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pot sticker stir-fry + first look at nom nom paleo’s new cookbook

pot sticker stir fry

i’m always on the hunt for new ways to get a healthy dinner on the table and fresh flavor combinations to keep things interesting. when a cookbook checks both of these boxes, it earns a special place in my heart.

enter my friend michelle tam’s latest release, ready or not!: 150+ make-ahead, make-over, and make-now recipes by nom nom paleo. it’s geared toward all different kinds of meal prep situations — from meals that require some more advanced planning to emergency weeknight dinners.

continue reading "pot sticker stir-fry + first look at nom nom paleo’s new cookbook" »






pork stir fry with green onion

pork stir fry with green onion

don’t you love a good stir-fry?

the following stir-fried pork recipe couldn’t be easier. all you need is lean pork, some green onions, and garlic. you marinate thin strips of pork first in a mixture of soy sauce, a little sugar, and cornstarch.

the cornstarch marinade is a useful trick to help keep the pork from drying out when it gets cooked on that high heat. the sugar is just enough to create some caramelization for added flavor.

it helps but isn’t necessary to have a well seasoned wok. years ago i had this big wok with wooden handles, well seasoned, in spite of a housemate’s attempt one day to scour off all of the pan’s beautiful black seasoning i had worked so hard to create.

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the best (and worst) store-bought pie crusts

pie crust reviews

do you love pie?

i do. i love to make pie. i love to eat pie. i especially love a good homemade pie crust. in fact, i’ve spent years encouraging people to make their own pie crust from scratch (and even have the world’s most fool-proof pie crust recipe with video right here on the site).

that said, i’ve learned over the years that most home cooks will use a store-bought frozen or refrigerated crust to make their pies. i get it. we are busy people. we want pie. we would rather make a pie in one hour than in two.

with that in mind, i set out to review several packaged pie crusts i could find locally, to see if there were any i would personally use and recommend, and if there were any that people should simply avoid.

continue reading "the best (and worst) store-bought pie crusts" »






easy stromboli

easy meat and cheese-stuffed stromboli

you have to love a recipe that looks like you worked hard when actually you didn’t do much at all.

stromboli, a cousin of calzone, fits into that category, and when you’re finished, you can feed the neighborhood.

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5 cookbooks for people who always need more ideas for dinner

5 cookbooks for people who need dinner ideas

dinner. it’s an inescapable occurrence, 365 days of the year.

many of us have our go-to moves when all else fails — template meals that are easy and easily adaptable. tacos. egg scrambles. pasta. soup. and then there are the nights when it’s more about desperate calls for take-out. (it’s ok. you’re among friends. we understand.)

yes, dinner. if we don’t plan it properly, it sneaks up on us at 4pm — or, yikes, later! — and we are faced with the perennial question: “what are we eating?”

because we all get tired of the same-old same-old, i thought i’d share five favorite cookbooks for those of us who could always use more ideas for dinner.

continue reading "5 cookbooks for people who always need more ideas for dinner" »






meal plan for october week 3

meal plan for october wk 3

welcome to our new series of weekly meal plans! this month, summer miller will be sharing with us what meal planning looks like in her house. summer is a mom, a full-time food writer, and also helps test the fabulous recipes we bring you every week at simply recipes.

life is busy. leftovers are nice.

eating leftovers wasn’t at the top of my “to do” list when i was a single 20-something. now that i’m feeding a family of four, and doing so three times a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, i welcome the opportunity to double up a dish so i can freeze some for later or pack it up for lunches the next day.

continue reading "meal plan for october week 3" »






turkey meatloaf

turkey meatloaf

ah, meatloaf…the american classic supper!

despite her desperate five o’clock scramble, my mom – an artist and mother of four — always managed to pull off a mean meatloaf.

i remember her frantically pulling apart a slice or two of bread to make crumbs, and then throwing them into a bowl with an egg, some ketchup, grated onion, and ground beef. and then there was the grated carrot, which qualified as a vegetable (along with the ketchup).

she shaped it into a mound, threw it in the pan, drizzled the top with more ketchup and tossed it into the oven. phew! let’s just say her motto was “i’d rather be painting.”

continue reading "turkey meatloaf" »






meal plan for october week 3

meal plan for october wk 3

welcome to our new series of weekly meal plans! this month, summer miller will be sharing with us what meal planning looks like in her house. summer is a mom, a full-time food writer, and also helps test the fabulous recipes we bring you every week at simply recipes.

life is busy. leftovers are nice.

eating leftovers wasn’t at the top of my “to do” list when i was a single 20-something. now that i’m feeding a family of four, and doing so three times a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, i welcome the opportunity to double up a dish so i can freeze some for later or pack it up for lunches the next day.

this change in lifestyle was dictated by more than just having a family. i moved to the country several years ago, and no one delivers pizza to a rural address. if i want to eat, i have to make it.

learning to think ahead took some time, but now i wouldn’t have it any other way. i generally have something at the ready when work deadlines collide with getting dinner on the table, or when the kitchen is in shambles after a day of recipe testing, or when i’m not feeling so great myself and still have mouths to feed. (it turns out you still have to feed your children even when you’re sick and your husband is out town. who knew?)

once you establish the habit of cooking with leftovers in mind, i think it is actually more convenient than picking up take-out. it’s certainly healthier than what shows up at your door in a cardboard box!

each recipe in this week’s meal plan is either large enough to feed an army or is easily doubled, and the leftovers will either last all week or can be frozen for later. a few of the recipes require a little heavy lifting on the weekend, but the payoff comes when you’re eating home-cooked comfort food on wednesday and you didn’t even need to bring out your cutting board.

meal plan for october week 3

beef barley stew

1 beef and barley stew with mushrooms: this rich and filling stew makes enough for sunday dinner, then pack the leftovers in lunchboxes for the rest of the week. if you have time, make these potato dinner rolls – they are simple to make and you can freeze them, too!

 

baked vegetable and cream cheese wontons

2 baked vegetable and cream cheese wontons: spend a little time on saturday or sunday assembling these wontons, then freeze them. bake them straight from the freezer for a quick weeknight dinner, or save them to serve as an appetizer at an impromptu party. the recipe makes about fifty wontons, and makes a fun family meal with some miso soup or stir-fried greens on the side.

 

black bean burrito bowl

3 black bean burrito bowls: burrito bowls are one of my favorite meals, but rice and dry beans can both take a while to cook. i usually make double batches of both things on sunday. they freeze beautifully, and thaw quickly, which makes them ready when i am!

 

mini salmon quiches

4 mini salmon quiches: these little quiche bites are a universal food. they are perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. serve them with a salad, like this quinoa, feta, and arugula salad, and you have a quick and light weeknight meal. this recipe makes twelve mini-quiches, but they’re so fast to make that you can easily double it. freeze the leftovers and save them for a rainy day.

 

skillet pasta with chicken sausage, cheese & spinach

5 pasta skillet with chicken sausage, cheese, and spinach: you’ve made it to friday! yay! you should have enough leftovers in the fridge or the freezer to make this weekend kitchen-free. cook up this nearly effortless skillet pasta, then pour yourself a hot toddy, watch netflix and chill. (if you like, lighten the load of this carb-loving dish by serving it with this lemon and garlic-kissed broccolini recipe.)

continue reading "meal plan for october week 3" »






5 cookbooks for people who always need more ideas for dinner

5 cookbooks for people who need dinner ideas

dinner. it’s an inescapable occurrence, 365 days of the year.

many of us have our go-to moves when all else fails — template meals that are easy and easily adaptable. tacos. egg scrambles. pasta. soup. and then there are the nights when it’s more about desperate calls for take-out. (it’s ok. you’re among friends. we understand.)

yes, dinner. if we don’t plan it properly, it sneaks up on us at 4pm — or, yikes, later! — and we are faced with the perennial question: “what are we eating?”

because we all get tired of the same-old same-old, i thought i’d share five favorite cookbooks for those of us who could always use more ideas for dinner.

5 cookbooks for people who need dinner ideas

  • the beekman 1802 heirloom vegetable cookbook by brent ridge and josh kilmer-purcell (get it!)

vegetables are definitely having their fair say these days, and thank goodness. the dynamic duo behind beekman house, a self-described “lifestyle company” that revolves around their farm in new york, has produced a few cookbooks, but i particularly like this one because it’s focused on veggies, heirloom and otherwise.

if you’ve got veggies in your fridge and you’re not sure what to do with them, these are the guys you should go to for dinner.

seasonal in its organization, this book presents creative ways to use all sorts of vegetables, from standards like potatoes, corn, and tomatoes, to lesser-known (and perhaps misunderstood) ones like kohlrabi and rutabaga (the latter roasted with a brown sugar and guinness stout glaze – so good!).

slightly left-of-center approaches in their recipes bring things like cucumbers into a creamy buttermilk sorbet and radishes into a butter made with sorrel. there’s also savory vegetable cheddar breakfast muffins, which come together in a flash with zucchini, peppers, and cheese.

the sweetest, homiest touch in this book, though, is the space after each recipe for your own notes; the design is reminiscent of an old-fashioned recipe card.

5 cookbooks for people who need dinner ideas

  • cooking light global kitchen by david joachim (get it!)

this is the book for those of us with ever-expanding palates, for the curious cooks, and for those who just get bored easily cooking the same fare.

joachim and the editors of cooking light combed through the magazine’s storehouse of recipes to find the best of the best, plus added a good number of original recipes, and came up with this 150-recipe cookbook – the equivalent of a culinary world tour.

if you’re not sure about how to make pho, empanadas, or injera, joachim breaks it down into easy steps. those pressed for time at dinner will also appreciate the inclusion of “hands on time” and “total time” with each recipe. those with different dietary needs will also like the suggestions for adapting classic dishes, like making a vegetarian version of classic pad thai by swapping out the fish sauce for soy and omitting the dried shrimp.

the book is divided regionally, and i like that each section begins with a two-page spread about common ingredients, spices, herbs, and so forth — the flavor profile of the region. the overall presentation of the book is colorful and inviting – which makes a difference when you’re trying to get motivated to make dinner.

for a quick dinner, i like the flavorful chiang mai pork patties with some thai sticky rice. like middle eastern flavors? tabbouleh gets a protein boost with the addition of some chicken thighs. got a lazy afternoon? classics such as french cassoulet will warm your house with its savory aroma.

5 cookbooks for people who need dinner ideas

  • food 52: a new way to dinner by amanda hesser and merrill stubbs (get it!)

approaching dinner in a systematized, game-planning manner is one way to tackle the demands of dinnertime these days. i like that the authors walk you through the grocery list for each week’s meals, and also include instructions for how you can prep the components of the meals ahead of time. the tone is encouraging and lively, and it’s a breath of fresh air to have someone do the thinking for you!

the cookbook is geared toward the four seasons, so if you shop — and eat — with an eye toward that first, these ladies have your back.

right now, i’m loving their recipe for blistered cherry tomatoes in this book. there are so many ways to work them into meals throughout the week: an add-in for plain greek yogurt, mixed with pasta or other grain, or as a pizza topping.

as the weather changes, i’m also eyeing the ricotta gnocchi and the creamy butternut squash soup with sherry.

5 cookbooks for people who need dinner ideas

  • nigella express: good food, fast by nigella lawson (get it!)

this one is an oldie but goodie. lawson focuses on recipes that have been pared down to their essentials so you can make good meals in a flash.

if you have a decently stocked pantry, fridge, and freezer, you’ll be prepped and ready to make something coq au riesling (a speedier version of the classic coq au vin), or sesame peanut noodles, which is better than the takeout option most nights of the week and makes for great leftovers for snacking on straight from the fridge.

express won’t win awards for being super-duper innovative or introducing you to new ingredients, but that’s not the goal here. it’s more about brevity. this said, express is definitely comprehensive and global in its approach, so boredom won’t be an issue. lawson is a londoner, after all, with a cosmopolitan palate.

i treat this book as inspiration when i am feeling stuck in a rut or when am exceedingly pressed for time. her potato and mushroom gratin, for example, is a meal in and of itself. who even needs the roasted chicken?

5 cookbooks for people who need dinner ideas

  • scratch by maria rodale (get it!)

i like cookbooks with a strong voice and strong headnotes. those that champion a hefty dose of veggies, too, automatically get my love. rodale’s book delivers on all counts.

maria rodale is the granddaughter of j.i. rodale, a pioneer in the organic and sustainable food movement and publisher of prevention, runner’s world, and countless other health and wellness publications and books. in this cookbook, rodale brings you to her table. what she offers is homey, welcoming fare that you’ll want to return to again and again — and lots of pictures of her three daughters.

i’m digging her recipe for really green pesto pasta — blanching the basil keeps it from turning an unsavory shade of brown. we also share a love for arnabit — a roasted cauliflower dish with tahini dressing that pairs well with middle eastern fare or simple grilled fish. when the weather changes, i’m headed straight for her savory spiced pumpkin soup, which incorporates coconut milk.

what are your favorite cookbooks for mealtime inspiration?

continue reading "5 cookbooks for people who always need more ideas for dinner" »






sesame-crusted pork cutlets with crispy shallots

sesame-crusted pork cutlets with crispy shallots

i love these crunchy, sesame-coated pork chops, and placing them the on top of a fresh spinach salad turns them into a complete meal.

i sometimes make an extra chop just to have for lunch the next day. heaven!

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pumpkin gingerbread

pumpkin gingerbread

this pumpkin gingerbread is one of our favorite treats for fall!

we almost always have extra pumpkin sitting around this time of year, either puréed and in cans, or fresh. two of my favorite sweet quick breads are pumpkin bread and gingerbread.

this recipe started as an experiment to combine the two. the result? a tender, richly flavored loaf—spicy, molasses-y, and pumpkin-y. 

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5 small ways to add big flavor to any recipe

if you cook frequently, you may find yourself hitting a proverbial wall—you want to improve your dishes, but sometimes, after adding more salt and pepper, it’s not always clear what to try next.

improving our cooking skills is always admirable task, but will that effort pay off in a better tasting dish? here are five tiny tips that can make a huge flavor difference.

continue reading "5 small ways to add big flavor to any recipe" »






pot sticker stir-fry

pot sticker stir fry

i’m always on the hunt for new ways to get a healthy dinner on the table and fresh flavor combinations to keep things interesting. when a cookbook checks both of these boxes, it earns a special place in my heart.

enter my friend michelle tam’s latest release, ready or not!: 150+ make-ahead, make-over, and make-now recipes by nom nom paleo. it’s geared toward all different kinds of meal prep situations — from meals that require some more advanced planning to emergency weeknight dinners.

continue reading "pot sticker stir-fry" »






pressure cooker saag tofu (indian spinach and tofu)

pressure cooker saag tofu

a few weeks ago, i was digging into a meal of saag paneer at one of my favorite indian restaurants (zareen’s in palo alto!), when it occurred to me that the texture of the soft fresh paneer cheese in the dish was very similar to the texture of extra-firm tofu.

i decided there and then to come up with a vegan riff on this dish so that everyone can enjoy it, even if you’re eating dairy-free.

continue reading "pressure cooker saag tofu (indian spinach and tofu)" »






pressure cooker saag tofu

pressure cooker saag tofu

a few weeks ago, i was digging into a meal of saag paneer at one of my favorite indian restaurants (zareen’s in palo alto!), when it occurred to me that the texture of the soft fresh paneer cheese in the dish was very similar to the texture of extra-firm tofu.

i decided there and then to come up with a vegan riff on this dish so that everyone can enjoy it, even if you’re eating dairy-free.

continue reading "pressure cooker saag tofu" »






pumpkin chili

pumpkin chili

pumpkin and chili: two things we all crave every fall. this recipe combines them into one dish. it’s the best of both worlds!

the pumpkin provides some natural sweetness, which plays well with the different spices. if you aren’t able to find fresh pumpkin, then butternut squash, acorn squash, or any other hard squash would be good substitutes.

continue reading "pumpkin chili" »






meal plan for october week 2

october wk 2 meal plan

welcome to our new series of weekly meal plans! this month, summer miller will be sharing with us what meal planning looks like in her house. summer is a mom, a full-time food writer, and also helps test the fabulous recipes we bring you every week at simply recipes.

summer is definitively over, and now we find ourselves squarely in the throes of fall. it’s time to trade in our swimsuits for sweatshirts and swap out our grills for slow cookers.

to help you warm up to the cooler temps, i’ve put together some of fall favorites. most are easy meals you can get on the table in about an hour, and the one that isn’t is a slow cooker recipe where the crockpot does the heavy lifting for you.

continue reading "meal plan for october week 2" »






5 small ways to add big flavor to any recipe

if you cook frequently, you may find yourself hitting a proverbial wall—you want to improve your dishes, but sometimes, after adding more salt and pepper, it’s not always clear what to try next.

improving our cooking skills is always admirable task, but will that effort pay off in a better tasting dish? here’s five tiny tips that can make a huge flavor difference.

continue reading "5 small ways to add big flavor to any recipe" »






caramel apple monkey bread

caramel apple monkey bread

in the category of “not terribly beautiful baked goods that taste amazing,” this caramel apple monkey bread is a clear winner!

no, this may not the prettiest dessert in the galaxy, but what it lacks in presentation, it more than makes up for in sticky, gooey, pull-apart deliciousness.

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chicken enchiladas verdes

chicken enchiladas verdes

do you ever cook with tomatillos? they look like little lanterns, with their green papery husks.

sometimes people mistake them for green tomatoes (doesn’t help that their spanish name is “tomate verde”); they are nightshades, like eggplants and peppers, and therefore distant cousins of tomatoes, but the taste is quite different.

the tomatillos i grow in my garden here in northern california ripen in september and october, but most of the tomatillos we get from the market come all year round from mexico. when my tomatillos are ripe, i make a large batch of mexican salsa verde, perfect for tortilla chips, great with eggs, and awesome in these enchiladas!

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