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bowl of green goddess mac and cheese on a green plate.

Adulting has been especially challenging this week, and comfort food has been as important as ever. Green Goddess Macaroni and Cheese has that magical combination of being carb-y, cheesy-gooey, and packed full of good-for-you stuff that ensures that if this is all you eat for a week, you'll at least be getting your vegetables.

This recipe amps up the adult factor with the addition of Dijon mustard and a few anchovies to the cheesy base. These additions offer an exciting depth of flavor snuggled up with the same cozy familiarity you expect from good ol' macaroni and cheese.

How Can I Help?

When the going gets tough for friends and family we ask, "How can I help?" Often the response is something like, "Well, there's nothing anyone can really do except send your love/ good energy/ healing thoughts/ prayers." I'm a big fan of asking the universe to surround my beloveds in need, but when I hear that there's nothing I can physically do to help it is frustrating to not DO something.

This week the shoe is on the other foot. I have been on the other side of those words how can I help? and have learned their hidden power.

Even when there is nothing practical others can do to help, the willingness of a friend to accept a small chunk of my burden has a remarkable effect. Every person who asks this forms a network of support and love that lessens my emotional weight. Every one of the beautiful souls who steps forward to ask how can I help? becomes an invisible army around us-- my family and me.

So never be discouraged if there's "nothing you can do". Your presence, your calls, your prayers and good juju are so important. So impactful. So encouraging. Such a display of kindness. Love personified, even.

And, if you can, show up with a dish like this one so your loved one is sure to eat their vegetables all wrapped up in the comfort of good ol' macaroni and cheese.

What Wine Should I Pair with Green Goddess Macaroni and Cheese?

Anchovies and Dijon mustard make this recipe incredibly wine-friendly, not that plain mac and cheese needs a lot of help with that! And this week there definitely has been wine! We found the 2020 Conde Valdemar Blanco Rioja from Valdemar Estates Winery in Walla Walla, Washington to be a better than perfect pairing. It is light, clean, and refreshing-- in other words, a wonderful foil to the rich cheese dish. This is truly a joyful wine.

Making Green Goddess Macaroni and Cheese

I used to always make mac and cheese with this ratio:
One pound pasta/ 4 tablespoons flour/ 4 tablespoons butter/ 4 cups milk/ 4 cups (one pound) shredded cheese. This ratio feeds a tribe.

Since most of us here are feeding one, two, three or four people on a daily basis I've revised my formula:
One-half pound pasta/ 2 tablespoons butter/ 2 tablespoons flour/ 2 cups milk/ 2 cups (1/2 pound) shredded cheese. In our household, that makes enough for a very handy two meals apiece. If you are feeding a bigger household, guests, or a gathering, just double the recipe as it is written.

Yes, there are little anchovy fishies tucked into this dish. Umami, friend! Do give them a try. Adding the raw broccoli florets to the mixture right before baking keeps them a wee bit crunchy and not lost in the creamy pasta. The crispy topping adds a wonderful textural note, too. You may be tempted to forgo that part, but it is a low-effort-high-reward addition.

You'll also note that I used our local favorite Tillamook Creamery Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses in this dish. If you don't have a local cheesemaker near you, these are worth seeking out.

platter of ingredients necessary for green goddess macaroni and cheese

Other Comfort Foods for When the Going Gets Rough. . .

. . . for you, or for those you love:
Carrot Risotto with Green Garlic Sauce: Recipe Here.
Easy Winter White Vegetable Soup and Infinite Variations: Recipe Here.

a serving bowl of green goddess macaroni and cheese on a green plate.

Green Goddess Macaroni + Cheese

Course: Main Dish, Quick + Easy, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Season: All Season
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 4
Familiar comfort food, with a green goddess veggie twist.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

Green Goddess Macaroni and Cheese

  • 8 oz. macaroni other small pasta regular or gluten free
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • ½ onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 oil-packed anchovies, drained and mined (optional)
  • 1 large stems broccoli, stem peeled and diced, florets broken apart
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose or rice flour use rice four of GF 1- to- 1 flour for GF
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. finely ground black pepper
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 6 oz. fresh spinach
  • 8 oz. grated cheddar, Monterey jack, or pepper jack cheese (2 cups) or a mix of any of these to equal 2 cups

Crispy Garlic Lemon Topping

  • ½ cup panko regular or gluten free
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, grated into bowl

Instructions

Make the Topping

  • Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, and stir thoroughly. Set aside.

Make the Mac and Cheese

  • Preheat the oven to 350°. Put a pot of salted water on to boil for the macaroni. Cook the macaroni according to package directions.
  • In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter. Add the diced onion, garlic, anchovies, and diced broccoli stems. (Reserve the broccoli florets for later.) Sauté over medium-high heat until the vegetables are tender, about five minutes.
  • Stir in the flour and salt and pepper. Add the milk and Dijon mustard, and continue stirring as the mixture thickens and begins to bubble, about 5-6 minutes.
  • Stir the spinach into the milk mixture until it is wilted. Use a blender (working in batches) or a immersion blender right in the pot to blend the vegetables into the milk mixture, turning it green. Stir in the cheese until it it completely melted. Stir in the broccoli florets. Pour the ingredients into a 9" x 13" baking dish.
  • Spread the crispy topping over the macaroni mixture. Bake until hot and bubbly, and the edges begin to brown. Allow to set 5 minutes before serving.

Notes

Don't let the anchovies scare you. They add a depth of flavor (nothing fishy) and elevate this dish to a wonderful adult comfort food!
Platter of Roasted Mushroom, Grain, and Spinach Salad.

Feasts, cookie platters, cocktail parties, and office holiday goodies, oh my! As fun as it is, it doesn't take long to feel the overwhelm of holiday system overload, just when the mood of the day calls for merry and bright. As a remedy to seasonal splurges, include a salad of roasted mushrooms, warm grains, and baby spinach into your menu this week.

Making the Roasted Mushroom, Grain and Spinach Salad

plate of spinach and mushroom salad with a bite on the fork.

This quick little main-course salad starts with four easy-to-come by ingredients and a light but flavorful lemon vinaigrette. The vinaigrette is made even better by using Meyer lemons, just coming into peak season.

Here I go on about celery again. Celery adds an essential textural crunch to this dish, and a bit of delicious freshness that you will welcome to your winter plate. I view this as this as a subtle necessity.

In the extraordinary Pacific Northwest food playground we have easy access to an array of cultivated and wild mushrooms. One trial of this recipe I used a shiitake-only approach. Another trial used a melange of chestnut, oyster, shiitake, and crimini mushrooms. I loved it both ways. If you can only access white buttons or brown criminis, please use them! Your dish will be as delicious as ever.

You have a lot of running room when it comes to the grain you use in your roasted mushroom salad. I used Purple Valley Barley, an organic product from my local Lonesome Whistle Farm. Lonesome Whistle also carries wheat berries, emmer (a farro) and oat groats that would be perfect. If you are new to this type of thing and eat gluten, I suggest starting with pearled barley, or just jump right in and try one of the above grains. If you eat gluten-free, give buckwheat groats or brown rice a try.

What Wine Should I Serve with Roasted Mushroom, Grain, and Spinach Salad?

2013 Artisanal Wine Cellars Oregon Pinot Noir Dukes Family Vineyards, Eola-Amity Hills.

I started off suggesting a mushroom, warm grain, and spinach salad as a detoxifying healthy choice, so maybe through the holidays consider a tonic of pomegranate juice and sparkling water? Or not! I highly suggest the Artisanal Wine Cellars 2015 Dukes Family Vineyard Pinot Noir. Tom and Patty Feller, and their daughter, Mia, are a family operation dedicated to handcrafted expressive wines. The grapes in this bottle were grown by Pat and Jackie Dukes of Dukes Family Vineyard. We view the Artisanal's Pinot Noirs to be beautiful wines at incredible values.

Other Holiday Self-Care Recipe Ideas

Humble Pasta with Beans + Mushrooms: Get the Recipe
Healing Chickpea + Orzo Bowl in Ginger Broth: Get the Recipe
Deconstructed Borscht Bowl: Get the Recipe

Roasted Mushroom, Grain, and Spinach Salad

Course: Main Dish, Quick + Easy, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Vegan
Preparation: Fast + Easy, Roasting
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4
Roasted mushrooms, warm chewy grain, and fresh spinach dressed in the best ever lemon vinaigrette. This fantastic fast and easy layered salad is hearty enough for satisfying cool weather meals, light enough to counterbalance seasonal feasts and spurges.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • lb. mushrooms of your choice, singularly or in combination crimini, shiitake, chestnut, chanterelle, hedgehog, button, etc.
  • 5 stalks celery, and leaves if your head has them
  • 1 cup whole grain of your choice, prepared according to package directions and kept warm* barley; emmer, spelt, or einkorn farro; wheat berries; oat or buckwheat groats; brown, black, purple, red, or wild rice, etc.
  • 8-10 oz. fresh baby spinach
  • lemon vinaigrette, recipe below
  • zest of 2 lemons, in strips

Best Ever Lemon Vinaigrette

  • ½ cup lemon juice, Meyer lemon preferred, zested first about 2 large lemons
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or very finely minced
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • tsp. maple syrup
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400° convection. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray it with oil or non-stick spray.
  • Begin cooking your chosen grain according to package directions. (For example, quick-cooking par cooked farro from Trader Joes takes 10 minutes to cook; unhulled barley takes up to 40 minutes.) Once it is cooked, keep it warm while the other steps come together.
  • Prepare the Best Ever Lemon Vinaigrette, recipe below.
  • Wipe mushrooms clean and trim them if necessary. If you are using shiitakes, remove the stems. Leave the small ones whole, cut the medium-sized ones in half, and the largest ones into quarters for similarly sized pieces that will roast at the same rate. Place them in a heap on the prepared baking sheet. Spoon about ¼ of the lemon vinaigrette over the mushrooms. Use your hands to toss the mushrooms in the vinaigrette, coating each piece lightly and evenly. Spread the mushroom pieces out on the pan, and place in the oven. Roast for 12 minutes, remove from the oven and stir. Spread them out again and roast them for another 10 minutes or so until they are deeply colored and their juices have almost evaporated. Don't leave them much longer than this or they will lose their tenderness.
  • While the mushrooms are roasting, thinly slice the celery and set aside. When the grains are cooked and drained, stir in ¼ of the vinaigrette and continue to keep gently warm. Place the spinach on the platter or individual plates.
  • When the mushrooms are done roasting, add the sliced celery and give it a good toss. Spoon the dressed grains in the center of the plate, and top with the mushroom/celery mixture. Drizzle a little more of the vinaigrette over the layered salad.** Garnish with strips of lemon zest, which are not only eye-catching, but add a delicious flavor note. Serve while warm.

Make the Best Ever Lemon Vinaigrette

  • Combine all ingredients on a pint-sized jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake until the salt and maple syrup are dissolved. Shake before each use.

Notes

*I've made this recipe using organic locally-grown barley, with buckwheat groats, and with a package of "10-Minute Farro" sometimes found at Trader Joes. Follow the package directions for any grain you use for both serving size and cooking times. 
**You will have a little of the vinaigrette left over. Don't be sad about this-- use it on your next kale or lettuce salad, on top of baked or broiled fish, or to dress a pan of roasted vegetables. 
When Meyer lemons are in season, be sure to use them. The typical Eureka or Lisbon lemons are wonderful, too, but Meyers offer a step up in flavor.
I recently found that the water that remains when cooking whole-grain barley is delicious as a sipper. Cook the barley "pasta-style" floating freely in a pot of water, and reserve the water. It's as tasty as any stock, and can be used as a soup base or warming cup. 
This recipe is easily halved and easily doubled. If you double it, use two sheet pans to roast the larger amount of mushrooms. 
 
Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding in a casserole dish
Bread turns golden as it soaks up the pumpkin-based custard.

Pumpkin can't seem to get away from the use of sugar and cinnamon-y pumpkin pie spices that relegate it to the sweets table. This Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding-- with things like onions and herbs-- opens a whole new world of pumpkin possibilities.

Here, the dusky earthiness of pumpkin is the perfect match to lots of herbs, mushrooms, and two cheeses in the recipe. Think of it like a cheesy stuffing baked outside the bird, or like a strata.

Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding Brings People Together

woman serving savory pumpkin bread pudding from baking dish.

The people who gather at my table represent a wide range of dietary needs and preferences and, if you live in America in 2021, this is likely the case for you, too. This bread pudding is easily modified to meet the challenges of nourishing a dietarily diverse crowd. And the challenges of the cook organizing meals for them!

Having dishes on the table that respect everyone's needs can be a challenge that you likely know all too well. Above all, it is important to me that there be food that all my beloveds can share. I want no one to feel left out when the oohs and ahhs start happening!

This Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding serves as a hearty main course for non-meat-eaters, and a tasty side dish for meat-eaters. Tailor it to your crowd by trading plant milk for dairy milk, and non-dairy cheese for the Parmesan and Fontina. Gluten-free bread is an easy swap that everyone will enjoy. However, egg substitutes have not been tested in this recipe.

Savory Pumpkim Bread Pudding in a baking dish.

Making the Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Firstly, start with an artisan-style bread with lots of bubbles and holes in the crumb that create cozy spaces for the eggy pumpkin custard to rest. Day-old bread is even better, because it will soak up the custard best and bake up with a more firm sliceable texture.

After that, making pumpkin puree from scratch is really easy in an Instant Pot. Try making a batch or two to freeze and have on hand for all your pumpkin cooking and baking. The convenience of canned pumpkin is great, but there is a quality trade-off.

Click here for link to a Facebook Live video of me explaining the easy process of making pumpkin puree from scratch.

Ingredients needed for Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding.
Things you'll need to make a Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding of your own.

The make-ahead nature of Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding makes it a great addition to your Thanksgiving table, or any time. Assemble the bread pudding the day before you need it, then baked it off on serving day. I hope you enjoy having pumpin in this savory way!

Other Savory Pumpkin Recipes:

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

Pasta with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce and Toasted Hazelnuts

Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding in a casserole dish

Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Course: Main Dish, Side Dish
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest
Season: Bounty (August - October), Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Nut-Free
Preparation: Casserole
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings: 8
Maximize pumpkin's savory notes with a hearty bread pudding filled with aromatics, herbs, and mushrooms.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups pumpkin puree, made from scratch or canned See link for video tutorial on making your own in the Instant Pot.
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 cups milk or your favorite non-dairy milk
  • 2 cups finely grated parmesan, divided (about 6 ounces) for dairy-free option, replace this with 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
  • 1 pound artisan-style bread (the holes and bubbles capture the custard nicely, and stale bread is best) baguette, boule, pugliese, etc.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (for dairy-free version) or butter
  • 2 medium onions, in about 1/4" dice
  • 2 cups celery stalk and leaves, sliced about 1/4" thick
  • 1 pound mushrooms, slices about 1/4" thick
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 small bunch lacinato kale, sliced about 1/4" thick, and roughly chopped through
  • 3 teaspoons fresh thyme, leaves removed from their stems or 1 teaspoon ground dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage leaves, very finely minced or 1/2 teaspoon ground dried sage
  • 8 ounces fontina cheese, diced into about 1/4" cubes for dairy-free version, omit or replace with a firm dairy-free melting cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Oil a deep 9" x 13" baking dish or casserole. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  • Wash and dice the onion, celery, mushrooms, kale, and herbs. Dice the fontina and finely grate the Parmesan. Set aside.
  • Make a custard by first whisking the pumpkin puree and eggs together, then slowing whisking in the milk to combine. Add in about ¾ cup of the Parmesan, the nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Set aside.
  • In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, add half the olive oil or butter. Add the onions and celery and sauted, stirring frequently, until the onions become translucent and soft without browning, about 5-7 minutes. While the onions are softening, in your largest mixing bowl, use your fingers to tear the bread into bite-sized chunks. Remove the crust only if it is especially thick and tough, otherwise include it. Lightly salt the bread and toss it.
  • When the onions and celery are tender, add them to the bread. Heat the rest of the olive oil or butter in the skillet and sauted the mushrooms until they have released some of their moisture and are beginning to brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the garlic, kale and ½ teaspoon or so of salt and a generous amount of pepper and sauted another 2-3 minutes until the kale has softened a little and the mushrooms are well-browned. Add them to the bread and onion mixture in the large bowl. Add the diced fontina if using, and give the ingredients in the bowl a good toss.
  • Pour the reserved pumpkin custard mixture over the bread and vegetables and gently stir with a rubber spatula, scraping down the sides and bringing the ingredients up from the bottom to evenly coat them with the custard mixture. Tip it out into the prepared baking pan.
  • Cover the dish tightly with foil. Bake for 45 minutes, remove the dish from the oven and remove the foil. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over the top, and bake for another 15 minutes until the cheese is browned and bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to set for 10 minutes before serving. The pieces cut nicely into squares like lasagne, or can be spooned out with a large spoon.

Notes

Make It Your Own:
Add chunks of squash or pumpkin, use mustard greens or chard instead of the kale, try different cheeses and herbs. Follow your heart and use what you have!

Top down shot of wood platter with black beluga lentils, grilled nectarine halves, and white burrata dressed in vinaigrette.
Beautiful Black Beluga Lentil, Grilled Nectarine + Burrata Salad

I've been experimenting with the design Rule of Threes in my cooking. Used in graphic design, interior design, and fashion-- really anywhere design concepts are applied-- the principle is that things arranged in groups of three are more appealing, evocative, and satisfying.

Long ago, it is said, Nordstrom sales associates were required to dress this way-- skirt, blouse, sweater; slacks, shirt, vest; dress, boots, scarf, etc. Accessories were the grace notes added to the rule of threes formula. I've begun to think this is true for the food on a plate as well.

Not only does this method of cooking work from a taste and visual point of view, but it is actually pretty easy to pull together a dynamic dish using this concept.

beluga lentil, grilled nectarine, and burrata salad arranged on an orange plate.

Beluga Lentil, Grilled Nectarine + Burrata Salad

In this 30-minute dish the triad of warm earthy lentils, smoky-sweet nectarines, and cool creamy burrata is more than the sum of its parts. Each of the parts requires very little or no preparation. The simple vinaigrette acts like the jewelry that ties the whole ensemble together.

The rule of threes concept worked perfectly in this recent red pepper, white bean, and feta recipe, too. The smoky bright red peppers, the earthy light white beans, and sharp tangy feta create a synergy that is tied together with a crown of herb sauce. Magnificent, yet simple.

Mise en place of ingredients for the beluga lentil, grilled nectarine, and burrata salad.

It only looks challenging! Make Beluga Lentil, Grilled Nectarine + Burrata Salad soon for an ever so delicious, beautiful, fancy-fast-easy brunch, lunch, or dinner. Make it vegan by omitting the burrata, and it is still delicious. Serve it alongside meat, or enjoy it as a vegetarian main course.

How can you use this Rule of Threes concept in your cooking and meal planning? I'd love to hear about your ideas and experiments!

Beluga Lentil, Grilled Nectarine + Burrata Salad

Course: Breakfast + Brunch, Main Dish, Quick + Easy, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest
Season: Bounty (August - October)
Dietary: Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Vegetarian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 3
This triad of earthy lentils, smoky-sweet nectarines, and creamy burrata is more than the sum of its parts. Quick to make but ever so delicious and versatile, make this soon for a fancy-easy brunch, lunch, or dinner. Make it vegan by omitting the burrata, and it's still delicious.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

For the Vinaigrette

  • 1 medium shallot finely mined
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 5-6 fresh thyme branches enough to make about 2 tesaspoons leaves
  • salt + pepper about 1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste
  • 3-4 Tablespoons vinegar white balsamic, peach, champagne, sherry, or rice vinegars all work here
  • 3-4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For the Beluga Lentil, Grilled Nectarine + Burrata Dish

  • 1 cup black Beluga lentils
  • 1 bay leaf, fresh if possible
  • 3 ripe nectarines, halved and pitted
  • 1 stalk leafy celery, leaves finely slices, stalk finely diced
  • 4 ounces burrata, drained

Instructions

First Make the Vinaigrette

  • In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, place the minced shallot and Dijon mustard. Stir gently. Add about half of the thyme leaves stripped from the stems, salt and pepper. Cover the shallot mixture with the vinegar of your choice. Eyeballing it, add enough olive oil to double the volume in the jar, or about the same in height to the shallots and vinegar. Shake until the salt is mostly dissolved and the mustard is thoroughly incorporated. Set aside.

Now Make the Beluga Lentil, Grilled Nectarines + Burrata

  • Light or preheat your grill for a hot, direct fire/heat.
  • In a medium saucepan, place the lentils, bay leaf, a pinch of salt, and 3 1/2 cups water. Bring lentils to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring every 5 minutes or so, for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are al dente, but not mushy and broken. Begin chcking their doneness at the 15 minute mark.
  • While the lentils are cooking, place the halved nectarines on a preheated grill over direct heat. Oil the grates first, and place the nectarine halves cut side down. Do not move them until the 3 minute mark, and check for rich grill marks. They may need another minute or so to become deeply marked. Flip them and grill another 3 minutes until the skins have grill marks, for a total of 6-7 minutes. Don't let the nectarines overcook-- you just want them warmed through and kissed with flavor from the grill.
  • When the lentils are done, drain off any remaining liquid. Sitr in the diced celery and leaves, reserving some of the leaves for garnish. Mound this onto plates or a serving platter.
  • Arrange the nectarines on to mounded lentils. You may chose to halve some of them.
  • Place the burrata on top of the lentils. Sprinkle the remaining thyme and celery leaves over the top and serve.

Notes

This recipe serves three people as a main course, or six people as a side dish.
This salad is especially luxurious served warm, but equally delightful served chilled, especially if you need to make the components ahead of time.
Peaches would be just as lovely in this dish as the nectarines. Use what you have or prefer.
Recipe star ratings are very welcome and appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to provide your feedback this way. 

It is an odd little kid who prefers observing adults above hanging out with other kids, but that is how I was issued. With the focus of Jane Goodall and the sofa as my cover, I studied grown-ups and all forms of their behavior; language, cultural and social norms, and how curiously their developed biology drove their actions. Kids I found to be mostly mean, addled, and ridiculous.

Cold Buckwheat noodle salad with peanut sauce on platter

It will not surprise you, then, to know I hated peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The basic components were good, I thought. But jelly seeping through the bread, the gluey palate-sticking nature of the thing, and the whole sandwich mangled by the smacking of a thermos inside the lunchbox of a girl with a purposeful stride? Thank you, but no.

If Crunchy Cold Buckwheat Noodles in Peanut Sauce had been popular among suburban moms so long ago, it would have been my absolute lunchbox preference. A tangle of chewy buckwheat noodles and colorful crunchy vegetables draped in a velvet cloak of spicy, gingery peanut sauce is arguably the best use of peanut butter. It would have had me daydreaming about girls in Indonesian -- where peanut sauce originates-- wondering if they liked math any better than me, if their parents fought, and whether they moved a lot or got to live in one house their whole life. I would have wished the Weekly Reader to do a story on them so I could know.

This recipe is for my grandchildren should they want something other than jelly and bread with the peanut butter in their lunchboxes.

Cold Noodle Salad with peanut sauce on a platter

Crunchy Cold Buckwheat Noodle Salad + Peanut Sauce

Course: Main Dish, Salad, Side Dish
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Vegan
Preparation: Fast + Easy
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 6
Chewy soba noodles and crackly-fresh vegetables are draped in a velvety, gingery peanut sauce. Make it in less than 20 minutes for a speedy dinner, but be sure to make extra-- it holds well for tomorrow's lunches or picnics. Easily halved or doubled, this all-ages people pleaser will be a welcome addition to your meal rotation.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

Peanut Sauce

  • ½ cup smooth peanut butter, well stirred if natural
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lime juice or rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar, brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil also called dark sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. - 1 Tbsp. Sriracha or hot chili garlic sauce to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger and its juice
  • 1-2 grated garlic cloves

Noodle Salad

  • 10 oz. soba (buckwheat) noodles udon, ramen, or rice noodles or even spaghetti are also good choices. Use gluten free noodles if you'd like
  • 6 cups fresh crunchy raw vegetables (see list below to mix and match*) chopped , coarsely grated, or thinly sliced
  • 3-4 green onions, sliced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup peanuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
  • Peanut Sauce (above)
  • 1 lime, cut in wedges for serving

Instructions

  • In a medium bowl that allows room for whisking, whisk peanut butter to loosen it. Add each ingredient one at a time, whisking thoroughly after each addition. (You are making an emulsion, and adding the liquids slowly in batches prevents a sloshy mess from forming. It will actually go faster this way, and will minimize cleanup.)
  • Whisk in warm water, one tablespoon at a time, until the sauce thickly drips from the whisk. You want the sauce to be thin enough to easily coat the nooks and crannies of the vegetables and noodles, but to retain some body. Depending on the thickness of your peanut butter and the room temperature, you will add between 1 Tablespoon and ¼ cup of water. Taste and make any adjustments of sweetener, lime juice, spicy heat, or perhaps salt. Set the peanut sauce aside.
  • Place a pot of salted water on to boil. Cook soba noodles according to package directions. When done, rinse in cold water until the noodles are completely cold.
  • While the water is heating and the noodles are cooking, prep your vegetables including the green onions. Aim for small dice, or thin matchstick pieces so that you can fork up a mix of vegetables and noodles in each bite. Place all the vegetables in a large bowl..
  • Coarsely chop the cilantro and peanuts. Keep a few tablespoons of each aside for garnish, and place the rest in the bowl. When the noodles are cooked, rinsed, and drained, add them to the bowl. Give everything a gentle toss.
  • Add about ½ cup of the peanut sauce to the bowl, and give everything a gentle but thorough toss, until all ingredients are evenly coated with peanut sauce. Add more sauce, tablespoon by tablespoon, until the salad is dressed to your liking.
  • Plate the salad individually or transfer it to a serving bowl or platter. Sprinkle cilantro, peanuts, and sesame seed on top. Serve with a lime wedge.
  • Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container. Will keep nicely for a day.

Notes

*Fresh crunchy vegetable options. Use what the garden or farmers market gives you, or what you have in your crisper:
  • cucumber*
  • green and/or purple cabbage
  • red or yellow bell pepper
  • snow or sugar-snap peas
  • carrot
  • radish
  • kohlrabi
  • white turnips
  • green or yellow summer squash* *Best added only if you'll consume the entire recipe right away, as they go soft and watery overnight. I don't mind this, but you might!
Five-ingredient Celery Amandine is an amazing vegetable dish when made with farm or garden-fresh celery.

Have you ever thought about making celery a central stand-alone side-dish? I'm going out on a limb here to suggest, no, maybe not. And there is a reason why celery is last to be chosen for Team Exciting Foods.

Grocery store celery is pale, stringy, flavorless, and waterlogged in comparison to locally-grown, bright green, crisp version that hasn't been trucked half-way around the world. Grocery-store celery is a good second-string addition to a soup, stew, or casserole where little is expected of it.

Farmers market or garden-grown celery, on the other hand, is heads above its grocery grocery store kin. If you want a true All-Star for the dinner plate win, growing some or buying direct from a farm is the only way to go.

Take a crack at the bat with this sautéed celery amandine. It is proof that celery is more than a minor-league bench player at your table.

Celery Amandine Throwback

This recipe comes from the wayback machine. My mom made it as a vegetable side dish when I was a kid and its crunchy, buttery, nutty place on my plate always made me happy. Spotting crisp bright organic celery at the farmers market recently brought it back to mind.

It takes four or five ingredients, and is table-ready in under 10 minutes.

I intentionally make extra of this, as it is a nice addition to a lunchtime rice and bean bowl, next to a scrambled egg, or sprinkled with a little vinegar or more lemon juice as a pickley nosh with a sandwich.

platter of celery amandine with lemon wedges

Home Run Celery Amandine

Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: French
Season: Bounty (August - October), Evergreen (April - July)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian
Preparation: Fast + Easy, One Pot/One Pan
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4
With just a few handy ingredients and 10 minutes or less to the table, take a crack at the bat with this sautéed celery amandine. It is proof that celery is more than a bench player at your table.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 small head garden fresh celery (about 3-4 stalks per person)
  • ¼ cup raw whole almonds
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed and lightly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. butter or ghee
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lemon, cut in wedges (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Wash and dry the celery and slice it ¼- ½“ inch thick on a sharp diagonal. (The diagonals look beautiful, but also expose more surface area for flavor.) Crush the almonds with the bottom of a glass or by tapping on them with a meat mallet to get rough pieces of mixed sizes. Crush and lightly chop through the garlic cloves. (Crushing the nuts and garlic makes more textural and visual interest than chopping.) Slice the lemon into 6-8 wedges and flick away any seeds you see.
  • Heat a skillet to medium-high heat. (6.5 or 7 on my induction cooktop.) When the skillet is hot, add the butter and olive oil. Add the celery to the pan and give it a shake to let the slices settle in.
  • Toss the nuts, garlic and salt and pepper to taste on top of the celery. Stir a few times while the celery just begins to soften and turn bright green, about 4-5 minutes. Remove it from the heat before you think you should. You'll enjoy this best if the celery retains is crunchy texture.
  • Serve with a lemon wedge, if desired. This is good served right out of the skillet, or at room temperature.

Notes

Make It Your Own:
For vegan option, replace the butter with cooking oil of your choice.
Give this exact treatment to sugar peas in their pod- just a flash in the hot skillet with the other ingredients makes another vegetable winner!
Omit the garlic if that's not for you.
roasted artichokes in baking dish

Artichokes are another of the short-season wonders, and we try to eat as many as we can while they are available. This terrific artichoke recipe from Allison Roman's book Nothing Fancy is super easy, and makes the most succulent, juicy, and rich-tasting artichokes ever. It's nice to have a new addition to the 'choke repertoire. 

After making this a dozen times or more, I want to encourage you to free yourself from exact measurements, and think instead about ratios. Start with as many artichokes as you plan to serve. I encourage you to make extra while you're at it as they are fantastic cold or warmed up as leftovers.

Making the Wine-Roasted Artichoke Recipe

First, think big as far as your baking dish goes. It's surprising how much space the halved artichokes need for their flat surfaces to touch the pan. From there, just think in terms of having about 1/4-inch of wine in the bottom of the pan around the artichokes, to which you'll add another 1/4-inch of water. (I use Sarver Winery Pinot Gris for this-- my favorite from our neighboring winery!) You'll generously drizzle the artichokes with olive oil, and plop in maybe a half-tablespoon or more of butter for each artichoke half in the dish. Crush as many garlic cloves as you like-- we go big on garlic at this house, so perhaps 2 cloves for every artichoke half, and sprinkle the tops of them amply with kosher salt and red pepper flakes, or my favorite Aleppo pepper.

Aside from prepping the artichokes, the hands-on time is just a couple of minutes. Cover it in foil, bake in a 425 degree oven for 45-55 minutes, depending on the size of your artichokes. Remove the foil from the pan, and assess if it needs a little more water-- you don't want the pan to run dry but do want a reduced glaze to form. Then continue to roast them for another 15 minutes until they turn a deep mahogany, and the cooking liquid reduces into a garlicy little sauce you'll want to dip bread into.

roasted artichokes in baking dish

This is the Artichoke Recipe Choice for Part Givers

If you're hosting a gathering, this dish is for you! It can be made ahead, either the day of or the day before, and warmed back up at the last minute. The artichokes are equally charming served room temperature for warm-day entertaining. While the artichokes pair perfectly with most white wine varieties, they really shine served with the same Sarver Winery Pinot Gris they are cooked in.

Have you noticed what happens when a crowd of people eat with their fingers? It's a magical way to drop barriers and bring people together. Put a bowl on the table for guests to toss their tooth-scraped outer leaves into.

What shall I serve with Wine-Roasted Artichokes?

This dish makes a lovely first course, if you like stretching the table adventure out for hours like we do. It's also a perfect accompaniment to fish, chicken, or pork tenderloin. It is equally good as part of a vegetarian meal, served with a nutty rice pilaf or lemony pasta.

Guess what?

Wine-roasted fennel

This exact technique works to sweeten and juice-up fennel. Give it a try!

Other Springtime Recipes to Try

24-Karat Carrot Risotto: Get the recipe here.
Modern Pasta Primavera: Get the recipe here.
Lemony Asparagus White Bean Salad: Get the recipe here.

roasted artichokes in baking dish

Blissful Wine-Roasted Artichokes

Course: Appetizer, Main Dish, Side Dish
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest
Season: Evergreen (April - July)
Dietary: Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Vegetarian
Preparation: Roasting
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
These super easy, garlicky, succulent, juicy, and rich-tasting artichokes are a great make-ahead dish, and are excellent paired with most white wines.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2-3 artichokes
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp. butter or ghee
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, crushed with the broad side of a knife
  • pinch red pepper flakes or Aleppo pepper
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat the over to 425°.
  • Trim the edible artichoke stem of any woody parts, leaving as much of it as you can. Snap off the bottom one or two layers of tough outer leaves. Use kitchen shears to trim the thorny ends of the remaining leaves, if any. With a serrated or chef's knife, cut about 1 ½" from the crown of the artichoke, exposing the yellowish and rosy interior.
  • Cut the artichokes in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, dig out the fuzzy choke of each half, removing all fuzzy bits. Some of the purple-tipped center leaves will come out, too. Place the cut side down into a large baking dish (don't underestimate the size of dish you'll need-- the cut artichokes take up a lot of space!)
  • Pour the wine, water, and olive oil over the artichokes. Add the butter, cut or pinched into pieces, and smashed garlic. Generously sprinkle each half with kosher salt, red pepper flakes or Aleppo pepper, and black pepper. Cover tightly with foil and roast until the artichokes are fork-tender, about 45 minutes, depending on their size.
  • Remove the foil and continue to roast another 15 minutes or so until the liquid is mostly evaporated and the tops are a mahogany brown. Take care that the liquid doesn't entirely evaporate-- add a little water if needed.
  • To serve, scrape up the garlicky oil at the bottom of the baking dish to spoon on top of the artichokes.

Notes

Make it Your Own:
Use the same exact process for whole fennel bulbs. Very tasty! Perhaps experiment with other vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, and turnips, altering the roasting time depending on their tenderness. 
Dairy-free option: substitute olive oil for the butter. 
bowl of orange carrot risotto and spring plants

Carrot Risotto + Green Garlic Sauce is just right for the spring feasts that are about to begin-- Passover is concluding, Easter is this weekend, Earth Day is around the corner, and Mother's Day is soon to follow. Today was our first glorious 70-degree day in Oregon's Willamette Valley, and everything green and growing is excited. Flowers, grasses, early vegetables, and weeds. Did I mention weeds?

Each step toward spring unleashes an undesirable field of weeds. My two hands can't pluck fast enough. Maybe my heart and mind need a little weeding, too, to make space for a goldmine of more desirable growth.

A bowl of golden goodness for your spring feasts

Whether your spring celebrations are about freedom from bondage, the resurrection of a savior, or your motherly origins-- Mother Earth or your earthly mom-- you need a good feast. 24-Karat Carrot Risotto + Green Garlic Sauce is a luxurious and celebratory substitute for scalloped potatoes or kugel worthy of becoming a tradition.

Carrot risotto in a bowl
24-Carat Carrot Risotto, minus the sauce

Carrot Risotto + Green Garlic Sauce Kitchen Notes

Sometimes the visual length of a recipe can stop people from making it. Don't let that stop you here. I've just broken the carrot risotto recipe into tiny digestible pieces. I tell you more than you may need to know-- color, scent, and what to look for each step of the way. Skim over these details if you are comfortable, and you'll relish these queues if this is new ground you're digging. This recipe is naturally gluten free, and no one will notice that it is easily made dairy free and vegan.

Happy spring feasting. Happy weeding, be it outside or in.

Other Springtime Feast Recipes to Try:

Blissful Wine-Roasted Artichokes: Get the recipe here.
Modern Pasta Primavera. Get the recipe here.

Carrot risotto in a bowl

The 24 Karat Feast: Carrot Risotto + Green Garlic Sauce

Course: Main Dish, Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Season: Evergreen (April - July)
Dietary: Egg-Free, Gluten-Free
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 6
Use this risotto as a special side dish or luxurious main for all your springtime feasts. Either way, it's pure gold!
Print Recipe

Ingredients

Carrot Stock

  • 12 oz carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 tsp salt

The Risotto

  • 2 Tbsp butter or ghee
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • cups Arborio rice
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • salt and white pepper to taste

To Finish the Dish

  • 2 large carrots, diced into small squares
  • 1 Tbsp butter

Green Garlic Sauce

  • 3 stalks spring garlic, see substitutions below
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 small Meyer or regular lemon juice and zest
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Make the Green Garlic Sauce

  • Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Make the carrot stock

  • Place the roughly chopped carrots in a small saucepan with 5 cups water. Generously salt the water. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and cover with a lid. Allow carrots to cook about 15 minutes, until fork tender but not falling apart. Using an immersion blender (stick blender) or traditional blender, blend the carrots into to cooking water until perfectly smooth. Keep warm and set aside.

Make the Risotto

  • While the stock is cooking, prep the shallot and garlic. In a large saucepan or saucier over medium heat, combine the butter and olive oil. Add the rice and sauted, stirring often, for about 5 minutes until the rice becomes opaque and fragrant. Add the shallot and garlic, stirring frequently, until they become translucent. The rice will continue to toast and become light beige while the shallot and garlic cook. Medium heat and frequent stirring will avoid any of the ingredients from deeply browning or burning at this point.
  • Add the dry white wine, stirring vigorously. Once it is nearly absorbed, begin adding one ladleful at a time of the warm carrot broth, stirring very frequently, until it is nearly absorbed, then repeat adding broth and stirring until the rice grains have cooked to al dente-- "to the tooth," meaning the centers still have a little bit of chewiness. If you use all the carrot broth and the rice isn't yet cook through, add water and cook, stirring all the time, until it reached your desired texture. By all means, avoid letting the pot go to overcooked mush.

To Finish

  • In a small skillet or sauted pan, gently cook the small-diced carrots in butter until barely becoming tender, about 5 minutes over medium heat. You still want a little crunch to them, and they will add a nice texture contrast to the creamy risotto.
  • Place the carrot risotto in a serving bowl. Top with the pretty little carrot squares. Place a generous spoonful of green garlic sauce on top. Set remaining sauce on the table.

Notes

Make it Your Own:
For a completely vegan dish, replace butter with olive oil.
The white wine is optional, but makes a lovely difference if you can use it.
This recipe does not include the traditional Parmesan cheese, but if dairy is not your concern, add 1/2 cup grated Parmesan to the finished risotto, and garnish with more on top if you'd like. If you have dairy-free people at your table, don't add it to the pot-- simply set out a bowl of grated Parmesan for the dairy-eaters to use on their portions. 
The green garlic can be replaced with scallions, or any number of fresh herbs. Mint would be lovely. 

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Welcome!

Photo of 101-Mile Kitchen blog owner.

You’re in the right place!  I’m Pam Spettel, home cooking expert and guide, and I’m here to show you how to break up with cooking and hospitality anxiety, learn how to use recipes as guides rather than strict rules, and let your cooking intuition and confidence soar.

Superpower: Dreaming up recipes that work, serving them to my friends and family, and writing little stories about how cooking them well is the same as loving well.

Inspiration: Ingredients! The fresh, colorful, fragrant, local, seasonal ingredients found in the Pacific Northwest are my creative medium.

Heroes: Local food and wine producers– the people who keep me, my family, and our community nourished and happy.

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