Summer Party Eats

Summer Party Eats

Summer Party Eats

Even though it is already October and I’m supposed to be Basic B*&^%ing it up with #PSLforLife, I’m still thinking about summer eats.  This Tucson “cold spell” with a high of 90 degrees isn’t exactly parka weather.

I was in a weird cooking rut all summer.  I realized part of the reason for the rut was that I was relying on too many tried and true recipes and it was making me bored.  Part of my creative outlet in the kitchen is trying new techniques, ingredients, and recipes.  It helps when I get some wins.  I’m all about less effort and maximum impact but on the other hand, happy to put in the work to yield an excellent result.  Long story short, I have tried some of the things on my long “to make” list and it was worth it, I’m much more excited about getting into the kitchen.  Also, making my husband fire up the grill more regularly definitely takes some pressure off me.

A few weeks ago, we had some lovely friends over and I wanted to make a cocktail.  I had suspicions that my friend may be pregnant, so I was sure to have it in alcohol free components.  Using this tequila watermelon cocktail recipe as a guide, I made a watermelon juice (easy- cut up watermelon, run in the food processor, strain), added lime juice, and simple syrup on the side.  WITH TEQUILA, Of course!!!  We had this salsa on the side, which I make a lot.  It is so easy, inexpensive, and more delicious than most store options.  To start off, we had the pioneer woman’s 7 layer dip.  There are tons of variations on this, and I don’t include black olives because yuck (in this context).

I was feeling wild, so I made chocolate cake.  This is my favorite chocolate bundt.  It has all my requirements for a yummy homemade cake: buttermilk, oil (butter dries it out), and cocoa powder.  It’s remarkably easy for being quite a show stopper of a dessert.  We had other things, but I’m not sure how I feel about the meat dish.  It was ok, not the best.

Cornbread Tamale Pie

Cornbread Tamale Pie via Bon Appetit

Cornbread Tamale Pie via Bon Appetit

I get a lot of inspiration from other people’s nostalgia.  The uniting bond that ties you back to your ancestors.  I’m really a mutt, a southern girl born of a New Yorker and a midwesterner.  This means that I really didn’t experience some southern food until adulthood. I just didn’t growing up eating it.  However, as someone who is always combing the internet for delicious things to eat, I was particularly taken with this article in Bon Appetit about the best thing the author, Rochelle Bilow, ever ate.  It sounds like she was quite a pill when she was younger and avoiding vegetables at all costs.  I don’t think I was that bad, but I had my share of weird avoidances: onions and mushrooms anyone?  Anyway, the recipe she provides isn’t much, so after making it on my own, I decided to memorialize it for you.  This is surely a crowd pleaser. I have a few picky eaters in my midst and they will be eating this for sure.  I’m including my favorite cornbread recipe too, it is just the best.  Everyone loves it.  I know sugar means its for yankees and I’m ok with that!  Bon Appetit!

Cornbread Tamale Pie


1 lb grass fed ground beef

1/2 large onion, chopped

2 red or green bell peppers, chopped

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp ancho chili powder

1 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes

1 10 oz can tomatoes with chilis (rotel)

salt and pepper, to taste


Get out your cast-iron skillet and brown the ground beef with the onions and peppers.  Break up the meat into small pieces.  As the fat releases, add the spices and simmer 1-2 minutes until fragrant.  Once the veggies have softened, add the tomatoes.  Simmer it all together, then slather on your favorite cornbread batter.  Cook 22-30 minutes, until the cornbread is done.  The cornbread will take less time than if it had been in a pan because the meat heats it from the bottom and the skillet is already hot.

Green Chili Cheddar Cheese Cornbread

1/2 stick butter, melted

1 4-oz can diced green chilies

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup all purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 (heaping) cup grated sharp cheddar cheese


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Melt butter in a large, microwave safe bowl.  Separately, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, cheese, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Add the chilies, buttermilk, and eggs to the melted butter and mix well to combine. Add the dry ingredients and fold until just combined.  Don’t overmix, it will cause tough cornbread!

Pour batter into a greased 9 inch casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown OR use on top of your Cornbread Tamale Pie, reserving a little for a greased ramekin, to prevent spillover.

Quick Sautéed Cabbage and Hurricane Sandy Anniversary


Day to day, my cooking has evolved to fit certain criteria: nourishing, leftovers that stand up, and [obviously] must be delicious.  It would be remiss for me to not mention a fourth criteria, the dish can’t break the bank. A couple years ago, I stumbled on Lucinda Scala Quinn’s cookbook Mad Hungry, which has a fabulous Shredded Sautéed Cabbage recipe  .  It was so delicious (ding!), nourishing (ding!), and since it was cabbage, inexpensive (ding!ding!ding!).  It was the gateway to cooked cabbage in our house.  Those times when the grocery budget gets a little full of itself and I have to pull back, this recipe often finds itself on the top of the list.

We were happy to eat this budget saving dish until a little storm called Hurricane Sandy swooped in.   We ate it a bunch.  Like, it was our only source of vegetables for several days.  That and eggs was the most nourishing thing in the house.  I am a total brat and in times of stress, I kind of tend towards the sugary end of things or nothing.  When we ran out of chocolate {I was popping that Theo chocolate] and I was whipping up our fourth meal of cabbage and eggs, no amount of red pepper flakes and hot sauce was going to get me to eat it.  I went on a hunger strike.  Yes, I lost weight during Hurricane Sandy (don’t get out the world’s tiniest violin, some people lost everything and I know that my suffering was minimal).  Soon enough after I began my strike, I heard the glorious rumble of a bus coming down the street.  It was time to get out of Hoboken.  We hopped the bus and went to stay with family in Connecticut.  Thank goodness for family.

If you are ever confronted with a power loss from a natural disaster, I would recommend the following tips to include in your prepartion:

  1. Find a real list like this one to use for real, and then come back to this list (hoarding water, canned food, batteries, medicine, etc.).
  2. Find the playing cards ahead of time [we never found ours, monopoly for DAYS]
  3. Stock up on eggs as I assume they can be at room temp for a few days without killing anyone. [science]
  4. Also, stock up on fruit, veggies, and protein sources that can be room temperature (jerky from Steve’s PaleoGoods is yummy).
  5. Junk food must be stocked up.  This is not a time for a diet.  The chips that you love, get enough and then double it.  The candy that you love, get enough and triple it.  YOU CANNOT HAVE ENOUGH CHOCOLATE FOR STRESS EATING!!!
  6. Stock up on your favorite booze that can be served at room temp.  [see above remarks about chocolate]

I wouldn’t be smiling if I knew what was ahead!

I’m not really joking about the list but, in seriousness, one year ago, Hurricane Sandy hit my little town of Hoboken, NJ pretty hard.  Nate and I were lucky, but others weren’t.  The town has worked hard to rebuild and I was proud to be part of the community during that time. People came together, pitched in and helped eachother out.  We got to know our neighbors better and had a good time doing it.

I leave you with another cooked cabbage recipe.  It is even simpler than Quinn’s recipe and it includes butter!  Believe it or not, a small amount of butter makes a huge difference.  We had this on the side with chili on a cool day and the creaminess from the butter softened the sharpness of the chili.

Sautéed Cabbage

Adapted from Ina Garten


1  head white cabbage, including outer green leaves (2 1/2 pounds)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


1.  Using a large, sharp knife, cut the cabbage in half and, with the cut-side down, slice it as thinly as possible around the core, trying to keep the pieces less than 1/4 inch wide.

2.  Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the cabbage, salt, and pepper and saute for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender and begins to brown. Season, to taste, and serve warm.

Broccoli, Kale, and Sausage Soup

So, what’s new?  It’s been a bit wild in my world.  In a nutshell, I graduated from law school, studied for and took two bar exams, moved, and drove across the country.  Needless to say, it has been a time of madness.  However, one thing that I always return to is cooking.  After that cross country road trip, we were ready for some healthy homemade meals.  This may have been in part due to the fact that I did not turn down a tortilla chip (we have  a long standing relationship, ya know) or a dish of salsa one time on the trip (read more about the trip here).  Also, when you study for the bar exam, you may want to eat only nachos for every meal.   So, maybe a few veggies needed to be on the horizon.

I turned to my old favorites:

And then a few new ones:


Ok, it’s not much to look at.  I don’t know how one would photograph it to make it look appealing.  So ugly it’s cute.  Perhaps.  However, in keeping with my desire to pull back a little, especially with Thanksgiving around the corner, it has been the perfect meal.  Sometimes I have an apple with it and sometimes Nate and I split an avocado on the side.

Note: this makes a TON of soup.  I would cut the broccoli in half if you want less soup.  Of course it all depends on how your grocer packages the broccoli but I used the stem in this soup since it all gets pureed in the food processor.

Broccoli, Kale, and Sausage Soup

Adapted from Stacey London’s Broccoli, White Bean, and Sausage Soup

  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large heads of broccoli (florets chopped; stems peeled and chopped)
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 pound spicy chicken sausage, sliced
  • 1 bunch kale (cut into 1/2-inch ribbons)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • red pepper flakes, to taste


Place a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil and then toss in the onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until just translucent. Add the broccoli and again season with salt and pepper.

Pour the chicken stock over the broccoli and bring up to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the broccoli is fork tender.

Let cool slightly and then transfer, working in batches, to a blender. Cover the blender with a towel to ensure it doesn’t splatter, and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Meanwhile, place another heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the sausage and brown on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes.

When almost completely browned, add the kale. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.

Pour the broccoli soup in the sausage and kale and stir to combine. Let cook for one to two more minutes to let the flavors meld. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then serve while hot.

Thanksgiving: Sides But Not An Aside

So yesterday, we talked about the turkey.  However, I am in the minority in caring the most about the turkey. Most people care the most about the sides!!  I have tried a lot of different sides.  I am including some sides that I think would work really well on Thanksgiving but I haven’t done on the day.  It’s good to consider the fact that the oven will be tied up with Mr. Turkey.  Mark Bittman has a fantastic list of items that can be made ahead of time.  I plan to try the delicata squash with apples and bacon (number 45) this weekend.

Recently, I have been making butternut squash soup in the crock pot.  It is so easy!!! Peel and cube the squash, cut up an onion, throw it in with a can of coconut milk (I use full fat) and your choice of seasonings (you could use thyme, curry or whatever your imagination).  Cook on high for 3-5 hours.  If the squash is tender, you are done.  Puree it in the food processor or blender and tada!!  I think this would be great for Thanksgiving because you could then put it back in the crock pot at warm and serve it to your guests.  Also, since it is not in the oven, you don’t run into the dreaded overcrowded oven issue.

  • I made these Sweet Potato Biscuits from A Cozy Kitchen last weekend with poached eggs and hollandaise.  These biscuits are a lovely orange hue, are soft and tender, and have the wonderful flavor from the sweet potatoes.   A fantastic accompaniment to the Thanksgiving bounty.
  • Are you avoiding dairy or carbs?  Garlic and Herbed Mashed Cauliflower from the Primal Palate is fantastic.  No, it does not have the same flavor as the dairy and butter laden mashed potatoes but I think it is a comforting option.
  • On the Paleo note, the Apple and Pork Sausage Stuffing from Balanced Bites is amazing.   However, this year, I have my sights set on PaleOMG’s Caramelized Onion and Sausage Stuffing.
  • While I have not made this version of a Sweet Potato Casserole,  I trust How Sweet It Is implicitly and it is for sure on my list of must makes!!
  • I did not grow up with the “classic” green bean casserole but I have made recipes that are spin offs, the Pioneer Woman really outdid herself on this one.  It could be a meal in itself!  It is very rich, so plan accordingly.
  • However, if you must go down the green bean casserole route, I would try this one.
  • One spring, I made a turkey and made this Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad from Joy the Baker.  I really liked the flavors and it was a very different way to incorporate Brussels sprouts into a special meal.  Avocado?!
  • If you are more of a traditionalist, you really can’t go wrong with the Cooks Illustrated technique for brussels sprouts.  Have it ready to roll into the oven when that bird comes out!
  • Finally, you can easily make this Bourbon Vanilla Cranberry Sauce from Eat Live Run the weekend before the big day.  Bourbon?  Vanilla?  Sign me up.

Tomorrow?  The best for last.  Dessert.  Stick with me people.