Our Gardens, Ourselves.

Like a lot of us, I have a small home garden that is compromised of a lot of little indulgences: tomatoes, basil, parsley. Zucchini if the moth grubs don’t eat away at the root system from the inside out. As my husband says, the garden is “my thing.” He wakes up in the morning and waters it while doing a few other of his other AM chores, but as for the rest- the garden is my gig. I’m not sure why he has been so “you handle it” with the garden because he likes to be pretty involved with the household “going’s on.” Maybe because it is an extension of food and I’m generally the one who cooks? Or maybe it’s just because he knows it makes me happy. I like having things that are just mine. It can be a problem. Any way…

Yellow squash/zucchini
Supersonic tomatoes- just fun to say

This year we layered the entire bed (it’s really not that large, maybe 4×12 feet?) with our compost. It was great since the soil looked dark, rich, and fortified. But by the time April came to a close, we had baby tomato plants sprouting EVERYWHERE. My father-in-law, who has become a farmer in his retirement, told me to just weed them up. But being the stubborn garden lord I am, where did he get off? Who is he to tell me what to do with these wonderful little, tenacious babies in my own domain? Remember what I said about that problem?

Well, turns out WHO he thought he was was someone with lot of experience in farming and growing crops. It was too much and the seedlings were choking out the garden. We ended up leaving 4 to grow on their own and I took about a dozen sprouts out and kept them in little seeding pots, just in case.

Plum tomatoes

We also have, what I hope, are a few pumpkin plants growing. Last year my husband took the decorative pumpkins I was given by my in-laws (they also grow pumpkins) and threw them in the garden when they began to rot. I just can’t believe that they began growing all on their own. I shouldn’t be shocked, that’s what seeds are meant to do, but I was just so thrilled! I am SO looking forward to seeing what gords pop up as the summer ebbs into fall. And I won’t have to leave the house to supply my own seasonal decorations. Their blossoms are as beautiful as zucchini, lovely and wide open in the morning and closed tight by the afternoon.

Creeping pumpkin vines

Not everything can be a fertile paradise in the garden, though. We have had absolutely no luck with bell peppers. I’m blaming it on the soil quality (it’s pretty sandy since we’re close to the shoreline) and that it ended up being planted in the same spot two years in a row. Last year, the plant produced one measly, deformed, reject pepper that we left on the vine for too long in hopes it would grow to be approximately the size of a baseball, but ultimately rotted and fell off.

The pepper plant is my Everest this year. I went out on my own accord, dug the thing out, and placed it in a pot where it can get lots of sun and snuggle into its high-end, store bought soil, equipped with the neutral ph it craves. I’m not sure if I need to concur up some other type of hedge witch magic (or just buy some fertilizer) but I better get some dang peppers.

Come on you son of a bell pepper!

All in all, I love being in the garden. I like inspecting the plants, clipping and pruning the tomato leaves, tending to the zucchini to make sure their flowers don’t lay to rot in the wet soil. I even sprouted store bought celery from the trimming and planted that (will report back later on progress.) I take the garden personally. If something fails, it’s my fault because I’m in charge of her. And if something is beautiful and healthy, I did my job. If I uproot a plant to move it, know I have dwelled on the decision for days before doing so. Also there is something about being in the dirt that is calming and centering. The smell, its coolness.

Green zucchini

I hope and pray for a fruitful garden this year. I want those tomato plants to flourish well into early October, filling my week nights will milling and cooking batches of sauce. I want to fry, sauté, and grate loads of zucchini- making pseudo pasta dishes and dense quick breads that fill the house with warming, cinnamon hugs. And above all else, I want to make at least ONE damned stuffed pepper.

If you have any late summer/early fall garden favorites, I would love to hear it. Keep in mind I am in New Jersey so climate is a thing. Or is it, any more? Honestly?

Chef John and Me

This isn’t going to be some “Julie and Julia” bullshit. I promise.

This is me and Chef John, the charismatic, uniquely cadenced voice behind all of the Food Wishes videos on Youtube.

I’ll start by saying, I adore Chef John. And I only recently found out about him from an internet friend who wrote about his cream cheese recipe. That one cream cheese recipe that you don’t do because it’s “easier, or cheaper, or quicker- it’s actually the opposite of those things.” That cream cheese that takes three days of essentially waiting, but Chef John went ahead and did it any way? It reminded me of the time I tried to make vegan sushi out of blanched tomatoes. What a waste of a Wednesday night. I can say that Chef John’s cream cheese recipe actually WAS worth it, unlike my sushi disaster.

Today I tried out the Food Wishes Chicken Tinga Recipe and lord almighty was it worth the time and energy. My husband and I love ordering this out when we used to go out… So I was more than thrilled to try it out at home! As Chef John says, yes- there are decent amount of steps to this recipe, and you may need a few extra appliances, but other than that it’s extremely easy. I also have to admit, I love extra steps and recipes that are more methodical than most.

For my instagram page, @ clockedoutandcookin, I recorded myself dicing an onion as the chicken thighs poached away in a brothy herbed bath, laden with chunks of onion and smooth garlic cloves. A few people had asked if I could record “how to” chop an onion, so I figured I would record myself doing just that as the recipe calls for a whole chopped onion. When I watched the video back, I noticed my face: Focused, not self-conscious of being recorded, oblivious to anything other than the onion. I liked it. But anyway, getting back to the food…

The one nice thing about this recipe, well- let me rephrase. There are many nice things about this recipe. The aroma engulfing your kitchen will be number one of the nice things. But I love any recipe that reuses the same pot. Once you poach your chicken, placing the thighs aside and pouring out the broth, you cook the onions and the rest of the sauce right in that same pot. Yes, you will make a mess of your blender (and maybe even an immersion blender if you’re as neurotic about textures as I am) but those things are cake to clean. I hate doing dishes. Loath doing dishes. And pots and pans are the most detested. So any recipe that is one pot is already aces in my book.

So after about two hours and lots of reducing sauces, the chicken tinga was done. And I burnt my mouth almost immediately, which is also a sign that it was too good to wait for. Currently, my husband is pressing out his own tortillas to have with the tinga. He’s following another Chef John recipe, but I’ll save that for another time.

banana chocolate mousse pie with coconut crust

Pies. I have such struggle-bus relationship with pies. Specifically the crust which is the heart and soul of a pie. I either overwork it, burn it or, end up with a soggy bottom. Sometimes all three occur. But worst of all, I HAVE WARM HANDS!

But this pie ended up being my first success. In my eyes, anyway. I’m sure the Paul Hollywoods of the world would tear it apart but, damnit! I stand by this pie. Enough to share the recipe with you. A butter/lard crust that I made with coconut oil instead of shortening and filled with a whipped chocolate mouse that envelops layers of thinly sliced banana.

It’s the perfect Spring/Summertime pie. I encourage you to make it and share it with your friends and loved ones as soon as we are allowed. The coconut aspect of this recipe is subtle and compliments the banana and chocolate very nicely. You could up the ante with this by topping with shaved coconut OR adding a few drops of coconut extract to the crust. Both would be fine, but I preferred the hint of coconut that came through after the punch of banana.

Before we get into this recipe, the key here is keeping it COLD. You want cold butter, cold coconut oil, cold hands, and a cold metal mixing bowl and whisks for the filling. I even kept a frozen container of chicken stock next to me to take the chill off my hands, which I address in the recipe below.

CRUST INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour- plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp coconut sugar
  • 1/4 coconut oil, chilled
  • 5 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cubed (approx 1/2 inch cubes)

FILLNG INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 bananas, thinly sliced
  • cold metal bowl

In a food processor, pulse the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the shortening and butter and pulse until pea-sized pieces remain. Drizzle in 3 tablespoons of ICE COLD water and pulse until the dough is crumbly in appearance but sticks together when pinched. You can add up to 2 more tablespoons of ice water if needed.

Remove the dough and form into a disk. Work quickly without messing with the dough too much. If you find your hands are on the warmer side, find something in your freezer and keep it on stand by to hold periodically. Let the wrapped dough chill for at least one hour in your fridge- up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 425. Rollout dough on a lightly floured surface until approx 11inches round (in order to fit in a 9 inch pie dish.) Transfer the dough and gently press into the dish and trim the crust. Using a fork, prick the dough about 10 times- the part of the dough that is base of the crust. TIP: Place the pie dish on a cookie sheet- it makes taking the pie in and out of the oven a lot easier.

Cover the crust with a sheet of parchment paper and fill with pie weights (or dried beans, in my case) to prevent the crust from rising as you bake. Bake with the weights for 15 minutes.

Remove the pie from the oven, remove the paper and weights, and bake for an additional 12-15 minutes, or until the crust is a lovely golden color. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack. DO NOT COOL on top of your oven. It’s still hot, after all.

Now for the filling…

Before you make your filling, you should have put your metal bowl and whatever beater/whisk attachment you’re going to use in your fridge for at least 15 minutes. I ended up doing mine overnight as I wanted to make my cream/mousse filling the next day. (I used a hand mixer.)

Add cold cream to the bowl and sift in sugar and cocoa. Whisk the mixture on low to incorporate the sugar and cocoa then whack up to medium then high. Beat until stiff peaks form, about 4 minutes. The colder everything is, the faster this comes together.

To assemble your pie, take your completely cooled pie crust and perfectly whipped filling and begin layering. Start with a layer of mousse, careful not to work the filling too much as you want to keep all that air you incorporated into the cream, ensuring it is as fluffy as possible. Glide to the edges of the pie crust using a spatula. Place a layer of thinly sliced bananas on top of the cream. Repeat once more and to finish, add a decorative layer of sliced bananas on top.

Place in the fridge until ready to serve!

So… That was winter?

Am I the only one who has been properly disgusted with this mild winter? We’re a third of the way through March and it has felt like we are enjoying the beginnings of May or something. Truth be told, I started this entry about 5-6 weeks ago and guess what: I had the same complaints. I wanted my winter! And it seems I’m not going to get one. I’ve never yearned for a blizzard so much in my life. The eager green shoots of daffodils outside my work window have been popping up for the past three weeks, some of which have even bloomed! I hear robins in the morning, and we’ve been having rain when I know in my bones it should be snow. The reasons why I believe we are having such a wimpy winter will not be addressed, but just know that I am NOT into it.

As I’ve said in many posts and in previous blogs, I love the comfort cooking that comes with winter weather. But that dream has pretty much been erased and simply not an option. I guess I could use the mindset of my internet friend (because we can all attest that’s a thing) who lives in Florida. That has never stopped her from cooking up some rib-sticking meals, like her Grandmother’s chicken and dumplings, which are more dumpling than chicken and linked just below. I just like to have the full on cozy factors all firing off at once: lots of comfy layers, snow on the window sill, the crackling of the fire place… if I had one. I’m sure there’s a yule log YouTube video I could throw on.

Kitchen Witchery In A Post Mawga World

The lack of classic winter weather did not, however, prevent me from getting a cold. But even that was short and mild-mannered. During that time I didn’t do much cooking. I made myself a decent amount of Maruchan chicken ramen and ordered McDonalds? For some reason? Burger, fries, chicken nuggets, the whole deal. I was shocked at myself but I HAD to do it. Something primal called from within me. Do a lot of people crave fast food when they’re sick because I could not get it out of my mind!

You would think this green juice would have prevented my cold, but you’d be wrong.

By the time I felt better from my cold, it was my birthday weekend. So it was filled with meeting up with friends and family and dining out. Not too much cooking to speak of what’s so ever. But I did get to try a new place by my house and had an incredible breakfast hash and stellar coffee. We also were able to visit an old favorite restaurant where I ordered linguini and clams and made a proper mess slurping those noodles up. Our final destination was Becco in New York City. We met up with my brother, whose birthday is a few days after mine, and we had a truly great meal. It was so reasonable priced for dining in the city- the most expensive thing was the $70 bottle of chianti. But hey! It was a celebration. Not too many pictures of that worth sharing because I was living in the moment and enjoying the company.

Now that the birthday weekend is in the past and we are into the work week, I’ve settled down and am back into the cooking routine. And it was nice to be called back to the kitchen. My husband spoiled me by getting me the very same Le Cruset Dutch oven as my idol, Julia Child. I’m already wondering what should be it’s inaugural dish- it has to be boeuf bourguignon, right??

In all her bright crimson glory

Another sign of returning to normalcy: We did a hard grocery shop- most of which is at Aldi. Some great finds there are their specialty cheeses. In previous shops, we picked up an aged hard cheddar that was encased in black wax and called “bat knit crazy cheddar”. It had a little bat wearing a knit sweater on the label. So stinkin’ cute and was insanely pungent in the best way. Shockingly, I will warn you that their Italian parm isn’t so great. There’s something lacking from it. They have great produce deals and their organic and vegan products are shockingly diverse and good! How can you beat organic honey for $3? And finally, their dry goods can’t be beat. It’s the perfect grocery store to stock up on staple pantry items all while keeping costs down.

I mean- how could you not adore this?

To finish, I will say this entry was all over the place, but who cares!? I wanted to get a post up here before too much more time passed us by. More recipes to come, as well as little life check-in’s (if my two readers would be into that?)

WHITE BEANS & GREENS SOUP

Nothing brings chilled-air comfort like a piping hot bowl of soup. We’re on the other side of winter now- the days are getting a bit longer, the weather is at that lovely stage where it can be totally mild in the high 40’s and then slam us with a polar vortex the next day. Either way, you’re going to want to have this recipe handy (if it’s not already simmering away on your stove.)

We’ve all had white bean and escarole soup. This version is a little more lax with the type of green you use and offers a substantial punch in the taste department. A whole bulb of roasted garlic is blended into the broth, creating a depth of flavors that range from slightly sweet to nutty. It’s not that typical acrid quality we associate with raw garlic. Roasting mellows everything out and gives it a buttery quality you will want in every recipe. You can even spread it on toast. I’m not kidding. I have. And will again.

Toaster ovens are great for small bakes and roasts- like for one bulb of garlic
You could even let it roast a little longer to get a darker, more rich color

Because sautéed vegetables and white beans are blended into the broth it becomes a bit thicker, almost like you added a dollop of heavy cream (but without the dairy or extra fat.) Which is good and fine for when you want those types of things, do NOT get me wrong. However, white bean soups rarely call for a cream base. So not only are we keeping with tradition, were keeping it light. You can absolutely make this soup without blending the veg and beans, but I definitely think you should give it a try. It offers a structured lusciousness to the soup as opposed to chunks of vegetables aimlessly floating in a thin broth.

The title “white beans and greens” comes from it being fun to say because it rhymes. And because this soup can have any dark green you want (spinach, kale, escarole, broccoli rabe, chard, etc) it’s nice to keep the title a bit generic.

This was a defrosted jar of my scrap veggie broth. You can find the recipe on an earlier blog post 🙂
Man- a lot of pouring/action shots going on
Just note that if you are using greens that are heartier than kale, cutting them down into very small pieces (or even sauteeing in a separate pan to start the wilting process) will most likely be necessary as cooking them in a hot broth may not soften them enough!

As always, enough with the chit-chat! Here’s the recipe you’ve been scrolling for.

WHITE BEAN AND GREENS SOUP in ROASTED GARLIC VEGGIE BROTH

INGREDIENTS:

  • Two carrots, peeled and diced
  • Half a white onion, diced
  • One celery stalk, diced
  • One bulb of garlic
  • 1 tbsp and 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 15oz can of Cannellini/white beans
  • 2 cups dark greens, chopped thinly or shredded
  • 1 quart (4 cups) vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp crushes red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper

SUPPLIES:

Chef’s knife, vegetable peeler, heavy bottomed bot, blender, tin foil, wooden spoon, appetite. Glass of wine and upbeat jazz optional but encouraged.

DIRECTIONS:

ROASTED GARLIC:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Take a whole, intact clove of garlic and slice approx. ¼ inch off the top, exposing the individual cloves.
  3. Place garlic in a piece of tin foil, shaping it around the bulb so it becomes a little cup
  4. Drizzle 1 tsp EVOO of on over the exposed cloves and sprinkle with salt and pepper
  5. Place in oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the clove a slightly browned and soft

WHITE BEAN SOUP:

  1. Over a medium flame, heat 1 tbsp EVOO in a heavy bottomed soup pan
  2. Add diced onion, carrot, and celery to the heated olive oil and sautee until translucent
  3. About 5 minutes into cooking, add the red pepper flakes so their heat can bloom in the hot oil
  4. Continue cooking for another 7-10 minutes until all the vegetables are softened
  5. Drain and strain one can of white beans and add to vegetables
  6. Add half a quart (2 cups) of vegetable broth and bring to temperature (just before simmering)
  7. Take off the heat and add all the broth, half the vegetables, and all of the roasted garlic cloves (removed from their jackets) into a blender. Make sure the top is vented to release the steam and blend until smooth **you can also use an immersion blender directly in the pot of soup- just remove half the vegetables and place in a bowl on the side**
  8. Place the blended mixture back into the pot with the remaining vegetables and add the rest of the broth
  9. Bring to a simmer and add the shredded greens. Allow the soup to cook down slightly (10-15 minutes tops)
  10. Salt and pepper to taste, serve hot!

Make Ahead’s

I’ve never been the “meal prep” type. First of all- it always sounded way too bro-ish. I couldn’t use the phrase without thinking of black plastic containers filled with broccoli, brown rice, and grilled chicken. Which is all delicious and fine in it’s own right, but it didn’t feel like it was an intuitive, organic, or very fun way to cook. Plus- who can eat the same thing every day? I like to improv with what I have in the refrigerator or even make something I saw while scrolling through Instagram earlier in the day. I get why eating that way works for many of us. But I’m an artful kitchen witch- I refuse to be contained.

Okay, okay. If I’m being fair, there are some pretty good reasons for prepping food ahead of time:

  • Saves Money- If you have food easily and readily available, you’re less likely to order out. The end.
  • Instills Healthy Eating- Don’t ask me why, but we’re more likely to eat foods that are already prepped. Taking the time to wash, peel, and slice up our vegetables and fruit as soon as we get home from the market somehow makes us actually eat them. Weird. Plus, if we’re eating our food, we’re not letting is spoil and throwing it away. This reduces food waste and again, saves money.
  • ULTIMATE TIME SAVER! Sure, you cooked for two or three hours on your day off, but that means you have that much less to do during the week. A reheat is much quicker than starting from scratch by FAR. And if you choose to roast, it’s so hands off you can watch the Golden Girls marathon until the timer dings.

If you’re not convinced, well fine. But at least think about trying some some of my favorite make ahead foods.

ROAST POTATOES AND VEGETABLES:

To me, roasting vegetables is the best way to enjoy them. Yes, you could chop up the carrots and celery and store them in little tupperware for easy munching snacks. But wouldn’t you rather have a crispy, slightly charred carrot or potato? Yes. You would.

RICE

Whether you prefer brown or white, short grain or jasmine, rice is a great make ahead item. You can easily pack it in a lunch with the aforementioned steamed broccoli and chicken, heat it up in a bowl with a pat of butter and italian seasonings, or add it to a warm broth in a pan and make a faux-risotto… Risot-faux? Ris-faux-to… There is something there, I can feel it. Regardless of the name, made-ahead rice is a non-negotiable.

GRANOLA

Why would you ever buy your own granola when you can make it as sweet or as savory as your desire for a fraction of the cost? It is a great energy packed snack that you can eat alone, with fresh fruit, atop yogurt, a smoothie bowl, you get the idea! Recipes are quick and generally fool-proof. The key to great granola is not letting it sit on the cookie sheet for too long after it cools, otherwise it becomes soft and not crispy crunchy. Add any seeds and crushed nuts you like; sweeten with honey, agave, or maple syrup. It’s completely customizable and absolutely delicious.

I hope you enjoy these ideas for make ahead meals and food. They absolutely save time during the week and keep me eating the foods that I enjoy and love.

January Updates

Hello one and all!

Weren’t you all just waiting on baited breath for the next blog update from yours truly? No? Well, that certainly makes more sense. Considering this blog has all but been neglected for some time now. I’ll address that in a moment. But anyway!

Twenty-twenty! Here we are. I’m sure many of us are approaching this New Year with the illuminated hope of new beginnings, goals, aspirations, intentions. All of this is rooted in some really good stuff. I myself have never been a “resolutions” person because, frankly, I’ve never been great at keeping them. But my idol, icon, and all around hero, Lauren Toyota, said the other day that she is all about setting “intentions” for 2020. I don’t know if it’s my mindset, the matching numbers in 2020 (so tidy and clean) or being settled in my thirties, but dang if I’m not all about intentions right now. 

This post actually should have been made two weeks ago, but hey. Sometimes it takes us a second to get into that mindset. And if you would indulge me, I’m here to share some intentions of my own.

 Blog post more! This is for two reasons: The first is to work my writing muscles since my job is in an industry where less is more and elaborate vocabulary is not appreciated or desired. Which, hey! I get it. But I need somewhere to let this out. The second reason is forward thinking. I’d be a fool to think that Instagram is going to be around forever. I can’t rely on that as my only source of sharing recipes, food photos, etc. The blog, however, is tried and true! So I’m leaning into it.
 Be more thoughtful about my recipes. Up until now I am the kind of cook who looks in the refrigerator and pulls out whatever is in there to make a meal. Which is great for so many reasons: reduces food waste, gets the creative juices flowing, and is fun! But I would like to be more organized. Plan some of our meals ahead of time so I can let you guys know what is in store for the week/month and curate recipes as oppose to throwing them together. Again, not always a bad thing.
 Get to know filming a bit better. Years ago, in a previous life it feels, I dabbled in indie film. Mainly acting and some production aspects. I never got heavy into the filming aspect though. I never learned how to edit film or even get behind the camera. So that is something I intend to do in 2020. Which, more details on that to come. Once I, you know, figure out what the heck it is I am actually doing.
 Outsource more! This also ties into the filming part. I can’t do everything on my own nor should I. Because I don’t KNOW how to do everything. So asking for help is a big part of that. We don’t need to be good at everything, so it’s important to reach out and “network” (ugh) to the people who do!

Alright. I think that is enough for now. So please, stay tuned and keep checking in and reading. I’ll have a lot food photos and recipes as well as personal updates. Would you be into that? As always, thank you so much for checking in and staying with me. I started Clocked out and Cookin’ only this past summer and am so thrilled with the growth it has already seen. The page reached1,000 followers over on IG and it’s allowed me to make some great connections with other home cooks. I’m even more excited to explore where else this can go in 2020.

Let’s get cooking!

The Scotland Trip

I promised this post literally two weeks ago. Ugh. But better late than absolutely never.

Last November my husband and I went on our very belated honeymoon/first anniversary trip to Scotland. Specifically Glasgow and Inverness. We had originally booked an all-inclusive to Cancun and about a month later decided to change the trip entirely.

We stayed for a long weekend, renting an Air Bnb in the Merchant City area of Glasgow. Our host showed us in and we were absolutely blown away by the hospitality. He toured the entire flat, had a binder of recommendations and tourist stops, he even showed us how the electric kettle worked. But then it was time to get down to brass tax: Where do we go to eat.

Yes, we had watched our fair share of travel shows leading up to this trip, but if you don’t ask the locals what their favorite restaurant or pub is, you’re frankly an idiot. My husband jokingly said, “How about pizza?” And our host’s eyes lit up. “Oh, you gotta go to Paesano’s.”

So we did.

It was the best thing to eat after a long flight. We were told (and read on the menu) that Paesano Pizza sources everything from Italy to make the most authentic Neapolitan pizza- even the oven. I’m a crust lover and when I tell you I was in pizza crust heaven… just stop. It was BEYOND. We could’ve eaten there literally every night but we had a lot more exploring to do.

That first night we drank our way around the city. We went to The Horseshoe Bar, had a pint or two. Stopped in at Drury Street, had a pint or two. Then we wandered around for a while, saw the monument with the traffic cone on that guy’s head and finally stopped in at Tesco to grab a sixer. We swayed back to the apartment only watch a nude dating show and wake up with achy little heads.

The Horseshoe Bar, Glasgow

Drury Street, Glasgow

Drury Street, Glasgow. I could have lived here forever.

The next day we rented a car to make our way to Inverness. We had booked another Air BnB overlooking Loch Ness. Driving on the other side of the car on the other side of the road was… an experience. But I think we did fairly well! My husband drove and did a great job. I said next to nothing critical regarding his driving so I also did a great job!

After you get out of the city, be prepared to have your breath taken away. I’ve never seen anything quite like the highlands in my life. Gorgeous hills and mountains laced with snow and fog. The grey skies almost make the greens and oranges of the landscape MORE vibrant.

Then it was lunch time.

The trip from Glasgow to Inverness is a little over three hours. Our car rental rep, who was also SO FRIENDLY AND HOSPITABLE recommended we stop at The Green Welly Stop. He was in his twenties and had moved to the city from up north. He said whenever he visited family he always stopped at The Green Welly for a bowl of soup.

So I’m thinking this is a restaurant. Well, it’s not. It’s a rest stop. So what are you thinking? Annie Anne’s, Roy Rogers, Starbucks. Sbarro. Think again.

For lunch we had homemade soup and baked bread. They also have whisky, of course. But that’s in the gift shop.

Cullen Skink at The Green Welly Stop

This glorious bowl of warm, smoky goodness is called Cullen Skink and I fell in love. Made with smoked haddock, potatoes, and onions it was exactly what I was craving on that cold trip.

It’s not exaggeration when I say that I became a woman obsessed. I looked for this soup on every menu and when I finally found it at a different restaurant back in Glasgow on our last night- I was sorely disappointed. Nothing could compare to the skink at The Green Welly. Damn me for trying to make a moment happen twice.

My husband also opted for soup. He chose the less adventurous “Cocky Leeky” which is chicken soup with leeks. Also delicious!

Cocky Leeky soup, also at The Green Welly

After getting back on the road and stopping for many scenic photos, we finally made it to our bed and breakfast in Drumnadrochit (which I can hardly spell let alone pronounce.) Our hosts we’re, you guessed it, the NICEST people on the planet! And we felt cozy and relaxed during our time there. We filled out a little card for the next day’s breakfast and explored the grounds before making our way to dinner.

We didn’t have plans as to where to go to eat- we originally we’re going to make the trip up north to Ullapool, but our host Simon it would be too dark and not worth the trip. He asked us what types of food we liked (all of it, Simon. Duh.) So he said “If you want something special, I would go to The Lovat.”

Our B&B in Drumnadrochit overlooking Loch Ness

Partridge and chanterelles @ The Lovat

Pork loin with the fanciest bubble and squeak

This meal was definitely one of the more memorable ones. As Simon promised, it was very special.

Breakfast with a view

HAGGIS!

That’s award winning haggis, to you.

Listen- I was wary of this. And I can be meh with meat. Especially meat that’s made with the lungs and heart of a lamb and cooked in its own stomach. But when I tell you this was beyond delicious, believe me! It was on the drier side with a beautiful texture and peppery quality that had me sold. Haggis. Don’t pass on it.

Poppies for Armistice Day centennial

Tomb at the Necropolis

We had other great food while in Scotland; Fish and chips, tuna sandwiches on soft buttered bread, yellow lentil soup. It was a beautiful country with the most lovely people and this trip will not be our last.

Taco Tuesday with homemade tortillas

Yep, we sure did. Oh, Taco Tuesday. When did you even become a thing? Not that I’m arguing, because let’s be honest- what’s better than finishing work on a mundane Tuesday knowing that you get to come home to TACOS.

Needless to say, there doesn’t need to be a designated day for me to eat tacos. They’ve always been a favorite food even from my early childhood. My mom would buy the Old El Paso taco kit, brown the meat with the included seasoning packet, bake off the hard taco shells and microwave the soft tortillas in a damp paper towel. After the table was set with various bowls of chopped fixings, it was a free for all. I think the assembling part was why I loved it so much. I remember making my own double-decker taco and thinking what a genius thing that was to do. I mean- It was genius.

Those tacos are absolutely perfect in their own right- but if you want to skip the kit and pump up the “mmm” factor, I suggest following the two recipes below:


HOMEMADE TACO SEASONING:

  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp salt
    1 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp adobo (optional)

Once you brown and drain your meat (or any “meat” choice of your choosing- minced cauliflower, ground turkey or chicken, soy curls, etc) simply add the dry seasoning until evenly distributed and then the adobo.

Many pre-made seasonings are packed with salt and some type of thickener, like corn starch, yada yada, we know this. This version eliminates the additives and gives the cook more control of the flavor. Which we love, right?


HOMEMADE CORN TORTILLAS:

  • 2 cups masa/corn flour
  • 1 cup water, room temp
  • Pinch of salt

In a large bowl, work the water into the corn flour until a substation dough forms. Roll out small balls and flatten with a tortilla press if you’re fancy, or between plates coated in plastic wrap if you’re me.

On a hot, well-oiled (preferably vegetable) cast iron pan, cook the tortillas until they puff ever so slightly, flipping once. They’re done once they turn slightly golden with charred edges.

These two recipes couldn’t be easier if you tried and will really bring your taco game from standard yum to omg-how-have-I-lived-without-you-until-now?

Broths and Bothers

Nothing bothers me more than wasting food. Letting food spoil in the fridge, throwing out perfectly good scraps, not reinventing a leftover- ugh! It’s all my pet peeve.

Even though I try my hardest to reuse meals and not let food go bad, it happens. I generally compost the scraps and that’s been good enough for me until I came across the instagram page @shisodelicious ran by Sara Kiyo Popowa. She is the grandmaster at utilizing food and reducing waste. She, in her infinite wisdom, suggested using vegetable heavy, water light broths to honor those measly scraps. The result is an aromatic, complex vegetable broth concentrate that can be watered down to your liking in future cooking. It’s a great way to use up collected scraps and it truly couldn’t be simpler.

Here’s the recipe:

Pepper corns and lots of salt are a must. Bay leaf if you’ve got it. Other than that… it’s whatever, man. Throw it all in there.

You can use this method a few times until the vegetables don’t have any more flavors to give. Then they can finally be composted. I used leftover zucchini from bread I made last week, limp celery, and some green onion ends. Some of these vegetables were collected over and frozen over time, others were simply from the fridge.

When this is all done (it’s still cooking and smells sooooo good already) the broth will get jarred and frozen.

How do you utilize leftover foods? What type of meal would you make with this delicious broth?