De Ma Cuisine

Kitchen Basics Archive



September 2015



Grocery Shopping

Written by , Posted in How To, Thoughts


I love to plan. Making lists is fun, checking things off a to do list is satisfying, and figuring out my grocery list is rewarding. Last year I worked on a series about menu planning. There are three parts: the reason, the menu, and the staples to have on hand. Now it’s time to tackle the grocery list.


I like to have my grocery list written out in the order that I will find things in the store. I find that I miss less when I do it that way. Plus I save time in the store, as I’m not running from one side to the other, or standing in each aisle scanning the list to see if I need anything. I think I get it from my mom. I seem to remember her lists were always written out this way.


When we were first married, our budget didn’t allow for much in the grocery department. Not a lot has changed since then, so I still plan our menu and grocery trips the same way that I always have.

As I’m planning our menu I will make a list of the things that we have on hand. You know, rice, pasta, beans, veggies etc. I will combine those with what’s coming in the weekly Abundant Harvest Organics box. As the days get filled up with things to eat, I will see what’s missing from our pantry, and add it to the grocery list. As the list fills up, I will keep an eye on the week’s grocery budget. We usually have some staples (like milk, cheese, and eggs) that take priority. They’re the things that I can’t make or grow myself. After that, I’ll take things off or add them based on what’s left in the budget. Some weeks are smaller than others, and I get to be creative with what we eat.


Like I mentioned earlier, I like to organize my list based on the layout of the store I will be shopping at. Some stores are organized a little more by category than others, so I’ve got two list options for you.

You can use these lists (just download and save the photos), or you can download one of the many grocery list apps onto your smartphone. I don’t have one to recommend, sorry, I’m a pencil and paper kinda gal. I know, it’s old fashioned, but I prefer it.


I find that keeping the grocery budget balanced with the overall budget is the key for keeping from overspending. And the key to keeping the grocery list in check is to plan the menu ahead of time. This is my idea of a fun way to spend an hour or two… for real!

Happy Eating!

Hand lettering on the grocery list done by Tim Oberg.



August 2015



How to Make Delicious Packable Lunches

Written by , Posted in How To, Lunch, Thoughts


Oh lunch. The oft neglected middle meal. How often do we eat in a hurry at our desks, eat a squished vending machine sandwich, or forget to eat altogether? Admittedly, I don’t forget to eat all that often. I’m usually thinking about the next meal while I’m eating the current one. It’s just the way I operate. But, if I have nothing planned or prepared, I will eat chips and salsa, or cold leftovers standing at the kitchen island… anything to ward off the hunger pangs.


I try to have our meals planned a week ahead of time. Not just dinners, but breakfasts and lunches too. Helps my days to run much smoother when things are planned ahead of time. Food is defrosted when I need it, groceries are added to the list, and there’s food to take to work or eat at home for lunch.


Whether I’m making a lunch for Tim to take to work, or something to be eaten at home, I like to include something filling – a main of sorts, along with some raw fruits and veggies. Today’s lunch was Taco Salad, using some of what we have on hand: lettuce, tomato, cucumber, black beans (spiced up with some chili powder and salt), shredded cheese, corn chips, Greek yogurt, and salsa. To go along with that was some cut up cantaloupe and watermelon, and a whole plum.

Here are some other ideas for lunches that can be packed and enjoyed no matter what you’ve got going on at lunchtime.

Hot Lunches for the Work Week



Rice and Bean Burritos or leftover Beef and Bean Enchiladas with Greek yogurt and salsa

Carrot sticks

Fruit – whole or in chunks as a salad (stone fruit, apple, pear, persimmon, pomegranate, melon, figs)


Spicy Summer Squash and Tomato Soup


Fruit – whole or in chunks as a salad

or Chicken Noodle Soup

Roasted Veggie Sandwich (leftover roasted veggies, like eggplant, summer squash, onions, peppers – with mustard or mayo – or both, on a baguette, with fresh tomatoes and olives)

Fruit – whole or in chunks as a salad

or Kohlrabi Stew

Ham and Cheese Sandwich

Fruit – whole or in chunks as a salad



Tuna Melt (bring the prepared tuna in a separate container, top bread with tuna and cheese, place on a pan in the toaster oven and cook until hot and melty)

Vegan Fruit Crisp


Fish Wellingtons

Creamy Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Fruit – whole or in chunks as a salad


Mediterranean Veggies and Rice

Salted Chocolate and Roasted Fig Pudding

Cold Lunches for the Work Week



Artichoke Heart Dip with raw veggies for dipping (carrots, celery, radishes, artichoke leaves, snap peas, green beans, fava beans, bell peppers, fennel, mushrooms)

Chunks of bread or crackers with cheese

Nuts and seeds

Hard boiled eggs

Fruit – whole or in chunks as a salad


Eggplant and Summer Squash Tacos

Melon and Feta Salad


Bean and Veggie Mélange atop rice/quinoa/bulgur wheat, leftover crispy or baked potatoes (cold or reheated), or toasted bread (rub a bit of raw garlic on it, add a sprinkle of salt, and a drizzle of olive oil before you top with the mélange)

Whole Wheat Parsnip Cookies


Massaged Kale and Tuna Salad

Apricot and Black Pepper Galette


Taco Salad (use leftover Bean and Veggie Mélange to top lettuce, add some cheese, corn chips, chopped tomatoes, Greek yogurt, and salsa)

Vegan Fruit Crisp

These lunches don’t have to be limited to the grownups. Summer is drawing to a close, so school lunches will need to be packed. The kiddos might enjoy a break from PB&J (although let’s be honest, I still love a good PB&J sandwich for any meal). Depending on the level of pickiness, you may want to tweak them a bit. I don’t know if the little ones will enjoy a Massaged Kale and Tuna Salad… although they may surprise you. 😉 You can take the general idea and make it your own. Maybe even come up with a fun saying for each day, so they’ll look forward to their lunch (like Taco Tuesday – come up with a four week rotation for different types of tacos). You could let them help pack their lunches too. They might take pride in being able to help put it together the night before, making them look forward to eating it at noon.

However, wherever, and whenever you enjoy your lunch…

Happy Eating!



June 2015



How To Use Fennel – From Bulb to Fronds

Written by , Posted in Fennel Pollen, How To, Thoughts, Vegetables


I’ve done a lot with fennel recently. It’s one of those veggies that I’ve had a difficult time with in the past. I’m not a huge fan of licorice, so it was tough to find a way to use it that I enjoyed.

It’s been a good challenge. I think I’m winning. Fennel is no longer on my dislike list.

The Fennel Fronds


They’re great on most any fennel dish, but also in places where you’d like just a hint of fennel flavor. Add them to salad dressings (especially ones with lemon), top parmesan crostini with a few fronds, or serve a bean soup topped with a squeeze of lemon and some fennel fronds.


I used them the other week on Fennel Pizza (along with the bulb). To me, they taste like mild fennel and the heat from the pizza subdued them even more.

The Fennel Stalk


The stalk is a bit more like celery – kinda tough and fibrous. So I like it best in things like soups and stews where it will cook for a while.


It was a fabulous addition to a Chicken Noodle Soup that I made a few months ago. I’ve also added it to things like Vegan Tofu Fried Quinoa and it would be great in stir fry, where things like celery would normally be added and the veggies are kept kinda crunchy.


It also worked well in a Veggie and Garbonzo Bean Shakshuka that I made recently. Everyone simmers and stews for a while, so they’re not so tough. The bulb could be used in place of the stalks, if you’re in a bit of a rush and don’t have time to wait for them to soften.

If none of these options work for you, just save the stalks to add to your homemade vegetable stock.

The Fennel Bulb


I’m not sure which is more favorite, the bulb, or the fronds. Both are versatile and taste great with so many things. I think the bulb might win because it can be roasted… but then the fronds can be chopped and used in a salad dressing… They both win.


I was looking through The Vegetarian Flavor Bible the other week and noticed that fennel pairs well with stone fruit. Who would have thought?! Not me. So I used it in a dish that I call Roasted Stone Fruit with Bulgur and Fennel. And let me tell you, the sweet, subtle flavor of the fennel worked really well with the stone fruit.


Since we’ve established that it goes well with bulgur wheat, I’ll also mention that I used it a few months ago with asparagus and mâche over some bulgur with a bright lemony dressing. It made for a fabulous spring lunch.


A few years ago I roasted it and added it to a pear topped Mac and Cheese. What a hit! And again, fennel and fruit, who knew?! I did that one for my cooking show. Another fennel episode came from experimenting with not just the fennel bulb, but fennel pollen. I came up with Crispy Veggies with Fennel Pollen Dipping Sauce.

Fennel Pollen


If you haven’t tried fennel pollen, it’s worth giving it a chance. It adds a certain “je ne sais quoi” to a dish. I’ve added it to Fennel Pollen Burgers (which, incidentally, would be great topped with some roasted fennel!), Salmon with a Garlic and Pistachio Cream Sauce, and Fennel Pollen Potatoes (the leftovers of which are perfect in Mahi Mahi, Fennel, and Potato Chowder).


And last but not least, fennel pollen with eggs… for breakfast in a Savory Baked French Toast or a Bacon and Feta Frittata. Because why not really?

Or maybe you want to get creative and make up your own dish to suit your tastes. According to The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, some things that fennel pairs well with are: peaches, dill, summer and winter squash, risottos, almonds, beans, goat cheese, parmesan cheese, ricotta, chickpeas, garlic, citrus, mushrooms, salads, arugula, onions, tomatoes, walnuts, apples, and vinegar… just to get you started. Feel free to leave a comment and share what you come up with!

Happy Eating!



May 2015



How to Use All That Summer Squash

Written by , Posted in How To, Thoughts


I love summer squash. Last summer I felt like I couldn’t get enough. So this year I planted some in my garden to supplement when I needed more. Turns out that I’m growing acorn squash. Either I planted the wrong seeds, or more likely, I pulled out the wrong volunteer plants that had grown from the compost. Ah well, at least it’s fun. And I’ve learned from my squash failure, so that’s a good thing. #freetofailSummerSquash-3

I know that not everyone is as crazy about summer squash as I am. And, for some, the season is long. You may start out loving it, super excited about the possibilities, and then run out of steam come July.


So here’s some help. Some of my favorite ways to use one of my favorite summer veggies.



One of my favorite things to do with just about every single vegetable, no matter the season, is to roast them. The other night for dinner I roasted a sliced squash, some sliced potatoes, and green beans. It was simple. I tossed them all with olive oil, salt, pepper, and cayenne, then spread them out on a baking sheet, and roasted at 400F for about 15 minutes for the squash and beans, 20-25 for the potatoes. Divine!

If you wanted to, you could dip them in the dip I use for Roasted Parsnips. You can slice them into rounds, or into sticks. Baking time will depend on how thick they are. If they’re too thin, just watch them carefully so they don’t burn. If you’re too lazy to roast them, or if it’s just too hot to turn on the oven, slice up the squash and dip it anyways. Who says they have to be cooked to be good?!

I also like them roasted and stuffed. I call them Zoo Boats. A couple of years ago I made them on A Cooking Show with Rachel O. They’re easy and delicious.

Baking – Sweets


Since their flavor is pretty mild, summer squash can easily be added to baked goods. The other week I made some cookies using parsnips and apples. I think summer squash (or summer squash and carrots) would be a great substitute for either or both. My mom used to add zucchini to a bread similar to banana bread. She called it “Zoo Bread”. We had no idea what was in there (or it tasted so good that we didn’t care).

For Breakfast


One of my favorite things to eat during the summer is squash with some sort of eggs. Squash could be sautéed in some olive oil, with salt, pepper, and cayenne, then scooched over to the size of the skillet so an egg or two can be fried. Serve that with some whole wheat zucchini cookies and you’ve got an easy breakfast.

I also love to quickly cook some squash, add a bit of cheese (so it can get a bit crispy), then scramble some eggs. Everything can be eaten as is, or wrapped with a tortilla and topped with salsa or Nopales Relish. Whether it’s Breakfast Burritos or Squash and Scrambled Egg Wraps, it’s a winner in my book.

Make a Salad


Salads are great vessels for all the yummy things. They’re no longer boring, just to be eaten as an afterthought. I know that not everyone considers a salad a full meal. If you need something else to go along with it, that’s absolutely acceptable. But, if you’re ok with a hearty salad, why not add some grated, sliced, or chopped summer squash to it?!

Tim especially likes it when Taco Salad is the salad that’s the meal. It’s hearty and full of goodies. If you’re in the mood for something a little lighter – on its own, or to go along with some grilled delights, I love a Simple Summer Salad. It’s one of those salads that is perfect for whatever’s currently in season.

If you’re in the mood for a picnic, a Tomato Corn and Quinoa Salad is perfectly hearty and filling, and of course, has summer squash in it.

Add It To Everything!


Making pasta for dinner? Add some summer squash to the onions and garlic. Grated or chopped, it doesn’t matter.

How about Tacos? Beef and Bean Enchiladas? Vegetarian EnchiladasTaco Soup? I add squash to all of them, pretty much every time.

In Stir Fry, squash can replace or be added alongside carrots, green beans, and snap peas. It can be added to Vegan Tofu Fried Quinoa. It can be sweet and spicy with lemongrass. It could be the star, not just a supporting taste, if it’s all that you have on hand.

It can be chopped and added to Chicken Pot Pie and Shepherd’s Pie.

It’s one of the main components of Fish Wellingtons.

It can even be added to pizza!


I hope that will get you through the season. And hey, if worst comes to worst, and you’ve still got too much squash on your hands bake some zucchini cookies and take them to your neighbors. Make a big pot of Taco Soup and invite everyone you know. Or slice them and toss ’em on the grill, alongside some eggplant, onions, and bell peppers, and serve them at a block party.

Happy Eating!



April 2015



My Top 10 Kitchen Hacks

Written by , Posted in How To, Storage/Prep, Thoughts

The more we do something, the more we know about it. It’s just that simple. I started cooking on a more regular basis when I moved away from home. I subbed for my roommate on her day off at the school we worked at a few times. My roommate was a trained chef. I was not. I’d learned a few things from my mom, who is also a great cook. But, I hadn’t done a lot of cooking.

So, I learned the hard way that you really should soak dried beans before adding them to the pot of Spicy Chicken Chili. It’s easier than having to pick them out by hand after you’ve added the beans. I learned about a year into marriage that putting hot soup into a blender and not removing the plug in the lid will result in the plug falling into the soup and blending with it. A clean tea towel over the hole in the lid works much better.

I’ve learned a lot over the years. And I’m so happy to be able to share these things with you!

Here, in no particular order, are my top 10 kitchen hacks:


1. Tea Towel in the Produce Drawer

I like to place a clean tea towel in the bottom of the produce drawers. I change it each week, and I think it helps cut down on moisture and mold. Plus, having to remove what’s still in the drawers each week lets me wipe out the drawers, and see what’s in there and make a note of what needs to be used up in the week’s menu.


2. Wrap Greens in a Tea Towel Before Bagging

I used to just pop the lettuce or greens into a zip top bag. That works fine if they’re going to be eaten quickly. But, sometimes we don’t go through it as quickly as I’d like. So, I started wrapping each head of lettuce (and chard, kale, collards etc…) fairly tightly in a clean tea towel, then putting it into the zip top bag (and sealing every few inches of the top). When I was photographing for this post I realized that I had three heads of lettuce in the fridge. One from March 24th, one from March 31st, and one from April 14th. They were still all edible – the older ones had a few leaves that went into the compost, but other than that, they were still good. I think that the moisture that the tea towel absorbs helps to delay the decay of the greens.


3. Compost Bowl in the Fridge

We’ve been composting for years, but it wasn’t until we moved into a home with a yard that we were able to really take advantage of it. One thing that I’ve always been great at is collecting fruit flies. So, I’ve started keeping a bowl in the fridge where anything compostable sits, sans flies. Our composter is just a few steps outside the door, so it’s not such a chore to empty it often.


4. Homemade Buttermilk

I don’t think I’ve ever bought buttermilk. It just seems like I’d have to buy too much for what I usually need. Instead, I pour 1 T white vinegar into the measuring cup and fill to the desired amount of milk (you may need a bit more vinegar if you’re doing more than 2 cups of milk). I’ve heard that lemon juice also works.


5. Boil Water with the Lid On

This one’s simple – when boiling water, stock, soups etc., they will come to a boil faster if the lid is on. Yeeeeeah science!!


6. Use Salt and Oil to Clean a Cast Iron

I usually just use a scrub brush and hot water to clean a cast iron. But, sometimes I forget to clean it right away and it sits. Or something just gets really stuck on there. What’s worked for me is some coarse salt (table salt works too), oil, and a paper towel or a clean rag. Scrub, scrub, scrub, then rinse and dry. Make sure it’s cooled down before you handle the oil soaked towel. That oil will get hot if the cast iron is still hot, and that hot oil will soak through the towel quickly.

Another cast iron tip – save one for sweet dishes only. That way, if you’re making pancakes or a cake, they won’t taste like onions and garlic.


7. Use a Tea Towel to Keep Your Cutting Board From Slipping

Ever start chopping only to have your cutting board slide away? Annoying and super dangerous. Many cutting boards come with non-slip feet, but I have a few that are older – warped by water and time, and they slide and tip. Placing them on a tea towel helps to eliminate both.


8. Cut the Bottom off Round Fruits and Veggies to Stabilize for Chopping

You know how it is, you set your potato down to chop it up and it rolls away. Since you’re probably going to slice a few bits off anyways (did you know that you can plant those eyes?), the simple solution is to slice off the bottom of the potato, giving it a stable bottom.


9. Designate a Cutting Board for Onions and Garlic

I love onions and garlic. I do not love it when I’ve cut fruit on what I think is a clean cutting board, but when I’m eating it, it tastes like onion and garlic. Nope. No thank you. So I have two cutting boards with a small X marked on the bottom. Those, and those alone, may be used for cutting onions and garlic. I use the same concept with my wooden spoons. Rounded spoons are for savory foods, squared ones are for sweet.


10. Score an Orange so it’s Easier to Peel

We’re just finishing up citrus season, but I’ve still got a fridge full of oranges. I find it easiest to peel them when they’ve been scored with a paring knife, or a special orange knife. Then the flaps can easily be lifted up, so the peel can be removed.

These are some of my favorites. Do you have any tips, tricks, and hacks to share?

Happy Eating!