I am here today to tell you about an unsung hero. A vegetable that has gotten a bad rep my entire life that deserves to be treated better. One that is tastier than most when properly prepared. I’m talking about the brussels sprout.
When I see these beauties at the market on Saturday or Sunday morning, I’m going in for the kill. And if they’re on sale, I’m buying extra. Mike and I tend to fight over the leftovers and sometimes take turns bringing them for lunch the following day if there’s only a few. He even brags about this recipe to complete strangers.
I’m not here today to brag about this recipe–even though it’s delectable. I am here to help you love brussels sprouts and to help you easily welcome a new delicious side into your routine meals if you aren’t already familiar with them. If you are familiar and you make them some other way and they’re delicious, I believe you. But I will still insist that you try them this way.
And so without further ado, this post is short and sweet, and so is the recipe.
1 bunch brussel sprouts (trimmed, halved if they are larger than cherries or grapes)
5 garlic cloves, smashed with the skin still on
2 heaping tbsp. bacon fat
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. honey
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
Methodology & Instructions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and place a rack in the middle. Whisk together garlic, olive oil, honey, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper. Pour brussels sprouts into a large baking dish and pour mixture over the top. Toss to coat. Top with a tablespoon of bacon fat on each side of dish. (If you have a cast iron pan, start these on the stove over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes and then move to the oven.)
Bake, tossing occasionally, for 40-45 minutes or until brussel sprouts are tender and some of the leaves have caramelized with the honey and started to char. If some of the leaves or edges are a little dark brown or black, this is a good thing! You have not burned the dish. You have nailed it.
Serve with anything from pork to baked cod as a side dish. (Look for recipes for both entree options in the near future.)
If you had told me two years ago that I’d be going to the gym or exercising (mostly alone, mind you) 2-3 days a week and preferring zucchini to pasta–I’d’ve told you that you were insane. Or asked where your time machine was for proof.
When my mom cut gluten out of her diet, I started trying more ways to enjoy things that are usually full of carbs and sugar but with better nutritional benefit. So far, I’ve made pizza boats out of zucchini (YUM!), started eating celeriac (also YUM!), discovered delicious new snacks (kale chips!), become obsessed with brussel sprouts and have made zucchini “noodles” or “zoodles” almost once a week for the last few months. Since this was already routine, when I moved out this summer, I took the healthy, low-carb diet along with me.
And this Italian girl still loves her pasta with a side of garlic bread–just much, much less often. Spiralizing zucchini has helped me to take a big step away from a diet high in processed foods. Pasta was always a go-to quick meal for me, and it still kind of is, but I usually sub out zucchini. Plus, Mike isn’t totally opposed and loves the bolognese just as much as I do.
FOR ALL RECIPES:
3 “good-sized” zucchinis, spiralized Hint: All you’ll need to do is trim the ends off with a sharp knife. Just give the zucchini a good rinse, no need to peel.
AGLIO E OLIO
4 TBSP olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 fresh basil leaves, cut into strips (optional)
Salt & pepper
Over medium heat, sautee the garlic in the oil until it begins to bubble, be sure it doesn’t brown. Let the garlic soften and the flavor meld into the oil. This should only take about 5 minutes.
Add the zoodles and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the noodles marry into the sauce, tossing them to ensure a good coating.
Cook about 4-6 minutes or until only slightly tender. If you cook the zucchini for too long, it will become mushy and the sauce will be soupy.
Finish the last minute or so with the freshly cut basil leaves. I usually cut them into strips or tear up by hand.
Serve with grated cheese and/or red pepper flakes for toppings. Enjoy!
2 hot Italian pork sausages, casings removed
2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup ricotta cheese
Over medium-high heat, cook the sausage, breaking it up into smaller bits. (There is always the option to make this with ground pork rather than sausage.)
Once mostly cooked through, season the meat lightly with salt and pepper, add the tomato sauce and heavy whipping cream.
Let simmer 2-3 minutes or until sauce begins to bubble slightly.
Once the sauce bubbles and thickens a bit, lower the heat to medium and add the zoodles and ricotta.
Stir to combine, then let simmer for 3-4 minutes. The ricotta should completely “melt” into the sauce and help to thicken it a bit more.
Remove from the heat and serve!
1 ½ c. tomato sauce
For a how-to on the Food Snob’s Tomato Sauce, CLICK HERE. Then, follow the remaining steps.
Bring about 1 ½ cups of tomato sauce to medium heat (don’t let it bubble much, you don’t want it to burn).
Add the zoodles and let “stew” for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you notice the sauce beginning to become watery and the zucchini breaking down too much, remove from heat early.
Once the zucchini has softened slightly, remove from heat. Serve!
ALFREDO I know–this one might seem a little weird, but at the suggestion of a friend I gave it a try and it is so, so good.
¼ c. heavy whipping cream
¼ c. shredded Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese (plus more for topping)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ Tbsp. olive oil
1 ½ Tbsp. butter
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper (plus more for topping)
¼ c. chopped fresh Italian parsley (optional)
Over medium-low heat, melt the butter in a large saucepan. Once melted, add heavy cream and raise heat to medium heat. The cream will start to bubble and thicken.
Stir often to keep cream from sticking and reduce heat if it begins to look like it’s ‘boiling’.
Add the cheese and stir vigorously to melt the cheese into the sauce.
Add the zoodles immediately after the cheese has melted. Toss to coat using a spaghetti spoon and allow the zoodles to cook in the sauce for 4-5 minutes.
Remove from the heat before the zucchini becomes too soft.
Serve topped with parsley (optional), grated cheese and fresh cracked black pepper. Yum!
I feel like alfredo always gets a bad rap because it can be super fatty—like when you order it at a chain restaurant and it is probably made mostly of some kind of fake dairy product or weird by-product fat that did not come from an animal. Animal fat is not bad for you—in moderation. Especially those animal fats which melt at a high temperature, like duck fat. Which is how I typically justify duck fat fries, though I don’t eat them often enough where I should have to justify them, but still.
I like to make pasta alfredo from scratch because it’s just so easy. And please keep in mind that this recipe is not a “traditional” pasta alfredo. It does not call for any eggs and literally will take less time to cook than the pasta will, so pay attention and try not to be too impatient (like me). Since I don’t like to have any meals that exclude vegetables, I almost always add broccoli to my alfredo and most times I add chicken, which is optional here.
The other night, after a nice strength-building workout at the gym, I whipped this together for Mike and I in enough time that I almost didn’t realize I was famished from my workout. It is super important to me that I’m able to put something together quickly after I exercise—even though I always snack beforehand—because I have no patience when it comes to my hunger. And yes, I get hangry and it’s not pretty.
This recipe does not need much introduction or explanation, so I will let it speak for itself. Here she is:
Pasta with Homemade Alfredo Sauce and Broccoli
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10-15 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
½ lb. pasta of choice, (penne and gemelli are my personal favorites)
¼ cup heavy whipping cream (they sell it in this size at the market)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (or Romano, or cheddar, or whatever flavor you are feeling)
3-4 crowns of broccoli, chopped into florets
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ Tbsp. olive oil
1 ½ Tbsp. butter
Salt & pepper to taste
Methodology & Instructions:
Steam in a small sauce pot, with the olive oil, garlic and salt & pepper, over medium heat.
Depending on how mushy you like your broccoli, this should only take 5-8 minutes. Avoid raising the heat so that the garlic cooks but doesn’t burn.
Start your water boiling for your pasta. If you’re unsure of how much water, etc., read the instructions on the pasta box. 🙂 Once the water is boiling and the pasta is in the pot, move to step 2.
Over medium-low heat, melt butter in a large saucepan.
Once it’s nice and melty, add the heavy cream and increase to medium heat. The cream will eventually begin bubbling and thickening. This is good. Stir often to avoid sticking and lower the heat if it begins thickening too quickly.
Once the pasta is fairly al dente (not fully cooked by any manner), strain and add to alfredo sauce. Keep the heat on the pan, letting the pasta cook in the sauce and marry a little bit. (That’s what my mom likes to call it.)
Add the cheese after 3-4 minutes, but be careful because you need to serve almost immediately. Make sure the pasta is cooked to your desired chewiness before adding the cheese.
Lastly, toss the broccoli in with the pasta and toss to coat. The garlic will add a little extra flavor to the alfredo, too.
Kill the heat, plate this deliciousness and enjoy.
So, a few weeks before Chridtmas was the last time I’ve eaten Chinese food. Possibly ever. On this occasion, I had orange chicken over white rice, a favorite of mine, an egg roll and some beef teriyaki skewers. The weird thing was, within an hour I was sort of nauseous. Not like, I’m gonna be sick nauseous, it was more just this feeling of disgust with eating battered, fried chicken parts drenched in that sticky-sweet-and-spicy sauce. I couldn’t even think about it without my stomach turning over. Needless to say, I was not pleased and haven’t ordered Chinese since. (Not that I eat it often in the first place.) It still kinda feels like I had this big fight with Chinese takeout and we broke up. And I have a feeling I won’t be calling anytime soon.
A few months ago, however, I found a recipe for fried rice in Bon Appetit. It was a recipe that was a little out of my league and was provided by the magazine’s editor, Adam Rapaport. I check his note in every issue and, while this one was not what I was looking for, it was a challenge. It inspired me. I had my mind set. I would find a way to create delicious fried rice somewhere between soy-soaked Japanese hibachi and dry Chinese takeout. My mission had been decided and it didn’t take long to figure out, which was an awesome personal victory. The best part is, you can alter this to be low-sodium or even eliminate the soy sauce if you are super salt concerned.
Please note, before reading, that the method/instructions for this recipe are slightly advanced, but detailed. Keep in mind that the fried rice process happens rather fast and that it’s OK if it takes a few tries to really nail it. With this particular recipe, I have included some tips and struggles I experienced throughout the process. RIFS Homemade Fried Rice
2 tbsp. grapeseed oil
1 c. cooked jasmine rice
1/4 c. broccoli florets
1/4 c. celery and carrots, peeled and chopped
1/4 c. sweet onion, diced
1/4 c. soy sauce
2 large eggs
1 tsp. raw sugar
2 tbsp. chicken broth Methodology & Instructions:
1. Heat grapeseed oil in a cast iron pan over high heat. (Be very careful using a cast iron pan at this heat.)
2. Cook broccoli, carrots and celery, tossing vigorously, about 1-2 minutes. *If you like to keep frozen broccoli on hand, like I do, do make life easier, DO NOT put frozen broccoli directly into the pan. You will get spattered with hot oil. Do not make the rookie mistake I made.*
3. Add egg and stir/scramble vigorously until nearly fully cooked, about 30 seconds – 1 minute.
4. Add rice. Stir into mixture and then pat down into pan for 30-45 seconds at a time to crisp and dry out rice grains without burning. In between, stir together vigorously. Repeat process for 5-6 minutes. If rice doesn’t show signs of browning, continue a bit longer.
5. Add soy sauce. Repeat pressing and stirring process for 1-2 minutes.
6. Add sugar, onion, salt and pepper (about 1/2 tsp. of each). Repeat pressing and stirring process until onion softens and becomes translucent, 1-2 minutes.
7. Pour chicken broth around edges of the pan, press and stir until broth evaporates.
Fitting in a healthy breakfast has been a daily battle for me over the last ten years. I have always gone back and forth between trying to have a savory breakfast and going sweet because it’s faster. Lately, I’ve been hooked on overnight oats and I’m so excited to share my obsession with you.
On some mornings, I will nibble on a couple of hard boiled eggs—yolks removed—and either a few pieces of bacon or a nice, fluffy, carb-y breakfast grain with butter. I don’t have overnight oats every day, but I’ve been much better at breakfasting since adding them into the rotation. They’re easy to make and inexpensive to maintain as a staple.
It is important to note that the key to overnight oats is the ratio. If you like your oats thick, it’s 1 part oats to 1 part liquid. If you like them creamy but not too thick, like me, use 1 to 1.25 and if you like them very thin, 1 to 1.5 and so on. You may have to experiment once or twice to find out.
Perhaps my favorite thing about overnight oats is the different fresh or frozen fruits I can add. I would never add fruit to my oatmeal because I never want warm or hot fruit. With the addition of this delicious breakfast, I am including more and more fruit into my diet. And I don’t have to do a thing in the morning except pack a spoon! How could you go wrong?
Mix all ingredients, including any desired add-ins, together in a mason jar. Let sit in fridge overnight, at least 8 hours. Grab out of the fridge, pat yourself on the back for making breakfast ahead of time, stir the mixture once more and enjoy!
This is one of those types of things where you may need to adjust the ingredients and/or ratios to your taste. This is a guide, the basics of what I’ve gathered in a few weeks of trial and error. Take back your morning—make breakfast while you sleep!
Super Bowl Sunday is easily one of my favorite days of the year. It used to be for the commercials and the halftime show, but now I crave the final day of the NFL season from August through February. This year, though, it’s a bigger game day than usual. This year Paul Pierce will play his final game in the Boston Garden—as a Clipper, but nonetheless. I spent the afternoon reminiscing about Celtics moments that involved Pierce and the history of my favorite player in franchise history. If you’re feeling nostalgic and/or if you are a fan of basketball in any capacity, I suggest you check out this clip.
I am always nostalgic when it comes to mentions of Paul Pierce. The first game he played in Boston wearing a color other than green—during his time with the Nets—brought tears to my eyes. The welcoming from the fans after mere months away from the team and the montage of moments played on the Jumbotron were awesome. I remember standing on the corner of Dartmouth and Boylston in 2008 when they won the finals. The crowd went totally insane when he came by on the duck boat, carrying the MVP trophy and puffing a cigar that had been gifted to him by Red Auerbach. I cried then, too. And I’m not even a little bit embarrassed. The Celtics are my team and Paul Pierce was my favorite Celtic to root for. I’m finally starting to feel all the feels again with Isaiah Thomas embodying the spirit of Boston, but he’s not even close to having an edge on The Truth. If there is a chance to attend his retirement ceremony—which I pray will be at the Garden, in Celtic green—I will be there. And I will try like hell to get to Springfield when he is inevitably inducted into the HOF—again, hopefully in that lucky green. Tomorrow, even though it is not the last game of his career, tomorrow I will have to say my fan farewell.
For the past few years I’ve been making spinach and artichoke dip from scratch for Super Bowl Sunday, but this year I felt like having chili and cornbread. I’ve made a couple of different types of chili in the past, but this one is an RI Food Snob (RIFS) Original. It will be the first of, hopefully, many recipes that will bear the RIFS tag as I mess around and/or ‘riff’ on different things going forward and make them my own.
So, without further nostalgia or sadness, I give you the Game Day Chili.
1 orange bell pepper or 3 baby bell peppers, diced
1 red bell pepper or 3 baby bell peppers, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-14.5 oz. cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1-15.2 oz. can sweet corn
1-32 oz. container low-sodium chicken broth
1-6 oz. can tomato paste
1 bottle of beer (lager or ale)
2 tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground (red) cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. chili pepper flakes
½ tsp. dried thyme
Salt + pepper
Shredded cheddar cheese
½ c. scallions, chopped
Methodology & Instructions:
1. In a medium sauce pot or Dutch oven, cook ground beef over medium-high heat with chili pepper flakes and ½ tsp. each of salt and pepper, making sure to break beef into smaller bits. (Not listed as an ingredient, I used about 1 teaspoon of olive oil to flavor the beef without creating extra grease. This addition is optional.)
2. Once the beef is cooked through, remove it from the pan using a slotted spoon to drain most of the grease from the meat and set aside.
3. Add garlic, onion and peppers to the same pan and cook until soft and fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.
4. Stir in thyme, paprika, cayenne and cumin. Add an additional 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Most of the fat/grease should be absorbed at this point, be sure to stir continuously so nothing burns.
5. Scrape any bits sticking to the bottom of the pan with wooden spoon and add beer, stirring continuously to deglaze the pan. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes or until most of the beer is absorbed.
6. Stir in both cans of tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes, allowing the juices to thicken. Add the beef back into the mixture as well.
7. Drain the can of sweet corn and add it to the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
8. Add the chicken broth and and tomato paste, stir well and bring the chili to a simmer.
9. Simmer 25-30 minutes or until the chili becomes desired thickness.
10. Serve topped with cheddar cheese and scallions, or whatever toppings you may like!
The winter is coming and the little hints of darkness in the world sometimes seemingly become larger and more ominous as we lose hours of daylight and warmth. My heart goes out to all of those affected by the events that took place on the Ohio State campus on Monday morning. I could not express enough how important it is to create in times of the world’s troubles. Throughout my college and post-graduate education at Emerson College, I was constantly reminded by poets, novelists and memoirists of the 20th century that these dark times are ours for making beauty, ours for remembering and for brightening.
I have been attempting to make better habits out of submitting my works of poetry and have a selection of magazines I’d like to send individual pieces to. If you’re a practicing writer looking to submit, the Poets & Writers website is a great place to seek suggestions for submission. Once I’ve done a more substantial amount of submitting – and by substantial I mean some instead of none so far – I’ll be sure to share more about the magazines.
As the title of this post calls for, I have found a soul-encircling soup that is perfect for when the weather begins to deter our happiness. (I like to make the New England winters sound really ominous because I find it both interesting and humorous that I most definitely suffer from seasonal depression.) The bones of this recipe—not literally—originated in an issue of Bon Appetit magazine. The magazine is a personal favorite of mine and the subscription certainly keeps me interested and excited about adding new things to my kitchen resume.
Although I was not a huge fan of kale, I recently learned that it is much tastier when those pesky ribs in the middle are stripped away and the leaves are all that’s being eaten. Yes, I started eating kale before it was a huge trend and I did not know the ribs were supposed to be removed. Yes, I consider myself an intermediate-to-expert level home cook. Yes, I am OK with admitting this is silly and incorrect. I am mostly just excited that I can finally enjoy kale prepared at home because I couldn’t figure out why everyone else’s seemed SO good in comparison to mine.
In addition to the greens I am trying to fit into my diet, hence creating a soup that involves kale, I have been dying for a little kick. I’ve always been more comforted by a really good chili or tortilla soup than chicken soup when it comes to the coldest days of the year. This is because the spice that is typically included when it comes to chili or tortilla soup sort of extends the warming effect. If I eat something hot, brothy AND spicy, I feel like my chills will just go away and I’ll be able to focus on more important things. Instead of adding the obligatory hot pepper rings, cayenne pepper, jalapenos, hot sauce or other staple heat packing ingredients, I used my chili and garlic infused olive oil. I am obsessed with this olive oil. I used it on everything. I bought it over the summer at the outdoor Italian market in Philadelphia—I’m dying to go back—when I was visiting a friend and I need to either a) Venmo for more or b) order it from the website. The lovely little shop where I bought it is called Cardenas Oil & Vinegar Taproom and they have all kinds of wonderful goodies you might want to add to your pantry like infused oils, vinegars and different herbed salts, etc. It is absolutely magical and I need to find a place like this closer to me.
Now that I’ve rambled quite a bit, let’s get down to the recipe I have promised and thank you for your faithful readership until this big reveal.
2 cloves garlic (3 if not using garlic-infused oil), chopped
8 c. low-sodium vegetable broth (or 4 c. vegetable broth + 4 c. chicken broth for added flavor)
1 28-oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 c. pearl barley, rinsed (you can get this in bulk at Whole Foods without buying a package)
1 sm. bunch kale, stems discarded and leaves cut into small pieces (collard greens also an option)
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed
2 pinches of red pepper flakes (optional KICK)
Salt & pepper
Grated cheese for garnish
Methodology and Execution:
I usually eyeball my olive oil, but for the sake of the recipe, my instructions are 8 tbsp. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Once you can see that the oil is moving around easily, you’ll know it’s hot. Add the onions and garlic and season with salt and pepper. (Hint: A friend of mine recently informed me after taking a culinary class in Italy that garlic need not be peeled to have the same effects. I crush the cloves, inside their casing, with the flat end of a large knife, then throw in. The casing also has nutrients that add some extra benefits to the soup. Remove the cloves—if you wish—when the soup is done.)
Once the onion is tender and translucent, about 6-8 minutes, add the tomatoes (Hint: Use whole, peeled crushed tomatoes if you don’t like chunky soup) with their juices and the broth(s) and bring everything to a nice boil. Add the barley to the boiling soup, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the barley is tender, about 20 minutes.
Add the kale, beans and red pepper flakes (optional) and simmer until the beans are heated through and greens are wilted, about 3 to 5 minutes. I ended up simmering the soup almost an additional 20 minutes to ensure the kale had cooked down and all of the flavors had developed. I also did a few taste tests to make sure my lips got a little tingly from the spice—or else I would have had to add more flakes.
Serving suggestion: ladle into bowls and add freshly grated cheese, toast some Italian bread for dunking.
I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe as much as I do—I wasn’t sure I would like it this much, but it is DELICIOUS! This is the desired result for testing out something new and developing along the way. I’m going to freeze some of this in small batches to have throughout the frigid winter. I’ll let you know how it works out.