teen twists: the cure for leftover ham

If your family is like my family, you spent your Easter enjoying each other’s company and soaking up the spring weather, but mainly stuffing yourselves with honey ham. No matter how much ham we eat, though, there are always leftovers. Stacks of ham slices get shoved into gallon-sized Ziplocks and sent home with every pork-weary relative. My dad, who is in all other circumstances vehemently anti-leftover, makes magic happen from that bag of ham. The night after Easter, he will put the ham to its highest and best use: the Teen Twist, a griddled hot ham and cheese topped with lettuce, tomato, and secret sauce served on a twist roll (also known as an egg bread roll).

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insta classic: lemon chicken

I so far haven’t written about a recipe unless I really enjoy it (I’ve yet to document any of my kitchen fails, as Laura so awesomely did), but there are definitely varying levels on my enjoyment scale. There are the tasty but not precisely thrilling recipes that sneak into my weeknight rotation. Good, even great, and often notable especially for their easiness, but not exactly life changing. A perfectly lovely side of the scale. I don’t expect life changing from every or even most of my weeknight dinners, after all. But then. Then, there are the rare awesome recipes that pull me up short and make me say “oh YUM” out loud when I take my first bite. Recipes that I immediately want to make again, and can’t wait to proselytize about to anyone who will listen. Shutterbean’s lemon chicken is squarely on that side of the scale.

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happily waiting for spring: spicy sausage pasta bake

I’m starting to think that spring might truly be on its lazy way to Boston. In recent days, I’ve actually felt warm sun on my face and I’ve been leaving my puffy coat in the closet for the first time since November. And it’s about time, to say the least. I have to admit, though, that if not for this year’s extra long comfort food season, I wouldn’t have come across this insta-favorite pasta. I’ve been warming myself with rich, rib-sticking meals for nearly five months, but it was just two weeks ago that I happened upon this perfect winter meal. Spicy, cheesy, weeknight-friendly, and even better as leftovers, it’s the silver lining to this bummer winter.

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super stew, with pumpkin and black beans

I love a recipe that teaches me a new technique. Even one that, in retrospect, I probably could (should?) have thought of on my own. In the case of this hearty stew–filled with chicken, pumpkin, black beans, corn, quinoa, and smoky spice–it was cooking whole chicken breasts right in the broth that makes up the foundation of the stew, turning it into almost a one pot meal. Once the chicken is cooked you take it out, shred, and then toss it back in. Genius, right? Nothing like combining steps to impress me on a weeknight. How quickly and easily this dish comes together plus the great flavor made it an instant keeper during this seemingly endless winter. It was a perfect simple dinner for nights when I wanted something satisfying that wouldn’t take too much effort, and I have a feeling it’s going to see me into the spring.

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spicy tahini mustard

This Valentine’s Day, Hal and I opted to skip presents. But I wanted to have something up  my sleeve just in case, since I had a hunch he wouldn’t be able to resist at least a little surprise. I was right, and he came home with the Joy the Baker cookbook and lovely flowers (neither count as “real” gifts in his mind, I learned), making me very glad I had planned ahead. Hal was a little confused when I opened the fridge and offered him a taste of something tan-ish out of a canning jar as his gift, but his confusion turned to glee when he realized what he was tasting: homemade spicy tahini mustard, based on a beloved treat at Talde, a favorite restaurant in our neighborhood. Not exactly the fanciest or most traditional heart day gift, but it went over big. The jar was empty in less than a week.

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lucky cheese and chive bread

Finding this recipe felt like finding a $20 bill in an old wallet. I was relaxing and leafing through Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table when it jumped out at me: a quick bread with two kinds of cheese, a whole packet of chives, and a good portion of walnuts. In other words, simple, irresistible, and a guaranteed winner. How could I have missed this recipe the countless times I’d looked through this book? Who knows. Who cares. I wasted no more time before letting the bread exceed my expectations. It’s delicious enough to eat morning, noon, and night. Twice at night, actually: it’s both a great cocktail snack and dinner accompaniment. It’s even seasonally appropriate: you can make it with Irish cheddar and serve it with Guinness at your St. Patrick’s Day party this weekend (or with mounds of bacon at the very necessary morning-after brunch).

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upgraded beans n’ franks

This is not a recipe that will win any beauty pageants. On the contrary, the finished dish looks a bit like something Oliver Twist might have asked for some more of. It’s something of a mush of beans, with slices of sausage and dots of carrot to keep it from being totally monochrome. But, like so many things in life, appearances are deceiving and it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Because in this case, what’s on the inside is seriously tasty. I never had beans and franks mixed together as a kid. Though I loved (and still love) both hot dogs and baked beans, I wanted them to be separate, thank you very much. Now that I’m older and wiser, I see the appeal of mixing everything together.

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