Spinach-Artichoke Fondue & Other Meals


For New Year’s Eve we kept with tradition and had fondue for two at home in the living room while watching a movie leading up to the ball drop. This year’s movie was Secret Life of Pets and this year’s fondue was Spinach-Artichoke. The movie was enjoyable but the fondue was far superior.


Spinach-Artichoke Fondue

8 oz Swiss cheese, shredded
4 oz Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 Tbsp flour (or gluten-free flour blend)
1 c white wine
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
pinch nutmeg
2.5 oz baby spinach, chopped
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
3/4 c mayonnaise
1/4 c Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Mix shredded cheeses with flour and set aside.

Heat white wine to a simmer then add cheese mixture by handfuls, stirring constantly for each addition to melt and incorporate.

Stir in mustard, nutmeg, spinach, artichoke hearts, mayo, and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

If the fondue is too stiff, you can thin with additional wine and/or mayonnaise, depending on your preference.

Keep warm and melty in a fondue pot and serve with bread cubes, vegetables, and anything else you feel like.

We had a mix of high and low and the gluten-free corn dogs were surprisingly good dipped into the spinach-artichoke fondue.

What did the rest of the week look like?


On Christmas we set up a large grazing station since it was just the two of us and we planned to laze around the house pretty much all day. The mixture of charcuterie, cheese, cookies, fruit, and bread was great all day, and we heated up some pirogi towards the end of the evening to add something new to the spread.


While it was tempting to nosh on what was left of the grazing board the next day, too, I dragged myself into the kitchen to prepare pork chops, green beans, and Bacon-Cheddar Hasselback Potatoes. The potatoes were delicious, but massive by the time the were filled, so don’t feel the need to hunt down the really big baking potatoes for this recipe. One other tip: par-cook the potatoes in the microwave (again, I love that ours has a potato setting that really does make perfectly fluffy baked potatoes) and finish them in the oven. This way I could cook the pork chops and potatoes on the same pan without worrying that one would be overdone before the other was cooked through (the fact that I used the same pan that I’d just cooked the bacon on and, therefore, cooked everything in the reserved bacon grease certainly did not hurt).


Tuesday was another sheet-pan meal (I really do love the simplicity of them): Maple-Garlic Chicken, Potatoes, and Brussels Sprouts. I realized only too late that I’d put potatoes two meals in a row, but this is what happens when you rush the menu so you can do your shopping on Christmas Eve because Christmas fell on your usual grocery-shopping day. It is what it is, or was, and the red potatoes were different enough from the previous nights that it didn’t feel at all redundant.


Wednesday I was just about to add the water to the rice cooker when, as I was talking to Todd about our days, I realized I’d rather go buy sushi than make the sushi bowls I’d planned. So we did, and I made the sushi bowls and crab rangoon on Thursday night, instead. Yes, we had sushi-related dinners two nights in a row. No, neither of us minded. I’d eat sushi practically every day if I could.


Friday morning we had to take Todd’s car into the shop and decided to be nice and bring doughnuts from Nanee’s Donut Hole into our respective offices since we had to pass right by on our way across town. I made the mistake of snacking on a piece of leftover apple fritter (yes, High-FODMAP indulgence all the way around, but so worth it) so that I wasn’t very hungry for the Thai Turkey Meatballs in Lemongrass Coconut Sauce that I’d made for supper, but Todd tells me they were very good. I guess I’ll confirm when I have them for lunch tomorrow!


And with Sunday being New Year’s Day, we had to have our traditional cabbage and black-eyed peas for wealth and health in the upcoming year. I’d usually pick up a small ham to go with, but decided to defrost the reserved pork leg from Todd’s birthday luau to go with the vegetables. It was still perfectly tender and delicious as it had been in March.


Retro Recipes, part 3


Continuing our impromptu quest through old cookbooks, this (past) week I started with some recipes/menus from

Electric Refrigerator Recipes and Menus
Specially Prepared for the General Electric Refrigerator
Miss Alice Bradley
Principal of Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery,
Cooking Editor of Woman’s Home Companion,
Author of: Cooking for Profit, Candy Cook Book, For Luncheon and Supper Guests

that sold for a whopping $2 back in 1927 (I found it in a friend’s used bookstore 8 or so years ago). The recipes in this book are,  you guessed it, mostly of things that require refrigeration or freezing, but there are also a whole slew of menus that Miss Bradley just expects you to already have a reference for or have in another cookbook in your home. Not like you could just Google it back in ’27, though I can’t tell you how glad I am that we have that capability as I was really curious what in the world an “English Monkey with Crackers” (one of her After-Theater Lunches) might be. Turns out it’s the same thing as Welsh Rarebit, which she lists on a Family Supper Menu a few pages prior, so maybe Miss Bradley was just trying to keep things interesting.

Frozen Lobster Salad with Garlic Cheese Biscuits

Frozen Lobster Salad with Garlic Cheese Biscuits

At any rate, Monday I made her Frozen Lobster Salad and paired it with Garlic Cheese Rolls. Far from the usual seafood salad we’d make with just mayo and veggies, this one used a bit of white sauce, gelatin, and whipped heavy cream in, in addition to mayonnaise. While it seems like an awful lot to do just for a seafood salad, and it’s only seasoned with salt and nutmeg, it was very tasty and, thanks to the gelatin, held up exceptionally well for leftovers. I’d probably add some diced celery or bell pepper to this to add some color and crunch, if I made it again.

The biscuits were just the basic recipe from the box of gluten-free Bisquick (Bisquick was invented in 1930, apparently, so it’s not a complete anachronism to pair with the 1927 salad) with some garlic oil and a healthy dose of shredded Cheddar added.

Hamburg Steak, Mashed Potatoes, and Creamed Cabbage

Hamburg Steak, Mashed Potatoes, and Creamed Cabbage

On Tuesday I used one of her dinner menus and just, as homemakers of her day would have, used the recipes or knowledge I had on hand. The Hamburg Steak was simply seasoned ground beef (salt, pepper, garlic oil, paprika, Worcestershire sauce) formed into rectangular patties and cooked on the stove. I made a gravy with beef base, a little red wine, and a cornstarch slurry after the first sides browned. The mashed potatoes were fairly basic mashed potatoes with butter and milk, and the creamed cabbage was boiled cabbage combined with a white sauce.

Now, Todd and I are cabbage fans, but most of the year we eat it as coleslaw unless it’s New Year’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day, you know? We were both pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed the creamed cabbage, to the point that I could have eaten just that and been perfectly content for the night. It’s worth noting that, in making the very simple white sauce, I did add some chicken soup base for flavor, and I think that helped a lot. Creamed cabbage could well end up on our table again, though, thanks to this culinary trip through history.

Chocolate Cake for Dinner, because we're grown-ups

Chocolate Cake for Dinner, because we’re grown-ups

We already talked about Wednesday night, the night we had cake for dinner, and I still do not regret that decision one little bit. It was smart of me to put it mid-week, when the urge to cook is often weaker anyway, and it also helped that we were “ahead” on lunches so that we weren’t needing to get take out for lunch the next day, that sort of thing.

Pork and Veggies, with extra Veggies, over Rice

Pork and Veggies, with extra Veggies, over Rice

Thursday we returned to the present with one of our freezer meals: Pork and Veggies over rice. Instead of crocking it, I just put it on the stove to simmer while the rice cooked and that was plenty of time on the stove. While it’s not technically a stir fry, it’s similar enough that I thought some Yum-Yum sauce might go well on it (and I was right).

On Friday we took advantage of some gift cards we had and went to Longhorn for dinner and have delicious calamari in a sweet chili sauce along with our steaks and potatoes.

My Brunswick Stew is staring at me...

My Brunswick Stew is staring at me…

Finally, on Saturday, I decided to go back to the River Road Recipes cookbook, because I hadn’t made anything from the poultry chapter, and I made Brunswick Stew.

I’ve never actually been a fan of Brunswick Stew, but Todd likes it and I thought it might be better if I made it to determine why I didn’t like it or, hopefully, that I’d like it better if it was homemade. After 2 hours and a bit it was done and I was so hot and tired from doing laundry that a thick chicken stew didn’t seem all that appealing, but I ended up enjoying it and Todd had two helpings (so I must have done something right!).

Sunday was going to be breakfast for dinner, but we both had been grazing throughout the afternoon and just didn’t feel like an official meal. Since we had leftovers in the fridge we declared it a fend for yourself night, so there’s nothing really to show.

I now have a decision to make, and that’s where to go for next week’s menu. Do I a) grab the reproduction of a Civil War-era cookbook I picked up at the St Augustine Fort a few years back or do I b) raid the 1973ish Betty Crocker recipe card collection sitting on my shelf. I mean, both are potential gold mines–what would you be more interested in seeing, hmm?

A Blast from Recipe’s Past!

Tassies are basically tarts, but they are so much better than just mini pecan pies.

Tassies are basically tarts, but they are so much better than just mini pecan pies.

Last weekend I was in the mood to bake just for fun, and I decided to make some Tea Time Tassies from the Junior League cookbook that has long been a family staple: River Road Recipes. There are three volumes of RRR these days [I take that back, there are now four!] and the first two are what I grew up browsing through. When I moved out of the house after high school, Mom gifted me a set of I and II of my own.

The funny thing is, though, that while I wouldn’t feel at home without them, I almost never cook from them. Holidays are usually the only time I consistently grab them because holidays are the only time we cook “home food” like what is in these books. The first volume is from the 50s, the second from the 70s, and like a lot of fundraiser cookbooks, they have their fair share of questionable includes. But throw-backs are fun, and not just for Thursdays, so I thought, since I had it out anyway, why not cook from this book all week?

Mexican Chef Salad

Mexican Chef Salad

Monday started off with a Mexican Chef Salad that really did remind me of some of the food I grew up eating. I also found it highly amusing that Doritos were a legit part of my shopping list for this week.

River Road Recipes II, page 48

River Road Recipes II, page 48

Now, I opted for hominy as my bean substitute and used my own homemade taco seasoning mix. While the recipe brought me back to my childhood with its fairly simple flavors, I cannot for one minute deny the tastiness of the meal. I wouldn’t necessarily serve it for company, but I will remember how well Thousand Island dressing pairs with taco meat the next time I crave a taco salad.

Sushi Rice Bow + Teriyaki Chicken

Sushi Rice Bow + Teriyaki Chicken

Tuesday’s dinner didn’t come from RRR but it almost could have. I’d been craving a Sushi Rice Bowl and decided to marinate some chicken tenderloins in teriyaki sauce and call it a day. This batch of seasoned sushi rice featured steamed carrots, sweet potatoes, eggplant, and cucumber, plus avocado, sesame seeds, and strips of nori. Still one of my favorite go-to meals and very versatile for clearing out leftover veggies in the crisper.

Wednesday was an off night thanks to Mr. Duncan of the puppy puberty Duncans. He was being particularly insufferable so I opted to pick up Jimmy John’s for supper and call it a night.

Pork Chops and Turnips + Swiss Green Beans

Pork Chops and Turnips + Swiss Green Beans

No need to adjust your color settings, this meal really is that brown. You know, sometimes Todd and I will have a night where cook up a bunch of appetizers and have that for dinner. These nights are referred to as brown-food nights since most things are breaded, fried, or naturally tan in color.


River Road Recipes II, page 118

River Road Recipes II, page 70

River Road Recipes II, page 70

Thursday was an unintentional brown-food night between the turnips (tinted from the Worcestershire Sauce) and the Swiss cheese and corn flakes-topped green beans. Despite the bland color, the turnips were a very good pairing for the pork chops, and something we’ll like do again in the fall. The green beans were interesting but probably will not appear on our table in the future.

Carbonnade de Boeuf

Carbonnade de Boeuf

A variation on a traditional beef stew, Friday’s Carbonnade de Boeuf was surprisingly tasty and filling.

River Road Recipes II, page 103

River Road Recipes II, page 103

I opted to leave the bacon in the pot and not play hokey-pokey with the beef and the dish certainly did not suffer. Since we also do not own a dutch oven (the hows and whys of which were discussed at length over the meal, in fact, and we both agree we would get good use out of one, I just haven’t been able to ever pull the trigger on the Le Cruset I’ve been lusting over for years) I let this simmer on the stove for maybe an hour. I also added a spare red bell pepper we had in the fridge and bought fresh parsley for this dish–I think the parsley and the quality of the beer used have a lot of bearing on how tasty the final dish is.

Since I’ve been working at my old job on Saturdays, I feel like I only get single-day weekends lately. This is to make up for all those 3-day weekends in May and June in the cosmic order of things, but still. Anticipating this, I’d planned a no-cook night for Saturday and we ended up at the local Chinese buffet.

Chicken Jerusalem + Baked Pepper-Cheese Squash

Chicken Jerusalem + Baked Pepper-Cheese Squash

We finished out the week with what just might be my favorite recipe so far. Chicken with artichoke hearts is something we done in several permutations over the years and was just as good in this iteration.

River Road Recipes II, page 152

River Road Recipes II, page 152

River Road Recipes II, page 75

River Road Recipes II, page 75

It’s the squash that was absolutely amazing and I’m already planning to have it on the holiday table for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I did not boil the squash, that just sounded like a recipe for mush to me, and I think it was a good call. I also used the green part of a leek instead of onion rings and seasoned gluten-free breadcrumbs. I was concerned, at first, that it didn’t call for any salt and I was expecting it to be bland. Apparently the bacon and pepper-jack cheese were enough, though, because there was no lack of flavor nor was the pepper overpowering. Definitely a keeper recipe!

I’m very tempted to do this again for my next cooking week, and then I remembered this old set of recipe cards I have, the Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library from 1971. There’s a good chance those recipe cards will be appearing here in the future and the chances of a jello mold being required are rapidly rising!

My Favorite Risotto Recipe


Risotto has a reputation for being difficult or complicated. That’s far from the truth. Some people complain about how long it takes and that you have to constantly stir it (resulting in all sorts of “hacks” or short-cuts that claim to do it better in less time, but seldom do). Stirring constantly is what created the uniform texture of the risotto, it’s not something to be skipped over, and we’re only talking 20 minutes or so, during which you’re also adding broth in small amounts, so it’s far from the boring drudgery that many make it out to be.

In this week’s View from the Countertop video I show you just how simple it is to make my favorite risotto, and I’ve put the recipe below, as well. I don’t think I’ve ever had this turn out poorly, and I’ve served it alongside steak, chicken, and salmon. Since I was filming this batch, I can tell you that it took exactly 26 minutes from the time I started the camera (just before adding the butter to the pan) and turning it off after making up our plates. And that included going and scolding Duncan at least once for whining at the baby gate keeping him out from underfoot! Add maybe 10 minutes to prep the fish and chop the rosemary; even then this is not a lengthy meal to prepare!

Risotto Friuli-Style with Rosemary and White Wine

From Marcella Cucina, by Marcella Hazan, lightly adapted for Low-FODMAP diets
Serves 4-6

6 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1 T garlic olive oil
1 T chopped fresh rosemary
2 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 cup white wine

2 Tbsp butter
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the broth to a boil and reduce to a simmer. You want the broth hot so as not to slow down the cooking process.

Melt the butter with the garlic olive oil in a large pot or pan over medium heat. Stir in the chopped rosemary and then the rice.

Raise the heat to medium-high and stir the rice in the butter mixture to coat every grain. Add in the wine and cook, still on medium-high, stirring constantly, until the wine is absorbed.

Add the first cup of broth (about 2 standard ladles worth) and cook and stir until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Then add more hot broth, this time only a single ladle or half a cup at a time, cooking it is absorbed, stirring constantly, repeating until all the broth has been incorporated. This part usually takes 20-25 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the mantecare ingredients. This adds creaminess and richness and is not to be missed! Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve while warm.

We ended up having two nights of take-out (I know, so sad). One was planned but the next night I had a horrible sinus headache and just couldn’t fathom the thought of being in the kitchen, so Todd went and picked up Chick-fil-a and I got to experience the amazingness of the Frosted Lemonade. Oh, man, I think I could have one of those every day and not get tired all summer. I’m definitely on a lemon kick.

Here’s what the rest of the week looked like:

Home-Cooked Meals 6/13-6/19

Home-Cooked Meals 6/13-6/19

Monday: Zucchini Crust Pizza
Another as-seen-on-Facebook recipe, this started with the basic crust recipe from Tastemade and I added a meat sauce, tons of mozzarella cheese, and some mini pepperoni slices. Why a meat sauce? It made no sense to me to dirty two dishes to make both the tomato sauce and brown the ground beef. And my zucchini yeilded way more than 4 cups of shreds, so I think we ended up with a double-thick crust. That mean it never crisped up enough to pick up like a slice of normal pizza, but the flavor was really good. I think if/when I make this again I’ll just use some self-rising flour (like gluten-free Bisquick or the like) for a little loft and layer everything in a casserole dish. It’d also make a good freezer meal, I think.

Tuesday: Vegan Corn Chowder
The problem with planning your menu with an eye on the weather is that the weather can shift and leave you with a serious mismatch. Such was the case with the rain holding off until Wednesday and it still being hot and humid on Tuesday night. Oh, well, we always enjoy this corn chowder (from What to Feed Your Raiding Party, the cookbook I wrote), regardless of the weather. I did, however, opt not to make the corn muffins I’d had in mind.

Wednesday: Coconut-Lime Chicken, Purple Rice, and Steamed Green Beans
This recipe from Once a Month Meals looks similar to what I have in our freezer meal recipe reservoir. Usually I’d bake this one, but grilling would be a good idea, too! The purple rice is the last of the bag I brought back from Disney Springs last fall. This time, just making it straight, I could taste a little more of the inherent sweetness in the rice and I definitely would like to pick more of this up next time I find it.

Thursday & Friday: Take out
Thursday was a lettuce wrap from Jimmy John’s (Beach Club is my absolute favorite) and Friday was a Chick-fil-a Cobb Salad and the aforementioned Frosted Lemonade. It was so hot and miserable I was definitely leaning more towards the cold foods, can you tell?

Saturday: Vegetarian Eggs Benedict
As spotted on Cast Iron Cookie, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Hollandaise sauce (it came out too thin for my liking) but the idea of using hashbrowns (Minimalist Bakers’ Hash Brown Haystacks, and I definitely recommend using an egg in the mix) for the base and adding greens instead of the Canadian bacon, that I was all for. Instead of just wilted greens I opted to make up a quick creamed spinach (but kept it fairly thick) for the middle layer. And can I just say that this was my best batch of poached eggs probably ever.

Sunday: Rosemary Risotto with Broiled Salmon
The reason for my being, this week. Since we already talked quite a bit about the risotto, all I did to the salmon was add some salt, pepper, lemon slices, and a sprinkle of dried dill. I put them in shortly after I started the risotto and it was all done at the same time.

That was our week, what’s on your plate for this week?

A Dessert Fit for a Long Weekend: Blueberry Poke ‘n Pour Cake


Do you know when your least productive time of the day is?

Mine is definitely mid-afternoon, especially when I’m at home (at the office it’s a bit easier to stay focused, thankfully). Saturdays and Sundays around 2 o’clock, if I’m not already embroiled in a big project, there’s no sense starting anything new, at least not until the sun goes down.

Fortunately I’m aware of this, and can combat it in little ways. It’s a great time to go run errands (something else that kills my productivity), catch up on my RSS feeds, or even do some cleaning. This Saturday, though, I decided to bake.

I’d seen the Cooking Panda video about a poke cake and it reminded me of the Poke ‘n Pour cakes I grew up with. It’s basically the same thing, though I still contend that the order of the video’s layers is just not using the ingredients to their full potential, so I made my own cake and decided to video it, too!

Direct link for the feed readers: Blueberry Poke ‘n Pour Cake

The cake base is a Betty Crocker gluten-free yellow cake mix, prepared according to the box instructions. I don’t go gaga over the cake on its own, but when doctored up (with pineapple juice for the luau upside down cakelets or as a base for a banana chocolate chip quick bread) it’s a convenient thing to have on hand, and I try to keep one in the pantry for these sorts of spur-of-the-moment bakes.

The blueberry layer is a simple cooked mix of frozen blueberry (maybe 2 cups?), 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water, a couple tablespoons of cornstarch, and a sprinkle each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves–not enough to feel like a fall pie, but just enough to add interest. Set it on medium-low, stir it occasionally, and let it cook until the syrup is thickened.

I had a partial block of cream cheese in the freezer (they say not to freeze it, but for applications like this it’s totally fine), so I defrosted the 3 or so ounces in the microwave (take it out of the foil packaging, first!), then stirred in enough powdered sugar and vanilla to taste right. Just your basic cream cheese frosting.

The custard, though, that I’m pretty proud of and I want you to have the recipe in case you’ve ever had issue with cooked pudding not coming together (like what happened with my banana pudding for the luau). A simple vanilla pudding doesn’t usually include eggs, that more of a custard thing, but a custard doesn’t usually contain any sort of flour or starch–that’s the pudding side. Plus, the eggs that the custard uses have been separated, generally you only use the yolks. I didn’t have a ready use for egg whites coming up, I didn’t want to waste them, and I knew that if I cooked it right, the protein in the egg whites would lend stability to my custard. I also doubled the sugar and used a free hand with the vanilla (I always do, it’s hard to overdo adding vanilla).

Foolproof Vanilla Pudding

2 cups milk
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp vanilla extract

  1. Scald the milk in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium-high heat.
  2. While the milk is heating, whisk together the eggs, sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla in a metal mixing bowl.
  3. Adding a little at a time, whisk the hot milk into the egg mixture until fully incorporated. Don’t rush it–if you heat up the eggs too quickly the whites will start to cook and you’ll need to strain your custard.
  4. Fill the now-empty pot with hot water to a depth of 1 inch and return to the stove. Bring it to a boil then reduce to a simmer.
  5. Place the heatproof bowl over the simmering water and cook the pudding, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Yeilds ~3 cups

The recipe was adapted from a couple of recipes found in The Kitchen Companion by Polly Clingerman.

It’s a simple recipe, the trick is in the technique. The double-boiler method is what keeps the egg whites from cooking too fast and ruining the texture (seriously, though, run it through a fine mesh sieve if you need to, all will not be lost). I remember a time when double boilers were a standard part of a pots and pan set, but I seldom see them anymore. Even in a pro kitchen, the metal bowl over a pot is what’s used more often than not. Just make sure that the water isn’t touching the bottom of the bowl when they’re nested together, and that the level of what’s in the bowl isn’t over where the bowl and the sides of the pot meet. (If that happens you just have to make sure to scraps the sides of the bowl more often as the touch-point of the two pieces will be hotter than anywhere else and the custard will cook quicker there.)

Describing it takes longer than actually doing it. Give it a try, you’ll see what I mean.

While a poke-n-pour cake is best served at room temperature (cold cake can be a bit dense, even with this preparation), it’s still a good idea to chill it for a few hours to let everything set up nicely.


I was very pleased with how this cake turned out. Of course it wasn’t the Jell-o and Cool Whip-filled version of my youth, but a slightly more grown-up version. If I were to make the cake from scratch in the future, I think I’d use a basic sponge cake, letting the berry mixture serve the purpose of the sugar syrup that is usually brushed over a sponge cake before filling and layering. Like I said in my video, had I planned this out instead of just jumping in, I would have split the cake and added a layer of strawberries prepared the same way. You could also use cherries, peaches, even spiced apples could go nicely. Anything you can find in the pie filling aisle (but make it yourself, it’s so much better than canned).

I hope you have a great Memorial Day and enjoy the time with whomever you’re spending it with. It’ll just be Todd, Duncan, and I today, but I’m certainly not complaining. This dessert will go great with the hot dogs, corn on the cob, and macaroni salad we’ll be cooking today.