Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Zesty's Help the Student Series

Fellow food blogger Zesty over at Zesty Cook is publishing a series this month called Help the Students. As you might imagine, the plan is to give easy , usually healthy recipes to students who might be on their own and cooking for the first time. An extra feature is that most of the recipes are guest posts from other bloggers, including me.

Of course, easy recipes aren't just for students! I'm particularly looking forward to trying:
Have you checked this series out yet? What are your favorites? Do you have a super easy recipe that you would add?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Garden Harvest

I harvested the veggies from my garden this weekend. I planted basil, tomatoes and two green pepper plants (you can see them earlier in the summer here).

It's a challenge figuring out what to do with the produce, so if you have any suggestions, let me know.

Want to see my garden's bounty? Read on...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

My Apologies

Hello everyone,

I'm sorry that I've been gone so long. As you can see by my last post, I have a troubled relationship with food and cooking, and it got overwhelming for a while. I did manage to keep cooking, some of the time at least, but blogging seemed like too much.

Part of the problem is that there was this big wedding at the end of July... that happened to be mine... so I was a little busy! The wedding went great, though, and the food was amazing. We went through all Michigan vendors: Paesano for the Italian buffet, Sandhill Crane Vineyards for the wine, the Jefferson Market Cakery for cupcakes, caramel favors by Nanci Jenkins of Sweet Sensations, plus Michigan-made beers. You can see some wine and cupcakes to the left (and my mother's beautiful table decorating!).

Now that I'm back home, with lots of new toys for the kitchen, a weekly CSA subscription, and no wedding to plan, I'm trying to get back into regular cooking and more frequent blogging. Please bear with me if it takes a while to get back into it. And if you come over for dinner, remind me to take pictures - I keep forgetting.

To tide you over, here's the bread recipe I've been adapting lately to make bread several times a week. It's a ridiculously easy recipe written in a very friendly and approachable way, so if you've never made bread before, it's a good place to start. If you live near me I'd be happy to share some dry yeast; you probably already have the other ingredients.

Thanks for sticking with me!

Katie Mae

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Trade-Offs (I)

Confession: I've hardly cooked this week. When I have, it hasn't been noteworthy or photogenic, with the exception of Katerina's Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler, which I forgot to photograph anyway. Even worse, I haven't used any of last week's CSA share... I'll put the picture with this week's for you to see, but it may go to waste, and I feel guilty.

Usually I really like the challenge of cooking and feel energized by it. But sometimes, especially when my kitchen is messy or I'm not feeling great, cooking a "real" meal is too daunting. You've all been there, right?

I think in my case it's also complicated by my sometimes-conflicting goals for food and cooking. I want to support local farmers, but that often takes more time and money. I want organic food where possible, but again - more expensive and harder to find. I want to make quick meals on weeknights, but cooking with produce and grains = lots of prep (usually), and I'm worried about the BPA in the canned food I use to save time. I want to be vegetarian and it's difficult when I eat outside my home. And I recently started reading more about low-carbon cooking, and the author of the book advises against oven- and stove-intensive cooking like roasting, but that's my favorite way to cook my local produce. So health, economy, environment, taste, time, and budget - trying to do well in all those areas really narrows cooking choices. That's why I end up eating leftover soup, or fried rice with frozen veggies....

This post is called trade-offs (I) because I want to revisit this set of challenges as I get better at navigating them. So please forgive the complaining. Next time I will try to have more solutions.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Asparagus Season

[Note: I accidentally published this early, so if it showed up in your feed reader already, my apologies. This version actually has the soup recipe.]

In case you didn't know, it's asparagus season! The farmers at the Lansing City Market and Allen Street Farmers Market have fresh-picked, gorgeous stalks for $2 a pound, and we're going through at least 3 pounds a week. Asparagus is kind of a funny thing; I don't love steamed asparagus or cold asparagus, but I can't get enough roasted asparagus, and the soup recipe I got from the farmers market reminds me a little of Spargelsuppe from Germany.

Roasted Asparagus is super easy, and it is like freaking CANDY. If I make less than a pound at a time Chris and I start fighting over it. Here's how to do it: wash the asparagus and trim the ends if they're tough. Cover a baking tray in foil for easy cleanup and place the spears in a single layer on it. Drizzle with some olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and stick it in the oven at 400F for at least 15 minutes. In my opinion, the longer you leave it in, the better it gets - I forgot about a tray for an hour and it was great. Eat with your hands!
Note: I like to roast veggies in my toaster oven - it heats up faster, presumably uses less electricity, and is a good size for a couple of bell peppers or a small bunch of asparagus. Mine came with its own little baking tray.

Vegan Asparagus Soup

Based on the Vegan with a Vengeance recipe by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
  • 3 pounds russet potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 pound asparagus, rough ends discarded, cut into 1-2" pieces (cut the thicker pieces shorter)
  • olive oil for sauteeing
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  1. Place potatoes and bay leaves in a stockpot and cover with broth. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender.
  2. While that's simmering, in a small pan, sauté the onion in the olive oil for 5 to 7 minutes; add the garlic, salt and black pepper and sauté 2 more minutes.
  3. Find and remove the bay leaves from the stock pot. Add the asparagus and the onion mixture and boil for 3 minutes.
  4. Use a hand blender, blender, or food processor to puree the soup to your desired consistency (mine was pretty smooth).
    Reheat if necessary. Add lemon juice and serve garnished with fresh dill.

Monday, June 7, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow?

For the first time since I was a kid with a patch of flower bed behind the shed, I'm attempting to grow food. As you can see, I'm starting small this year. My "garden" consists of five potted plants on my second-story balcony. Allow me to introduce you:

Top left: two mini bell pepper plants (I'm hoping to roast a lot of peppers later in the season)
Top right: basil (pesto here I come!)
Bottom left: cherry Roma tomato plant (I'm afraid it won't get enough sun here - I might have to take it to work with me)
Bottom right: mystery plant... I got the planter from a friend and just let it be, soil intact. This thing sprouted several weeks ago and is growing... well, like a weed. Which it might be. Anybody recognize it?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

CSA Week 2 + Muffins

On Wednesday I picked up my second CSA share from the farmers market (read this post to find out more about CSAs). Last week was cool, but this week's bounty has been easier to use, at least for me. I didn't know what to do with last week's sage, but lettuce? Peas? I can deal with those. Without further ado, here's the Week 2 CSA bag:

  • 2 heads romaine lettuce
  • 3 small heads red romaine lettuce
  • 4 beets, with greens
  • bag of sugar snap peas
  • bag of sunflower shoots (these are really cool - they look like little plants and taste like sunflower seeds!)
As I mentioned, it's been easier to get through this week's bag. I immediately washed and chopped half of the romaine, red romaine, and sprouts into a salad mix, which we've been working on the past few days; I'm taking another salad to Chris's parents tonight for dinner. I roasted a beet for the first time, and it was pretty good with salt and pepper, and I found this recipe for the rest of the beets, sugar snap peas, and beet greens.

I also came across a recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal Muffins on Daily Unadventures in Cooking. This was right after I got home from the farmers market with a pound of rhubarb and a quart of gorgeous Michigan strawberries - I love seasonal food blogging! This morning I had time to bake, so I made a batch, and wowthesearegoodmuffins. And they're actually healthy - other than a little butter and sugar, it's all stuff that's good for you. It's a very happy Saturday.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Southwestern-Style Summer Salad

It has been HOT in mid-Michigan lately, so I've been craving cold refreshing green salads. Lucky for me, my CSA share last week included a variety of great-looking greens. I stared at them until they reminded me of something - in this case, my favorite salad from Chipotle (I know, I'm a classy restaurant-goer). This ended up tasting different, but that was okay; it was still refreshing and interesting. I highly recommend throwing sorrel in with your other salad greens. I'd never had it before, and it adds a tangy excitement to a milder salad mix. Read on for the recipe.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

CSA Week 1

Hi everyone - sorry for the long delay. It's conference season at work, and I was having some trouble formatting pictures in Blogger. I've been doing a lot of cooking and eating in the meantime, so prepare for a lot of blogging.

On Wednesday I picked up my first CSA share from the Allen Street Farmers Market. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it's a system where eaters "subscribe" to a farm's crops for a season, receiving a share of whatever produce is ready each week. My CSA is through Giving Tree Farm, which is a great nonprofit vocational and rehabilitation program for people with traumatic brain injuries. Many for-profit farmers offer CSAs as well; you can search for one in your area here. It's a great way to support local farmers and get fresh, organic produce every week. Some of them even deliver! Anyway, here's what was in my bag for week 1:
  • Two beautiful heads of romaine lettuce
  • One bag of sorrel
  • Handful of rhubarb
  • Bunch of spearmint
  • Bunch of thyme
  • Big bunch of cilantro
  • Bunch of sage
  • Bunch of some unidentifiable herb with no scent
I was a little disappointed that there was no asparagus, but the other farmers at the market were selling it so I still got my fix.

The tricky (and cool) thing about CSAs is you don't know what you're going to get, and sometimes you don't know what you have even once you've gotten it (case in point: mystery herb). It's going to be a challenge this summer to incorporate these new or unexpected ingredients into my cooking every week. I'm also trying to get better at preserving food - I just picked up a $3 dehydrator at a garage sale, and I'm planning to get a chest freezer soon. If all goes well, some of this awesome organic produce will get saved until winter.

This week I've been able to use or make plans for most of the produce, although I got rid of the mystery herb and I think the thyme and sage have already wilted in my refrigerator. I'll blog about the successes in coming days, but for now here is the CSA week 1 plan.
  • Southwest-style salad with romaine, sorrel, and cilantro for the greens (post coming soon)
  • Raspberry-spearmint rum cocktails - I infused some rum with the spearmint and mixed it with cran-raspberry juice last night. Surprisingly fantastic.
  • Rhubarb with sugar - I've never been a big rhubarb fan, but I enjoyed the more tender stalks raw dipped in white sugar. Some were woody and I confess I skipped them.
  • Southwestern Black Bean Burgers with the leftover cilantro... if I get around to it!
Have a great Memorial Day weekend - eat well. :)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Black Bean Nachos

Everyone has their own nacho recipe. Mine is very simple, but it works for a fast and relatively healthy snack or meal.

Katie Mae's Nachos
Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees. Arrange chips on pizza tray or baking sheet so they are close but not overlapping. Distribute beans generously, then add cheese, making sure to get every chip. Bake for about 5 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly. Add hot sauce to taste (I use a lot of the wimp stuff). Try not to burn your hands grabbing them.

Note: If this sounds good but you want something a little heartier or healthier, try this delicious quesadilla recipe from The New Home Economics. I make variations of this frequently (I always add corn to the bean mixture). If you have a toaster oven, you can make small ones in there instead of heating up the whole oven.

How do you make nachos? Please comment!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mediterranean Dinner

Inspired by Amy of Runs with Spatula, I decided a few weeks ago to try making hummus again. To round the meal out, I made mujadara (a lentil and rice dish) and homemade pita.

It turned out pretty well. I'm starting to realize that when I compare my versions of certain dishes with the ones I get from stores and restaurants, they're disappointing, but if I approach them as a new and different food, they can still be good. This happened with the mujadara - it didn't taste like what I get from Aladdin's or Sultan's, but Chris doesn't remember those versions and thought mine was perfect.

Recipes after the break -

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dinner with Friends: Kaesespaetzle, Salad, and Apple Crisp

This week Chris and I had dinner with our friends Sarynna and Chase at their beautiful new house. They lived in East Berlin for two years and picked up a fondness for Spaetzle - German egg noodles/little dumplings. Sarynna made a Kaesespaetzle recipe from scratch with the noodles, Emmentaler cheese, and fried purple onions. It was delicious and we enjoyed reminiscing about Europe while we ate it (Chris and I have both spent time in Germany as well).

In addition to Sarynna's Spaetzle, Chase made a tossed salad with romaine, artichokes, palm hearts, tomatoes, cucumber, and homemade balsamic dressing - kalamata olives on the side. I love salads with a lot going on, so this was perfect. Chris liked it too, without the olives.

I brought dessert - a new recipe. Ever since I read Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food last year, along with a few other books with a similar philosophy, I've been trying to eat more whole foods and less refined and processed stuff. This seemed like a good opportunity to challenge myself - could I make a dessert without refined sugar that still tastes like dessert? This apple crisp fit the bill, and I'm definitely going to make it again. I'll do my best to translate "fistful" and "pinch" into traditional measurements.

Monday, March 29, 2010


As a disproportionately generous thank-you for some pet watching Chris did, our awesome neighbors Jake and Allana made dinner and dessert from scratch for us last weekend. Dinner was Olive Garden's Sausage and Peppers Ziti Marinara; it was delicious, but I unfortunately ate before I remembered to take a photo.

Dessert was the most impressive part: Cheesecake Factory cheesecake. Jake has one of those cookbooks with the secret restaurant recipes, and he and Allana made us a raspberry swirl, white chocolate cheesecake with Oreo crust. WOW. I'm in awe - I've never attempted cheesecake, but I hear they're pretty tricky. The cake tasted sooo good - cold, creamy, and sweet. Someday I hope I can make a cheesecake like that, but in the meantime I'll be nice to my neighbors and keep my fingers crossed!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Master Plan Pasta

This dish was going to be called "can't wait for summer pasta" but I came up with it after a spray paint project that wasn't properly ventilated and apparently referred to it as my "master plan." In front of Chris and our neighbor Jake. Who won't let me hear the end of it. Thanks, guys.

Anyway, Wednesday was sunny and warm (for Michigan) and I was craving summer flavors: roasted red pepper, lemon, feta cheese. This was the delicious and simple result. I recommend it with New Holland Brewing Company's Cabin Fever brown ale. Yum.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Sorry it's been so long. As you probably know, I'm planning my wedding and house-hunting too. Between that and volunteering 1-2 nights a week, I'm not cooking much and not up to blogging about it. I will post when I can, but don't expect much in the near future.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Super-Easy Black Bean Soup

Thanks to my mom for this recipe! It's made from things I always have on hand, and it takes about 20 minutes from start to finish with only 5 minutes of work. As usual, I don't measure - I just throw things in. I think the only way to mess this recipe up is to overdo the chili powder or use salsa that's too hot for your taste. To make a small pot, I use one can of black beans; to make enough for three or four people I use two cans.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Zucchini & White Bean Pizza (from scratch!)

Another meal that's often hiding in an emptying kitchen, waiting to be made, is pizza. Last week I decided to get ambitious and make my own crust for the first time. It was much easier than I expected, though of course not as easy as pita pizza. I couldn't find much to put on it; then I remembered the chopped zucchini in my freezer and the can of white beans in the pantry. Bingo.

Zucchini and White Bean Pizza with Whole Wheat Crust

Directions (ingredients in blue this time)
  1. Prepare the crust according to your favorite recipe (I used this one from Andrea Meyers and it worked pretty well), or get out the store-bought crust or pita.
  2. Move an oven rack to the lowest position. Preheat the oven to 500 F.
  3. Spread tomato sauce (I used Prego onion & garlic this time) on the crust; add diced zucchini and white beans, some oregano and red pepper flakes, and shredded mozzarella.
  4. Bake for 10-20 minutes - watch for the crust and cheese to start browning.
Note: My future father-in-law makes AWESOME pizza. I'll try to get a guest post from him sometime.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Need-To-Go-Shopping Soup

I don't like to grocery shop, so when the fridge starts emptying out I get creative before I give in and head to Meijer. Usually the ingredients for soup are hiding in the fridge, freezer, and pantry. Here are some ideas for a quick, Italian-inspired "need-to-go-shopping soup." These pictures are from some of the soups I've made in the last year.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sweet Potato Soup

With all this cold weather, I keep craving warm food. Tonight I wanted soup, and we had two and a half big sweet potatoes left in the fridge. I've never made sweet potato soup before, but it just sounded right!

I started with this recipe from and (as always) changed some things up. It took less than an hour and hit the SPOT: temperature-hot, but also a little spicy on top of the other flavors.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ethiopian Lentil Stew

Last night I was cold and tired, so I wanted something that was a) warm and heavy, and b) made with ingredients I had on hand. Some Googling led me to this recipe from Isa on PostPunkKitchen for Ethiopian Spicy Tomato Lentil Stew. I have never been to an Ethiopian restaurant, much less Ethiopia, but I had an Ethiopian Chickpea soup last month at the Soup Spoon Cafe and it was fantastic. The stew turned out delicious as well.

I didn't have every single ingredient, so I did some substituting, and I tweaked the recipe as I went along. The following recipe is a combination of what I did and what I will do next time. The main differences are: I cooked it a lot longer, used more spices, and substituted some ingredients. It's probably less authentic than the original, but I can't confirm. :) Feel free to try either one. This takes 45 minutes to make if you're organized, fast, and like things crunchy. I recommend letting it cook an extra hour if you have the time. I'll try it in the slow cooker next time and report back!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tostadas

Last Friday I had my younger brother over for a birthday dinner. I gave him about six menu options, and he chose sweet potato and black bean tostadas. This is an original recipe I came up with last summer, and I was excited to repeat it! I love sweet potatoes in any form, and especially in this combination of colors and flavors.

As usual, I'm making up amounts after the fact, so don't worry about sticking too closely to the recipe. Do what sounds good to you. Warning: these can be tricky to eat!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Happy New Year!/SpinachPizza

After a looong hiatus, due to starting a new job, moving, and misplacing my camera's USB cable, I'm back and ready to blog again. I've been cooking (and taking pictures) for the last 7 months, so I have plenty to write about: my first yeast bread, sweet potato & black bean tostadas, quinoa (hated it at first, love it now), lentils every which way, several soups, lots of cookies, and more.

These are my food-related goals for 2010:
  • Try three foods that scare me.
  • Shop more at farmers markets, less at Meijer.
  • Grow tomatoes on my balcony.
  • Learn and try some new food preservation techniques (I got this book for Christmas).
  • Eliminate high-fructose corn syrup from my diet, as much as possible.
  • Learn more about local, sustainable eating.
In the interest of getting things started again, here's what I made for lunch today:

It looks fancy, and Chris and I felt like we were in a nice restaurant. However, as anyone who has made pita pizza knows, it's really simple: pita, sauce, cheese, bake. If I'm just making one, I'll put it in the toaster oven, but I made two today so I used the big oven. As usual, don't worry about the measurements - I'm guessing.