One Ham, Two Dinners Part 1: Croque Monsieur

So my favorite thing in the world is when I can cook one thing and get more than one meal out of it.

Okay it’s not my favorite thing in the world, but it makes me really really happy.

I had a ham in my freezer from an Omaha Steaks order from my aunt. I had kind of forgotten about it. Then I saw it tucked in the back and the wheels immediately started turning.

If I cooked that one ham on Sunday, we could have Croque Monsieurs on Monday and a Ham and Cheese Quiche on a Tuesday. Even better? All of the ingredients for both meals are essentially the same, so less to buy at the store. Score!

Croque Monsieur is basically the best ham and cheese sandwich you will ever eat. When we were in Paris, my meals largely consisted of Croissants, Croque Monsieurs and Steak Frites. Croque Monsieur is sort of like a ham and cheese, meets grilled cheese meets savory stuffed French toast.

The ingredients are super simple, like a lot of French cuisine. It’s really just about the execution.

You will need:

  • bread (any kind you prefer)
  • ham, sliced
  • swiss cheese, sliced
  • butter
  • eggs
  • milk

I cooked the ham on Sunday, let it cool, sliced it and popped it in the fridge. This way, Monday after work I only had to assemble the sandwiches and cook them until the cheese melted. But I am getting ahead of myself.

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Start by placing a few slices of ham on one slice of bread.

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Add the cheese and then add the other slice of bread.

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In a shallow dish, add two eggs and a splash of milk

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and whisk until combined (see, kind of like French toast.)

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Next, carefully take the whole sandwich and place it in the egg and milk batter.

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Press it down so it is fully coated and then flip so the other side is coated as well.

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Repeat with your other sandwich.

Melt some butter on a skillet and place your sandwiches in the melted butter.

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Cook on the first side until golden brown (maybe 5 minutes over medium heat) and then flip and cook on the other side.

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The bread will be all golden and custardy and the cheese will be melting into the ham.

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For a very French touch, and to cut the richness of the ham and the cheese, serve with a salad with a mustardy vinaigrette. The mustard and the vinegar is the perfect balance to the richness of the sandwich.

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Enjoy your sandwich, and store the leftover ham and cheese in the fridge for tomorrow’s dinner. We’ll keep it French again with a ham and cheese quiche.

Mushroom Walnut Ravioli

One of the things that’s really tough when it comes to city living is grocery shopping.

Whatever you buy you have to be able to carry home, because unlike the suburban dwellers, us city folk don’t have a car trunk to transport the cans of chick peas, boxes of pasta and gallons of milk.

This means a bit of strategizing goes into my grocery shopping ventures. I try not to buy milk and orange juice at the same time, or do a restock on canned goods when i need to buy eggs (can be utterly disastrous).

The other grocery conundrum is while there may be a fabulous deal on cereal or pancake mix, and while it is true that these things have a long shelf life and can be bought in large quantities, my itty bitty city kitchen cannot hold large quantities of anything.

So, what’s a city chef to do?

Well, I’ll tell you.

Start thinking about how you can buy just a few things and transform them into one or maybe even two fantastically flavorful meals. That’s exactly what this dinner is. Three ingredients (plus butter and olive oil, which I always have) that go a long way when it comes to flavor, won’t take up a lot of room and aren’t too heavy to carry home.

  • Ravioli
  • Mushrooms
  • Walnuts

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook your ravioli according to package instructions.

In a skillet, drop in sliced mushrooms, some butter and some olive oil (I never measure butter and oil, so use your best judgment)

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Cook until the mushrooms are browned.

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And then add in your chopped walnuts.

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Cook until the walnuts are warmed, stirring so they don’t brown.

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Drain your ravioli and top with the mushroom walnut mix. For extra decadence, you can add a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

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Decadent, indulgent, and super easy.

Easy Lemon Yogurt Cake

As soon as there is the tiniest hint of Spring in the air, all I want is lemon.

Lemon with shrimp, lemon with pasta, and especially lemon desserts.

I guess after a winter of heavy and rich soups and stews, my taste buds are craving something as bright and zingy as the beautiful sunshine streaming through the windows.

This is a fantastically light and fluffy cake. And the best part? I almost always have all of the ingredients on hand.

For this recipe you will need:

  • 1 ½ Cups  Flour
  • ½ Cup Greek yogurt
  • ½ Cup Canola Oil
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 2  Eggs
  • 2 Tsp Baking Powder
  • ½ Tsp Salt
  • Lemon zest (as much or as little as you want)
  • ¼ Cup Lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease an 8 inch round cake pan.

In a large bowl, which yogurt, sugar and eggs.

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until you have a well combined batter

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Add lemon juice, oil and lemon zest

It’s going to look like it wants to separate

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but keep whisking until well combined

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Add flour, salt and baking powder to the wet ingredients

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And whisk (carefully so you don’t have flour all over your kitchen) until you have a smooth batter.

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Pour into your greased cake pan.

 

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And bake for about 30 minutes. Until a toothpick comes out clean.

 

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After the cake cools, remove from cake pan and dust with powdered sugar. If you want to get fancy, you can cut a shape out of parchment paper and use it as a template for the powdered sugar.

Aww

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Slice and serve with some whipped cream.

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Lemony, light and oh so delicious.

And kind of healthy!

No butter and not a lot of sugar. Plus Greek yogurt. Which is so good for you.

Win!

Italian Stuffed Peppers

Coming to you from mom’s not so itty bitty, just outside of the city, kitchen.

Since it was Easter, we spent the weekend at my parents’ house.

Since it was Good Friday, we couldn’t make our usual Friday night pepperoni pizza and salami bread.

The pizza was no problem- just lose the pepperoni and there you have Good Friday ready, meat free dinner.

But what to go with it?

Salami bread without the salami is just bread.

Bread…

How about take some bread and stuff it into peppers?

Italian stuffed peppers and pizza? Perfect Friday night dinner.

You will need

  • cubanelle peppers
  • bread, any kind will do, leftover rolls, white bread, whatever
  • Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • olive oil
  • vegetable oil

Wash the peppers, cut off the tops and remove the insides.

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In a bowl, loosely tear the bread. We made four stuffed peppers and used 7 slices of white bread. The amount of bread will depend on how big the peppers are. Worst case scenario? You start stuffing peppers and run out of stuffing and make some more.

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To the sliced bread

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add about 1/4 cup bread crumbs

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and drizzle in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil

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mix and add more oil or bread crumbs as needed. you want a moist but not oily mixture.

Take your hollowed pepper

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and start stuffing, making sure to push the bread all the way down

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and stopping a bit from the top. If the pepper is overstuffed, the filling will fall out when you are trying to fry the pepper.

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place your stuffed pepper in a skillet with enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan.

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Stuff your remaining peppers and place in the pan.

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Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes total, turning the peppers so they are cooked on all sides.

You want the skin to get nice and blistered and the filling to get crispy.

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The perfect light dinner with a big salad or the perfect accompaniment to Friday night pizza!

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Pizza – All about the Pan

 

So, back in the day, my family owned a pizzeria in Orange, NJ.

It’s still there – Toast of the Town- but it’s not in the family any longer.

My mom worked there with her aunt Mary back when mom and dad first got married. She ripped the tops off her gym socks to make a sweatband on hot nights while Aunt Mary screamed out number 69.

Welcome to my Family.

So, while we no longer have the pizzeria, we do still have… drum roll… the pizza pans!

Mom has one and grandma has one. I’ve been jonesing for one.

And now, finally, this beauty is mine.

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Do you see the perfectly seasoned pan? Do you understand that no matter what I did my pizza would not taste the same as my mom’s or grandma’s because no matter how i seasoned or topped it, it was not baked on this pan.

Until now.

My grandfather recently passed away and we are cleaning out my grandparents’ house and moving grandma into a cute little apartment. She no longer cooks for herself, so when mom asked what I wanted from the house, I asked for the pan.

Now, my Friday night pizza tastes just like mom’s.

Pizza night is such a great family tradition that we’ve been doing as long as I can remember. All you have to do is buy good dough (our grocery store has great frozen dough), defrost it in the morning and then stretch it, top it and bake it when you get home.

Drizzle some olive oil on the pan so the dough doesn’t stick and place your stretched dough on the pan.

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Add canned pizza sauce

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Shredded mozzarella

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Slice pepperoni (because dad says you can’t have pizza without pepperoni)

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And bake at 425 for about 15 minutes.

 

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Slice

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And mangia!

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Four Ingredient Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Have you ever been home on a really cold day and been hit with an intense craving for a cookie, and not just a cookie from a package but an actual homemade cookie, but it’s way too cold to think about venturing outside in the really cold to get ingredients to make said homemade cookie that would satisfy your craving?

No?

Just me?

Okay then, have you ever found yourself needing to make a last minute dessert for a work thing, or your kid’s school thing or a last minute dinner party thing?

Well, then you’re going to want to have this cookie recipe in your back pocket.

Four ingredient peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.

That’s right. The name is longer than the ingredient list.

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350.

Add the peanut butter, sugar and egg to a bowl

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Mix until combined and then add chocolate chips.

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Form into one inch balls and place on a cookie sheet

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Bake for 10-12 minutes

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Your need for a homemade cookie? Satisfied

Easiest and Tastiest Cocktail Party Meatballs

 

 

Having everyone over our place is a fairly regular occurrence. I always make our friends’ and family’s favorites but I also like to make something new. Don’t want it to get boring now.

One of the challenges of entertaining in a small space, though is making sure you don’t need a lot of ingredients to make a dish (limited cabinet and fridge space) and making sure the preparation isn’t too elaborate (1 pot or pan preferred).

Over the summer we went to our neighbor Nancy’s for a big Labor Day bash. She had these incredibly addictive little spicy meatballs. Bingo. There was my something new for this party.

But Nancy and her husband are in the restaurant biz. Those meatballs could be tough to recreate.

So I put in a call.

And Nancy let me in on the secret to the meatballs.

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Yup. You see that correct. Grape jelly and heinz chili sauce. Pour into a pot and add in frozen meatballs. Yup. Frozen meatballs. Just regular old, unseasoned frozen meatballs. Let them simmer away in the grape jelly and chili sauce. I used 2 jars of each for 2 pounds of meatballs. Three ingredients. One pot.
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Your guests will never be able to guess what’s in the sauce. And you will be one calm, cool and collected hostess!

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Annie’s Mushroom Soup

Annie is the best cook in the family on my dad’s side. Most people are either a really good cook or a really good baker, but she is not only an incredible baker but also can whip up a dinner with like no ingredients.

A few weeks ago my husband and I were sitting on the couch having breakfast. It was a little cold out so I said how about I try making Annie’s mushroom soup tonight?

Hubs was in. We had been waiting for it to feel like winter.

A few minutes later, my phone beeps with a text message.

Annie: What are you up to today?

I looked at Christopher. She is either in New York or on her way (She and the rest of dad’s family live in Delaware)

Christopher: You think so?

Me: I know so.

Text to Annie: Just hanging out. Why?

Annie: Me and Liz and Lisa hopped on the bus to New York. We’re here!

Me to Christopher: Told you. So we had a surprise visit from the family, walked around New York and looked at all the Christmas decorations and then, after a day with Annie, made Annie’s mushroom soup.

It’s super easy and super delicious.

You will need:

  • 1 pound mushrooms, some sliced, some chopped
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 15oz chicken broth
  • black pepper
  • salt

Start by melting the butter in a heavy-bottomed soup pot. toss in the mushrooms once the butter is melted. Cook until mushrooms are brown.

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Add the flour and stir

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continuing to cook over medium heat and stirring until thickened.

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Slowly add cream and chicken broth, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Let the soup warm through, stirring so the cream does not burn.

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And then dish up in big bowls.

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Creamy, rich, mushroomy goodness.

The best Pad Thai I’ve ever had

The best pad thai ever? Where’d you get it? Some fancy Thai place in the East Village? Random hole in the wall take out spot in midtown?

No and no.

My kitchen.

Prepared by my Greek Armenian husband.

He has a knack for Asian cooking.

I guess I’ll keep him.

For pad thai you will need:

  • noodles, any kind works- i like brown rice ones
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • brown sugar
  • soy sauce
  • rice vinegar
  • sesame oil
  • chili oil
  • scallions (optional)
  • chopped peanuts (optional)
  • pea shoots or sprouts (optional)

Start by cooking your noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside. The key to pad thai (or any Asian dish really) is having everything chopped and ready to go as the cooking process goes pretty quick.

In the same pot you just cooked your noodles, add some sesame oil and the shallot.

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When the shallot is softened, add a bit more oil and then pour in two beaten eggs (think like you’re making scrambled eggs.

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Keeping an eye on your eggs and stirring occasionally, in a bowl mix together 1/8 cup each of brown sugar, soy sauce and rice vinegar and a little less of the sesame oil. Add chili oil to taste (it’s really really hot, so be careful).

Ok when your eggs are done, add the noodles and the sauce to the pot and stir.

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Add in your pea shoots or sprouts and stir again.

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Dish up into bowls and top with scallions and peanuts, if you choose.

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Lose that place down the street’s number and forget about waiting for your takeout delivery ever again.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

There is a hint of a chill in the air here. The mornings start out crisp. The sky is a clear turquoise blue. Summer fruits no longer abound on grocery store shelves.

Fall is coming.

Fall is a warm mug of tea, a hint of cinnamon in the air and pumpkins.

These muffins packed with pumpkin, oatmeal and cinnamon give you something to accompany that mug of tea.

No all you need is a good book.

For the muffins:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats

Preheat the oven to 375 and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. I got 12 muffins out of this recipe.

In one bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

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In another bowl, mix the egg, pumpkin, milk and oil.

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Add the wet to the dry.

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Stir until combined.

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Then add in the oats

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And stir until combined.

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Spoon the mixture into the cupcake liners.

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And bake for about 15 minutes. The house will smell like pumpkin pie. Is there anything better?

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