All About Me, Chickpeas

I cook to please my family nearly everyday. I make them the breakfasts, lunches and dinners they love because I love them, and I want them to be happy. But some days… some days I need to cook for myself. And sometimes they eat what I make for myself and call me the next Julia Child. And sometimes they do not. Sometimes they complain and grimace over what I serve them… (sigh)

The other night I had a craving for something “exotic”. Coconut milk, warm Indian spices, ginger and garlic. Throw in some chickpeas and serve it over brown rice— yummm! This combo sounded absolutely perfect to me, like soul satisfying food. I was going to make it and who knows, maybe it would actually end up appealing to my family as well. Maybe they would discover that exotic was delicious. Maybe.

I’m happy to say that it was great (well my husband and I thought so anyway). The kids weren’t exactly on board with curried chickpeas, but ya know what? That was okay with me. Sometimes making a dish purely for my own enjoyment is gift enough.

Curried Coconut Chickpeas
This can be served as a side dish or a meatless meal. I often eat it with brown rice, but it’s also delicious with a couple of eggs the next morning or even over salad greens.

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, grated
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. Indian curry powder
1/2 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
1 can lite coconut milk
cilantro, for garnish
brown rice, for serving

  1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion, ginger and garlic for 8-10 minutes, until the onion is transparent.
  2. When the onion is ready add the spices and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until they become fragrant.
  3. Add the coconut milk and bring to simmering. Then add the chickpeas and allow to simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until sauce has thickened.
  4. When cooked allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with cilantro and serve over brown rice.

*adapted from vegan dad

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Candied bacon…I’m all shook up!

Over dinner one night many years ago, a friend made an out of the blue declaration that “bacon was the perfect food!” Naturally we all laughed and have continued to joke about the perfect food ever since. But the more I think about it the more I think this friend of ours may have been onto something. What would Quiche Lorraine be without bacon? And how sad would that BLT sandwich be without good ol’ bacon? Not to mention my roasted brussels sprouts or mashed turnips. Yes, in-fact I’m beginning to think that bacon may be just a bit more important (and versatile) than it’s been given credit for.

I recently started planning my Easter dinner menu (yes, I do realize it’s still four weeks away!) So perhaps it was just a coincidence or maybe it was predestined, but while flipping through cook books the other day I stumble upon a recipe for Candied Bacon Brownies. “Candied bacon brownies…” I thought to myself “…that’s a crazy good idea! But way too decadent, too rich and too over the top to actually bother to make.” And so I moved on. Then a few days later the Today section of the paper had a recipe for an escarole salad topped with candied bacon.

Seriously, what are the chances of candied bacon popping up in my life twice in a matter of days? I took it as a sign.

I immediately liked the idea of using candied bacon as a garnish, it would allow you to enjoy the salty/sweet aspects of the bacon but not be overwhelmed by it. Since I had already planned to serve my spinach salad with sliced strawberries and goat cheese on Easter, sprinkling a little candied bacon on top seemed like a no-brainer! Now to come up with a more decadent use… I imagined that a combination of chocolate and candied bacon might literally cause some folks to swoon. But I also thought that it would be so rich that any more than a single bite would be too much. So I decided that instead of brownies or even cookies I would make… fudge. Yup, Candied Bacon Fudge. Sounds like something Elvis would have eaten doesn’t it?

Okay, so let me tell you what I’ve discovered about candied bacon… It’s pretty damn delicious! It was a great addition to my spinach salad (actually I can’t believe I ever thought the salad was good without it!) and it turned already delicious fudge into something a bit more special.

Candied bacon doesn’t belong everywhere, but it definitely has its place in my cooking repertoire.

Candied Bacon
I know this sounds like a crazy idea but it really is delicious, and surprisingly versatile. It kicks a plain old BLT up a notch, is great along side a couple of eggs and tastes pretty fantastic eaten all by itself.

1/2 lb. thick cut bacon
1 cup dark brown sugar

  1. Preheat oven the 350°F. Line a jelly roll pan with foil and place a cooking rack in the pan, set aside.
  2. Put brown sugar in a container with sides (something long enough to allow you to lay a slice of bacon out flat). Add bacon, one slice at a time and dredge in the brown sugar. Put the sugar coated strips of bacon on the rack and repeat until all the slices are done.
  3. Sprinkle a little additional sugar over the top of the strips and put into the preheated oven.
  4. Bake for 15-25 minutes (depending on thickness of bacon), turning the pan half way through. When the sugar has melted and the bacon is looking browned and crispy, remove it from the oven.
  5. Immediately peel the bacon off of the rack and lay it flat on a sheet of waxed paper to cool a bit.
  6. Use the candied bacon as a garnish on salad, alongside your favorite breakfast meal or as the “are you insane?!?” addition to chocolate fudge.

*adapted from lords of bacon

Spinach Salad with Strawberries, Goat Cheese and Candied Bacon
This is a great springtime salad and the addition of candied bacon makes it perfect. Feel free to change the toasted nuts to whichever kind you like most.

8 oz. fresh spinach leaves
2 oz. goat cheese
several slices of candied bacon, crumbled
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

  1. In a large bowl create a bed of fresh spinach. Top with sliced strawberries and toasted almonds.
  2. Pinch off small bits of goat cheese and distribute over salad. Sprinkle crumbled candied bacon over everything and serve with your favorite vinaigrette.

Simple Dark Chocolate Fudge
This is my standard chocolate fudge recipe. If you have a favorite of your own or prefer milk chocolate, feel free to modify the recipe.

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 stick unsalted butter
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (60% cocoa)
1/2 tsp. vanilla

  1. Line a 8×8 brownie pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan combine sugar, evaporated milk and butter. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the marshmallows, chocolate and vanilla. Stir until the marshmallows and chocolate are melted and the mixture is smooth.
  4. Pour the fudge into the prepared pan and chill for several hours, until it’s firm.
  5. When the fudge is set lift the parchment out the pan, gently peel it off the block of fudge and cut into squares. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator.

Candied Bacon-Dark Chocolate Fudge
I know this seems like a crazy idea but I have yet to have a single person try this say it wasn’t delicious. Rich, extreme and they couldn’t possibly eat more than one piece, but delicious.

1/2 lb. of candied bacon
1 batch of dark chocolate fudge (your favorite recipe or mine listed above)

  1. Place half of the prepared fudge in the bottom of an 8×8 brownie pan lined with parchment paper.
  2. Lay the strips of bacon on top of the layer of fudge, making sure to press the bacon down to eliminate air bubbles.
  3. Pour the remaining fudge on top of the bacon and chill for several hours, until firm.
  4. When the fudge is set lift the parchment out the pan, gently peel it off the block of fudge and cut into squares. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator.

*adapted from the kitchn

A Side of Broccoli (with a Twist)

We eat a lot of veggies around here. Some, such as broccoli and sweet potatoes, everyone will generally eat without complaint. Others, like string beans or cooked carrots require a bit of cajoling. But even I, the broccoli lover of all broccoli lovers gets tired of the same old steamed version week after week.

Faced with the prospect of another boring broccoli side dish I took to the internet to find something better. It turns out that roasting was the answer I was searching for! I discovered that most every celebrity chef seemed to have a roasted broccoli recipe; including Martha, Ina and Alton, but that no one recipe seemed quite perfect. So as I am known to do, I did a bit of tweaking, took a little something from each recipe and came up with a version of my own.

My Roasted Broccoli with Garlic and Lemon was delicious! It turned ordinary broccoli into something fresh and interesting. Roasting really mellowed the broccoli flavor, the finely minced garlic caramelized and became mild and sweet and finishing the dish off with the lemon juice and zest really gave it a fresh clean bite.

After this tasty version I’m not sure my family will never settle for plain ‘ol steamed broccoli again. But then I guess I only have myself to blame…

Roasted Broccoli with Garlic and Lemon
My family is crazy about garlic so I added quite a bit. However if yours
is not, feel free to cut back on it.

broccoli4

2 pounds broccoli crowns
6 garlic cloves, finely minced
5 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. grated lemon zest
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Pour the olive oil into a small bowl and add the minced garlic and salt. Let the garlic seep and flavor the oil while you prep the broccoli.
  3. Cut the broccoli florets from the large stalks and separate into bite size pieces. Peal the remaining stalks and cut them into bite size pieces as well.
  4. Place all the broccoli into a mixing bowl and toss with the olive oil/garlic/salt mixture. Spread the broccoli out on a sided sheet pan large enough to hold it in a single layer.
  5. Roast for 15 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of of the florets have begun to brown and caramelize.
  6. While the broccoli is roasting quickly toast the Panko crumbs in a skillet, being careful not to burn them. Set aside.
  7. When the broccoli is finished roasting sprinkle it with the lemon zest, grated cheese, Panko crumbs and lemon juice. Give it a gentle toss and serve.

Hello world!

My name is Jan Greco, welcome to my kitchen…

I come from a long line of women who show their love through food. It’s probably not a coincidence that my interest in cooking really took off after my son was born. I don’t consider myself a “foodie”; in my opinion that term rings of pretension and elitism. Rather I’m a girl who enjoys making and eating good food. I love going to the farmers market with my family on Saturday mornings and I just recently discovered the joys of raised bed gardening. So if you’re like me and enjoy shopping for the ingredients almost as much as preparing the meal, then greetings soul-sister. (But be forewarned… If we should meet in the store one day and both reach for the last wedge of Wensleydale, I’m not above throwing elbows to get it!) However having said all that, if store brand is the best you can do, then that’s perfectly fine by me as well. I think the act of cooking; the time, thought and care that you put into creating something delicious for someone you love is more important than using the finest San Marzano tomatoes or Madagascar Bourbon vanilla.

I’ve been told in the past that I should open a restaurant or start catering, which made me think “maybe I actually do have something interesting to say about food and some recipes to share.”  My plan for this blog is to post weekly about the kind of food I enjoy thinking about, preparing and eating. Food that’s simple, delicious and looks much more involved than it actually is.

In my mind the perfect example of simple, easy and delicious would be a salad of roasted beets, toasted walnuts and creamy blue cheese.

And so a blog was born…

Roasted Beets with Walnuts and Blue Cheese
I often make this salad with a mix of golden and purple beets,
but it’s just as delicious if you choose to use all purple instead.

2 1/2 lbs. of beets
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 cup walnuts, toasted

  1. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Remove the greens from the beets, scrub well and place in the center of a sheet of aluminum foil. Gather sides of foil together to make a little beet package and place on a baking pan or cookie sheet. Roast beets until a fork easily pierces them, approximately 1 1/2-2 hours.
  2. While beets are roasting toast the walnuts and set aside. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard and salt.
  3. Once the beets are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut into small wedges.
  4. Gently toss together the beets and blue cheese and add in the walnuts (breaking up any overly large pieces). Drizzle with vinaigrette (you may not need it all), give another gentle toss and serve immediately or chill.