Batter Licker

December 19, 2011

sausage and spinach stuffed mushrooms

Do you know anyone who doesn’t like stuffed mushrooms? I don’t. Even self-proclaimed mushroom-avoiders dig in eagerly when the mushrooms are stuffed with ingredients they love.

Sausage. Greens. Bacon. Cheese. Bread crumbs. Whatever you have on hand or know your friends and family love to eat generally works as a stuffing.

My favorite thing about stuffing mushrooms, besides the endless flexibility with stuffing ingredients, is that the natural size of mushrooms is appetizer-friendly: one or two bites’ worth of food. No time-consuming prep required, as it often is when I’m trying to convert something larger to small, bite-sized, nibble-appropriate portions.

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I also love that the mushrooms themselves are naturally shaped as cups, which allows them to act as fairly mess-free, self-contained vessels. This makes them easy to serve with or sans toothpicks, which is key because I often forget to pick up toothpicks anyway. (more…)

January 19, 2011

one-pot chili

I have been eating meatless meals all week, so it’s only appropriate that I can’t get chili out of my mind. My brain has an obnoxiously playful sense of humor when it comes to teasing my stomach and testing my willpower. And frankly, the chilly weather seems to be conspiring with my brain this time around because there’s nothing quite like a warm bowl of chili full of warming spices to combat a cold evening or refrigerated day at the office.


For me, there’s also no Christmas Eve dinner quite as satisfying as chili not just because of the usual late-December chill in the air, but also because serving chili on that particular night has been a family tradition for as long as I can remember.

However, chili isn’t just great for cold evenings and holiday eves. Chili is also the quintessential Super Bowl dish. (more…)

December 13, 2010

simple meat marinara sauce

I think every cook needs a quick and easy, pantry-friendly, go-to marinara sauce if only for those nights when grocery shopping just isn’t going to happen (and hasn’t happened for over a week). This simple five-ingredient, one-pot, five active and fifteen passive minutes version is mine, derived from one of those oh-shoot-what’s-for-dinner situations that occurs far more often than I’d like to admit.

Made with canned tomatoes, half an onion, a couple garlic cloves, and Italian sausage that I buy fresh and freeze into quarter-pound balls to defrost just for these occasions, this recipe is made up of ingredients I consistently have on hand. In fact, I often double the recipe, freezing a second batch for the next time I’m in an even lazier and more desperate dinner-planning bind.
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November 15, 2010

creole jambalaya

I love spicy foods, and when I have some peppers and onions left over from fajitas, jambalaya is a good way to make use of these veggies and other pantry items I always have on hand. Plus, jambalaya mixes it up a bit so the leftover-friendly dish has some bite without having the same Mexican flavor profile and doesn’t seem quite so left over.

Compared to other spicy, complex, and delicious Southern creole dishes, such as gumbos and étouffées, jambalaya is much simpler and less time consuming to prepare. But it still looks and tastes incredibly flavorful and much more labor intensive than it is, which is never a bad thing.

While there are several types of jambalaya out there, the creole variety is my personal preference. Not that I’d turn down a cajun jambalaya, but there’s something about the tomato-based creole version – probably the acidity of the tomatoes – that just really balances the spice intensiveness of this dish.

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Jambalaya is typically made with rice cooked directly in the sauce, but I usually do a pasta version. Pasta not only cooks faster than rice, but penne rigate is particularly fantastic for this dish because the ridges add texture and really catch more of the sauce. (more…)

October 26, 2010

october feast: warm potato salad with bratwurst and kale in creamy mustard sauce

October might be on its way out the door, but that only gives me another reason to have a final hurrah in the form of an October feast. And what’s a better way to do that than with a colorful, flavorful, one-pot (and one foil sheet) warm potato salad with bratwurst and kale in creamy but spicy mustard sauce?

Traditional Oktoberfest meals are always so flavorful, but also so … brown. Nothing against brown food, but with plenty of options for colorful veggie add-ins, I can’t quite understand why fall feasts systematically embrace such monochromatic earth tones.

Here, I used a trio of mini potatoes to add an unbelievable zap of color, from the creamy light yellow flesh of the standard fingerling to the pink peel and bright white flesh of the red thumb fingerling to the dark purple peel and bright purple flesh of the purple majesty. All three held their coloring after roasting and developed slightly different flavors and creamy textures perfect for a potato salad.

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