Remember my addiction to funky salads?

Well, sign me up for a BIG BOWL of Charred Cauliflower Salad!

We’ve learned that roasting vegetables does weird and wonderful, flavorful things. Well so does charring in a pan.

This salad, like several recipes featured here at Idiot’s Kitchen, was first made for me by my friend Jen in Minneapolis. She took a recipe for roasted cauliflower and figured out the pan charring method. Then she made a big bowl and brought it to the symphony carpool!

It is SO good! You definitely need to try this one.

Here’s what you need:

Cauliflower, Bell Pepper (big or little – any color), Garlic, Lemon, Olive Oil, Cilantro (or parsley), Feta Cheese, Pine Nuts, Cumin, Thyme, Oregano, Cayenne, Smoked Paprika (not pictured), Sesame Seeds, Salt & Pepper.

Click here for a Charred Cauliflower Salad Shopping List

A note about the spices – the original recipe called for Zataar, a middle eastern spice blend. I didn’t have any and neither did my store – although I later found it at Penzeys (spelled Zatar) and at Spice & Tea Exchange (spelled Zahtar).

So in absence of the real thing, I used the google and put together my own blend:

In a small bowl, combine 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, and a dash of cayenne pepper. I also later added 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika which really made a big flavor boost. Combine all the spices and set aside.

You can really put whatever spice blend you’d like or have on hand in this salad. It’s very adaptable. Next time I might try a more Italian seasoning and add some fresh basil and maybe a chopped tomato. Lots of options.

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Hi Friends! Long time, no see!

Also long time, no cooking around here. The symphony season (and thus the driving season) has finally hit a short pause. I had every intention of posting recipes from the road these past two weeks but life got a little too crazy.

I flew from Tampa to Kansas City then drove to Wichita, back to Kansas City, to Minneapolis, up to Duluth (and back & forth Duluth to Mpls 4 more times) back to Kansas City and finally flew back to Tampa all in the last two weeks. It was glorious and fun but exhausting too.

Not much time for cooking in that schedule. I did make a some tried and true Idiot’s Kitchen favorites (Sweet Chili Glazed Salmon, Maple Braised Pork Chops, Chicken Marsala, and Quick Shrimp & Grits) for my parents while I was at home but didn’t have a chance to explore any new recipes.

One Pan Baked Smoked Sausage is a recipe that my sister suggested for our new category of Weeknight Wonders! These are super easy recipes with a few simple ingredients that you can get on the table fast. I could definitely have used this last week.

Here’s what you need:

Smoked Sausage (I used 2 packages), Small Red Potatoes, Bell Pepper (only one), Onion, Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper

Click here for a One Pan Baked Smoked Sausage Shopping List

This recipe is a bit of a riff on our every popular Baked Italian Sausage with Peppers & Onions. I was planning to roast some potatoes but then got the idea to put the potatoes in the pan for a one pot meal.

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Spaghetti with Broccoli Pesto.

You’re probably wondering what on earth I’m talking about.

Yes, pesto! The green stuff…but made with broccoli instead of basil.

Pesto is named for the act of grinding the ingredients together, old school in a mortar and pestle but the basil variety is so popular that everyone assumes that’s what you’re talking about when you say the word pesto.

But pesto can be made of so many different things – greens like arugula, cilantro, spinach, or peas and even non-green things like roasted tomatoes.

So why not broccoli? Spaghetti with Broccoli Pesto makes a great vegetarian meal on its own or would be a perfect side for some grilled shrimp, sliced chicken, or pork tenderloin.

Here’s what you need:

Broccoli, Onion, Garlic, Butter, Olive Oil, Heavy Cream, Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan), Spaghetti, Salt & Pepper

Click here for a Spaghetti with Broccoli Pesto Shopping List

I love broccoli so one of the things I love about this recipe is that when all is said and done, you’ve eaten an ENTIRE head of broccoli! Sort of like my favorite cauliflower pizza crust, that’s packing a lot of veggies into one dish.

Wash the broccoli and cut off the bottom 1-2 inches of really tough stalks. Cut the florets off and chop them into a medium size.

These don’t have to be pretty florets like you would make for a veggie tray, we’re going to be grinding them up so just give them a rough chop so they cook faster.

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Thai Quinoa Salad!

Also known as The Salad That Kept Me From Starving Last Week.

Sorry for the light posting here lately. Life has been overwhelming and crazy with the symphony season(s) winding down, commuting around Florida, commuting around Minnesota, and the return of the not so welcome internet hackers.

There hasn’t been much time for anything else. Things like cooking real, sit down meals have just not been happening here so this Thai Quinoa Salad came at exactly the right time.

My friend Kathy (who really should be related to me) sent me this recipe and it’s a winner on so many levels – great flavor, chock full of veggies, and makes a HUGE bowl for eating (in the car) all week long.

Here’s what you need:

Quinoa, Edamame, Bell Pepper, Cucumber, Green Onions, Red Cabbage, Carrots, Fresh Basil, Fresh Cilantro, Fresh Mint, Limes, Ginger, Olive Oil, Sesame Oil, Asian Fish Sauce (not pictured), Sugar, Nuts (Sriracha Cashews!), Salt & Pepper

Click here for a Thai Quinoa Salad Shopping List

Yes, that’s a lot of ingredients for a salad but this is one that can make a whole meal and is really easy to customize to what you have on hand. I added the mint because it is plentiful in my garden right now. Thai Basil would give this a more peppery kick but since good old Italian basil is growing in my garden, that’s what went in. More about those Siracha cashews later…

Click HERE, there’s more!

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We’re back! Sort of…

(My handsome friend for the week…)

Thanks to Thaine, my tech guru, the Idiot’s Kitchen website is back up and running. We still have a ways to go and there is a total redesign in the works, but in the short term, the ability to post links to recipes has been restored.

Three cheers and cookies for life go to Thaine.

Three cheers also for everyone who sent me comments and suggestions for the website re-org. I appreciate all of your ideas!

Meanwhile, I’m up in what is still the frozen north. Minnesota did not get the memo about spring….

This is unacceptable.

However, what makes this week not only bearable but SUPER AWESOME is…

You guessed it…

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Hi Friends,

As you know, we’ve been having some technical difficulties around Idiot’s Kitchen for a few months.

We had a big time hacking problem and since then, little buggie problems have been popping up way too frequently.

The latest problem of not being able to upload recipes has been a real pain. What good is a cooking website without the ability to have an easily printable recipe?

I’m starting to feel like Henry when I practice too many high notes…

Actually if I practice too many high notes, he comes into the living room and attacks me.

My fabulous tech gurus have informed me that I need to do some updating and general website housekeeping.

So, since things need to change a bit, why not make them bigger and better? 

This is where you come in!

Please feel free to leave a comment about any suggestions, ideas, complaints (be constructive please or I’ll send Henry over to bite you), changes, etc. that you think would be good for Idiot’s Kitchen.

For example, do you like/use the ingredient pictures and printable shopping lists? Should we keep those?

Are you able to find/search for recipes easily using the search box? Do you use the recipe tab at the top of the page? Do you use the category tabs on the right side?

Do you feel like there are enough instructions and pictures for each recipe? Too many?

What do you look for when you come to Idiot’s Kitchen and how easy is it to find what you’re looking for?

I’m open to any and all ideas as long as one of them is not “fewer cat pictures”…because we all know that’s never going to happen.

Thanks for putting up with the lighter posting lately. This all came at an incredibly busy time and I feel the poor old website (and you) have been a bit neglected lately.

Hopefully we will be able to get everything up and running, bigger and better very soon.

Thanks for your patience!

xoxo – Claudia & Co.

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What to cook for Easter?

If you’re hosting Easter dinner this Sunday or looking for a dish to bring along to celebrate with family & friends, we’ve got some suggestions that will put a spring in your step.

Unlike holidays such as Thanksgiving that have a traditional menu, Easter gives you a chance to branch out. Even if you’re having a traditional Easter ham (I am), you can switch things up with the sides, salads, and desserts.

So here are a few suggestions for What to Cook for Easter.

If ham is your main dish, why not go beyond traditional, plain baked ham with a zippy Bourbon Glaze.

Another option that I love is this Baked Ham with Chutney Glaze. It combines sweetness from mango chutney with the tang of dijon mustard. Super easy and really good!

Click HERE, there’s more!

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For the past nine weeks, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in opera.

Where the is opera there is an opera orchestra. And where there is an orchestra, there needs to be cookies.

LOTS of cookies.

So here you have 4 variations of my friend Jen’s Famous Monster Cookies that made their opera debut this year. (Click that link for the step by step pictures and instructions.)

Clockwise from the top left you have boxes of Dark Chocolate Chip & Dried Cherry (my favorite), White Chocolate Chip & Dried Cranberry, Butterscotch Chip & Pecan, and because my friend Benjamin informed me that ALL true Monster Cookies must contain M&Ms, you have M&M, Dark Chocolate Chip & Butterscotch Chip.

These cookies are super easy to make. They mix up in a big bowl with a spoon and good old elbow grease. No big mixer or special equipment required.

And as long as you can eat oats, they are also Gluten Free.

But you don’t even have to tell non-GF people that because these cookies are so good, everyone will want one.

Or two.

Or in the case of our Maestro….four!

We might have to rename these Sarastoa Opera Cookies. 

So for all my opera friends who asked, here is the recipe:

Jen’s Famous Gluten Free Cookies

Safe travels, friends and I hope to see you all next season!

And for anyone who is interested, this year The Sarastoa Opera completed the Verdi Cycle, a 28 year project in which we are the only opera company in the world to have performed ALL of Giuseppe Verdi’s music. And by all, I mean all…as in EVERY SINGLE NOTE VERDI EVER WROTE! Every opera, every draft of an aria, every piece of ballet music that never made it into an opera, every orchestral piece, chamber piece, every…single…note. I’ve only been involved for 10 years, but it was thrilling.

You can read more about it:

Sarasota Opera – verdicycle.org

The Classical Review – Sarasota Opera to Celebrate the Final Season of Verdi Cycle in Style

Or visit the Sarasota Opera Facebook page for more info and lots of photos.

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St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner so now is the time to make THE BEST Baked Corned Beef!

I am a big fan of corned beef and usually do a traditional Irish boiled dinner of Corned Beef & Cabbage with carrots and potatoes.

I’ve tried a couple of other methods (slow cooker with pickle juice was interesting and easy but not the best texture), so I was slightly wary when my friend Cody insisted that I try this recipe and bake the corned beef.

But he was so right! I am here to say that hands down, this was THE BEST corned beef I’ve ever had.

This is tender, flavorful, and super easy to make. However, if you’re scrolling down the recipe and wondering about the mustard and brown sugar topping, let me reassure you that the corned beef comes out tasting nothing like mustard or brown sugar. I think they really help offset the saltiness of the corned beef.

I did a fully scientific study at dinner last week and baked 1/2 with the mustard coating and 1/2 plain. Guess which one was completely gone? No leftovers at all. Mustard and Brown Sugar coating for the win.

Here’s what you need:

Corned Beef Brisket, Whole Grain Mustard, Honey Mustard, Brown Sugar, Black Pepper (optional)

(Sorry but we are still having link problems with the website – hope to have a shopping list for you soon.)

This is a 5 pound corned beef brisket that I have cut in half for quicker cooking (and for our experiment). Most corned beef that you get at the store (and not at Costco) will be in the 2½-3 pound range.

However, corned beef shrinks up like crazy when you cook it so I think a 3 pound corned beef would feed 4 people one serving each with no leftovers. Our 5 pound corned beef fed 4 hungry people with 2 small leftovers. Corned beef is GREAT leftover – Hello, Ruben Sandwiches! – so why not get a big one or buy 2 while they are on sale and cook them at the same time.

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Deviled Eggs

Deviled Eggs were the highlight of any family potluck when I was a kid.

My cousin Ray used to clean my plate for me so I could go back for seconds of Deviled Eggs.

Probably sometimes thirds too.

Sadly now my stomach hates me when I eat eggs so it is a true testiment of my love for Jim that I made him a whole platter of deviled eggs to take to a work party and I didn’t snitch even one.

These are so good. Classic. Just like Grandma used to make.

Here’s what you need:

Eggs, Mayonnaise, Yellow Mustard, White Vinegar, Paprika, Salt & Pepper.

Hey look, there’s half of a plate of Buffalo Chicken Dip sitting up there. If you haven’t tried that one, you’re missing out. I’m guessing the same folks who like Deviled Eggs would like a nice cheesy plate of Buffalo Chicken Dip too.

Place 12 eggs in a large pot and fill with cool water so that the water covers the eggs by about 2 inches.

Be sure to use a pot big enough so that the eggs are in one layer and are not crowded. We don’t want them to bang together and crack.

Bring the pot to a rolling boil over high heat. When the water is boiling, cook the eggs for 1 minute.

After 1 minute, turn the heat OFF and cover the pot with a lid. Let the eggs sit in the hot water to cook for 12 minutes.

After 12 minutes, drain the water off the eggs and run cold water over them for 2-3 minutes. This stops the cooking process and helps cool the eggs for easier peeling.

Here in Florida, it’s odd but we don’t have super cold tap water, so I usually run my eggs under water as cold as I can get for a couple of minutes then fill the pan up with water and pop a couple of ice cubes in there too.

Click HERE, there’s more!

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