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It is my understanding the the spring issue of Teton Family Magazine is being distributed in Jackson and Teton Valley today. This issue is the local foods issue. I was lucky enough to get an article published in this issue…although I was only allowed 300 words plus the recipe. (I am the article on the very last page called Parting Shots). The article was my attempt to go as local and from scratch as possible. I promised to post more pictures and the recipes for the pasta and guanciale here. So with no further ado…

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara Teton Valley Style

Making things from scratch gives me a tremendous amount of satisfaction. I rarely buy bottled dressings or sauces. Growing up, my family called me Martha (as in Stewart) because I decided my hot chocolate needed fresh marshmallows. Last year I even attempted homemade organic Twinkies. I failed.

Recently, the ultimate “from scratch” recipe dropped into my lap, home cured guanciale. I had never before heard of guanciale (cured pig cheeks), but soon discovered that everyone I knew who had eaten it, was smitten. I was told that guanciale melted in your mouth and made pasta carbonara that was to die for.

Pasta carbonara is a staple in our home. Its beauty is in its simplicity; pasta, egg, cheese, and bacon. I became obsessed with the idea of making guanciale for my carbonara. This proved a bit more difficult than I expected. Instead of jowls, I was given two intact pig’s heads. I set about clumsily cutting into their flesh and ended up with three slabs of cheek meat. I rubbed them with salt, sugar and spices, refrigerated them for a week and then hung the cheeks to cure in my root cellar.

I dreamed of the finished dish, made with eggs from our chickens and homemade pasta. Then the idea was given to grind local wheat berries into flour for the pasta. Now things were getting out of hand, but I couldn’t turn back.

A month later, the big day arrived. Twirling my fork around the strands of spaghetti, my mouth began to water. The pasta was nutty and tender, the egg and cheese rich, and the guanciale melted like butter…VERY salty butter. Oh well. The Martha in me is not deterred. I will try again, and next time, I’m making raw milk parmesan cheese too.

Simple Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

There are many variations to this dish, including adding vegetables, wine or cream. Growing up my dad loved to add sauteed asparagus and mushrooms. The vegetables are usually added after the pasta has been tossed with the eggs and bacon. For variations with wine or cream (though I have not tried and thus cannot vouch for either) look here or here.

Yield 4 main course portions

1 lb dried spaghetti

1/3 lb cured pork (guanciale, pancetta, prosciutto or bacon)

1 Tbs olive oil (if using pancetta or prosciutto)

3 eggs

½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

  • Cut cured pork into small cubes or slice into thin strips.
  • In a small bowl, whisk eggs, cheese and pepper together. Set aside.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook until tender, yet firm. About 8-10 minutes.
  • While pasta cooks, sauté cured pork in a 12” deep skillet over medium heat. If cooking prosciutto or pancetta, add olive oil to pan first and then put in pork. If using guanciale or bacon, add it directly to pan. Sauté until crispy, about 3 minutes. Drain all but 2-3 Tbs of oil/fat, leaving the cured pork in the pan.
  • Once pasta is cooked, strain it, reserving ½ cup pasta water. Add pasta to pan with  cooked pork. Toss to coat with the rendered fat and remove the pan from heat.
  • Add egg mixture to the pan of pasta and pork. Toss while egg and pasta mixture thickens. The hot pasta will heat the egg, but will not cook it completely. If this is a concern, set the pan back on low heat for a moment. You may add pasta water if the dish is too thick or appears dry.
  • Serve immediately with extra parmesan on top.

The process of making guanciale in pictures along with the recipe below, from carving out the jowls to salting, to hanging to the final cooked product.

Home Cured Guanciale

Taken from the Babbo Restaurant website

Makes 2 pounds
½ cup sugar
½ cup kosher salt
10 to 15 whole black peppercorns
4 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves
2 pounds hog jowls

1. In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, salt, peppercorns and thyme. Coat the hog jowls with the mixture, rubbing gently. Place the jowls in a nonreactive casserole, cover, and refrigerate for 5 to 7 days.
2. Remove the jowls from the casserole and tie a piece of butcher’s twine around the middle of each. Hang the jowls in a dry cool place (it should not be warmer than 60ºF.) for a t least 3 weeks. They should be firm and dry, with a slight give. Slice and use like bacon or pancetta.

For our wedding, Jeff and I got the Kitchen Aid pasta roller attachment. I was excited to use it, but it remained in storage until I got the assignment to make my pasta carbonara for Teton Family Magazine. The spring issue is all about local food. Originally I thought it would be great to use my house cured guanciale and make pasta with store bought flour. Then my friend Claire upped the challenge and reminded me that I had locally grown organic wheat berries. Jeff has a 6 bucket system where he sprouts the berries to feed to our chickens so they get fresh greens in the winter. Claire’s dad has a hand cranked grain mill in his house. So…Super Bowl Sunday I drove on over to Glen’s house and spent an hour, sweating and grunting to grind a few pounds of flour.


Next I headed back home and began the process of making the pasta dough. I bought some white and whole wheat flour at the store just in case my flour didn’t work out.


Making the pasta dough with eggs from our chickens

Our hens

Here are some pictures of the first three pasta balls...on top is my flour, in the middle is the store bought whole wheat flour and on the bottom is the white flour.


Then I realized that the freshly ground flour looked a bit grainy. The wheat bran would have to be removed. I searched my mostly empty kitchen (we are in the midst of a full house remodel) and decided to try out the metal splatter thingy that we put over the pan when we are cooking bacon. It worked wonders.








Left to Right: store bought white, sifted freshly ground wheat, store bought wheat, unsifted freshly ground wheat

Finally it came time to roll out the dough and make the pasta. Unfortunately I could not use the pasta roller and take pictures at the same time, so there are no pics of that process…but I must say having used a hand crank pasta maker and the Kitchen Aid roller, I cannot recommend enough the Kitchen Aid roller. It makes the process so incredibly easy. Ok, enough product endorsement. And so, the what you have all been waiting for…the final product.


“Neopolitan Pasta” Left to Right: store bought white, store bought wheat, sifted freshly ground wheat

The unsifted fresh flour didn’t work out at all, but the sifted flour was AMAZING. I brought the plate down the street to a friend’s Super Bowl Party. Everyone who tasted agreed, the freshly ground flour was by far the best tasting of the three. It was rich and nutty, yet quite delicate all at the same time. Now all I need to do is buy the grain mill attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer and I will be set!

Fresh Egg Pasta

from the Kitchen Aid pasta roller manual

4 large eggs

1 Tbs water

3 1/2 c sifted flour (preferably freshly ground)

1/2 tsp salt

Place eggs, water, flour and salt in mixer bowl. Attach bowl and flat beater. Turn to speed 2 and mix 30 seconds.

Exchange flat beater for dough hook. Turn to Speed 2 and knead 2 minutes. Remove dough from bowl and hand knead for 1 to 2 minutes. Let rest 20 minutes. Divide dough into 4 pieces before processing with Pasta Sheet Roller attachment.

For those of you who have a hand crank pasta maker here is a link to Jaime Oliver’s egg pasta recipe. I made this 2 years ago for some friends and we all really enjoyed it. Just a little more labor intensive…but well worth it!


My Kitchen Wisdom

Q: I have to be gluten-free, otherwise I feel just lousy.  I was wondering if you had any special tips or recipes for eating gluten free?  Thanks, Emily

A: If I asked you ten years ago if you knew anyone who was following a gluten free diet, you would have given me a blank stare in response. Now it seems I can quickly rattle off a long list of people I am acquainted with who have either experimented with a gluten free diet or are presently living a life devoid of baguettes. While some people, including myself, go gluten free for cleanse or detoxification purposes, many do so after discovering they either have a gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease.

I present a BIG disclaimer…I am not a doctor. There are countless books, websites and blogs dedicated fully to this topic. This topic changes by the minute, so I will keep my “medical” information brief. Gluten is a generic name for protein found in grains. Every grain has its own protein. The most common gluten problems are found within wheat, barley, and rye. When people are affected by gluten they may fall anywhere on a large scale from those with a mild intolerance to those with Celiac Disease. People with gluten intolerance have issues digesting the proteins. Celiac Disease or CD for short is much more serious. CD is an inherited autoimmune condition that causes intestinal damage when one with the disease ingests any amount of wheat, barley or rye. The frightening part about CD is you may not have symptoms and if left untreated, you can do irreversible harm to your body. If someone in your family has CD, you feel crummy after eating gluten or what I just said made you paranoid, please go to a doctor and get tested. Knowing if you have a gluten problem and where you fall on the scale will make it easier to get on a gluten free (GF) diet and stick with it.

Is life over if you have to go gluten free? Absolutely not, though I am sure my gluten obsessed husband would disagree. My recommendation is do not get overwhelmed by the amount of food items you cannot eat. There are so many more that you can.

Think clean and simple…meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices, oats, rice, corn and quinoa. Aside from wheat, barley, and rye, the above foods are the main diet of the majority of the world and have been since humans walked the earth. It is only in recent decades that foods have become processed with stabilizers and preservatives (many of which contain gluten). Make a list of all of the meals that you already eat that are gluten free. Enjoy those meals with abandon.

Get support…Find someone who is already living gluten free and has a similar level of intolerance. Ask for their advice. Check out magazines and blogs with up to date info and recipes. (See below for a list of resources and recipes). A little support when starting a new diet and lifestyle goes a long way.

Everyday things to make life easier… Get familiar with ingredients such as rice flour, potato flour, arrowroot, tapioca, Xanthan gum and wheat free tamari. (Advice to sushi lovers…bring along a bottle of the gluten free tamari when you hit your favorite sushi spot. There is no need to forgo salty soy goodness with your sashimi). Oats are fine, but people with CD have to worry about cross contamination during processing. Look for oats that are labeled Gluten Free. Get a bread machine. It will save you a ton of money. Pamela’s brand mixes for bread, brownies, etc are the #1 most recommended of my friends. I recommend looking for retailers like who sell by the case. Udi brand premade breads are also popular and are found in the freezer sections of many grocery stores. Find restaurants that have gluten free (GF) menu items. Please note, most all commercial kitchens have flour floating around in them. Some people may be more sensitive to the cross contamination than others. Those folks in Teton Valley can find  GF pizza crust at Tony’s,  GF bread for sandwiches at Thyme Out and my favorite, the Florentiner at Pendl’s Pastries. (Florenteiners can be ordered on the website for delivery during the Christmas holiday season.) Need an adult beverage? Wine, rum, tequila and potato vodka are in the clear.  There are even GF beers on the market.

Finally…if your favorite food contains gluten and you can’t find a GF version or those commercially made are not to your liking, try and recreate it yourself. This is a great opportunity to learn how to cook new things, eat wholesome foods and live a healthier life. A life without gluten is still a life worth living!

Lemon Chicken with Croutons

Makes 2-4 servings (depending on appetite)

I made Ina Garten’s version of this recipe for a friend with CD and her family. Ina stuffs a whole fryer chicken with the lemons, which is great for serving a large group. For those of you like me, who have two people to feed and a dislike for multiple days of leftovers, chicken thighs work well. You can find Ina’s recipe here. Any gluten free bread will do for this recipe, but Pamela’s white sandwich bread is especially sweet and delicious. Make the croutons while the chicken is roasting.

4 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs

2 medium onions (preferably sweet), thin sliced (~6 cups)

1 ½ lemons, sliced

5-6 Tbs olive oil, divided

1 Tbs unsalted butter, melted

Salt and Pepper, to taste

4-5 slices gluten free sandwich bread, such as Uti’s or Pamela’s

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Place onions in a large cast iron skillet, Dutch oven or roasting pan. Toss with 2 Tbs olive oil.

Brush butter on chicken thighs and season with salt and pepper. Place chicken on top of onions. Slide one lemon slice under the skin of each thigh and lay the remaining lemon slices over the chicken.

Place dish in oven and roast for 45 minutes or until chicken registers 160ºF and its juices run clear when pierced.  The onions should be caramelized (the darker they are, the better). If they are not, remove the chicken from the pan and return the onions to the oven to continue cooking while the chicken rests. Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes. (It will continue cooking during this time).

Portion out the croutons to each plate. Top with onions, chicken and any drippings left in the pan. Remove lemon slice from under the chicken skin. Dig in.


Cut up gluten free bread into crouton shaped squares. Heat a large skillet until hot. Reduce the heat to low, add 3 Tbs olive oil and bread. Season bread with salt and pepper and toss frequently, adding more olive oil if bread seems dry. Sauté until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes.

Gluten Free Resources:

Celiac Disease Foundation

Celiac Spruce Association Diet and Lifestyle Info

USDA Food Allergies and Intolerance Resource List

Living Without Magazine

Gluten Free Girl

Gluten Free Goddess

Pamela’s Products Website

Whole Foods List of Gluten Free Foods that the Grocer Retails and Links to more GF sites

Wegman’s Grocery Store Gluten Free Products

Bon Appetit Top 6 Gluten Free Products

Fresh Gluten Free Egg Pasta I am not a fan of rice pasta, so I am dying to try and make this.

More Single Chef Gluten Free Recipes I didn’t realize how many recipes I already had that were gluten free!

Mel’s Veggie Burgers (replace the 1 Tbs flour with rice, potato or oat flour)

Broiled Lamb with a Balsamic Demi-Glace

Simple French Lentils and Veggies

Chicken Soup

Sausage, Spuds and Cabbage

Onion Soup

Pork Chops and Apples in a Cream Sauce

Halibut with a Warm Grapefruit Butter Sauce


Meatloaf (Substitute GF oats for the breadcrumbs or make your own breadcrumbs. Tear GF bread into chunks and leave out overnight. Put in food processor and pulse until they reach the desired consistency).


Q: I am making a braised beef brisket that requires a “dry red wine” but does not recommend a type. I have a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon in the house. Do I need to buy something different? ~ Erica

A: Ah, the eternal cooking with wine question. I have stewed (no pun intended) over this same question many times. What exactly does it mean when it says dry wine and why do so many chefs get caught up with listing “good dry red wine” in their recipes. What I think is good might not be what you think is good. The quick no nonsense answer to Erica’s question is no, you don’t need to buy anything different. Use the Cabernet. For more information on cooking with wine than Erica asked for, read on.

Wine does many things in foods. Often it is used to impart complexity and richness to a dish, add acidity, marinate a piece of meat or deglaze a pan. Many savory recipes call for “dry” white or red wines. Technically speaking, the amount of sugar left over at the end of fermentation determines whether the wine is dry or sweet. The more sugar left at the end, the sweeter the wine. When a recipe calls for a “dry wine” it is not referring to the amount of tannins in a wine (which leave a dry taste in your mouth). Rather, it is asking you to avoid a wine that is “sweet.” Merlot, Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are all examples of dry wines. Port, Sherry, Madeira, Muscat, ice wine and late harvest wine are examples of sweet wines. Grapes, such as Riesling, Viognier and Gewürztraminer can be fermented to be either sweet or dry. Cooking wine and sherry do not belong in any category and should be avoided at all costs as they contain salt and other preservatives.

If you want to be a stickler for wine cooking etiquette, you will cook with wine that exhibits flavors similar to those within the dish you are cooking. For instance, last week I was making a lamb stew that included cinnamon. I went to Alpine Wines and Mike helped me pick out a Syrah which was rich and had hints of cinnamon. Good pairing. Yesterday, though, as I made a pot of marinara sauce, I decided that the Tempranillo that I had open from the night before would be fine. I am sure a lovely Italian Chianti would have been a better match, but I find no reason to waste a perfectly good open bottle of vino.

Most food and wine experts will say, if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it. This statement is not only false, but also not helpful, especially if you don’t drink. My mother used to cook Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon using Charles Shaw Merlot or Cabernet because the recipe called for an entire bottle of dry red wine. Those of you who have shopped at a Trader Joe’s know this to be nicknamed Two Buck Chuck, as it cost $1.99 a bottle (well at least it did 10 years ago). While my mom wouldn’t have been caught dead serving this at a dinner party, her Beef Bourguignon was delicious…and didn’t break the bank. If you are cooking a cheap cut of meat and need a lot of wine which will not be drastically reduced, try out an inexpensive wine. If you are heavily reducing the amount of wine in a dish, as would be the case with a pan sauce, I recommend spending the extra couple of dollars on a nicer bottle. When wine is reduced, its flavor is concentrated. If you use wine that has off flavors, those flavors will be intensified and your sauce will taste off.

There are options for those folks who don’t think they will go through an entire bottle of wine before it goes bad. Several winemakers are now making four packs of mini-bottles, with each bottle the equivalent of one glass of wine. I have heard people recommend boxed wine, but I find that unless you are drinking the wine as well as cooking with it, there is no way that one can finish off the entire box before the wine starts to oxidize in one to two months. Those of you with a stocked liquor cabinet can experiment with dry vermouth, brandy or cognac. If you don’t have the above or would rather not have booze around, stocks and broths can be used to deglaze pans and impart complexity. Vinegar and citrus juice or zest will add acidity. Experiment, have fun and above all, don’t ever take cooking with wine, or cooking in general too seriously.

Questions can be sent to

Cooking With Wine Recipes

When you are looking for quantity and quality is not as important (the wine won’t be reduced)

When you are reducing the amount of wine, as in a pan sauce, where quality does matter, so spend the extra couple of bucks.

It's so cute, it reminds me of Stoffer's French Bread Pizza, only better.

Jeff and I are currently staying in a house without an oven. Well, there is a wood burning stove that has an attached oven, but the only thing I have tried to cook in it was chocolate chip cookies and they were terribly burnt. The house does have a toaster oven that is big enough to cook a frozen pizza though. So Jeff and I, well mainly Jeff on the nights I have been working, enjoy making frozen pizzas for dinner. Tonight Jeff was off to ping pong at the Wildwood Room, also known as T.I.T.T.S (Teton International Table Tennis Society). I needed something to eat, but knew that I could not eat an entire frozen pizza…so I pulled the frozen cheese Freschetta Brick Oven pie out of the freezer and cut off 1/3rd. I topped it with artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes and when it was finished I topped it with fresh basil. Why had I not thought of this before?

Whether we are aware of it or not, each one of us has a go-to meal. You know the one. It usually comes out midweek, after a long day of work, when your brain is just too fried to come up with an original idea for dinner. You either have the ingredients on hand at all times in your pantry, fridge and/or freezer or you are able to quickly zoom into the grocery store and mindlessly head for exactly the right aisle, avoiding all unnecessary grocery shopping.

For some folks, the go-to girl is a frozen pizza, box of mac and cheese or just heading out to dinner. While I do not deny the pleasures of DiGiorno, I think it is important that we all develop a repertoire of homemade go-to-girls. Processed, prepackaged and restaurant foods are expensive. As most of us are busy people, if we didn’t have a go-to girl, we would be spending a fortune feeding ourselves each week.

For my mother, one of her go-to-girls was breaded and pan sautéed chicken. She would pound out the boneless chicken breasts, dip them in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs and finally would sauté them in butter with a squeeze of lemon. So simple, yet it is one of my favorite menu memories from childhood.

So how does one create a repertoire of go-to-girls? Luckily you probably already have one. Think about what you cook most often. It will likely not be the most exciting food, but it will be comforting and usually quick. What are the meals that you could sleepwalk through? These are your go-to-girls. Write them down on a list and keep it in your wallet. That way, the next time you are stumped for what to make for dinner, you can just pull out that list for easy ideas.

Your go-to-girls list will change as your tastes change or as the seasons change. Last year I made a simple coconut milk curry at least twice a month. This year I haven’t had a taste for it, but instead started making soups with white beans and greens. One go-to-girl that has been consistent for many years is my pasta with veggies and sausage. It takes me about 30 minutes. I often have the ingredients, but if I don’t, the grocery shopping is quick and easy. Making this dish requires no mental strain whatsoever and when I sit down with it, I feel like I’m eating a big bowl of love.

Pasta with Sausage and Veggies

Italian sausage is one of the staples in my freezer. I love to buy the individual sausages, cut open the casing and add a little to soups, pasta or even put it on a frozen pizza. I like to buy the ones from the grocery store deli counter. They weigh about ¼ #  lb. each. If you can’t find them there, you can buy Johnsonville or any other brand in the meat section. Just make sure when freezing any extras, you leave a little space between them in the freezer bag prior to freezing. That way they won’t be stuck together. These are the amounts that I use when I cook. Feel free to add more or less based on your appetite.

1 Italian Sausage (about ¼ lb.), hot or mild

1 ½ tsp Olive oil

½ small Yellow Onion, chopped

1 clove Garlic, minced

3 large Mushrooms, sliced

1 Roma Tomato, seeded and diced (about ½ c)

½ c uncooked Tube Pasta, such as Penne or Rigatoni

Parmesan Cheese


  • Place a pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Add 1 1/2 Tsp salt for 2 quarts water.*
  • While water comes to a boil, heat sauté pan to medium heat. Add oil, onions and garlic. Sauté until onion begins to become translucent, ~ 5-10 minutes.
  • Cut casing off sausage and add sausage to pan. I like to flatten the sausage out, cook it on one side, flip it and then crumble it as the other side cooks.
  • While sausage cooks, add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  • When sausage is nearly cooked add the mushrooms and cook for another 3 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and sauté for 3-5 minutes longer.
  • Add pasta to veggies and sausage and toss. Place in a bowl and top with Parmesan Cheese.

*For a good laugh search “salted water for boiling” on and read the reviews.

Jeff loves to quote the line from My Big Fat Greek Wedding where Mia Vardalos tries to explain to her family that her boyfriend is a vegetarian and her aunt says “That is ok. We make lamb.” Don’t know why he likes to quote this, but he does. In fact, until Friday night I had never cooked lamb. No particular reason. Guess it just never came into my radar.

Last week at work, one of my customers told me that lamp chops were on sale $7 off a pound. We were having friends over for dinner so I thought, why not? Well I can say that it was incredibly simple and delicious. I thought the chops were going to be the cute little rib chops that you get at restaurants, instead they were 2″ thick center cut lamb loin chops. The grocery store was selling them in packs of two. I suppose a single chef could ask the butcher to repackage just one, but it is also a small cut of meat (won’t take up much freezer space)…so you could buy the two pack and freeze the other. *

I looked into some recipes and this is one that is tweeked from Cooking times for the lamb will vary. For rare to med-rare cook it about 2-3 minutes per inch a side under the broiler. I cooked mine 7 minutes first side, 5 on the second and they were perfectly med-rare. You could also make this recipe with a pork chop, steak or chicken breast. Cook accordingly. This was perfect served with mashed potatoes and sauteed greens.


1/8 c balsamic vinegar

1/8 c red wine

1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced or 1/4 tsp dried

3 peppercorns


1 lamb chop (whatever kind you can find)

1 small clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced or 1/4 tsp dried

salt and pepper to taste

Oil for broiler pan

  • Preheat the broiler.
  • Place vinegar, wine, rosemary and peppercorns in the smallest pan that you have and simmer until reduced by half (you will have about 2 Tbls of sauce). This will take about 8-12 minutes.
  • While sauce reduces, lightly oil the broiler pan and place the lamb chop on it. Sprinkle salt, pepper, 1/2 the garlic and 1/2 the rosemary on one side of the chop. Place under broiler and cook according to size of chop. When you are ready to flip, pull the chop out of the oven, flip it and sprinkle salt, pepper, and remaining garlic and rosemary on other side. Finish broiling.
  • Let lamb rest for 10 minutes. Plate lamb and pour sauce through a strainer over the lamb.

*For those of you who haven’t figured it out, I am usually the anti-freezing Single Chef. Although it is convenient to buy the big packs of things and freeze the ones you don’t use, and yes it is easy enough to cook a full 4-6 serving recipe and freeze the leftovers for later…let’s be honest. How many of you go into the depths of your freezer only to find leftover meat or soup from over a year ago? The more you freeze the worst the problem gets because then you can’t see what is in there. Alas, I think it is always best to buy smaller portions even though it may cost a bit more. You save money in the long run with less wasted food.  Save the freezer for small portions of tomato paste, chicken stock, coconut milk, ice cream and that life saver frozen pizza.

As many of you have noticed, The Single Chef has been slacking on her food writing this winter. My excuse last month was that I was out of town. My reason now is that by the end of the day, I have lost much of my creative motivation. I suppose cooking can be considered a labor of love with an ebb and a flow. There are times when I have been extremely passionate about food, voraciously reading cookbooks and magazines, seeking out several new recipes to try out in a week. There are also times, like now, when it takes every bit of energy I have left at the end of the day to crank out a box of macaroni and cheese. To get myself through this cooking rut I am telling myself that I should do what I can, when I can and have faith that the passion will return.

What I have found is that the “when I can” is in the morning when I still have motivation to get things done. Thus, the majority of the homemade meals we have been consuming this winter have been breakfasts.

This winter we have been eating a lot of eggs and potatoes. We jumped on the backyard chicken bandwagon this past year and have been blessed with somewhere between four and seven eggs a day. We also planted our first garden which provided us with an abundance of tubers. Cooking with two main ingredients as often as I do has caused me to be creative in my culinary endeavors. I make scrambles (I’m not an omelette fan), poached eggs, fried eggs…I make home fries and hash browns…but I must say that it was a stroke of genius that caused me to combine my eggs and potatoes for this month’s recipe. I work at a small bakery where we serve mini-quiches cooked in muffin tins. These little morsels are a huge hit and the perfect single chef meal. Problem is how many of us really want to crank out a pie crust first thing in the morning. And so I present you with Hash Brown Crusted Quiche.

Hash Brown Crusted Quiche

Quiche is a great way to use up random leftovers that are sitting around in your fridge. Sauté the veggies and/or meat while you cook the hash browns. By using hash browns we eliminate the use of wheat and YAHOO, all you gluten-free folks can go back to enjoying quiche! High starch potatoes like Russet make the best hash browns, but I use whatever we have in our root cellar. My friend Deneen even used a sweet potato. You can use any assortment of bake ware to crank out your quiche. I utilize a mini-muffin tin (recipe = 2 mini quiches), but you could just as easily use large muffin tins, Pyrex “custard” cups, silicone baking cups or mini tart pans. If you have a non-stick option, all the better. These quiche are fabulous served for breakfast with a side of fruit or for dinner with a side salad. Once cooked and cooled they freeze well, if you want to make extra for later.


1 small potato , shredded (about ½ c packed)

¼ c thinly sliced onion, optional

2 tsp olive oil, plus extra for oiling the bake ware


1 egg

2 tsp heavy whipping cream (or milk)

Salt and Pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons chosen from the following:

chopped cooked veggies such as broccoli, spinach, asparagus, bell pepper, onion

chopped fresh herbs

crumbled cooked bacon or sausage

diced ham

shredded or grated cheese such as Cheddar, Swiss, Monterey Jack, Gruyere

soft cheese such as mascarpone or goat cheese*

  • Preheat oven to 375º
  • Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat, add oil, potato and onion. Stir occasionally. Cook about 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender and beginning to brown.
  • Brush inside of muffin tins or other bake ware with olive oil. When potatoes are done, press hash browns into the bottom and side edges of the bake ware.
  • Beat together egg and whipping cream, stir in vegetables, meat and cheese.
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Pour egg mixture into hash brown crusts and bake for 20 minutes.

*If using soft cheeses, like goat cheese, your quiche may need to cook a little longer. Check it at 20 minutes and if the quiche is still soft pop it back in for 5 more minutes.

Sample Quiches:

  • Cheddar cheese and cooked diced ham
  • Quiche Lorraine: Bacon, Swiss and sautéed onion
  • Sautéed mushroom, bell pepper, onion and cheddar
  • Basil and goat cheese

Many folks  have been asking me if I was still writing my blog. No, you haven’t missed it. I have been out of town. Out of town and not cooking. While I am not going to get into the details, I will share this sad, but true fact with you. Over the course of about seven weeks I cooked a grand total of zero meals! Yes, I just said that over a month and a half I did not cook. How is that possible, you say? Well, I was visiting a lot of family and friends who felt the need to cook for us, take us out to eat and bring take out over to the house.

What, specifically did I eat, you ask? Now, I love pizza, but no one was meant to subsist on pizza several times a week. In our house we probably eat pizza once every two weeks or so. Often it is of the frozen variety with fresh ingredients (especially caramelized onions) added to make it fabulous. In Chicago, pizza comes with extra cheese and lots of sausage, which leads me to my next point. There is the unspoken rule that at least two meals a day in Chicago need to consist of meat. Don’t get me wrong. Jeff and I love animal protein, (remember the meat loaf tasting)? But I like to spread out my ingestion of beef and sausage to a few nights a week.  During our absence we ate sauce and balls (meatballs that is), sausage and peppers, steaks, braised short ribs and “Big Beef” (Two massive prime ribs for Flynn Fest Christmas). As for the restaurant and take out fare, we were no less decadent. There were scallops, lobster mac, sushi…more steaks, meat burritos, pork chops, fois gras and duck confit. I shouldn’t forget to mention the vats of wine and pots of coffee that we consumed.

Why am I sharing this with you? To rub it in? No, I am telling you about this because I was living the life of a professional food writer and I hated it. More importantly my body hated it and told me so. I do not need to share what happens to a healthy body when it subsists on the diet I have just explained. It isn’t pretty. So when I returned home I made a pact that I would put only simple, healthy, homemade ingredients into my body. For a week, I started my day with a bit of freshly made juice, I baked a loaf of bread every two days, I conjured up soups and stews nightly…and I foresaked my beloved morning latte and glass of wine with dinner. How did this make me feel? After one week of this “diet” my gall bladder decided not to go on strike, I dropped three pounds, the bags under my eyes that were big enough to take me around the world and back disappeared and I experienced some mental clarity that had escaped me for over a month.

Did I continue to “just say no” to rich, decadent foods? Heck no. After a week I asked Jeff to bring home a frozen pizza. The next night though, I went back to the pact of simple, real foods. While I am fairly certain that no one else in this valley has been to the extreme that I went to with food, the holidays are definitely a time for overindulgence. Make a pact with yourself this year. Try and cook simple food, made of real ingredients more nights than not. Your body, heart and mind will thank you.

Simple French Lentil Stew

This recipe is based off of one I got from my aunt in Seattle. French lentils are smaller than traditional brown or red lentils and don’t get quite as mushy. That being said, you can substitute any lentil, but may need to adjust cooking times. In the winter this stew is perfect served over brown rice with a hunk of homemade bread. In the summer, don’t add the carrots, tomatoes or greens, cool it in the fridge and serve tossed with baby spinach and a light vinaigrette. This makes enough for two servings, unless you are a Jeff-like eater (big appetite) in which it is enough for one big meal.

2 tsp olive oil

½ c diced yellow onion

1 medium clove garlic, minced

½ c diced carrot

2 canned tomatoes or ½ c diced tomato*

¾ c chicken or veggie broth**

¾ c water

1/3 c French lentils

1 small bay leaf

¼ tsp fresh thyme or 1/8 tsp dried

1-2 handfuls baby spinach, kale or Swiss chard

* Stew Version* Dash of red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar or 1 tsp lemon juice

*Salad Version* 1 Tbs olive oil, 1 tsp red wine or sherry vinegar, ¼ tsp Dijon mustard

  • Heat a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add olive oil, onion, and garlic. Sauté 5-8 minutes or until onion softens.
  • Add remaining ingredients, except greens. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook partially covered for 45 minutes or until lentils are cooked but still firm.
  • Stew Version: If using kale or chard, remove tough stems, roughly chop and add to stew 30 minutes into cooking. If using spinach, add 40 minutes into cooking. Serve over brown rice and toss with a dash of vinegar or the lemon juice.
  • Salad Version: Remove from heat and cool in refrigerator for a couple of hours. Mix olive oil, vinegar and mustard in a small jar. Toss lentils, spinach and vinaigrette in a bowl and serve.

* You can store unused diced or whole canned tomatoes in a jar in the fridge for a couple of days. If you don’t think you will use them, store them in the freezer in a small plastic storage container.

** Buy good quality broths. They do make a difference. You can freeze the leftover broth in ice cube trays and store in labeled Ziploc bags. 1 ice cube = appx 2 Tbs liquid. 2 Tbs = ¼ c. Repunzel makes a good veggie broth cube. The no salt is version is best. ½ cube = 1 c broth.

2 serving lentils