Miso Hungry

Do you ever have those moments when you realize that you’ve done something really, really dumb? You know, like when you go to wash your face in the shower and realize you just poured conditioner into your hands. And to make it worse, you haven’t shampooed yet, so you can’t just go on and condition, so as not to waste.

Or when you walk up to the counter to pay for your coffee and realize you left your wallet in the car. Or worse – at home? They don’t really let you wash dishes to earn your coffee/food like people say they do. But sometimes they are nice and they let you slide, or pay them next time.

I don’t have a gym membership anymore, but when I did, there were plenty of times when I’d get showered and ready for work at the gym, only to find that I’d neglected to pack a bra. Let’s just say that sweaty sports bras have no place in the professional world, or at least they shouldn’t have…

Hopefully you’ve all been there a time or two as well. Or at least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

Food-wise, I’ve done plenty of silly things in the kitchen. Last night even, I was making pizza, and I must have spread the dough too thinly because when the pizza came outta the oven, it definitely didn’t come off the pan. We were left picking chunks, some charred and some gooey, off the pan instead of sitting down to perfectly cooked pieces of pie.

I’ve already told you about the time I forgot to take the tie off of the soba noodles, and ended up with goops of noodles. And yeah, there are plenty of others, I’m sure.

The worst though, is when you finally use an ingredient, one that you’ve heard about, read about, and for whatever reason, never bought yourself, and you LOVE it. At least for me, I think of all those months and years I could have used said ingredient, enjoyed said ingredient, shoved said ingredient into my face. Avocadoes are one such ingredient, and I’ve tried to make up for lost time.

Miso is another. Oh, baby. Be still, my heart.

Since my discovering miso, oh, 1 month ago, there has been miso-glazed chicken, miso-curry vegetables, and now this – a rice salad with miso vinaigrette. Vinaigrette! Miso, where have you been all my life?! It is extra-salty, but nutty in a way, too. Decadent, but pretty healthy since it’s really just fermented soybeans, usually. Umami for sure comes to mind. And just plain freakin’ awesome.

Don’t be like me – don’t read about this great-sounding miso-laden recipe and turn the other cheek. You’ll regret it 5 years later when you finally do come around. Live for now, and get thee to the Asian aisle of your grocery store and get this.

Wild Rice Salad w/ Miso Dressing
Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen; serves 4

printable version

time commitment: 1 hour (for cooking rice, which can be done in advance. if so, time commitment drops to 20 minutes or less.)

this is a great, versatile recipe that can be served warm or cold. I’m so into miso dressing lately that I made this again since I had all of the ingredients on hand except the carrots, which is used in the original recipe instead of butternut squash. Feel free to use either one – if you do choose the carrots (1-2 cups, sliced), you can skip the sauté part and throw the carrots in with the edamame after the tofu is sautéed, just to heat them up a little and take away some of the hard crunch of the fresh carrot. Also, I threw in the arugula to “bulk up” the salad a little and make this dish stretch to four servings instead of 3.

1/2 c wild rice
14 oz. block extra firm tofu
2 t coconut oil
1 small butternut squash, cut into 1″ pieces
2 t soy sauce
fresh ground pepper
3/4 c cooked, shelled, edamame
1 large handful of baby arugula
3 T toasted sesame seeds
chopped cilantro, for garnish

2 T white (shiro) miso
2 T agave nectar
1 T sesame oil
2 1/2 T rice vinegar
1 shallot, minced
Juice of half an Orange

Rinse the wild rice. Bring two cups water to a boil. Add the rice, turn the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until all the water is absorbed (about 35-40 minutes), adding a bit more water if necessary to finish cooking. You will see a tuft of white pop from the center of the rice.

Meanwhile, drain the tofu of excess water. I like to wrap it in a dish towel and sit something really heavy on top of it for about 10 minutes. Cut it into a 1” dice. Heat the coconut oil over medium high heat – a cast iron skillet would work great, but any skillet will do. Add the butternut squash and sauté for about 7 minutes, then add the tofu and saute for about five minutes. Sprinkle the soy sauce and a few grinds of fresh pepper over the top and saute another few minutes until the edges are browned, adding the edamame at this point as well. Turn off heat and set aside, letting cool as much as possible.

To make the dressing, whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Then, in a large bowl, combine the rice, tofu, squash, and edamame. Toss everything with the dressing. Add the arugula, sesame seeds, and cilantro and give it another toss. Serve room temperature or chilled.

Feelin’ Lucky

I’ve never been a superstitious person. I like black cats (except my mom’s), and I far from freak out when they cross my path. I walked under a ladder tonight and didn’t think twice about it, but maybe that was because we were being handy and using our newly procured drill – I was overcome with excitement. I’ve broken a couple of mirrors in my lifetime, and most certainly have not had 7 years of bad luck.

In fact, there have been quite a few good years. Luck or not, I specifically think 2010 has been a pretty good one.

Speaking of luck, I’ve never been a big fan of black eyed peas. Word on the street, at least down South, is that a black eye pea-containing dish on New Year’s day will bring good luck for the rest of the year. My mom was (probably still is) an annual cowpea eater; the plastic bag of dried peas sat in the door of our fridge, opened but half-full, for months. I never ate them – for whatever reason, a saucepan of peas never looked, or smelled, appealing to me.

But this year, I figured what the hell. I came across a recipe that sparked my interest, and rather than making the dish at the end of November, I decided I may as well make it at the end of December, and eat the leftovers New Year’s Day. I mean, I’m not superstitious or anything, but still – may as well eat them on the “right” day, no?!

Meanwhile, I plan to open a few umbrellas indoors, step on a couple of cracks, spill some salt (but not in someone’s shoes), and maybe even go to sleep with my hair wet.

Despite all of those things, I have a good feeling about 2011. It’s gonna be somethin’, that’s for sure. So stay tuned ;).

Hoppin’ John (or Skippin’ Jenny, depending on when you eat it)
loosely adapted from Cooking Light, December 2010; serves 8

time commitment: 1.5 hours (30 minutes active time), plus soaking the beans overnight

i added a little more liquid than was needed, and my hoppin’ john was a little, er, soupy, but i actually liked it. however, once the liquid disappeared, I have to say it was better without, so i’ve adjusted below to reflect that. i also upped the spiciness a little (ok, a lot) and tossed in some butternut squash, because I had some. feel free to leave it out if you want.

printable version

1 1/2  c dried black-eyed peas
2  t olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 small poblano pepper, diced
3  garlic cloves, minced
1  serrano pepper, minced
1/2  t smoked paprika
1/2  t ground cumin
2 1/2  c reduced sodium chicken/turkey broth
3/4 t dried thyme
1/2  t freshly ground black pepper
1/4  t salt
2 T hot pepper sauce (Frank’s), plus more at end to taste
6  oz (~2 links) andouille sausage, cut into thin slices
1  (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1  bay leaf
2 c butternut squash, cut into 1/2″ cubes, optional
1 c uncooked long-grain  brown rice
1/4  c thinly sliced green onions

Wash black eyed peas, tossing peas that appear discolored; place in a large bowl. Cover with water to 2 inches above peas; soak for 8 hours or overnight. Drain.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and next 4 ingredients (through serrano); sauté 7 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in smoked paprika and cumin; saute 1 minute. Add peas, broth, and next 7 ingredients (through bay leaf), stirring to combine. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 50 minutes or until peas are tender. Toss butternut squash, if using, into pot at the end, for about 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf.

Meanwhile, make rice according to package instructions. Fluff rice with a fork, and stir into pea mixture. Top with green onions and more hot sauce, if desired.

Getting Souped-Up

curried butternut squash soup

For whatever reason, I’ve had a handful of summer soup recipes just sitting, waiting patiently, in my recipe stack. They’ve been sitting there all summer. I never made them, never even pulled them out of the stack to consider making them. I simply cannot get behind the cold summer soup recipes. And don’t get me wrong – I like them – I just don’t seem to ever want to make them.

Hot soups though? Hot damn, and yes ma’am!

roasting squash

Have I mentioned my love of butternut squash? Alright, I know I did – but I really really really love it. I mean really. In fact, I’d reconsider my choice of stranded island food if it weren’t for the difficulty I might encounter peeling them on that imaginary island. And since I had a table-full of various squash from my apple picking adventure, all I had to do other than get those puppies cut and roasted was to see what was hanging around the pantry and fridge to add to ’em.

Which brought about a huge revelation: I have to finally admit that I’m really getting into fall right about now. Although I love the weather of the summer, I love the food of the fall. I couldn’t wait for the winter squash to take root in the Whole Foods’ produce section and farmers’ markets, I am so excited about making cranberry sauce I can’t see straight, and I love using my immersion blender to make a rich, comforting, hot soup.

red curry paste addition

Especially this soup, which is undoubtedly our new favorite around Chez Wetzel. If my love of the squash itself wasn’t enough, this soup ups the ante by also having one of my other favorite things, curry. Red curry paste, to be exact. And instead of blabbing about its’ loveliness with halibut or short ribs, I’ll blab about its’ loveliness in this soup. It is to. die. for. Autumn in a bowl – a rich, decadent, healthy bowl of orange deliciousness but with a wee hint of Thai spiciness.

And although I haven’t met a butternut squash soup I didn’t just adore, I will quickly admit that this “souped-up” version with curry is on a whole other level. The curry paste is the perfect complement and adds just a hint of heat to the soup. The carrots and apples balance out the flavors a bit, and finishing it with a little honey adds a teeny tiny touch of sweetness.


It’s too bad that pretty soon the leaves will all be dead and I’ll be swapping out my light fall jacket for my marshmellow coat – right when I start to be excited about this weather. Such a Debbie Downer, right?!

Until then, I’m gonna knock out a few more soups, use (or freeze) the rest of my squashies, and look forward to a day full of turkey, casseroles, and cranberry sauce. Because after all that, it’s chili time!


Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Adapted liberally from Bon Appetit, February 2007; serves 6-8

printable recipe

2 2lb butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded (can also use other winter squash – I used 3/4 butternut, 1/4 delicata)
2 T unsalted butter
1/2 onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 T fresh ginger, chopped
4 t  Thai red curry paste
2 14-oz cans low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 c water (or another can of broth)
2 bay leaves
3 T heavy cream
2 T honey
cilantro, chopped (for garnish)


  1. preheat oven to 375 F. place cut squash on foil-lined baking sheet. roast until tender, about 1 hour. cool slightly. scoop squash out into large bowl. measure ~4 to 4 1/2 c (reserve remaining for another use)
  2. melt butter in large heavy pot (dutch oven is perfect) over med-hi heat. add onion, carrots, apple, ginger and saute 5 minutes. add curry paste and stir for 2 minutes. add broth, water, bay leaves, and squash. bring to boil; reduce heat to med-low and simmer uncovered for 1 hour. discard bay leaves.
  3. working in batches (or using immersion blender, my best friend), puree soup in until smooth. return to pot. at this time, if soup is too thick, add more water to thin, being sure to heat through. stir in cream and honey. season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. divide among bowls and serve with chopped cilantro

More Butternut squash:

Romaine & Butternut Squash Salad w/ Chipotle Ranch

Barley & Butternut Squash Risotto

More soup:

Cauliflower-Apple soup with Roasted Red Peppers & Apple Cider Reduction

Pumpkin & Shrimp Bisque

Barley is Gnarly

butternut squash and barley risotto with cheese

Oh how the tables have turned. It wasn’t long ago that Chris was sitting at home playing his video games while I was busy crafting pies or pasta in the kitchens at school. We’ve since traded places – me chillin’ at home, him – well, not learning to make pasta – but learning whatever it is he’s learning en route to his MBA. Either way, he’s mad busy these days – if not in class he’s working on something for class. Which leaves me time for – you guessed it – cooking for numero uno. Yes, me!

Which reminds me, in addition to free time for cooking, I’ve also finally had enough spare time to move my blog to another host. Please forgive the organized chaos. I’ve ironed out a lot of the tweaks, but still have a few to go. In the meantime though, let’s talk about some food now, shall we?

barleydiced onions

We all love risotto, right? I know I do. I mean really, what’s not to like? Rice slow-cooked to a rich, creamy but still somewhat firm consistency – with additions of almost anything you could conjure up. And why stop with changing around the vegetables and proteins? I figured, why not shake it up a bit more and try a different grain – maybe it’s not your traditional risotto, but it sure tastes good.

Besides, why stop at beer when it comes to barley? In granular form, it may not offer that malted flavor we brewsky drinkers fervently enjoy, but it does have some other admirable qualities. For one, eating barley can help to regulate blood sugar for up to 10 hours post-consumption. Rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber (both soluble and insoluble), it wins against plain old rice any day of the week. What does it taste like? Chewy and crunchy, nutty and earthy – similar to brown rice but even more satisfying.

apricots,currants,parsleybarley risotto

I know – I’m not the first person to make barley risotto – and I hope not the last. If you haven’t tried barley, or any of these other fancy grains – I challenge you to give them a try. Give that arborio and that box of Uncle Ben’s a break, will ya? Pretty please, and thank you.

Need a little more guidance? Some more inspiration perchance? Check here for a recipe using farro (lovely, just like barley but gluten-free as barley is not), and check here for a quinoa salad. Have you made something with any other grains? Kamut? Wheat berries? Amaranth? Leave a link or two (or even three, if you please) in the comments section and share away!

butternut squash and risottobutternut squash barley risotto plated

Barley & Butternut Squash Risotto
Original from chiknpastry.com; serves 4

 printable version

3 c chicken or vegetable broth
2 c water
1 lb butternut squash, cubed into 1/2-inch pieces
olive oil, for drizzling over squash
1 t 5 spice powder
1 t cinnamon
1 t cayenne pepper
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, small dice
1 c pearled barley
1 t garlic, minced
1/2 c dried fruit (I used 1/4 currants, 1/4 apricots)
salt & pepper
1/4 c pecorino-romano cheese, shredded
1 T basil, chopped
2 T pine nuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 375 F

Mix broth and water together, heat in medium saucepan; keep warm

Mixed cubed squash with ~2T olive oil and spices (5 spice, cinnamon, cayenne). Spread on baking sheet and bake about 30 minutes, turning halfway through.

Meanwhile, heat 1 T oil in medium-sized Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Throw in onion and cook for ~5 minutes; add garlic and cook ~1 minute. Add barley and let cook 1-2 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high, and begin adding 1 ladle-full (1/2-1 c) of broth/water mixture at a time, stirring (almost) constantly until liquid is almost dissolved. Continue until barley is cooked, about 30 minutes. (There may be some broth mix leftover)

Remove risotto from heat, add in roasted squash & dried fruit. Top with cheese, herbs, nuts and season with salt and pepper.


Finding My Second Wind

Butternut Squash Salad
I will be talking about that bowl of loveliness in a moment – I promise.

But first, I have to talk about this:

New blog header

Don’t you just adore it?! Don’t you want to hug it and squeeze it and call it George?! I sure do. Luckily, I have a very creative friend who was willing to put some brain power into making me a fancy new header. I’d become a little bored with the “google images” and also felt a little guilty (a little) for stealing images of pretty pictures I didn’t take…

You’ve heard me talk about my buddy Jennifer (aka JSimps, or sometimes just Simps), right? Jennifer recently started her very own design biz using Etsy, and she uses her blog, Second Wind Studios, to talk about her new creations and various other things. I’m sure she’d love to design a new header for you too, if you’re in the market for one! She also designs invitations (yes, for weddings too!), cards, pottery, etc. Head on over and chat with her – she’s very nice!

cubed butternut squash

I finally came out of my sickness slump on Friday, following a trip to my Jewish internist a few floors down. I only see him when I’m desperate, which is due simply to my aversion of taking medicine unless all else fails – it did, once the cookies were gone. Aside from my one annoyance with him, which is his inability to read anything in my chart before walking in (yes, I know…big whoop), he’s a pretty nice guy. I only wanted to punch him once at this visit – right after he made the assumption that I was a nurse because I’d switched specialties (pediatrics to cancer), because surely I wasn’t a doctor.. and what is a genetic counselor, anyway? Meh…
But the meds slowly relieved the ickiness, and by Friday I was feeling more like a 6 than a 3, which was good since the parentals were en route. Yes, my (divorced) parents, for whatever reason decided it’d be a good idea to drive up together from North Carolina for a weekend. Who flies these days, anyway – right?! Well, 17 hours later, they were here (yes, 17…. starting from Wilmington, meeting up in Fayetteville, & making pit stops at various intervals), and both were in need of a stiff drink!
Unlike most divorced parents, they can stand each other for a few days (with a few wise quips at each other thrown in for good measure), and they even choose to without any coercion. So visit they did, and cook I did thanks be to the z-pak, the aforementioned cookies, and a lot of sleep. They are super-easy guests in that right – no touring the city or fancy restaurants required, just visiting and eating whatever I make them!
roasted squash with cranberries and pine nuts
For dinner one night, I insisted on using butternut squash as a side dish, in some way. I’ve seen them in the stores and at the markets, and have literally been fiending for the nutty, creamy vegetables since last year. My friend Jenn from The Whole Kitchen recently blogged about a tasty squash salad, and I found a version that reminded me a little of her Colorado find. It had everything I love – chipotle pepper, homemade ranch dressing, said squash, dried cranberries, and nuts. How could I go wrong?

For most of you – this salad will be nothing short of nirvana. I’m serious. For me, it was too -although my salad nirvana was achieved sans lettuce. Being a supertaster and all, I am highly sensitive to bitterness (hence the need for added flavor in my coffee & pure hatred of brussel sprouts). Though I’d never tasted escarole, I always like to try everything once, so I went with the recommended lettuce for this recipe and gave it a shot. I could have easily been eating aspirin, and attribute it to the escarole bitterness (which in lettuce doesn’t usually bother me – I love arugula, frisee, and endive) coupled with a spicy dressing. Next time I make this salad (and there will be a next time), I’m using romaine, and you should too. I’m saving escarole for other salads with more sweetness to counterbalance that hefty bite. Pops & Chris ate all (or most of) the lettuce, mom left some behind and ate around it like me.

Maybe she’s a supertaster too?

Romaine & Butternut Squash Salad w/ chipotle-ranch dressing
Adapted from Cuisine at Home; serves 8

1 1/2 lb butternut squash, peeled & cubed
2 T evoo
salt & pepper
1 clove garlic
1/2 c mayonnaise
1/4 c buttermilk
2 T fresh lime juice
2 t honey
1 1/2 t minced chipotle chile pepper in adobo sauce (San Marcos, gluten-free)
8 c romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 c dried cranberries
1/4 c toasted pine nuts

preheat oven to 400 F. cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil. toss squash with oil, salt, and pepper. roast on the baking sheet until browned, 25-30 minutes. cool to room temp.

mince garlic with 1/2 t salt to form paste then place in bowl. add mayo, buttermilk, lime juice, honey, and chipotle. mix and blend with immerision blender until smooth (or puree in food processor). season as needed. refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 2 days.

toss romaine with desired amount of dressing. toss in squash, cranberries, and pine nuts.