Vegetables Every Day

Vegetables Every Day
Carrot Tarator with Beets

Sunday, August 21, 2016

To Taste ... Roasted Carrot Dip

More and more, I just make stuff up when I'm cooking. I start with an idea, look in my cookbooks (Eat My Books is a handy tool for this), or more normally, just google the idea. The idea that started this was a roasted cauliflower dip.   I found a recipe or two, make some modifications, and it came out tasty, but a pretty unappetizing color.  So then I thought -- carrots!  That will be pretty (after all, dips are party food and it can't just be a grayish/beige blob).  For flavor inspiration, I riffed on the roasted carrot with yogurt sauce side dish at Stake, our local (excellent) steak house. Found more recipes... I would say this one was guide that I used, but changing things that need to be changed because I wanted it to include yogurt.  And I didn't have any Harissa.  It came out good.   The problem is that at some point later in time, I want to make it again.  So I'm trying to remember what recipe(s) I used for a base (did I clip it in EverNote? was it a cookbook?), what did I do different from the recipe?   At which point I think about writing it down.  Which is good, but if I want to post it, I feel obligated to include cooking times and measurements.   So then I will make it again, make notes of measurements and times.  But be aware... my notes are often just estimates.   But I don't really feel too bad about this, because you need to cook things until they are done, which will vary depending on your oven, the freshness of the vegetables, how things are cut, and a thousand other variables.  And the same goes for how things taste... the age and variety of vegetables, the type of yogurt, all will affect the taste.   Then there is your taste .. how salty or spicy do you like things?  

Bottom line, use this as a guide.  Don't hesitate to adjust as you see fit.

 Roasted Carrot Spread

1 lb carrots
4 cloves garlic, with the skin still on
~ 1 tablespoon olive oil
~ 1/2 teaspoon spice rub* to sprinkle
1 teaspoon spice rub*
1 tablespoon tahini
¼ cup plain or Greek yogurt. Or Crème Fraiche
Juice from ½ lemon, maybe more
Salt, Pepper

Preheat oven to 425F, convection roast if you have it.  Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan.   If using large carrots, peel, but if using smaller/fresher carrots, just scrub.  Split carrots if large.

Put carrots and garlic on sheet pan.  Drizzle olive oil over (note – I never measure), and sprinkle with spice rub (maybe a ½ teaspoon.. again, I don’t measure).  Toss with your hands to get everything evenly coated.  Spread out carrots; put the garlic in the center. Wash your hands, then put the pan in the oven.  If using convection, turn the carrots and garlic every 10 minutes or so. The garlic will be done first, in about 20 minutes. (The garlic is done when it is soft.) The carrots should be done in 25 – 30 minutes.  The carrots are done when they are soft and edges are starting to brown. If not using convection, turn every 15 minutes, and they will be done in 30 – 45 minutes (again, the garlic will be done sooner).  

Let the carrots cool.  Squeeze garlic out of its skin into a food processor.  Add carrots and remaining ingredients (start with ¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt, and a good grind of pepper), then process until fairly smooth.  Taste .. add more salt, lemon juice, yogurt, or spice rub to suit your taste.  Serve with crackers, pita, or bread.

* Spice rub:

1 part ground cumin
1 part ground coriander
1 part mild chili powder

Sunday, January 3, 2016



I always have great intentions of posting a recipe that would be great for the holidays prior to the holidays, and this recipe is great for entertaining, but is there really a season for crackers?  Not at my house. 

Crackers are definitely one of my vices in terms of processed foods.  I try to find ones that are "more healthy" ... low in sugar and have some fiber, but generally rationalize that I'm eating crackers with a big salad and that's OK..  Except when I'm having them with a nice piece of cheese.  It's a slippery slope.

And my favorite crackers are Rainforest Crisps.  They make a bunch of flavors, but the I go for the Original ones.  A little sweet, but not too bad, with lots of nuts and seeds.  The only problem is that they are $7 or $8 a package (and this is a 6 ounce package), and that you can only get them at places like Whole Foods or specialty stores.  And they go stale in about a week.  It's one thing to pay a lot for sustainably raised meat, but for crackers?? This just seems like highway robbery.

Then I found a bunch of "copycat" recipes on the web for these crackers.  Could it be?  Let me say there are a lot of them out there (see here for my inspiration).  Most of them are similar... it's basically a soda bread that you bake, then slice, then bake again.  (which reminds me, someday I need to find out if I can make good crackers from my Soda Bread when I have leftovers).  There are variations in how much brown sugar and/or honey used, plus a lot of variations in different add-ins (nuts, seeds, dried fruit).  I tailored the recipe to the nuts and seeds I usually have around, skipped the honey, and have discovered that (like my soda bread) yogurt can be interchanged with buttermilk.  

The only hard part about making these is making very even, very thin slices.  It helps to refrigerate the loaves to get them to firm up.  Also, this recipe makes a lot of crackers (and like the ones from the store, they do lose their crisp pretty quickly).  But, you can freeze the loaves (the recipe makes 4 loaves, each loaf makes about the same amount as a package of crackers), then just slice and do the second bake when you are ready for some great crackers!  

And the best part, each loaf costs about $1 to make.  One note.. If you use sesame seeds, buy them in 1 lb packages, NOT in the spice aisle at your local grocery store.  Places like Whole Foods or Asian markets have them, they are priced similar to other nuts.  They will keep forever in the freezer. 

And Happy New Years!

Crisp Seed Crackers

Makes over 8 dozen crackers.  

1 cup flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk or yogurt
1/3 cup brown sugar (or a little less)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitos)
1/4 cup sesame seeds or sunflower seeds
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, or slivered almonds, roasted if desired)

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Spray 4 mini-loaf pans with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, stir together the flours, baking soda and salt. Add the buttermilk (or yogurt) and brown sugar, then mix with spoon until combined. Add the seeds and nuts, stir until blended.

Divide batter evenly between loaf pans. Bake 20 – 25 minutes until golden and springy to the touch. Remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack.  When cool, wrap loaves and put into the refrigerator (this is an optional step, but it makes them easier to slice). You may also freeze loaves that you don’t plan to bake soon.

To make the crackers:  If loaves have been frozen, let them sit out for a half hour or so. Preheat the oven to 300° F.  Place a piece of parchment paper on a large sheet pan (one mini-loaf fills one sheet pan).

Slice the loaves as thin as you can with a serrated knife. Place the slices in a single layer on sheet pan.  Bake them for about 15 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 5 - 10 minutes, until crisp and deep golden.  Remove slices as they get done, the thinner slices will bake faster than the thicker ones.  Cool on rack.  Store airtight, they will lose their “crisp” in a week or so.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Chicken Chili... Just in time for Fall

One of my pet peeves is recipes that say they will take 30 minutes to cook but not only would it be impossible for a Top Chef to walk into the kitchen and get it done in 30 minutes, it gets every pot and gadget in the kitchen dirty. This makes you feel like a failure when it ends up taking over an hour to cook (not to mention another 1/2 hour to do the dishes). When you dissect the cooking times from even respected recipe sources, it's clear that the clock does not start when you walk into the kitchen; it starts after the ingredient list is assembled:  the onion is diced, garlic minced and chicken shredded.  Even then, there is sometimes fantasy timing. A couple of weeks ago there was a soup recipe in the Wall Street Journal "Slow Food Fast" column that claimed total time was 50 minutes.  When you added up just the cooking times, it was 56 minutes, not including the time to warm up pans or reheat the soup after after pureeing. You might not expect the WSJ to be experts on cooking, but you would at least think they could do the math.  

So enough of my rant.  How do I get dinner on the the table fast?  And without any many dishes?  One of my secrets is to use the freezer.  I freeze soups, stews, and the like in serving size amounts in 1 quart freezer zip bags.  I lay them flat to freeze, then they will stack pretty efficiently. To get dinner on the table in less than 15 minutes, I put the frozen bag into a large bowl of hot water until thawed (this takes maybe 10 minutes.. and you don't really get the bowl dirty), then empty the bag into a serving bowl and reheat a couple of minutes in the microwave.  Add some garnish (like avocado or sliced green onions) and it even seems special.  

Some things do freeze better than others.  I almost always have Lentil Soup in the freezer. Most vegetable soups are good (like Chicken Noodle or Minestrone), but some vegetables freeze better than others (carrots, winter squash, peppers, green beans, mushrooms, greens, onions are good, but broccoli, zucchini, and potatoes have texture issues).  Another trick is that if I am making something to just go into the freezer (as opposed to just freezing the last couple of servings of Beans and Greens when you realize that another day of eating beans will not improve your social standing) is to quickly cool down the pot of soup by putting it into the sink that is half filled with cold water and some ice.

Chicken Chili

The recipe that I adapted from Fine Cooking magazine called for store-bought rotisserie chicken, which I am sure would work just fine (but maybe not fine cooking when you learn what they inject the chickens with).  I usually start by boiling a cut up raw chicken with onions and carrots, essentially making broth, pulling out the chicken pieces as they get done, pulling the chicken off the bones, then put the bones back into the broth pot and cooking a while longer for broth. You could also start with left-over roasted chicken (maybe do a half recipe), or some left-over turkey.

Makes about 6 servings.

2 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, diced
4 - 5 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons oregano or Italian herb mix
1-2 jalapeno or other hot chiles, minced (optional, to taste)
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups shredded cooked chicken (chicken from ~ 4 pound chicken)
1 4 oz can green chiles
1 quart lower salt chicken broth
2 cans (15.5 oz) white beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups frozen corn
Salt to taste

Garnish (optional):  Shredded sharp cheddar cheese, avocado slices, sliced green onions, cilantro, lime wedges, sour cream or Greek or plain yogurt.

Heat oil in a large pot (5-6 quart).  Add the onion and cook until translucent (don’t brown). Add cumin, herbs, hot chiles, and garlic and cook until fragrant (just a minute or so).  Add the chicken, green chiles, broth, and 1 can of beans.  Bring to a low simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mash the second can of beans – place in a small bowl and mash with a potato masher or fork. Add the mashed beans and corn to the chili.  As soon as it's back to a boil, it’s done.    Ladle into bowls and garnish as desired.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


Summer is supposed to be coming to an end, but the last week has been the hottest so far this summer... Not that hot compared to where lots of my friends live, but hot when you don't have air conditioning.  But I can't complain, because the ocean is not very far away and the water there is always cool.

Succotash is supposed to have lima beans in it (and they certainly could be added to the below recipe), but this mix of vegetables that has been serving me (and my house guests) well all summer.  And I'm still getting corn and zucchini farmers market.  It seems that often I have a nice mix of vegetables around, but not enough of any one thing to make a nice vegetable side.  So I just put them all together, and its the perfect accompaniment to whatever is coming off the grill.


Don’t fret about the quantities, use whatever you have around.
This will feed about 4, scale as desired.

1 - 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
2 – 3 ears of corn, cut from the cob
2 – 3 small zucchini, cubed
1 red bell pepper, diced
½ an onion, diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried) or other herbs as desired
Salt, pepper to taste

Green beans (1 inch pieces)
Broccoli florets
Jalapeno or other hot pepper, minced
Kale or other greens

Melt butter (or heat oil) in a sauté pan.  Add all of the vegetables (except greens if using) and cook over medium heat until just cooked, 7 – 10 minutes.  Add greens (if using) the last minute of cooking.  Add thyme, salt, and pepper.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Green Bean Salad with Mustard - Soy Dressing

When you live 10 minutes (walking) from the beach, family and friends are much  more likely to visit you.  Fortunately, I have the kind of family that you like to have come visit, and friends that are like family.  My dad gave me a great compliment when he was here ... "you make it look so easy".

And for me, cooking for family doesn't seem that hard.  In part because I like to do it, but I know a more than a few people that have decent cooking skills, but really struggle to be comfortable cooking for a crowd. Here are a few tips..

How much?  When you are used to cooking for 1 or 2, having 4 or 6 or more active people to feed (for days)  will take a lot more food than usual.   But don't go overboard, cooking way too much food is just extra work and makes it harder to cook because you can't find anything in the refrigerator.  Some rough guides on what's enough (so everyone is full, and maybe a few leftovers):

  • Lean meat or fish: around 1/2 pound per person.  
  • Fattier meat (like ribs or steaks) or whole birds (like turkey): about 1 pound per person.  
  • Pasta: I generally figure that 1 lb will make 4 to maybe 5 servings, depending on appetite and what else is being served.
  • Most grains (like rice): each cup (uncooked) will serve 2 - 3.  
  • Potatoes: For my side of the family, it's about 1/2 lb + per person.  It's less for other families. 
  • Veggies, like green beans or broccoli: This is a tough one for me, because I normally eat about 1/2 pound (or more) on my own.  But more normal people will eat much less.  Generally a "bunch" of broccoli or kale, or a pound of beans or squash will serve about 3 people if you are steaming or sauteing. Asparagus is about 2 people per bunch.  If you are roasting or grilling, people will eat more. 
  • Pizza: For my recipe (12 ounce ball of dough) I figure 1 pizza for two people.
What?  First of all, cook food you are comfortable cooking.   If you want to try a new recipe, fine, but make sure it's just a riff on what you know how to do, not a shot in the dark.  I like things that don't generate a ton of dishes, like things off the grill.  Or pizza. Burritos or taco's.  Roast veggies. Salads.   Sometimes its handy to make things that you can do ahead, but it needs to be way ahead.. I'm at the beach too.  

  • Anything that you do make ahead, put in baggies when ever possible to minimize dishes. Marinate meats in baggies.  Store blanched vegetables in baggies. Put any pre-sliced or chopped things in baggies. 
  • Put something simple out for people to munch on... cheese, nuts, olives, hummus, cut-up veggies, chips and guacamole.  Generally just 2 or 3 things. 
  • Get help... think ahead of things for people to do when they ask "is anything I can do".  Salads are a good choice for help - just get out everything you want to go into in, or peeling potatoes, or anything you happen to know the person is good at (again, this works with family and good friends).    Roy (who gets no credit) is my secret weapon.  He takes care of getting wine out, setting the table, does the grilling.  

Here is an example of side that works well for a crowd and can be mostly be done ahead.  And if you don't have green beans, it works equally well on asparagus or broccoli.  The dressing is also excellent on salads.

Green Beans with Mustard-Soy Dressing

Serves 6

2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed
1 teaspoon salt

Blanch the beans:  bring a pot of water to boil over high heat, and fill a bowl with ice and water.   Add the salt and beans to the boiling water.  Cook for about 4 minutes.  Pull one bean out, swish in the ice water and taste for doneness.  Do this every minute or so until the beans are just done.  Using tongs, quickly pull the green beans out of the boiling water and into the ice water (the ice water part is important to keep the bright green color).    When cold, drain the beans.  Can be done up to 1 day ahead, store in plastic bag in the refrigerator.

3 ounces lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce
5 ounces olive oil

Mix lemon juice, mustard, and soy sauce in graduated container with immersion blender.  Slowly add oil with blender running, add enough oil to have a nice thick dressing.   Can be done a few days ahead and refrigerated, let come to room temperature to use (the olive oil will get thick... or use a more neutral oil like grapeseed that does not get hard in the refrigerator).

Garnish (take your choice):
Roasted almond slivers or slices
Thin strips of red or sweet onion  (soak in cold water to take some heat out if needed)
Thin strips of red pepper
Thin slices of radish

To assemble:  Toss the beans with dressing (it might not take all of the dressing.. start with half or so).  If the beans are in a baggie, just add the dressing to the baggie and squish around.  Place on a serving dish and garnish. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Summer is here!!!!

I'm not sure how, but summer kind of snuck up on me.  May was quite gray (and thankfully wet) this year, then I had some time away..  

a few days in Austin (in between floods), including a visit to the Zilker Botanical Garden

then a spectacular week on Lake Powell (which was uncharacteristically cool),

which included grilling pizza on the houseboat one night

then ... wham!  A couple of hot days in Tucson, 

and back to Coronado.  It's not hot, but there are people everywhere! Summer tourist season is in full swing, and the Villa will be busy.  It's going to be a fun one.

Here's a easy recipe for those busy summer day's: refried beans.  Serve with chip's as an appetizer, or with taco's as a side, or to help fill a burrito.  So much better than the refries from a can.  And, if you are more ambitious, you can use beans you have cooked yourself ... they will even be better. 

Refried Beans

Serves 4

1 teaspoon oil
1 strip bacon, thinly sliced
½ onion, minced
Pinch of chipotle or red pepper flakes or diced hot pepper (optional)
Pinch of salt
(15 oz) cans  black or pinto beans, one rinsed and drained, one with liquid.

Cheddar or Jack cheese for serving (optional)

In a medium sauce pan or skillet, cook bacon in oil over medium high heat.  When a nice bit of fat has rendered from the bacon, add the onion and pepper or pepper flakes, and a bit of salt.  Cook until onion is soft.  Add the can of beans with the liquid, and the one without. Heat the beans until boiling, then mash with a potato masher.  I like them a little chunky, but keep mashing if you like them smooth (and if you like them really smooth, get out the immersion blender).  If needed, add a bit of water if too thick, or boil a bit more if too thin. Beans will get thicker when they cool, so target on the thin side.

Serve sprinkled with cheese.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Cooking lesson: Chicken and Kale Stew

My 80+ year old father-in-law is working on learning to cook.  We have collaborated on one dish (Ken's Chicken Dinner) that I consider a winner.  I'm defining a winner as something that you are willing to make (and eat) every week or so.  I'm hoping we have a second winner.

But I think that an important part of learning to cook is to make the same thing over and over.  To get a feel of how hot, how brown, what is enough (or too much), how to season.taste.   To be able to make it without reading step by step through a recipe.  To know what substitutes work.

I think that I'm also getting a better idea of the ideal type of dish that he likes to make:

1. One pot
2. Tasty but not too spicy
3. Not too much chopping
4. It should not make too much
5. It should have some meat in it, preferably chicken
6. Gluten free

Of course, I then add my constraints, like it should have a lot of vegetables and not have any full-of-crap shortcuts (like condensed mushroom soup).

Chicken and Kale Stew

Olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ onion, chopped
1 lb chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite size (about 1/2 - 1") cubes
8 ounces brown mushrooms, quartered if large
½ cup sun dried tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1 bunch kale, stems removed and cut in large pieces
¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 15 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed under cold water
¼ cup lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
¼ cup (½ stick) cold butter, cut into 6 pieces

Coat a large sauté pan in olive oil (about a tablespoon) and heat over medium high heat.  When hot, add garlic and onions, sauté until onions are starting to brown.

Add chicken and sear until chicken is brown on one side.  Turn cubes, then add mushrooms.  Cook until the mushrooms are starting to release moisture, stirring occasionally.

Add the sundried tomatoes and broth.  Stir to loosen any brown bits in the pan.  Bring to a simmer, then add kale, olives and beans and stir until the kale softens into the liquid. Bring back to a simmer.

Add the lemon juice, then add cold butter one piece at a time stirring constantly until the butter is dissolved and the sauce is thickened.