Easy Portobello Sandwiches

date April 30, 2020 location The Kitchen

As the warm weather is starting to tease us with its presence in the Midwest, I decided to take my first crack at the grill of this season, and what better way to do that than a grilled portobello sandwich. This recipe is super simple, quick, and best of all, requires little cleanup. My only complaint is, as a runner, the macros aren't great and the protein content from the mushrooms and cheese aren't high enough to offset the added carbs from the bread.

Ingredients (makes 2 sandwiches):

4 Bread Slices
2 Portobello Mushrooms
1 Bell Pepper
1 Garlic Clove (minced)
1 Green Onion (chopped)
1 bunch Parsley (minced)
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
2 slices of Soft Cheese (Mozzarella, Provolone, etc)
(optional side of asparagus)

Slice the bell pepper in half and remove the seeds.
In a small bowl, combine the bell pepper, portobello mushrooms, garlic clove, and olive oil.

Apply olive oil on both sides of the bread. Grill the mushrooms, bell pepper, and bread until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side.

Top two of the bread slices with cheese and melt in the grill or under the oven broiler.

Slice the bell pepper into thin slices.
Assemble the sandwiches by topping one of the cheese-less halves with the mushroom, pepper slices, and herbs.

Goes great with a side of roasted asparagus!

The Farm Taste Review and Unboxing

date April 29, 2020 location The Kitchen

As I mentioned in an earlier post, a co-worker of mine introduced me to his friend's startup: The Farm Taste. The service is brand new, and the founder personally delivers food directly from local farms that have lost business due to lost demand from the restaurant industry. Having these boxes delivered has both helped avoid or delay making a trip to the grocery store, and also adds some excitement and quality to my meals as restaurant-quality meals remain a figment of the distant past for the foreseeable future.

I am not compensated in any way for making this and other posts about the Farm Taste, I am simply posting because of my own excitement about it, and because I think it's an idea that will catch on.

Without further ado, here are a few photos I took during an unboxing of my latest order: The Essential Dairy Box, and the Vegetarian Farm Box.

The Essential Dairy Box (Family Size) includes:
1/2 gallon Fresh Milk
1 dozen Fresh Eggs
1/2 lb Brick Cheese
1/2 lb Butter

Of all the items I've received, I may have been the most impressed with the milk. The milk comes from a local dairy farm and I was just blown away with the creaminess of it. I usually buy whole milk at the store and even store bought whole milk can't hold a candle to the creaminess of this milk. It's as if all the milk I've been drinking has been watered down compared to this.

The Vegetarian Farm Box came with:
1 lb Asparagus
1 lb Beets
2 lb Cabbage
1 lb Carrots
2 lb Celery
1 Garlic Head
4 Portobello Mushrooms
2 Bell Peppers
4 Russet Potatoes
1 bunch Spinach
1 bunch Parsley
1 bunch Green Onions
3 cups Strawberries
1 loaf Fresh Bread from a local bakery

As you can see there are a ton of goodies included. I actually had to leave out some of the strawberries and spinach so I could fit everything in the frame. The quality of everything is superb and I may have trouble if I ever have to go back to grocery store bought vegetables.

You can use the code "FRIENDS100" to save $10 off your next order.

The Farm Taste - Steak Fajita Burritos

date April 25, 2020 location The Kitchen

A co-worker of mine introduced me to his friend's startup: The Farm Taste. The service is brand new, and the founder personally delivers food directly from local farms that have lost business due to lost demand in the restaurant industry. I ordered my first box last week and was amazed at the quality of their produce and dairy products (use the code FRIENDS100 to save $10).

I would like to post more recipes inspired by their boxes, and I have an idea for a steak and homemade pasta recipe that could use almost every item in their Essential Farm Box, so be on the lookout for that. In the meantime, this is a steak fajitas burrito recipe.


2 10oz Ribeye Steaks (Essential Farm Box)
2 Bell Peppers (Essential Farm Box)
1/2 cup Cheddar Cheese (shredded) (Essential Dairy Box)
2 Garlic Cloves (Essential Farm Box)
1 tablespoon Chili Powder
1 teaspoon Paprika
1 teaspoon Cumin
1 pinch Cayenne Pepper (spice to your liking)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 Flour Tortillas

Preheat the Oven to 400 degrees.
Slice the bell peppers into strips, and add to an oven safe dish. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil, then add all of the spices and garlic. Mix.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

While the fajitas are baking, prepare your steak to your liking. I used the Serious Eats Reverse Sear method on the girl which involves adding salt to the steak, refrigerating for 40 minutes, cooking on the cold side of a preheated grill until reaching 125 degrees, then finished on the oiled hot side of a grill for 45 seconds per side. I used the oven/skillet method of his Reverse Sear with the other portion of my steak and preferred that method though to grilling, though grilling felt right for a Mexican steak.

Shred the cheese.

Slice the steak, combine in a burrito with the peppers and shredded cheese and serve with your favorite toppings. I went for sour cream (not pictured) and salsa.

Easy, Healthy Fish Tacos

date April 21, 2020 location The Kitchen

The term "healthy" when describing food can be pretty subjective and contextual. The best model for evaluating the health of food that I've come across was something I read in a Matt Fitzgerald book, which considers 3 criteria: nutrient density, naturalness, and caloric density. So a food packed with nutrients, unaltered from it's original state, and low in calories would be extremely, healthy while a food with few nutrients, heavily processed, and loaded with calories would not be considered healthy. Given this criteria, I think these fish tacos meet the former criteria, and better yet contian one of my favorite foods as of late, cabbage.

For the Fish:
8oz White Fish (cod, pollock, mahi mahi) - I used pollock
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
1/2 teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoon Caribbean Seasoning

For The Cabbage Slaw
1/4 cup Cilantro
1 cup Cabbage
1 cup Red Cabbage
1/4 cup Shredded Carrots
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Lime Juice
1/4 cup Greek Yogurt
1/2 teaspoon Salt
8 Corn Tortillas

If using frozen fish, thaw completely. Pat fish dry with a towel and season with salt, cumin and caribeean seasoning.

Combine the slaw ingredients and keep refrigerated.

Heat a skillet with cooking oil and pan fry the fish for about 4 or 5 minutes on each side until fish because to look golden brown.

Lightly oil the tortillas and grill for about a minute on each side.
To assemble the tacos place some slaw on the bottom of each tortilla and to with the fish.

Chopped Challenge Round 2: Matty

date April 14, 2020 location The Kitchen

As the second contestant in the chopped challenge, I had the advantage of strategizing around Brit's performance. If her meal didn't come together the way she wanted, I could impose a more conservative strategy in my dish, doing just enough to outperform her. Unfortunately, that was not the case and I knew I had pull out all the stops for my challenge.

The mystery ingredients:

- Greek Yogurt
- Wonton Wrappers
- Blueberries
- Bratwursts

This was definitely a tough basket, and struggling to think creatively around wonton wrappers, the best idea I could come up with was to make... wontons.

Naturally, the meat would be a component in the wonton filling which left the blueberries and greek yogurt as a sauce. What I came up with is Broccoli, Bratwurst and Cheddar Bechamel stuffed Wontons, served over a Blueberry Balsamic sauce.

For the Wontons:

1/2 Onion, diced
4 Bratwurst Sausage Links
1 cup Broccoli
Cheddar Bechamel (recipe follows)

For the Bechamel Cheddar:
2 tablespoons Butter
2 tablespoons Flour
1 1/4 cups Milk, heated
1/2 cup Cheddar Cheese
Freshly ground pepper

For the Blueberry Balsamic Sauce:

1 tablespoon Butter
1 cup fresh Blueberries
1 tablespoon Honey
1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 cup Greek Yogurt, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon Corn Starch

Preparation Steps:
For the Wontons:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine broccoli with about a tablespoon of cooking oil, add salt to taste. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until broccoli begins to brown.

Grease a skillet with cooking oil. Over medium heat, cook onions for about 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add bratwursts and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove bratuwursts and dice finely.

Make the Cheddar Bechamel:
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, but don't let it brown - about 2 minutes. Congratulations, you've made a Roux! Add the hot milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a boil. Add cheese, salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat.

In a large mixing bowl, combine bratwurst, broccoli.

Add the Cheddar Bechamel.

Add about a a teaspoon of filling to each wonton and wrap - I used the diamond method, folding the wrappers into a triangle diaganolly, then affixing one corner to the other.

Fry the wontons in at least an inch of cooking oil at 375 degrees, for about 1-2 minutes on each side.

For the Blueberry Balsamic Sauce

Add the balsamic vinegar, honey, and blueberries to the pan and bring to a boil, until almost completely reduced, around 5 minutes (you can stir, but try to preserve the shape of the blueberries).

Remove from heat, add the butter and let cool for a few minutes. Strain the mixture, separating the blueberries.

The next step is to combine the greek yogurt with the sauce. This will add a nice thick creaminess to the sauce, but you'll need to be careful as yogurt curdles at high temperatures, particularly nonfat greek yogurt which is what I used. Adding fat (butter), and combining the greek yogurt with corn starch helps prevent curdling.

Combine the Greek Yogurt and cornstarch.
Stir greek yogurt into the sauce.

To plate, using a large spoon, splash the sauce onto the plate and place a bunch of blueberries at the start of the splash. Distribute wontons across plate.

Chopped Challenge Round 1: Brit

date April 13, 2020 location The Kitchen

Several years ago, Brittany and I played a game with two other couples where one couple would host dinner while the remaining guest couples would scheme together at the grocery store and show up to the meal with "mystery ingredients" - the more exotic, the better. The hosting couple would be forced to prepare a meal with the mystery ingredients and whatever else they had in their kitchen, a game based on the Food Network show "Chopped".

With the pandemic having us look to alternative forms of entertainment, and a recent shopping spree of shelf-stable pantry items having us look to make room in the cabinet and freezer, my wife and I decided to play a 1 on 1 version of the game using some ingredients that were nearing their expiration date. The rules are as follows:

- All 4 ingredients must be used
- Each chef is given 24 hours notice of the ingredients, and may leverage the internet for inspiration

The dish will then be judged on the following criteria:
- Taste
- Use of the mystery ingredients (does the recipe showcase the ingredients or hide them)
- Plating/Presentation

Oh, and just like the show, there is only 1 ice cream maker. First come, first served.

Brit's Mystery Ingredients:

- Pancake Mix
- Black-Eyed Peas
- Salmon
- Champagne Mango

Brit's Plan: Salmon Croquettes with Black Eyed Pea Purée and a Mango Sweet Chili Drizzle

For the Croquettes:

1/2 onion, diced
1/2 cup Pancake Mix
1/4 cup Corn Meal
1/2 cup Bell Peppers, diced
1/4 cup Mayonnaisse
1 teaspoon Cajun Seasoning
2 Garlic Cloves, minced

For the Mango Sweet Chili Sauce:

1 Champagne Mango
2 tablespoons Thai Sweet Chili Sauce

For the Black-Eyed Peas
1 package Frozen Black-Eyed Peas
1/4 cup Butter
Salt, to taste

Preparation Steps:
For the Croquettes:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place salmon on greased baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes until cooked.

In a large mixing bowl, pull the salmon apart with two forks. Add the onion, pancake mix, corn meal, bell peppers, mayo, cajun seasoning and garlic cloves.

Combine into batter, then form into patties about 4 inches in diameter.

Fry patties on a greased, medium temp pre-heated skillet for about 3 minutes per side.

For the Mango Chili Sauce:
Combine the mango and sweet chili sauce in a blender and blend until smooth, store the sauce in a plastic squeeze bottle.

For the Black-Eyed Peas:
Add 3 cups of water to a large pot and bring to a boil. Add black-eyed peas, return to a boil then reduce heat to low. Let simmer for 40 minutes covered. Remove from heat.

In a blender, combine melted butter, cooked peas, and salt. Blend until smooth.

To serve, spoon the black-eyed peas on a plate, top with Croquettes. Carefully squeeze out a zig-zag pattern of the mango chili sauce on the cakes.

Grandma's Famous Swedish Pancakes

date April 13, 2020 location The Kitchen

These are my grandma's famous Swedish Pancakes, always prepared with mandarin orange sauce. The recipe has been in the family for a long, long time and when I asked my mom where it came from she wasn't certain and thought it may have been cut out of a newspaper. While its origins remain a mystery, it is a certainty that this recipe has left many Hart family grandchildren with full bellies over the years.

For the Mandarin Orange Sauce:
1/2 cup Sugar
2 tablespoons Corn Starch
1 11oz can Mandarin Oranges
1/2 cup Orange Juice

For the Swedish Pancakes:
3 eggs
1 cup Flour
1 cup Milk
1 cup Half and Half
3 tablespoons Butter, melted
1 tablespoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt

For the Mandarin Orange Sauce:
Combine sugar and corn starch in a medium saucepan.

Drain 1/2 cup of juice from canned oranges and combine with the 1/2 cup of orange juice. Discard excess canned orange juice (though the can usually contains exactly 1/2 cup of juice).
Stir juice mixture into sauce pan until smooth. Heat until boiling, stirring constantly until thick around oranges. Serve warm.

For the Pancakes:
Beat eggs with 1/2 cup milk for 3 minutes.
Add flour, beat to heavy, smooth consistency. Beat in remaining milk, sugar, half and half, butter and salt.

Pour onto lightly greased griddle.

Spinach Pancakes with Cream Cheese and Corn

date April 13, 2020 location The Kitchen

A couple of years ago, Brittany and I would occasionally splurge on a meal delivery service. Though we now prefer to do our own shopping, these services are a great way to discover new meal ideas, unique ingredients, and combinations you would never have thought of. One of our favorite dishes was Meez Meal's Spinach Pancakes with Basil Corn Relish.

The below recipe is a slightly healthier spin-off of that dish. To make it even healthier, just skip the cream cheese and use less butter in the rosemary corn topping.


For the Pancakes:
1 10oz package Frozen Spinach
2 tablespoons butter
2 Eggs
1/2 cup Semi-Soft Italian Cheese (Fontina, Gruyere, Provalone, Gouda or Emmentel) - I used mozzarella here which is a little too Soft
1 15oz can Chickpeas
1 Onion
2 garlic cloves

For the Cream Cheese:
4oz Cream Cheese
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice

For the Corn:
3 tablespoons Butter
1 sprig of fresh Rosemary
5oz Corn (Fresh, frozen, canned) - in that order of priority

Preparation Steps:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Separate the chickpeas from their liquid but do not discard (this will be used to make aquafaba later which gives the pancakes a fluffier texture).

In a large bowl, mash the chickpeas to a smooth texture using a fork or potato masher. Melt the butter and add it to the bowl. Drain all the water from the spinach and add it to the bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, then add them to the large bowl. Shred the cheese and add it to the bowl. Mince the garlic, dice the onion and them to the bowl and combine all the ingredients into a batter.

To make the aquafaba, put the liquid from the can of chickpeas in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on high for 3 to 5 minutes until stiff peaks form. Add the aquafaba to the large bowl and stir until comined.

Melt 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter, cooking oil, or ghee (if you're fancy like me) on a skillet over medium heat. Ladle the batter on the griddle and cook until golden brown (2-3 minutes), then flip and cook for another 2 or so minutes.

Transfer the pancakes to a greased baking sheet and continue baking in the oven for 7-10 minutes.

While the pancakes are baking, prepare the cream cheese and corn toppings.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add cream cheese and lemon juice and whip until smooth.

In a small saucepan add butter, rosemary and corn and cook over medium-low heat until the butter just starts to brown.

To serve, top pancakes with a scoop of cream cheese, and spoon the butter rosemary corn on top.

Girl and the Goat Miso Butterscotch Budino Recipe

date April 05, 2020 location The Kitchen

I'll never forget my first experience at Girl and the Goat. Brittany and I share a bit of a sweet tooth and always save room for dessert when dining out. When the dessert menu came out, we were debating between two of them - though I don't recall what they were - we decided we'd ask the waiter for a recommendation without any hint of where we were leaning to avoid influencing him in any direction, and he firmly recommended the Miso Butterscotch Budino (budino is a sweet italian custard/pudding). His recommendation didn't help us as the Budino was not in our top two (Miso in dessert? No thanks), so we decided to order both of the desserts that we were considering. In one of the most gracious acts of kindness I have ever experienced first hand, (ok, that may be a bit of an over exaggeration) our waiter brought us not only the two other desserts we ordererd, but also the Budino, "on the house". The Budino was the best of the three by a longshot, and on a whim, I googled the recipe when I got home. Sure enough, Stephanie Izard, Girl and the Goat owner and Top Chef champion, posted the recipe on her blog. With limited activities available due to social distancing measures these days, I went all out in my attempt to create the dessert.

Izard is a far better chef and entrepreneur than food-blogger, and her recipe is more of a rough guideline than a precise set of instructions for re-creating her dish. Furthermore, her recipe only includes the budino itself, not the entire creation which includes candied cashews, vanilla cake, a pineapple sauce and whipped cream. In an attempt to document a more detailed recipe, I present you with my rendition of Girl and the Goat Miso Butterscotch Budino.

To make this recipe the way I did, plan for it to take an entire day. The good news is that each of the components can be premade and stored until serving time. Alternatively, just make the budino and omit or replace the toppings with store bought options.


For the Budino: *I halved the below recipe and still ended up making way too much.

2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/2 teaspoon Salt
3 tablespoons White Miso Paste
2 cups Dark Brown Sugar
6 1/2 cups Heavy Cream
8 sheets Gelatin (or 3 gelatin envelopes ~20.4g gelatin)
8 ounces Butter

For the Vanilla Cake:

1 cups Cake Flour (cake flour is simply all-purpose flour where 2tbsp is replaced with 2tbsp Cornstarch)
1/2 cups Sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/8 teaspoon Salt
1/4 cup Butter
1/3 cups Buttermilk
1 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 Egg
1 Egg White

For the Candied Cashews:

1 Egg White
1/2 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
2 teaspoons Cinnamon
3 cups Cashews (raw)

For the Whipped Cream:
1 cup Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons Sugar

For the Brown Sugar Glazed Pineapple:
1 Pineapple
1/4 cup Brown Sugar

Preparation Steps:
For the Budino:
Combine the heavy cream and dark brown sugar in a medium pot and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the butter, vanilla and salt. Make sure to taste the mixture before finally whisking in the miso paste. Taste again (Miso is the hero ingredient here and it’s neat to see how a umami flavor brings out the sweetness of the pudding). Strain the mixture through a strainer to remove any soybeans or koji from the miso. While the mixture is warm, stir in the gelatin sheets for several minutes. Chill over an ice bath and continue stirring until cool to avoid gelatin clumps.

Fill your serving dishes with the pudding and refrigerate until set.

For the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350F, place parchment paper in the bottom of an 8-inch greased and floured cake pan.
Combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder and salt) in a stand mixer. With the mixer on low, add the butter a piece at a time until the mixture looks crumbly:

In a large bowl, combine the wet ingredients (buttermilk, vanilla, butter extract, egg, and egg whites). With the mixer running on low, slowly add the wet mixture to the dry until a batter is formed. Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for about 25 minutes testing the cake with a toothpick.

Let the cake cool for 20 minutes before carefully removing from the cake pan.

For the Candied Cashews:
Preheat the oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Whisk together the egg white with 1 tablespoon of water for two minutes and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the sugars and cinnamon and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the cashews with the egg white mixture until combined. Then stir in the sugar mixture.
Spread the coated cashews on a baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 30-35 minutes stirring and separating clusters every 10-15 minutes.

For the Brown Sugar Glazed Pineapple:
Cut the pineapple into tidbits.

Add butter or oil to a pan and heat pineapple and brown sugar until sugar just starts to carmelize, about 5 minutes.

For the Whipped Cream:
Chill your stand mixing bown in the freezer for at least 15 minutes.
Add the sugar and cream to the mixing bowl and whisk on medium speed for a few minutes or just when the mixture forms stiff peaks.

Put it all together:
Use a cookie cutter to cut out a cake shape that fits in the serving dish.

Top the miso with the cake.

Then whipped cream, pineapple sauce and finally the cashews.

Carne Asada Vinaigrette

date April 03, 2020 location

Craving some carne asada for dinner, I stumbled upon an excellent marinade recipe when I realized how similar that recipe was to my go-to Lemon Yogurt Vinaigrette salad dressing. Feeling inspired, I merged the recipes, making a sort of Carne Asada Vinaigrette which is delicious and, for a salad dressing, healthy. The greek yogurt provides a hidden boost of protein, and unlike store bought dressings, contains no heavily processed oils like canola, sunflower, or palm.

1 cup Lime Juice (or the juice of 3 limes)
1 cup Orange Juice (or the juice of 1 medium orange)
4 Garlic Cloves
1 bunch Cilantro
2 teaspoons Salt
1 Jalapeno Pepper
¼ cup White Vinegar
1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 cup Greek Yogurt

In a blender, combine the lime juice, orange juice, garlic cloves, cilantro, salt, vinegar and jalapeno pepper. Let the mixture sit for 5-15 minutes before blending to tame the flavor of the garlic.
Blend the mixture until thoroughly combined (the cilantro should be fine enough that it won’t get stuck in your teeth)
With the blender on its slowest setting, pour the olive oil in a steady stream until combined.
Pour the greek yogurt in a bowl and slowly add the dressing mixture stirring constantly.

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Cabbage Salad Meal Prep

date April 01, 2020 location Lockdown, USA

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, I've spent the past several weeks cooped up inside along with nearly everyone else in the world, feeling restless. Lately, I've featured a healthy mix of my two favorite hobbies on my blog: running and photography. I figured with the lockdown in place, there is no better time than now to introduce a third hobby I've come to enjoy recently: cooking. As a runner, diet is a crucial element to performance, and a proper diet should ensure sufficient nutrients and a proper supply of energy to maximize workout performance but also keep body weight at a level optimal for racing.

With running occupying so much of my time lately, I'm always looking for meals that check my four major boxes: taste, health, ease of preparation, and cost. I'll save a deeper analysis of this criteria for a different blog post, but simply, a meal should taste great, be healthy, easy to prepare, and not break the bank. I've come to find that cabbage salad checks all of these boxes. Furthermore, cabbage is extremely versatile and pairs great with a variety of fruits, nuts, grains and a plethora of salad dressings. My weekly meal prep is as follows:

I usually make purchase both green cabbage and red cabbage. While this isn't necessary, the varieties have different micronutrient profiles and blending them ensures consumption of a wider breadth of vitamins and minerals.

The first step is to give the cabbage a thorough wash, shedding/discarding the outer layers if necessary.

I then chop the cabbage into large slices that fit in my food processor.

I use the "fine slicing" blade on my Cuisinart at the high-speed setting.

After batching through all the cabbage, I'll mix the colors in a large bowl.

I tend to eat very large salads so I'll tightly pack a 32oz recycled yogurt container intended for a single serving.

At meal time, I'll combine the cabbage with whichever fruits, nuts, seeds, grains or other mix-ins I have on hand, along with a healthy amount of salad dressing (that recipe for another day).

Here I mixed the cabbage with dried cranberries, mandarin orange slices, chickpeas, and pepitas.