Trouble With Toast

Recipe: Macaroni Salad with Bacon, Peas, and Creamy Dijon Dressing

July 7, 2011
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When the fabulous Lemmonex came to visit me for my birthday, we threw a deck party of epic proportions (okay, maybe that’s pushing it, but it was a darn good time).  She and I wowed all of our guests with homemade deliciousness, including this awesome pasta salad.  It had just enough bacon and creaminess to be really satisfying, but it also had plenty of veggies and herbs and other punchy flavors to keep it fun and healthy (well, healthier, anyway).  It was great on its own, but it was also good leftover with some grilled chicken on top.


  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped shallots
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons fat-free sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


  • 8 ounces uncooked large elbow macaroni
  • 2/3 cup fresh green peas
  • 2/3 cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • 2/3 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 3 lower-sodium bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

To prepare dressing, combine first 9 ingredients in a food processor, and process until smooth. Cover and chill.

To prepare salad, cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; add peas during the last 3 minutes of cooking time. Drain; rinse with cold water. Drain. Combine pasta mixture, bell pepper, and next 4 ingredients (through rind) in a large bowl. Toss pasta mixture with half of dressing. Cover and chill until ready to serve. Toss salad with remaining dressing, and sprinkle with crumbled bacon; serve immediately.


Recipe: Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Pecan

July 7, 2011
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Think your family won’t eat brussels sprouts?  Well, you might be able to con them into it with this recipe.  Between the onion, thyme, and lemon, the sometimes harsh and cabbage-esque flavor of the brussels sprouts is lightened and brightened.  Then, the pecans and the caramelization add a nutty flavor that really works with the dish.  I thought I’d have some leftovers to keep for myself, but my family scarfed up the whole thing!

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 cups prechopped onion
  • 1/3 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add thyme and onion to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Add broth and Brussels sprouts; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 6 minutes or until crisp-tender. Stir in pecans, lemon rind, lemon juice, and black pepper.

You can see a photo here.

Recipe: Butternut Squash Mostarda

March 21, 2011

Even though the olive oil poached salmon was a winner, I may have loved this side dish just as much.  It was sweet, acidic, salty, citrusy, slightly spicy – you name it, the flavor was there.  And despite all of the crazy stuff going on with this dish, it still felt really light and fresh.  Do note that it takes a LOT of butternut squash to make 4 cups diced – and there is a good amount of prep time associated with peeling and chopping those bad boys.  Plan accordingly, with your wallet AND with the clock!

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 cups butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup champagne vinegar
  • 1 orange, peel removed in strips with a veggie peeler and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dried mustard powder
  • 1/2 bunch fresh chives, finely chopped

Coat a large straight-sided saute pan with olive oil. Add in the red onions, crushed red pepper, and season with salt. Bring the pan to a medium heat and cook the onions until they are soft and aromatic, 7 to 8 minutes.

Add in the squash, dried cranberries, sugar, champagne vinegar, orange zest, mustard seeds, mustard powder, and season with salt. Stir to combine. Add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and cook another 15 minutes, stirring the squash frequently until the liquid has evaporated and the squash is a chutney-like consistency. Check to make sure the squash is cooked through and soft but can still hold its shape. Stir in chives.

Recipe: Warm Farro and Cranberry Bean Salad

March 15, 2011
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One of the sides I served with the olive-oil poached salmon was this warm farro and cranberry bean salad.  It is a REALLY hearty side dish – in fact, much like my go-to barley salad, this dish could easily be served as a main course.

I was surprised with how multidimensional this dish was.  The smoke of the bacon, the sweetness of the onions, the slightly bitter taste of the radicchio, and the meaty texture of the farro and beans all went really nicely together.  I couldn’t find fresh cranberry beans, so I used dried and modified my cooking times accordingly.

There is a lot to think about if you cook this dish at the same time as you are trying to prepare the salmon and the butternut squash mostarda, but if you read the recipes all the way through and plan things according to their time, attention, and cookware needs, you can have yourself a super-satisfying dinner.

  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cups shelled fresh cranberry beans
  • 2 cups farro
  • 4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch lengths
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 head radicchio Trevisano, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch lengths
  • 1 bunch fresh chives, finely chopped

Bring a saucepan of well salted water to a boil. Add the cranberry beans, let the water come back to a boil, and cook the beans for 10 to 12 minutes. Bite a few beans to make sure they are cooked through. Scoop the beans out of the water and reserve. Add the farro to the water, let the water come back to a boil, and cook for 15 minutes. Taste the farro to make sure it is cooked through. Remove the farro from the water and reserve.

Add the bacon to a large, wide pan, give a drizzle of olive oil, and bring to a medium heat. When the bacon has let out a lot of fat and starts to become crispy, add in the onions and season with salt and crushed red pepper. Cook the onions until they become soft and aromatic, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cooked beans and farro and stir to combine. Add the chicken stock and taste for seasoning; season with salt if needed. Cook until the chicken stock has reduced by about half, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the radicchio and chives and cook until the radicchio is wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Recipe: Butter-Braised Radishes, Kohlrabi, and Brussels Sprouts

February 28, 2011
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This is the side dish I served with the pan-roasted duck breasts, and truthfully, it almost upstaged the meat.  These vegetables are so delicious – if you know someone who claims to hate any of these specimens, I believe this dish would set them straight.

Speaking of, this was my first experience either eating OR cooking kohlrabi.  The “German turnip” is actually a member of the cabbage family, but don’t let that sway you from using it.  It is much milder and sweeter than cabbage, and it has a really nice texture (I likened it to a broccoli stalk).  You can see what it looks like below, both uncut/unpeeled and then prepped for the dish.

As with all recipes, make sure you read the whole thing before starting – there are a lot of steps, but if you prep smart, you can get this on the table within a reasonable timeframe.  Enjoy!  Oh, and you can see a photo of the finished dish with the duck at the link above.

  • 12 ounces Brussels sprouts
  • 2 bunches Easter or red radishes
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon champagne vinegar, plus more to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or vegetable stock, plus more if needed
  • 6 kohlrabi, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives or mint

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Prepare an ice bath.  Meanwhile, trim the root ends of the Brussels sprouts and remove and discard any tough or bruised outer leaves.  Cut the sprouts in half through the root end.  Blanch the sprouts until tender, about 4 minutes.  Chill in the ice bath and drain.  Transfer to a tray and put in the refrigerator to chill.

Trim the greens from the radishes and wash the radishes under cold water.  Cut larger radishes into 6 wedges and smaller radishes into quarters.  Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat in a saute pan big enough to hold the radishes in a single layer.  Add the shallot and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often, until softened.  Add the radishes, sugar, and vinegar, season generously with salt and pepper, and add 1/4 cup of the stock.  Bring to a simmer, cover the pan, and simmer gently for about 8 minutes, until the radishes are crisp-tender.  Cook uncovered, swirling the pan, to glaze the radishes, about 4 minutes.  Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Meanwhile, cut the stems and roots from the kohlrabi.  Stand each kohlrabi on a cut end and peel it with a sharp knife, cutting deep enough to reach the tender flesh.  Cut lengthwise into slices about 1/2 inch thick.  Trim the rounded sides of the slices and cut the kohlrabi into 1/2 inch-wide batons.  You need 2 cups of batons.  Add the kohlrabi to the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes, or until tender.  Drain and transfer to paper towels to drain thoroughly.

Bring the remaining 1/4 cup stock to a simmer in a large saute pan.  Whisk in he remaining butter until emulsified and smooth.  Add the Brussels sprouts and kohlrabi and cook over high heat for 45 seconds.  Add the radishes and any liquid remaining in the pan and heat through.  If the butter begins to break, you can swirl in another couple of tablespoons of stock or water.  Toss in the chives and season with salt and pepper and a few drops of vinegar.  Transfer to a platter and serve.

Recipe: Jalapeno Goat Cheese Hushpuppies (and a brief TC mention)

September 15, 2010

Okay, I just watched LAST week’s Top Chef episode, so I’m not even going to bother with any sort of recap, since you all know what happened anyway and the stupid finale is on TV tonight.  I will again refer you to Jordan Baker’s awesome recap if you are looking for humorous commentary about the show.  The best part of the episode for me?  Drooling at all of the street food and hearing my husband say, “I really want to go to Singapore.”  Yes, please, how about tomorrow?  I will call Seetoh and see if he is available.

Anywho, now that Kelly is no longer contributing her bitchitude and uber-obvious statements to the entertainment magic that is TC, we can move on to more important topics.  Like…hush puppies!  As happens sometimes, I was in the mood to deep-fry something recently, and this recipe from Bon Appetit seemed like the perfect choice.

Sadly, though, I was a little disappointed with the final product.  Yes, they fried up nicely and had good texture, and sure, any kind of fried carbohydrate is going to go over well in my household.  But in terms of flavor, these hush puppies weren’t really barking (sorry, just had to).  Perhaps an even finer chop on the jalapenos would have more evenly distributed the heat?  Perhaps some kind of additional element was needed, like onion or garlic or crushed red pepper?  I am convinced that if I play around with the recipe, I can figure out a way to make these puppies great.  To be continued…

If YOU try this recipe and figure out what’s missing, do let me know!

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons beaten egg
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped seeded jalapeño chile
  • 4 ounces coarsely crumbled soft fresh goat cheese (about 1 cup)
  • Canola oil or vegetable oil (for deep-frying)

Whisk first 6 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Whisk buttermilk, egg, and chile in small bowl to blend. Stir buttermilk mixture and cheese into dry ingredients.  Add enough oil to deep medium saucepan to reach 1 1/2 inches. Attach deep-fry thermometer to pan; heat oil to 320°F to 330°F over medium heat. Working in batches of 4 or 5, drop batter by tablespoonfuls into oil. Cook until golden, turning occasionally, about 4 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer hush puppies to paper towels.

Recipe: Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Gratin

December 3, 2009

A few weeks ago, after enjoying my first gratin of the season, I decided to try another version of the comfort food classic.  I wanted something a little more decadent than the turnip-parsnip dish I had previously prepared, but I didn’t want to blow a whole day’s worth of calories on one side dish.  Also, the flavor of the previous dish was pretty strong (I, for one, enjoy the taste of root veggies, but not everyone does), so I wanted to try a dish that was a bit more mellow and “mainstream.”

This squash and sweet potato number was absolutely PERFECT.  The sweetness of the butternuts and sweet potatoes was countered by the salty pancetta and parmesan, and the red pepper flakes and thyme added some depth of flavor.  The sauce was incredibly creamy and rich, despite its relatively small amount of (non-full-fat) dairy.  And the gruyere melted absolutely beautifully over the finished product, as you can see below.  I was a little bit concerned about the short boiling time for the veggies, but the texture wound up being lovely–soft, with no raw “bite,” but definitely not mushy.  Not only was this dish delicious on the night that I cooked it, but it was also surprisingly good leftover (you could certainly just nuke it in the office microwave, or you could heat it in the oven for an even better result).

This is not a one-pot dish, but it has great flavor and is incredibly comforting.  I definitely recommend giving it a try on a cold winter night.  Enjoy!

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 ounce pancetta, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1.38 ounces  all-purpose flour, divided (about 5 tablespoons)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 pound baking potato, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
  • 8 ounces sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
  • 8 ounces butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese

Preheat oven to 375°.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; cook 1 minute. Add shallots and garlic; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Weigh or lightly spoon 1.1 ounces (about 1/4 cup) flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Add to pan; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir in thyme. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk; cook over medium heat until slightly thick (about 3 minutes), stirring constantly. Stir in Parmigiano-Reggiano; cook 3 minutes or until cheese melts. Stir in salt and peppers. Remove from heat.

Cook baking potato in boiling water 4 minutes or until almost tender; remove with a slotted spoon. Cook sweet potato in boiling water 4 minutes or until almost tender; remove with a slotted spoon. Cook butternut squash in boiling water 4 minutes or until almost tender; drain. Sprinkle vegetables evenly with remaining 1 tablespoon flour. Arrange potatoes and squash in alternating layers in a broiler-safe 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray; spoon sauce over potato mixture. Top with Gruyère. Bake at 375° for 40 minutes.

Preheat broiler. Broil 3 minutes or until golden. Let stand 10 minutes.

Recipe: Turnip-Parsnip Gratin

November 11, 2009

As the days get shorter and darker, and as the temperature dips further downward, my cravings for “comfort food” become stronger and more persistent.  Unfortunately, food that brings comfort often comes with a high caloric price.

This gratin has everything that I expect from a comforting winter dish–EXCEPT the empty calories!  Potatoes are fine and dandy, of course, but the use of turnips (high in Vitamin C) and parsnips (rich in potassium and dietary fiber) provides a similar texture and some added nutritional benefits.  Yes, there is some full-fat dairy in this recipe, but it was split between eight servings of the finished dish, so it doesn’t concern me too much.  The other benefit of using sturdy root veggies is that you can prep the dish in advance and then refrigerate until you are actually ready to pop it in the oven.  If you don’t have gratin dishes or large ramekins, you can use a glass casserole dish.

The end result was deeper in flavor than a potato gratin, which I really liked.  There was just enough cheese to hold everything together without turning into a goppy mess.  The buttery, toasted panko was a really tasty topping, and it gave just enough crunch to add some textural contrast to the softened vegetables.  All in all, I was really happy with how this turned out, and I’ll definitely be adding it to the comfort food rotation.  Enjoy!

  • 3 3/4  cups  (1/8-inch-thick) slices peeled turnip
  • 3 3/4  cups  (1/8-inch-thick) slices peeled parsnip
  • 6  cups  water
  • Cooking spray
  • 1  cup  whole milk
  • 1/3  cup  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2  tablespoons  all-purpose flour
  • 1  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  cup  (4 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese
  • 2  tablespoons  butter
  • 1/4  cup  panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

Preheat oven to 400°.

Combine first 3 ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 7 minutes or until almost tender. Drain; let stand 5 minutes. Arrange about 1/2 cup vegetable mixture into each of 8 (5 1/2-inch) round gratin dishes coated with cooking spray.

Combine milk, broth, flour, salt, and pepper in a saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a simmer. Cook 4 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk until thick. Remove from heat; add cheese, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Spoon about 3 tablespoons sauce over each serving.

Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add panko; toast 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture evenly over cheese mixture. Place dishes on a baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown on top. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Turnip parsnip gratin

Recipe: Potato Salad with Herbs and Grilled Summer Squash

June 2, 2009

Sorry for the little blip in posts, folks–I had a touch of the plague.  Between my fiance’s broken shoulder (see my tri blog for the story) and my flu virus, there wasn’t a lot of cooking going on over the weekend.

Before I fell ill, though, I did throw together this summery potato salad (with red potatoes and squash purchased at local farmers markets).  While I’m a sucker for my grandmother’s mayo-heavy, old-fashioned potato salad, particularly when paired with burgers and dogs, this is a much lighter, more herbacious version.  Due to its citrusy kick and fresh flavors, it would compliment nearly any grilled meat.  I don’t have a photo, as my camera battery finally gave out, but trust me when I say that this is a colorful, healthy side dish to add to your warm-weather rotation.


  • 2  pounds small red potatoes
  • 3/4  pound yellow squash, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4  teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Dressing:

  • 1/3  cup chopped fresh chives
  • 3  tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2  tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1  tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1/4  teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 3  tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2  tablespoons water
  • 2  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2  tablespoons capers
  • 1/4  teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Preheat grill pan over medium-high heat.

    To prepare salad, place potatoes in a large saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 18 minutes or until tender. Drain; cut potatoes into quarters, and place in a large bowl. Set aside.

    Lightly coat squash with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Place squash on grill pan; grill 2 minutes on each side or until browned and tender. Remove squash from heat, and add to potatoes.

    To prepare dressing, combine chives and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Pour dressing over potato mixture, tossing gently to combine. Serve salad warm or chilled.

    Per serving (the recipe makes 6): Calories 160, Fat 5g, Protein 3.8g, Carbohydrate 27g, Fiber 3.4g, Cholesterol 0.0mg, Iron 1.5mg, Sodium 206mg, Calcium 33mg.

    Recipe: Bacon Chipotle Twice-Baked Potatoes

    December 30, 2008

    When I was a kid, I would BEG my mother to make twice-baked potatoes.  Their soft, cheesy goodness was irresistable to me, and so much more decadent than a standard baker.  Because my mom only made them occasionally, I assumed that twice-baked potatoes must be incredibly difficult to prepare.

    Now I know that my mom was just scamming me.  I made these twice-baked potatoes over the weekend, and they were as easy as can be.  They were a bit time consuming, but much of that time is inactive while the potatoes are baking.  You can certainly mix all of the ingredients in a regular bowl, but you will achieve a creamier, smoother end result if you use a Kitchen-Aid mixer (plus, it will shave some time off the total prep).  Also, even though I used the amount of chiles called for by the recipe, the taters were SUPER spicy, almost to the point of being too much.  If you’re sensative to spice, definitely cut that part of the recipe down.

    Overall, these twice-baked potatoes, in addition to shattering childhood illusions about my mother, served as a simple yet impressive  side dish to both chicken and beef.  Enjoy!

    • 6  medium baking potatoes (about 3 pounds)
    • 1 1/4  cups  low-fat buttermilk
    • 1 1/4  cups  (5 ounces) shredded extrasharp cheddar cheese, divided
    • 1/3  cup  thinly sliced green onions
    • 2  tablespoons  finely chopped chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce
    • 1  teaspoon  salt
    • 4  bacon slices, cooked and crumbled (drained)

    Preheat oven to 450°.

    Pierce potatoes with a fork. Bake potatoes at 450° for 50 minutes or until done; cool slightly. Cut each potato in half lengthwise; scoop out pulp, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell. Combine potato pulp, milk, 3/4 cup cheese and remaining ingredients in a large bowl.

    Spoon potato mixture evenly into 10 shells; discarding remaining 2 shells. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese evenly over potatoes. Bake at 450° for 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated.