Puerto Rican Arroz con Pollo

This is my comfort food. When ever we had a special occasion, my mother would make this recipe. My sister and I are home to visit? Arroz con pollo. The day after Christmas? Arroz con pollo. This, like my pernil recipe, comes from Carmen Valldejuli’s Cocina Criolla (here in English). I recently made it for one of our friend-family dinners, and it was a hit even for the pickiest eater in the group. In this version I’ve kicked up the spices to make it extra savory.

The recipe in its original form calls for ajíes dulces and culantro. These are not readily available ingredients in most markets.  I found the ajíes (a small, savory and slightly sweet green pepper, about the size of a super large hatch pepper but without any of the spice) in the local Hispanic market in Mt. Pleasant here in DC. If you’re unable to come upon any ajíes, I’d simply double the green pepper quotient. And be careful which you buy, the Peruvian ajíes are super spicy! Puerto Rican food is pretty much never spicy, so unless you want this dish to be that way, be mindful of which you come across.

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Lemon Bars

Me and all the moms in Minnesota love to make lemon bars. I don’t know what it is that draws me to this dessert. I certainly have my affinity for all things chocolate, but the tart lemon custard and shortbread crust is irresistible. I traveled to Italy about five years ago and spent considerable time on the Amalfi Coast, known for its steep, terraced lemon groves. They had lemons the size of grapefruits! Not to mention the limoncello… and the lemon gelato… it haunts my dreams.

So, to mix it up from creamy and chocalatey, lemon bars are one of my favorites, especially for large crowds. This recipe yields an entire pan full, and they are quite tart so best in small doses. You’ll be slicing away at these for days! Trader Joe’s almost always has Meyer Lemons, which are my favorite to use. But beware – the skin is usually quite thin so they don’t yield much zest at all, a key ingredient in this recipe. Instead, either buy lots of extras or go half-half on Meyer lemons and commercial ones.

This recipe is an amalgam of Mark Bittman’s, Smitten Kitchen’s (too much flour!), Ina Garten’s, and from a lady named Lee Bailey. Yeah, I like lemon bars.

I recently perfected my lemon/lime bar recipe, so this is the same as the key lime bars with the addition and exemption of a few key ingredients in the curd portion. Enjoy!

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Cool Coconut Lime Bars with Shortbread Crust


Because of how often I make bars — pecan bars, lemon bars, brownies — I have begun to realize that they are my favorite dessert. It’s like mini pie when you think about it. And when you can nail that crust-to-filling ratio just the way you like it, you know you’re on to something great.

This recipe is a riff on my lemon bars. Cool off this summer with these tart, crunchy yet gooey coconut lime bars. Go ahead and tuck this recipe away, too. It’s a keeper. You could half the crust recipe and make in a smaller pan, thus increasing the ratio of curd to crust, or you could double the curd recipe if you want super thick and creamy bars. It’s up to you!

UPDATE: I have improved upon this recipe for both tartness and smoothness in the curd. I think you’ll find that this recipe could win some sort of midwestern state fair. Yes, it is that good. And by good I mean tastes good, not good for you! Recipe tweaks included… more butter and eggs! I also nixed the flour and baking soda in the filling. Enjoy!

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Shrimp and Chicken Jambalaya

Everyone has their signature recipe, right? Your go-to in case of guests or a potluck. The one that makes really good leftovers and takes a little while to prepare but comes out great every time. That’s this recipe for me.

Jambalaya is best with really good andouille sausage. I can find only OK andouille here in DC, but in Austin it was everywhere. If you can’t find andouille, I’ve used kielbasa with good results, but make sure it’s a smoked sausage, preferably with pork. I like to start mine on the stovetop and finish it in the oven as I find that the rice turns out perfectly every time that way.

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Arugula Salad with Smoked Salmon, Poached Egg and Lemon Parmesan Dressing

Arugula Salad with Poached Egg, Smoked Salmon and Lemon Parmeson Dressing

We always have arugula in our refrigerator because, as my husband will happily do with spinach, I have begun to eat it by the handful right out of the bag. I don’t think I can ever get to the point where I eat spinach like potato chips (and good on you if you love it that much) but I feel pretty good about my sincere love for something green, whether plain or dressed.

Another reason I always buy a big box of arugula is so that I can make this salad, which I eat for lunch at least once a week. It is easy to prepare so I don’t have to feel bad for taking a long lunch (an easy thing to do when you work from home!) and the dressing keeps in the fridge for a few days if you want a redux.

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Slow Cooker Indian Spiced Butternut Squash

Here I am with my 307th post (or so it feels) featuring butternut squash. This is adapted from one of my favorite new cookbooks, Anupy Singla’s The Indian Slow Cooker. The flavors are so authentic, it’s deceptively easy and keeps well, too. It only takes about four hours in the slow cooker and honestly the worst part about this is chopping up the squash, a task which once sent me to the emergency room for stitches!

Despite their ease and convenience, slow cooker meals aren’t always the tastiest. (Surprise! You can’t just dump a bunch of stuff into a pot, turn it on and expect greatness.) This recipe is an absolute exception: It’s restaurant-quality delicious, like everything else I’ve made from this book thus far.

I had a hard time finding the methi (fenugreek seeds) and after ordering an absurd amount from Amazon.com I found it at my local organic market. (In case you were feeling duped by this ingredient, check there or just omit it altogether.)

Enjoy the aromas as this cooks and get ready for some serious cold-weather comfort food!

P.S. Is it spring yet? Yeesh!

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Salmon over Walnut Lentil Salad with Tarragon


Wow! It’s been a month since I last posted. I had a lot of life happen in rapid succession — my new FODMAP diet, another momentarily-worrisome-but-probably-nothing health scare (phew!) and really digging in to my dissertation. (That is, after all, half of this blog’s title.)

No matter. I am back with one of my all-time favorite recipes to share. Not only is it bomb dot com delicious, but it’s also a real crowd pleaser. The lentil salad makes a fantastic potluck dish that is sure to delight vegetarians/vegans and carnivores alike. And this is one of my favorite ways to cook salmon. I did a little combination of two trustworthy chef’s recipes, Carla Hall of Top Chef fame and Mark Bittman, to create something that doesn’t take a ton of time but tastes like it does.

Tarragon gets top billing in these recipes, making them perfect to serve side-by-side. Not to mention the nuttiness of the lentils compliment salmon perfectly. I suggest downing the lentils with the salmon all in one bite!

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FODMAP Foods and Feeling Good Again

This morning I had an appointment with a gastroenterologist to address my almost constant gastrointestinal discomfort. In the past I’d been diagnosed with IBS after an inconclusive endoscopy when I was about 10 years old. IBS is such an odd disorder, it seems to be a catch-all for those with stomach pains that aren’t patently caused by something in specific.

The doctor ordered a Celiac panel to make sure I don’t have it (don’t think I do, but I’ve heard that most everyone is slightly sensitive to gluten) and sent me home with a new dietary plan. I don’t have stomach pain just when I eat certain things, but rather ALL THE TIME, no matter what, sometimes even if I don’t eat! Which makes me think it’s not just gluten, or just dairy, or just spicy food, etc. I have sharp pains due to gas and bloating, and I can feel my stomach gurgling around all day sometimes.

A new dietary intervention is called FODMAPs, which has you eliminate (or reduce, at least) a group of carbohydrates and sugars that may be poorly absorbed and cause gas and bloat. FODMAPs is an acronym for “Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, and Monosaccharides and Polyols.” Essentially, it refers to foods that contain easily fermentable, short-chain sugars that increase fluid delivery into your large bowel, causing pain in certain individuals.*

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Sour Cream Cheesecake

My husband’s birthday is the day before Christmas, which means that Christmastime is basically a celebration of him in our household as neither of us are religious. We put up a tree and give gifts and celebrate the season — that is, the tilt of the Earth’s axis and the solstice. My husband’s favorite dessert is cheesecake. He loves it so much that we almost had it at our wedding. He grew up eating Snicker’s pie on his birthday made lovingly by his mother, and while it’s delicious I find that I can’t stomach much more than about a half a slice simply because it’s so rich. I was also eager to start creating our own Christmas/birthday traditions. I had never made a cheesecake before, so I went to Alton Brown for his recipe as they are fool-proof although sometimes complicated.

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Baked Eggs with Kale

My friend Amanda over at Rooster & Wheat posted her own version of baked eggs & kale a while back, inspiring me to do something with my greens other than blend it into a fruit smoothie. I tried her recipe the very day she posted it. (I LOVE eggs.) It was delicious, but I did something wrong. I mustn’t have the deft hand that she did, or perhaps my cheap gas oven (ah, the joys of renting) was creating a wonky result. Either way, I couldn’t get my egg whites to cook properly and my kale, on the other hand, was much too undercooked.

Then came my September 2012 issue of Cook’s Illustrated. In it: Perfect Baked Eggs Florentine. Taking a page out of Cook’s Illustrated, and using kale instead of spinach, emerged my own version, so delicious that it’s a weekend go-to although it requires a bit of patience, something I’m often lacking after “accidentally” sleeping in.

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