Spinach, Artichoke & Leek Dip

Most recipes for spinach artichoke dip require a particular step that has always put me off: thawing frozen spinach and squeezing it dry. The bits of wet, defrosted spinach tend to stick on everything, and it’s hard to get enough liquid out.

Then I discovered that using fresh spinach is actually easier, because the liquid cooks off when you saute it! Suddenly a ho-hum dish turned into one I actually enjoy making. Plus it’s so delicious, people inevitably keep coming back for more.

Adapted from The New York TimesSpinach Artichoke Dip.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, chopped (white and light green portion only)
1 clove garlic, minced
12 oz fresh spinach, chopped
1 14-oz can artichoke hearts (I prefer bottoms), drained, patted dry and chopped
8 oz cream cheese, cut into small pieces
4 oz fresh mozzarella, torn into small pieces
4 oz sour cream
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
pinch red pepper flakes
salt
pepper

In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the leek in oil until softened and starting to brown slightly. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute more.

Add spinach a little at a time, allowing it to wilt in the pan before adding more. Saute until the spinach is cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated. Add artichokes and cook for a few minutes more.

Turn the heat down to low, then add cream cheese and mozzarella and stir until melted. Add sour cream, Parmesan and red pepper flakes and stir until well mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer to a shallow 1-quart dish and serve hot. You can also refrigerate overnight; reheat in a 375-degree oven until the dip is hot throughout and bubbly on the edges.

Pictured: Corning Ware Merry Mushroom B-1-B Round, Pyrex Verde 444 Cinderella Mixing Bowl

Easy Chickpea Curry with Kale

Recently my daughter and I were making a curry dish from a kid’s cookbook, and I couldn’t help but modify it to my own liking. Plus, there were so many problems with the recipe: It called for a single leaf of kale (is that ever enough for anything?), used way too much salt, listed a bake time of 20 minutes (no baking was actually involved), and was illustrated with a drawing of a red onion that looked exactly like a rutabaga (which just didn’t inspire much confidence!).

So I was pleasantly surprised when our version turned out very tasty! The recipe is designed to be kid-friendly, so it’s not spicy, and lends itself to some kid help along the way. My daughter particularly enjoyed tearing up the kale, rinsing the garbanzos, measuring the water and spices, and stirring the pot.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 tbsp canola oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 tbsp mild curry powder
1 tsp salt
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes (undrained), torn into pieces
2 15-oz cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup water
1 bunch lacinato kale, torn into bite-size pieces (discard stems)

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, saute the onion in oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.

Stir in the curry powder, salt, tomatoes, garbanzo beans and water. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the kale and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes more. Add salt to taste.

Serve over rice.

Pictured: Descoware Flame Dutch Oven, Pyrex Spring Blossom 471 Casserole

Grandma’s Hamburger Goulash

This is my comfort food: a classic American one-pot dish made with pretty basic ingredients that come together into something delicious and belly-warming. It’s also pretty hard to screw up! Case in point: While cooking this last night I accidentally added some tea- and anise-infused simple syrup that I mistook for the mushroom-infused soy sauce I wanted to use (both of those were homemade items in similar-looking mason jars). I quickly realized my mistake, so I put in the soy sauce too and hoped for the best. And it still came out pretty tasty! Maybe a tad sweeter than usual, but not that noticeable. Hooray for a foolproof dinner!

Adapted from Classic Goulash on Allrecipes.com.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef
1 14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups water
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
2 bay leaves
1 cup elbow macaroni (uncooked)
salt
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, saute the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking the meat up into bite-size pieces, until no pink remains.

Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, soy sauce, Italian seasoning and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Skim off any excess fat with a spoon. Add salt to taste (about 1-2 tsp). Then stir in the macaroni, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Uncover and continue simmering, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes more.

Remove from heat. Take the bay leaves out, then stir in the cheese and serve.

Pictured: Descoware Flame Dutch Oven

3-Bean White Chili with Cilantro and Lime

I love a quick one-pot meal, and this one was so good we made it twice in the same week. The thing that really clinches it is the lime juice — it gives the broth a really vibrant flavor that pairs especially well with the poblano and jalapeño peppers.

This recipe is also good with chicken or turkey: Decrease the beans from four to two cans (use any type of white bean) and add the shredded meat of one precooked rotisserie chicken or 1 lb cooked ground turkey (broken into bite-sized crumbles) in the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Adapted from Food Network’s White Chicken Chili.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium poblano peppers, chopped fine
1 medium jalapeño pepper, chopped fine
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chili powder
2 14 1/2-oz cans white beans, drained and rinsed
1 14 1/2-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 14 1/2-oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
juice of 2 limes
salt
1 tbsp masa harina (optional)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

In a large pot (5- to 6-quart size) over medium-high heat, saute the onion and peppers in oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.

Add the spices, beans, broth and lime juice. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add salt to taste. Stir in the masa and simmer for a few minutes more to thicken slightly. Stir in the cilantro and serve.

Pictured: Pyrex Autumn Harvest 404 Round Mixing Bowl

Slow Cooker Yellow Split Pea Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach

On these cold stormy days, there’s nothing better than a big pot of soup simmering away in the slow cooker, providing an effortless meal that can feed a crowd. In this recipe, warming curry spices meld deliciously with earthy split peas and sweet potatoes. I prefer white sweet potatoes here because their flavor is a little more subtle than the orange variety. Spinach provides a nice pop of color and is a nice balance to the overall sweetness of the soup.

Try pairing this dish with No-Knead Harvest Bread — a classic combo!

Serves 8

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups yellow split peas
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
3 lbs white sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp red pepper flakes
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water
1 cup coconut milk
salt
2 10-oz bags baby spinach
2 limes, cut into wedges

Place split peas in a large bowl and cover with about double their volume of water. Soak overnight, then drain and rinse.

In a large skillet, saute onions and carrots until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Put in the slow cooker with the split peas, sweet potatoes, spices, vegetable broth and water, and stir.

Cover and cook for 6-7 hours on low or 4-5 hours on high. About 20 minutes before serving, add the coconut milk and stir. Season with salt to taste.

Five minutes before serving, stir in the spinach. Serve with lime wedges.

Pictured: Pyrex Yellow 404 Round Mixing Bowl, Corning Ware French White F-15-B Oval Casserole

Christmas Dinner 2018

Arcopal’s French Hen pattern reminds me of The 12 Days of Christmas, so I made it the starting point for my Christmas dinner tableware this year. I haven’t had a chance to use my Arcopal casserole dish since finding it last year, so I’m excited to finally put it to work. I’ll combine it with some red and green Pyrex to round out the Christmas motif.

I’m also using some Corning Ware petite pans to make individual bread puddings for dessert. They don’t match, but they’ll allow me to prep the puddings a day in advance and then go directly from refrigerator to oven for baking — so hey, function over form!

The only thing I’m missing is a vintage platter for my Cornish hens. I’m going to have to start looking for one on my thrifting adventures.

Tentative menu:

  • Roasted Cornish Game Hens with Lemon and Herbs (recipe)
  • Barley and Herb Pilaf
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • Salad
  • Mini Bourbon Bread Puddings (recipe)

Pictured: Pyrex Verde 404 Round Mixing Bowl, Arcopal French Hen Casserole, Pyrex 024 Holiday Casserole Round Casserole, Pyrex 024 Lime Round Casserole, Corning Ware Spice O’ Life P-41-B Petite Pan (x2), Corning Ware Blue Cornflower P-41-B Petite Pan (x5), Corning Ware Blue Cornflower P-89-B Lipped Saucepan

Roasted Cornish Game Hens with Lemon and Herbs

Cornish game hens are a great way to make a special meal out of what is essentially just ordinary chicken. There’s something festive about having your own tiny roast bird on your plate; it’s one of my favorite things to make for Christmas dinner.

Brining in buttermilk overnight helps make the hens extra tender and juicy, and also makes the roasting process more forgiving — it’s hard to go wrong! The only problem I’ve ever run into is overcrowding in the oven. I once tried to roast 12 hens at once (two sheet pans with six hens each, on two oven racks) for a big family gathering, and while they tasted great they never got the deep golden color that makes the dish so appealing.

Adapted from Kitchen Confidante’s Buttermilk Brined Cornish Hens.

Serves 4-8 (1 hen per person, or half for a more modest portion size)

Ingredients

4 Cornish game hens, rinsed and patted dry
6 cups buttermilk
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp cayenne
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp dried thyme
juice of 1 lemon
1 lemon, cut in quarters
4 cloves garlic
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
paprika (sweet)

In a large bowl or pot, combine the buttermilk, salt, cayenne, garlic powder, thyme and lemon juice. Place the hens in the brine, making sure they are mostly submerged. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Take the bowl out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and adjust a rack to the lower-middle position.

Remove the hens from the brine and pat dry. Place a lemon quarter, garlic clove and rosemary sprig in each cavity. Truss the hens with cooking twine (I did a variation of the technique in this video; give yourself at least 2 feet of twine to work with for each hen).

Place the hens on a rack in a roasting pan or sheet pan. Rub the skins with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Roast until the hens are a deep golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees, about 1 hour.

Pictured: Corning Ware White A-21-B-N Open Roaster