Pasta Pie

We were having family over for a feast and, while I had the basics covered – Pickled Avocado, Snoop Dogg’s Most Excellent Ham, Deviled Eggs and the like; I was in need of some options. One nephew was vegetarian, and a sister in law could not eat gluten, so, while the ham was good for her (and she loved the pickled avocado), the feast day potatoes were out.

What to do? Why, make a gluten free chickpea pasta pie with home made vegetarian tomato basil sauce, of course!

By the way, thanks to the very nice folk at Food Network for the original recipe, Rigatoni Pie.

First, a note about the pasta. We’ve been loving the Banza chickpea pasta – available at most of our local markets, either in with the pasta, or in the Gluten Free section.


The nice folk at Banza tell you to “expect foam” when cooking, and man! are they not kidding! You are gonna want to use your tallest pot, and still be prepared for some foamy spillage and cleanup.’

Still totally worth it, this really good stuff.

•6 tbsp olive oil
•9 cloves garlic, minced*
•1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
•28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
•15 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
•1-1/2 cup water
•1 cup loosely-packed fresh basil leaves
•1 tsp Kosher salt
•2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
•1 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1 lb rigatoni
•1 lb mozzarella, grated
•2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

•9 inch spring form pan

*Note: I buy my garlic peeled and marinated from the olive bar at one of my local markets.

Warm four tablespoons of the olive oil over medium low heat, then, add the garlic once the oil begins to sizzle.

Cook, stirring every now and then, for six minutes, until the garlic is browned and soft.

Stir in the red pepper flakes, then add the tomatoes and water.

Note: do not drain the tomatoes, add the juice in as well.

Set the heat to high, and bring the sauce to a boil, crushing the tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Don’t stress if the tomatoes seem a bit lumpy, a good whizzz with an immersion blender a bit later on will make all right with the world.

Lower the heat to keep the sauce simmering and cook, stirring often for 15 minutes, until the sauce been reduced and thickened.

Remove from the heat, stir in the basil, salt, and peppers, and set aside to rest for ten minutes or so.

While the sauce is resting, go ahead and cook your pasta according to package instructions, but undercooking it just a bit – just eight minutes – before draining, rinsing, and  spreading out on a rimmed baking sheet and tossing with one tablespoon of olive oil. My chickpea pasta guys don’t seem to make rigatoni, which was originally called for, but the penne I opted for worked a treat.

Pop your cooled sauce into a blender – or, use your wicked handy immersion blender (why do you not have one of these?) and purée until smooth.

By the way, this is one very nice sauce!

Line a rimmed baking ban with foil and brush the spring form pan with that final one tablespoon of olive oil.

Place the cooked and oiled pasta in the oiled spring form pan – the nice folk at Food Network stood their rigatoni on end to make for a totally cool presentation. The penne saved my from dealing with that, and my pie still came out fine and tasty.

Pour the sauce over the pasta, spreading it and pushing down just a bit with the back of a spoon to get in all the crevices.

Top with the cheeses and cover with foil, tenting the top a bit to keep the foil from touching the cheeses.

Note: I made my pasta pie a day ahead and stashed it, covered, in the fridge. If you want to use it right away, bake in a hot 375º oven, covered, for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool for ten minutes before removing the ring around the pan (running a knife between the pasta and the pan makes this part easier).

Cut in wedges and serve.

Since I made mine a day ahead, I brought the pan out of the fridge to come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before baking in that hot 375º oven for 30 minutes covered and another 30 minutes uncovered.

It all worked a treat, and, feast day or not, I will be making this again!

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Parfait! Baked Brie With Pepper Jelly

So… my niece has just discovered the wonder that is Pepper Jelly on a cracker.

Mebbe with a slice of pear.

Just imagine, then how she is going to react to this repeat post of one of my all time top visited recipes…

Brie, sliced in half, slathered with pepper jelly in the center, then wrapped in crescent roll dough (y’know, from the market), and baked.

This pretty terrific way to start a party is actually fairly simple to toss together, too. You can usually buy pepper jelly at a well stocked market or gourmet shop; or, make your own. My recipe is here, and you can cheat just a bit and use sliced frozen peppers (Trader Joe’s usually has them for a good price) – then, you’re just mucking about with the jalapeños, which are no real trouble.

The original recipe, from the nice folk at Pillsbury, calls for wrapping the Brie in the entire packet of crescent doll dough, but I much prefer using half the dough and baking the rest as rolls to scoop up some of that luscious baked brie.

•1 round (8 oz) Brie
•1 can (8 oz) crescent dinner rolls*
•Pepper jelly (a couple of tablespoons)
•1 egg, beaten

*Mebbe two – see below.

Heat your oven to 350°.

Open the crescent roll can and press half of the dough into a rectangle (form the other half of the dough into four rolls, arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet, mebbe with another can of crescent rolls, and bake according to package instructions.

I used a brie baker we’d picked up on special at a shop just after Christmas – an advantage to having a gathering just after the holidays – so used that; if you don’t have a Brie baker (a round, ceramic baking dish to hold the cheese), line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the squared out half of the dough in the center.

Cut the Brie in half through the center and set aside.

Arrange the dough in the baker, or in the center of the parchment lined baking pan, and place half the Brie, cut side up, in the center.

Spread with pepper jelly to cover, then place the second Brie half, cut side down, on top.

Fold the dough over the Brie, pressing to bring together in the center, then brush with the lightly beaten egg. You could get a bit fancy and gather the dough points into a kindofa crown flourish in the center in honor of Brie’s appellation as the “queen of cheese,” but I just kept it simple and trusted to the egg wash and warm oven to make some magic all by themselves.

Slightly crusty, golden brown dough filled with warm and rich, creamy cheese – and that surprise element of the pepper jelly in the middle – who needs fondu?

I served ours with crackers and a cheese knife for spreading; I did not have the foresight to think to bake a that half can of crescent rolls along with another can to serve warm with the Brie until I was editing the images and recipe for this post, bummer.


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Marinated Broccoli Slaw

Broccoli and cole slaw are not two of my husband’s favorite things. Ermmm, unlsee the broccoli is served with a lot of melted cheese on top.


when I came across a recipe for a marinated broccoli cole slaw, and served it to him, and he actually asked me to make it again…

One week later. Yeah, youbetcha I marked this recipe as a keeper!

It helps that it is wicked simple to toss together, now that most markets (around here, anyways) stock bagged shredded broccoli slaw in with the packaged salads in produce; just dice an onion, make the dressing, and you are good to go!

•16 oz pkg broccoli slaw
•1/2 sweet or red onion, diced

•3/4 cup sugar*
•1/2 cup cider vinegar
•1/4 cup water
•1 tsp mustard seed
•1 tsp celery seed
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper

*Go ahead and try this as is, but I am gonna try cutting the sugar back to 1/2 cup next time. I’ve found that most salad dressing recipes tend to call for a lot more sugar than they really need.

Stir the dressing ingredients together in a ‘wave-safe bowl, then heat at full power for two minutes.

Remove from the ‘wave and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Pop back into the ‘wave for one minute, then remove and pour over the broccoli slaw mix and onion in a large bowl.

Toss to combine, then transfer to a smaller container, cover, and stash in the fridge for at least four hours (overnight is good, too).

Serve as you will.

Raw broccoli without the need for ranch dressing…

Who’d a thunk it?

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Pork Tenderloin Wellington

It was December, and I was starting to plan my holidaze menus – family coming up the weekend before, friends coming on The Day, and more friends over New Year’s Eve afternoon. I had the Food Network on, and Rachael Ray was doing a show on “Five Ingredient Dishes,” I think it was called.

The main course called out to me: pork tenderloin baked inside thawed frozen puff pastry that had been spread with mango chutney. Simple. Tasty ingredients. What could go wrong?

Nothing, as it happens.

This is elegant, moist, super tasty, and almost stoopidly simple to put together.

A note on puff pastry: even the barefoot contessa has said that “no one makes their own puff pastry,” so, go ahead, pick up a box or two in your market’s freezer case. And don’t worry about the whole “frozen” thing; you can be good to start working with your pastry in as little as two hours, straight from the freezer. See the thawing instructions on the package.

•Olive oil
•Pork tenderloin
•Frozen puff pastry, defrosted
•Mango chutney

*Ms Ray used salt and black pepper to season hers. I made two tenderloins that way for Christmas dinner and we all loved it. The next time, just for Rich and I, I made one tenderloin and used some Créole seasoning that friends had brough back from Martinique, and it was lovely.

Just sayin’

Heat your oven to 400º.

Pour about 1/4 cup of good olive oil into a large pan over medium high heat.

Season all sides of the tenderloin with salt and pepper, or, if you have another interesting seasoning (such as my turmeric rich Créole seasoning) go ahead and use that instead.

Brown the tenderloin on all sides (mebbe three or four minutes per side) then remove from heat and set aside to rest.

Line a board and a baking pan with parchment paper (puff pastry can get a might sticky).

Run a knife through your jar of mango chutney, to break down any large pieces, then unfold the thawed puff pastry on your prepared work surface.

Note: Ms Ray suggested dividing the sheet in two and using it for two tenderloins, which I did, the first time. The second time, my tenderloin was a bit bigger, so I just used the whole sheet for one, and I think it all came together a little bit easier.

Spread the chutney over the pastry then place the tenderloin(s) in the center of the pastry (whole or half sheet).

Starting on the long side, roll the pastry up and over the tenderloin, pinching the two sides together to seal. Bring the ends up and over, also pinching to seal.

This double image was my first time working with puff pastry, and I may have let the dough get a bit warmer than I should, giving me these not so pretty pastry tubes.

Still tasted awesome.

Arrange the pastry wrapped tenderloins, seam side down, on your prepped baking sheet, then pop into the hot oven and bake until the pastry is deep golden brown.

25 minutes worked a treat for me.

Remove from the oven and let rest for ten minutes before slicing and serving.

For Christmas dinner, we had our tenderloin with Boxty, pickled avocado, tossed salad, and a pear galette.

For our mid week January dinner, the two of us enjoyed it with a marinated broccoli slaw.

That tasty detail…


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Crusty Potatoes and Creamed Feta Cheese

We spent the week of Thanksgiving with my sister and her family, and one night for dinner, she had mentioned thinking of making a barefoot contessa recipe of potatoes coated with olive oil, then rolled in a salt and herb mixture and baked. My sister and I plan, a lot, when we have guests.

Nice! Flavorful, crispy crust.

The thing is, there was also this Whipped Feta cheese spread to go on the potatoes that also sound very, very good…

And I just happened to have a nice chunk of Bulgarian Feta, courtesy of our friend Mira, who swears it is the best Feta.

She is not wrong.

Saltier, creamier, and best stored in a brine, this is my fave Feta, and, Mira, if you’re reading this, I will be needing more.


•2 to 4 baking potatoes
•Olive oil

Potato Coating:
•1 tbsp fresh rosemary
•2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
•Grated lemon zest
•1 tbsp coarse sea salt

Creamed Feta:
•6 oz Greek feta, crumbled
•2 oz Boursin
•1/3 cup good olive oil
•2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
•1/2 tsp Kosher salt
•Freshly ground black pepper

Note: a mini food processor is needed for this recipe (as well as making mayonnaise and any number of other tasty things), so, for under $50, I think it well worth the investment.

Wash the potatoes well, then dry and prick all over with a fork and set aside.

Line a baking pan with foil, and heat your oven to 400º.

Add the potato coating ingredients to the bowl of your mini processor and pulse until well and truly chopped – mebbe ten times.

Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add the creamed feta ingredients to the bowl of the processor and pules until, well, creamy and well blended.

Transfer to a bowl, cover tightly, and stash in the fridge until needed.

Add the potatoes to the foil lined baking pan, drizzle with olive oil and roll to coat all sides evenly.

Sprinkle the coating mixture over the potatoes and, again, roll to coat all sides.

Bake for 60 to 75 minutes.

Slice the potatoes open and serve with the creamed Feta.

No butter or sour cream was needed, or, missed for that fact.

We added a bit more black pepper, but then, that’s us; you do what you like.

I have a thought to try this with sweet potatoes, but Rich is not feeling the love for that particular experiment, so, we shall see.

Maybe for Book Club?

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Cherry Vodka

I normally make a couple of batches of Limoncello to share at the holidaze; but this year, I came across a recipe from the book “From From a Polish Country House Kitchen” by Anne Applebaum & Danielle Crittenden for cherry infused vodka, and it put me in mind of a cocktail I enjoyed in New Orleans last fall.

So, this year, we’ve shared this lovely red spirit with friends and family instead.

And it was a keeper.

Wicked simple, too, which is always a good thing when it comes to holidaze preparations. I used frozen cherries, a bag  each of red tart and dark sweet. You can stir in a tablespoon or two of sugar at the end, but I liked the bite of the vodka with the cherries.

•1.5L vodka
•12 oz tart cherries
•12 oz sweet cherries

Cut the cherries in half and add to a large pitcher, then pour the vodka over and stir.

That. Is. It.

Cover the pitcher tightly and stash in a cool, dark place for at least one week (my first batch) – though it is better after two weeks (my second batch) to one month.

Note: at my husband’s suggestion, I added one whole vanilla seed to the cherries and vodka. I will post a Parfait! update when we sample it, probably at a gathering at friends’ later on this month.

When ready to decant, place a strainer over a large bowl and pour the vodka through.

Allow the cherries to sit for about an hour, dripping all the vodka and cherry goodness into the bowl.

You might could press on the cherries with the back of a spoon to press additional liquid out of the fruit.

As you can see, I got enough for a full bottle to give, a mostly full bottle to share at home, and, bonus!, vodka soaked cherry halves to use for…

Oh, and that NOLA cocktail? Two ounces of cherry vodka (or, gin, gin works, too), one ounce of Maraschino cherry juice, lemonade, and a bit of Sprite or ginger ale – or – sparkling water – all over ice.

Stir, serve, and enjoy; I certainly did.

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Deviled Eggs

Happy New Year!

These eggs were a hoooge hit over the holidaze, and lots of folk were asking for my recipe, so, here we are.

I should note that I used my own, home made pickle relish, and Sherry Peppers Sauce, which, long time readers will know, I put in just about everything I make; and which also gives these eggs just a bit of a kick. Feel free to swap out ingredients to suit your taste and your pantry.

•10 hard cooked eggs
•3 to 4 tbsp mayonnaise
•3 tbsp relish
•2 tbsp diced celery
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1/2 tsp dry mustard
•1/4 tsp Cayenne
•1/4 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1/4 tsp Kosher salt
•Black pepper
•Paprika (as a garnish)

Note: I used peeled hard cooked eggs from my market’s dairy section. If you happen to have a multi pot, here is a pressure cooker method for hard cooking eggs that are easy to peel.

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Cut the eggs in half and mash the yolks with the mayonnaise, relish, Sherry Peppers Sauce, dry mustard, Cayenne, Aleppo, and black peppers, and the salt.

Note: start out with mebbe three tablespoons of mayonnaise and check the consistency. I think that four tablespoons (1/4 cup) was a bit too much for ten eggs.

Stuff the egg white halves with the yolk mixture and stash in the fridge until ready to serve, sprinkled with paprika.

And oldie, yes, but most certainly a goodie!

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Mexican Street Corn – at Home


Is this a side dish? An appetizer? A snack?

“All of ’em, Katie!”

This wicked simple (and wicked tasty) take on the corn on the cob you can get from street vendors here in Chicago (and, I am guessing, Mexico – hence the name) works perfectly as all of the above – on a plate with dinner, on a cracker, or just snarfed out of the fridge when you’re feeling, well…


The original recipe, from Marcela Valladolid, called for cooking corn on the cob and then trimmings the kernels.

How much easier to buy a bag of frozen sweet corn, add the butter and seasonings, and ‘wave it?

Worked a treat, and this was a pretty popular side dish/salad/munchie around about these parts this holidaze season.

•3 cups frozen corn kernels
•2 tbsp unsalted butter
•1/4 tsp chili powder
•1/2 tsp salt
•2 tbsp mayonnaise
•2 tbsp sour cream
•1/4 cup crumbled Feta cheese

Toss the corn with the sat and chili powder, then add the butter and cook according to package instructions.

Toss to mix, then set aside to cool.

Whisk the mayonnaise with the sour cream, then stir into the cooled corn along with the Feta cheese.

Try this, along with pickled avocado and mebbe some smoked salmon spread for your next gathering.

I think you will be more than pleased.

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Rice and Asparagus Salad

I came across this recipe as a side dish to a Food Network recipe for ham steaks with a chive sauce. Thing is, I like the side so very much more than the main course, even to including it in my Christmas feast menu, along side a tasty pineapple, honey, and brown sugar glazed ham.

Note: I wanted a blend of white and wild rice, so used a Near East blend.

Worked a treat.

Chive Sauce:
•1/3 cup mayonnaise
•1/3 cup sour cream
•1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
•1 tbsp whole-grain mustard – I used my fave zippy and sweet blend of equal parts Dijon, yellow mustard, and honey, blended with some Aleppo pepper (full recipe here)

Rice and Asparagus Salad:
•1 cup long-grain white rice
(see the above note)
•1/2 tsp Kosher salt
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1 tbsp unsalted butter
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 box frozen asparagus spears, thawed and cut into 1-inch pieces
•1 tbsp lemon juice

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Stir the chive sauce together in a medium bowl, then stash in the fridge in a covered container until need.

Prepare the rice (or white and wild rice blend) according to package instructions, adding the Kosher salt and black pepper if you are not using a mix. Do add the unsalted butter and the Sherry Peppers Sauce (if you’re using) to the rice as you cook it.

Note: I used my rice cooker; the rice mix, seasoning packet, called for amount of liquid, plus one tablespoon each of unsalted butter and Sherry Peppers Sauce.

Allow the rice to cool completely, then toss in a bowl with the sliced asparagus spears.

Stir in the lemon juice and about half of the Chive Sauce (use more of the sauce if you’d like a creamier salad). Toss to blend well, then cover and stash in the fridge for a couple of hours 0r, always more better, overnight, to allow the rice to soak up the sauce and the flavors to blend.

Nice salad!

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Whole Duck in the Pressure Cooker

This being the season for excess, I could not resist when my market had a special on free range, nothing added whole duck –  “Ingredients: Duck.”

I do love me a bit of pan-fried duck, but the actual wrangling of getting the duck into pieces is kindofa pain, so, I thought I’d try leaving it whole.

And doing it in the pressure cooker. Thing is, I couldn’t find pressure cooker duck recipes.


I consulted my chicken in a pressure cooker recipe and made a few, minor changes – mostly replacing the white wine with Cointreau, because, who does not like orange and duck? I also substituted almond flour for all purpose when thickening the sauce, making this recipe perfect for duck loving but gluten intolerant folk.

And the thing is – it worked a treat! I think that next time, I will bump up the pressure cooker time to 30 minutes, but, other than that, this recipe is a keeper.

•1 whole duck
•1/4 cup juice from a jar of peperoncini (or, just use white vinegar)
•1/2 tsp salt
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1 tsp paprika
•1 tbsp veggie oil
•1 cup diced sweet onion
•2 cups sliced peppers
•8 oz sliced ‘shrooms
•1 cup thinly sliced carrot
•3 cloves garlic, minced
•1/2 tsp dried rosemary
•2 tbsp almond flour
•1/2 cup Cointreau
•3/4 cup chicken stock
•2 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•2 tbsp unsalted butter

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Remove the giblets and neck from the duck, then rub the peperoncini juice inside and over the duck.

Set aside to rest for ten minutes.

Pat the duck dry and season inside and out with the salt, black and Aleppo pepper, and paprika.

Set your multi pot to “Brown” add the oil, and then the duck, breast side down.

Cook for four minutes, then flip the duck (I am not gonna lie here – this can be tricky) and cook for another four minutes; until both sides are nicely browned.

Transfer the duck to a platter, then remove all but one tablespoon of cooking fat from the pressure cooker.

Add all the veggies, except for the ‘shrooms, and cook for ten minutes, until tender.

Stir in the Cointreau, scraping up any browned bits that might be stick to the bottom of the pan, and cook for a few minutes, until the sauce has thickened a bit.

Stir in the chicken stock and the Sherry Peppers Sauce, then place the duck, breast side up, in the pot.

Lock the lid in place, and set your pot for high pressure.

Note: I did my duck for 25 minutes, but think it might could’ve done with a bit more time, so I would go for 30 minutes.

Once the cycle is complete, turn off the pot, quick release the pressure (mind the steam), and transfer the duck to a (clean) platter, cover with foil, and let rest.

Set your cooker to “Sauté” and stir in the almond flour.

Cook for about five minutes, then add the ‘shrooms and continue to cook on the “Sauté” setting until the sauce has thickened nicely.

Carve the duck and serve with the Cointreau gravy over rice.

I will be honest, this was not Rich’s favorite dinner, but he does not like duck as much as I do, so I am gonna just tell you to make this duck; it is wicked good!

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