SHH! I was never here.

But I really, really, really hope to be back soon.


Cheddar Grits with Black Beans, Lentils, Sausage, and a Poached Egg
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 large jalapeño chile, diced
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 packet taco seasoning mix
3 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 (14.5-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup dried brown lentils, rinsed
10 ounces hot smoked sausage, cut into bite-size pieces
Instant grits
6 to 8 ounces freshly grated Cheddar cheese
White wine vinegar
4 large eggs
Garnish: Chopped green onion

1. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a stockpot; add onion, jalapeño, and red pepper. Season with salt and pepper, and sauté 5 minutes or until onions become translucent. Stir in garlic and taco seasoning mix, and cook 2 more minutes.

2. Add beef broth, tomatoes, beans, and lentils; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour or until lentils are tender.

3. Sauté sausage in a dry pan until browned. Stir into cooked lentils. Cover pot, and keep warm over low heat.

4. Prepare 4 servings instant grits according to package directions. Stir in cheese. Cover pot, and keep warm over low heat.

5. In a small saucepan, bring water to a gentle boil. Add a splash of vinegar. Crack 1 egg into a small bowl. Stir boiling water vigorously with a spoon to create a small well in the center, and carefully add egg to center of pan. Cook 1 to 2 minutes or until whites are set but yolks are still very runny. Remove from pot with a slotted spoon. Repeat with remaining 3 eggs.

6. Divide grits among 4 serving bowls; top with lentil-sausage mixture and poached eggs. (There will be lots of lentils left over.) Garnish, if desired. Makes 4 servings.


*oh my goodness.


This recipe is not for the faint of heart—really, it might kill you. There is an inordinate amount of butter in there. I'm not usually one to go for gravy with mashed potatoes; as a personal preference I fall firmly in the "cheesy" camp when it comes to my spuds.

This, though, seemed awfully rather dreamy and ingenious—by broiling the potatoes in the gravy, you get a crispy, brown top and a rich, bubbling sauce that keeps the mash super moist and tasty. I thought the potatoes could have been a touch creamier, but that might be my fat-loving American palate getting in the way. I suspect it all depends on the starchiness of your particular taters.

The secret to this-here gravy, what elevates it above the usual gloppy beigeness, is in the full two teaspoons of black pepper. I prefer the already ground stuff in this incarnation; it keeps things smooth and eliminates the chance of chomping into a big piece of peppercorn (which I think tastes like taking a bite out of a charred cast-iron pan). The original concept calls for something listed as "beef gravy or drippings, or beef cubed," which I wasn't sure about, so I omitted it. Instead, I subbed beef broth for the chicken broth because that's what I had on hand, and hoped it would do the work of both ingredients. I don't think the end product suffered, though it's hard to remember because it disappeared so fast.

All credit for this recipe goes to the amazing Seasaltwithfood, a blog I'm guilty of stalking mercilessly.

Alongside I served simply sautéed salt-and-pepper chicken cutlets. On a whim, I just added olive oil to the gravy pan after I'd poured out the gravy, but without cleaning the pan first. That way the chicken browned while picking up leftover gravy bitlets.

Yes, it's a word.

The other revelation? Ina Garten's Brussels sprouts. I first discovered them about a year ago, and they are transformative.

(I also love Savour Fare's bacon-braised Brussels sprouts with cream, but with the gravy bubbling away on the stove, I made a game-time decision not to send myself into full cardiac arrest.)

How good are these Brussels sprouts? A 40-year-old man and a 16-month-old child almost came to blows over them, that's how good. How easy are these Brussels sprouts? Almost shamefully easy. The only tricks are to remember to salt them liberally, and to not take them out of the oven when you think they're burning. They're not; they're just taking on insane amounts of roasted, blistering flavor. When you cut the bottoms off the sprouts, you'll probably end up with a board full of leftover leaves—sprinkle those around the pan, as well. (They become unbelievable crispy sprout chips.)

There's not a lot to this plate—everything sort of takes care of cooking itself, and aside from the potato peeling there isn't a lot of agonizing prep work—but it is about as homey and satisfying as they come.


Mashed Potatoes Baked in Gravy with Salt-and-Pepper Chicken
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
6 tablespoons cream or milk
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
11 tablespoons butter, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon onion powder
3 cups reduced-fat, low-sodium beef broth
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
4 chicken cutlets
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Boil potatoes until fork-tender; drain. Mash potatoes with cream, salt, and 4 tablespoons butter. Set aside.

2. In a large, deep skillet, melt 6 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add garlic, if desired, and sprinkle with flour; cook, whisking constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until flour is golden. Whisk in beef broth and pepper, and cook until gravy thickens. Pour gravy into baking dish, and return pan to stovetop. (Do not clean pan.)

3. Sprinkle chicken cutlets with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in pan, and sauté chicken 5 to 6 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cooked through. Remove pan from heat, and cover with foil to keep warm.

4. Top gravy in baking dish with reserved mashed potatoes; top with dots of remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Broil 6 to 8 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown and gravy is bubbling. Serve with chicken cutlets. Makes 4 servings.

Ina Garten's Roasted Brussels Sprouts
1 pound Brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt, and pepper; roast 35 to 40 minutes or until sprouts are crisp on the outside and tender inside. (They will be very deeply brown.) Sprinkle with more kosher salt, and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.


*penne pincher.


This week I learned a very valuable lesson, namely that one should not let too much moss grow under a recipe whipped up on the fly, particularly if one has the attention span of a fly. (It's easy to forget how in the heck you made a dish come together if you don't write it down, it turns out.)

Last week, I got the rather distressing news that the county would like to take my house—or, if they can't have it, they'd like to tax me out of it. I am not in the habit of going down without a fight (and by "fight," I mean "temper tantrum"), so I railed against the man until he said thank you very much, I appreciate your position, hand over your paycheck, por favor. To which I was all, "Oh. Umkay."

Power to the people!

All of which is to say that in the intervening period between March's paychecks No. 1 and No. 2 (whom I love dearly and do not want to see go, amen), I was on something of a budget. And when I say "budget," I mean "less than $19.80 a day." Not a terrible per diem, to be sure, unless you're someone who likes to cook something new every night. Then it's just limiting and cranky-making.

Or is it?! I decided that this arbitrary $19.80 could make for a fun and motivating (albeit still unwelcome) project. I wanted fresh spinach in this dish, but for some unfathomable reason, my grocer was fresh out. So I had to opt for frozen—while I would have preferred the fresh, I'll admit the frozen chopped version was all but free, and I think the flavor difference was inconsequential. Taste the sauce along the way and adjust the amount of mustard to your liking—I wanted this to be really deeply tangy and mustardy, but it's all a matter of taste. (A good-quality mustard is key, though. I used Grey Poupon, which I already had in the larder.) The same is true of the chicken broth; you can add more or less depending upon how thick you prefer your cream sauces. Some of these ingredients I had on hand on the Woodside, but when all was said and done I managed to cobble this together for less than $12.80.*

*Sometimes, when a girl has been roundly slapped by the local tax commissioner, a girl needs a $7 bottle of wine.


Creamy Chicken, Spinach, and Tomato Penne
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 1½ pounds chicken cutlets, cut into strips
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups half & half or heavy cream
¼ cup spicy brown mustard
8 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
Hot sauce (optional)
16 ounces penne pasta
1 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 (10-ounce) box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and wrung out well in a clean dish towel

1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat; add chicken, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until golden brown and cooked through. Remove chicken to a plate, and set aside.
2. Add garlic to pan, and sauté about 1 minute or until fragrant. Add butter; when melted, sprinkle over flour, and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes.

2. Add cream to pan, whisking constantly until sauce bubbles and thickens. Reduce heat to low, and stir in mustard, Parmigiano cheese, and hot sauce, if desired.

3. Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions. While pasta cooks, stir sauce occasionally, adding chicken broth, ½ cup at a time, until sauce reaches desired consistency.

4. Stir tomatoes, spinach, and reserved chicken into sauce until heated through; toss with cooked pasta. Top with additional grated Parmigiano, if desired. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Cheesy Garlic Bread
1 medium baguette, sliced in half lengthwise
Reduced-fat mayonnaise
Garlic powder
Sliced provolone cheese
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Top baguette halves with mayonnaise, garlic powder, and cheeses. Broil until cheese is melted and browned. Makes 4 to 6 servings.


*bowled over.


I've only recently discovered the joy of Soup As A Meal, largely because I have very high expectations for it—there needs to be, above all, plenty of texture; I have a deep-seated and possibly irrationally enthusiastic distaste for anything that smacks of "drinking my dinner."

(Exceptions may be made for large bottles of Cabernet, if they are accompanied by snacks made of cheese.)

The classic grilled-cheese-sandwich-and-tomato-soup combination has always failed to excite me, mostly because I find tomato soup so dimensionless. It can be spicy, yes, or herby or rich or velvety, but there's no ... well, chew.

Don't even get me started on smoothies. If I don't need my teeth, it's not food.

This soup, on the other hand, hit all the right notes—chunky and hearty and satisfying, and certainly NOT possible to be consumed with a straw. The recipe, adapted from Food & Whine (genius), has all of the spicy warmth that I love from the coconut soup at my favorite local Thai restaurant, with a few surprising additions—lemongrass, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce—that keep you with your head buried in the bowl.

I picked up a packet of cilantro in the fresh herbs section of the grocery store before coming home to find out that I would have to surrender my gold star for reading comprehension for the day. It was actually something called "culantro," marketed as having a similar flavor to cilantro but the shelf life of a much more robust herb. I ... sorta hated it. The flavor was lovely, to be sure, but the cactus-like spininess was off-putting.

Remind me to start that herb garden I keep not following through on.


Thai Chicken-and-Rice Soup
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups basmati rice
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sunflower oil, divided
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
4 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
2 tablespoons lemongrass paste
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup half & half
½ cup lite coconut milk
2 teaspoons red curry paste
1½ teaspoons chili paste or sriracha
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Garnishes: chopped cilantro leaves, sriracha

1. Bring butter and 4 cups water to a boil. Stir in rice and salt; cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 20 minutes. Remove rice to a large bowl.
2. Return pan to burner over medium heat, and add 1 tablespoon oil. Sauté mushrooms until just softened. Remove mushrooms from pan, and set aside.
3. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan, and sauté onion and bell pepper just until softened. Stir in reserved mushrooms, chicken broth, and chicken, stirring until heated through.
4. Stir in lemongrass, fish sauce, and Worcestershire sauce, and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in half & half and coconut milk; cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 2 more minutes.
5. Combine curry paste, chili paste, tomato paste, cornstarch, and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl; add to soup, stirring until it thickens slightly. Stir in 2 cups cooked rice, cover, and simmer 5 minutes.
6. Serve soup with remaining cooked rice; garnish, if desired. Makes 6 to 8 servings.


*lake effect.


As a personality, I tend to get attached very quickly, fervently, and loyally to things—people, places, pets, situational comedies about three post-menopausal women living together in Miami with a wise-cracking octogenarian—and when I first tasted this pizza, I knew I was a goner.

The recipe is the brainchild of one Foodimentary Guy, née JBSH, who has a habit of throwing ingredients against a wall and seeing what sticks that I often admire. (Less so when he does whackadoodle things like putting mayonnaise in the mashed potatoes. Gack! Sorry, Foodimentary Guy ... )

Picture it: a late-summer afternoon. A day spent treading water in a fruitless effort to mitigate the 12,000 calories of Lake-A-Ritas (TM) consumed since lunch. Happily tired muscles and lightly pink skin. Time screams by, as it does on Sundays, racing toward return to the mainland, and the work week, and the grind. The dogs can barely muster the energy to wag their tails or lift their heads as you pass by, and the shadow cast by the boat's awning says it's almost time to hit the road. Half-hearted packing, some hurried but ultimately disappointing calculations (is there any way to stay another day?), and it's time to face the truth: The weekend at the lake is over.

That's when this came out of the kitchen. We huddled around it like delighted starving people—eating fast at first, because we didn't realize how hungry we were, and then faster still long after we'd become full, because we didn't want to lose a single bite to any of the other grabby hands in the room.

Since then I've wanted to attempt to re-create it, knowing that it really lives only in the Foodimentary Guy's brain and even then maybe only vaguely—it's the sort of meal that just happened organically, putting a little of this delicious with a little of that amazing until you end up with a pizza that haunts your dreams.

OK, enough hyperbole.


The "recipe," such as it is, relies pretty heavily on a local chain—Zoë's Kitchen—and its signature feta cole slaw. Unfortunately, my neighborhood Zoë's was fresh out of slaw, so I relied pretty heavily on some Internet research and some hope for the best, and tried to whip up my own. It was a passable substitute, but improved overnight, as the cabbage had time to soften a bit more under the weight of the vinaigrette.

Did the original Lake Martin version have bacon on it? I don't remember, but I assumed that with JBSH as its creator, that was a pretty safe bet. I ate the finished product by my lonesome, but shared the leftovers. I don't know how faithful anyone thought it was to that warm, peaceful, lakeside day, but I hope it was a reasonable enough facsimile.

I know it made me want a Lake-A-Rita (TM).


Chicken-Bacon-Cole Slaw Pizza
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ to ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 small head green cabbage, thinly sliced
8 ounces crumbled feta
8 green onions, chopped
1 (11-ounce) can Pillsbury thin-crust pizza dough
2 chicken breasts from a prepared rotisserie chicken, chopped
Ranch dressing, to taste
Provolone cheese slices
8 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled

1. Whisk together first 5 ingredients. Combine cabbage, feta, and green onions, and toss with vinaigrette. Chill cole slaw at least 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 400. Unroll pizza dough onto a lightly greased or foil-covered baking sheet; bake 5 minutes.
3. Toss chicken with 1 tablespoon ranch dressing. Remove dough from oven, and top with chicken mixture and provolone cheese slices; bake 5 to 7 more minutes or until edges of crust are golden brown and cheese is melted and bubbling.
4. Toss cole slaw with a little more ranch dressing, to taste, and top pizza with slaw and crumbled bacon. Makes 6 to 8 servings.


*love letter.

Read the rest here. It's like someone read my innermost thoughts and made them funny and matched them with entertaining doodles.

(Thanks to SuFin for the heads-up!)


*frank discussion.


This is a weird one, folks. Because I made hot dogs. Problem? I hate hot dogs.

I have no idea why—it's not a snobbery issue; I have well-documented proof that I adore all manner of trashy foodstuffs. It's not even a squeamishness issue. I know wherefrom hot dogs come, and it's not any scarier to me than a lot of the other pork products that I happen to adore.

There's something about the way a hot dog pops when you bite into it ... and that intense saltiness ... I shrug. Put them next to donuts and watermelon on the list of things I inexplicably can't stand. (This is a particularly frustrating reality for someone who is obsessed with the almighty sandwich. How can anything between two slices of bread be unwelcome on the Woodside?!)

I adapted these from In the Wabe, because it seemed like the least troublesome (I have never made hot dogs before)/most delicious (all things being relative)—baked, not steamed, and smothered in chili and cheese. I omitted the pickle relish because it's not everyone's taste, and substituted dill pickle potato chips because they are indescribably good.

To each her own!


Baked Chili-Cheese Dogs
8 hot dog buns
Light mayonnaise
Spicy brown mustard
8 all-beef franks in natural casings (I used Nathan's.)
1 (15-ounce) can chili with beans
½ small onion, diced
Colby Jack cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread hot dog buns with mayonnaise and mustard to taste. Top with hot dogs, and fit snugly into a 9- by 13-inch pan.

2. Divide chili among hot dogs; sprinkle with onion, and top with cheese. Cover pan with aluminum foil, and bake 45 minutes or until cheese is melted and buns are lightly crispy. Makes 8 servings.


*because it's been that kind of day.

It's Monday, everyone, which means a whole host of things—not the least of which is that I left my camera's USB cord at home, making photo transfer impossible. So to keep you company, I bring you a bit of much-needed fabulousness courtesy of Swanson Vineyards, which has a super kicky, fun Web site design.

And some perfectly lovely, cheeky varietals.

Now if only they could ship to the Woodside ... Silly Bible.


*mouth, watering.

Scanwiches is a collection of "scans of sandwiches for education and delight."

What an incredibly good idea.


*blog love.

I can't get enough of the sweet, how-to baking illustrations over at Diamonds for Dessert. (And oh my word, the PENGUINS!)

Now all I have to do is learn to bake. And draw. And find time to blog while getting a major in biology and a minor in French. Thanks for not setting the bar too high, Susan.


*um, scuse?

How do I not own this?



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I am a work in progress. I perpetually need a hair cut. I'm totally devoted to my remarkable nieces and nephew. I am an elementary home cook and a magazine worker bee. (Please criticize my syntax and spelling in the comments.) I think my dog is hilarious. I like chicken and spicy things. I have difficulty being a grown-up. Left to my own devices, I will eat enormous amounts of cheese snacks of all kinds.