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plate of broccoli beef

This weeknight-friendly Gingery Broccoli Beef stir-fry recipe came to me at the just-right time. Since last November we’ve been abuzz with houseguests. I took a four-month business course, and I started to teach cooking classes. And we’ve made the most of being able to travel again to see family. I can’t get enough of this gingery broccoli beef for four reasons, and think you might, too:

  • It uses pantry and freezer staples I love and almost always have around, like broccoli, fresh ginger, ground beef and soy sauce or coconut aminos.
  • It’s a 30-minute complete meal made in one pan, rice notwithstanding, perfect for busy days, lazy days, or any time fast, delicious nutrition is the aim.
  • It’s a season less dish, as appropriate in May as it is in November.
  • Our little household loves it. That’s all the reason I need to include this in our regular rotation.
plate of gingery broccoli beef stir-fry

How Recipes Evolve

It's not often one sees the straight line in how recipes evolve, but this one is a perfect example. I learned this gingery broccoli and beef recipe from my friend Mandy. Mandy added oven-roasted broccoli to Michelle at Unbound Wellness's Mongolian Ground Beef. In a step toward speed and energy efficiency I stir-fry the broccoli in the same pan as the beef. I cut the broccoli stems into thin coins, and slice the florets to have have flat edges that allow a similar caramelization as roasting. Triple score: this way it takes less time, uses less electricity, and has one less pan to wash. Taking a page from traditional stir-fries, I add the sauce directly to the pan with the browned beef and broccoli. The stir-fry method seems a little more like the Chinese beef and broccoli dishes I have always loved, just using the weeknight classic ground beef.

Mandy and I have each made our adaptations from Michelle's original yet the spirit remains the same.

half plate of broccoli beef stir-fry

Making Gingery Broccoli Beef Stir-Fry

Grass-fed beef is the way to go. Grass fed beef is lower in overall fat than grain fed beef. Not only that, grass-fed beef contains two to six times more Omega-3 fatty acids than feed-lot beef. and is packed with B vitamins, vitamins A, E, and other antioxidants compared to grain fed beef. Thinly-sliced sirloin would easily work.

Don't count this recipe out for vegans. I suspect that plant-based meat crumbles or crumbled and browned tofu would be a swell swap for the ground beef in this recipe. If you give either option a try, please let the rest of us know how it goes.

If low-carb is your jam, swap the rice for cauliflower rice like Mandy does. It serves four, so my sweetheart and I each have dinner and a grab-and-go lunch with very little effort.

Don't be shy with the ginger! I uses pieces that are longer than my thumb and about twice as wide. The three-step recipe is really straightforward: Start your pot of rice first, and in about 20 minutes you'll have tasty, simple weeknight meal.

half plate of broccoli beef stir-fry

Weeknight Gingery Broccoli Beef Stir-Fry

Course: Main Dish, Quick + Easy
Cuisine: Fusion
Season: All Season
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free
Preparation: Fast + Easy, One Pot/One Pan
0 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4
Author: Pam Spettel
Using ground beef in a classic broccoli beef stir-fry makes a fast, easy weeknight meal with amped up ginger for extra deliciousness.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. broccoli
  • 2 tsp. olive or avocado oil
  • 1 lb. lb. lean ground beef, grass fed preferred
  • 1 generous thumb fresh gingerroot, peeled
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 large green onions, cut into 1" pieces
  • cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup beef or vegetable broth, or water
  • 2 tsp. corn starch or arrowroot powder
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • salt + pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Slice thick broccoli stems into thin coins. Cut thin stems and florets into 1" - 2" pieces. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When it begins to shimmer add the stems and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until they are beginning to brown in places but are still bright green. Add the remaining broccoli pieces and stir-fry until they are bright green and just beginning to soften but remain crisp. Remove to a plate.
  • Crumble the ground beef into the skillet and break into pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook over medium high heat until no pink remains. Use a microplane or other grater and grate the ginger and garlic into the meat. Add ¾ of the slices green onions and stir. Cook, stirring often, until the beef is well browned, about 10 minutes total for this step. Reduce the heat to medium and add the cooked broccoli back into the skillet.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, broth, sugar, and cornstarch until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the soy mixture to the meat and broccoli, stirring until the sauce slightly thickens.
  • Serve over rice, and garnish with the remaining green onion slices.
A bowlful of vanilla lemon rice pudding.

I wish I had a nickel for every time the words "comfort food" have been used in the United States since March 2020. With the money, I'd launch a campaign to deliver a cup of Vanilla Lemon Rice Pudding to the doorstep of every American, thereby redefining comfort food in our culture.

This recipe is gently sweet, creamy but not cloying. It is alive with lemon zest, and ethereal with a whole vanilla been (or vanilla extract.) Vanilla Lemon Rice Pudding is far more exciting than any other rice pudding I've ever had. Yet as comforting as your favorite cashmere sweater.

A platterful of cups of creamy vanilla lemon rice pudding.

The Paris Connection

I learned of this bit of deliciousness from Katherine Burns of Rue Dauphine Paris. Katherine's Rue Dauphine Paris Instagram feed is full of glorious photos of her visits to historic gardens, churches, shops, and arrondissements in Paris, some lovely French recipes, and a glimpse of how she brings the Parisian lifestyle into her own Seattle home. Another bit of fun-- she and May of Noisettes 1420 (also a fabulous peek into Paris) host a Francophile book club, which I promise myself to participate in some soon day.

Needless to say, discovering Rue Dauphine Paris has brought me a bit of joy in these travel-less days, and has me wishing Katherine would be my guide to Paris one day.

A platter of 5 cups of vanilla lemon rice pudding.

Making Vanilla Lemon Rice Pudding

Katherine graciously allowed me to share her vanilla rice pudding recipe with you. I've renamed it to bring justice to the magic the lemon brings. I've made a slight change to the dairy component, swapping her 4 cups of whole milk + 1 1/4 cups heavy cream for 1 quart of half-and-half and 1 1/4 cups milk), otherwise this is completely hers. This change retains the silky creaminess of her version, but leaves me with no wasted partial carton of whipping cream. She is right in that the sweet aroma of lemon and vanilla this offers when bubbling on the stovetop is most pleasant.

You should definitely use Meyer Lemons when they are in season for this. The floral mandarin/lemon flavor is fantastic. I think orange zest would also be wonderful, like a creamsicle. However, standard Eureka or Lisbon (everyday grocery store0 lemons will still take you over the moon.

Katherine serves hers in flowery china cups, a touch of French charm, with a drizzle of caramel sauce. I like serving the rice pudding with a wedge of the zested lemon. A squeeze over the top brings a little acidic component as a balance to its sweet creaminess.

When I started dreaming of Vanilla Lemon Rice Pudding in the middle of the night, I knew I had to share it with you. It has become my new favorite sweet treat. Maybe it will become yours, too, as you dream of far away places.

Five everyday ingredients, so much deliciousness.

Another Delicious and Easy Dessert

Nutty Chocolate Port Ice Cream Sundae: Get the recipe here.

A cup of vanilla lemon rice pudding with a spoon

Vanilla Lemon Rice Pudding

Course: Breakfast + Brunch, Dessert
Cuisine: French
Season: All Season
Dietary: Gluten-Free
Preparation: One Pot/One Pan
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 6 - 8
It's hard to believe five ingredients can make a treat as delicious and comforting as this vanilla lemon rice pudding.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 cups half-and-half*
  • cups milk
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • 2 lemons zested, lemons reserved for garnish
  • 1 cup Arborio rice

Instructions

  • Combine milk, heavy cream, sugar, vanilla seeds and bean pod, and lemon zest in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium low heat.
  • Stir in rice, bring back to a strong simmer, cover with a lid. Reduce heat to the lowest possible setting and simmer 60 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until rice is tender and a puddinglike texture. Spoon into serving dishes, garnish with a wedge of zested lemon to squeeze over the top, and serve warm. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate to store up to three days.

Notes

*Katherine Burns' original recipe calls for 4 cups of whole milk and 1¼ cups whipping cream. I changed this in order to use up an entire quart of half-and-half, and I typically have milk on hand. This provides less waste (3/4 cup of cream) in my kitchen since I use cream infrequently. Choose what's best for you, as the results are nearly indistinguishable. 
A top-down photo of a bowl of red tomato soup in a white bowl.

Yesterday I shared with you The World's Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich, made with garlicky greens, caramelized onion, and brie. It's only fitting that you have The World's Best Tomato Soup recipe to go with it. The two are a match made in heaven.

A Word About Canned Tomatoes

I've driven Interstate Five through California's agricultural regions many times. Enough times to see truckloads of produce pulling off the highway into the many canneries there. May I tell you that not all canned tomatoes are of the same quality? I've observed truckload after truckload of hard pink balls in the truck-trailers. It's not hard to know how they will perform in flavor and texture next to their red, ripe cousins. My practical observation is that you truly get what you pay for in canned tomatoes. Unless you use a lot of canned tomatoes, the price differential is relatively small. It might not make that much difference in a stew with lots of other flavors, but here's my rule of thumb: If the word tomato is in the title of the food I'm making, like tomato sauce, for example or the world's best tomato soup, I spend the extra dollar.

Making the World's Best Tomato Soup

tomato soup with garlicky greens and brie grilled cheese sandwich

First, lets talk equipment. This is a time when an immersion blender is more than handy. Yes, you can blend the soup in batches in either a food processor or blender. However, a stick blender will get the job done and reduce the amount of cleanup you'll have. I've not met a cook yet who would argue with that!

Because it's still late winter I used dried herbs and a bay leaf, which also gets blended into the soup, but in the growing season, trade those herbs out for fresh basil, fresh thyme, or any of the tender, leafy herbs that suit you.

Two other touches make the soup extra special. I save parmesan rinds for times like this. Just throw one in during the short simmering period for an extra flavor boost. The rind will soften and become somewhat gooey looking, but holds together just fine and can easily be fished out prior to blending. If you don't have a parm rind on hand that's just fine. The soup is still lovely so don't let that stop you from making it. The second bit of magic comes with a hearty drizzle of balsamic vinegar as a finishing touch.

The olive oil in here gives it a creamy texture and appearance, but if you love a splash of milk or cream in your tomato soup, by all means use it.

If you like this recipe, please leave it a star rating by clicking on the green stars below the title in the recipe card below. If you like the 101-Mile Kitchen project, I'd be honored if you subscribed to the newsletter!

A platter holding all the ingredients for The World's Best Tomato Soup
a top-down photo of a bowl of red tomato soup in a white bowl.

The World's Best Tomato Soup

Course: Appetizer, Main Dish, Quick + Easy, Soup + Stew
Cuisine: American
Season: All Season
Dietary: Gluten-Free
Preparation: Fast + Easy, One Pot/One Pan
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4
A few special touches make this recipe the only one you need for The World's Best Tomato Soup!
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tbsp. flour, rice flour, or 1-to-1 GF flour
  • 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes and their juice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 parmesan rind, optional
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Instructions

  • Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the diced onion and sauté until the onion has softened and is starting to become translucent. Add the garlic, thyme, basil and bay leaf and sauté another 2-3 minutes. Add the flour and sauté, stirring for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and their juices, the water, optional parmesan rind, salt, and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove the parmesan rind and blend the soup using an immersion blender, food processor, or blender. If using a food processor or blender, blend in batches. Blend until the soup is fairly smooth, but still has a slight amount of tomato texture. Remove from the heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar. Serve piping hot.
Platter Parsnip Poutine + Rich Mushroom Gravy on table with wine glasses and bottle of wine.

Parsnip Poutine + Rich Mushroom Gravy involves roasting quartered parsnips until partly chewy, partly crispy. A brown gravy smothers all good poutines. This one is a rich mushroom gravy redolent with shallots and herbs. Top the poutine off with Beaver Classic cheese curds, a project of Oregon State University's College of Agricultural Sciences, or any cheese curd or melting cheese you chose.

This recipe is designed for a very special group of people who started out as neighbors and became dear friends. Ever since we moved to the 101-Mile Kitchen we gather frequently to relax, shoot the breeze, eat and drink. This recipe is a thank you to these amazing souls who have kept my heart from drooping during the last 20 months of living in an upside down world, and to the universe for putting us in each other's paths.

Besides being funny, smart, and caring, our neighbors all enjoy cooking great food and drinking nice wine. (There might be a splash of bourbon here and there, too.) Sometimes we have a full-on meal, but most often we meet over easy noshes, charcuterie, spreads and dips, and casual dishes. I can't wait to make this poutine for them.

Overhead closeup photo of Parsnip Poutine with Rich Mushroom Gravy.

What is the Best Pairing?

While it makes a terrific main course at its heart poutine is bar food and doesn't need a precious pairing. I'd suggest a Southern Rhone style blend. This time I served the poutine with a very inexpensive ($13) 2017 Château Saint-Estève Cuvée Classique Corbières Rouge-- a nice old world 60% Grenache- 40% Syrah blend. It is lively, with whispers of herbs and deep fruit that compliment the umami and herbal flavors in the gravy.

Quady North GSM from Oregon's Rogue Valley and Reininger Helix SoRho from Washington are some of our favorite American GSM producers.

Of course most ales and beers are also delightful with poutine.

Making the Poutine + Gravy

Image of all the ingredients needed to make the parsnip poutine + rich mushroom gravy: parsnips, dried mushrooms, rosemary, shallot, flour, thyme, garlic, and cheese curds.

Parsnip Poutine + Rich Mushroom Gravy is another of those one-hour wonders. It takes maybe ten minutes to prep the ingredients, 16 minutes in the oven to get the parsnips on their tender and crunchy way while the mushrooms rehydrate, and another 15 or 20 minutes to make the gravy while the parsnips are finishing off. A foil-lined sheet pan, a large pan, a knife, and a bowl are the only tools used so clean-up is speedy.

Parsnips and shallots grow just about anywhere, so they should fit in to most people's imaginary 101-mile sourcing radius. You can find dried Porcini mushrooms at many groceries and online. My favorite source is Pistol River Mushroom Farm in Southern Oregon. Dried mushrooms seem expensive until you realize that one ounce of dried mushrooms is equal to 8 ounces of fresh. The dark color of the soaking liquid becomes the intensely flavored broth for the gravy-- something a fresh mushroom just can't do.

As an aside, tuck this mushroom gravy recipe away to use in many other ways. I can't wait to ladle it onto a split and fluffed baked potato one cold winter's day.

Parsnip Poutine with Rich Mushroom Gravy on a platter, surrounded by wine bottle and glasses.

Parsnip Poutine + Rich Mushroom Gravy

Course: Appetizer, Main Dish
Season: Bounty (August - October), Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-Free, Vegetarian
Preparation: One Pot/One Pan, Roasting
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6
You'd never know there was no meat in this rich silky poutine gravy, and the crunchy, chewy roasted parsnips take it to new but familiar places. A fantastic main or "bar food" course for vegans and omnivores alike.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 lb. parsnips
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, or other dried cooking mushroom
  • 12 oz. shallot, approximately 4 large peeled and sliced ½" thick
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
  • tablespoons GF One-for-One flour, rice flour, or all-purpose flour
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ lb. cheese curds, or goat cheese

Instructions

For the Parsnips

  • Preheat the oven to 400° convection and line a baking sheet with foil.
  • Trim and peel the parsnips. Quarter them lengthwise, and if they are especially thick, cut them again into eighths. Lay them out on the foil lined baking sheet, and drizzle them generously with olive oil. Toss them with your hands to evenly cover them in the olive oil, and spread them out flat at much as possible. Sprinkle them lightly with salt and black pepper. Bake for 16 minutes, and them flip them over. Reduce the oven heat to 350°. Sprinkle again with salt and pepper, and drizzle olive oil on any parts that look parched. Sprinkle the rosemary leaves over the parsnips and return to the oven for another 16-20 minutes. Check them often for doneness-- the thick tops will be browned and tender, the thin ends will be well browned and somewhat crispy.

For the Mushroom Shallot Gravy

  • As soon as the parsnips are in the oven, place the dried porcini in a 4-cup measuring cup or bowl, and cover with hot tap water to the 3-cup mark. Set aside.
  • Heat enough olive oil over medium-high heat to generously cover the bottom of a sauteuse or large pan. Slide in the sliced shallots and leave without turning until the bottoms are browned. Stir, flipping them over, and again allow them to brown. After the first ten minutes add the minced garlic, thyme, and a 4-finger pinch of salt. Continue the browning process until the shallots are completely tender but not mushy, and have a good amount of browned caramelization throughout.
  • Stir in the flour, and continuously stir until the flour is well incorporated and beginning to stick to the pan. Stir for about three minutes.
  • Gradually ladle in the soaked mushrooms and their dark brown soaking liquid, stirring between ladlefuls, until it it incorporated. You will see the gravy begin to thicken immediately-- stir throughout this process to avoid any lumps.
  • Stirring frequently, bring the gravy to a boil, and add some more salt. There should be about one teaspoon total in the gravy, or to taste. Add a very generous amount of black pepper to season. Allow the gravy to bubble and thicken for about 6 minutes.

Bring it All Together

  • Arrange the roasted parsnips on a large warmed platter in a spiky spoke-like fashion. Ladle the hot gravy in the center. Arrange the cheese curds over the gravy, and top with a bunch of thyme for garnish. Serve while piping hot.

Bowls of Pumpkin Black Bean Soup, a loaf of bread, and wine on a table ready for a party.

Soup as Your Secret Weapon

In case you haven't noticed, the world really needs us right now. The paradigm-looting pandemic isn't over. Differing points of view are dividing friends and neighbors when we aren't paying attention. It's as though the collective pulse is slow, the heartbeat is going quiet. Bold acts of friendship are as important as they ever were.

Lean in and let Pumpkin Black Bean Soup be one of your secret weapons in the defense of friendship.

Closeup of a bowl of pumpkin black bean soup.

Lean In, Full and Strong

I've found that leaning in to my loved ones and community happens best when I first make my own self full and strong. Now is the time to follow the pilot's directions. "Ladies and gentlemen, should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.”

Simply put, if I run out of oxygen I cannot assist someone else with gaining theirs. If I'm gasping for air I am fairly useless in creating a safer, happier, nourishing place for others.

In this season known for its comfort food, let us remember this for ourselves. Eat reviving foods, feed ourselves well. Warm, spicy, hearty things that nourish not just our bodies, but our eyes and hearts and imaginations. And then share it with others out of our own fullness.

Overhead photo of bowls of pumpkin black bean soup, bread loaf, and wine glasses.

Make More Bean Soup Joy

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup is a stealthy way to make more joy. Make more festivity for Halloween night supper. Make more personal success-- image your game-day touchdown by sharing this big pot of soup with loved ones. Or make this soup as an easy dinner party with whoever it is that makes up your pod these days.

Or in support to yourself, make the whole big pot and parcel out 2-cup portions for your freezer. That way you'll always be fueled for your loving, life-giving actions even when you don't feel like cooking. The joyfully act of making the soup itself is a beautiful life-giver.

More About Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

A wooden platter with the recipe ingredients mis en place.

Put together this rich and fragrant rusty-brown soup in a flash with canned ingredients from your pantry, or with dried black beans you cook yourself. (Beans from Rancho Gordo are the best ever, and their Midnight Black Beans are perfect here.) Directions for the easy way and the beans-from-scratch way are included. I love it both ways, depending on the amount of time I've got to give. Click here for link to a Facebook Live video of me explaining the easy process of making pumpkin puree from scratch.

Make it vegan by omitting the ham hock or pancetta for another delicious way to go, even for committed meat-eaters.

The aroma coming from the pot of this seasonal soup is so inviting and so comforting. Pumpkin gets a well-earned reprieve from its sugar and spice gig, making a happy marriage with the savory black beans and cumin. It really is the perfect thing for the chilly days ahead.

Oh, by the way, a perfect accompaniment to this warming soup is a huge loaf of Caraway Rye Black Bread. Together they make enough to feed a crowd of friends bent on making more joy, no matter what.

One bowl of Pumpkin Black Bean Soup with spoon.

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

Course: Main Dish, Soup + Stew
Season: Bounty (August - October), Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free
Preparation: One Pot/One Pan
40 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 2 quarts
Comfort food at its best, let Pumpkin Black Bean Soup be your secret weapon in defense of friendship. Pumpkin gets a reprieve from sugar and spice in this happy marriage of savory black beans and cumin.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 15 oz. cans whole black beans, drained See Notes section for cooking beans from scratch.
  • 1 15 oz. can whole or diced tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups onion, diced (about 2 large onions)
  • 2 poblano chilis, diced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz. pancetta or bacon, diced (optional) Omit for vegan option.
  • 3 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 15 oz cans pure pumpkin Or one 28 oz. can.
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 can Stout or other favorite beer (optional) I love Athletic Brewing Company's non-alcoholic All Out Stout for this.
  • 2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or to taste at the table
  • pumpkin seeds, cilantro, green onion, and/or sour cream as toppings

Instructions

  • Blend together in a food processor half of the black beans and the canned tomatoes. Process until nearly smooth. Set aside.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large soup or stock pot to medium-high heat. Add the diced onions, poblano, garlic, pancetta (if using, salt, and pepper. Stir together, and allow the vegetables to thoroughly soften as the pancetta crisps up a bit, stirring frequently and adjusting heat to prevent them from browning, about 7 minutes. Add the cumin and Mexican oregano, stir, and allow to cook another 3 minutes or so.
  • Add the blended bean/tomato mixture to the sauteed vegetables and stir. Stir in the pumpkin, and then stir in the water and stout (if using). Simmer and stir frequently for 20 minutes or so to slightly condense and thicken, and to let the flavors come together. Stir in the remaining whole beans and serve. If you are making this in advance of serving time, add the beans in the last five minutes before serving to they don't overcook and collapse.
  • Right before serving, stir in the vinegar and taste to adjust seasoning. Ladle into bowls, serve plain, or garnish with your favorite combination of topping ingredients.

Notes

For cooking the black beans from scratch:
If you are cooking your black beans from their dried state, you can omit the pancetta and include a ham hock, which adds a lovely smoky flavor and a little smoked pork to the pot. For the vegan option, of course, do not add a hock.
You'll need:
Soak the beans 4-6 hours covered by 2" in water. Place the beans and their soaking water (I think this preserves some color, flavor, and nutrients, but you may also drain the beans and start with fresh water) and the ham hocks (if using) in a pot large enough to cover by 2" of water. Bring to a rolling boil for five minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1-2 hours, with a lid set ajar. Stir every now and then, and begin tasting for doneness at the one-hour mark. Try your best to not overcook the beans-- just cook until they are tender to the tooth, but have retained their shape. 
Proceed with the recipe as directed in step one. 
With this method, drain the beans through a colander and use the cooking liquid (pot liquor) to replace some or all of the water. This captures the extra flavor the cooking liquid offers into the soup. After the ham hock cools, pick any meat from it and reserve until step four, adding it back with the whole beans. 
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.

Some evenings are just not made for fussing over dinner. After a long work day; kids' sports-music-dance-chess club-art-study group activities; community meetings; and who knows what, all cooks need some go-to quick, hot, hearty, tasty things we can make with our eyes closed.

This recipe got me through the flurry of raising my then-tween and teen-agers, and still is a completely comforting and serviceable years later. Over the years I've done a lot of "Making It My Own" improv riffing, and it's always forgiving and welcome.

large beefy spinach-filled burrito on blue plate

A big plus to this recipe guideline is that it easily accommodates a range of dietary needs within a household. It's easy to make a burrito cheesy-gooey for one person and dairy-free for another, and it offers the same flexibility with gluten-free and vegan options.

If you're into left overs, plan to make some. It's a jump-start to a hearty Joe's Special egg scramble the next morning, or a great topping for a plate of Friday night nachos.

In my real-world life, not every meal is a multi-course beautifully plated affair. Nope, some nights are just about getting it done, and that's good enough, especially when one of my adult sons still asks, "Hey, Mom, can I come over for spinach burritos?" That's a sign of a successful recipe.

Cheap Quick + Easy 20-Minute Beefy (or Beany) Spinach Burritos

Course: Main Dish, Quick + Easy
Cuisine: Mexican
Season: Bounty (August - October), Evergreen (April - July), Mist (November - March)
Preparation: One Pot/One Pan
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 8 small burritos
The perfect veggie-filled busy-night dinner when you need something hot, delicious and NOW! Gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan option, too!
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ lb. ground beef, vegan ground meat substitute OR
  • 3 15 oz. cans pinto beans, drained plus 2 Tbsp. olive oil for the pan
  • 6 cloves garlic, or 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 ¼ Cups store-bought salsa
  • 1 4 oz can diced green chilies, or add another ½ cup salsa
  • 8 to 10 oz. fresh spinach
  • 1 Cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8 medium flour or GF tortillas
  • canola or other cooking spray
  • cilantro, additional salsa and sour cream for garnish

Instructions

  • In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef or meat substitute, garlic, cumin, and salt.
  • If replacing the meat with canned beans, add 2 Tbsp. olive oil to the pan before adding the beans.
  • When the meat (or beans) and spices are well-browned, stir in in the salsa and green chilis.
  • Add the spinach leaves, two or three handfuls at a time, stirring them in until they wilt before adding the next few handfuls, until all the spinach is wilted and mixed through.
  • Heat a separate large skillet to medium high. Spray one side of each tortilla with the cooking spray (this will help them crisp up.*) Place the sprayed side down in the heated skillet, and sprinkle a little of the cheese down the center. (Omit the cheese for vegan/dairy-free options.) Spoon the beefy spinach filling down the center of the tortilla. Fold the edges over the filling, burrito-style. When the first side is browned, flip the burrito over to crisp it too.
  • Place the burritos on serving plates and garnish with additional salsa, green chilis, cilantro, and sour cream (omit for vegan/diary-free versions) as desired.

Notes

Make It Your Own:
  • add a chopped onion to the skillet when browning the ground beef
  • try this with ground chicken or turkey
  • experiment with adding chili powder and/or dried Mexican oregano
  • add a chopped stems from a bunch of cilantro with the spinach
  • fancy expensive salsa is not needed in this recipe, but have fun experimenting with different inexpensive ones. 
  • bump up the heat with spicier salsa, or add a chopped jalapeno to the meet as it browns. 
*This cooking spray tip is also how I soften corn tortillas for tacos and enchiladas. No need to pour oil into a skillet to do this task, just a simple shot of cooking spray. 
Healing Chickpea + Orzo Bowl in Ginger Broth

The Oregon season of mist is starting to pull back and make way for our evergreen season. It is uplifting to feel how just three more minutes of sunlight a day warms ones bones. The daffodils and crocus, a little late this year, are poking up their cheery heads. Even the dog beginning to shed in never-ending tufts is a welcome sign of spring. The one true sign it is time to shift from winter foods is when the grasses turn intense chlorophyll green.

overhead view of soup on bowl

Still, mornings are cold and the mist is more present than not. Something lighter than a dense soup or stew but still hot and nourishing just sounds right. Honor the shift in cravings you may have as the grasses and clover green up brightly. This Healing Chickpea + Orzo Bowl in Ginger Broth couldn't be an easier solution. Be sure to check out the Make It Your Own options in the recipe, as this one has a lot of ways to make it work for whatever it is you need.

When you're feeling under the weather-- be it a little (or worldwide proportioned) virus, heartache or disappointment, this bowl is a perfect year-round healer and cheer-giver. The simple ginger-turmeric tea and coconut milk broth is as easy as boiling water, and would make a nutritious snack all on it's own. The whole thing comes together with zero fuss in under 20 minutes. The gingery goodness and light but complete protein will have you feeling as sprightly as a bright yellow daffodil in no time.

recipe ingredients orzo, chickpeas, coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, ginger-turmeric tea bags, and cilantro
overhead view of soup on bowl

Healing Chickpea + Orzo Bowl in Ginger Broth

Course: Quick + Easy, Soup + Stew
Cuisine: Fusion
Season: Bounty (August - October), Evergreen (April - July), Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan
Preparation: One Pot/One Pan
Prep Time: 12 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 6
Author: Pam Spettel
Made with tea broth and light yet hearty ingredients, this bowl will revive all forms of sorrows and ills. As uplifting a daffodils in the spring.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 5 cups water boiled
  • 5 ginger turmeric tea bags
  • 1 13.5 oz. can full fat coconut milk
  • 3 limes juiced
  • 1 lime cut in six wedges
  • 1 ½ tsp Asian fish sauce for vegan option use coconut aminos
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 15 oz. cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed
  • 1 lb. GF or traditional orzo, cooked, or see rice Make it Your Own option
  • ½ bunch cilantro chopped
  • Sriracha or spicy Asian chili sauce

Instructions

  • In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil and add teabags. After they are fully immersed, add coconut milk, put a lid on the pot, and leave to steep for 10 minutes. Remove tea bags.
  • Stir lime juice, fish sauce, and salt into the tea/coconut milk broth. Keep at a low simmer.
  • In a blender, blend together one cup of the garbanzos and a few ladlesful of the broth. Once it is blended smooth, add it back to the broth and stir.
  • Pile garbanzos and orzo into shallow bowls. Ladle broth around them.
  • Garnish generously with chopped cilantro and Sriracha to taste. Serve with lime wedges.

Notes

Make It Your Own:
For a warm restorative to coming in from the cold, forget the garbanzos and orzo. Ladle the hot broth (with or without blended chickpeas) into a cup. Use the cup to warm your hands while the broth warms your soul.
Replace the orzo with jasmine rice and replace the garbanzos with tiny cubes of silken tofu.
For a non-vegetarian meal, add 4-6 peeled shrimp per person to the broth and simmer 4 minutes until just cooked through. 
Experiment with various Asian chili sauces to kick up the heat. 
Add to or substitute thinly sliced spinach whiskers for the cilantro.
Makes excellent breakfast or lunch leftovers. Store any remaining broth, garbanzos, and orzo in a jar. Gently simmer to reheat.

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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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