Happy Valentine’s Day Steaks…& Chicken…& Meatballs…&…

Valentine’s Day: a great excuse to eat too much, write mushy cards, have chocolate for breakfast, and slow dance in your living room.  I’m ALL on board.


We started early, on Saturday night.  The Husband made not one but TWO Italian feasts: spaghetti and meatballs and chicken parmesan.  (His mother’s recipe, coming soon.)  YUM.  Cupcakes for dessert.  Yesterday morning began with cinnamon rolls, and ended with filet mignon with Stilton cream sauce and creamy mashed potatoes.  (Turns out he made me the same meal for Vday last year, all details listed here.) Chocolate mousse heart for dessert, pictured above.  Obviously, we had a side heaping of ice cream.


I challenge someone out there to tell me they ate more decadently than we did.  Hope you all had a fabulous Valentine’s Day!




Throw Back: Garlic Mashed Potatoes.

Mashed potatoes – likely not the kind of post to make the interwebs go pitter-patter.

And yet, they have a sort of special place in the relationship between Husband and me. Ergo, I’m posting them anyway.

Way back when, when we first graduated from college, we moved into the same apartment building.  This was a ridiculously fun year  – a college redux, except for now we had a little bit of money in our pockets (and earlier alarms).  On Sunday evenings, to delay the inevitability of Monday mornings, Husband, his roommate, my roommate, and I would all get together for Sunday suppers.  We traded off cooking and hosting duty each week, and we almost never missed a week.  (We were much less consistent about our jobs – we had all quit those within nine months of starting them.)  In the midst of this, Husband and I started (not-as-secretly-as-we-thought) dating, which our friends were kind enough to pretend to ignore until we decided we actually really liked each other.

Husband and I now joke that we knew he was in it for the long haul when one week I made – and burned the bejesus out of – pumpkin soup…and he ate the whole thing. (Our roommates were less kind about this particular meal.)  But really, I think he knew he’d want to stick around when I made mashed potatoes for our first “Friendsgiving” (and also, that garlic would be a taste he’d have to grow to love).


Garlic Mashed Potatoes (for two)

  • 3 Yukon potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 5-6 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • cold water
  • salt, pepper
  • big splash of heavy cream
  • big splash of buttermilk
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter
  • 2-3 tablespoons cream cheese (we used some with a hint of jalapeno…so delish)
  1. Throw the roughly chopped potatoes into a big pot, along with the garlic & a pinch of salt, and add cold water until the potatoes are just covered.  Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 13-15 minutes.
  2. Drain potatoes & garlic, return to the pot, and add butter.  Add a splash of heavy cream, buttermilk, and a dollop of cream cheese, another pinch of salt and pepper, and gently mash with a masher – I like my potatoes a big lumpy, and the garlic will fall right apart.
  3. Adjust seasoning and butter/cream/buttermilk to taste.  Serve immediately.

The Verdict:

There are about 4 million ways to make potatoes, and probably about a quarter of those are variations on mashed potatoes (I’m just spitballing here). However you choose to make them, I hope they taste like these – reminiscent of love and the start of something new. These went perfectly with the ribs Husband made me this past Easter, another Sunday evening.

Swiss Chard, Potato, and Goat Cheese “Tart”

My kitchen must be missing an elf.  At least, that’s who I think is probably in charge of making food look the way it does in magazines (or even in food blogs).

Still, tonight’s effort was even further from Cooking Light‘s gorgeous picture than normal, even for me. True, I didn’t follow the recipe to a T.  True, I may have used slightly more olive oil than called for.  But the dough in the following recipe really just never came together in the way that I could fold it over without it falling apart on me.

No matter, I made pizza instead.  And it was still delicious.

Swiss Chard, Potato and Goat Cheese Pizza (depending on your magical elf situation)

  • 1 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, plus more
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 cup peeled and thinly sliced potato (this takes about 2/3 of 1 potato; make baked french fries with the rest!)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme (less if you’re using dried)
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 oz goat cheese
  1. Combine flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and baking powder in a food processor.  Pulse a few times to combine.  Mix olive oil and water together in a small bowl; with the processor on, pour the mixture slowly through the chute.  Process until the dough is crumbly and then knead on a floured surface to form a ball.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Remove stems from the chard leaves and chop.  Chop leaves as well.  Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the olive oil, chard steams and onion to pan.  Saute for two minutes.  Add the chard leaves, saute an additional 2 minutes before adding a pinch of salt, the potato, and thyme.  Cook for a few minutes and then remove from heat and cool.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Unwrap the dough and roll out into a circle on a floured surface (this is where my dough fell apart; I decided to do this directly on parchment paper so I could move it without crumbling it).
  4. Put the dough on parchment paper and place on a baking pan.  Spread the chard mixture evenly across the dough surface.
    1. If you’ve followed the recipe more closely than I did and your dough is feeling cooperative, you should leave a two inch border between the end of the dough and the chard; fold these edges over toward the center, pressing gently to seal.  It won’t cover the whole mixture, just part of it. Combine 1 teaspoon water with the egg white and brush over the edges.
    2. If you’re like me, you’ll just spread the mixture as best you can and make your tart a pizza (with an admittedly olive oil-tasting crust).  You can brush the edges with the egg white and water mixture, just to be fancy.
  5. Sprinkle goat cheese and pepper over the chard mixture.  Bake for 40 minutes.
cooking light's version...
cooking light’s version…
…and mine

The Verdict:

Despite what the compare and contrast pictures above suggest, this was still a good recipe.  You can taste the olive oil in the crust, which has a bit of a shortbread-like texture (it actually reminded me a lot of an earlier Martha Stewart recipe for spinach pie).  The chard, onions, and potato all mix terrifically with the goat cheese.  It does take a while to make – almost two hours, start to finish (this includes the dough chilling time).  So, probably not a go-to in our kitchen.  But I think this is one to try again, perhaps with a some different fillings.

Ri[ff]ing Off Martha: Hearty, Healthy Winter Vegetable Soup

While most of my kitchen gadgets bow down to Ina, I reserve a few for queen Martha.  Tonight, after a week full of (quite literally) stuffing ourselves with stuffing, pie, casserole, ice cream, turkey, and more pie,  I was ready for something a little more lenient on the arteries.  I’m also feeling a bit run-down, and with a lot going on at work this week, I can’t quite afford to succumb to a cold.  Tonight, inspiration by Martha, substitution by Varina (basically, whatever we had on hand).

Hearty, Healthy Winter Vegetable Soup

  • olive oil
  • 4 leeks (white and green parts only), thoroughly washed, halved lengthwise and then sliced thinly
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • crushed red pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed and loosely chopped
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes (again, highly recommend the pre-cut box at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 potato, peeled and diced
  • 4-5 stalks baby bok choy
  • 1/2 bag baby spinach
  • 1 can Northern White beans, rinsed and drained
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2-3 stalks fresh rosemary (or whatever fresh herbs you have)
  • salt, pepper
  1. Heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan or Dutch oven.  Cook leeks, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, a good handful of red pepper flakes, and a good dash of salt for about 5-8 minutes, or until the veggies are cooked down and translucent.
  2. Add stock and water.  Mix through and bring to a boil (will take a few minutes).
  3. Add squash and potatoes, mix through, and return to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, partially uncovered for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes and squash are tender.
  4. Stir in bok choy, spinach, and beans; bring back to a boil.  Add the lemon juice and rosemary and cook a few more minutes.
  5. Season with salt and freshly cracked pepper and serve with crusty bread.
veggies to the rescue
veggies to the rescue
straight from the oven
straight from the oven

(Cutting board a gift of the gifted Taylor Mardis Katz of Free Verse Farm.)

The Verdict:

The Husband put it best: “Just what the doctor ordered.”  Only we’re hoping for no doctors around here.  This is a soup for the rotation – really, it just gives me confidence that if you throw all good ingredients into a pot, you’ll get a good meal on your plate (or bowl).  Bonus: plenty of leftovers for the week ahead.