In my life, I haven’t experienced another relationships like the one between a dog and their humans. Can you imagine what life would be like if we got as excited as they do when our favorite person came home from work, or asked us if we wanted to take a walk with them? They forgive our bad attitudes and forget the grumpy mornings. They just want to be around us. Their tails flap excitedly when we walk into the room. They love us so much.
It was our best dog’s birthday the other day. He turned twelve. We tried to return some of the love he has shown us for all these years with treats and homemade cookies. And we let him dictate the plan for the day, which meant everyone lounged around until like 6pm then got hyper and went for a walk.
I winged it with the cookies. I’m not a baker, but sometimes I try. I’ve baked enough that I’ve got a general idea of what to do to make a cookie. Still, it’s still a bit of a guessing game.
I wanted to incorporate some of Brando’s favorite things: bacon, cheese, and peanut butter. We don’t have a lot of flour left, so I did without. I made oats into oatmeal. And I used egg whites to bind it all together.
Brando ate his cookies while we watched the tiger show. Are you watching it? I can’t decide if I’m glad that we did. I guess it’s given us something to think about besides the Coronavirus. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
(Singing and clapping) “THIS IS YOUR BIRTHDAY SONG. IT ISN’T VERY LONG.” Happy birthday Brando. We love you a lot!!
Peanut Butter Bacon and Cheddar Dog Cookies
Yield: 40 small cookies
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups water
1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
3-4 tablespoons egg whites
2 1/2 tablespoons bacon grease (or olive oil)
1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese
Pre-heat the oven to 300°F with an oven rack in the middle position.
Cook the oats and the water in a medium-sized saucepan until the oats have softened, about 10 minutes.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, egg whites, and bacon grease. Then add the cheese. Fold in the cooked oats and mix until combined.
Using a spoon, drop the dough onto un-greased baking sheets, about 1 1/2 tablespoons per cookie. Leave a bit of space between cookies, but they don’t need too much. Bake until the cookies are set and a bit browned, about 35-45 minutes, rotating the pans every 15 minutes. Cool for 5-10 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely, about an hour.
There’s a little more time to think these days. Sometimes my brain gets overrun with thoughts about the what-ifs, the economy, the future. This is weird. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It’s the only thing we want to talk about. For good reason. I’ve been trying to distract myself with cookbook writing, furniture rearranging, and, as our supplies dwindle a bit, using what we have well, and returning to a lifestyle where we’re making things from scratch again.
We usually have a well stocked pantry. I rely on things like beans and tuna and pasta. I love having jars of homemade jam, dilly beans, and dill pickles to get us through winter. And I almost always have at least one extra jar of Sir Kensington’s Chipotle or Sriracha mayo on hand. A few weeks before COVID-19 became a pandemic we stocked up a little more. We set aside some food in a plastic bin that we can grab and take with us in an emergency. There isn’t a can opener in there, so we have no way to eat it. But, it’s there if we need it. And between the pantry and what’s in cold storage, I think we could eat for two or three months using just what we have on hand. I think many people have done the same. Our pantries are stocked. We’re ready to ride this thing out at home. But, what to do with all those supplies now that we’re here… There’s the open can, eat with spoon option. Provided you didn’t forget the can opener. But, maybe we could try something a little more fun?
Today, we had Black Bean and Cheese Quesadillas. They could be eaten as a very basic quesadilla. Beans, cheese, tortilla, and something to dip them in. Great. But, you could also make them into something more.
To start, Tim made the flour tortillas from scratch. We are ruined. We should never buy store bought tortillas again. You can use corn tortillas too. Either way you’re winning.
We mashed up some black beans with some taco seasoning (Tim makes this from scratch too) and a pinch of salt. Easy. You could switch it up and use pinto or cannellini beans or even chickpeas.
We added colby and cheddar cheese. You could use queso fresco or try a great vegan cheese if you like. I like colby for the meltyness and cheddar for the taste. If we had pepper jack I’d add that for some spice.
Leftover chicken, pork, or beef? Add it. Some crispy bacon left from BLTs? Perfect. I wanted leftover chicken in these quesadillas. But, we didn’t have any. Next time.
Jarred roasted bell peppers? Good idea. Scallions that are getting a little wilty in the fridge. Do it. Onions and fresh bell peps? Sauté and add.
Leftover rice from dinner last night? Reheat it and mix it in with the beans. Oh! You made chili for dinner? Plomp it onto the tortilla and top it with cheese. Save the cans of beans for another time. Fold. Heat. Done.
Have a little leftover cream cheese and no bagels to eat it with? Smear it on the tortilla before you top it with the beans. Add a little sprinkle of garlic powder for good measure.
There are a million ways to quesadilla. And a zillion ways to use your pantry treasures for good. Oh, and if you feel like you may have over bought, our local food banks are hurting right now. So, grab some sanitizer wipes, clean those cans, find your local food bank, and drop them off (while you know, social distancing) and help someone in need.
I’ve got lots more ways to use those pantry items creatively. If you want help, send me an email at email@example.com. I always love to talk about menu planning.
Black Bean and Cheese Quesadillas
8 (8-inch) cooked flour or corn tortillas (for ours, Tim used the recipe for flour tortillas from America’s Test Kitchen’s Bread Illustrated cookbook. There’s an almost identical recipe here.)
1 1/4 cups mashed black beans
1 1/2 teaspoons taco seasoning
1/8 teaspoon salt (Morton’s Kosher)
1/2 cup grated colby or pepper jack cheese
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
additional goodies: meat, rice, roasted bell peppers, scallions, green chiles, rice, cream cheese etc…
Re-heat anything that needs to be very hot (like meat and rice), or cook any fresh veggies or meat that you want to add. Set it aside.
Mix the black beans with taco seasoning and salt. Heat it over low until it’s hot, and then mash well. Divide the beans and the cheese between the tortillas. Top half of a tortilla with the black bean mixture and top with a bit of each type of cheese. Add any of the additional goodies, then fold the un-topped side of the tortilla over the topped side.
Heat a skillet over medium. Add the quesadillas and cook, flipping once, until the tortillas are browned and a bit blistered, the filling is hot, and the cheese is melted.
A great paring for these quesadillas is corn chips with some homemade guacamole, made with avocados that you bought last week and forgot about.
Monday was a very bad day. Tuesday morning started out kinda the same. Remnants of the crappy yesterday had stuck around. I hadn’t been this angry about something in a while.
My response to crisis is usually food. Food is comfort. That can lead to mindless eating. But, sometimes it leads to a really good breakfast that makes for a better start to the day.
I had cereal for lunch with zero plans for dinner. But, at least breakfast was good.
I started it simply, with chopped bell pepper and some minced cayenne pepper from the garden. I don’t know why they didn’t turn red. But, the seed pack said cayenne, so that’s what they are.
You could add a million other things in there too. Leftover potatoes, chopped onions, broccoli, leftovers from last night’s dinner… pretty much any veggies you think would be great probably will be.
After the peppers cooked in some oil for a few minutes I added some beans. I had pinto on hand. Yum. Black beans would also be great. And if all you have are kidney, or cannellini, use them! Why not?!
After the beans got hot, I added some whisked eggs. To keep it vegan, add in some crumbled tofu. Easy.
I took a pic of the tortilla being topped. It looked not amazing. The eggs had turned a bit grey from being cooked with everything else. If you want them to look amazing and yellow, scramble them separately. And then wash that extra dish. Yeah. No thank you. Less dishes is always the best option.
I laid out the tortillas, topped them with a handful of cheese, then the bean mixture. I used a mixture of cheddar and monterey jack, but if you’re going vegan, my favorite is Violife (just like cheddar or just like mozzarella shreds are great!). They got rolled up and then, the best part. A clean skillet with hot oil, cook that burrito on all sides until it’s shatteringly crisp. Yes please!
For topping or dipping, I like avocado with a bit of salt, and some sour cream. Tim likes salsa. Some people might like cilantro or some diced tomatoes.
However you serve them, they’re pretty quick and easy and make for a great start to the day.
Yields 3 burritos
1 tablespoon oil (I used grapeseed)
1/2 of a medium-sized bell pepper, diced (could also use: onion, cooked potatoes, cubanelle pepper, broccoli… whatever you have on hand)
1/2 of a small hot pepper (I used cayenne), ribs and seeds removed, minced
pinch of salt
1-14 ounce can of beans (pinto or black), drained
4 eggs or half a brick of firm tofu
a little more salt
sprinkle of chili powder
handful of shredded cheese for each burrito, vegan (I like Violife) or conventional (I like a mixture of cheddar and monterey jack)
3 burrito-sized tortillas (whole wheat, white, or gluten-free)
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the bell pepper, hot pepper, and any other veggies, and a pinch of salt. Cook until the veggies are tender, about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beans and cook until the beans are heated through, about 4 minutes.
Whisk the eggs, or crumble the tofu, in either case, with a pinch of salt and a sprinkle of chili powder. Add to the skillet with the beans and cook until eggs are set or tofu is hot (or you can cook the eggs separately if you want them to stay yellow – have fun washing that extra pan). Taste for seasoning.
Top each tortilla with some cheese. Divide the bean filling between the tortillas and roll them up.
In a clean skillet, add a bit of oil and crisp up the burritos, turning until they’re golden brown and delicious.
Today didn’t go as I’d planned. I had some work that I was supposed to do. It didn’t happen. Not by choice. But then, I got to choose to not be frustrated. Do you hate the expression “It is what it is”? I know some people do. But, sometimes, it’s really the only thing that works. I could be mad that things didn’t go as I’d planned. I’d organized my week accordingly. Instead, I got to have a low key day. I watered the garden and gave the dog a long drink from the hose without hurry. I listened to the sound of food cooking in the skillet. I had a glass of wine at 4pm while I washed the dishes. It was a good day.
I had intended to make these enchiladas for dinner tomorrow. But, they looked too good to wait. I have our meals planned for the rest of the month. For tomorrow, now I have no idea. It might be tater tots dipped in chipotle mayo. Or sushi from the grocery store (our chef is amazing). Maybe cereal. I’ll worry about that tomorrow. For now, I’m here, and this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.
I always want to hurry into the future, only to get there and want to move on to the next thing. Ever since I was a kid… I don’t know that I’ve enjoyed as much of the present as I could have. Until this summer. For the first time, maybe ever, I’ve been here, in the now.
I don’t like summer. I hate hate hate being hot. Sweaty is for workouts, but not for regular living. Humidity could leave forever and I’d be glad. I’m sure it’s great for my skin. Whatev. I don’t like that so many tourists come to here. I mean, I get it, it’s important for the economy blah blah blah… Many of them are quite lovely yada yada yada. But, it’s busy, it’s loud, it’s claustrophobic. I like quiet and cold. I like the hibernating times more than the big, busy, social events. I like a small, but meaningful life… And, I don’t like summer.
Everyone likes summer. Especially around here. But, every once in a while I’ll come across a kindred spirit who can’t wait for the chill of autumn.
This year, I’ve embraced it. Summer and I became friends-ish. It could be that it’s easier now that we live somewhere with seasons. I know it’s not going to be hot forever. So I can enjoy it while it lasts. There’s something to be said for weekends spent in the garden, glass of rosé in hand, nose in a book. For watering the garden, and then pointing the hose heavenward and gasping as the freezing water hits my skin. I found joy in summer this year. I’m glad it’s feeling more like fall, but summer was more than ok.
When we lived in Burbank, I missed things like soup in the summer. Because summer lasted for like ten months. This year, I didn’t think about it at all. I was too busy eating green beans in the garden. This summer we discovered pizza on the grill. We don’t want to turn the oven on, but who can go three months without pizza?! Solved that one. But, then I made an amazing potato chowder the other day. And I was ruined. Summer can be over. I’ve made soup again.
Today, I wanted enchiladas. I had a jar of salsa verde in the pantry that needed to not be in there anymore and a frozen plomp of ground turkey taking up the bacon’s space in the freezer. Seemed like it was time. The oven, alas, was ready to turn back on.
Enchiladas start with humble ingredients: onion, bell pepper that has seen better days, white beans, and salsa verde from Arcadia’s Kitchen.
The salsa is delicious. And sooooo spicy. I used only two tablespoons in the filling and I could feel the heat. I was originally going to make just salsa verde enchiladas. But, I wasn’t sure if our faces would burn off if I added enough to make a sauce. So I added some tomato sauce to balance it out. It was perfect. Spicy, but not too.
We’ve discovered a company called TortillaLand that makes fresh tortillas. They contain five ingredients and are ready to cook. We haven’t bought regular tortillas since we found these.
Enchilada assembly isn’t difficult. Scoop some filling on a tortilla. Fold in the ends and then roll it up. Or don’t fold in the ends and just roll it. I did a pan of each. I poured some of the tomato-salsa verde mixture into the bottom of the pan, added the rolled enchiladas, then poured the rest of the sauce overtop.
Once I topped everything with cheese, they went into the oven. It’s just the cheese that needs to melt and the sauce that needs to bubble. The filling is already hot, so twenty minutes was perfect.
I had two problems with this dinner. I finished cooking at like 3:30pm, because I wanted to photograph with the natural light. So I took a bite, cooled them down, then reheated them for later dinner. Second problem, I’d eaten all the sour cream a few days ago. I’d def add some to this. It would help with the heat from the salsa verde, and it just tastes good. Tim thinks I use a weird amount of sour cream on tacos and enchiladas. But, I like it. So I use what I use, and sometimes then I don’t have enough for my spontaneous blog post. But, it is what it is. Right?
Red and Green Enchiladas
2 T oil
1 pound ground meat (I used turkey)
2 1/2 C bell peppers (about 2), chopped
1 C onion, chopped
1-15 oz. can white beans
2 T salsa verde
8 fresh tortillas
1/4 C salsa verde
1 C tomato sauce
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t salt
stock or water
1-2 C grated colby jack cheese
toppings: avocado and sour cream
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the oil. Add the meat and cook until it’s cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Add the salt, bell pepper, and onion. Cook until the veggies are tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the beans and 2 tablespoons of salsa verde. Cook until the beans are hot, about 2-3 minutes more.
While the filling is cooking, cook the tortillas in a separate skillet, keeping them warm once they’re done in a clean tea towel. In a 2 cup measuring cup, stir together 1/4 cup salsa verde, 1 cup tomato sauce, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Then fill with stock or water up to the 2 cup line.
Taste the filling and add more salt if needed. Pour a few scoops of the salsa verde-tomato mixture into the bottom of a 9×13 (or around that size) pan. Divide the filling between 8 tortillas. Roll them up and place them into the pan. Top with the remaining filling and sprinkle with cheese.* Bake until sauce is hot and cheese is bubbly and browned, about 20 minutes. Let them cool and set for a few minutes, then serve topped with avocado and sour cream.
*(The enchiladas can be cooled, covered, and frozen at this point. I prefer to use a metal pan if freezing. It can go right into the oven from the freezer – take plastic wrap off and cover the pan with tinfoil. From frozen will obviously take longer to bake than the original. Give it an hour-ish and check it on your instant read thermometer to make sure it’s come to a safe temp. If not, bake it some more.)
Summer is a season I just want to get through. It’s hot and muggy and buggy and I don’t like any of that. I’m trying to enjoy it as much as a person like me can. But, if I’m honest, I’m really just waiting for fall.
There are some perks to summer. My garden is thriving… Ok, my kale is thriving and the potatoes went crazy. Everything else is still mini. I dunno why. I’ll take the kale though. I have plans for a kale pesto on some savory pancakes. The garden provides a place for simple summer meals. At this time of year I feel like I need less food and more drinks. Makes sense. The produce that’s available right now is more water-laden than its winter friends. Think zucchini compared to butternut squash. Both delicious, but who’s craving winter squash right now?!
Last week I made Tired Spaghetti. It was a simple and easy meal for a tired workday. It had burst grape tomatoes, garlic, chickpeas, pasta water, cream, Italian Hot Salt, Kosher salt, and pepper. I cooked the pasta while the tomatoes did their thing in some olive oil. Then I added some pasta water to the tomatoes and other saucy ingredients. I drained the pasta when it still had a bit of a bite, and let it finish cooking in the sauce. It was exactly what we needed that night.
Today, I’m sitting at the kitchen table to work. On days like this, lunch needs to be quick and filling enough that I don’t need a snack break twenty minutes after I eat. Our fridge is stuffed with food… but it’s mostly condiments. I don’t know if we really need a whole shelf of jars of mayo, pickled veggies, and different varieties of Asian sauces. But, somehow we can’t bear to part with any of them. So we shrug our shoulders and use them up bit by bit.
I have some mayos by Sir Kensington’s that I really love. I eat the Sriracha and Chipotle mayos most days. Usually I stand at the counter and shove fistfuls of corn chips dipped in both mayos into my face. If we don’t have dinner planned and started as soon as we get home from work, this is what I eat. And I usually eat so much that I’m not hungry when dinner is ready. It’s a problem.
This morning I planned our menu for the next two weeks. But, I forgot to plan something for today’s lunch. I almost gave in and just ate corn chips and mayo. It would have tasted so good. But, I saw the eggs and corn tortillas and figured that with a little bit of effort I could make something a little bit more substantial.
It was really good. I’ve got the basic recipe below. But, it’s more of a use what and however much you want kinda thing. So, do that.
Scrambled Egg Tacos – Serves 1
pat of butter
pinch of salt
2 corn tortillas
pinch of grated cheese for each taco
1 French breakfast radish, very thinly sliced
chopped chives or scallions
Heat the tortillas.
Heat a skillet and add the butter. Whisk the eggs with a bit of salt (you can add a splash of water/milk/cream to them too). Add them to the hot pan and cook until they’re softly scrambled. Don’t overcook them!
Top each tortilla with a scoop of eggs, some cheese, either or both types of mayo, some radish slices, the chives, and a few Maldon salt flakes.