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New Favorite Nosh: Tomato and Cucumber Sandwich!

19 Aug

This is barely a recipe, but it’s what I have been eating for breakfast and lunch (and sometimes in between with a cup of tea).


I like it with rye toast (shown here), but it reaches its apex with white bread....

I like it with rye toast (shown here), but it reaches its apex with white bread….

Toast and butter two slices of bread. Layer thinly-sliced cucumber (peeling is optional) and tomato – preferably fresh from the garden – on the bottom slice. Sprinkle with salt and top with the second slice. Cut in half and eat!




Cucumber Sandwiches (Wilde Party Essential)

27 Mar

There is nothing that says English high tea quite like cucumber sandwiches. They call to mind white lace tablecloths, starched just so; the fine china; someone’s Aunts Augusta and Elizabeth; itchy wool socks, the smell of wet dogs just come in from a run in the garden, that sort of thing.

But when you are reading Oscar Wilde’s  The Importance of Being Earnest with friends, two things become apparent.

Watch them disappear

Watch them disappear

One is that it is not the prissy or genteel aunts who are nibbling delicately on the the cucumber sandwiches…no, no. they never get a chance. In this play of love and marriage and double entendres, it is the naughty, insouciant young gentlemen who can’t keep their hands off those cucumber sandwiches and who eat them up before anyone else has a chance. If you choose to look into this further, you might make some connections between the rigidity of social norms of the times and the lust for life that busts out around the edges of it all. Or you might not.

The second thing that becomes apparent is that cucumber sandwiches are fantastic. This is the recipe: Good white sandwich bread from a bakery (thanks to David and Citarella), crusts removed (thanks to Ashley), good salted butter (Irish, in this case), and thinly sliced English hothouse cucumbers (unpeeled, by executive decision; if they’d been the thick-peeled American ones, the peels would have had to come off), topped with a sprinkle of sea salt before putting the top slice of bread on, and there you have them.

“Why are these so good?” Lori kept asking me. “What is it?”

And there really isn’t a particular answer to that except that every one of the ingredients was exactly right. But they are really, really good, and I can see plates of these disappearing off the picnic platters this summer at my house.

Why are they so good? Because they are.

Why are they so good? Because they are.

For more on throwing a play-reading party, click here.

French Toast-ed Croissant and Apple Sandwiches

21 Sep

After our last very successful French toast adventure, my friend Pam suggested we try French toast croissants.

How pretty are these local eggs (from Makinajian Poultry Farm in East Northport area)

How pretty are these local eggs (from Makinajian Poultry Farm in East Northport area)

As I had mini-croissants in the fridge, I thought that was a fine idea! She also mentioned that she uses any leftovers for lunchbox sandwiches and that got me to thinking…how can I pump up the nutrition and texture…and maybe convince my son to eat sandwiches (which would be an easier lunch solution for me!).

French toast croissants are pretty good without the apple too!

French toast croissants are pretty good without the apple too!

So, I split the croissants and gave them tth French toast treatment, drizzled with maple syrup and cinnamon and stuffed with thinly-sliced apple. The result was like an apple turnover, without the extra sugar and with a lot more crunch. I am sure if you are a peanut butter family, a good schmear would be tasty, as would cream cheese!

A delicious autumn breakfast

A delicious autumn breakfast

French Toast Croissant and Apple Sandwiches

1-2 Tbs butter

3 eggs

¼ Cup milk

12 mini-croissants (or 4-6 standard size), split

Maple syrup


1 apple, cored and sliced thin (peeled or unpeeled is up to you)

Melt the butter in a skillet at medium to medium high.

Beat the eggs and milk together on plate or bowl that is wide enough to accommodate a split croissant, but won’t spill over.

Dip each croissant in the egg mixture on both sides just before placing in the skillet (do not soak the bread). Cook about two minutes on each side. Drizzle with maple syrup and sprinkle with cinnamon. Place a thin layer of apple on one side, close up the sandwich and eat!

Quickie Meatloaf Dressed Up with a Salty-Sweet Glaze

17 Dec

Anxious times call for simple home-cooking with a big dollop of comfort.

I had my first taste of meatloaf in the third grade at a friend’s house in the apartment block we lived in in Queens, NY. Having grown up until then on mostly Latin-Caribbean food — except for pizza and bagels and Thanksgiving turkey; I did say Queens, NY, didn’t I? — meatloaf was a revelation to me. I ran upstairs in excitement and demanded that it become a regular on our table, and it did, albeit with different seasonings and sauces.

Glorious glaze for a simple meatloaf

Glorious glaze for a simple meatloaf

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Pressed Sandwich with No Press(ure)

13 Jun

As the maniacal good-foodie mom of a kid about to enter kindergarten, I am turning my attention to future lunchbox fillers that can compete with Tater Tots and Elio’s Pizza (can you tell what I ate in high school?). Sandwiches are going to have to be an integral part of my strategy, but wouldn’t you know it? The kid doesn’t eat sandwiches (nor do I very often, to be fair).

So when he finally tried and loved grilled cheese sandwiches at his daycare, I felt a sense of relief. The breakthrough I was hoping for has happened!

However, me being me, it is, of course, not possible to slap a couple of slices of American cheese on white toast and relax. I didn’t really want to make a production out of it, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a good-looking pressed sandwich with real cheese and real bread? Except that I don’t have a sandwich press.

It didn’t matter. With a bit of invention, I made some delicious grilled cheese sandwiches with grill marks, even! I used my grill pan, and to achieve the press, I took a heavy skillet (with a clean bottom!) and laid it on top. Then I placed another heavy pot on top, so I could walk away for a few minutes without having to press it myself.

And I got high marks from the little guy and at least one sandwich solution ready for September….Whee-hee! Who knows where we can get from here? I’m thinking BLT, baby!

Pressed Sandwich Without a Real Press

¼ tsp oil or spritz of oil spray

Four sandwich slices of bread, spread with a scraping of butter (I lightly toast mine first)

2-3 oz soft, meltable cheese (cheddar, Monterey jack, muenster, gouda), sliced

Heat grill pan or skillet with a smear of oil or spray.

Have another heavy pan at the ready.

Lay two slices of bread, buttered side up, on the grill pan. Top with cheese slices. Cover with remaining slices of bread and press under second pan. Use another heat-proof pot on top to weigh it down. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and allow to cool a few minutes before slicing. Serve!


Lunchbox Solutions (stuffed tortillas x3)

29 Mar

 Most days I just have a salad for lunch. I shouldn’t say “just,” as my salads these days tend to be heavily-loaded with seeds, nuts, beans, dried fruit and cheeses, in addition to the standard lettuce-cuke-tomato base. I love loads of different textures in my meal.

But even with the ever-changing ingredients, sometimes I have to switch it up.

That’s when I grab myself a packable wrap (I do not like sandwiches all that much…the bread: filler ratio is too skewed towards the bread) or slap together a cheesy quesadilla, often using leftovers and bits from the fridge. Quesadillas, especially, are a lifesaver for Leandro’s lunchbox. He doesn’t like sandwiches either, but melt cheese and leftovers in a tortilla and he is all over it.

So here are some of the lunch solutions, including a new tuna salad recipe inspired by a reader! Erin commented that she modified my mayo-chipo-ketchup dip to dress her tuna salad, I knew she was onto something, so I did it too. Thanks Erin!

The asparagus wrap comes from a previous post, but it is so easy to roast asparagus and I make it so often that I thought it was worth repeating, especially as asparagus comes into season!

Okay, so you can't see the beans very well, but I liked this picture!

Black Bean Quesadillas

 1/2 Tbs olive oil

One small onion, chopped

(optional – chopped red or green pepper; if I have end bits that need to be used, I chop ’em up and put them in too)

one 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained (or one pint beans, if using home-soaked)

half a chicken or vegetable stock cube (the whole thing, if the beans are low sodium)

5-10 oz sliced cheddar or monterey jack cheese (or grated)

3 – 4 soft tortillas

Heat oil in a small pot on medium high. Add onions, stir, then lower heat to allow to soften. Add beans, 1/4 Cup water and stock cube and simmer up until thick. To make a quesadilla, heat a  skillet to medium with just a smear of oil. The skillet shold be large enough for the whole tortilla to lay flat. Lay the tortilla down and put a single layer of beans on one half. Lay cheese on top of the beans, as desired, making sure to put it on the edge. Fold tortilla over the beans and cheese and press flat. When the cheese on the edges melts, flip. Flip a few more times to desired crispness. Repeat until you are out of ingredients. Slice into wedges (a pizza slice works well) and serve with Mexican-style condiments.

Admittedly not the best-wrapped tuna sandwich around -- you should see me struggle with birthday presents...

Mayo-Chipo-Ketchup for Tuna Salad

(play around with the proportions to suit your taste; Erin eliminated the ketchup, if I am not mistaken)

1 Tbs prepared mayonnaise

1 Tbs plain yogurt (nonfat or lowfat are fine)

1 tsp ketchup (optional)

1 tsp chipotle in adobo (minced)

1 tsp lime juice

1 clove garlic, minced fine

5oz can tuna, drained (you will have enough dressing for two cans, or reserve remaining dressing for other dipping purposes)

1/4 red onion, minced fine

1 small celery stalk, minced fine (optional)

Pinch salt, if desired

two 8-inch tortillas

Mix all ingredients (except tuna, red onion, and optional celery) in a bowl. Add tuna, red onion and optional celery and mix well. Salt to taste and serve atop a salad or in a wrap with avocado, cucumber spears, carrot spears, sliced red peppers, sliced tomatoes (sun-dried, of you like!) or other crunchy or creamy salad fixings.

(For tortilla: warm tortillas — soft, burrito-style preferred — in a toaster oven set to toast for 1 minute, on a hot skillet for 30 seconds or so, each side, or wrap in dampened paper towel and heat in microwave for 15 seconds on high.)

Wrap and go

Asparagus Wraps

1/2 lb asparagus spears, bottoms snapped off and set aside for stock/another day

1 red pepper, top and seeds removed, sliced long

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus a smear of olive oil for the skillet (only if sauteing the peppers)

½ pint small tomatoes (grape, cherry, Sungold), halved

1-2 Tbs prepared hummus per wrap (about 1 Cup)

4-5 wrappers of your choice (tortillas for example)

If roasting the asparagus and red pepper, preheat oven to 400°F. Coat vegetables in olive oil and roast 20 minutes, turning once or twice, until fairly tender. You may also simmer the asparagus for five minutes in water instead and follow skillet instructions for red pepper.

In a skillet, warm each wrap until soft and pliable and keep warm on a plate, covered (may also be heated in microwave, following package instructions).

In the same skillet, warm a bit of olive oil on medium to cook the red pepper (if you haven’t already roasted it) until tender. Add the roasted vegetables and the raw tomato halves to the skillet and cook on high about three minutes, until the tomatoes look slightly charred and softened, shaking the pan frequently. Go back to the wraps, smear one half of each with a tablespoon or two of hummus. On the half that has the hummus, place a few vegetables. Roll up and serve, or pack up for an excellent work lunch or beach snack.

Tuna Salad (With two secret ingredients)

2 Feb

As a sandwich filler or a salad topper, tuna is a star. Open the can, drain, and mix with a couple of staple condiments and you are good to go.

So, this is not a rocket-science post. But the way I make tuna salad is better than average. There are two reasons. One is a tip I learned in high school from one of my longtime besties — who is now Leandro’s godmother– and one is a secret of my own.

The first is ketchup, which cuts some of the fishiness with a bit of sweetness and zing. I got that one some after-school afternoon in the early days of MTV, when Marianne’s family had cable (an “A-ha” moment, for those of you who remember. Or it ” Buggles”  the mind to think about?) so we’d dash home to snack and watch the same three videos in endless loop…

The second secret is replacing half the mayo with nonfat plain yogurt which lightens it up and gives it a nice tang (I also do this with potato salad).

These days sustainabilty and food safety are big issues, so I don’t eat as much tuna as I used to (the sustainable kinds being comparatively expensive). But I’ll stray from cheap on this one and let you know I buy Wild Planet which is troll- and pole- fished and got a passing grade from Greenpeace rankings in Canada (I couldn’t find U.S. rankings). Wild Planet says it has more Omega-3s and less mercury that other brands; I choose to believe it, because that is the most convenient thing to do.

UK readers can visit for ratings of tinned tuna.

Additionally, for American readers, the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch Pocket Guide is a printable wallet-guide to good seafood choices that I find invaluable.

Tuna Salad (two servings)

5 oz. can tuna packed in water, drained

½  medium onion (white onion is very nice here), chopped fine

1 celery stalk, minced

1 Tbs mayonnaise

1 Tbs nonfat (or lowfat) plain yogurt

1 tsp prepared mustard

½ tsp ketchup (or to taste)

Salt and pepper to taste

(Additional optional ingredient suggestions – ½ tsp minced sundried tomatoes in oil, 1 small carrot, minced, hard-boiled egg chopped; ½  tsp tiny capers; 1 tsp minced olives; ½ tsp minced pickles)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Serve on salad or in sandwiches.

Black Bean and Quinoa Burgers (Baked!)

20 Jan

In my other life I am a full-time college professor teaching intensive academic English to immigrants and foreign students who need a bit more English to be able to make it in the mainstream of our local community college.

I don’t make a whole lot of money (although there are other perks to living the higher education life!) and until my son enters kindergarten, I have a big fat daycare bill every month, so I am not dropping $10 a day on going out to lunch. No WAY.

I try, as much as possible, to prepare three wholesome, homemade meals a day for me and my son (and they are not always the same meal  — my kingdom for a dishwasher….) and do it on the cheap. I triple recipes and freeze portions for greater efficiency. And I am always searching for new takes on standard ingredients.

So here is a new recipe for black bean burgers, inspired by Vegetarian Times. This addition of quinoa — a super-grain that is super-easy to prepare — creates a phenomenal texture and you can really substitute whichever spices you like; here I used adobo powder to good effect. ATTENTION VEGANS: the quinoa holds everything together, so there are NO EGGS needed!

You can also freeze the extra; a great plus. I did them from dry beans, soaked overnight with a bit of salt, then simmered for a couple of hours, but I include the measurements for using canned beans too.

Full disclosure: Leandro loved the texture and did not like the taste AT ALL. So I will get to pack them for my lunches for the next few weeks and next time I make these, I will fiddle around with flavors. VegTimes suggests steak seasoning (which is vegetarian) so maybe I will go that route.

Here’s to a delicious and healthy Spring Semester, starting now at a college near me!

Black Bean and Quinoa Burgers

1.5 Cups cooked quinoa (prepared according to package directions)

1 small onion, chopped fine (about 1 Cup)

6 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained indifferently and finely chopped

1.5 Cups cooked black beans (or 15 oz. can black beans rinsed and drained, divided in half)

3 cloves garlic, minced (about 3 Tbs)

2 Tbs adobo

(Optional: Burger fixings – buns, sliced onion, cheese, mustard, ketchup, sliced avocado, etc)

Saute onion and tomatoes in a large nonstick skillet and cook over medium heat (you probably won’t need additional oil as the tomatoes will have enough).  Cook 5 minutes, until onion is well-softened. Stir in black beans (half if using canned), garlic, adobo and 1.5 Cups water and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated and the beans are softened (you may need more water if using beans from dry). Season with salt and pepper if necessary and allow to cool.

Transfer bean mixture to food processor. Add half the quinoa and process until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and mix in the remaining quinoa (and remaining beans if using canned).

Preheat oven to 350°F and coat baking sheet with cooking spray. Shape bean mixture into ½ Cup patties (8-9) and place on baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes on each side until both sides are crisp and brown and serve with fixings of your choice.

Festive Turkey Salad (With sweetness AND crunch!)

25 Nov

Happy Thanksgiving all! Regular readers will recognize this post from LAST Thanksgiving!!! See you soon; I am off to make broth…

My favorite quick dress-up for food that takes me from workaday-dull to bright and shiny: dried cranberries and walnuts.

My take-to-work breakfast? Plain nonfat yogurt, swirled up with some honey, a handful of cranberries and another handful of walnuts (bought in big bags at Costco – they last and last). Crunchy, creamy and sweet – oh yeah.

At home, I add them to spike up instant oatmeal. I also substitute half the raisins in oatmeal raisin cookies with cranberries for a brighter flavor and add walnuts for crunch and depth.

Boring salad? Add handfuls of cranberries and walnuts and make it fancy-schmancy (especially good with orange/clementine segments, red onion and feta – separately or in combination).

Today I incorporated them into my leftover turkey salad. Zippy!

Leftover Turkey Salad

leftover turkey, removed from bone, gristly bits removed, and chopped into small squares (2-3 cups)

handful dried cranberries

handful chopped walnuts

one celery stalk, chopped fine (mostly because I don’t really like celery)

half a red onion, finely chopped

4 -5 Tbs mayo and nonfat plain yogurt in whatever ratio you prefer

1 Tbs brown or yellow mustard

Mix all together in a bowl and serve in sandwiches or over salad.

Notes: Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon), blueberries and Concord grapes, are the only commercially-grown native North American fruits! They are loaded with vitamin C and dietary fiber and manganese and other good things and may very well help prevent some urinary tract infections in women, but the jury is still out on that.

Flex-Mex Shredded Chicken (one step, one pot) and easy red beans

29 Oct

I had about two pounds of boneless chicken breast defrosted and one of Leandro’s besties and his mom coming over for a congenial play date and dinner. I have the habit of fussing in the kitchen when they come over, as Amanda is an appreciative eater who likes to try new stuff. For the kids I usually make macaroni and cheese (from a box that — try not to roll your eyes — purports to be organic. Is this the foodie equivalent of ordering a bacon cheeseburger, fries and a diet Coke?)

This time, I wanted to be able to do more sitting and talking than mucking about with pots and pans. I don’t want my guests to be speaking to my back as I stir something on the stove and I just didn’t feel like making a second meal for the kids. I hate doing that, actually, but end up there more than I like to admit.

So this recipe — which I adapted from others I have done or read — was perfect. Just bung everything into a pot and a half hour later you have tasty, crowd-pleasing goodness that you can pile onto other Mexican-infused ingredients. On this occasion I made quick quesadillas with red beans (another one pot dish, see below) and Cheddar and Dominican white cheese which Leandro, Amanda and I ate, accompanied with avocado, cilantro and red onion. The revelation was Lucas, a bit more of a picky eater, who tasted the quesadilla (both the all-cheese just-in-case one and a chicken one) which by itself would’ve been cool, but who ended up loving the chicken on its own and eating several servings!

And yes, I sat – we all sat down to dinner together, in fact — and I didn’t fuss! Hurray!

Mexican-Style Shredded Chicken

2 lbs boneless chicken breasts

½ Cup onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 stock cube and four cups of water OR four cups of your favorite chicken stock

1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced, seeds removed (1 pepper was not very spicy; play with this proportion according to your taste)

Place all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for at least 20 minutes until chicken is thoroughly cooked. If you have time, you can cook it longer for more tenderness. Remove from heat and remove chicken from any remaining liquid. Allow to cool, shred, and serve – hot or cold — in your favorite Mexican-style recipes (quesadillas, tacos, with rice, on salads). Flavor affinities include avocado, lime, cilantro, kidney beans.

Easy Red Kidney Beans

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbs minced onion

1 half stock cube

1 tsp oregano

1/4-1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable juice (less water for drier beans)

1 15 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 tsp chopped cilantro

Saute onion in olive oil until tender. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for 15 minutes until flavors are incorporated.

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