Rachael Ray’s Veggie Chili


I love veggie chili. It’s great game day food, but even when it’s really hot out, it somehow still manages to be a great dinner choice. Maybe because it’s all veggies so it feels lighter than a meat filled chili would.

Anyway, one thing I haven’t been able to figure out with veggie chili is how to keep it from being kind of wimpy. You know what I mean. Somehow without the meat it just doesn’t feel quite like a chili sometimes.

That is, until now.

I was watching Rachael Ray’s week in a day and she happened to be making veggie chili. I have made a lot of iterations of a veggie chili, so I was like okay Rachael, what are you going to do? Surprise me.

And guess what?

She did.

She started out with sauteeing diced green and red bell peppers and an onion in some olive oil.


When those were softened, she added about a half cup of light beer and let that bubble for a bit.


Next a can each of black beans and red kidney beans, rinsed and drained, and a can of diced tomatoes, juices and all.


Let that cook for another few minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

You could stop there and be pretty happy, right?

Wrong! So so wrong. Here’s what Rachael did to transform this pot of veggies into a thick, delicious, complex veggie chili.

She added a can of refried beans!


Yup, refried pinto beans. I don’t know why I never thought of it, but as soon as she said it I was like, that’s genius.

Te refried beans warm up and melt into the veggies and create the thick sauciness around the peppers and onions and beans that you would get if you were using meat.

See that? Doesn’t that just look amazing?


Dish it up in big bowls topped with cheese or avocado or crumbled tortilla chips and click on the game.


Oh. It’s summer. There is no game?

Oh well. Crack open a beer and take your chili to the front porch and watch the world go by.

Portabella Eggplant Stacks


This is a super easy, super light, super healthy dinner that was almost no effort at all.

I love eggplant parm., but boy can it be a process. If you don’t believe me, check it out here. Don’t get me wrong, on a lazy Sunday I have no problem hanging in the kitchen and frying up slices of eggplant.

But on a weeknight I just can’t see coming home from work and spending the time at the stove. Everything has its time and its place and the same is true for food.

So when I saw Giada making eggplant and portabella sandwiches on Food Network, I knew I had found the week night eggplant fix.

I eliminated the sandwich portion and instead made bigger stacks to make this a hearty and filling, yet healthy meal.

There is no frying. And the eggplant and portabella leaves you feeling full and satisfied, even without any meat.

For this recipe you will need

  • 1 eggplant sliced into 1/2 inch thick discs
  • 2 portabella mushrooms, stems removed
  • Italian-seasoned panko bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • flour (for dredging)
  • mozzarella cheese
  • marinara sauce

Preheat the oven to 425.

Lay out your veggies.



And set up a dredging station. Flour, Egg, Breadcrumbs. Place a lightly oiled cookie sheet at the end of the assembly line.


Take a piece of eggplant and start by dunking it in the flour


then into the egg


then into the panko bread crumbs


Continue until all of the eggplant slices and the portabellas are coated and lined up on the cookie sheet.


Bake for about 20 minutes.

Plate up the stacks and top them with some mozzarella cheese and some marinara sauce.


Sushi Cravings – Avocado, Asparagus Crab Salad

I had a sushi craving today.

This happens fairly often.

But I’m being good. I had yogurt and berries and homemade granola for lunch. I went to the gym after work.

I will not ruin this with sushi out. (I’d much rather ruin it with some of those funfetti cookies that are, surprisingly, still left).

I started thinking about the deconstructed spicy tuna roll salad we made recently and then I started thinking about the rolls we always order at Tenzan (our favorite sushi place that’s right in our neighborhood). There are two we always always get: avocado asparagus cucumber roll and spicy crunchy crab roll. This is the only sushi place I’ve had asparagus in a maki roll. It’s amazing. And unexpected and pairs so well with the cool crunchy cucumber and the soft, creamy avocado. And spicy crunchy crab? Crab meat, spicy mayo and crunch? In. All in.

I thought about the flavors and textures of the rolls and broke them down to their parts.

I started with the spicy dressing from the tuna roll salad. (Recipe here)

For the salad part you will need:

  • baby spinach
  • avocado
  • shredded cabbage
  • scallions
  • baby bok choy
  • asparagus
  • cucumber
  • crab meat

We decided to eliminate the rice from the salad this time to keep the meal cleaner and as plant based as possible (minus, ya know, the crab. But crab’s super good for you- packed with protein!)

So I decided to add another dimension to the salad by roasting the asparagus and the baby bok choy so that there’s a mix of temperatures and textures.

Preheat the oven to 400.

This meal gets made in a large bowl and on a foil-lined baking sheet. So there’s only one pot to clean. There’s minimal cooking here, too, as we’re only roasting up some veggies.

Chop up the asparagus into bite size chunks, trimming and discarding the woody ends.


Dump on the foil-lined cookie sheet, spreading the pieces out. Drizzle with olive oil, some salt and some pepper.


This is where most Food Network chefs tell you to put the vegetables in a bowl and toss them with the oil and the seasoning. Who has that many bowls? Who wants to clean that many bowls? Who has enough counter space for a bowl AND a cookie sheet?

So drizzle with olive oil, give the asparagus spears a little toss and pop them in the oven for about ten minutes.

Meanwhile make the dressing in a big bowl.

When the dressing is blended, add the baby spinach, the diced avocado, the shredded cabbage and the chopped cucumber to the bowl.


At this point, the asparagus should be almost completely roasted. They should be brown but still a little bit crisp, not completely cooked through. Pull the pan from the oven, push the asparagus over to one side of the pan and add the baby bok choy, ripped into pieces to the other side of the pan. Drizzle with olive oil and pop back in the oven. The bok choy will roast quickly, maybe 5-7 minutes.


When the bok choy is wilted down, remove the pan from the oven and add the asparagus and bok choy to the salad bowl.

Mix it all up so the dressing coats all the veggies.

Plate up the salads on nice big dishes. Top the greens with the crab meat.


My grocery store always has jumbo lump crab meat, cooked, picked over and ready to eat. If it’s not readily available by you, you can change the crab for shrimp, or you can use your favorite fish and cook it simply by broiling it with a touch of oil.

But you can’t beat spicy dressing, avocado and crab. You just can’t.

Sprinkle with some chopped scallions and you are good to go.

Another deconstructed sushi night at home.

And, you don’t have to feel guilty about going for seconds.

Or about eating two cookies for dessert.

Taco Taco Taco

Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial start of summer.

It’s also the official start of grilling season.

Dads start rolling out the grills from the garage. People gather for backyard barbecues. Food Network has Grilling Week, a whole week dedicated to specials and shows and recipes centered around the grill.

There’s nothing better than a juicy burger, hot off the grill and tasting of open flames.

Except, if you have an itty bitty city kitchen, there’s nary a grill in sight.

Yes, I know, there are grill pans for indoor use. But I don’t know if it’s just us or if any of you had the same problem, we totally smoked our kitchen out using one. We have to go college-smoking-in-the-dorm style and bag our smoke detector to grill chicken or a burger.

Then the whole apartment smells like smoke.

Seriously. I showered the next day and when I dried off with my towel, I was basically rubbing smoke all over my newly cleaned self.

So for us, the grill pan is out. And anyway, the grill pan doesn’t mimic the char that you get on your burger when you cook over an open flame. And if I can’t have it the right way, then I’d rather not have.

So instead of trying to concoct ways to participate in the ultimate day for grilling, we went a different route.

Beef wasn’t optional.

But the bun was.

Who says you can’t celebrate Memorial Day with taco night?

I will admit that taco night is one of the more challenging nights in the life of an itty bitty city kitchen, but if you’re prepared and organized, it’s totally doable.

I’ll share with you our ingredients, but feel free to add and subtract toppings to suit your tastes.

  • romaine lettuce
  • tomatoes
  • black olives
  • shredded cabbage
  • taco cheese
  • salsa
  • Greek yogurt with a squeeze of lime (in place of sour cream)
  • flour tortillas

So here’s what I mean by being organized. We’re going to set up a make your own taco bar, which means each topping will be chopped up, put in its own bowl and lined up on the counter. It could easily overwhelm a little kitchen. But we’re going to be methodical.

First, pull out enough bowls for each topping and stack them up on the counter.

Get the cutting board and a knife.

Okay, here’s the key. Start with your least messy ingredient and then work your way to the messiest.

Think about it. You cut the tomato first and then move onto the romaine and you either have to rinse the cutting board and knife first or you wind up with tomato juice all over your romaine.

So, start with your romaine. Chop, place in bowl and then move the bowl out of the way, either off to the side or into the fridge to keep cold. I did the olives next, followed by the tomato. Then the cutting board went into the sink.

Spoon out a couple tablespoons of Greek yogurt into a bowl and spritz lime juice  over.


When everything is assembled, it’s on to the meat.

For the meat, I used ground beef, chorizo and half a yellow onion. But you can use just ground beef, chicken breast, steak, whatever you like. Taco night is all about taste and tailoring it to your tastes and cravings.

Drizzle olive oil in a pan and add in the chopped yellow onion and some chorizo, diced. I’m using the chorizo in place of taco seasoning here, mostly because it’s on hand and because the flavor is so much more complex than what you get from a seasoning packet.


Cook the onions and chorizo over medium until the onions are translucent and the chorizo starts to brown.


Add in the ground beef and brown.

Pour the meat into a bowl and add this to the taco assembly line.

Grab a plate, grab a tortilla and build your taco.


It’s not the traditional Memorial Day celebration, but it works for us.

We’ll start a new tradition.



My Kitchen

So, I moved to the big beautiful city, with its bright lights and big dreams.

And I got ….


a tiny kitchen.

I’m luckier than most of my friends. I have a full-sized oven and refrigerator. And I have a dishwasher. Not my boyfriend, but an actual dishwasher!

But I’m lacking counter space- here’s my counter-


and the ever elusive storage.

I spend Saturday mornings with my coffee on the couch watching Ree Drummond and Paula Deen and Alex Guarnaschelli churn out mouth-watering meals, scrumptious snacks and tantalizing treats.

A sea of bowls and fresh produce and pans and fancy stand mixers and food processors line their counters and their granite islands.

I wrap my hands around my coffee, look at my kitchen and sigh.

No island. No room for a stand mixer. No room to roll out dough for dozens of cookies. No room to even put a bowl and a cookie sheet side-by-side.


Does this mean that sizzling casseroles of enchiladas, ooey gooey chocolate and caramel birthday cakes and simmering pots of stews filling the house with tantalizing smells will elude me until I can afford that upper west side brownstone or, worse, until I, gulp, succumb to the call of the suburbs where I could get more for my money?

My taste buds will not wait that long!

So, instead, I invite you into my tiny kitchen. It’s cozy. We’ll be fast friends.