Spicy Sausage and Apple Stew

There’s an unwritten rule to any given recipe: Healthy, Expedient, and Comforting: Pick Two. The comfort food queen, mac and cheese, is quick but not healthy. Though it takes some time, this sweet-spicy stew is the kind of comfort food that’s actually good for you. In fact, it’s fantastic for you. But there’s so much more to this meal than just eating it; along the way, savor the rich fall bouquet of apples, corn, kale, and potatoes emanating from your home. Imagine how passers-by, kicking through the brittle, earthy leaves, can’t help but wonder from whence those heady aromas originate. Allow a bit of gratitude for the bounty of fall and family to stir occasionally.

Tree of Life

Tree of Life

serves 10-12

  • 2 yellow onions diced
  • 10 celery ribs diced
  • 4-6 large carrots diced
  • 2lbs spicy Italian sausage (such as Isernio’s)
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbs coriander powder
  • two 12oz cans mild beer (such as pilsner)
  • 2 large apples peeled and diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cups milk
  • 10 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 ears corn de-kerneled, cobs reserved
  • 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1 lb small red potatoes peeled and cut into 1 in pieces
  • 1 bunch kale de-ribbed and leaves coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

In a large dutch oven or heavy-bottomed soup pot, heat oil and butter over med-high heat. Sauté the onions, celery, and carrots with salt and pepper until lightly browned. Slice through sausage casings lengthwise to remove, dropping meat directly into pot. Discard casings and sauté meat with veggies until browned, breaking up large chunks.

Add the turmeric, cumin, and coriander, stirring 1-2 minutes to activate spices. Add beer, bay leaves, and diced apples. Bring to boil then simmer 20 minutes, breaking up sausage chunks, until beer is reduced.

Add milk, bring to boil and reduce to simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Because flour will clump up if added directly to hot liquid, dissolve it into all or some portion of the 10 cups stock before adding both to the pot. Add the sugar, balsamic, and corn cobs. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2-4 hours.

3/4 to 1 hour before serving, add potatoes, corn kernels, and kale and return to a low simmer. Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice and Taste the Rainbow ®. Adjust seasonings accordingly.

2 for 1: Grilled Pork Tenderloin and Bánh Mì

Grill some pork tenderloin over the weekend, then use the leftovers for bánh mì during the week.  I like to buy three tenderloins for my family of five; that’s enough for two dinners, plus leftovers for late night fried rice.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin

Carving Pork

To prepare marinade, mix the following ingredients into a large bowl:

  • 3/4 cup peanut or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs sesame oil
  • juice from 1/2 orange or whole satsuma
  • 1 Tbs dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp coriander powder

Rinse and dry loins using paper towels. Stab loins repeatedly with fork (you can quote me on that) and submerge into marinade. Refrigerate overnight, or at least 4 hours, or 1 hour at room temperature if you must.

We use a Weber charcoal grill. The following pointers come from my husband, lover of flames and meat.

Light coals on one side in a pile. When uniformly gray, spread out under 1/2 of grilling surface. Sear each loin 3-4 minutes per side over the coals. Finish covered, turning occasionally, for 20-25 minutes over the coal-less side. Test for doneness by firmness (stating the obvious: floppy loins aren’t ready for prime time). Cut into loin to check for clearness/excessive pinkness (properly cooked pork can be slightly pink, but should be fully opaque). Let rest 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with simple salad or fresh mango-peach-cilantro-lime salsa and rice (reserving some cilantro/lime for bánh mì).

Bánh Mì (or Con Mì, as my daughter suggested)

Banh Mi

  • one large or several small crusty baguettes
  • two carrots, shredded
  • one bunch cilantro, rinsed
  • one cucumber, sliced
  • 2-3 jalapeños, sliced (optional)

If you like mayonnaise, skip the next step. If you would rather make Sriracha-peanut Sauce, add the following into a blender:

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • juice from 1 lime plus 1/4 chunk of lime rind
  • 1 cup peanuts
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2-3 Tbs Sriracha, depending on your heat preference
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds removed (optional for heat lovers, or in place of Sriracha)
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1 Tbs tahini

Purée until smooth, adding water one tsp at a time if necessary. Set sauce aside.

Thinly slice pork, toss with salt and pepper. Layer pork onto baguette(s), followed by cucumber, carrot, jalapeño, and cilantro sprigs. Top with mayonnaise or Sriracha-peanut sauce. Serve with extra sauce for dipping, or refrigerate and stir sauce into leftover noodles and veggies for a tasty lunch.

Rustic Strata with Corn, Leek, Mushroom, and Gruyère

The French call french toast pain perdu which translates literally to “bread lost.”  This versatile, bubblin’-and-steamin’-from-the-oven creation is of the same ilk, in that it turns stale bread into a weekend brunch masterpiece.  Corn, leeks, and ‘shrooms are three of my favorite local spring veggies, naturally sweet and nutty with divine textures.  The Gruyère lends a hint of quiche Lorraine which, for those of us past the laughable “real men don’t eat quiche” phase, we can all agree is the gold standard of comfort-food egg dishes.

Strata mucho

Strata Mucho

Most times I make strata, however, I Iron Chef ™ it out of ingredients on hand.  The bread-egg-milk-cheese “master recipe” ratios can be combined with all manner of extras (your leftover veggie kabobs from last night, par example). Should you find yourself winging it like Debra Winger (I love you, Deb!) substitute whatever sautéing veggies you have available, along with whatever cheeses you have, except for of course (mon Dieu!) American.

  • 6 farm eggs
  • 2 cups milk (your choice, I use 1%.  Whole will taste richer, dahling.)
  • 1 TBS grain mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper (plus more to taste)
  • 3-4 oz. each Parmesan Reggiano and Gruyère cheeses, shredded
  • 5-6 thick slices artisan bread (or 8 slices sandwich bread) cubed*
  • 2 TBS olive oil (plus more)
  • 2 leeks, trimmed; chopped, rinsed, and drained
  • 2 ears of fresh corn, de-kerneled
  • 4-5 oz sliced mushrooms (morel or chanterelle are divine, but crimini are great too)
  • 1 TBS reserved bacon fat (I keep some in the fridge at all times) or 1 TBS butter
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • fresh parsley, rinsed and chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.  Use some olive oil to grease the inside of a 9×13 (or thereabouts) baking dish.  Heat 1 TBS bacon fat or butter in a sauté pan on med high.  Add leeks, corn, and ‘shrooms.  Sauté until leeks are wilted, adding 1 TBS olive oil along the way.  Add 2 tsp balsamic vinegar plus salt and pepper to taste and continue sautéing until golden brown.  Remove from heat and let cool. In a large bowl, whisk together first 4 ingredients (eggs through pepper) and set aside.  Toss bread cubes in the baking dish with an extra drizzle of olive oil, then spread them out in a layer.  Arrange cooled veggies on top of bread.  (Pro tip:  let a couple oiled bread corners stick up to create crispy brown peaks in the final product.)  Pour egg mixture evenly over bread and veggies (watch for those peaks, perfectionists!).  Sprinkle cheese mixture on top.

That's my bacon fat in the background there.  Next time you make bacon, pour the fat into a container and refrigerate it, mmmkay?

That’s bacon fat in the background.  Save yours the next time you make bacon, mmmkay?

So the cheese will not stick during baking, oil the underside of a piece of tinfoil (rub extra oil into hands, elbows and cuticles) then cover dish tightly.  Bake for 50 minutes or until center is bubbly.  Remove foil and bake another 5-10 minutes or until top is lightly browned. Serve in squares with chopped parsley and a simple green or fruit salad.  Voilà!  Bread found.

*breadnotes:  If bread is soft, strata can be made day-of.  For a decadent, more custard-y treat, try Challah bread.  For stale bread, assemble the night before and store covered in the fridge.  For baseball-bat stale bread, break into chunks and steam covered in a basket with an inch of water for a couple minutes as you would broccoli.

Fried Rice FTW

(FTW? WTF! In case you need to brush up on your internet slang, you can do so here. You’ll notice there are two possible definitions. How your rice turns out determines which of those FTW definitions to employ for your recipe files.)

Psst - real pans get dirty on the sides when you cook with them.

Psst – real pans get food on the sides when you cook with them.

Oh Fried Rice, how I would have revelled in knowing your secret as an undergrad. You’re more of a magic trick than a recipe. All those times stumbling home drunk to find an empty fridge, save for a couple eggs and a lone take-out pagoda of petrified rice which, in my ignorance, I didn’t give another glance. I just let the light fall dark on them. Then I probably threw them away a week later. I shudder to think of that now. There are few things I find harder to stomach than wasted food. [This passion may stem from my grandmother, a child of the Depression, affectionately known as “Gogs” to her grandchildren, who once purchased a personal-sized cooler at a church thrift store in FL (“Noah’s Ark”) in order to drive home to D.C. with the leftover cheese remnants from our extended family vacation. You can’t make this stuff up, folks.]

There is nothing exact or measured about this recipe (apologies to my OCD friends). If you’ve had it before, you can judge the proper ratios for yourself. With it’s cornucopia of flavor, color, and texture possibilities, fried rice deserves to be eyeballed rather than measured. Basic fried rice begins with 5 ingredients:

  • cooked rice (white or brown)
  • eggs (in general, use roughly one per cup cooked rice, more if meatless)
  • peanut oil (or other high-temp oil will do)
  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce

Fried rice variations are endless and should be tailored to your new anti-food-waste needs. The last batch I made (pictured above) featured in addition to the big 5, a languishing half head of cauliflower, onion, carrot, celery, frozen peas, mushrooms, leftover chicken salvaged from an unfortunately flavored Tom Yum soup delivery, green onion, sesame seeds and fresh parsley. Though my children would have sneered at several of those ingredients alone, as a family we crushed that batch of fried rice, and avoided paying for an additional meal for five in the process (now you see why it’s more like magic?).

optional ingredients:

  • diced mirapoix (onion, carrot, celery)
  • diced bbq pork, or cooked meat of your choice
  • frozen peas
  • sesame seeds
  • fresh cilantro or parsley
  • ground coriander

If you are using onion, carrot, celery or other fresh veggies, dice them while heating some peanut oil (enough to coat the bottom) to med-high (shimmery but not smoking) in a large enameled or non-stick deep sauté pan (or wok if you have one). Add a couple drops of sesame oil, then sauté and season your veggies. Softer vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, and zucchini, if used should be added/seasoned a few minutes later, and cooked with the lid on.  Once veggies have reached desired doneness, push them to one side of the pan. Add a few more drops of both oils to the pan and once heated, crack the eggs directly into the clearing. Season them with salt, pepper, and coriander. Break them up to cook.

Stir cooked eggs into veggie mixture. If pan has lost it’s oil coating, add a bit more. Dump rice into pan, drizzle conservatively with soy sauce (you can always add more later). If rice is cold from the fridge, cook covered for a few minutes to soften, adding a few drops of water to rehydrate grains if necessary. Add meat and frozen peas, stirring to combine. Fry mixture until peas are done.  

Before serving, taste the rice and adjust the seasonings. Garnish with fresh herbs and sesame seeds. FTW!          






Coconut Milk Poached Salmon

"coconut milk poached salmon"


Rejoice! This salmon recipe works for all seasons. Since it’s gluten, dairy, and land animal-free; it works for nearly all dinner guests too.

The first time I had fish poached in coconut milk was at Adrift in the historic, seaside town of Anacortes, WA. A piece of fresh caught halibut was swimming with bok choy in creamy coconut milk. I made it the next day with my first fish love, salmon, and have been improving on that attempt ever since. It’s best when you season the rich sauce and crisp one side of the salmon.

Poaching is key. It ensures the salmon stays moist even if you commit the cardinal sin of overcooking it.

You can make this in about 30 minutes. In one deep, lidded pan.

Serves 4-6

  • 2-3 lbs de-skinned fresh salmon or halibut fillets
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 Tbs coconut oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • pinch of sugar
  • one lime cut into wedges
  • ground coriander and cumin (optional. In India they mix these spices into one product: Dhania Jeera)
  • green curry paste (optional. Thai Kitchen happily features only ingredients you would expect to find)
  • sesame oil (optional)
  • coconut cream or “manna” (optional)
  • fresh cilantro or thai basil (optional)
  • fresh spinach and/or freshly steamed rice

De-skin (both sides) salmon if necessary. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels. On one side, rub salmon with generous amounts of salt, pepper, cumin, and coriander powder.

Heat coconut oil and a few drops of sesame oil uncovered in a large, deep saute pan (with lid, for later) on med high.  When shimmery, add salmon seasoned-side down. Fry for 2-3 minutes or until desired brownness achieved (move salmon around a lot at the beginning or else it will stick and you will lose your beautiful goldenness). Set salmon aside, raw side down on a plate.

Give the pan a quick wipe with a paper towel. Add one can coconut milk, salt, pepper, pinch of sugar, and 1/4 to 1/2 tsp each of the following as desired; turmeric, cumin, coriander. Stir in 1-2 Tbs green curry paste (more will make it spicier) then a few Tbs coconut manna or Trader Joe’s “coconut cream” (in a brown can near the coconut milk) to add some extra richness, although it is not needed. Bring sauce to a boil, reduce to simmer, TASTE IT, and adjust seasonings as necessary.

When you are satisfied with the flavor of your sauce, slide the salmon raw side down into the center of the pan. Bring sauce back up to low simmer around the fish. Cover and poach until done (depends on thickness of fillet, but this usually takes about 10 minutes – just cut into it and check).

Ladle sauce over steamed rice, fresh spinach (thanks for the idea, Ash!) or both. Divide salmon and arrange fillets on top. Garnish with lime wedges and cilantro and/or Thai basil.

Photo credit: Ashley Cascio

Photo credit: Ashley Cascio



Game-Changer Eight Layer Dip

If you’re wondering why football is so popular, I’ll tell you. It’s modern day gladiator shit; money, mentors, drama, meteoric rises in fame, agony, ecstasy, coliseums, hometown pride (with slight variations on the to-the-death part) and the Seahawks are about to take it all down. Let’s soak in the gluttonous glory before our empire falls.  How?  Besides the obvious, with serious snackage. But first, a little background…

Against many odds (namely, nary a female relative or friend who liked football) I became a fan.  It was during Faith Hill’s administration, and she will always be the one true singer of the “Sunday Night Football” song IMHO (no offense Carrie, but you’re missing a certain je ne sais quoi.  Go have a kid or something.)  This later-in-life development could be traced back to the scores of hours I logged breast-feeding babies in front of a game; I had twins in August ’07.  As a captive audience member, there was nothing to do but learn the (admittedly extensive) rules, which made me like it.  I soon became enthralled by the regular strategic surprises, coupled with what these gladi-players do with their bodies (which makes it more exciting than say, baseball).  At the time I didn’t think much of it (probably because “thinking” was the height of luxury back then) but synthesizing horse-portion quantities of food into 10-times-daily nutritious, life-sustaining milkshakes for two infants may have led me to feel a certain kinship with these warrior athletes.  That 67 yard punt return?  That one-handed grab between two defenders??  That flip into the end zone???  Do what you gotta do, boys.  My body can do really dope shit too, while I watch you from this couch.

Games are a legit excuse to make all manner of party food, this recipe being the most healthy (fresh veggies?) easy (no cooking?) and requested (no brainer) by my family in that category.

I’m Faith Hill, bitches!!

Game-Changer Eight Layer Dip (appetizer for 8-10 or dinner for 2)


  • one 15 oz can refried black beans
  • 8-16 oz sour cream
  • two cups shredded cheese blend
  • 3-4 ripe (Kumato are great) tomatoes, coarsely diced
  • one or two ripe avocados, pitted and flesh coarsely diced
  • one 4 oz can sliced black olives, drained
  • 2-3 green onions, white and pale green parts thinly sliced crosswise
  • one bunch fresh cilantro, rinsed and chopped
  • one lime
  • one bag stone-ground yellow corn tortilla chips
Using a spatula, spread the black beans in an even layer on a large plate or food-safe platter.  Next, evenly spread the sour cream over the beans (use more if you love it).
Cover that with a layer of shredded cheese.  Layer the next five ingredients (tomatoes through cilantro) on top in order.  Squeeze lime over top.  Serve with chips.  Eat face off.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread


farm eggs in the house

This recipe is very easy, I love that it works equally well for breakfast as it does dessert.  Some variation is normal, not all bananas are the same size or ripeness.  If yours are small, maybe throw in an extra.  Super-sized?  Use one less.  Preheat the oven to 250.  Use some coconut oil to grease the inside of a bread loaf pan, rub any extra into your cuticles and elbows.  Sprinkle the inside of the greased pan with flour, set aside.


  • 5 ripe (brown to black) bananas
  • 1/2 C natural sugar
  • 1/2 C melted coconut oil
  • 2 farm eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 C flour sifted with 1.5 tsp salt and 1 tsp each baking powder and soda
  • 1 C dark chocolate chips

With a hand or stand mixer, mix the bananas and sugar together until homogeneously creamy, this could take a few minutes.  Add the eggs, vanilla and melted oil; blending well.  Slowly add the flour mix, and lastly the chips.  Pour mixture into prepared pan.  Place in center of oven and bake 1.5-1.75 hrs or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Place pan on it’s side on a cooling rack, after 15-20 minutes, turn pan upside down and remove loaf.  Place loaf right-side-up directly on cooling rack.  Loaf will keep for several days at room temp when tightly covered (only once completely cooled).

to infinity and beyond

to infinity and beyond