Bonus Post: Glossary of Cooking Terms

Bonus Post:  Glossary of Cooking Terms

Al Dente:  In Italian, it literally means “to the tooth.”  When cooking pasta, it’s cooking it just long enough to be done, but where it is still firm and has a good bite to it.

Berbere:  an Ethiopian spice mix that traditionally is a blend of chili peppers, cumin, garlic, coriander, ginger, basil, korarima, rue, ajwain or radhuni, nigella, and fenugreek.  It reminds me a little bit of a curry spice blend and also of a chili seasoning blend.  Try it on these recipes.

Blanching:  very briefly and partially cooking a food in boiling water.  For instance, when making Creamy Rice Casserole with Chicken and Broccoli, you blanch the broccoli before mixing into the casserole to soften the broccoli without fully cooking it.

Bound salad:  Bound Salads are salads that are generally made of hearty, non-salad leafy ingredients bound together by a thick dressing. Usually, the dressing is mayonnaise.  The salads are chilled before serving to develop and meld flavours, and to keep at a safe temperature.

Calabrian chili paste:  Hot spread sauce is a fiery blend of eggplant, mushrooms, chili peppers, sundried and fresh tomatoes, garlic, salt and vinegar (the brand I buy, Tutto Calabria, is a small producer in Calabria, Italy)

Chiffonade:  a term that refers to a way to cut leafy herbs or vegetables, especially fresh basil.  For this technique, you stack the basil leaves on top of each other and roll them into a cigar shape.  Then you slice thinly to get very delicate pieces.  A basil chiffonade is usually added on top of the dish at the end, such as over eggs or a tomato salad.

Chinese Five Spice:  a blend of five spices that includes star anise, cinnamon, fennel seeds, cloves, and Szechuan peppercorns

Creaming:  a baking term.  This is the technique used to blend butter and sugar together before adding the wet ingredients.

Deglaze:  a technique includes using an acid (vinegar, citrus fruit, or alcohol) to scrape bits off a pan before making a sauce or gravy.  For instance, when searing Sweet Fire Pork Chops, you remove the pork chops from the pan.  To deglaze it, you pour white wine in the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan before adding the rest of the Sweet Fire sauce ingredients.

French vinaigrette:  a vinaigrette dressing made using oil, vinegar, and flavorings; thickened with dijon mustard

Mince:  cutting up even smaller than dicing or chopping, into very small pieces

Mise en Place:   a French culinary phrase which means “putting in place” or “everything in its place.” It refers to the set up required before cooking, and is often used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients (e.g., cuts of meat, relishes, sauces, par-cooked items, spices, freshly chopped vegetables, and other components) that a cook will require for the menu items that are expected to be prepared during a shift.

The writer and chef Dan Charnas uses the concept of mise en place as a “philosophy” and “system” for what chefs believe and do, even going so far to call it an “ethical code.” In the kitchen, the phrase is used as a noun (i.e., the setup of the array of ingredients), a verb (i.e., the process of preparing) and a state of mind. All of these uses, however, refer to someone who knows to be well-prepared. (found on Wikipedia)

Panko breadcrumbs:  Japanese-style breadcrumbs, made without the crusts of bread

Parcook (aka parboil):  to boil (a piece of food) for a short time often before cooking it fully in another way.  For instance, in my Red Zin Bucatini, I parcook the pasta in water before finishing it in the Red Zin.

Ras El Hanout:  A North African and Middle Eastern spice blend that includes coriander, turmeric, cardamom, sea salt, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Sift:  putting fine ingredients through a sieve to remove lumps, usually in baking.

Slurry:  when making a soup, a slurry can be used to mix ingredients together that helps the soup blend.  For instance, when making West African Peanut Soup, you ladle some broth into the peanut butter and tomato pasta and mix those together separately before adding it all back to the soup.

[originally posted 9/23/16]

[photos updated and reposted 4/6/2017]

Pasta Amatriciana

Pasta Amatriciana

When I worked at Carrabba’s in my early 20s, we served a dish called cavatappi all’amatriciana.  The customers loved it.  It looks like a basic tomato sauce, but it’s made with bacon and white wine.  It’s a nice change from traditional marinara.

This recipe includes deglazing the pan.  I’m keeping a glossary of cooking terms here.  All that means is that you use an acid (usually citrus juice, alcohol, or broth) to scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan.  Deglazing adds flavor to the dish, and all the alcohol cooks out of the wine.  Just make sure you leave the pan uncovered.

The whole thing takes about 30 minutes to cook, and it’s a budget-friendly meal.  It’s also a good way for kids to step outside their comfort zone a little, but still familiar enough for them to try.  If you are making it for kids, I’d recommend using half  the amount of Calabria chili paste.  And if you don’t have Calabria chili paste, you can get it here or just use red pepper flakes.

Total Time:  30 minutes

Serves: 6

Difficulty Level:  Easy


1 pound of thick cut bacongood-a

1 pound of your favorite pasta shape (I used whole wheat penne)

1 medium sized onion

4 garlic cloves

1 ½ cup dry white wine

One 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

3-4 tablespoons of Calabria chili paste


  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Leaving the bacon stuck together, slice it into about 1/3 inch slices.  Chop the onion, and chop the garlic cloves.
  2. In a large stock pot, cook the bacon over medium heat until it’s done, about 12-15 minutes. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta, and cook according to the package instructions.
  3. When the bacon is done, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to soak up the grease. You want to reserve about half of the bacon fat in the pan.  The rest you can discard.
  4. Cook the onion in the bacon fat over medium for about 6-8 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, and be sure to scrape off the bits from the bottom of the pan.
  6. Add the tomatoes and Calabria chili paste (or red pepper flakes). Add the bacon back to the pan.  Continue to cook for about 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened back up.
  7. Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce.
  8. Serve with black pepper, freshly grated cheese, and some fresh basil.

[originally posted 10/22/2016]

[updated recipe and pictures 4/6/2017]

Quinoa + Chicken Stuffed Pepper Soup

Quinoa + Chicken Stuffed Pepper Soup

This is the lightened up version of my Stuffed Pepper Casserole.  The casserole is already pretty healthy, but the soup is even healthier.  And it’s just as filling.  I like to flavor stuffed pepper things with Cavender’s Greek Seasoning.  I know stuffed peppers aren’t a Greek recipe, but I feel like the flavors of the soup need to be bold and savory, but not necessarily spicy. 

I didn’t start using Worcestershire sauce regularly until about a year ago.  If you’re cooking a meat or dinner dish, and it’s missing something, but you’re not sure what…add some Worcestershire sauce.  It’s especially good with beef.  Since I don’t eat beef very often, I use it when I’m mimicking beef flavors (like in this soup). 

Traditional stuffed peppers are filled with rice, but I just felt like doing something different.  I use quinoa in this soup, but you can always use rice if you want to.  For this recipe, I’m using my 5 ½ quart French oven, but you can definitely adapt it to a slow cooker!  Add all the ingredients in the same order I’ve listed below, and cook for 6 hours on high, stirring once or twice.

I always serve Stuffed Pepper Soup with hot sauce, grated cheddar or mozzarella, and sour cream.


Total Time:  2 hours (but longer is better)featured

Serves: 8

Difficulty Level:  Easy



Extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ red bell pepper, diced small

1 green bell pepper, diced small

1 medium sized onion, diced small

2 large (or 3 small) garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons Cavender’s Greek Seasoning

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 pounds lean ground chicken

1 cup quinoa

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

24 ounces marinara sauce

48 to 60 ounces water

2 tablespoons of beef bouillon powder



  1. Heat a French oven over medium heat. Add olive oil.
  2. When you can smell the oil, add the diced bell peppers and onion. Sauté over medium heat for 5-6 minutes, or until translucent.
  3. Add the garlic, Cavender’s Greek Seasoning, and dried thyme. Sauté for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the ground chicken. Brown the chicken while breaking it apart with a wooden spoon.
  5. Add the quinoa, Worcestershire sauce, marinara sauce, water, and bouillon powder.
  6. Bring the soup up to a boil for 5 minutes.
  7. Reduce to a simmer, and continue cooking for at least 1 ½ hours (but longer is better).
  8. Serve hot with grated cheddar or mozzarella, sour cream, and hot sauce.

Nutty Vanilla Bean Baked Oatmeal Cups

Nutty Vanilla Bean Baked Oatmeal Cups

This is my first recipe featuring vanilla bean paste, and I have to say, it’s something I’ve been dying to cook with.  I didn’t even bother looking in stores for it because, when it comes to specialty foods, Amazon always has the products I’m looking for.  This is the kind I bought.  Vanilla bean paste is a blend of vanilla beans, vanilla extract, water, and sugar.  Vanilla bean is one of my top 3 favorite dessert flavors (along with lemon and chocolate). 

I like this paste for several reasons.  First, it’s cheaper than buying vanilla bean pods.  Vanilla bean pods are about $6 a piece.  You get about 50 times that many pods’ worth in one 4 ounce jar, and a whole jar is only $15.  Vanilla bean paste has a longer shelf life than vanilla bean pods.  Plus having it in a jar, as opposed to in beans, makes it way easier to use, so I have a reason to put that intense vanilla flavor into everything. 

From here out, expect many recipes using vanilla bean paste!  I just got my first Bundt pan, and I’m planning a vanilla bean and something (to be determined) flavored Bundt cake with vanilla bean glaze.  Doesn’t that sound good? 

For these oatmeal cups, you can substitute out any or all of the coconut flavors if you like, but I love coconut.  The recipe I adapted this from uses canola oil, regular milk, regular sugar, etc.  So you can do that in equal proportions if you like. 

I made these using reusable silicone muffin cups.  I like these because I think they’re cute, they’re reusable, and they won’t ever rip and leave paper in the muffin or cupcake.  Whether you use these or paper liners, muffin liners are a must for this recipe.

You can keep these in the fridge for about a week, and just heat them up for 30 seconds to 1 minute before eating.  If you like, add a little extra milk when serving to thin it out (I always like to do this). 


Total Time:  1 hour and 15 minutesgood

Yield:  18 Muffins

Difficulty Level:  Easy



2 eggs

¼ cup coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup unrefined coconut sugar

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

2 cups coconut milk

2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste 

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground flax seed

3 cups old fashioned oats

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ sweetened flaked coconut

½ cup slivered almonds, plus more for topping



  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line your muffin tin with 18 muffin liners.
  3. Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Use a wire whisk to break the yolks apart.
  4. Add the coconut oil, brown sugar, and coconut sugar. Whisk together until the sugar has broken apart and dissolved.
  5. Add the applesauce, coconut milk, vanilla bean paste, salt, cinnamon, and ground flax. Whisk until combined.
  6. Add the oats, baking powder, flaked coconut, and slivered almond. Use a rubber spatula to thoroughly combine.
  7. Add ¼ cup of the oatmeal mixture to each muffin cup.
  8. Bake for 35 minutes.
  9. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
  10. Store in an airtight container.

(adapted from The Wholesome Dish)




Lavender + Fleur de Sel Cookies, 2 Ways

Lavender + Fleur de Sel Cookies, 2 Ways

I have been really waiting to a good reason to feature fleur de sel.  I bought it back in November,  but I wanted to save it for something where I could really let it shine.  The crystals are huge compared to regular salt, and they’re almost soft in texture.  It’s not the kind of salt you use for flavoring while you’re cooking.  I would only use it to finish a dish –and when you want it to be really special.

This recipe requires ground dried lavender.  You can buy it here, and grind it with this.  My inspiration for combing salt and lavender came from a bottle of hand soap I got from Marshall’s.  I always get soap there because the scents are unusual.  When I smelled the Sea Salt and Lavender soap, I immediately knew I was going to do Lavender + Fleur de Sel Cookies.

I decided originally to make Lavender Caramel Fleur de Sel Cookies first.  I got The Flavor Bible for Christmas, and according to the panel of experts, caramel is not noted as a flavor pairing for lavender.  But both caramel and lavender pair with fleur de sel, so I figured it was worth a try. 

I thought it would be a fun challenge to break the dough in half and do a second flavor:  Lavender White Chocolate Fleur de Sel Cookies.  This is a safer pairing.  According to The Flavor Bible, all three flavors pair with each other. 

I like having the book as a guide, but I don’t think I can grow in my cooking if I don’t push the boundaries a little.


Total Time:  2 hours 11

Makes: 24-28 cookies (12-14 of each)

Difficulty Level:  Easy



3.5 ounces Werther’s soft caramels (about 16 candies)

3.5 ounces premium white chocolate baking bar (about 7 squares)

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ tablespoon ground dried lavender

2/3 cup melted unsalted butter, slightly cooled

1 ¼ cup white sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon Fleur de sel



  1. Unwrap and chop the soft caramels into thirds. Keep in the freezer until ready to use.
  2. Chop up the white chocolate into sizes about the same as the caramel. Keep chilled until ready to use.
  3. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the ground dried lavender, and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, add the cooled melted butter. Add the sugar.  Use an electric hand mixer on medium speed to mix the ingredients until fully incorporated.
  5. Add the egg and vanilla extract to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix together with the hand mixture.
  6. Add one third of the flour mixture at a time to the wet ingredients, mixing in between each addition until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
  7. Divide the dough in half and put in 2 separate bowls.
  8. Add the caramels to one half of the dough. Use the rubber spatula and/or your hands to work quickly folding the caramels into the dough.
  9. Add the white chocolate to the other half of the dough. Use the rubber spatula and/or your hand to work quickly folding the white chocolate into the dough.
  10. Cover each dough, and chill for at least one hour.
  11. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  12. Line a half sheet with a silicone baking sheet. Form the cookies into balls and put on the baking sheet.
  13. Spray the bottom of a drinking glass with non-stick spray, and use it to slightly flatten the cookies.
  14. Sprinkle the cookies with fleur de sel. Gently pat the fleur de sel crystals into the cookies.
  15. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes.
  16. Remove from the oven, and let cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet before using a spatula to let them finish cooling on a metal rack.
  17. Let the cookies cool completely before serving.

(adapted from Lavender, Honey, and Lemon Cookies)


Thai Eggplant + Basil Chicken Curry

Thai Eggplant + Basil Chicken Curry

Last January, I decided to go outside my comfort zone of cooking.  I had never cooked anything African, Asian, or Middle Eastern.  The recipe I found is one I’ve now cooked many times:  African Peanut Soup.  I never realized how simple it was.  In college, I took a few cooking classes, and I remember making a hand-ground Moroccan spice blend.  Maybe I just associated those flavors with being very specialized, expensive to accumulate, and labor intensive.  But really, you can get lots of exciting spice blends for these kinds of cooking just like you can get Italian seasoning or taco seasoning.  I’ve incorporated these new flavors into my pantry, so I can make a curry or an authentic African stew at a moment’s notice. (I realize this is not important to everyone.)

For this curry, I used Red Curry with Chicken and Chickpeas as a guideline.  When you use coconut milk for curries, don’t use the kind in a carton (aka the kind you use as a milk substitute).  Use canned coconut milk.  I like to sauté the onion and garlic, but not the bell peppers or eggplant.  The reason is that I don’t want the peppers or eggplant to get overly soft, so I add them just right before the coconut milk and curry paste.  This is the brand of coconut milk I use, and this is the curry paste.

This recipe goes over Perfectly Cooked Brown Rice, but you could also serve it over Perfectly Cooked Quinoa.  I also did an adaptation of Basic Baked Chicken for this recipe.  The adaptation is for bone-in, skin-on breasts, and you can find it here.

Total Time:  90 minutesimg_5803

Serves: 8

Difficulty Level:  Easy


Vegetable oil

½ onion, diced small

2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced

1 yellow bell pepper, diced small

1 green bell pepper, diced small

½ medium eggplant, diced small (about 2 cups)

Small Diced Basic Baked Chicken, 3 bone-in breasts (use recipe adaption)

1 4-ounce jar of green curry paste

3 cans light coconut milk

2 recipes of Perfectly Cooked Brown Rice

Lime wedges

Torn basil


  1. Add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil to a large pot over medium heat.
  2. As the oil heats up, add the onion, and sauté until translucent, about 6 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, and saute for another 1-2 minutes.
  4. Take the pot off the heat. Add the yellow and green bell peppers, eggplant, diced chicken, curry paste, and coconut milk.
  5. Return to heat. Bring the curry up to a rapid simmer (medium high heat).
  6. Let the curry cook for about 30 minutes. (**see note)
  7. Serve the curry hot over Perfectly Cooked Brown Rice. Squeeze fresh lime juice over, and sprinkle with freshly torn basil.

**Note:  You can either serve it now over rice.  Or you can turn it down to low, cover, and keep warm until ready to serve.

Bucatini Aglio e Olio + Salt Cured Egg Yolks

Bucatini Aglio e Olio + Salt Cured Egg Yolks

This recipe is all about showcasing individual flavors and really simple ingredients.  In the question of which came first, the bucatini or the egg?  The egg came first.  I found a recipe (or science project?) for salt cured egg yolks and was fascinated.  It takes a long time to make the egg yolks, but it’s almost all hands-off.  These kind of cooking experiments make me feel like a mad scientist.

When you want to showcase a new flavor like the egg yolks, I think it’s best to serve it over something really simple.  Bucatini is my favorite pasta shape, and since I always have a stockpile of boxes, it was a good excuse to cook it.

Aglio e Olio just means “garlic and olive oil.”  You can taste each individual flavor of this dish.  It feels very earthy and very authentic– good ingredients, good flavors.

Making the eggs was a pretty cool experiment.  The salt slowly draws out all the moisture, so when you remove the yolks on the 4th day, the salt has taken on a strange new consistency.  You need to try this.


Bucatini Aglio e Olio


Total Time:  under 30 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty Level:  Easy



½ pound of bucatini

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 large cloves of garlic (or 4 small), thinly sliced

2/3 cup freshly grated Asiago cheese

½ cup freshly chopped parsley

Freshly cracked pepper

Freshly grated salt cured egg yolks (technique follows)



  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil.
  2. Add the bucatini, and cook until al dente, about 9-10 minutes.
  3. Drain the pasta, and set aside.
  4. Put the empty pot back on the stove, and add the olive oil.
  5. When you can smell the olive oil, add the sliced garlic. Cook on medium heat for 1-2 minutes.  Watch closely so it doesn’t burn.
  6. Remove from heat, and add the pasta, asiago cheese, parsley, and cracked pepper.
  7. Use tongs to toss the pasta together.
  8. Top with freshly grated cured egg yolks.



Cured Egg Yolks

(method found at Bon Appetit)


Total Time: 4 days plus 3 hours

Makes:  8 egg yolks

Difficulty Level:  Easy (patience level must be high)



3 ½ cups kosher salt

2 ½ cups white sugar

8 extra large egg yolks

Nonstick cooking spray



  1. In a large mixing bowl, toss together the kosher salt and white sugar until thoroughly combined.
  2. Pour the mixture evenly into a 9×13 casserole dish (I used a large clear Pyrex).
  3. Create 8 yolk-sized divots in the salt/sugar mixture.
  4. Separate the eggs (you could save the whites for this or this).
  5. Very carefully place each yolk into its own divot.
  6. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and keep refrigerated for 4 days.
  7. Preheat your oven to the lowest temperature possible (mine is 170 degrees Fahrenheit).
  8. Place a baking rack on a half sheet pan.
  9. Spray the baking rack thoroughly with nonstick spray.
  10. As you remove the egg yolks from the salt/sugar, gently dust as much off as you can.
  11. Place each yolk on the rack.
  12. Cook the cured egg yolks on the lowest temperature for 1 ½ to 2 hours.
  13. Remove from the oven, and let them come to room temperature.
  14. Store in the refrigerator for up to one month.