If you’re in need of a little winter pick-me-up, this soul-satisfying soup is just the ticket. And here’s what else I love about it: you can make it with ingredients you likely have on hand; it’s ready in 30 minutes yet it tastes like you spent all day in the kitchen making it; it’s vegetarian and healthy; and it’s hearty enough, along with a salad and loaf of good bread, to be a complete meal.
Before we get started, a few words about the ingredients. It’s important to use red lentils, as opposed to another variety: they cook quickly, add wonderful flavor and thicken the soup nicely. The recipe only calls for a third of a cup; don’t be tempted to add more, or your soup will turn to sludge. As for the green vegetables, I like to use frozen peas and green beans but you can use any quick cooking, frozen or leftover vegetables you have on hand. The recipe is very forgiving!
Begin by cooking the onions in olive oil until soft. Add the carrots, garlic, smoked paprika and cumin and cook until fragrant, a few minutes.
Add the broth, lentils, thyme, bay leaves, salt, and pepper.
Bring to a simmer and cook for ten minutes.
Add the chickpeas and cook for ten minutes more, or until the lentils are cooked and the carrots are tender.
Remove a few cups of the soup and purée until smooth.
Pour the puréed soup back into the pot. Stir and taste; if you want the soup to be thicker, purée a bit more.
1 cupcooked vegetables, frozen peas or chopped fresh greens (or any combination)
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, carrots, smoked paprika and cumin; cook, stirring frequently so the garlic doesn't brown, about 2 minutes more.
Add the broth, diced tomatoes, red lentils, thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer; cook for ten minutes. Add the chickpeas, cover the pot and cook 10 minutes more. Fish out the bay leaves, then transfer 2 cups of the soup to a blender and purée until smooth. Add the puréed soup back to the pot and stir. Taste; if you want the soup to be thicker, purée a bit more soup. Add the cooked vegetables, frozen peas or chopped greens and simmer until the soup is hot and the vegetables are warmed through. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.
1/4 cupall-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
3 tablespoonscold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cupsliced almonds
For the Muffins
1 heaping cupdried cherries, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoonalmond extract
2 cupsall-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
2 teaspoonsbaking powder
1 teaspoonbaking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons)unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spray two muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray (you'll use 8 cups in each pan).
Make the streusel: Combine the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; mix until well combined. Use your fingers to rub the butter into the dry mixture until the mixture is moistened and clumpy. Stir in the almonds. Place the streusel topping in the freezer until ready to use.
In a medium bowl, combine the cherries, buttermilk and almond extract. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, a few minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl and mixing well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients and buttermilk-cherry mixture and stir on low speed until just combined. Do not overmix. Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full with the batter, then sprinkle the cold streusel topping evenly overtop.
Bake for 8 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue cooking for 10 minutes more, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let the muffins sit in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to rack to cool completely.
Note: These muffins are best served warm out of the oven. To "refresh" them, simply reheat them in the microwave for 5-10 seconds.
When you roast chickpeas at a high temperature, they become deliciously golden and crisp on the exterior and buttery on the interior. To me, they’re as addictive as french fries (thankfully, with none of the guilt) and I’ve been known to eat the entire batch standing at the stove straight from the baking sheet. They are also wonderful tossed over a salad.
Begin by draining and rinsing the chickpeas.
Transfer the chickpeas to a foil-lined baking sheet and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.
When my kids were babies, I started a home-based baking business making special occasion cakes and cupcakes, mostly for children’s birthday parties. Before I opened, I spent weeks testing every vanilla and chocolate cake recipe under the sun, often baking into the wee hours of the night while my family was sleeping. My husband would wake up in the morning to find the countertops (and, oftentimes, the trash can) littered with cakes and cupcakes. He thought I’d lost my mind — little did he know I was just discovering my passion for finding and creating great recipes that work, which was the impetus for this blog!
Ingredients for the Cupcakes
Most of the cake recipes I tried were either dry, so-so or just inconsistent but, eventually, I created a few recipes that I loved and could rely on. This is the chocolate one (for the vanilla recipe, click here). The cake portion of the recipe is modestly adapted from Magnolia Bakeryin NYC and the frosting comes from Cook’s Illustrated. Together, they make an old-fashioned chocolate cupcake that is sweet enough for children but also intensely chocolate enough for adults.
Ingredients for the Frosting
Begin by making the cupcakes. Melt the unsweetened chocolate in the microwave in 20-second blasts, stirring in between, to prevent the chocolate from scorching.
When it’s about 3/4 of the way melted, take it out and stir, allowing the residual heat in the bowl to melt the remaining chocolate. Set aside to cool.
Next, whisk together the flour, baking soda, instant coffee and salt. (The coffee is optional; it enhances the chocolate flavor.)
Cream the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.
Mix in the vanilla and lukewarm melted chocolate.
Then mix in the dry ingredients in three separate additions, alternating with the buttermilk.
Spoon the batter into muffin tins.
And bake for 20-25 minutes.
While the cupcakes cool, make the frosting. Begin by melting the milk chocolate in the microwave.
Next, combine the butter, Confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor.
Blitz for about 30 seconds until well combined, then add the corn syrup and the vanilla.
Process until smooth, then add the lukewarm melted milk chocolate.
Process quickly, until the frosting is creamy, silky and shiny.
When the cupcakes are completely cool, spread the frosting over top.
6 ouncesunsweetened chocolate, broken into small pieces
2 cupsall-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
1 tablespooninstant coffee granules (optional, to enhance chocolate flavor)
1 teaspoonbaking soda
2 sticks (1 cup)unsalted butter, softened
1 cupgranulated sugar
1 cuppacked light brown sugar
4large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Frosting
8 ouncesmilk chocolate, broken into small pieces (substitute semi-sweet chocolate for darker, more intense chocolate flavor)
2-1/2 sticks (20 tablespoons)unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 cupConfectioners' sugar
3/4 cupcocoa powder
3/4 cuplight corn syrup
1 teaspoonvanilla extract
For the Cupcakes
Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and cook in the microwave in 20-second intervals, stirring in between, until about 3/4 of the way melted. Stir, allowing the residual heat in the bowl to melt the remaining chocolate completely. (If necessary, place the chocolate back in microwave for a few seconds.) Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners and lightly grease the top of the muffin tins with butter (this prevents the cupcake tops from sticking to the pan).
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, instant coffee (if using), baking soda and salt until well combined.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl and beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and lukewarm chocolate.
Add the dry ingredients in three separate additions, alternating with the buttermilk.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups until about 3/4 full (I think it's easiest to use an ice cream scooper with a wire scraper). Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops look dry and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean (note that one pan may finish cooking before the other). Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
For the Frosting
Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and cook in the microwave in 20-second intervals, stirring in between, until about 3/4 of the way melted. Stir, allowing the residual heat in the bowl to melt the remaining chocolate completely. (If necessary, place the chocolate back in microwave for a few seconds.) Set aside to cool.
In a food processor, process the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and salt until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the lukewarm chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy, 10 to 15 seconds. Do not overmix.
Note: The cupcakes are best served on the day they are made. However, they can be stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator for a day or two; just be sure to bring them to room temperature before serving. The frosting can be used immediately or held at room temperature for about 3 hours. For longer storage, cover and refrigerate, but be sure to bring it to room temperature before using.
Note: The frosting is pretty foolproof, but if it "breaks" for any reason, try adding a teaspoon or two of warm water and mixing again.
To me, these are the ultimate quesadillas: warm and crisp flour tortillas filled with gooey melted cheddar, shredded chicken and a smoky chipotle-tomato sauce. I’ll be honest, they take some time to make, at least as far as quesadillas go (about 45 minutes start to finish), but they’re a complete meal and so full of flavor. The recipe is adapted from the website of Curtis Stone, one of my favorite chefs and cookbook authors. You will love it!
Throw away those old kitschy cocktail meatball recipes that call for grape jelly and frozen meatballs — these are homemade, easy-to-make and so much better. You’ll love that the meatballs are baked, not fried, and the sweet and tangy sauce is ready in under 15 minutes. What’s more, you don’t need to wait for a party or special occasion to make them; they’re delicious over white rice for dinner and kids absolutely love them.
My family loves Mexican food so this easy Mexican rice makes a regular appearance at our dinner table. It’s not really authentic — true Mexican rice is more complicated and time-consuming to make — but it’s delicious and my kids claim it tastes just like the rice served at their favorite Mexican restaurant. That’s authentic enough for me! I typically serve it with my Chicken Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce, Peruvian Chicken, or Chicken Chili.
How can a vegetable recipe with only one tablespoon of oil and three simple ingredients — olive oil, green beans and shallots — be so delicious? It’s all in the technique, which combines slowly cooking shallots in olive oil to coax out their natural sweetness and simmering beans in a bit of water until tender.
When you’re craving comfort food, you can’t beat meltingly tender short ribs slow-cooked in a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce. And here’s the best part: only 15 minutes of prep work and the oven does the rest. Unlike many roast or stew recipes, it’s not necessary to sear the meat first. You just slather it with sauce, put it in the oven, and let deliciousness ensue.
Thanks to all who participated in my holiday cookie contest! I received many wonderful family recipes but, in the end, these Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Squares of Scottish origin won me over. Sent in by Carrie H. of Rockville, MD and known as Millionaire’s Shortbread, presumably because they are so rich, they consist of a layer of crumbly shortbread, a layer of soft caramel and a layer of chocolate. To me, they taste just like gourmet Twix bars.
I first tried this wonderful side dish at my dear friend Dana Kaminsky’s house for a holiday dinner. She served it with Onion-Braised Brisket and roasted vegetables, among other things, and it was truly a meal to remember. I’ve since made it many times and can attest that it’s delicious with any sauce-laden winter roast or stew, and also with my easy New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp recipe.
Basmati is a fragrant, nutty-tasting long grain rice grown in the Himalayas and Pakistan. “Bas” in Hindi language means “aroma” and “mati” means “full of,” hence the word Basmati — or “full of aroma.”
The key to making basmati rice that is light, tender and fluffy (in other words, perfect) is to rinse it first, otherwise the grains will be gummy and stick together. It only takes a minute or two. Simply place the rice in a bowl with water, and then swish it around to release any excess starch.
As you can see, the water will be cloudy at first but after several rinses it will be clear.
To cook the rice, bring the water, butter and salt to a boil, and then stir in the rice.
Bring the rice up to a simmer, then cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and all of the water is absorbed.
Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit covered for a few minutes, then fluff the rice gently with a fork.
Place rice in medium bowl and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Using your hands, gently swish grains to release any excess starch. Carefully pour off water, leaving rice in bowl. Repeat four to five times, until water runs almost clear. Using a fine mesh strainer, drain water from rice.
In a medium pot, bring 2 cups of water, butter and salt to a boil. Stir in rice and bring back up to a gentle boil. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, until all of the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to sit covered for 5 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.
Do you have a favorite holiday cookie recipe? Email it to me (email@example.com) by midnight on Friday, December 13th for a chance to win this beautiful Julia Knight Peony Two-Tiered Server with matching plates (value $330).
Be sure to include the good stuff: Where did the recipe come from? Has it been in your family a long time? Is it part of any special holiday traditions?
I’ll select three finalists, bake all three cookies and pick a winner with the help of some friends. The winning recipe will be featured on Once Upon A Chef the week before Christmas.
Note: All types of cookies will be accepted, including bar cookies. Basically, if you can put it on a cookie tray, it counts.
You must be a Once Upon A Chef email subscriber (subscribe here) and resident of the contiguous US to participate. Thanks to all those who enter — I’m looking forward to seeing (and baking) your great recipes — and to Julia Knight for sponsoring this contest!
Kale, a.k.a. the “queen of greens,” is one of the healthiest things you can eat, but it doesn’t always taste great raw. In fact, I once read an article that likened the experience of eating raw kale as feeling like your mouth was being battered by a giant tree. But a good kale salad, prepared properly with the right mix of ingredients, can be a revelation. This version — made with tender baby kale, crispy roasted chickpeas (love!), nutty Parmigiano-Reggiano and a zingy lemon vinaigrette — is just that. It makes a satisfying and healthy lunch all on its own, or a perfect side to jazz up a simple rotisserie chicken for dinner.
This year, I’m having a small family gathering for ten people so I’m trying to keep the menu pretty simple, although it still seems like a ton of food! It’s so hard to cut back, as everyone has their favorite dishes and special requests. The only thing the whole family can agree upon is the Pumpkin Cheesecake — it’s a bit of a project, but quite possibly the best Thanksgiving dessert ever. Thankfully, most of the menu can be made ahead of time, including the soup, salad dressing, cranberry sauce, all the sides and dessert. The only dishes I’ll have to prepare on Thanksgiving day are the turkey, the biscuits and the gravy. Happy Thanksgiving!
Soup, Salad & Bread
Super Simple Butternut Squash Soup
Best Buttermilk Biscuits
Mesclun Salad with Goat Cheese, Maple-Glazed Pecans and Maple Dijon Vinaigrette
Simple 2-Hour Roast Turkey
Fresh Homemade Cranberry Orange Sauce
Roasted Carrots with Thyme
Sweet Potato Pecan Crisp
Roasted Brussels with Balsamic Vinegar & Honey
Challah, Wild Mushroom & Herb Stuffing
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust, Caramel Sauce and Whipped Cream
And, finally, over the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ll be home with the kids baking our family’s favorite Pumpkin Bread recipe. It’s super easy and so delicious. Watch the video for the step-by-step instructions.
Ever since I started hosting Thanksgiving dinner ten years ago, I have been on a quest to make the perfect Thanksgiving turkey. I’ve brined it, deep fried it, marinated it, injected it, buttered it, dry-rubbed it, butterflied it and stuffed it. I’ve tried Kosher turkeys, organic turkeys, free range turkeys and self-basting turkeys. A few years ago, I even bought an oil-less outdoor propane turkey fryer called “The Big Easy, ” which freed up my oven and actually made a wonderfully crisp-skinned and juicy turkey. (If you want to spend $100 on a large piece of equipment that will likely sit in storage collecting cobwebs 364 days a year, I highly recommend it!)
From all this fussing with turkeys, I’ve come to realize that my turkey will never be perfect. Let’s face it: turkeys, on their own, just aren’t very good. That’s what gravy and cranberry sauce are for. As Mary Risley from Tante Marie’s Cooking School so humorously points out in the video below (which you should definitely watch, especially if you have any turkey-cooking anxiety), “I have never had an outstanding turkey.”
(Viewer discretion advised, as this very funny video contains some foul language)
Short of purchasing a special turkey cooker (this is the one I have), it is near impossible to cook a turkey perfectly: the white meat always cooks before the dark meat is done and the skin on the bottom is never crisp (unless you flip the hot, sputtering bird mid-way through cooking – ummm, no thank you!).
So is it really worth it to go to great lengths – brining in big coolers for days in the garage, risking life and limb deep-frying in the driveway, pre-icing the breast of the turkey so it cooks more slowly (I swear, there’s a very respectable cooking magazine that wants you to do this) – to make that End-All-Be-All turkey?
It’s up to you, but I don’t think so. I’m not interested in babysitting my turkey for three days to get marginally better results at the end.
My advice to you on Thanksgiving is to keep it simple. Make an easy roast turkey (i.e., just put the #&?@#!#% in the oven) along with an over-the-top delicious gravy and some cranberry sauce to go with it. Focus your time and creativity on the side dishes and desserts because that’s what everyone really looks forward to anyway.
Of course, I would not leave you high and dry without a recipe. And, you know me by now, I would not just haphazardly “stick a turkey in the oven.” But, funny enough, my favorite recipe — the 2-Hour Turkey — does just that. Developed by Sunset Test Kitchens for Safeway (I know, but trust me), the 2-Hour Turkey requires no brining or stuffing, fancy seasoning, trussing or injecting. It’s just a plain ol’ turkey seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted in a 475-degree oven until the skin is crispy and brown and the meat is juicy. From all my turkey travails, I can tell you that this simple high-temperature method is the absolute best (and most sensible) way to cook a turkey.
Believe it or not, depending on the size of your bird, the turkey cooks in 1-2 hours. I know it sounds impossible if you’ve been waking up early for the last twenty years to slow cook your turkey but I promise you it works. The turkey is cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees in the oven (not the 175 to 180 degrees most experts recommend) and comes up to just the right temperature while it rests.
Rather than post the recipe here, I am giving you a few links to the Safeway website, where the recipe is very well written with detailed step-by-step photos and a FAQ section that answers every possible question you could ever have about a turkey. Be sure to read through the recipe carefully now so that you have everything you need on Turkey Day — and follow it to a tee (including cleaning your oven beforehand so it doesn’t smoke from the high heat). I also recommend reading through the FAQs so you can anticipate any issues that might arise.
Click here to print the recipe. Click here to see step-by-step photos and read the turkey FAQs. Click here if you’d like to watch a short video to see how it’s prepared. Click here to see how to carve a turkey.
Note that the recipe calls for a certain brand of turkey that Safeway carries; don’t worry about that — any turkey will do. I’ve made the recipe with both a Kosher turkey and Butterball turkey and both came out great. Same goes for the olive oil — any brand will work. Just don’t use butter as it will burn. Also, the recipe does not give quantities for salt and pepper. It’s personal preference but, for my 12-14 pound turkeys, I use about 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and 1-1/2 teaspoons of black pepper.
Finally, keep in mind, while the 2-Hour Turkey might be one of the best, juiciest turkeys you’ve ever made, it will still taste like turkey! Be sure to make my gravy and cranberry orange sauce to go with it.
Click here for my gravy recipe. Click here for my cranberry sauce recipe.
A Few Final Thoughts on Turkey
- Depending on where you buy your turkey, you might be presented with several options like Organic, All Natural, Kosher or Self-Basting. I like Kosher turkeys best but they can be expensive and hard to find. The good news is that it doesn’t matter much which type of bird you buy for this recipe — they all work well! (If you want to read more about the different types of turkeys, click here.)
- Most recipes, including this one, will advise you to save the turkey giblets to make turkey stock and gravy. It’s a good idea but, to be honest, I never bother – there’s too much other cooking to do on Thanksgiving. The drippings from the roasted turkey will give you plenty of flavor for your gravy, and you can use store bought chicken broth for the rest. Keep it simple!
- No matter how you cook your turkey, leave it un-trussed (don’t tie the legs together) – it’s easier and the turkey will cook more evenly. Many turkeys come with a plastic binder that holds the legs together; just cut it off. Or sometimes the skin is pulled around the legs to hold them together; you can cut that off as well.
- Don’t go crazy trying to flavor your turkey with herbs and spices. Salt, pepper and oil the skin and you’re good to go. Anything else is unnecessary and gets overshadowed by the gravy and all the side dishes anyway.
- Don’t worry about basting the bird (you actually can’t in this recipe); it’s not necessary and let’s heat out of the oven, which increases the cooking time.
- Don’t stuff your turkey – it will cook faster and you won’t have to worry about giving your guests salmonella (yikes…that would not be happy turkey day). Plus, your stuffing will be mushy if you cook it inside the bird. Why have soggy stuffing when you can bake it separately in the oven and have it crisp and toasty on top?
This is my favorite gravy and I serve it every year with my Thanksgiving turkey — in fact, it is what makes my Thanksgiving turkey! The recipe is modestly adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Family Style. My only changes were to significantly reduce the salt, increase the broth so it’s not quite so thick and add a sprinkling of fresh herbs which compliments my very simple roast turkey. I usually make it while my turkey rests but if you want to get a head start, you can make it without the turkey drippings (reducing the broth by about a 1/2 cup) and just stir the drippings in when your turkey is done.
Begin by melting the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the onions…
And cook until very soft, about 15 minutes.
Whisk in the flour and cook for a few minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste.
Then whisk in your turkey drippings/chicken broth and Cognac.
Cook for about 5 minutes until thickened…
Then stir in the heavy cream and fresh herbs.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remember, the gravy should be generously seasoned because turkey is very bland. Always taste it with a piece of meat to be sure the seasoning is right. That’s all there is to it…Enjoy!
1-1/2 cupsfinely chopped yellow onions (from 2 small onions)
1/4 cupall purpose flour
Defatted turkey drippings plus chicken broth to make 2-1/2 cups
1 tablespoonCognac or Brandy
1 tablespoonheavy cream
1 tablespoonchopped fresh herbs (such as thyme, sage, rosemary or parsley)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook until very soft and translucent, about 15 minutes.
Whisk in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Whisk in the turkey drippings/chicken broth and Cognac and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes until thickened. Stir in the cream and fresh herbs and season to taste with salt and pepper (I usually add about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, but it depends how salty your broth is.) Transfer gravy to bowl or gravy boat and serve.
If you make the gravy ahead of time, it may thicken up; you can thin it to the desired consistency with water or chicken broth.
1(12 oz) bag fresh or frozen cranberries (do not use dried)
Zest of one orange, about 2 teaspoons
Bring orange juice, water and sugar to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Add cranberries, orange zest and salt and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil gently for about 10 minutes, until most of cranberries have burst open.
Transfer sauce to a serving bowl. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
Grand mimosas are festive cocktails made with orange juice, Champagne and orange liqueur. They are traditionally served with brunch as a “hair of the dog” remedy for a hangover. The following basic recipe can be adjusted to your liking — add more orange juice or Champagne as you see fit.
Rich and buttery in flavor with a fluffy interior and toasty golden crust, these are the best biscuits to ever come out of my oven. I tested countless biscuit recipes in my quest to perfect them — much to my family’s delight! The recipe is based on Pastry Chef Amanda Clarke’s version, which incorporates a few secret ingredients and a special technique that creates layers in the dough, making the biscuits tender and perfect every time. The best part is that they’re easy to make: you can throw the dough together in ten minutes and enjoy them with your meal less than fifteen minutes later.
Four years ago, I started Once Upon a Chef as a way to return to the culinary world after leaving the restaurant business to start a family. I still remember the excitement of seeing my first few subscriptions roll in, even if they were my own relatives! Today, thanks to you all sharing my site with your friends and families, my subscriber list has grown to almost 25,000 readers. I am so grateful for your continued support!
I’m also grateful for your steady feedback over the years. Your emails always brighten my day, and your suggestions on how I can improve the site are greatly appreciated. To that end, I’d like to take this opportunity to fill you in on a few changes I’m making to Once Upon a Chef that I hope you’ll enjoy.
First, I’m getting ready to launch a new newsletter. Each week, I’ll continue to provide a new featured recipe but will also add complete menus to make weekly meal planning easier for you. In addition, I’ll include seasonal recipe round-ups, cooking tips, awesome giveaways and more. The first edition should arrive in your inbox later this week!
(FACEBOOK FANS: you can subscribe to receive the newsletter here)
I will also be introducing cooking videos. This is a big step for me personally because up until recently, the thought of “lights, camera, action” was about as appealing as jumping out of airplanes! But I did it, and it was actually fun. If you’d like a sneak peek, check out the link below to see a video of my Black Bean Salad with Corn, Red Peppers, Avocado with Lime Cilantro Vinaigrette. This is my most popular recipe by a mile — it has been pinned over 700,000 times on Pinterest!
Rustic desserts that pair soft, tart fruit with buttery-crisp toppings are one of my favorite things to bake: they’re easy to throw together, completely foolproof, and always warm and comforting. Recipes abound but this one, modestly adapted from an old Bon Appétit magazine, is a stand-out thanks to the combination of sweet D’Anjou pears and tart dried cherries, which are plumped up in an orange-scented caramel syrup before baking. Served warm out of the oven with a crunchy walnut streusel topping, it’s the perfect dessert for a chilly night.
The dinner recipes that I get the most excited to share are the ones that appeal to my kids as much as they appeal to me. (And let’s face it: that’s not frequently the case!) This gourmet twist on chicken tenders is one of them. The chicken is breaded in a mixture of pecans and panko, then pan-fried until crispy and golden and served with a creamy whole grain honey mustard sauce. Since the pecans are finely chopped, even kids who think they don’t like nuts will try them, ask for seconds, and even sneak thirds when you’re not looking (you know who you are!).
The glaze is the star of this easy and elegant salmon dish. It’s tangy and sweet like any good Asian-style glaze, but the addition of whole grain mustard takes it over the top. The little mustard seeds “pop” in your mouth, releasing bits of intense, sharp mustard flavor when you bite into them. GET THE RECIPE
Even kids who are not adventurous eaters love this dish of sautéed chicken breasts simmered in an aromatic and slightly sweet curry sauce. The best part is that you can have it on the table in 30 minutes, and the cooking method ensures that the chicken comes out reliably tender every time. GET THE RECIPE
Time for another great giveaway, thanks to Anolon Gourmet Cookware! Enter for a chance to win this 12-piece Anolon Tri-Ply Stainless Steel professional quality set, valued at $400, which includes:
1.5 Qt. Covered Saucepan
2 Qt. Covered Saucepan
3.5 Qt. Covered Saucepot
8 Qt. Covered Stockpot
8.5″ French Skillet
10.25″ French Skillet
4 Qt. Covered Sauté Pan
For a chance to win, simply review any recipe on the site between now and midnight on November 15th. You may review up to five recipes for five separate entries. Please leave constructive reviews that will help other cooks. For example: Was the dish perfect as is or would you alter the recipe next time? Did you make any substitutions? What other dishes did you serve it with?
The winner will be chosen randomly and notified via email. You must be a resident of the contiguous U.S. and Once Upon a Chef email subscriber to participate. Click here to subscribe.
Please review recipes on the individual recipe pages!
The glaze is the star of this easy and elegant salmon dish. It’s tangy and sweet like any good Asian-style glaze, but the addition of whole grain mustard takes it over the top. The little mustard seeds glisten in the sauce and “pop” in your mouth, releasing bits of intense, sharp mustard flavor when you bite into them.
This has got to be the easiest butternut squash soup recipe ever. You start with pre-cut squash from the supermarket, then you basically throw everything in a pot, simmer it, purée it and you’re done. But just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s not delicious. I promise you that it’s everything you expect a classic butternut squash soup to be: silky, slightly sweet and full of flavor. Just don’t be tempted to omit the heavy cream — it’s the only fat in the whole soup and, without it, the recipe won’t work.
I’ve been searching for the perfect apple muffin recipe to share with you ever since I started this blog. Honestly, there’s no telling how many dozens of apple muffins I’ve baked. Finally, I found a fantastic recipe on the King Arthur Flour website and, with a few tiny tweaks, I had the perfect recipe I’d been looking for. So, what makes these apple muffins so good? For starters, they’re made partially with whole wheat flour, which gives them a wonderfully wholesome flavor and texture. They’re also chockfull of apples, scented with warm autumn spices and finished with an irresistible crunchy brown sugar topping.
These hearty dishes are perfect for cold and lazy winter Sundays, when you have some time to putter around the kitchen…
1. Chicken Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce
Even young children love these hearty enchiladas filled with smoky shredded chicken and cheddar cheese in a tangy tomatillo sauce. GET THE RECIPE
2. Beef Stew with Carrots and Potatoes
In this classic French beef stew known as Beef Bourguignon, the meat is slowly braised in a rich brown sauce until meltingly tender. It takes some time to make, but it’s well worth the effort; aside from being delicious, it’s a one pot meal that feeds a crowd. You can also make it a day ahead—in fact, you should because the flavor improves the longer it sits. GET THE RECIPE
3. Fettucine Bolognese
Fettucine Bolognese, or pasta in a richly flavored meat sauce, is one of my favorite Sunday night family meals. The sauce simmers on the stove for several hours, making the house smell delicious and inviting, and the end result is a comforting yet elegant dish. GET THE RECIPE
4. BBQ Turkey Meatloaf
This BBQ turkey meatloaf is a family favorite. It’s hearty, deliciously full-flavored and—bonus—low in fat. GET THE RECIPE
5. Onion-Braised Beef Brisket
This is apparently the world’s most Googled brisket recipe. It’s surprisingly simple: unlike all other briskets I’ve made, there’s no wine, stock or bottled sauces added. Instead, the brisket is cooked on top of a massive heap of onions, which slowly caramelize and release their juices, making a flavorful French onion soup-like braising liquid all their own. GET THE RECIPE
6. Peruvian-Style Chicken with Green Sauce
This is my take on Pollo a la Brasa, that delicious spit-roasted chicken made popular by so many Peruvian restaurants. The chicken is first marinated in olive oil, lime juice, garlic and spices, and then oven-roasted until tender, juicy and crisp-skinned. The accompanying green sauce, which gets it’s color from cilantro and jalapeño peppers, is spicy, creamy and downright addictive. GET THE RECIPE
This wonderful recipe was passed on to me by my dear friend, Kelly Santoro. She found it in the Costco magazine, of all places, but the recipe originally comes from food writer Alice Currah of the blog and book, Savory Sweet Life. The dish is a crowd pleaser for all ages. It’s the sauce. My 10-year-old son, upon taking a second helping of the broccoli I served alongside, answered my surprised look with, “Mom, this sauce would make anything taste good.” I have to agree: I was tempted to forget the chicken entirely and just have the sauce as soup!
As much as I love fall produce — thoughts of Honeycrisp apples, winter squash and sweet potatoes are already dancing around my mind — I’m not quite ready yet. So here’s one last hurrah for summer veggies: a side dish of crisp zucchini, burst cherry tomatoes and meltingly sweet red onions sautéed in olive oil. If it sounds basic, it is, but it’s one of those dishes where the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. Pair it with grilled salmon and some orzo doused with lemon and olive oil for a light and easy weeknight meal.
1/2English cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and finely diced
1 cupplain low-fat or whole milk Greek yogurt (do not use non-fat)
2 tablespoonsfresh lemon juice, from one lemon
1 tablespoonchopped fresh dill
1/4 teaspoonKosher salt
1/4 teaspoonfreshly ground black pepper
For the Meatballs
Preheat the grill to medium-high heat (about 500 degrees).
Mix together the egg, garlic, cumin, allspice, cilantro, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the ground beef and panko and mix with your hands until well combined.
Using a 1/3 cup measure, form 8 disc-shaped meatballs. (They will dome slightly on the grill, forming nicely rounded meatballs.)
Lightly dip a wad of paper towels in vegetable oil and, using tongs, carefully rub over the grates several times until glossy and coated. Grill the meatballs, covered, for about 4 minutes per side, or until they are nicely browned on the exterior and no longer pink in the center. Transfer the meatballs to a serving plate and let rest for 3 minutes. Serve with the yogurt sauce and couscous, if desired.
For the Yogurt Sauce
Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
I have a quirky habit of perusing the Internet in search of gently used cookbooks to add to my collection. I always find great buys — beautifully photographed books that have barely been opened — and it’s such a treat when they arrive on my doorstep, full of inspiration. It’s the little things, right? ;) One of my recent finds is Curtis Stone’s What’s for Dinner? I’m slowly cooking my way through the book and this recipe is one of my favorites. Ground beef is laced with warm spices, fresh herbs and garlic, and then grilled in meatball form until smoky and charred. Served over couscous with a cooling yogurt-cucumber sauce, it’s a quick and easy meal that’s big on flavor.
Delicious to eat and fun to make, rugelach (pronounced rug-a-lah) are miniature crescent-rolled pastries posing as cookies. They’re made by rolling a triangle of dough around a sweet filling of fruit, nuts, chocolate or pretty much anything your heart desires. If you’ve never had them or made them from scratch, definitely roll up your sleeves and give this classic walnut-raisin version a try. They’re easier than they look and vastly better than store bought. I’ll be honest: they do take some time to make as the dough needs to be refrigerated for a few hours and rolled out, but I promise you it’s worth it. Fresh out of the oven, they’re buttery, crisp and flaky, with a sweet cinnamon scent that will tempt you to eat the entire batch.
I just got back from a family adventure in Costa Rica, where we rafted through the jungle, came face-to-face with monkeys, sloths and toucans, zip-lined over the rainforest (okay, I didn’t do that but my kids and husband did!) and — best of all — ate lots of delicious Costa Rican food. From homemade corn tortillas to rice and beans to empanadas, we tried so many native dishes that I can’t wait to recreate at home and share with you. First up, this creamy black bean dip. Admittedly, it’s not going to win a beauty contest, but it’s so flavorful, healthy and easy to make, you won’t care.
These comforting breakfast treats are like a cross between scones and oatmeal cookies: buttery and tender on the inside, crisp and craggy on the outside, and chockfull of oats, pecans and currants. The recipe is the first I tried from Joanne Chang’s wonderful cookbook, Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Bakery & Cafe, and it was love at first bite.
In this easy recipe, shrimp are quickly marinated in a bright and tangy mixture of olive oil, tomato paste, lemon, garlic, and herbs and then grilled until plump and slightly charred. They’re perfect for entertaining — either as an appetizer or main course — because all of the prep is done ahead of time. All you have to do when your guests arrive is throw the skewers on the grill. But be forewarned: people will eat more than their fair share. Make extra!
Pistou, Provence’s version of pesto, is traditionally made with olive oil, garlic and basil but this ingenious version also incorporates zucchini. The recipe comes from renowned chef, Thomas Keller — whose famed restaurants include The French Laundry, Per Se, Ad Hoc and Bouchon — and was featured in last month’s Food & Wine. The first time I made it, I was blown away by how impressively simple and delicious it was. I’ve since made it many times and can attest that it is fantastic on pasta, simply baked or grilled fish, toasted bread, scrambled eggs, or even on its own (yes, it’s that good that you’ll just want to eat it with a spoon).
This recipe was inspired by a chilled tomato soup I had at a restaurant recently that tasted brighter, sweeter and more intensely of tomatoes than any other tomato soup I’d ever tried. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was in it, so I asked the waiter and he told me the secret ingredient was orange juice. Brilliant! The orange juice highlighted the sweetness of the tomatoes and livened up the taste of the soup without calling any attention to itself. Now that you know, you’ll taste it but ask anyone to guess what’s in it and they’ll have no idea — they’ll just love it.
This Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread makes the perfect afternoon snack whenever you’re in need of a chocolate fix. It has a deep chocolate flavor from unsweetened cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate chips, yet it’s not so sweet that it tastes like dessert. It’s also loaded with zucchini, so there’s some virtue in it.
This recipe was inspired by the popular Thai Crunch Salad served at California Pizza Kitchen. It’s made with crisp Napa cabbage, crunchy vegetables and edamame but it’s the creamy peanut dressing — flavored with ginger, garlic, lime and honey — that makes it so good. I guarantee you’ll want to put it on everything! You can serve this salad as a light lunch or pair it with grilled chicken for a more substantial meal. It’s excellent with last week’s Honey, Lime & Sriracha Chicken Skewers.
These chicken skewers marinated in honey, lime juice and Sriracha are every bit as good as they look. And, if you’ve never tried Sriracha — the Asian hot sauce named after the coastal city of Si Racha in Thailand — this is the perfect recipe to taste just how delicious it is.
Thanks to my growing readership — and to you all for helping to spread the word — I’ve been lucky enough to get published in several publications. Since it’s a holiday week, I thought it’d be fun to share some links to my articles and summer recipe round-ups.
Banana Pudding is an old-fashioned Southern dessert traditionally made with layers of Nilla wafers, vanilla pudding and sliced bananas. Depending on who’s making it, it’s either topped with baked meringue, sweetened whipped cream or cookies. I’ve tried every variation and many different recipes, and this version beats them all. It’s a little more gourmet than most, and bucks tradition a bit, but still tastes wonderfully nostalgic and delicious.
I love Moroccan food, especially the blending of savory and sweet, which is the idea behind this delicious salad. Made with couscous, scallions, fresh herbs, crunchy almonds and a tangy-sweet apricot vinaigrette, it’s the perfect side dish for summer. By that I mean it’s wonderfully light, takes mere minutes to make, travels well to a picnic or BBQ, and can be served warm or room temperature. I recommend serving it with my Grilled Moroccan Chickenbut it would be good with just about any chicken or lamb dish.
A specialty of Argentina, chimichurri is a tangy, zesty condiment traditionally served with grilled meats. Emerald in color and packed with loads of fresh herbs, olive oil, vinegar and garlic, it’s like a cross between vinaigrette and pesto. This version — made from a fragrant blend of parsley, mint and cilantro — pairs beautifully with spice-rubbed beef tenderloin filets. It’s the perfect dish for Father’s Day or any special occasion. In fact, I made it just last night for a family dinner in honor of my baby cousin, Ian (bottom right), who was in town visiting.
Morning Glory Muffins are made with a little bit of everything — whole wheat flour, carrots, apples, raisins, walnuts, orange juice, coconut and wheat germ — and, true to their name, they’re a glorious way to start the day. Created decades ago by Chef Pam McKinstry for her Morning Glory Café on Nantucket Island, they’re a throwback to the 1970s “back-to-the-land” movement, when wholesome hippie food was all the rage. (Hint: If you like carrot cake, you’ll love them.)
This vibrant and fresh Thai Quinoa Salad is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, Raising the Salad Bar by Catherine Walthers. It’s a healthy eater’s dream: flavorful, chock-full of protein and veggies, satisfying and low in fat. I know you’ll love it because I shared it on my column over at Serious Eats last summer and it got rave reviews. I usually make it as a light lunch, but you can also serve it alongside other Asian dishes for dinner or make it a meal in itself by adding cooked shrimp, crab or lobster.
Try not to laugh — this is me looking pretty ridiculous in a pea pod costume. The photo was taken last week at my kids’ elementary school during Eating the Rainbow, an exciting weeklong wellness program that encourages kids to include more colorful fruits and vegetables in their diets. I wanted to share it with you in hopes of inspiring anyone who might dare to dress up to get kids excited about healthy eating at their own school.
My whole family loves these enchiladas filled with smoky shredded chicken and cheddar cheese in a tangy tomatillo sauce. They’re lighter and fresher than the enchiladas served in most Mexican restaurants, especially when you top them with crisp shredded romaine, sour cream and sliced avocado. I’ll be honest, they take a bit of time to make. But the good news is that you can make the sauce and filling ahead of time, then assemble and bake the enchiladas another time for a quick and easy weeknight meal.
I know one cannot own every conceivable kitchen appliance, but if you can find an excuse to buy an ice cream machine, just go for it. They’re relatively inexpensive and you’ll be forever amazed at how much better your ice cream and frozen yogurt will be. This recipe, modestly adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop, is proof of that. It bears no resemblance to store-bought frozen yogurt or the imitation ice cream served at most froyo shops. Instead, it tastes intensely of fresh strawberries — almost like a cross between strawberry frozen yogurt and strawberry sorbet.