and garnish with green onions and cilantro. Slice into wedges. Makes about 4 servings.

Three Yolk Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have found my favorite chocolate chip cookie! In an effort to use the three egg yolks sitting in my fridge, this recipe turned up in a search for cookies made using no whole eggs, only yolks.

Rich and delicious, heavy on the chocolate chips, and generous in size, these mostly brown sugar-sweetened treats may just become your favorite too. Enjoy!

Three Yolk Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • Servings: about 28 cookies
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Adapted from this Violet Bakery recipe published on Taste

1 cup, plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 egg yolks, at room temperature

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour

¾ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon fine sea or table salt

1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Line a small baking sheet or pan (one that will fit inside your freezer) with parchment paper.

Beat the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer until combined but not too creamy—you are not aiming for light and fluffy, as that would make the cookies too cakey. Add the vanilla and the egg yolks and mix well.

In another bowl combine the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, and salt and whisk together well. Add this to the butter and egg mixture and mix well. Add the chocolate chips and mix until combined. Dough will be quite stiff.

Scoop individual portions (I used a number 30 cookie scoop) of dough onto the lined baking sheet. If you don’t have the cookie scoop, pat 1 ½ tablespoon portions of dough into balls. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for an hour.

Preheat oven to 355 degrees F. (330 degrees F. in convection ovens). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the cookies on the pan about 2” apart (I did this in two batches).

Bake for 13-18 minutes, until the center of each cookie is slightly soft and under-baked, but the edges are crisp and golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Remove to cooling rack and serve either warm or at room temp. Cookies will keep for up to 5 days in an airtight container. Makes about 28 cookies.

Creamy Lentil and Spinach Stew

Like many of you during this time of stay-at-home directives and all-but-essential errands being curtailed, I’ve come to rely on recipes that pull from the pantry and use ingredients most often kept on-hand.

Last night, I decided that lentils and spinach would take center stage in our dinner. I googled lentil & spinach recipes and combined a couple. The result was this delicious stew that I served over brown rice. The veggies can be customized to what you have on hand, celery, mushrooms, leeks, etc., and if you don’t have spinach, kale or Swiss chard would be nice substitutes. Don’t skip the drizzle of olive oil and red wine vinegar at the end—it brings the yum factor over the top! Enjoy!

Creamy Lentil and Spinach Stew

Adapted from this Taste of Home recipe and this Pinch of Yum recipe

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Half a yellow onion, chopped

1 carrot, diced

½ a green bell pepper, chopped

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup dry white wine

1 cup uncooked green or brown lentils, picked over, rinsed, and drained

2 small Yukon gold potatoes, chopped (about 1 cup)

4 cups vegetable broth/stock, divided

1 bay leaf

½ teaspoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (the Annie’s brand is vegetarian)

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/3 cup milk or cream

3 to 4 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped

Olive oil and red wine vinegar for final drizzling

Hot, cooked brown rice

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, carrot, and green pepper, and ¼ teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until the veggies have softened. Add the wine and stir, making sure to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Stir in the lentils, potatoes, 2 cups broth, bay leaf, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper. Bring to a simmer and put a lid on the pot to partially cover. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more broth, as needed, to keep the lentils just covered (I used almost all of the remaining 2 cups).

When the lentils and potatoes are tender, mash some of the potatoes against the side of the pan to give a creamy texture.

Remove the bay leaf and stir in the milk/cream and the spinach. Cook until spinach has wilted. Taste, and add more salt and pepper, if necessary.

Serve over brown rice and drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. Makes about 4 servings.


Big Crunchy-Lidded Blueberry Muffins

Last weekend, while preparing for what feels like the apocalypse (Covid-19 pandemic), I turned to the comforting task of baking, thinking it would be nice to have something on hand I could freeze and take out for a little treat here and there. We all still need treats!

Recently I made muffins for a work party welcoming a new staff member and they were delicious. With blueberries still in the fridge, making blueberry muffins was the obvious choice, but I had run out of grapeseed oil, my go-to neutral oil when a recipe calls for canola or vegetable oil.

Having made some cakes and sweet breads with olive oil, I thought that might make a suitable substitute, but wasn’t sure if the flavor would overwhelm the blueberries. What I ended up using was a mixture of olive oil and melted butter, and I actually think it made for an even better muffin than the original. Also, instead of the coarse sugar the recipe suggested sprinkling on the muffins prior to baking, I opted for cinnamon sugar. And to make the muffins lean a little healthy, I used whole wheat pastry flour for half of the all-purpose flour the recipe called for.

Off to the freezer these muffins went. We’ll dig into them once the Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Irish Whiskey Buttercream I made for the office birthday party that was cancelled because we’re all now working from home are gone. I hope this social distancing thing doesn’t result in packing on a few extra pounds—I am making sure to work out a little longer each day now that I don’t have drive time.

Enjoy these treats if you make them, and by the way, frozen blueberries will work equally well. Wishing you all good health in the days to come!

Big Crunchy-Lidded Blueberry Muffins

  • Servings: 8 large or 14 regular muffins
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Adapted from this Sally’s Baking Addiction recipe, one of my go-to sites for all things baking. I used these muffin/cupcake molds and they make a large, but not jumbo muffin. They stand by themselves on a baking tray. You could also use a large muffin tin. If you want standard size muffins, the baking time will need to be shorted and I have listed the different times in the recipe instructions.

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup low-fat buttermilk, at room temperature

¼ cup (half a stick) butter, melted

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 ½ cups fresh or frozen (do not defrost) blue berries, divided

Cinnamon sugar for sprinkling (1/4 cup granulated sugar mixed with one tablespoon cinnamon)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. If not using muffin molds or liners, spray your muffin pan with non-stick spray or butter it.

In a large bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar buttermilk, butter, oil and vanilla extract.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk mixture. Mix together until just combined—don’t over mix. Batter will be thick. Gently fold in 1 ¼ of the 1 ½ cups blueberries.

Scoop batter into prepared molds or muffin pans, filling about ¾ of the way full. Top each muffin with a few blueberries from the reserved ¼ cup. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar (you will probably not use it all—save for cinnamon toast on a rainy morning).

If making large muffins, bake at 425 degrees F. for 5 minutes, and then reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Bake for an additional 20 minutes or until tops are golden and a toothpick or tester inserted into the center of muffins comes out clean. If making regular-sized muffins, cook 5 minutes at 425 degrees F., reduce oven temp to 375, and continue baking for another 12 minutes or so.

Set pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then remove muffins from pan and continue cooling on rack. Makes about 8 large or 14 regular muffins.


Mujaddara (Lentils and Brown Rice with Caramelized Onions)

A few weeks back I had a recipe fail making stuck-pot rice and lentils for the first time. Part of the instructions said the “rice should smell toasty but not burned and you might need to check on it once or twice if you’re making it for the first time.” Well my rice never really smelled toasty, and at the end, when the recipe said to turn the whole pan of rice and lentils out onto a platter, the bottom, which becomes the top, was completely charred. Plus, the lentils were undercooked.

I was crushed! This delicious-smelling meal I was so looking forward to was ruined. I pulled off the charred layer and salvaged what wasn’t burned. It tasted okay, but obviously not how it was supposed to, and the experience had me craving a good lentil and rice meal.

Then a few days ago I came across a recipe for Mujaddara, a Middle Eastern dish of lentils and rice with caramelized onions. It was a similar dish to my huge failure, but without the hard-to-get-right “stuck-pot” part. I had found my redemption recipe!

Once I found the first Mujaddara version, I looked for more and combined aspects of a couple of them. These instructions will work with regular green or brown lentils, but not red, puy (French green), or black beluga lentils. Make sure to use brown basmati rice; white won’t work here because cooking times are different.

The cumin, allspice, and bay leaves give this dish warmth and the somewhat crispy caramelized onions lend a really pleasant textural component and a subtle sweetness. A little cool creaminess from the yogurt and a nice kick from the harissa and you’ve got yourself the lentil and rice dish of your (okay, my) dreams. But you will love it too. Enjoy!

Mujaddara (Lentils and Brown Rice with Caramelized Onions)

Adapted from Milkstreet and Cookie & Kate

4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

3 bay leaves

1 tablespoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

1 ¾ teaspoons fine sea salt, divided

Freshly ground black pepper

5 cups water

1 cup uncooked brown basmati rice, rinsed and drained

1 cup brown or green lentils, picked over for debris or pebbles, then rinsed and drained

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 large onions, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced

½ cup sliced scallions, light green and green parts only, divided

Plain Greek yogurt (whole or 2%), for serving (omit to keep this vegan)

Harissa or sriracha, for serving

Combine the garlic, bay leaves, cumin, allspice, 1 ½ teaspoons of the salt, and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Add 5 cups of water and stir. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

When water comes to a boil, stir in the brown rice, lower heat to medium, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Make sure to keep water at a strong simmer. Stir in the lentils and return to a simmer. Cover, turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the rice and lentils are done, 20-25 minutes.

While rice and lentils are cooking, warm olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onions and cook, stirring only occasionally at the start then more frequently once browning begins at the edges of the pan, until the onions are deeply caramelized and crisped, 20-25 minutes; adjust the heat down if the onions brown too quickly.

Using a slotted spoon or fish spatula, transfer the onions to a paper towel–lined plate and spread evenly. Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and set aside; the onions will crisp as they cool.

When the lentils and rice are tender, remove the pot from the heat. Uncover and lay a tea towel across the top of the pan, then replace the lid and let stand for 10 minutes (this will absorb the steam).

Remove the stockpot lid, discard the bay leaves, and smash the garlic cloves against the side of the pan with a fork. Add about three quarters of the scallions and parsley, reserving the rest for garnish. Gently stir and fluff the rice with a fork. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Transfer the rice/lentil mixture to a large serving platter or bowl. Top with the caramelized onions and the remaining scallions and parsley. Serve hot or at room temperature. Top with yogurt and harissa. Makes 4-6 servings.

Creamy Chickpea Pasta with Spinach and Fresh Oregano

Another one of those more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts kind of recipes, these seemingly simple, rather ordinary ingredients come together to wow you. I’m so happy when that happens!

This dish showed up a while back in the daily New York Times Cooking email, which I’ve mostly ignored since they started charging a membership fee to access their recipes. Occasionally though, I’ll read it, and sometimes, am able to avoid that paywall and access recipes. No rhyme or reason to it, but when it works, I’m thrilled.

Switched up a bit from the original recipe, I used fresh oregano instead of rosemary (not a huge rosemary fan) and evaporated milk instead of heavy cream (to lighten things up). Whole wheat spaghetti makes this a bit healthier too, so even though it’s is a pasta dish, there’s no reason to feel guilty.

As the Times notes, you can sub a different bean (white beans, perhaps) or different greens (I think Swiss chard would be delicious), and the addition of spices such as ground coriander, toasted fennel seeds (I will try this next time), or smoked paprika would be nice.

Back to my more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts description, this truly is a “wow” dish, just as perfectly suited for a weeknight meal as it is for a dinner party. I’ve served it to company and received rave reviews, and it’s also one of Pete’s and my favorites. Make this! Enjoy!

Creamy Chickpea Pasta with Spinach and Fresh Oregano

From New York Times Cooking

Kosher or sea salt

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 (14 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary or a tablespoon fresh oregano, plus more for garnish

½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper, or ¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

1 large shallot, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1 cup heavy cream (instead I used evaporated milk to lighten it up—it was still plenty rich)

1 six-ounce bag baby spinach (about 6 packed cups)

12 ounces spaghetti or bucatini (I used whole wheat spaghetti)

½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Lemon wedges, for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

In a wide, deep skillet, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the chickpeas, oregano (or rosemary), and Aleppo or crushed red pepper. Season generously with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until chickpeas start to caramelize at their edges and pop, 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer about half of the chickpeas to a bowl. Reserve for garnish.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the shallots and garlic to the skillet, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are softened, about 3 minutes. Add the heavy cream (or evaporated milk) and cook until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Turn off heat, stir in the spinach and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the pasta to the boiling water. Cook the pasta until a couple minutes short of al dente, according to package directions. Do not drain the pasta, but, using tongs, transfer the pasta directly from the pot to the spinach and cream sauce. Add 1 cup pasta cooking water and the Parmesan. Cook over medium-high, stirring vigorously with the tongs, until the sauce is thickened, and pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. Add a splash of pasta water to loosen sauce, if needed

Transfer to bowls, and top with reserved chickpeas, rosemary or oregano, and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately with lemon wedges for squeezing on top—the lemon gives it that perfect finish! Serves 4.

Red Velvet Pupcakes

The last couple days we’ve had some beautiful snowy and blowy weather and how better to spend that time, at least until things calm down and we get outside to play, but to bake. Right?

The thing is though, between Christmas baking (and eating) and baking for the January birthdays at work (and eating), I don’t need more sweets on hand to tempt me. But damn, this weather really makes me want to bake! The solution? Baking dog treats that I know won’t tempt me. Red Velvet Pupcakes—all the mixing, measuring, frosting, and decorating I love about baking, but flavors that won’t have me eating. Yes!

These are adorable with the red velvet and cream cheese frosting presentation, but with no sugar and low fat, it will be easy for me to take a pass and save these cute treats for the fur babies in my life. Namely Otis, but this recipe makes more than even Otis needs, so I’ll be sharing these baked goods with my dog-loving co-workers and friends.

After a little taste test, Otis gave the pupcakes two paws up. He obviously wanted more and hung around as I was cleaning up the kitchen, which he doesn’t usually do, so I know he considered this an extra special indulgence.

With Valentine’s Day less than a month away, what better way to pamper your pup than baking up a batch of these delicious treats? They so deserve it!

Red Velvet Pupcakes

Adapted from this recipe

A couple notes:
This recipe uses carob powder that gives the look of chocolate. Carob powder is NOT the same thing as cocoa, which can be toxic to dogs, so do NOT substitute cocoa.

If using the dehydrated strawberries or beets to decorate, look at the ingredients to make sure the only ingredient is the strawberries or beets, no sugar or salt, or extra stuff. I have found the dehydrated fruit at Whole Foods and the beets in the natural food section of a large grocery store, so they shouldn’t be too hard to find.

1 beet, diced (about ¾ cup))

¼ cup strawberries (about 3 large strawberries)

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

¼ cup carob powder (NOT cocoa powder, which can be toxic to dogs!)

1/3 cup plain non-fat yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)

2 eggs

2 cups oat flour (no need to buy oat flour, just whir oats up in your food processor until the consistency of flour)

One 8-ounce block Neufchatel cheese (reduced fat cream cheese), room temperature

3 tablespoons plain non-fat yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)

1 teaspoon cornstarch or tapioca flour

Mini dog biscuits (optional)
Dehydrated strawberries or beets (make sure the only ingredient is strawberries or beets), ground up in a spice grinder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place beets in bowl of a food processor. Add the strawberries, applesauce, carob powder, and yogurt. Process until smooth.

Add eggs and oat flour; pulse until just incorporated.

Spray mini muffin pans with cooking spray. Pipe or spoon batter into the muffin cups. You can fill the cups to the top because with no baking powder or baking soda, these will not rise in the oven. Smooth the tops and bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove cupcakes from pans onto a cooling rack. Cool completely.

To make frosting, place cream cheese in a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer) and beat, adding yogurt and cornstarch as cream cheese loosens. Beat until fluffy and smooth.

Frost cupcakes using a small off-set spatula or a piping tip. Sift strawberry or beet powder over cupcakes, and top with a mini dog biscuit. Makes about two dozen cupcakes.