Cook the Collection #10: The Fondue Cookbook

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Sep 072015

Header illustration for cook the collection projectThis project is well-intentioned but boy is it slow. All this time and I’m just on the tenth book – that’s kind of ridiculous. I’ve got this dead wood of not-great cookbooks hanging over me that I would like to pare from my collection, but I feel I should cook at least one thing from each before I do.

The Fondue CookbookThe thing is, there are cookbooks that have great, accessible recipes, and there are cookbooks that have luscious, aspirational photographs and head notes, and a few treasured cookbooks have both. Then there are the cookbooks that might not be so great but they’re meaningful in some way (for instance I like to bring back a cookbook as a souvenir when I travel), and the books that are family heirlooms. Another group of cookbooks are the workhorses of the collection – the reference and technique books and the general books that get turned to over and over again. Finally, there’s a large group of books that have marginal recipes, poor illustrations and uninspired writing. These are my bane! These are the books that I want to toss into the recycle bin (or at least the donation box at the local library).recipe page from The Fondue Cookbook

The Fondue Cookbook, however, is not one of those dreary books. This book is a specialty book for sure – we got it as a wedding gift along with a fondue pot (and no I was not married in the 70’s, surprisingly) – and it is full of fondue recipes and nothing else. The very first recipe, for traditional cheese fondue, is a solid recipe that gives great results. This is my go-to cheese fondue recipe, and when my daughter asked if we could have fondue the other day, it’s the one I turned to. Later this month I’ve promised the kids we’ll make chocolate fondue, and I’m sure I’ll turn to this book again.

Lean and Clean Turkey Burger {Recipe}

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Mar 262015

lean and clean turkey burger with recipe

These lean and clean turkey burgers and heavy in our dinner rotation lately. Right now my kids are obsessed with “make your own” dinners. Make your own tacos, make your own pizza, and make your own burgers – basically anything that they get to assemble on their own is a hit. We have “make your own ” burgers just about weekly, and like to rotate between beef burgers, salmon burgers and ‘clean’ turkey burgers.

This recipe is quick and simple to prepare, and fits in with the kind of healthful eating we try and stick with. We like to fix oven roasted potatoes instead of french fries, and usually serve peppers, carrots, or cucumbers alongside as well.

Lean and Clean Turkey Burger
(Serves 4)


  • 1 lb lean ground turkey breast
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (uncooked)
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (for frying burgers)

1. Combine all the ingredients and mix well. The mixture will be really soft and sticky. Wet your hands with a bit of water before you form the patties to keep the meat from sticking to your fingers. At this point you can put the mixture in the fridge to chill if you’re not ready to cook yet, otherwise proceed to the next step.

2. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat while you begin to form the patties. Once it’s hot add about a tablespoon of vegetable oil and then as you make a burger set it right into the hot pan and pat it down a bit, then move onto the next one.

3. Cook the burgers for about 7 minutes per side, until the patty is entirely cooked through. If you want to add cheese, top the burgers with a slice once you’ve flipped them and they have about 3 minutes left to cook. Pepper Jack cheese is delicious on these!

4. Serve on hamburger buns with your favorite toppings. Some of our favorites to choose from are bread & butter pickles, salsa criolla, lettuce, tomatoes, avocados or guacamole, and ranch dressing.

lean and clean turkey burger

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Manila Clams with Wine, Butter and Garlic

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Jan 152015

manila clams with wine garlic and butter

Yum, one of my favorite simple suppers is steamed Manila clams with white wine, butter, garlic and shallots. It’s so easy you don’t even really need a recipe, although I’ve got one for you. This meal manages to be unfussy yet elegant at the same time, which is often just what we need at our house after a stretch of burgers, tacos and pasta.

One of the best parts of this dish is that it’s a one pot meal – just add a loaf of crusty bread to soak up the sauce and you’re good. If we’re feeling really motivated we sometimes also add a green salad.

Steamed Manila Clams in White Wine
serves 4

  • 3 lbs Manila clams, live
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1. Rinse off the clams and inspect them – discard any clams that are open and don’t close up when they are knocked together. Most clams you purchase these days are farmed clams and are quite clean so they just need a rinse – if you’ve harvested them yourself or suspect they might be sandy you can leave them in the fridge in a bowl of clean water for 30 minutes so they can flush the sand through their system.

2. In a large stockpot or dutch oven melt the butter over medium heat – when the foam subsides add the shallot and onion and saute until they’ve softened but not browned.

3. Add the drained clams to the pot and stir to coat with the butter, shallots and garlic. Pour in the wine and stir again briefly, then cover the pot and simmer for about 10 minutes.

4. Check the clams – make sure they’re all opened and discard any that haven’t. Add the chopped parsley, stir and cook for a minute more.

5. Serve the clams in bowls with their sauce and good bread on the side.

manila clams wine garlic butter

Swiss Chard and Artichoke Tart

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Nov 072014

swiss chard artichoke tart

Savory tarts are some of my favorite things to eat – I love the combination of the rich crust, the flavorful vegetables, the filling egg and salty cheese. They’re also versatile, so you can serve them for breakfast, lunch or dinner. In Peru there is a popular swiss chard tart made with whole eggs baked in the middle – this swiss chard artichoke tart is a variation on that with the egg mixed into the chard instead, and the addition of artichoke hearts.

Because I’m really trying hard to cook healthy food for my family, we end up eating a lot of simple grilled or baked meats or fish – my old standby dishes are often too loaded with fats and sugars to fit into our menu anymore. This tart tastes like a treat, but it’s packed with leafy greens and protein so it’s good for us too.


Swiss Chard and Artichoke Tart
serves 8

  • 1 package prepared pie dough (2 sheets), or your own favorite dough recipe divided into two and rolled out into circles
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped (about 1/2 medium onion)
  • 20 oz Swiss Chard, chopped
  • 10 oz Artichoke hearts, quartered (I like using the frozen kind so they have no added oil, but thaw them before using)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Gouda cheese, grated
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat, add the onion and saute until the onion has begun to brown lightly.

2. Add the chard and stir occasionally for about 20 minutes, until it has softened and reduced in volume. (you might need to add it in two batches, depending on how big your pan is – if you do, let the first batch cook down some and then add the second).

3. Add the artichoke hearts and the salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes more, then remove the pot from the heat and let the mixture cool.

4. In a mixing bowl, lightly beat the 6 eggs and then add the grated cheese and stir to combine.

5. Line a 9″ pie plate with one of the dough circles and lightly prick the bottom of the crust with a fork.

6. Once the chard mixture is cool, add it to the egg mixture and fold the two together until they are mixed well, then put the filling into the pie crust.

7. Top the pie with the second crust, crimp the edges of the bottom and top crusts together and cut 4 slits in the top to let the filling vent.

8. Brush the top of the crust with milk or an egg wash to help it brown, then cook in a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes. Let the tart cool slightly before serving it – this tart is delicious hot, room temperature or even cold from the refrigerator.

Asparagus Tamales at Los Hernandez Tamales

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May 282014

a collage of pictures of Los Hernandez Tamales shop

This past weekend we loaded up the kids and dogs into the ol’ family truckster and headed east toward Union Gap and the land of sunny skies and desert vistas in search of asparagus tamales. Union Gap is in the Yakima Valley in Eastern Washington (one of the premier asparagus growing regions in the US) and the season for asparagus is a short one – it can be just six weeks long. Earlier this winter I saw a blurb in the AAA magazine for the asparagus tamales at Los Hernandez Tamales. I love tamales in general, and asparagus too, so I pinned up the article to save for springtime.

When we got there there was a steady stream of customers, and all of the seats in the small restaurant were full. I had a brief moment of panic when the counter woman said the asparagus tamales were sold out, but it turned out she just meant the frozen ones. We ordered a dozen asaparagus, plus two pork and two chicken tamales for the kids.

asparagus and pork tamales from Los Hernandez Tamales

The tamales were delicious – stuffed with chunks of fat asparagus spears and subtly spicy pepper jack cheese. We ate our picnic lunch at a shady table near the playground at the lovely Yakima Greenway and then took a leisurely drive home via Chinook Pass, where there was still a good 10 feet of snow on the sides of the road.  Who knows how much longer the season will go this year, but we’re sure happy we got a chance to sample the tamales!

May 022014

clean eating turkey chile recipe

Since it’s springtime and summer’s just around the corner, I’ve been trying to eat a little healthier and shed some of my winter padding. Luckily for me I have a preschool friend who’s become a Beachbody rep (the company behind P90X and Insanity) and she recently hosted a clean eating challenge on Facebook complete with a meal plan and ‘clean’ recipes. All of the recipes she shared were quite good, but the Clean Eating Turkey Chili was the recipe my whole family enjoyed the most. Now the idea behind the clean eating movement (at least as I understand it) is to eat fresh, unrefined food with lots of fruits, vegetables and lean proteins and to avoid most processed, premade foods, caffeine, alcohol and refined grains and sugars. Sounds pretty sensible and it’s the way we usually tend to eat at home anyways but it’s always nice to have a little more accountability and encouragement, especially around weight loss, so I joined in for the week.

Of course I have trouble sticking exactly to any recipe, so like always I put my own spin on this one. I mean, what’s the fun in cooking if you can’t improvise a bit? I kept the heat from the spices pretty low so that I didn’t get any complaints from the little ones, but I like to add pickled jalapenos to my own serving for extra kick – a little hot sauce or salsa would work nicely as well. If you really want to make this recipe ‘clean’ you can cook the beans from scratch and roast the green chiles (use Anaheim or Poblano chiles) instead of using canned ones.

Clean Eating Turkey Chili
Serves 6

  • 1 TBS Vegetable oil
  • 2 bell peppers (red, yellow or orange) chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tomatillos, peeled, rinsed and chopped
  • 1.5 lbs lean turkey, ground
  • 1 TBS cumin
  • 1 TBS chili powder
  • 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 7oz. can diced green chiles (with their juice)
  • 1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed (or use other beans of your choice)
  • 2 cups water
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in a dutch oven or other large pan over medium high heat and add the onion and bell peppers, sauteing for 5-10 minutes until the vegetables are softened and browned.  Add the minced garlic and cook for about 30 seconds more, then add the diced tomatillos and cook, stirring constantly until the tomatillos start to soften and give up some of their juice. Remove the vegetables to a bowl and return the pan to the heat.

2. Add the ground turkey to the pan and season with kosher salt, pepper, and the cumin and chili powder. While stirring, use a spoon or spatula to break up the turkey into small pieces. Once the turkey is cooked through and browned in some spots, add back the vegetables along with the crushed tomatoes.

3. Stir well, scraping the bottom of the pan to mix in the browned bits from the vegetables and turkey. Add the diced green chiles with their liquid, the beans and the two cups of water, mix well and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.

4. Serve as is, or accompanied with pickled jalapenos, minced scallions and sliced black olives as toppings.


clean turkey chili

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French Onion Tortellini Soup Made with Only Four Ingredients

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Jan 142014

french onion tortellini soup with only 4 ingredients

On cold, rainy dreary winter days I love to have a pot of soup on the stove. There’s something about soup simmering that feels so homey to me. Here’s a quick and easy soup my family loves – French Onion Tortellini Soup. This soup is so fast to prepare if you’ve got the ingredients on hand in your fridge. Its really satisfying to be able to get a homemade soup to the table on a weeknight with a minimum of effort and a minimum of ingredients. I like to serve this with a baguette or rolls and a salad on side, and it’s also great with a leafy green added in – spinach, kale and chard all work great.

French Onion Tortellini Soup
Serves 6

1 pound mild Italian sausage
1 large yellow onion, sliced thinly
1 quart beef stock
16 oz. Tortellini (I use the cheese tortellini from Costco).

1. Roll the Italian sausage into small meatballs and cook them in a large dutch oven or stockpot on medium high heat until they are browned all over and almost cooked through. You don’t need any oil in the pot – the sausage will release a lot of fat on its own.

2. Remove the sausage from the pan onto a paper towel lined plate and drain off the fat, leaving just a thin film behind on the bottom of the pot.

3. Saute the onion slices in the pot until they are soft and brown – the more caramelized they are the better.

4. Add the stock to the pot and stir to bring up all the browned bits from the bottom. Then add back the meatballs and the tortellini and cook for about 8 minutes more.

5. Serve and enjoy!

french onion tortellini soup recipe using 4 ingredients

Meatloaf Cupcakes

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Jan 062014


meatloaf cupcakes

My daughter has been wanting to make meatloaf cupcakes for awhile now, ever since we saw a picture of them somewhere (probably on Pinterest, right?). Whenever my kids make a dinner request that isn’t complete junk food I try to accommodate them so last night we made up a batch. Now, I didn’t go all out with piping on the mashed potatoes a la frosting on top (and I think while that would add to the presentation it seems more appealing to eat the potatoes on the side). There are some changes I might make next time to make them a little more cupcake-like – a more domed-top, and maybe trying to find a way to get the sides a bit more browned/less steamed, but it was a good dinner and it’s nice to have little pre-portioned serving sizes.

They were easy to make – almost as simple as a regular loaf. I used my go-to meatloaf recipe from The New Best Recipe by Cooks Illustrated – of course as always with a few changes. I had to use beef only instead of a meat mix because the local butcher (which sells an incredible meatloaf mix) was totally crazy this weekend and I walked out without getting anything. Then instead of forming one big loaf I just rolled the mixture into balls and put them into muffin tins. I used metal tins and didn’t prepare them at all (no greasing, etc) and I didn’t have any problems with the cupcakes sticking to the sides or bottoms. One regular meatloaf recipe yielded 11 regular sized cupcakes (and it doesn’t need to be exact – you could end up with 10 bigger cupcakes or 12 smaller ones). If you give this a try, do make sure to put the muffin tins on a cookie sheet in the oven to catch any overflowing fat.

Beans and Rice for the New Year

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Jan 012014

rancho gordo dried beans

I usually cook black-eyed peas and rice for luck on New Year’s Day, but I never really love it. The peas get mealy and the rice gets mushy when it’s mixed in together, so this year I decided to branch out and make a variation – hopefully it’ll bring luck as well. I used some beautiful Rebosero beans my cousin gave us for Christmas – they cooked up lovely – added some turkey kielbasa and served the rice on the side instead of mixed in. Of course I had to throw a fried egg on top as well.

rancho gordo beans egg

Tilapia with Quinoa Mango Cucumber Salad

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Sep 022013

This was a fun meal to make – my daughter helped me make the salad and the whole time she kept commenting on how beautiful the produce was, how delicious the cucumbers and mangoes were, and how I had to be sure to post this on my blog because it’s such a yummy salad.

It’s always so gratifying when anyone likes what you cook, isn’t it? Especially when it’s your child, who has emerged from the picky preschooler years into a much better eater. Of course my son is right in the midst of not eating anything that doesn’t  have a face (he’s a total carnivore) so he turned his nose up at the salad. Someday he’ll eat it though, I’m sure.

This was a total throw-together salad, so there aren’t hard and fast measurements for it – here’s how I made it. Cook 1/2 cup quinoa according to the package directions while you chop the other ingredients. Cut up a mango (I like to use a slightly underripe one so it’s a bit firmer and not quite so sweet), an avocado and an english cucumber into cubes, and dice half a red onion. Juice two limes into a salad bowl, add some olive oil (a few glugs), a generous pinch of kosher salt and some grinds of black pepper and beat it all with a fork to combine it into a dressing. Add the veggies to the bowl, stir them around and let them marinate while the quinoa cooks. When the quinoa’s done, add it to the veggies in the bowl, mix everything up and then chill it in the fridge until you’re ready to eat.

I served the salad with a sauteed filet of tilapia, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and cumin – of course the kiddos eat that like candy so all in all a successful meal.