Recipe: Hasselback Potatoes by Mr. Chef

As the lucky recipient of Mr. Chef’s iterations of Hasselback potatoes, we couldn’t wait to share the deliciousness of this recipe. Beware: you may be used to our quick, delicious, and nutritious options and this is not how Mr. Chef operates; he pours a half-hour into making a salad and a few hours of labor and slow-cooking for a curry soup. What can we say? Opposites attract. If you have the patience of a saint or an oyster, give it a try. The pearl is worth it.

Ingredients:

Russet (or other) Potato – one per customer
Olive oil (or butter, for non-vegan customers)
Herbs – rosemary or thyme preferred – to taste
Vegan feta OR goats cheese (again, that would be non-vegan)
Oregano – a must in my mind


Step-by-step instructions: 

1. Make an oil/butter infusion: low temp heat oil/butter with herbs for as long as you can bear
2. While that’s going,
    a) put a potato on a cutting board, put chop sticks (or some other “stop” on the cutting board along its longest dimension
    b) Slice along the longest dimension to make a flat surface for the potato to stand firm while
    c) begin cutting at 1/8″ or 1/16″ intervals straight down (the thinner the better!).  The chop sticks prevent cutting it into separate slices.  The goal is to slice downward finely but not to cut the potato into slices – keep it whole.
    d) This will represent a lot of slices – as always, prep is the labor-intensive part.  Be careful to keep the blade perfectly perpendicular to the cutting board as you slice.  This might tax your knife skills a bit.  It’s worth it.  Carry on.
3. Cover potato(es) with oil/butter infusion, place in pre-heated oven at ~430 degrees Fahrenheit.  A parchment paper-covered flat baking sheet is best.
4. Wait an excruciatingly long time, like an hour or perhaps more depending on the volume of potato(es).
5. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly, apply vegan or anti-vegan cheese.  Cover in oregano.  Try to sort of “push” herb topping into the crevices formed by slicing.  Serve.

The outside should be crispy, with a circular gradation into the center becoming almost as smooth and soft as mashed potatoes.  While eating, the layers should fold into interesting patterns as the knife/fork scoop them up.

I’d never eaten one but discovered it while researching thanksgiving sides.  I am somewhat obsessed now.  It won’t be on the menu this year because it takes so long and requires a cooking temperature way over what’s recommended for a turkey.  Maybe save this for a quiet night in when time is no object.  But do it!

Recipe: DIY 2-ingredient Vanilla Extract 🎀

The difference between an ‘okay’ baked good and a spectacular one can be as simple as using a high-quality, concentrated vanilla extract. By making your own, you control these aspects instead of dealing with imitation or watered-down vanilla with synthetic ingredients. Give us the good stuff!

Being a ‘planner’ type, starting to create and buy holiday gifts in July is not unprecedented. This year, we were curious about making our own vanilla extract since we use it in coffee, our 5 Spice Hot Choffee, baking and pretty much everywhere. How hard could it be? Spoiler: it’s so easy and also rather fun. We decided to make 12 bottles and gift them to friends and family. You can do the same. While this recipe doubles as a gift idea, it triples as a way of making the most divine vanilla bean sugar (more on that later).

Disclosure: some of the links below are affiliate links or discount codes, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may make a commission.

Makes 12 bottles

Ingredients & Items needed

2 packs vanilla bean pods (the 2 packs will yield 40 pods and this ensures at least 3 pods per bottle)

10 liters of 80-proof vodka (we bought the 1.75 liter gluten-free, non-GMO Blue Ice Potato Vodka brand and took home 6 of these puppies)

12 swing-top bottles (33oz size)

Funnels, if you don’t have them already

Instructions

Use clean or sterilized bottles (because there are plastic pieces attached, we skipped that step and did a normal cleaning of the bottles and waited for them to dry). Slice vanilla bean pods lengthwise (to expose more of the bean to the alcohol) and put 3-4 in each bottle. Then, using your funnel, carefully pour the vodka into each bottle, dividing evenly between the 12.

If all of this feels too much, here’s the store-bought organic vanilla extract we’ve historically used that sparked the idea for this recipe.

Let’s talk numbers and value.

The vodka, depending on brand quality, varies in price. Our total ran about $180 for the 6 bottles, $40 for the organic vanilla beans, $30 for the swing-top bottles and about $7 for the funnels. That’s about $21.42 per bottle and you’re getting about 29oz ounces in each bottle, more than 3x the amount of the 8oz versions in the store that go for almost $40. In fact, let’s get granular: the store-bought version linked above is $4.65 per fluid ounce whereas ours is $0.74. The value of each bottle, considering the more concentrated and higher-quality ingredients used – in addition to the labor of love involved, is well over $135. That’s vanilla gold right there.

Make the recipe suit you! Smaller bottles (8.5oz vs. 33oz) would drastically bring down the amount, and cost, of alcohol and vanilla bean pods needed.

Tips & best practices: each bottle should have about 3-4 pods for maximum flavor. Start early for next year – similar to wine, vanilla extract tastes better as it ages. Give the vanilla beans as little as 8 weeks to infuse or wait 6-12 months for the richer flavor to emerge. Keep in a cool, dark place and shake bottles once a week.

We love doing calligraphy, but there are plenty of ways to create your own custom stickers for your gift bottles. Enjoy!

Fancy in 5 Steps! 🥂 Charcuterie Board

The inspiration for this came from a 3 and 6-year-old. We were to host a small, casual gathering and we sought to satisfy everyone without killing ourselves. Aha! A charcuterie board is like fancy buffet but far simpler to build. We used two cutting boards that Mr. Chef made, but you don’t need custom end-grain cutting boards to accomplish this festival of food. The cutting board could come from IKEA, or use serving tray. Have a bit of fun with your imagination and what you already have in your cabinets. Presto!

In hosting, as in life, we prefer balance and elegant simplicity, and fun with perhaps a *sprinkle* of fancy. It’s okay to throw something together and even bring in a bit of whimsy.

So, to keep things classic and chill, the idea of having a variety and simple foods- a smorgasbord- stood out. Call it that, a Hungarian cold plate or “Hidegál”, or, because it sounds so nice to say, charcuterie board (the way we like to remember to pronounce it: “shar(k)-coo-ter-ee”; say it fast enough and the “k” glides you right through the word). Other reasons we love this:

Unstuffy – at its heart, a charcuterie board is very finger-friendly and is even great for kids

Healthy – we went mostly for organic produce & gluten-free items but also had quality meat products for omnivorous types.

Visually appealing – because we all ‘eat’ with our eyes first, we really wanted to provide a cheery, colorful palette of foods from which to choose.

The Steps

  1. Think about your guests – do they have dietary restrictions or allergies? Food preferences? Will children be present?
  2. Plan your board(s) – think of food groups (healthier versions of fat, protein, carbohydates) and accessories (dips that go well with chips, carrots, and celery for example). This helps provide a balanced and light meal. Bonus: make a ‘rainbow’. Get creative and perhaps offer a fruit and vegetable option for each color – such as orange bell peppers and orange slices.
  3. Go shopping and prep the produce. Here are some items you might want for your custom board(s): vegetables (bell pepper, carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes), fruits (orange and apple slices, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, kiwi, grapes – dried fruit is also an option!), cheeses, deli meats (salami, turkey, ham or chicken), crackers and/or bread, dips (hummus, Ranch, herb-infused olive oil), olives, pickles, seeds (pumpkin and sunflower), chips, and chocolate.
  4. Decorate your boards! Use little bowls for dips, dishes or plates, cutting boards, and utensils to design a beautiful, curated offering to your guests.
  5. Relax, eat and enjoy!

Review: True Food Kitchen

True Food Kitchen at Easton Town Center, Columbus, Ohio

It was another hot day in Phoenix when we first went with our friend to True Food Kitchen. Because we were both dietitian-foodies, we had tried all sorts of local restaurants and smoothie shops…but this restaurant was different. We found out that it was created by our long-time hero, integrative physician Dr. Weil. The food was authentically good – healthy and delicious (so nice when we don’t have to choose between the two). It’s fresh without trying too hard.

During one of our last visits to the Arizona True Food Kitchen, we expressed to our waitress how Columbus could be a great place for another location. When she returned, after speaking with her manager, she told us that there was one on the way. We could scarcely believe it. So we rather (im)patiently waited. And waited some more. AND THEN…

It looked like our wish was about to come true. We mentally planned a jubilant parade through Easton to celebrate the opening.

But you all know what happened. Covid. So another year of waiting.

It was a moment of absolute glee when we were able to visit last week. Did we go a bit overboard? Yes. After hours of wistfully looking at the menu and planning, we were finally able to pick up a rather gigantic order so that we could try nearly everything, and report to all of you. Ah, the things we do for love & food.

Their fall menu had just come out; here’s what we ordered and recommend:

The Butternut Squash Pizza. Oh my goodness, the pizza. There is an evening we’ll never forget that took place in Akron, Ohio. We gathered with a group of friends at Vegeterranean (R.I.P. 2011) and, in one of the best decisions of our life, ordered a butternut squash pizza with carmelized onions and balsamic vinegar. It was so very good, we rather desperately wrote down the ingredients and then stored it in our recipe binder, with the hopes and plans of recreating it. Alas, it has not yet happened and the restaurant is no more. Buuuut….remember this moment from Ratatouille?

True Food’s pizza transported us back in time, while keeping our taste buds mindfully primed for the next exquisite bite. (Vegan and can be made gluten-free)

Grass-fed burger – this was for Mr. Chef, but we’ve had it before in the past and remember the deep, umami flavor from the carmelized onions, parmesan, and mushrooms.

Squash soup. This one was a great surprise! Sometimes squash soup can be a bit boring, but this was anything but bland. The blend of spices in the hot soup conjures up hygge-inspired evenings cozied up with blankets, a warm fire, and company of a loved one.

Spaghetti Squash Casserole. This was another favorite from the AZ location and last week we froze it to keep as a meal for when we weren’t wanting to prep dinner. That evening came and the dish reanimated very well after a proper defrosting and cooking. Definitely recommend. (Vegetarian, gluten-free)

Side of Sweet Potato Hash. This order included what looked like overly-roasted spuds and yet the insides were a bit tougher and undercooked. Having had this side before at the other location, we’re not giving up and will order it again.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts. Hands-down a winner. The miso sesame vinaigrette, along with the mushrooms and chili threads, created a savory appetizer.

Tuscan Kale Salad. We forgot to order these without breadcrumbs so Mr. Chef was the lucky recipient of both salads. His review: “it had a tangy, citrus-y dressing and if that weren’t enough, it had parmesan cheese on top. The kale itself is good, so it’s a bit like gilding the lily.”

Desserts

Flourless Chocolate Cake. Back in the day when eating gluten-free wasn’t very cool and restaurants pretty much had only baked goods with regular flour, this dessert was a gold mine. We ordered it every.single.time we went. All you need to know is that it contains chocolate, caramel, and ice cream. This dessert is all that and a sprinkle of cacao nibs. (Vegetarian, gluten-free)

Squash Pie. The flavor was very good and reminscent of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. The crust was crisper and the portion more generous than anticipated.

Chocolate Chip Cookies. Gluten-free & vegan, cakey and chocolately. We ordered a half-dozen. Only one survived past Day 3.

While we haven’t seen old favorites, such as Kale-aid juice and the Inside-out Quinoa burger yet, we’re thrilled to see what each season will bring to the menu of True Food Kitchen.

Our aim, despite our perhaps rather obvious obsession with this place, is to provide a balanced review. If you like what you’ve read, take a little trip over to 4052 Worth Ave at Easton Town Center. There’s a good chance you’ll catch us leaving there with a pizza.

Recipe: ‘Nacho’ Average Nachos

nachoaveragenachos

These nachos don’t follow the bell curve to the top. Oh no, they are at the tail end in the small, exceptional A+ pool. What makes them more amazing than ‘average’ nachos?

They are, perhaps surprisingly, dairy-free. They are also a good source of fiber, thanks to those black beans, AND they utilize cilantro, rather than more salt, to create a tasty and craveable meal. Ready to give it a try?

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 8 minutes
Servings: that’s up to you, it fills an entire sheet pan 😀

Disclosure: some of the links below are affiliate links or discount codes, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may make a commission

Ingredients

1/2 bag of organic tortilla chips

1 cup black beans, canned

1/2 cup of salsa

1/2 bag of Violife shredded cheddar

1/3 cup cilantro, chopped

1 tbsp jalapeño, diced (optional)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread tortilla chips on baking pan and top with black beans and non-dairy cheese. Place in oven and bake until heated through and cheese has started to melt, about 6-7 minutes. Serve immediately with toppings of salsa, cilantro and other desired toppings such as diced jalapeño. Enjoy!

Recipe: Easy Breezy Basil Pasta

As many of you have probably heard us say, we love food; however, what we don’t love is spending an hour preparing each meal of the day. Sometimes we just need a lunch or dinner to fit 3 requirements: to be nutritious, delicious, and quick. This meal checks all of the boxes and more – it’s gluten-free and plant-based (vegan even). After the early days of taste-testing gluten-free pastas (mostly with dismal results), we are deeply in love with Banza pasta – it provides about 14 grams of protein per serving, about double that of regular pasta, and is made from chickpeas. *Italian chef’s kiss* You’re welcome in advance 😉

Disclosure: some of the links below are affiliate links or discount codes, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may make a commission

Prep time: 15 minutes total

Servings: about 2

Ingredients

1/2 box Banza Cavatappi

1/2 package Miyoko’s Vegan Mozzarella , chopped or shredded

2 cups tomato sauce

2 tsp nutritional yeast

1 tbsp fresh basil, sliced

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried rosemary

1/2 tsp garlic powder

Instructions

Boil water, add pasta and cook for about 10 minutes or until desired firmness. While waiting, heat chosen tomato sauce on low and add nutritional yeast, dried oregano and rosemary, and garlic powder. Thinly slice fresh basil. Once pasta is done, drain and place on plate with tomato sauce , vegan mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil on top. Easy chickpeas-y meal. Enjoy!

DIY Hippie Granola

Mr. Chef recently ordered granola and seeing it was a reminder of how we miss the crunchy grain-seed-sweet mixture of it all. What we don’t miss are ingredients that include questionable vegetable oil sources and excess sugar. The good news is that it’s possible to have the best of both worlds – a delectable, crunchable mixture AND have it be higher in fiber and protein from ethical, whole food sources. We made a fresh batch today and are sharing the recipe with you. Go with the flow and have some granola-y, groovy mornings. Can you dig it?

Prep time: 15 minutes, cook time: 40-45 minutes

Makes about 6 cups

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups rolled oats

2 cups chopped (or sliced) almonds

1 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup dried fruit such as raisins or goji berries

1/4 cup hemp seeds

2 Tbsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix oats, almonds, coconut, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl then add olive oil and maple syrup. Use rimmed baking sheet and spread mixture out evenly. Bake about 40-45 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes, until golden and toasted. About 30 minutes in, add hemp seeds and goji berries to bake for the last 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely and transfer to airtight container. It should keep (if the delicious granola even makes it this long :D) for about 2 weeks.

Recipe: Rainbow Chili

rainbowchiliinslowcookersobw

It’s the slow-cooker time of the year and we are using the Crockpot on the regular. It’s easy to make a basic chili or a fancier one with this beloved piece of kitchen equipment. We bought some rainbow carrots and decided to make our chili a bit fancy for a recent date night but it’s equally good to casually and lovingly feed yourself or a whole, hungry family.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Servings: about 8

Ingredients

3-4 rainbow heirloom carrots. sliced
2-3 ribs of celery, chopped
1 jar organic tomato sauce
5 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained & rinsed
1 can chickpeas
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 bay leaves
1 tbsp cumin (with all these beans, you’re gonna need it :D)
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp chopped parsley for topping

Omnivore option: add 1lb cooked ground turkey

Instructions

Chop all vegetable ingredients and add to slow cooker container, along with tomato sauce and rinsed cans of beans. Add bay leaves, cumin, and oregano. Optional: add 1 lb cooked ground turkey for omnivore option. Add water as needed so slow cooker is halfway to two-thirds full. Cook on low for 8 hours. Remove bay leaves, scoop into bowls, top with fresh parsley and enjoy this colorful, plant-based meal!