Baked Lobster Mac and Cheese

Baked Lobster Mac and CheeseOscar The Grouch
The 92nd Academy Awards are this Sunday…and I am not sure if I am excited about it or not. My plan to see all of the nominated movies fizzled. I’ve only seen one, though I might try to sneak one or two more in during the next couple of days. We’ll see how that goes!

I just have this overall feeling of indifference. Maybe it’s political fatigue. Maybe it’s the hangover from the Super Bowl loss. Or maybe I just need my blanket and a nap.

In my opinion there just doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of hype for the Oscars this year. So, it’s possible I’m not the only one feeling this way. It might be that our attention is elsewhere (considering everything that’s been going on here and abroad). It makes a night of big dresses, big diamonds, and big winners seem somewhat trivial even if, for some, it’s the biggest night of their careers. Or perhaps a night of silliness, heavy satin, and escape is just what the doctor ordered.

So what does one eat for a night of escapism? Good question. You could follow the lead of the Hollywood Foreign press as well as the Academy and go all plant-based. Or you could take one for the team of attendees who didn’t eat anything so they could fit in their dress and go the cheeseburger route. It’s always one of my favorite plays.

After last weekend, I’m burned out on finger foods. I’m thinking the best thing to do is combine everything I am feeling into one satisfying dish. So here goes…

Lobster Mac and Cheese is the perfect solution! It has the glamour of the lobster, heartiness for the hungry, and the comfort food factor to help those of us who are wondering what the world is coming to. Plus it goes well with some lovely champagne and bubbles will always lift your spirits…

Baked Lobster Mac and Cheese
Adapted from Ina Garten and the Food Network
Yields 6 to 8 servings Read more…

News From the Fancy Food Show & Tahini Noodles Recipe

Tahini Noodles with Green Beans and CarrotsPlant Food
In what has become an annual tradition, I spent my Martin Luther King holiday walking the aisles at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco looking for and tasting the latest and greatest that the culinary world has to offer. As per usual there was plenty of gorgeous chocolate and cheese from around the world—including a guacamole cheese that was divine despite being a dark green not usually associated with cheese in a positive way.

There were teas, there were coffees and there was an extraordinary number of waffles, both of the regular and of the Stroop variety. I like waffles as much as the next gal. But, do we really need that many? And there was bottled pickle juice…because, of course, there would be bottled pickle juice. (I brought one home for my kids to try. My pickle loving son tried it and said it was too intense yet he keeps going back for another sip. Kind of like a bad accident. You can’t help but look.)

There was no missing the one big take away from this show: The future of food is plant-based.

From beverages to snacks, to frozen foods, each and every grocery category had multiple vendors showing their plant-based products. There were plant-based frozen desserts being offered down every aisle either by the pint or as bars. Plant-based meat alternatives have grown way beyond the Impossible Burger. The snack category was huge including puffs made out of avocado that were a big hit at my home, as were the butternut squash pretzels. While I expected to see more plant-based noodles than I did, they were still well represented as were the Asian cuisines they support.

Staunch carnivores should not fret too much, though, as there were still plenty of offerings for them. Duck Sausage anyone? Small family-owned ranches held their own amongst the plant-based surge by offering natural, humanely-raised alternatives to beef like venison, bison, elk, and even wild boar. And while the jerky revolution has died down some, there were still plenty of meat and salami sticks to be sampled.

While plant-based foods comprised a large percentage of the products being shown this year, it was very obvious that we’re just scratching the surface when it comes to plant-based innovation. This is not a food trend that will just fizzle out. The possibilities are endless and the masterminds are just getting started…

Tahini Noodles with Green Beans and Carrots 
Adapted from Food 52
Yields 4 to 6 servings Read more…

Amy’s Hearty Bean Soup

Amy’s Hearty Bean SoupSo, How’ve You Bean?
I have had an Instant pot for a little over a year now. And, while I love it, I really hadn’t been using it more than one or two times a month. (I have friends who say they use theirs constantly. But, I always wondered what they were making because I always seemed to be making the same recipes over and over, mainly pulled pork or some sort of stew.) During the summer months, I didn’t use it at all figuring it was just as fast to grill and the whole point of the Instant Pot is to make stuff faster.

Lately, I have been leaving my Instant Pot out on my counter because I feel like I am using it every other night. Probably because I AM using it every other night…

My daughter gave me a couple of Instant Pot cookbooks for Christmas and I have been having a great time going through them and making all of the recipes that appeal to me. It is a testament to the power of a good cookbook because I have a number of Instant Pot cookbooks and none of them have lit a fire under me like these two. They have even inspired me to do my own experimenting. You can find them here is you are interested:

Most of my experiments have involved dried beans. I love cooking with dried beans but I really haven’t done much in the past because the old fashioned way is kind of a pain. First, you have to soak ‘em overnight then you have to cook them for long periods of time. That’s time I don’t always have and can be a roadblock when you’re craving a good bean soup for dinner. But, by playing around with new recipes, I have figured out how to make my own bean-filled creations happen in the span of an hour. Until recently, I was a bit intimidated by cooking beans in a pot because I didn’t have a recipe with beans intriguing enough to try it. I found one for a barley side dish with mushrooms that was great and that was all it took to get me going crazy with beans.

For example, I had a bag of the Zürsun Paris Bistro Beans that we sell here in the store in my pantry and I had been wanting to use them for a while. So, I got a ham shank from our Meat Department and threw it in the Instant pot with the dried beans, some sautéed onions, diced carrots, and fresh thyme along with a few cups of chicken stock. After about 30 minutes of cooking using the Multigrain setting, I had a very hearty hot bean soup that was fantastic. The meat on the shank fell off the bone and added some protein to the mix as well as great flavor. Served with some crusty French bread, it was exactly what I wanted for dinner on a chilly night.

I didn’t really follow a recipe but if you are interested in trying it out here’s the rough idea of what I did…

Amy’s Hearty Bean Soup
Yields 6 Servings Read more…

Refrigerator Soup

Refrigerator SoupI don’t know what it looks like in your fridge after the holidays—but I can tell you there are a lot of leftovers in mine. Some are starting to show signs of becoming a science experiment and are ready to be thrown out. But, others are the remnants of a very tasty week-and-a-half. This is when I need to get creative.

At the end of the holidays, I always have a lot of random leftovers. A carrot or two here, a parmesan rind there, or that last handful of Blue Lake beans that we didn’t use. Occasionally, there are bones left over which I use for making stock. Sometimes it’s beef, sometimes it’s chicken, and if I am really lucky there’s a ham bone. And always there are leftover herbs because inevitably you only needed half of the bunch of parsley that you bought.

These are the days for what I call “refrigerator soup”. There is no set recipe. The only requirement is that you use up what you have. If you are lucky enough to have beef or chicken bones, make some stock. If you don’t have bones, the second carton of chicken or beef stock that you bought and didn’t use would be perfect right now. If you have a leftover ham bone, I would throw it directly in the pot with the veggies and then add water.

As for what goes in the stock, I generally start with onions that I always have on hand. I dice them up and sweat them in some olive oil. After that, it’s whatever strikes your fancy. Got carrots? Chop ’em up and throw them in. Same with any other veggies like potatoes and celery or green beans. Bell Peppers work well here too. Add some chopped garlic if you like and any fresh or dried herbs you think would taste good. Found can of diced tomatoes? Why not drain it and throw them in too?

Add your stock, bring it to a boil, and let it simmer for an hour or so. At this point, you can add a can of beans, or some cooked pasta, or rice. Alternatively, you could put it all together in a blender and make a blended soup. It’s totally up to you, but in the end, you have a warming bowl of goodness for lunch or dinner. And, you used up what was left in your fridge. Probably the best part is you didn’t have to leave the comfort of your home…

Mini Frittatas

Mini FrittatasEasy Like Christmas Morning
Christmas morning is a time of magic, wonder, and barely-controlled chaos. Sometimes it can be a challenge just to get the coffee pot going. Though for most people, that is priority one especially if your children woke you at the crack of dawn because they just couldn’t stand it anymore.

By the way, this doesn’t end just because they hit their teenage years. Mine still do it. It’s harder to have the family snuggle in our bed though when the 15 year olds are both 6 feet tall or above…but they still try!

Making breakfast amongst all of this activity can be difficult. For one, there are too many excited people running around in your kitchen. At least that is how it is for me. For another, who wants to be in the kitchen all morning and miss out on all of the fun. Lastly, sometimes you just don’t think about it until the last minute. In the rush to make sure you have gifts for everyone including the dog, forgetting that your family would like to eat breakfast has been known to happen. Something easy and tasty for Christmas morning with ingredients you probably have on hand is the answer.

Sure you could go the tried and true pancakes or waffles route. Those are always a hit. Personally, I like these little guys listed below. They’re quick and easy and you can pretty much put whatever you have on hand in them. No ham? No worries. How ‘bout a little jack cheese and chilies? Or sausage? Or diced green onion and red pepper? No matter what you decide to put in them, you could easily serve them alongside the pancakes and waffles. Because it’s Christmas…you get to live a little and have both…

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Mini Frittatas
Adapted from Giada De Laurentis and the Food Network
Yields servings
Read more…