easiest, cheesiest, somewhat healthy-siest stovetop shells

Stovetop chickpea shells and cheeseI am a sucker for mac & cheese – pasta with a bite, creamy cheese sauce – need I say more? Comfort, nostalgia, simplicity. The best mac & cheese dishes I’ve made have involved multiple cheeses (my favorite employs a blend of gouda, fontina, and white cheddar), traditional noodles like elbows or shells, and have been made over the course of about an hour or so – spending time on both the stovetop and in the oven.

Organized spice drawerTonight though, I really wanted mac & cheese, but I wanted it pronto. I only had one cheese on hand – a Cotswold (double gloucester with chive and onions), courtesy of the outstanding cheese selection at Dorothy Lane Market, and the only shells in my pantry were chickpea shells (more on those later). I was also craving a little spice and happened to have a heaping pile of jalapenos from this week’s Green Bean Delivery, just begging to be blistered and piled on top of anything and everything. More importantly, I needed to not make a bigger mess of my kitchen. The one thing I have going for me is that my spice drawer is hella organized. I’ve been “spring cleaning” because AB has been swamped with schoolwork after work, and “spring cleaning” for me means “pulling everything out of every drawer, cabinet, closet, and crevice and making an enormous mess that wasn’t there before in the name of organizing and deep cleaning”.  I’ve been doing this all over the house and not finishing in one room before starting in another. So, amidst all the chaos, I wanted to dirty exactly one pan, a small handful of tools, and one bowl. Nothing more.

With all of these requirements, I took to the kitchen armed with my trusty box grater, and grated up my Cotswold, being sure to taste a bit of it prior to melting, to confirm its perfection. I thinly sliced a jalapeno and did a quick saute of the slices in a tiny pool of olive oil. In the same stainless medium pot, I then boiled my chickpea shells for an easy 8 minutes. After removing those shells, I then made a roux, and within 10 more minutes, I had a sumptuous cheese sauce and a big smile on my face. I want you to know the feeling that comes from a perfect dinner made in under 30 minutes with very few ingredients and minimal clean-up. I ate this dish on its own, but it could easily accompany a grilled chicken breast or a heaping pile of broccoli.

In my version, the Cotswold can easily be swapped for cheddar – I recommend a sharp one – or just a normal double gloucester.

Real pasta could also be used in place of the Banza chickpea shells, but let me talk about Banza for a moment because their chickpea pastas are some of the worthiest pasta substitutes I’ve tried. The shells have an extremely satisfying bite to them, comparable to traditional pasta, served al dente. They cook up quickly, and leftovers reheat fairly well (though, the texture is definitely better if served immediately). The big heart-winning fact for me is that they are made with chickpeas and only three other recognizable ingredients. Compared to normal pasta, a serving size has half the carbohydrates if you’re worried about carbs. If you like protein and fiber – and you should – double the protein, and FOUR TIMES the fiber. Weeeee! Locally, I’ve found Banza at Whole Foods, Dorothy Lane Market, and sometimes in the health foods area in Kroger.

Ari ready to play outsideThis recipe will make enough for four large servings. It could be stretched if served with anything else (again, grilled chicken or broccoli or both would be worthy companions). Also, while definitely healthier than most mac & cheese recipes (if using the Banza shells), this isn’t a super clean eats kind of dish. After all, we’re still smothering stuff in cheese sauce here. Enjoying a small portion alongside a veggie definitely ups the healthy cred. And again, it’s fast and simple, so you can spend just a little time in the kitchen and a lot of time outside with your pleading dog…


  • 2 jalapenos, thinly
  • Extra virgin olive oil*
  • Banza chickpea shells (8 oz.)
  • 3 TBS unsalted butter
  • 3 TBS AP flour
  • 2 cups skim or 2% milk
  • 8 oz. cheese, freshly grated
    • (I used Cotswold double gloucester, and it was a damn good decision – cheddar would work though)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

*Omit the jalapeno and olive oil, if you’re a pansy if you wish.


  • In a medium saucepot, add about a dime-sized splash of olive oil and heat over medium. Add sliced jalapenos, and cook for 3-4 minutes. (This will bring the heat of the jalapenos down considerably.) Remove jalapeno slices and set aside for later.
  • Fill same pot with water, bring to a boil, and cook Banza chickpea shells as directed on box.
  • Strain cooked shells and set aside. Return pot to cooktop.
  • Melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk constantly for about 2 minutes until roux is golden brown and smooth.
  • Reduce heat to low, and whisk in milk until combined.
  • Simmer for about 5 minutes, until slightly thickened.
  • Add grated cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until the cheese is melty and the sauce is gorgeous. (If the sauce is looking runny at this point, you can add a bit more cheese or a little cornstarch slurry.)
  • Add shells to the cheese sauce. Serve immediately with jalapenos on top.

Go forth and enjoy.

chicken noodle soup, for the souls that need it


Welcome to my poor, neglected blog! If you’re a first timer, you can read my first-ever blog post here to get a little background (edits inserted since this was posted a few years ago). It’s been so long since I posted that I had to reset my password. My last post was about moving back to Ohio from D.C., and that happened well over a year ago. Oof. I’d like to get better about consistently posting since this is a therapeutic and enjoyable creative outlet for me, so I’ll resolve in 2017 to be better.

Speaking of being better – if you are feeling anxious about the future (as many of us are today), for any reason, I urge you to try to place yourself back in the present. I have to remind myself of this often. It’s something I still need to work on, but I’m doing my best. Look around you and really see what and, more importantly, who is there. Relish in any little feeling of security, no matter how small – even if it’s just the fact that the couch cushion has formed perfectly about your posterior as you read this. Wiggle around and smile. You’re home on your own couch, and you’re warm and safe. Fart if you want to.

Do something nice. Effect change in your world – it doesn’t have to be on a large scale, but it certainly can be. If you’re out in your community, actively making it better, keep on keeping on. If you’re fighting for what you believe in, keep fighting. You can do this loudly, but I believe you can do it quietly too, if that suits you better. If going out into the world to try to fix it sounds terrifying, start in your own home. Even if your home is just you, better yourself. Take care of people. Make plans with family or friends. Put your phone down for long periods of time. Work on strengthening real connections. Make someone else happy. Make yourself happy.

Start by making this soup!

Soup & Sam

This recipe is for everyone who has ever peeled the top off of a Campbell’s chicken noodle soup can and wanted more. It’s for everyone who has unceremoniously dumped that can of soup into a pan and then refilled the sad little can with water as the directions demand, then added said water to the soup and needed something more. It’s for everyone who has then sat down to slurp their soup and wondered why the noodles barely require chewing and the chicken tastes just south of what even bad chicken should taste like. It’s for everyone who deserves more from their chicken noodle soup.

We all know canned chicken noodle soup is garbage in terms of nutritional value. I actually still like the taste of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup for the most part, when I’m feeling really sick, but I think it’s only because my mom would feed it to me when I had a sore throat growing up. My mom liked it too, but she would actually pick out all of the chicken pieces from her can and give them to our cat, Fluffy. The hilarity of the chicken pieces not being good enough for her but perfectly acceptable for her only daughter is just now washing over me. Thanks, Mom.

This chicken noodle soup is everything. It’s full of real, tender chicken pieces – all of different sizes, like little chicken snowflakes. It’s also full of vegetables and a little full of egg noodles too. It’s rich and warm and comfort in a bowl.

The keys to soup nirvana?

Crane Brothers

     “Sherry, Niles?”  “Certainly, Frasier!”

  1. Homemade stock – this couldn’t be easier, trust me.
  2. A little heavy cream and parmesan – again, trust me.
  3. Sherry. Trust the sherry-swilling brothers Crane.

A helpful note before diving in: about half of these ingredients below simply get thrown into a stock pot, so this is much less labor-intensive than it appears at first glance.



  • 5 quarts water
  • 3 lb. fryer chicken, cut into sections*
  • 5 – 6 minced garlic cloves
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 2 peeled/diced medium onions
  • 4 teaspoons chicken Better-than-Bouillon base (3-4 chicken bouillon cubes would work instead)
  • 1.5 tsp. lemon pepper
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp each – kosher salt, black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. hot paprika
  • 3 – 5 sliced carrots (depending on size and love for carrots)
  • 4 – 5 sliced celery stalks
  • 4 measured cups uncooked egg noodles
  • 1/2 cup Fino sherry (I used Barbadillo brand)**
  • 2 tsp. dry rosemary
  • 2 TBS chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp Lawry’s seasoned salt
  • black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream (half & half would do the trick half as well)

*A roaster chicken will work, but it will yield a much less tender result. Also, many markets will have already cut up fryer chickens, which means you can just toss everything in the package into the stockpot. Hashtag EZPZ.

Barbadillo Fino Sherry


**Avoid what is labeled “cooking sherry” (even if you find a recipe that calls for it). Cooking sherry has so much added salt and other preservatives that you can’t drink it, and it’s an artificial, weird product. Stay away. If you buy a decent bottle of sherry (I recommend a dry Fino for this recipe), the end product will have a discernible sherry flavor, and isn’t that the point of an ingredient, to actually taste it? Plus, you can drink it afterwards (and during). Store it in the refrigerator and enjoy as you would a dry white wine.



  • In a stockpot, add 4 quarts of the water (you’ll add a fifth quart later on) plus the ingredients from the fryer chicken to the smoked paprika on the list above. Bring to a low boil then reduce heat to medium-low or low.
  • Let cook over medium-low to low heat for about 45 – 60 minutes with the lid on, keeping an eye on the liquid contents now and then to make sure they’re only simmering – you don’t want it to boil, but you want the chicken to cook through. (45 minutes on low did it for me on a gas cooktop.)
  • Once chicken is ready, remove all chicken pieces from the stock and set aside to cool. From the stock, also remove bay leaves and large onion pieces.
  • Once cooled enough to handle, pull chicken off the bones, also removing the skin, so you are left with only your torn chicken pieces. Tear apart any pieces larger than bite-size.
  • Bring stock back to a boil in stockpot, and add carrots, boiling for about 2 minutes. Then, add celery and boil for about 5 more.
  • Add egg noodles, and boil until tender (10 – 15 minutes depending on brand purchased).
  • Reduce heat to medium and add chicken back to the pot, along with sherry, rosemary, parsley, and seasoned salt. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste. (I probably added 1/2 tsp, at least.)
  • Give everything a good stir and let simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes.
  • Here’s where it goes from good to DAMN! Add your heavy cream and parmesan. (Remember that this soup will serve at least 10 servings, so it’s really not a lot of cheese or cream per serving.)
  • Reduce heat to low. At this point, if your soup looks too thick, you can add in that fifth quart (or less of water). If you do this, be sure to adjust seasoning if it’s needed, adding more salt and/or pepper. You’ll want to taste the soup at this point, whether or not you’re adding water, to make sure seasoning is right

The soup is ready now. And it will be even better tomorrow after the flavors meld overnight. In fact, if you’re wanting to eat it day-of, I highly recommend making it in the morning and enjoying it for dinner.

Serve hot, topped with a little more parsley if you so desire. A little extra parm never hurt anyone either. Commit fully and throw a grilled cheese into the mix. For all you local folks, Dorothy Lane Market bakes a Salt Rye that is just meant to be grilled and paired with white cheddar cheese.

Cheers, and thanks for reading!

healthy indulgence

With New Year’s Eve right around the corner, many people are already pondering resolutions – promises they’ll make to themselves to be better. Oftentimes, these promises revolve around improving physical well-being and health, for good reason. A shiny, new year is a golden opportunity to make a change for the better, and although a lot of resolutions don’t make it past the final days of the frigid month of January, they’re still made with the best of intentions at heart.

I’ve always been a petite and small person, but during my final months of college and my short time in law school, I put on a lot of weight, nearly 70 lbs to be exact. Yikes. I used my grandpa’s death and mom’s illness as an excuse, and I do think the stress and turmoil of the time did contribute. However, stress alone doesn’t cause weight gain, and lots of laziness and poor food choices resulted in me being overweight and super unhappy.

Thankfully, the New Year’s resolution I made to myself to ring in 2013 was one I actually kept. I  lost the weight that I’d been meaning to lose. Initially, I would try depriving myself of all delicious foods which is really tough for someone like me who LOVES food – preparing it, taking pictures of it, reading about it, writing about it, trying new forms of it, eating it. Finally, per my resolution, starting the new year out by consuming more whole foods, eating out less, and limiting pastas/breads helped me shed the weight fairly quickly – and as I was relieved to discover, cooking and eating healthier didn’t mean cutting out all things indulgent altogether. It just meant striking a more sensible balance between clean foods and foods like dairy and fats – crafting healthy indulgences.

And the recipe below is just that. I made it for the first time last week for AB and one of my dear friends. It is brimming with spinach and butternut squash, two ingredients with laundry lists of health benefits. Just enough parmesan cheese adds saltiness without tons of sodium. Garlic, onion, freshly cracked black pepper, red pepper flakes, and fresh basil marry to lend this dish a TON of flavor. It was creamy, hearty, and warm – perfect for a winter meal. The recipe below includes chorizo, but AB and I both agreed, it could easily be made without the chorizo and be just as delicious.

Gnocchi with butternut squash, spinach, and chorizo

(serves 2-4)


  • 1 package gnocchi (I used a whole grain option as opposed to the full potato gnocchi version to lighten it up – found in the pasta aisle, NOT frozen)
  • 3 links of chorizo (omit for vegetarian dish)
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped in 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 6-8 cups baby spinach
  • 2 TBS fresh basil (or 1 TBS dried)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 c. skim milk (can use full fat milk or 1/2 and 1/2 if you want more indulgence and less lightness)
  • 1 c. chicken broth (I used low sodium)
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper


  • Heat oil over medium-high heat. (use an ovenproof skillet.)
  • Add squash and onions – season with salt and pepper to taste. (pinch of salt and about a 1/2 tsp of pepper is my preference!)
  • Reduce heat to medium and stir every once in a while until squash is soft and edges are golden brown (about 10-12 minutes).
  • Add fresh garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and cook for just a minute or so more until garlic is fragrant but not burned!
  • Add chicken broth and skim milk, and give it a good stir.
  • Let simmer for a few minutes, and add the gnocchi (if more liquid is required to just cover the gnocchi, add a little more broth).
  • Add spinach, and stir slowly to wilt the leaves.
  • Cover and let simmer over medium heat to tenderize the gnocchi (about 7-8 minutes).
  • While the gnocchi cooks, cook chorizo in a pan over medium-high heat – I cook it by browning it covered, then slicing it before adding it back to the pan to cook all the way. (omit this step for vegetarian rendition.)
  • Preheat your oven broiler.
  • Stir in fresh (or dry) basil, most of parmesan cheese. Save a little to sprinkle over the top.
  • Add cooked chorizo.
  • Pop the pan in the oven for 3 minutes, careful not to burn, but allowing the top of the dish to become golden and sizzley (not a word, but I want it to be).
  • ENJOY.

**Butternut squash can be very difficult to peel. If you are not good with a knife, consider perusing the produce department to find pre-peeled and cut butternut squash, which is often available.

Hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

october is for ohio and chili (recipe included)

Living in DC for a little over two months has been an adventure. I never pictured myself living anywhere other than an Ohio suburb, and adjusting to the city life has been an adjustment of the best variety. AB and I have discovered that our lifestyle is well-suited for city living. As much as we love our new home here, many pieces of our hearts are back in Ohio. Thankfully, we’re a manageably short drive away, and we have plans to visit often (and have been back twice already). That doesn’t stop us from missing people, of course.

One of the people we miss most is “our Gary.” It’s weird describing Gary to people who don’t have the background story because, technically, we’re not related, and calling him my late mom’s boyfriend in the past tense is a long and awkward description. But Gary, for me, is the dad I never hadthe father figure everyone deserves. He’s like a second father to AB as well. Gary and AB both love manly things like football, golf, and technology, and they often enjoy long talks full of both laugher and advice. Gary loves cooking and Pottery Barn, and I, too, adore cooking and Pottery Barn. He is like our best friend/might-as-well-be-dad and pretty much the best. Ever. Plain and simple.

This past weekend, AB and I packed up our weekender bags and our dog, Ari, and headed back to Ohio for a long weekend to visit loved ones and celebrate our alma mater’s homecoming. We stayed with Gary, and in exchange for his hospitality, he requested only one thing: my chili.

I’ve been asked for my chili recipe on a couple of occasions, and I’ve never shared it. It’s a recipe that I played with one chili season (chili season is the period of time that spans fall and winter, duh) and eventually perfected with the help of taste testers like AB and Gary. I’ve been making the perfect version for about four years now. Yes, I called it perfect. Disclaimer: I will toot my own horn when it deserves to be tooted.


Bean = good. beans = bad.

I hate beans, so this chili is bean-free. I do love Bean, our cat, though.

Trust me, this chili is so meaty and spicy and PERFECT, that even the beaniest bean-lover won’t miss the beans.

This chili is pretty laborious as far as recipes go, and I use a lot of different peppers and spices to make it. Prep time is maybe an hour or so if you manage your time well, and simmer time is 2-3 hours depending on how long you can wait to eat. So, I will stop guarding this recipe with my life, and share it with all those brave enough to take on the chili-crafting challenge. If you make it, I’d love to hear how it goes for you! It’s worth the time and effort, I promise. I dream of one day entering it in some huge, world-famous chili cook-off and winning millions of dollars and/or bragging rights.

I made this batch at Gary’s house, so I was a little out of the element of my own kitchen, but the batch was as delicious as ever.

Pepper Fest Chili

(I don’t really call it that, but it seems like a fitting name for a chili with lots of peppers.)


  • 2 TBS bacon grease (or olive oil if you don’t want to be awesome)
  • 2 TBS unsalted butter
  • 2 large onions (white or yellow) – chopped
  • 2 large red bell peppers – chopped
  • 3 jalapenos – seeded and minced
  • 3 Poblano peppers – roasted, peeled, seeded, chopped
  • 3 Anaheim chiles – roasted, peeled, seeded, chopped
  • 1-2 habanero chiles (using 2 makes chili VERY spicy) – roasted, peeled, seeded, chopped
  • 1 whole head of garlic – minced
  • 2 lb. trimmed, cubed boneless chuck (many butchers/meat counters at groceries sell pre-cubed chuck for stews)
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. bulk mild Italian sausage (not in links)
  • 2 TBS chili powder
  • 1 TBS Ancho chili powder
  • 3 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp hot Hungarian paprika
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp freshly cracked pepper
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce (I use Contadina brand)
  • 1 12-oz can tomato paste (Contadina, again)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 12-oz bottle of lager beer


To make things easier on yourself later on, I suggest mixing all of the spices together in a small bowl so you can dump them all in together at once when the time is right (chili powder through coriander on the ingredients list).

Next, you’ll want to roast, seed, peel, and chop your Poblanos, Anaheims, and habanero. Be very careful while handling peppers, especially the habanero. Brush any kind of oil on the skin of the chiles, and places them on a baking sheet. Broil on HIGH until skins are charred (black). Be sure to flip chiles.

Once nice and charred, use tongs to place chiles in a sealed plastic bag or tupperware, and let them sweat for about 15 min. Once nice and sweaty (the chiles, not you), peel the skin off the Anaheims and Poblanos under cold water, removing seeds. Use gloves or two forks to peel and remove seeds from habanero. Then, chop those suckers.

Le Creuset stock potNow, melt bacon grease (or olive oil only if you imagine me “booing” you) and butter over HIGH heat in large stock pot. I use a trusty Cherry-red beauty from my favorite French cookware line, Le Creuset, for all my chili needs.

Add onions, red bell pepper, jalapenos, and roasted chiles to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally about 8-10 minutes.

Add your minced garlic (yes, I use a whole head of garlic, and you should too if you love garlic and hate vampires), and cook about a minute longer until fragrant.

Add 2 lbs. of chuck, stir, and let the meat brown. Should take about 5 minutes or so with the lid on.

Turn heat to MEDIUM HIGH, and add bulk Italian sausage and ground beef. Carefully stir to not break it up too much.

Pop the lid back on, and let the meat cook through (10-12 min). (CONFESSION: I first typed “poop” when I meant to type “pop” and strongly considered not even making the correction. This will surprise no one that knows me even a little bit.)

Once all the meat seems browned, add all the dry spices to the pot, and combine. Let cook 2-3 minutes.

Add tomato sauce and tomato paste, stir, and let cook about 5 min.

Stir in chicken stock.

Now it’s beer time. In the ingredients, I mentioned one 12-oz bottle of beer. You should really have two here. One for the chili and one for you. You deserve it.

Give the pot a good stir, and reduce heat to let the chili simmer for at least two hours.

I like to serve my chili with freshly-grated extra sharp cheddar, chopped white and green onions, guacamole, and crackers. (I hope when you enjoy cheese at home, you enjoy it the way God intended by grating it yourself.) The guacamole is very cooling and goes great with chili if you’ve never tried it. If I’m making chili for a crowd, I’ll serve up hotdogs and grilled buns as well (AB’s favorite). Below are some shots of a chili dinner I made here in our apartment in DC about a month ago for friends, right at the beginning of chili season. Actually, I’m pretty sure it was still about 80 degrees out when I made my first batch this year, but we were watching football. There’s just something about chili and football. Until next time!