Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Nice-Cream

I first came to know the magic of frozen bananas years ago as a cold treat after a long run on a hot and humid day. When given the freezer treatment, both the sweet and creamy aspects of bananas shine and they are transformed from fruit into dessert.

More recently, I’ve come to know what’s referred to as banana nice-cream. Frozen bananas, peanut butter, a little unsweetened almond milk, a splash of vanilla, and some mini chocolate chips blend together into something you’d swear was actual ice cream. And other than the chocolate chips, which are optional, there’s no added sugar. Totally plant-based, healthy, but eats like a decadent delight when you really need dessert.

You can play with the flavors. Instead of peanut butter, almond butter would be good, with a bit of almond extract in place of the vanilla. Instead of chocolate chips, mix in some chopped fruit and/or nuts. For those with nut allergies, sunflower seed butter is a delicious option.

I make this delicious indulgent-tasting dish in my Vitamix, but a food processor would work too. At first it’s the texture of soft-serve ice-cream and becomes as firm as regular ice-cream after about 4 hours in the freezer. If frozen longer, it gets pretty hard, so it’s best to take it out of the freezer and let sit on the counter for a bit before scooping.

If you’d like, add your favorite ice-cream toppings, then sit back and savor this rich, creamy treat there’s no need to feel guilty about. Enjoy!

Banana Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Nice-Cream

Adapted from this Fit Foodie Finds recipe

2 frozen bananas (I peel my bananas, place in plastic wrap and freeze until solid), sliced

1/4 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Place bananas, peanut butter, almond milk, and vanilla in a high-speed blender or food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy, the consistency of soft-serve ice-cream. Add chocolate chips and blend until just mixed in.

Eat right away as a soft-serve treat or place into a container with tight-fitting lid and freeze for 4 hours until it becomes firm like regular ice-cream. If you freeze it longer, it will probably need get too hard to scoop, so it will need to sit on the counter a while to soften a bit.

Top with your favorite ice-cream toppings. Makes about 2 servings and is easily doubled.

Parmesan Dutch Baby with Creamy Mushrooms

Lately I’ve been working my way through a cookbook I’ve had for several years, Smitten Kitchen Every Day. The Vegetarian Mains section has won my heart (and appetite). Every recipe I’ve made has been delicious and weeknight doable. Yay!

The book even includes a recipe that makes two (and only two) large oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookies. You can satisfy your big cookie craving without having to fight not to keep eating cookie after cookie, which is what usually happens when I bake.

Last summer Dutch baby pancake recipes seemed to be everywhere, and I finally tried a breakfast version. Wow! The special treat that pancakes bring, but without the hands-on stove-top flipping they require. Plus, they were so darned cool looking with their rumpled one pan presentation. 

A Dutch baby isn’t going to feed a crowd but is plenty for two with a tossed salad or four as a side dish with a main course. This recipe is a nuanced, hearty concoction that won’t leave you feeling weighed down. I sub homemade cashew cream for the called-for heavy cream; use whichever you prefer—I’m not sure you’d be able to tell the difference. Enjoy!

Parmesan Dutch Baby with Creamy Mushrooms

Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen Every Day by Deb Perelman

Creamy Mushrooms:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium shallot, minced

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned and chopped small

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon dry white wine or dry vermouth (I used vermouth)

3 tablespoons heavy cream or cashew cream (cashew cream recipe can be found as part of this recipe)

Dutch Baby:
4 large eggs, room temperature

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup milk, room temperature (I’ve made this with both skim and whole milk and really couldn’t tell the difference)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes

3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives or parsley, for garnish

Place a 10- or 12-inch cast iron pan (or other similar sized ovenproof skillet) in your oven and preheat it to 425 degrees F.

To make the creamy mushrooms, heat a large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat and add the butter and olive oil. Once the butter is melted, add the shallot, and cook until soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper to taste, and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until mushrooms have released their liquid and it has cooked off.

Add the wine, reduce the heat to medium-low, scrape up any brown bits and cook off the wine, which will take a minute or two. Stir in the cream, and as soon as it simmers, which will be almost immediately, remove from heat. You’ll be briefly heating this up again so it’s warm when you top the Dutch baby with it.

To make the Dutch baby, in a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, salt, and pepper until well combined. Add the flour and whisk until mostly smooth, then whisk in the milk. It’s okay if there are lumps.

Remove the hot skillet from the oven (use thick hot pads!) and add the three tablespoons of cubed butter. Swirl it around in the pan until it melts. Pour the batter into the pan and, carefully, return the pan to the oven. Cook for 15 minutes when the pancake should be brown in places and rumpled. Sprinkle with Parmesan and return it to the oven for a minute or two to melt the cheese. During the last few minutes of the Dutch baby cooking, heat the mushrooms over medium-low heat so they are warm.

Remove the pancake from oven and spoon the creamy mushrooms over it. Garnish with chives or parsley and cut into wedges. Serves 2 as a main dish with a tossed salad or 4 as a side dish with a main course.

Fusilli alla Vodka with Basil, Parmesan and Garlic Breadcrumbs

We just discovered the deliciousness that is pasta in vodka sauce. I’ve seen it on restaurant menus, but finally got the itch to make it after two of my favorite food bloggers and recipe creators posted their versions recently, Sarah Nasello and The Smitten Kitchen.

Most of the versions I’ve seen are vegetarian, but a couple, like Sarah’s, add a small amount of pancetta, which must add a lovely flavor. And all the recipes included heavy cream. Because I eat vegetarian, obviously, the pancetta was out, and, also, because I try to eat heart healthy as often as possible, I wanted to omit the saturated fat laden cream.

I have found an amazing substitute for heavy cream and it’s super simple. Raw cashews soaked in water overnight, then drained and blended at high speed with water and a pinch of salt. There you have it, plant-based cream with no unnatural ingredients, using nuts that are vitamin and mineral rich, and most importantly, make a rich and satisfying replacement.

And what does the vodka add to the dish? It’s hard to put my finger on it, but according to the food lab folks at Serious Eats, “Vodka does alter the flavor of the sauce in a pleasing way. It adds a touch of heat and a bit of a sharp bite that help balance out the sweetness of the tomatoes and the cream. Is it absolutely necessary? No, but vodka sauce just wouldn’t be, well, vodka sauce without it.”

Often made with penne, or, like the Smitten Kitchen’s, with rigatoni, I used fusilli, because that’s what I had on hand. Any of the three will work equally well.

To add texture, I sprinkled the finished dish with crunchy, garlicky breadcrumbs, along with fresh basil and additional parmesan. It all came together as a wonderful full meal, with the only drawback being there were no leftovers. Enjoy!

Fusilli alla Vodka

Adapted from this and this Bon Appetit recipe

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, peeled and grated

¼ cup tomato paste

2 tablespoons vodka

½ cup cashew cream (recipe follows; it will probably make more than you need)

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces fusilli pasta, preferably whole wheat (I used the Trader Joe’s Organic Whole Wheat Fusilli); penne or rotini would also work

½ ounce finely grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1/8 cup chopped fresh basil

Garlicky Panko Breadcrumbs, for topping (recipe follows)

Heat 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil in large skillet over medium. Add shallots and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until paste is brick red and starts to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add vodka and cook, stirring constantly, until liquid is evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add cashew cream and red pepper flakes and stir until well blended. Season with salt and pepper, to taste; remove from heat.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of well-salted boiling water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving ¾ cup pasta cooking liquid. Add pasta to skillet with sauce, along with remaining tablespoon butter and ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly and adding more pasta cooking liquid, as needed, until butter has melted and a thick, glossy sauce has formed, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add ½ oz. parmesan, tossing to coat.

Divide pasta among bowls, topping with breadcrumbs, basil, and extra parmesan. Makes 2 generous servings as a main course, 4 as a side dish.

Cashew Cream

½ cup raw cashews


Pinch of salt

Place cashews into a small bowl and cover with water. Let stand 8 hours or overnight. Drain cashews and place into a high-speed blender. Add 1/4- to 1/3 cup water. Blend about 2 minutes, stopping once to scrape down sides of blender. Check for thickness and add more water if necessary. You want this to be the thickness of heavy cream. Add a pinch of salt and blend another minute. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Garlicky Panko Breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon butter

1 large garlic clove, peeled and lightly smashed

½ cup panko breadcrumbs

Pinch of salt

Cook butter and garlic over medium-low heat, swirling until garlic is fragrant and foaming subsides, about 2 minutes. Add panko and stir to coat evenly. Cook, stirring often, until breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 4 minutes. Season with salt.

Portabella Pot Roast

For the last couple weeks, I was on the lookout for something special to make for our Valentine’s dinner and kept coming back to a recipe called portabella pot roast. The picture accompanying the recipe was just so pretty! There were aspects of the recipe I liked, but it didn’t seem like the dish would have a whole lot of flavor. After looking at several other recipes with similar names, I took some flavor bits from a couple and applied them to that recipe with the pretty picture.

It turned out to be absolutely delicious! Layers of complex flavors and the comfort a meaty dish with hearty vegetables brings. A crisp green salad and homemade bread rounded out the meal. A very special meal! And as a bonus, being quick and easy, this doesn’t need to be relegated to “special” times—it would even work on a weeknight. Enjoy!

Portabella Pot Roast

Adapted from this Better Homes and Gardens recipe

8 four-inch portabella mushroom caps (about 12 ounces), stemmed and gills removed

12 oz. baby gold potatoes (or a mix of gold and red), halved if large

12 oz carrots with an inch of tops

1 large sweet onion, cut into 8 wedges

3 cloves garlic, sliced

3 or 4 sprigs of thyme

1 cup vegetable stock or broth (I used Better Than Bouillon No Beef Base)

1/3 cup dry red wine

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (Annie’s and Whole Foods 365 brands are vegetarian)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

¾ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated horseradish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large Dutch oven or 13×9 baking dish, layer mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, and thyme. Mix together stock, wine, and Worcestershire. Pour over vegetables. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Cover with lid or foil and bake for 45-60 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

Remove pan from oven and, using a tongs or slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to a serving platter. Pour cooking liquid from pan into a small saucepan and, over medium heat, bring to a boil. Boil gently, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes until reduced by about half. Spoon over vegetables. Sprinkle with freshly grated horseradish. Makes 4-6 servings.

Mushroom French Dip with Horseradish Mayo

Do restaurants still have French dip sandwiches on the menu? I remember back in high school or college eating them when dining out, but don’t recall seeing them on menus after that. Maybe I just didn’t notice once I became a vegetarian.

When I saw a mushroom version online recently, warm food memories of the traditional sandwich came flooding back. The chewy roll, the tender beef, and oh, the au jus! Honestly I don’t remember cheese and caramelized onions on the sandwich, but what I ate probably wasn’t authentic, and I’m sure it would have been loads better with those two additions.

Since my go-to beef replacement over the last almost 30 years has been mushrooms in some form, this moved to the top of my “must make” list. Truly a multi-dimensional meal, the bite of horseradish in the garlicky mayo; the rich, meaty mushrooms; the soft, sweet caramelized onions; creamy Provolone; and the complex au jus come together on toasty French bread for a sensory overload of deliciousness. When Pete deemed this one of the best things I’ve ever made, well, I felt a duty to share. You’re welcome!

Mushroom French Dip with Horseradish Mayo

Adapted from this Pinch of Yum recipe

Horseradish Mayo:

½ cup of your favorite mayonnaise (if you’re mayo averse, I highly suggest Vegenaise Better than Mayo brand—no eggs, no dairy)

2 teaspoons prepared horseradish

2 cloves garlic, finely grated

Pinch of salt

Seasoned mushrooms:

6 large portabella mushroom caps or more if they’re smaller (about 18 ounces total), wiped clean, gills scraped off, and sliced about 1/3 inch thick

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons Montreal steak seasoning (store-bought or homemade; I made a scaled down version of this recipe) or just use salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Caramelized onions and au jus:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced

¼ cup dry sherry

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (Annie’s and Whole Foods 365 are both vegetarian)

1 tablespoon reduced sodium tamari or soy sauce

2 cups vegetarian “beef” broth (I used 2 teaspoons Better than Bouillon No Beef Base with 2 cups hot water)

Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

To complete the sandwiches:

4 demi baguettes or one long baguette cut into four sections

Butter or buttery spread, optional

Provolone cheese slices

To make horseradish mayo, whisk ingredients together in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To prepare the mushrooms, warm the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and sprinkle with steak seasoning. Cook, tossing mushrooms occasionally, until they release their liquid, it has cooked off, and mushrooms are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Set aside.

To caramelize the onions and make the au jus, melt the butter in a heavy skillet, preferably cast-iron, over medium heat. Add onions and cook, tossing occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown, about 30-40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Add the sherry to the onions and cook until the sherry has evaporated. Add the Worcestershire, tamari, and the broth. Increase heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 5-10 minutes until slightly reduced. Taste, and add salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and dump the mixture into the strainer, separating the onions from the au jus. Set both aside.

Halve the baguettes horizontally and spread with butter (optional). Place on a sheet pan. Divide mushrooms among bottom bread sections and cover with Provolone slices (cut to fit if slices are wide). Transfer pan to the oven and toast the open sandwiches for about 5 or 6 minutes.

Remove from oven and top the mushroom/cheese side of sandwiches with caramelized onions. Liberally spread top sandwich portions with the horseradish mayo and put sandwich tops on bottoms. Serve each sandwich with a small bowl of au jus for dipping. Make sure to have plenty of napkins and enjoy! Makes 4 sandwiches (no judging if the two of you eat all four portions; that might have happened here).

Easy Homemade Bread Bowls

Yesterday I had plans to make potato soup for dinner. After searching recipes online and paging through some cookbooks the last couple evenings, I came up with a game plan. Then, early afternoon, when checking email, I saw a post that mentioned homemade bread bowls. What great timing!

I don’t think I’ve ever had anything in a bread bowl before even though I’ve seen them filled with dip at parties and on restaurant menus filled with soup or salad. But coming across a recipe to make them from scratch got my attention. And it was from Sally’s Baking Addiction, a very trusted source for all things baked.

With not a lot of hands-on time required and only one full rise, it looked doable to have these ready in time for dinner. With only a couple short breaks from my work-from-home workday, they were ready and cooling before I even started on the soup, plus, the house smelled amazing.

Following the recipe, the only change I made was to use instant yeast in place of active-dry. That made for a really quick rise to double in size, about 35 minutes. And the second rise after you form the dough balls is only the time it takes to preheat your oven. The egg wash gives the bread bowls that beautiful shiny golden exterior and the interior is a perfectly soft, heavenly texture that you only get with homemade.

Fill with your favorite soup, salad, or dip, take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy! It’ll taste even better if it’s cold and snowy where you are.

Easy Homemade Bread Bowls

From Sally’s Baking Addiction

4 and ½ teaspoons either instant yeast or active-dry yeast (2 packets)

2 and ¼ cups (540 ml) warm water (105-115 degrees F.)

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

6 cups (780 grams) bread flour, plus more for hands and surface

Egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk (any kind of milk, including almond or soy)

Pour the warm water over yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. If you don’t have a stand mixer, a regular large mixing bowl will work. Whisk together and allow to sit for 10 minutes, until foamy.

If you do not have a stand mixer, mix by hand in this step. With the stand mixer running on low speed, add the sugar, salt, olive oil, and 4 cups of the bread flour. Mix on low speed for 1 minute, then add remaining 2 cups of flour. Mix on low speed for 5-6 minutes. The dough should be thick, yet soft, and only slightly sticky. It should pull away from the sides of the bowl as it mixes. If it’s too sticky, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a ball. Grease the bowl you mixed the dough in with a little olive oil. Return ball of dough to the bowl and turn it over once to oil the top. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in warm area to rise until doubled in size, 45-90 minutes, depending on whether you used instant or active dry yeast.

Once doubled in size, punch down the dough to release any air bubbles. Remove dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Punch down again. Using a sharp knife or bench scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball.

Line 2 large baking sheet with parchment or silicone baking mats. Place 3 dough balls onto each sheet. Cover lightly and set aside to rest as your oven preheats.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Just before putting in the oven, brush the dough balls with the egg wash. If desired, using a sharp knife, score an X into the tops of each (I did this on 5 of the 6 and it looks pretty, but isn’t a necessity).

Bake for 30 minutes or until golden. About halfway through, rotate the pans from top to bottom and rotate each 180 degrees, for even baking. Let cool on pan or cooling rack. The bowls will be easier to cut if they have cooled somewhat.

For serving, cut a large round off the top of each bread bowl. Scoop out the center (either save to dunk in soup, or reserve for another use). Fill with soup, stew, or salad. Leftover bread bowls can be stored covered, at room temperature for a couple days, or wrapped and frozen for several months (bring to room temperature before serving). I wasn’t able to eat an entire bread bowl (my husband, however, found it easy to do), so I refrigerated the uneaten portion and enjoyed it with soup (in a regular bowl) the next day—don’t let any of that delicious bread go to waste! Make 6 bread bowls.

Panettone Muffins

A few weeks ago, I ordered a new-to-me ingredient from King Arthur Baking Company, Fiori di Sicilia. It’s a blend of citrus and vanilla with a subtle floral aroma that reminds me of an Orange Julius. This secret ingredient can be added to cakes, cookies, sweet breads, muffins, and scones for a lovely mysterious flavor that you just can’t quite put your finger on when describing.

Eager to bake something with it, I turned to the King Arthur website for a recipe and chose Panettone Muffins. Perfect for the season and I had all the ingredients on hand. Fiori di Sicilia (flowers of Sicily) is traditionally used in Panettone, which is a classic Italian Christmas yeast bread. If you don’t have the Fiori di Sicilia, you can sub orange extract or orange essence, or just leave it out. You won’t get that special “je ne sais quoi,” but will still have a mighty tasty muffin.

The recipe calls for soaking the dried fruit in ¼ cup of apple juice, orange juice, or rum, but after reading the comments, I followed a suggestion and used Cointreau, an orange flavored liqueur (plan ahead and start the soaking the day before—it’s worth the extra time). To make the muffins partially whole-grain, I subbed in whole wheat pastry flour for some of the white all-purpose. If you don’t have the whole wheat, just use all-purpose for the full flour amount.

Made on a Saturday morning, we had them with scrambled eggs for a delicious treat that tasted like Christmas. Wanting to use my pretty muffin papers that hold more batter than a typical muffin pan, we ended up with a size in between regular and jumbo. If you do that too, you’ll need to increase the baking time.

Enjoy! And merry Christmas!

Panettone Muffins

Adapted from this King Arthur Baking Company Recipe

1 ½ cups diced dried fruit (I used a combination of dried cherries, cranberries, gold and regular raisins)

¼ cup apple juice, orange juice, or rum (or do what I did and use Cointreau or another orange liqueur)

4 tablespoons butter, at room temp

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used grapeseed—any neutral oil will do)

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs, at room temp

¼ teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia (you can sub orange extract or orange essence, or just omit)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon fine grain salt

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

2/3 cup milk

Several tablespoons of coarse sugar (turbinado, demerara, or sparkling sugar)

In a small bowl, mix the dried fruit with the juice or booze. Cover and let it rest overnight, stirring it up occasionally so the fruit is evenly saturated. You can speed this up by heating the fruit and liquid in the microwave until very hot and then letting it cool to room temperature, although I think it really benefits from the longer soaking time.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. (or 350 on a convection setting). Lightly grease a 12-cup or two 6-cup muffin tins. If you use muffin papers, lightly spray them before adding the batter so the paper will come off the muffins easily.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the butter, oil, and sugar together until smooth. Add the eggs and beat to combine. Stir in the Fiori di Sicilia and vanilla.

In a small bowl, whisk together the baking powder, salt, and flours. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour mixture and making sure everything is thoroughly combined.

Stir in the dried fruit and include any remaining liquid.

Spoon the batter evenly into prepared muffin pans or cups. Sprinkle the tops generously with the coarse sugar. Bake for 18-20 minutes (for standard muffins. If making larger ones, the cooking time will need to be increased), until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean or with just a few crumbs clinging to it.

Remove muffins from the oven and let them sit in the pan for a few minutes before moving them to a cooling rack. Makes 12 standard muffins, or in my case, with the larger muffin papers, 7.

One comment after the recipe on King Arthur’s webpage said they are even better the next day and we’ll find out tomorrow if that’s true. With the boozy fruit and Fiori di Sicilia, I’m betting that will be the case.

Oven Fries

Potatoes, in just about any form, are the ultimate comfort food. Mashed, French fried, au gratin, scalloped, hash brown, chips, or baked. All delicious. All comforting. My favorite is French fries, which I’ve been woefully missing since the start of the pandemic—we haven’t dined at a restaurant since March 14.

Sure, we’ve done carry-out and delivery, but French fries just don’t travel well. Nothing deep-fried does, so why bother? But I do have a solution that comes pretty darned close to the hot and crispy fries from your favorite eating establishment. Oven fries—no deep-frying necessary, which is a good thing because no matter how much I miss fries, I don’t want that grease hanging in the air.

The key to crisp fries from your oven is soaking those fresh-cut batons in a big ole bowl of ice water for about 20 minutes before they hit the oven. A lot of the starch from the potatoes will drain away and the result will be fries crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.

Another trick is to space the fries apart on the baking sheet, so they are not touching, otherwise, you’ll end up with potatoes that are more roasted than “fried.” Seasoning is key too. At the very least, you’ll want to salt them generously, both before and after they come out of the oven. I like to play around with the flavors though, using a seasoned salt like Lawry’s or a Cajun blend, or you could use your own custom seasoning mixture.

For the ultimate crispiness, a thorough dusting of cornstarch or arrowroot does the trick. I usually mix the cornstarch and seasonings together and toss the taters with the mixture after they’ve been coated in olive oil. Easy peasy and oh so good. Make a platter, get out your favorite dipping sauce, and I won’t judge if you eat them all yourself. That’s what comfort food is all about. Enjoy!

Oven Fries

About 2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled or unpeeled (I leave the skins on for added flavor and nutrition)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot

1 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoned salt or Cajun seasoning (I used the Louisiana brand), or go old school and just use about ½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon onion powder

Ice water


Cut the potatoes into batons about 1/3 inch thick. Transfer to a large bowl and cover with water and ice. Set aside for 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil two large baking sheets.

Meanwhile, mix cornstarch or arrowroot, Lawry’s or Cajun seasoning (or plain salt), and onion powder in a small bowl.

Drain potatoes and place on a clean kitchen towel. Pat dry. Either put dried potatoes back in bowl (dry it out first) or into a large zip-lock bag. Drizzle with olive oil and toss or shake until potatoes are evenly-coated. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the cornstarch mix over potatoes and toss or shake. Repeat two times until cornstarch mixture is used up.

Transfer potatoes to the baking sheets and spread fries out so they are not touching. Bake for 30 minutes, turning fries over and rotating pans about halfway through for even browning and crispiness. Remove from oven and top with a final sprinkling of regular salt. Eat while hot. Makes 2-4 servings.

Falafel with Creamy Tahini-Yogurt Sauce

I don’t know why, but earlier this summer I started craving falafel. And
Foxy Falafel, my go-to source for truly great falafel, is limited to curbside pick-up during the pandemic. Deep-fried food just doesn’t travel well, and I’m thinking it wouldn’t be as amazing by the time I got it home.

This led me to look for an authentic recipe that would satisfy my craving. I found it and must share—it’s that good! Plus, it’s not deep-fried–yay! Golden brown and crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside with all those signature falafel herbs and spices, it’s served with a creamy tahini-yogurt sauce, thinly sliced radishes, cucumber, red onion, and tomatoes from our garden. All piled on a whole wheat tortilla or, if you have time, stuffed in my whole wheat pita bread, it’s a nutritious, delicious all-in-one meal.

There’s nothing difficult or time-consuming about this other than the need to plan ahead and start soaking the dried chickpeas the night before (canned chickpeas won’t work here). And after soaking, you don’t have to cook the beans, which makes this recipe even easier! Everything else comes together quickly enough for a weeknight meal. A very special weeknight meal! Enjoy!

Falafel with Creamy Tahini-Yogurt Sauce

Adapted from this Downshiftology recipe
This recipe is naturally gluten-free and all that’s needed to make it vegan is to use a tahini sauce without the yogurt, like this one.

1 cup dried chickpeas (canned won’t work in this recipe)

About half of a medium yellow onion, roughly chopped

1 cup fresh parsley, in between loosely and tightly packed

1 cup fresh cilantro, in between loosely and tightly packed

1 medium jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

Several grinds of black pepper

2 tablespoons chickpea flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

Grapeseed or avocado oil for pan-frying (or another neutral oil of choice)

Tahini-yogurt sauce, recipe follows

Flour or corn tortillas or my whole wheat pita bread

Thinly sliced radishes, cucumbers, red onion, diced tomato

The night before you plan to make the falafel, place the chickpeas in a pot and cover with water by 2-3 inches (the chickpeas will triple in size and you want to make sure they stay submerged). Cover pot and set aside.

The next day, drain and rinse the chickpeas and add them to your food processor (after draining, I dump them onto a clean kitchen towel and pat them dry before putting them in the food processor).

Add the onion, parsley, cilantro, jalapeño, garlic, cumin, salt, cardamom, and black pepper to the food processor and process until the mixture is the texture of coarse sand (you may have to stop and scrape down the sides a couple times).

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the chickpea flour and baking soda. Cover and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Place a cooling rack on a baking sheet and place it in oven.

Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat. Add a couple tablespoons oil. When oil is hot, form falafel mixture into balls (I used a #30 cookie dough scoop, which is about 1 ½-2 tablespoons) and place in hot pan. Flatten slightly with a spatula. You’ll have to do this in batches—don’t crowd the falafels.

If the mixture seems too wet, add another tablespoon of chickpea flour. If it seems too dry, add a tablespoon of water (I didn’t need to do either both times I have made this recipe).

Cook the falafels for about 3 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom. Flip and cook another 3 minutes. Remove to rack in oven to stay warm. Repeat with remaining falafel mixture. You will probably need to add more oil to the pan.

Serve in warm tortillas or pita with a swoosh of tahini-yogurt sauce, several falafels, tomato, radish, cucumber, or other toppings of choice. Makes about 4 servings or 18-20 falafel.

Creamy Tahini Yogurt Sauce
this Feasting at Home recipe

¾ cup plain Greek yogurt (I used 2%)

¼ cup tahini

2 garlic cloves, grated on a micro-plane

Juice of one medium lemon

½ to 1 teaspoon kosher salt (my tahini was salt-free, so I used the full teaspoon)

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Wisk all ingredients in small bowl until thoroughly combined and creamy. Can make a day or two ahead of time. Cover and refrigerate until use.


Spaghetti with Cauliflower Meat Sauce

A little over two years ago when I posted this Cauliflower Taco Meat recipe, I mentioned wanting to tweak it with Italian seasonings to be used in things like lasagna, spaghetti sauce, and stuffed peppers. Well, it took me two years and several versions, but it’s finally exactly what I wanted it to be.

This hearty, meaty spaghetti sauce of my dreams will now be in regular rotation in our kitchen. Versatile cauliflower, along with meaty portabellas and healthy omega-3 fat-packed walnuts comes together with herbs and a rich red sauce to create a spaghetti dish I’m confident could hold its own in a cook-off against one made with ground beef.

You could use your favorite red sauce recipe, jarred marinara, or the quick homemade version I included that’s pulled from the headnotes of the Smitten Kitchen’s Stuffed Eggplant Parmesan, which sounds amazing in its own right.

Both the cauliflower meat and the sauce, if you’re making your own, can be done a day or two ahead, which would make this perfect for a weeknight.

To give it an extra dose of veggies, I sautéed some chopped onion and spinach from our garden with a little red wine before adding the sauce and meat. Feel free to leave that out if you’d like. Served over whole wheat spaghetti and topped with a little parmesan (omit for a vegan version) and fresh basil, you’ve got an amazing comfort food meal without the typical saturated fat and cholesterol. What could be better!?! Enjoy!

Spaghetti with Cauliflower Meat Sauce

Cauliflower Meat
3 cups cauliflower florets

1 ½ cups chopped cremini mushrooms

½ cup chopped walnuts

¼ cup tomato sauce

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon fennel seeds

½ teaspoon onion powder

¼ teaspoon dried marjoram

Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.

Place cauliflower, mushrooms, walnuts, tomato sauce, salt, fennel seeds, onion powder, marjoram, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and pulse on and off until the texture of ground beef. I found it easier to get the right texture by doing this in two batches, half of each ingredient in each batch. The first time I made it I did it all at once and half of it was almost like a paste—still tasted great, but just not the right texture. Transfer mixture to the baking sheet and spread it out in an even layer.

Bake for 30 minutes, stirring once at the half-way point.

Spaghetti or marinara sauce–homemade, jarred, or this quick Smitten Kitchen recipe:
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a pot over medium, add 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and a pinch or three of red pepper flakes, and a little dried oregano, if you wish. Cook for one minute. Add a 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (it will splatter, be careful) and stir (I used a can of whole San Marzano tomatoes and crushed them with a potato masher once in the pot). Cook at a simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until you get the saucy consistency you want. This yields 3 cups.

To bring it all together
8 oz. regular or whole wheat spaghetti

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

½ of a medium yellow onion, chopped

A couple handfuls of fresh spinach, chopped

A splash or two of red wine

Salt & pepper

Freshly grated parmesan cheese, optional

Torn fresh basil leaves for garnish

Place a big pot of well-salted water on the stove and bring to a boil. Cook spaghetti according to package instructions. Drain and return to pot to keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for several minutes until beginning to soften. Increase heat to medium-high and add spinach and red wine, plus a little salt & pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until spinach has wilted and wine has mostly cooked off.

Turn heat back down to medium and add 2 to 2 ½ cups red sauce. Add about half of your cauliflower meat (reserve the rest for another batch). Bring to a simmer and cook until heated through.

Pile pasta into bowls and top with cauliflower meat sauce, parmesan, and basil. Take a big whiff of all this wonderfulness, and dig in. Makes about 4 servings, with enough “meat” left for another batch.