Whip Smart Kitchen

Recipes, methods & musings for the whip-smart home cook

Slow Food

Summer Party Panzanella

Dinner, Italian, Party, Recipe, Salad, Slow Food, Summer, VegetarianLeannda CavalierComment

This Italian bread salad boasts the best summer garden bounties and toasted bread cubes, all tossed in a tangy white wine vinaigrette. It’s big enough to bring to your block party—and keeps well enough to keep all to yourself. 

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you buy products I recommend at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I believe in from companies I believe in—either I use them myself or I've at least done thorough research and vetting. Please reach out if you have any questions or want more info!

Ready to party but less ready to read? Click here to jump straight to the recipe. 

Is there any better feeling than walking out to the garden on a sunny day, picking a juicy cucumber, rinsing it off, and eating it right then and there like an apple? Adding a sprinkle of salt and a splash of vinegar might enhance things a bit, but otherwise, probably not.

Growing up in Wellsburg, West Virginia it seemed like every other house had a garden, or at least a vegetable patch. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and more abound. Though my Pop-Pop’s garden was huge and we had some tomatoes and peppers sprouting at my house most years, neighbors would still bring over grocery bags full of their extra bounty all summer.

This is what July tastes like. 

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I could walk outside, grab a cucumber, rinse it off and eat it like an apple—and never run out as long as it was warm! I thought I fully appreciated it then, but now that I have a shady yard hundreds of miles away, I’m really missing the abondanza.

Whether you have a plentiful garden, a bustling farmers' market, or even a decent grocery store, sometimes you just end up staring at all those beautiful veggies thinking, "okay, but what am I actually going to do with all of this?!"

Enter panzanella.

What is panzanella?

Um, just the manifestation of summertime joy and happiness. With bread.

What is it really? A bread salad filled with all your favorite summer produce. I think everyone makes it a little differently, but I like a good mix of tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, red onion and basil. 

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Add a deliciously tangy white wine vinaigrette for good measure and you're golden. Well, golden and all the other colors that taste good. 

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This summer party panzanella lives up to its name. Panzanella in general is great for cookouts because it can safely sit out at room temperature, plus it's best after sitting for a while. Primo vegetarian option, but no one is skipping this dish just because it's not barbecue. 

This specific panzanella recipe has another advantage: the bread is toasted in the oven rather than pan-fried. I do realize both stovetops and ovens are hot (especially in the middle of summer), but the oven method is so much faster, less messy and less greasy-feeling. It’s also a little easier to evenly cook the bread this way.

Hold up, is the bread cooked in authentic panzanella?

Classic panzanella, as it's made in Italy, features stale bread soaked in vinaigrette and tomato juice in yet another example of what I love about Tuscan cooking—finding a way to use what's around and still managing to make it irresistible.

Somehow over the years, especially in American versions, it's evolved a bit to the point where we're grilling, frying or toasting the bread to dry it out enough to really soak up the vinaigrette. I'm gonna be honest. I REALLY like it that way. The texture. The flavor of the slightly browned bread. The crisp from the hot olive oil. Everything about it. 

How do you toast bread for panzanella? Simple. Just toss it in a little olive oil and salt...

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Toast it in the oven until it's just turning golden-brown, turn the oven off, and leave it for a few minutes to dry off.

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That's. It. 

Another difference from panzanella purist recipes? The OG dish is typically made with bread, tomatoes, onions, vinaigrette, maybe basil, and that's it. Sounds delicious, but I have all this amazing produce laying around and it all tastes SO good together. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again. There's a time and a place for making food perfectly authentic, and I'm all about knowing the rules, but you're missing out on some incredible food if you're not willing to be a rule-breaker sometimes. 

HOWEVER, there is one unbreakable rule here. 

This recipe is great for bread that's a day or two old and starting to get a little stale, but for just about everything else it's all about freshness. That goes for all the vegetables down to using garlic you cut yourself—not the jarred stuff. This is a true peak of summer recipe. If you’re not eating all your ingredients as fresh (and ripe) as possible, don’t make this.

You’ll thank me when you take a bite.

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I like to make this with red and orange bell peppers (orange are my favorite to eat raw), but yellow is great too. Green peppers are a little too grassy for me in this particular recipe, but hey, try it out if you have some on hand you want to use up. Let me know how it goes!

I’ve made summer party panzanella for a bridal shower, for dinner parties, for hungry football players who helped us move, and plenty of times on regular old weeknights. My husband and I have been known to destroy one of these in 24 hours—yeah, that’s an entire loaf of bread for two. Yikes. Such a good yikes. 

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As it sits, the vinaigrette and the juices from all those veggies meld and soak into the bread for such explosive flavor that you don't even need fireworks, okay? Leave the pyrotechnics to the professionals, because you can blow minds all on your own with this. 

Some people will beg you for this recipe. Everyone else will just ask you to make more. 

Luckily for me, we do travel to the land of veggie-sharing (aka West Virginia) pretty often during the summer. I'm actually surrounded by fresh tomatoes and basil at this very moment, some of which I just ate in a frittata. We also live fairly close to some great farmers markets and the famous Grainger County tomatoes in Tennessee, so I’m not completely missing out.

Still, if you live in a community like the one I grew up in, know I’m jealous. Go out and pick the biggest, most misshapen, sun-ripened tomato you can find and slice it up with some salt for me!

So what's the produce situation in your area, and what's your fave summer vegetable or fruit? A super-ripe peach or plum might be runners-up to tomatoes and cucumbers for me. Basil and mint are great too though... Oh God, I almost forgot watermelon! For the record, that was an actual, unedited stream of consciousness.

Anyway, freshen up the comments below with your picks!

If you try out this summer party panzanella, let me know by sharing a photo with the hashtag #whipsmartkitchen and tagging me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. You can also use the "tried it" feature on Pinterest to help others find it too!

Let's get toasting!

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Pumpkin Spice Steel-Cut Oatmeal

Breakfast, Fall, Make-ahead, Recipe, Slow Food, Winter, Vegetarian, Comfort FoodLeannda CavalierComment

Hearty steel-cut oats toasted in browned butter get the full pumpkin spice treatment with real pumpkin puree, serious spice and less sugar than your average PS treat. A batch can feed a brunch bunch, or be stored in the refrigerator for a week of healthy breakfasts.

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you buy products I recommend at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I believe in from companies I believe in—either I use them myself or I've at least done thorough research and vetting. Please reach out if you have any questions!

Too early to read the whole post: gimme that breakfast recipe already.

Two vital seasonal truths in my world right now: 1. Though we have left fall behind, I'm not yet finished with the pumpkin. 2. Though it's a new year and blah blah blah, it's TOO COLD for smoothie bowls. I need my breakfast to warm me up right now, thanks. 

One of my absolute favorite things to make for breakfast is steel-cut oats, and there are so many options out there. In fact, here's another recipe for apple-cinnamon steel-cut oats in case this one doesn't tickle your fancy.

Never made them? Nervous? Let me break it down for you:

How to cook steel-cut oats:

  1. Toast the oats in some butter or coconut oil over medium heat for a few minutes.
  2. Add about 3 cups boiling water for every 1 cup oats. 
  3. Cook on low for about half an hour.
  4. Add any flavorings and toppings you want.
  5. That's IT. 

The rest is playing with flavors, which is my spe-ci-al-i-ty.

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Steel-cut oats have a lot of advantages over your typical rolled oats, some of them health-related. They retain more of their nutrients through being less processed. They take longer for you to digest, keeping you full longer. You know what else? They're chewier, roastier and nuttier--all things I'll take over "faster" 99 percent of the time.

Besides, you can just make these ahead and reheat them. I'd much rather make one big batch of hearty, flavorful steel-cut oatmeal at the beginning of the week than spend 5 minutes making decent quick oats every morning anyway.

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P.S. I actually do like rolled oats... meal planning my breakfasts with blueberry rolled oats I could microwave every morning kept me sane at my last full-time job, plus they're great for pancakes and cookies. But steel-cut oats? Pumpkin ones? Those are the approachable but aspirational mornings I'm generally going for.

They also keep me full for more than 15 minutes without seconds, which is honestly pretty impressive.

As for the pumpkin, surprise! Pumpkins are still in season for the winter! 

We tend to attach pumpkins to fall, which is when they come into season, but the favorite among squashes really shouldn’t disappear the moment you take your jack-o-lantern off your doorstep. (You did remember to do that, right? It’s okay, this is a safe space.)

I wavered a little on whether to call this recipe “pumpkin steel-cut oats” or “pumpkin spice steel-cut oats”. Isn’t that stupid? Well in terms of search engine optimization it’s not, but I’m not even talking about that. I’m talking about all the crap women (and men brave enough to admit it) get for loving pumpkin spice.

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My thoughts? Pumpkin spice is delicious and a little over-hyped. Yes, both can be true. 

I shamelessly love a good pumpkin spice latte, especially homemade or one from Starbucks (gasp!). Pumpkin pie? Definitely. Pumpkin spice bread? Yeah! Pumpkin spice bagel? Double yeah. Pumpkin spice muffin? Why not? 

I don’t tend to like PSLs from many other places because the syrup often tastes nothing like pumpkin, but ultra-sugary fireballs (the candy, not the drink). Specifically fireballs that have already had most of the coating worn off.

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Other DOA pumpkin spice items for me include: gum, store-bought coffee creamers (actually those get a big no from me in general) and yogurt. No thank you, please. 

Anyway, maybe it's the seasonality, but pumpkin just feels like a special treat for me. There are plenty of reasons to use real pumpkin in your breakfast well past November. First, it’s delicious with said pumpkin spices. Second, you can easily store cans of it in your freezer. Third, lots of recipes call for a cup of pumpkin, and most cans come with 2.5 cups.

And hey, pumpkin is a great source of vitamin A, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. 

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This pumpkin spice steel-cut oats recipe is a great way to use leftover pumpkin puree if you’re anything like me and put it in the fridge with the best of intentions, but no solid plan. Wasted pumpkin is a sad sight (and a bad smell).

These steel-cut oats are so easy to put together, and most of the cook time only requires stirring every so often so the bottom doesn’t burn. Also know it’s okay if some oats do stick—I typically get a thin layer of them on the bottom of my dutch oven. 

I can usually get any stuck oats off pretty easily with a plastic scraper, but you can also put the empty pan back on the stove with some water and bring it to a boil to soften it up. The dutch oven pictured above is a 5.5 qt enameled cast-iron dutch oven from the Food Network. You don't have to use a dutch oven, but I like them for things that cook slowly like this. I also use mine almost daily anyway, so...

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Usually I prefer my oatmeal a little lumpy with milk poured over, of course I know lots of people like creamier oats. If that's you, no problema! Just add more water or milk. You can add another cup in the beginning, or you could stir it in at the end if you decide it's too thick for you.

Sometimes if I'm reaaaaally hungry I'll make creamier just so the water the oats absorb will make me feel full faster—and sometimes I just do it because I'm in a creamy oatmeal mood. It's a thing, just go with it.  

You can top these with whatever you want, but I really love a pat of butter, pepitas (extra protein, extra crunch), maple syrup and a splash of milk. I put some suggestions down in the recipe itself. 

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Let's get simmering!

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Did you make this recipe? Take a picture and let me know! You can always tag me and hashtag #whipsmartkitchen on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook (links below), or use the tried it feature on Pinterest.

New Year's lentil soup with sausage meatballs

Holiday, Dinner, Recipe, Slow Food, Soup, WinterLeannda CavalierComment

This savory Italian-inspired soup is filled with earthy lentils, infused with aromatic herbs and peppered with tender meatballs. Lentils are a New Year's tradition, but this soup is great anytime.

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I'll reflect later, give me the recipe now!

Happy New Year! What are your New Year's resolutions?

I have mixed feelings on New Year's Eve and New Years. On the one hand, I think it's a little overblown. Reasons: I already stay up past midnight most days, I'd rather drink hot chocolate by the fire than go out and I already set expectations for myself I can't possibly meet without a holiday to mark the occasion.

On the other hand, I do think it's nice to have a symbolic check-in where you can create a blank slate along with all the other people trying to do the same. It's a good time for people who go 100 mph to stop in the quiet days after earlier holidays and reflect on what's working and what's not. 

Keeping things real with New Years Resolutions is a tough balance to strike, and it can get ugly fast.

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I know I said I don't need a holiday to tell me to set my expectations, but that's only half-right if I'm being honest. As a strategic communicator in my day-jobs, I'm always setting deadlines and benchmarks to measure against—otherwise how do you even measure whether you were successful or refine your strategy? How do you stay intentional? 

As a human, I should do that more in my own life. 

I'm thinking about that a lot right now, especially after this particular holiday season. I typically go all out baking and making food as gifts, but this year I just couldn't do it. I had too much on my plate, and didn't finish up my work from the fall in time before we set out on our holiday travels. 

Some of my favorites to make are salted, nutella-stuffed, browned butter chocolate chip cookies; peppermint hot chocolate mix; peppermint marshmallows; salted bourbon caramels and my favorite: povitica. Povitica (po-va-teet-sa) is a magical Croatian swirled bread stuffed with walnuts, chocolate and cinnamon. I started making it about four years ago as a way to connect with my roots, and it's become a tradition. An incredibly labor-intensive tradition where I spend two days making five delicate, twirly loaves. 

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Had to skip it too. It was the bread, or my sanity. Considering Christmastime is when I finally see all my family and friends, I needed the sanity. I'll send the bread later. 

I don't think we should be too tough on ourselves or beat ourselves up, but it's always good to consider what's actually realistic and give ourselves time to make it work. So, as much as I don't want to make it too big a deal, a year is a pretty good checkpoint. You have the symbolism of the cycling seasons, the restful few days to think (if you're lucky) and other people doing the same thing to help you get excited and keep you accountable.

Ready to set goals you'll actually reach? Start here.  

One year, five steps.

It might sound odd, but all of that ties perfectly into this recipe for lentil soup with sausage meatballs. Symbolism, tradition, realism, slowing down and hey, getting excited! Because this soup is really, really good. 

Eating lentils after midnight on New Year's is considered good luck in Italy, and the legumes have similar symbolic meanings around the world. The coin-shaped pulses represent good luck and prosperity to Italians, and are often served with pork sausage, stuffed trotters and other pig-based products because pigs root forward. Other cultures focus on the circular shape of the lentils as well, but they associate it more with the circle of life itself rather than fortune. 

Beyond that, lentils are incredibly nutritious and accessible, as hearty crops with plenty of vegetable protein. They've been a staple of multiple cultures' diets for thousands of years for a reason. 

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Prosperity, luck, forward-motion, health, life cycles. What's more New Year's than that? 

Well, if you're like me, a strong dose of realism. In life, that means trying to set goals I can actually achieve and reasonable time-frames. In this recipe, it means that I'm not making stuffed pig trotters with my lentil soup. Not that I have anything against it, and I'm not saying I would never make it or try it. Maybe I will one day, but it's just not going to become a tradition in the Cavalier house. 

More realistic? Sausage meatballs. Yes, please. Accessible. Simple. Still symbolic. 

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It's also so, so delicious. The earthy, peppery French puy lentils go beautifully with the mirepoix, tomatoes, herbs and spinach to finish. The meatballs add a kick to keep things interesting. Plus, for those of you who care, it's a pretty healthy start for the year. No, it's not plain leek soup, but it's balanced. Nutritious and filling and tasty. It's a great meal to ease you into good habits, as going cold-turkey is a change that's unlikely to stick or make you very happy in the meantime. 

And hey, if you don't eat lentil soup with sausage meatballs at midnight, don't see it as a missed opportunity, because this recipe is fantastic anytime for any reason. Tomorrow is just as good for a fresh start as any. 

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I actually intended to post this recipe last year, but didn't because the photos weren't what I wanted, which set up a whole string of posts I meant to put up at a certain time, and failed to do so. I also had hoped to get it up a little earlier this year. Another dose of that realism for me. I didn't give myself enough time or understanding, and things... spiraled.

Something I'm working on this year ;). For now, I'm mulling it over while the soup simmers.

I've been making lentil soup with meatballs for New Year's for several years, and just like me, it's evolved quite a bit. I've used different type of lentils, herbs, ground meats, proportions—I'll spare you all the nitty-gritty details for now. 

I'm sure it will continue to evolve, whether it's me making more changes, or you putting your own spin on this dish in your kitchen. 

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I hope you set realistic but ambitious goals for yourself this year, and I hope you reach them with a healthy dose of hard work and patience. I hope you're intentional both in your strides and staying present in the moment. Finally, I hope you have the year you want, with plenty of joy among the ups and downs. 

If you make this recipe, I'd love to hear from you and see it! Leave a comment below, or take a picture and tag me on social media—mine are in the links below if you want to connect!

P.S. Feel free to leave your resolutions in the comments to put it in writing ;)

So let's get simmering!

High-rise buttermilk biscuits supreme

Breakfast, Method, Baking, Recipe, Slow FoodLeannda CavalierComment

Flaky, buttery biscuits in a golden crust that rise like champs. They're perfect solo with some butter and jam, or with my personal favorite comfort food—creamed turkey.

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you buy products I recommend. I only recommend products I believe in. That means I've used it myself in most cases, and at the very least I've researched it thoroughly and find it trustworthy—I would never recommend anything I wouldn't use myself. Please reach out if you have any questions!

I'm just here for the biscuits and I've already scrolled through 106 photos. Jump to the recipe.

I'm not quite sure how we got to December, but here we are. It's probably a little tired to talk about how the years whir by faster the older you get, but it always seems to surprise me regardless. This is about the time my work starts to slow down and I get to relax and spend time doing the things I love.

JUST KIDDING. I'm panicking about how much baking I can get finished, trying to finish Christmas shopping (I'll start in September next year... is probably a lie), packing frantically and trying to get some recipes photographed last-minute. Oh, and telling everybody else in my life not to sweat the small stuff I'm sweating. 

Despite being hopelessly overcommitted (re: nutso), I have been trying to find ways to tie in reflection and gratefulness into my work here. Which is how we landed on biscuits. 

Biscuits supreme is a recipe I grew up on. It’s a favorite in my Ya-ya’s recipe box, given to her by her mother, my Nee-nee. If you search "biscuits supreme”, you’ll get a good number of similar biscuit recipes with slight variations. As far as I can tell, the original came from a midcentury Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, and like so many other recipes, was passed down through countless families like a delicious game of telephone. 

On a Christmas visit, shortly after I moved to Tennessee, my Ya-ya gave me the recipe printed on an index card in her angular handwriting—one of the few family recipes we have that's actually written down with measurements and full instructions.

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I wish my handwriting was half as interesting as hers, or my great aunt’s whimsical swooping letters. Both should be fonts. I've tried for years to copy them from sticky notes and birthday cards to make my own version, but it's never quite right.

I'm better at emulating their cooking skills, which brings us back to biscuits. To round out the connection, I do like to experiment with things to put my own spin on them. Millennials, amirite?

Why mess with a good thing? Because butter.

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I reaaaaally wanted to use butter. The original recipe calls for shortening, which I’m not opposed to using, but I do try to keep use of heavily processed ingredients to a minimum. It was a product of it's time and it makes total sense here, but butter brings the flakiness in a way shortening can't. 

 

The first time I tried to make biscuits (not my family’s recipe, a random one I found online), I ended up with a crunchy disc. Pretty tasty… but more like a cookie than a biscuit. English biscuit? Um, maybe (no). Definitely not making the cut in Tennessee or West Virginia. 

These biscuits on the other hand. These. Biscuits. Tall and tan and flaky and buttery. These are the biscuits from Ipanema.

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Butter makes a difference because as it cooks, it turns to steam and leaves pockets. That’s why the best biscuits have streaks around the middle like the dough is stacked in layers—it is! The thing is, using butter isn’t enough.

If you just mix the butter in any way you want, those pockets won’t form. If you want flaky, pull-apart layers, you need the right technique. Conventional advice I’ve always heard says to cut cold butter in, then mix it in with your fingers until you have pea-sized chunks.

 The misshapen one with the arrowhead-shaped top is the last cut, made of scraps. If you're worried about presentation, just skip it (or make it and scarf it down directly out of the oven before anyone sees it). 

The misshapen one with the arrowhead-shaped top is the last cut, made of scraps. If you're worried about presentation, just skip it (or make it and scarf it down directly out of the oven before anyone sees it). 

It's a good start, but there’s a better way if you want a next-level biscuit. I looked to one of my favorite books, Cooks Illustrated's The Science of Good Cooking for some sage advice. 

I think the biggest help the book offers is the idea of fraisage and lamination—stay with me here, we’re not talking about covering it with plastic. We’re talking flattening the butter and folding it into the dough in layers in this form of lamination, meanwhile fraisage is a French technique where you smear butter into a dough with the heel of your hand. Think about the buttery strips when you tear into a croissant, or a pie crust falling apart and melting in your mouth. Mmmm. 

The book suggests flattening the butter rather than breaking it up into pea-sized chunks, keeping it nice and cold until baking time and folding the dough over onto itself several times. 

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We'll do a rustic version, because as much as I love learning about food science, most people probably don’t want cooking to feel like lab work. I’d personally love to work in a test kitchen, but I’m pretty short on time most days in real life. 

Besides, sometimes I just want to feel more artist than scientist, you know? We’ll riff on it. 

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My family’s recipe already used two of the book’s tips. First, a little shortening is actually a good thing. I’ve always seen shortening as a) one of those supposedly healthy fats that turned out to be worse than butter, and b) a foolproof way to make dough come together. Butter is difficult to work with, but shortening is hard to mess up. 

That is true, but it’s also a hasty generalization. I teach public speaking, so we can't have that. Turns out it serves a separate purpose too—it helps keep the biscuits tender by reducing the moisture content and forming a weaker gluten structure. Weak gluten = tender. Who knew?

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Our family recipe also features two leaveners, which the book recommends, in the form of baking powder and cream of tartar. I left the leaveners the same, but I changed the milk to buttermilk, which changes the acidity and reacts to them a little differently. I think it balanced out pretty well. 

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It's fun looking at how these recipes handed down through the years stand up to science-based techniques. Possibly one of the most fun things is that you don't have to care if you like it the way you already do it. There's rarely only one "right" way to do something. 

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I love my family's classic biscuit recipe, and I love that my Ya-ya makes them for me with creamed turkey when I come home. I love how simple the recipe is to put together. I love that it tastes like what her family sat down to eat during a time I can only imagine. I love reading it in her handwriting and hearing the instructions the way my Nee-nee must have taught her. 

It's also incredible that knowing the concepts of lamination and fraisage help me understand croissants, pie crust, puff pastry, certain breads, other biscuits, scones... and they get me thinking about how I can play with other recipes for a similar effect. Is it possible to make a biscuit or croissant cookie hybrid? Is that already a thing people are standing in line for in Brooklyn? What would you call it? I just googled what I thought it would be called, and that is a different thing. Don't worry about it.

Allow me to distract you with an action shot: 

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This week is super-fun because I'll be posting TWO recipes. I've been pretty inconsistent lately, I know. I doubt anyone is visiting daily to see if I've updated (though, please tell me if you do, because I will die), but I do want to at least follow my own content calendar. I have this anxiety that my strategic communications students will find my blog and berate me for not sticking to the standards I hold them to.

"Mrs. Cavalier, you're not posting consistently enough," they say, in my anxiety-fueled nightmares. "Did you even set objectives? No one is going to stick around if you don't give them content to come back for and serve them. That's what you said."

YES I SAID IT. And it's true. Class, if you're here, it takes SO long to grade your stuff. I love you all anyway. And to anyone who does come here regularly, I really am sorry. I'm working on it. Did I mention I'm also a football sideline reporter and caterer on the weekends? Because this has been a long, rough semester. 

Anyway, I submitted final grades at about 3 a.m. Saturday, and I'm ready to get back to work. That's why later this week I'm posting a recipe for one of my favorite recipes ever: creamed turkey.

Yuuuup Brooke County (West Virginia) people, get ready.  

If that sounds a little suspect to you, I get it. But I promise, creamed turkey is legendary. It is the comfort food of comfort foods. 

While you're here, I'd love to hear what your favorite family recipes are! Let me know in the comments at the end of this post what recipe is most treasured in your family, and whether you've tried it out for yourself. 

If you make this biscuit recipe, I'd love to hear about it! Just comment below, or post a photo to Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #whipsmartkitchen and tag me! You could also use the "tried it" feature on Pinterest. I'm always happy to answer questions as well. 

Let's make some biscuits!

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Southwest-style sweet potato frittata

Breakfast, Recipe, Slow FoodLeannda CavalierComment

A silky blend of eggs, ricotta and gruyere top hearty sweet potatoes, black beans and smoky vegetables. Flavorful and filling, this frittata can feed your brunch crowd or be stored in the refrigerator for days of healthy breakfasts.

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Stomach... rumbles... uncontrollable... gimme that southwest style sweet potato frittata—skip to the recipe, please!

I've always thought frittatas were so-so. Pretty good. Nothing special. 

Breaking news: I was WRONG. 

The frittata conversion

This summer while Adam and I were visiting his parents in West Virginia, they made us an incredible brunch. It featured biscuits (duh, I said "West Virginia"), a selection of gourmet jams (new playlist name?!) to try and the star of the show: a cheesy, tender frittata. 

The problem with frittata for me has always been that it's either too rubbery or too slimy, and/or that it's just too eggy. Yes, I know its supposed to taste like eggs. Yes, I love eggs. No, I have no desire to eat a wet scrambled egg pie. Sorry.

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But this frittata. THIS frittata was spongey in a buttery way, had plenty of texture to break up any monotony, and had as much flavor as any savory dish at my favorite brunch spots. It was filled with sausage, potatoes, kale, spinach, onions, and lots of cheese. 

One of the reasons it was so incredible is because my parents-in-law broke the rules of the recipe they were using, and brilliantly so. It said to drop ricotta in by the spoonful before cooking, but they went ahead and mixed it right in to the eggs with the gruyere. I think that made all the difference in terms of texture. They also threw in some browned sausage into the mix, which was pro play-calling. 

I've been a frittata fiend since. I've made one nearly every week—really. It's such a great breakfast, and I just have to work for it Sunday to reap the benefits throughout the workweek. To switch it up I've been rotating versions, including the one I'm sharing today: southwest-style sweet potato frittata. 

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This frittata has the same incredible texture, but a slightly different vibe. Namely, smoky-sweet. Onions, cherry tomatoes, jalapeños and black beans form the smoky base, while crispy-edged sweet potatoes add meatiness and mellow things out. It's topped with... you guessed it an egg mixture enhanced with ricotta and gruyere.

I know, it doesn't sound like either of those cheeses should go in anything invoking the southwest, but I swear it works. If you really have a problem with the gruyere, you can always go for some sharp cheddar, but DO NOT skip the ricotta. 

Ricotta is essential to the experience I'm trying to give you. Don't question it. I'm more Lucille Bluth than David S. Pumpkins on this one. 

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I truly don't know that I'll ever make another frittata without it.  

A fatty hypothesis with some steam to carry it

If I had to guess why the ricotta-egg mix is so magical, I'd chalk it up to the fat versus liquid content. Ricotta a whey protein, which is essentially cream or milk quickly curdled with an acid in order to thicken it and intensify the flavor. That means the fat and protein stick around without all the liquid.

When you cook eggs mixed with dairy products or other liquids, too much steam can become a problem. With a short cooking time it's not such a big deal, but the longer the cooking time, the more tightly the proteins in the eggs bond, the more liquid they push out, and the tougher your eggs get.

On the other hand, if you reduce the liquid and up the fat, your eggs are going to steam less, and your eggs should stay tender. Furthermore, the added fat will coat the proteins and slow down their coagulation even more.

TL;DR: You get to have your cake and eat it too, as the liquid from the milk will steam the proteins enough to make the eggs fluffy, but the fat in the milk and the ricotta will coat the proteins to help keep it from getting tough and rubbery. 

Why mess with a frittata that isn't broken?

I believe in moderation, so some sausage is perfectly okay in my diet. On the other hand, moderation probably doesn't include eating it nearly every day. Besides, sometimes you've just got to switch things up!

A big benefit of this southwest-style sweet potato frittata is that it puts a little healthy twist on things. Swapping out sausage for black beans and potatoes for sweet potatoes lowers the sodium a bit, adds some more vitamins and fiber and lightens things up overall without sacrificing flavor. It's probably not the recipe you're looking for if you're overly concerned about cholesterol, but hey, it's also not the 90s. 

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A few months after our trip, Adam's parents came to visit us on their way to visit family in Alabama. I was able to serve them my version of their frittata on their way down, and this southwest-style sweet potato frittata on their way back home. I might have gushed a little over how they've inspired my new obsession and made my mornings before work so much easier.

This southwest-style sweet potato frittata is perfect if you have company coming over, especially if you prep the vegetables ahead. I personally like to make this on a Sunday so I don’t have to worry about breakfast throughout the week.

It refrigerates beautifully, and can be reheated in the microwave without altering the texture dramatically, unlike many egg dishes. That's saying something, because generally I ha-ha-haaaate microwaved eggs. The ahem RICOTTA keeps the microwave from turning the eggs into smelly rubber. I just pop in a slice for 45 seconds to a minute and savor it with some coffee and maybe a side of fruit.

Are you a frittata fan? What's the best one you've ever had? As always, I want to hear from you! Whether you make this one, think it sounds good, or just have strong feelings on egg-dishes, let me know in the comments!

Got a question or something you're struggling with in the kitchen? I'd love to help you out if I can, but I won't know until you ask.

If you make this recipe, make sure you come back and let me know how it was, or you can post a photo on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #whipsmartkitchen & tag me!

One more thing—bloggers, Instagram enthusiasts and influence aficionados: stick around until the end of this post. I've got something fun for you!

Anyway, let's get cooking!

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Maybe even a food blogger? I'm attending a live Q&A Thursday (11/9) with Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro's Lindsay and Bjork Ostrom on how they've grown their Instagram following to 500K.

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Full disclosure, this is an affiliate link. That means that if you end up enrolling in Food Blogger Pro after clicking my link, I'll get a small portion of anything you pay. 

That being said, the webinar is totally free and you don't have to buy anything to get a ton of incredible info (seriously, just listen to their FREE Podcast—I'm obsessed). I really believe in Food Blogger Pro, and Pinch of Yum is the delicious proof that they know what they're doing. Bjork and Lindsay and their whole team are so knowledgable and generous, and they've helped WhipSmart Kitchen become what it is today (and what I hope it will grow into!). 

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THE poblano green chicken chili

Mexican, Dinner, Recipe, Slow Food, Soup, WinterLeannda CavalierComment

This comforting chili is packed with layer after layer of flavor. Smoky roasted peppers and garlic mingle with rich tomatillos, silky beans and tender chicken for a complex but familiar flavor. Poblano peppers, known best for chiles rellenos, lead the way with soft, savory heat. 

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Listen. To my stomach audibly growl. Give. Me. THE. Recipe. 

This recipe is not just chili. This is THE Chili.

This is The Chili people will ask after year-round, and long after that. 

The reason this chili is soooooo-so-so-so-so-so good is because it has so many layers of flavor. We’re not just throwing a bunch of ingredients in a pot and hoping they turn into something good. We’re using techniques to make sure we get extra flavor packed in at every step.

This is a fairly complex recipe in terms of flavor, but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult! It just means it takes some time and patience. It’s not fancy, it’s made with love.

And it's unbelievably good.

Chili, as you likely know, is a Mexican dish. But, in terms of technique, it can technically be considered a ragout. Makes sense since both are known as slow-simmering, legendary, magnum opuses in countless households. Ritualized and handed down. These dishes aren't just dinner; they're events in and of themselves.  

 Truly painful to watch. TEARS.

Truly painful to watch. TEARS.

Both chili and ragout originated as a way to turn tough cuts of meat and other abundant ingredients into something people would actually want to eat, or more accurately, something people beg for. It's evolved quite a bit over time and space, and there's so much variation. I personally use four separate recipes for different moods, occasions and time constraints. 

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Good chili comes down to a feeling for me. 

When I take a bite—no matter where I actually am—I want to feel like I'm sitting by a fire, under a blanket, surrounded by my favorite people. I want it to be warming and smoky. Thick and rich. Complex and comforting. I want tangy pieces of vegetables, savory-smooth bites of beans and soft, tender bits of meat.

We've smelled this labor of love cooking for hours, mouths watering, and we've earned it. With our patience if nothing else. 

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So what makes this chili embody that feeling? 

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  • Tomatillos and chili peppers are both rich in pectin (the thing that makes jams jiggle), so they make for a thick, gravy-like sauce. That’s one of the things that makes this chili so rich and comforting.
  • We take advantage of the maillard browning reaction that happens when you sear things, both on the chicken itself and in the bottom of the pan. The chicken also cooks in the simmering pot, so the inside stays tender and falls apart further after we chop it. 
  • ROASTED PEPPERS. As I've said in my tutorial on roasting peppers, roasting adds a smoky touch from the charred skin, enhances sweetness, both the flavor and the texture get richer, and while the flavor intensifies, the piquancy softens. Oh, and this goes double for green peppers, which aren't ripe. 
  • Roasted GARLIC. Ditto. Ditto
  • White and light red kidney beans are like turning silk pillows in a bite of chili. You're still warm and cozy, but you need smooth, cool respite. 
  • India Pale Ale adds a pleasantly hoppy punch that balances out the savory-sweet flavors and heat we've built. It's bitter in a fruity way, like grapefruit. Trust me, you want it there. 

Get ready. I'm about to walk into a fire much hotter than roasted poblanos. 

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As with most beloved things, people have some opinions on chili.

Some keywords here: authenticity, purist, genuine, classic, never, always, must... you get the idea.

Depending on who you ask, chili with tomatoes isn't chili. Chili should NEVER have beans. Chili isn't made with ground beef. I'm honestly not sure where they stand on chicken chili or chili verde (which is what this is, for the record).  

Personally, I don't care as long as it tastes good. 

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Don't get me wrong. I appreciate authenticity for what it is. It's fun to try foods as they originated, and to compare them to what they've evolved into, or how it's translated into a different region/culture/family/etc. I admire people who resist the temptation to complicate things or change to please a broader audience. I'll travel for that experience (or at the very least, turn on the Food Network). 

That said, I think it sucks when people turn their nose up at other versions of food just because it's not the original. If we stuck to the original on everything, every time, food would get real boring, real fast. If an iteration strays too far, we'll just name it accordingly.

This chili is not authentic. It has beans. White ones. The base is made of roasted tomatillos. I didn't travel to Mexico and get a recipe from somebody's great-grandmother (and if I did I would credit it to her!). This was just me deciding one day I was going to try making green chicken chili instead of red, picking ingredients I thought would be good, and coaxing them into giving me all the qualities I want in my bowl. 

Feel free to decide this isn't chili if that's your thing. But you should probably try it anyway. Let me know if you have suggestions for what to call my not chili. I won't use them, but you're welcome to.

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Warning!

If you’re sitting in the grocery store parking lot looking for something for dinner tonight—so hungry you could eat a moose—this is not the recipe for today. Seriously! Bookmark it for a day when you have plenty of time, and move on to something simpler for tonight. How about some nice chicken paillard instead?

One more time for the people in the back! Don't rush this one. Set aside an afternoon.

It’s so worth it. I promise. 

Another important note: this calls for roasted peppers and roasted garlic. I linked to the methods for those in both here and ingredient list. Please be certain to check that out for two reasons:

1. So you don’t underestimate the time you’ll spend making this.

2. So you don’t spend half an hour in the grocery store looking for pre-roasted peppers and garlic. For the record, you can buy roasted red peppers, but they are usually in brine or oil, which changes the texture and taste, and that doesn’t really work in this recipe. 

Remember, patience is a virtue.

What's your favorite chili ever? Is it a family recipe? From a chili-fest? Comment and let me know! I'm open to chili of all kinds (I think...).

As always, I want to hear from you! Got a question or something you're struggling with in the kitchen? I'd love to help you out if I can, but I won't know until you ask.

If you make this recipe, make sure you come back and let me know how it was, or you can post a photo on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #whipsmartkitchen & tag me!

Let's get this chili simmering already!

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If this recipe seems like it has too many moving parts to pull off, I get it. But if it sounds good to you, I'd really love to see you try it! I may be able to help you out with that. 

The WhipSmart Kitchen Guide to Mise En Place is a workbook I put together to show you a method to the madness of cooking. I think every beginning cook should start out on the right foot, and I show you how to do exactly that here. 

Just click below for a free download, and let me know how you like it.