Believe it or not, I’m not a huge fan of eggplant. It seems weird, given that I love most vegetables, but eggplant has always been on my “meh” list.
I think it has to do with the texture. I like when it’s mashed up into a dip or one of my favorite Indian dishes, baingan bharta. But I don’t like it when it’s grilled and the skin gets crisp, or when you sauté it and it gets slick and slippery.
Before I turn you off eggplant forever, let me tell you about this Eggplant Parmesan. It will make even skeptics like me eggplant believers. I made it the other night for dinner and my boyfriend and I loved it. It was even better the next day for lunch. The flavors had a chance to meld and the eggplant was even more tender.
I think the reason why I like this dish so much is it sets eggplant in the background. Yes; it’s a major ingredient, but the real star is the sauce and cheese. The sauce is made from tomato passata, which is kind of like tomato sauce but without all the additions and seasonings. You add those later. The recipe, which is from Mimi Thorisson’s “Old World Italian” cookbook, includes basil, garlic, and onion, so you get a lot of flavor.
For the cheese, I’d recommend grating a ball of Mozzarella instead of buying the pre-shredded stuff. There’s something about the flavor and texture of fresh(er) Mozzarella that is more authentic and Italian than the stuff in a bag. You should also opt for a higher-quality Parm. Paying attention to little details like this will elevate the dish to Italian restaurant status.
One other tip for making this Eggplant Parm: Try to get as much moisture out of the eggplant as you can before you start cooking. The recipe recommends that you slice the eggplant, sprinkle them with salt, let them sit for 30 minutes, then pat them dry. This works, but I think the eggplant would have fried even better if I left them in salt for an hour or more. Eggplant has *a lot* of moisture, so you want to get as much out as you can.
Here’s a song to get you started on your Eggplant Parm journey. It doesn’t really have to do with Italian food, but I heard it the other day and it really summarizes my perspective as of late.
I love holiday eating as much (maybe more) than the next person, but there comes a time when my stomach/mind/body needs a break. Cue: these banana bread breakfast cookies.
They’re vegan AND gluten-free, they taste great, and they don’t make you feel like you’re missing out on anything. I made them for Sunday brunch and they were a welcome palette cleanser after days of nonstop chocolate and cake.
You can sub in peanut butter for almond butter in these cookies, and you can also use a different kind of gluten-free flour like oat flour. I really like spelt flour in these cookies, though. They give the crumb a little heft and the flavor pairs well with banana and cinnamon.
My favorite part of these cookies are the walnuts inside. They’re really only a small part of the recipe, but they give the cookies a little crunch and a buttery flavor when you bite into them. I’d highly recommend using them, but pecans wouldn’t be a bad substitute if you’re out of walnuts.
Here’s a song to get you started on your banana bread cookie journey.
Banana Bread Breakfast Cookies
1 Tbsp ground flaxseed 3 Tbsp water 1 cup spelt flour 1 1/2 cups rolled oats 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 1/2 tsp fine sea salt 1/4 cup chopped walnuts 1/2 cup almond butter 1/4 cup maple syrup 1/2 cup mashed banana (I used 2 medium) 1 tsp vanilla extract 2 Tbsp melted coconut oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Set aside.
Combine the ground flaxseed and water and set it aside to thicken for five minutes.
Stir together the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon, and sea salt in a large bowl. Fold in the walnuts.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the almond butter, maple syrup, banana, vanilla extract, coconut oil, and ground flaxseed mixture. Fold in the dry ingredients until the dough is just combined.
Use a cookie scoop to scoop the batter onto the baking sheet in rounded mounds. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly brown on top. Allow them to cool on the baking sheet for five minutes and then place them on a wire rack to cool the rest of the way. Enjoy!
*Once the cookies are completely cooled, you can store them in an airtight container at room temp.
The weather in St. Louis the past two days has been dreary, to say the least. Yesterday there was freezing rain and today was foggy and overcast. When it gets like that, there’s only one thing to do: Make chicken pot pie.
I decided to take a shortcut and make a biscuit chicken pot pie. It’s great because you don’t have to worry about rolling out a top layer of dough for topping. You make a quick dough and use an ice cream scoop or cookie scoop to drop biscuits on top of the filling. It’s quick, easy, and delicious.
The filling was so good, but the chive biscuits definitely made this dish. They exceeded my expectations, which is hard to do as far as biscuits go. They were light and fluffy and perfect browned and crispy on top. They soaked up some of the filling without getting soggy or mushy. I might make them again on their own to eat with eggs and bacon.
Feel free to add some veggies to your pot pie if you want. My boyfriend said my version was great but every pot pie has potatoes, which I didn’t know and still don’t agree with, but whatever. I guess everyone has their preference. I used carrots, celery, peas, and pearl onions, and I was very happy with the result.
Here’s a song to get you started on your chive biscuit chicken pot pie journey. I love Dolly Parton.
Chive Biscuit Chicken Pot Pie
for the filling: 4 cups chicken stock 3 carrots, peeled and diced 2 ribs of celery, diced 16 pearl onions, fresh and peeled or frozen 6 Tbsp salted butter 6 Tbsp all-purpose flour 1 clove garlic, smashed, peeled, and minced 2 Tbsp dry white wine 4 cups diced, cooked chicken 1 cup frozen peas 1 tsp finely chopped thyme (optional) salt and black pepper to taste
for the biscuits: 2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 tsp kosher salt 1/4 tsp ground black pepper 1 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp baking soda 8 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cubed 1/2 cup finely chopped chives 1 cup buttermilk
First, make the filling. Heat the chicken stock with the carrots, celery, and onions. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and then let it cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Once it’s melted, add the flour and stir constantly for two minutes. Add a few ladles of stock including the vegetables, and whisk constantly until the mixture is smooth. Then gradually add the rest of the stock, stirring after each addition. Let the mixture cook for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and white wine. Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and stir in the chicken, peas, thyme (if using), salt, and pepper. Taste and add more salt and pepper as you see fit.
Transfer the mixture to a shallow baking dish and place the dish on a baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Then, make the biscuits. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, salt, pepper, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the butter and mix on low until the butter forms pea-sized pieces. Add the chives and buttermilk and mix until the dough comes together.
Use an ice cream scoop or cookie scoop to evenly distribute the biscuit dough over the top of the pot pie filling. Bake the pot pie for 30-35 minutes, or until the filling is hot and bubbly and the biscuits are golden brown on top. Enjoy!
Today, I had my first hot chocolate of the season. I usually wait until it gets really cold outside to have my first hot chocolate. I’m not sure why, but I think having it be really cold outside makes me appreciate warm, liquid chocolate even more.
Plus, by this point I have a bunch of mini marshmallows left over from the sweet potato casserole I made for Thanksgiving. They’re just waiting to be used up in a big cup of hot chocolate.
My recipe is pretty straightforward and can be doubled or even quadrupled, depending on the audience. It’s also easy to swap in different kinds of milk and chocolate, so if you’re a vegan or you have other dietary restrictions, roll with what makes sense for you.
The one obligatory step of making this hot chocolate is putting mini marshmallows on top. Some people are more a fan of whipped cream, but people…have you ever had mini marshmallows? The whipped cream melts in two seconds, but the marshmallows hold their shape for a while. I like to eat them off the top in all stages: (mostly) intact, starting to melt, and almost liquefied. Drinking hot chocolate has never been so fun.
Here’s a song to get you started on your hot chocolate journey.
My Go-To Hot Chocolate
1 cup milk (I used 2%) 1 Tbsp cocoa powder (I used Askinosie) 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar 2 Tbsp chocolate pieces or chips a drop or two of vanilla extract mini marshmallows for topping
Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat and whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar, whisking until the mixture becomes warm but is not boiling. Whisk in the chocolate pieces and continue to whisk until they’re completely melted. Remove the pan from heat and whisk in a drop or two of vanilla extract. Pour into a cup or mug and top with mini marshmallows. Enjoy!
Peanut butter blossoms are my favorite holiday cookies to make. Soft peanut butter cookies, sweet Hershey’s Kisses, and a crunchy exterior rolled in sugar…I could go on and on.
The best part about making peanut butter blossoms is putting the Hershey’s Kiss on top. To do this, you take the cookies out of the oven before they’re done baking, lightly press a Hershey’s Kiss in the middle, then bake the cookies for a couple more minutes until the kisses adhere to the top.
When you put the kisses on top, you want to create slight cracks in the cookie. This might be nerve-wracking at first because everything in your experience tells you not to crack cookies before they’re done baking, but just go for it. It’s strangely cathartic once you get the hang of it.
I like to make my cookies small so I can just pop them in my mouth one at a time. But if you like your cookies a bit larger, just roll the dough balls into two-inch mounds and spread them a bit farther apart on the baking sheet so they don’t run into each other while they’re baking.
Here’s a song to get you started on your peanut butter blossom journey.
Peanut Butter Blossoms
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 1 tsp baking soda ½ tsp fine sea salt 4 oz butter, at room temp 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling 1/2 cup light brown sugar 1 large egg, at room temp 1 Tbsp whole milk 1 tsp vanilla extract one package of Hershey’s Kisses, foil removed
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper and set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, peanut butter, sugar, and light brown sugar. Add the egg, milk, and vanilla and beat until well blended. Slowly add the flour mixture and beat until it’s combined with the wet ingredients.
Form the dough into one-inch balls by rolling little pieces in your palm. Roll the balls in granulated sugar and then place them two inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake the cookies for about seven minutes, then remove them from the oven and gently place a Hershey’s Kiss in the middle of each other, pressing down lightly so the dough cracks a little. Place the baking sheet back in the oven and bake the cookies for two more minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool slightly before placing on a wire rack to cool the rest of the way. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Enjoy!
I’m all about using up my Thanksgiving leftovers. Usually this means lots of turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce, or maybe even turkey noodle soup. But this year, I went the sweet route and made these cranberry corn muffins.
These muffins are heaven. I am not exaggerating. They have a little crunch from the cornmeal, they’re sweet and tart with homemade cranberry sauce, and they’re light and pillowy inside. I’ve been eating them for the past three days for breakfast and I’m not sick of them yet.
I used whole milk to make these muffins but feel free to swap in another kind. I’m not sure how a plant-based milk will work, but I bet buttermilk or low-fat would produce just as tender a crumb.
Also, if you don’t have homemade cranberry sauce, I’m sure store-bought or canned will work in a pinch.
You can eat these muffins on their own, or you can split them in half and spread a little butter and jam or extra cranberry sauce on top. They’re especially good with a cup of coffee on the side.
Here’s a song to get you started on your cranberry corn muffin journey.
Cranberry Corn Muffins
1 cup medium grind yellow cornmeal 1 cup all-purpose flour 1/4 cup granulated sugar 1 Tbsp baking powder 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1 large egg at room temperature 1 cup whole milk 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled 1 cup leftover homemade cranberry sauce
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a 12-cup muffin tin. Set aside.
Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg, milk, and butter until combined. Whisk in the dry ingredients. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a spatula to fold in the cranberry sauce.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin. Bake the muffins for about 15 minutes, or until the tops spring back to the touch. Enjoy!
If you’re like me, the last thing you want to do the Monday after Thanksgiving is think about how much you ate Thursday-Sunday. Still, I think many of us reminisce about the delicious pies and meals we ate, if only to get us through the rest of the work week.
Plus, it’s “Pandemic Monday,” as I saw someone say on Instagram. We could use a little Thanksgiving nostalgia. We can concentrate on the quality of our food, not the quantity.
Which brings me to these Thanksgiving pies. I’ve made a pie for Thanksgiving for the past five or six years. It started with me using a frozen crust and making the filling, and not correcting my grandma when she incorrectly assumed I made the crust and complimented it, to actually making everything by hand. There’s no shame in not making your own crust, but I find pie making therapeutic. It’s a struggle at first, but once you get the hang of it, it can be very relaxing, kind of like knitting is for some people.
This year, I decided to make a chocolate bourbon pecan pie (pictured below). I was only going to make this pie because I was cooking for two, and I didn’t think we needed two pies for two people. Then I realized we absolutely needed two pies. I couldn’t skip making pumpkin pie. Even though I prefer chocolate bourbon pecan, pumpkin will always hold a special place in my heart.
Making two pies instead of one is easier in a lot of ways, too. Most crust recipes make two crusts, so you end up with two, anyway. Most ovens also fit two pies and they bake at about the same temp, so you can just pop them in and get both out of the way at once.
If you don’t want to make two pies at once, though, you can always roll out both crusts and freeze one for later. The thought of having spontaneous pie sounds really appealing, especially as we head into the gloomy winter months.
I used Nicole Rucker’s recipe for buttery pie crusts from her cookbook, “Dappled,” but you could use any crust to make these pies. Just make sure you blind bake the one for the pumpkin pie, because that one tends to get soggy if you bake the crust and filling together.
Some tips for pie baking: 1.) About halfway through baking, put a pie of aluminum foil on top of the pie. This will prevent the crust from getting too done. 2.) Use glass pie tins so you can see the bottom as it bakes. Once the bottom is as golden brown as the crust, your pie is probably done, or at least close to being done. 3.) Don’t be scared of a jiggly center of a custard-based pie (like pumpkin). It will eventually firm up as it cools.
If you want step-by-step instructions for these pies, visit my Instagram page and click on my “Baking III” story.
Here’s a song to get you started on your pie journey. Have I mentioned how much I like Kelly Clarkson’s Christmas album?
one pie crust, rolled out, fitted to a pie tin, and chilled in the fridge 450 g butternut squash or pumpkin purée, homemade or canned 3 large eggs 250 g light brown sugar 1 Tbsp cornstarch 1/2 tsp fine sea salt 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 1/2 tsp ground ginger 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg 1/8 tsp ground cloves 240 ml heavy cream 60 ml whole milk
Whisk the pumpkin, eggs, and brown sugar in a bowl until combined. Add the cornstarch, sea salt, ground spices, and milk, and whisk vigorously until combined.
Par-bake/pre-baked your prepared and chilled pie crust for 10 minutes at 375 degrees F. Make sure to put beans or pie weights on top of parchment paper to weigh down the crust as it bakes.
Once the crust is done baking, fill it 3/4 of the way with the pumpkin filling. Bake the pie for about an hour, checking at 50 minutes and then every 5 minutes after for doneness. You want the middle to be slightly jiggly but almost set. Place foil on top of the crust about halfway through so the crust doesn’t burn.
Allow the pie to cool at room temp for at least 2 hours, and then refrigerate afterward. Enjoy!
Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie
one pie crust, rolled out, fitted to a pie tin, and chilled in the fridge 96 g light corn syrup 96 g light brown sugar 2 eggs, room temperature 2 Tbsp butter, melted 1/2 tsp salt 1 Tbsp vanilla extract 1 Tbsp bourbon 320 g chopped pecans (roasted & salted are best) 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk together the corn syrup, brown sugar, eggs, warm melted butter, salt, vanilla extract, and bourbon in a large bowl. Mix in the chopped pecans and chocolate and stir to combine. Transfer the filling to a prepared pie crust, smooth the top with a spatula, and bake for 50 minutes, placing foil on top about halfway through.
Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool at room temp for at least two hours. Refrigerate any leftovers or if you’re saving the pie for the next day. Enjoy!
I don’t know about you, but I pretty much always have a half-used container of ricotta cheese in my fridge. I’m not sure why…I mean, yeah, I use it in pasta recipes sometimes, but most of the time I find it after a week and it feels like it came out of nowhere.
Yesterday morning, I decided to use some up to make these lemon ricotta poppy seed pancakes. Lemon ricotta and lemon poppy seed are two of my favorite combinations, so I figured, why not combine them in one pancake?
If you’re looking for light, fluffy pancakes, these are them. They’re like little lemon clouds. They’re so fluffy that they almost spring back when you cut into them.
The texture comes from the ricotta, but also the whipped egg whites. I’m a big fan of making pancakes that call for whipped egg whites because they usually have a lighter texture. My absolute favorites are gluten-free ones from the Cannelle Et Vanille cookbook, but these are a close second.
I like to top my pancakes with a healthy pour of maple syrup, but feel free to top yours as you wish. I bet some blueberry syrup or fresh blueberries would also taste good on top.
If you want a step-by-step visual of how to make these pancakes, visit my Instagram and go to my “Breakfast II” story.
Here’s a song to get you started on your lemon ricotta poppy seed pancake journey.
Lemon Ricotta Poppy Seed Pancakes
1/2 cup ricotta cheese 6 Tbsp milk (I used 2%) 2 eggs, separated zest of one lemon 6 Tbsp all-purpose flour 1/4 tsp baking powder scant tablespoon of granulated sugar pinch of salt 1/2 Tbsp poppy seeds unsalted butter for frying
Mix the ricotta cheese, milk, egg yolks, and lemon zest in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet, then whisk in the poppy seeds.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites on medium high speed until they form stiff peaks, about two to three minutes. Use a spatula to gently fold the egg whites into the pancake batter.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and melt a couple tablespoons of butter. Pour about 1/4 cup batter into the skillet to make one pancake, making as many pancakes as can fit comfortably in the skillet. Turn the pancakes once little bubbles appear and pop on the tops, then flip and fry the other side until the pancakes are set and golden brown. Repeat with the rest of the batter.
It’s starting to feel like winter outside, so it’s time to amp up the Vitamin C and A. I’ve actually been feeling healthier this year (aside from seasonal allergies), but it never hurts to boost your reserves ahead of cold weather.
I love this juice because it’s sweet, tart, and spicy at the same time. It makes the most of produce that you probably have lying around in the fridge and haven’t used up yet.
It also makes the most of good-for-you spices like turmeric and cinnamon. A dash of ground cayenne brings it all together.
An ingredient in this juice that may make you say, “huh?” is almond butter. However, don’t despair. The last step of the recipe calls for blending pressed juice with a tablespoon of almond butter, some honey, and the ground spices. The almond butter thickens the juice a bit and adds some depth of flavor. You can’t really taste it, to be honest, but you know it’s there because it gives the juice a smooth, thick texture.
I didn’t expect to love this juice as much as I did, but after I took a sip, I was hooked. I’m going to make it every week now through the winter to boost my vitamins. It’s a great alternative to green juice if you’re sick of that or need a change.
Also, if you’re looking for a juicer, I’d highly recommend Hurom. I got one from them on sale over the summer and I used it almost everyday. It’s great throughout the year, but especially during the spring and summer when a lot of fresh fruit is in season.
Here’s a song to get you started on your carrot grapefruit juice journey.
Over the weekend, I started craving something healthy-ish for breakfast. I usually make a big brunch on Sunday with pancakes, eggs, and bacon, but I was coming off a week of vacation where I basically ate hot dogs and nonstop barbecue, so I wanted something lighter.
Cue: These carrot cake muffins. They’re moist (had to use that word, even though I hate it); full of good stuff like flax seeds, walnuts, shredded apple and carrot; and they have plenty of fall spices like cinnamon and ginger. Also, they have lots of brown sugar and golden raisins, so you still get sweetness even though there’s a healthy dose of savory ingredients.
I was a little worried about how these would taste because of the abundance of healthy ingredients, but I was pleasantly surprised. They had the perfect amount of sweetness and were not too heavy, so I felt like I could have two with a cup of coffee. This morning I had one with a homemade chai latte and it hit the spot.
I’m storing my muffins in an airtight container in the fridge and microwaving them every morning to make them last longer, but feel free to freeze them if you want. Then you can heat the oven to 350 degrees F, pop them in for about 10 minutes, and you’ll have a freshly baked breakfast.
Here’s a song to get you started on your carrot cake muffin journey. I’m *slightly* obsessed with the new Kylie Minogue album, and surprisingly, so is my boyfriend. He knows a good bop when he hears it.
Carrot Cake Breakfast Muffins
200 g carrots, peeled 1 medium apple, peeled 65 g light brown sugar 40 g chopped walnuts 75 g golden raisins 70 g sunflower seeds 40 g whole flaxseeds 2 tsp ground cinnamon 1/2 tsp ground ginger 1/2 tsp fine sea salt 2 tsp baking soda 3 large eggs, at room temp 140 g grapeseed oil (or another neutral oil) 2 tsp pure vanilla paste or extract 253 g sifted whole wheat flour
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray and line a 12 muffin tin. Set aside.
Grate the apple and carrots and add them to a large bowl. Toss in the brown sugar. Stir in the walnuts, raisins, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, ground spices, salt, and baking soda.
In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, and vanilla. Add it to the carrot mixture and mix until it’s combined. Fold in the flour to this mixture until you can’t see the flour anymore.
Use an ice cream scoop or spoon to spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 22-23 minutes until the tops of the muffins spring back to the touch. Let cool in the pan for a few minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool the rest of the way. Enjoy!