Pear + Cheddar Salad

New year. Who dis?

Ok ok bear with us. We’ve been absent, yes. But it was January, also known as the month of no inspiration and the month that Hannah moved to Chicago. (insert sassy dancing emoji of joy)

And here I am with a salad “recipe.” I guess it counts. Mostly I made this, loudly exclaimed about how Good I Am At Salads throughout dinner, and wanted to share. Don’t hate me.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Bosc pears (THE FLAVOR OF THESE BAD BOYS)
  • 1/2 head of romaine lettuce
  • sharp white cheddar, cut into tiny cubes or crumbled if you have that kind of time
  • roasted, salted almonds, roughly chopped
  • Pear Champagne Salad dressing (Trader Joe’s is LIFE.)

Roughly chop up that romaine, cube the pears, cube the cheddar, and chop up some almonds. If you’re doing this for lunch and you want more protein, add some roasted/grilled chicken! Toss into a bowl that’s bigger than you think you need with less dressing than you think you need (add more if you want).

For now, please, I beg of you, use the Trader Joe’s dressing. It’s got champagne vinegar, gorgonzola cheese, pear mush, and evoo in it and it’s to die for. I’ll be working on making my own version over here in the Chicago test kitchen, but for now, use it, love it, drink it. (just kidding about one of those).

I would also like to take this moment to share an amazing service I just started using, called Imperfect Produce. Every week I get a cute little cardboard box full of veggies that have been deemed “unfit,” “uggles,” or “imperfect” by some people who think that grocery store veg should live up to Vogue standards. I have yet to receive any produce that is truly ugly. Mostly it’s just really delicious and really cheap. Last week I got 1 head of romaine lettuce, 1 bunch of organic swiss chard, 1 bunch of kale, 2 bosc pears, 4 kiwi, 2 cucumbers, 2 peppers, 4 beets, and a pound of potatoes. For $15. You read that right. $15. So if you live in a big city, I’d recommend them to you.

Egészségedre!

Hannah

Merry Christmas!

From both of us here at Common Sense Kitchen, we wish you all things merry and bright this Christmas!

We’re taking this week off from recipes to spend time with our handsome husbands and our families. We’ll be curled up with steamy mugs of hot drinks and eating all the good foods that come out of our mom’s kitchens (so expect an over-flow of cooking creativity on the other side of this break).

Thank you so much for your support and enthusiasm as we’ve launched this little blog. It’s been a dream of both of us for a while and it’s been so much fun to make a reality. Can’t wait to see what 2018 holds for Common Sense Kitchen! Stick around for the ride, why don’t ‘cha?

Boldog karácsonyt! Fröhliche Weihnachten!

Hannah & Essie

Friday Faves: Gathering


In this day and age of social media, it becomes so easy to assume we need special dishes, a theme and countless other things to make a dinner party look pretty. The truth is, once you have the people, everything else is unimportant. We truly mean that. Please don’t worry about the food, the place settings, or making your home perfect. Just invite those people over, plop some sort of food down in front of them, and get going with the good times.
For example, last year, Essie and her husband had moved into their new home and had no furniture and extensive renovations going on in most rooms. It would have been so easy to not let anyone see the mess. But instead they had some of the most fun gatherings, sitting on blankets on the floor with friends and family.
Please don’t be intimidated by other people’s beautiful pictures or the illusion of perfection. If you’re second-guessing your party-throwing abilities, chances are SO IS EVERYONE ELSE. We’ve put together a simple menu below + guide for hosting a gathering of your own this holiday season and hope it may give you a little push to start hosting and partying like the crazy kids you are.
A couple Common Sense tips to Gathering
  • Don’t worry about the table setting. The pictures we took for this post were created with Airbnb dishes, a scrap piece of fabric, and a potted plant we got at Trader Joe’s (have we mentioned that we love TJ’s? Too often, you say?). Use paper plates, your every day dishes, or pull out that wedding china you registered for and never use. It doesn’t matter. We just ask that you try not to buy anything extra for a gathering. A jar of roadside wildflowers or random greenery from in front of your house, a half burned candle, a plant you already have, a pretty scarf, a handful of pine cones, or just about anything can be spread out on your table, floor or counter to create a lovely atmosphere.
  • Keep the food simple. We love cooking, run a food blog, and dream about our kitchen at night (yes, really. We’re a couple nuts.), but neither of us would have an issue serving a salad kit and ordering pizza for a quick and easy gathering. There is nothing wrong with easy and simple. You’ll be happier and more relaxed for your friends, and everyone wins when that happens. Let go of the “supposed to”s and “should”s.
  • If you want to have new friends over for the first time, but you’re worried about it being awkward (something Hannah thinks about on the reg #halp), make dinner interactive! Let your guests help you by mixing the salad, chopping up fruit for a pie, or even have a make-your-own-pizza night!

If you’re feeling up to a bit more cooking, may we recommend this menu:
—- salad
—- good wine
—- something sweet
The brilliant thing about serving two roasted things is that you can cook them at the same time, at the same temperature. We love easy easy recipes. You can find our roasted chicken recipe here and our roasted veggie recipe there. Pop the chicken in at 450 and pop the veg in an hour later, then just leave ’em (don’t just forget about them – baste your chicken and turn your veggies, but you know what we mean). For a salad, we recommend the Veggies + Greens salad kit from TJ, mentioned here.
Good wine doesn’t need to break the bank; most people know what they like and what they don’t like. We love a good, robust red wine, so we recommend the Rodney Strong cabernet. Hannah found it at her local TJ for $14, which is a great price for an even better bottle. Other favorites include Trader Joe’s Coastal syrah, Josh cabernet, or an oaky, buttery chardonnay (try one from Wente!).
To finish the party, haul out some ice cream, a bag of Dove chocolates, or, if you’re like Hannah and Very Into Pie, try your hand at making a galette! We’re coming out with a recipe for a pear + cranberry galette next Monday. #getpumped
PARTY LIKE IT’S 2009. (We’re not sure what we mean by that).
Hannah + Essie

Chicken Curry

We tried Whole30. Really, we did. It ended with a wimper, not a bang, at day 6 as I realized on a bench in Monterey, CA that we couldn’t eat at any of the restaurants in the area. (ok ok maybe we could have, but I didn’t have enough blood sugar to figure out which ones had food we could eat and which ones didn’t.) So Whole6, it is. Bless all you people who actually manage to get through those 30 days. (I did come to many realizations during these fated Whole6 – we hardly ever eat enough veggies and my default is pasta dishes.) In all my recipe research for Whole30, one of the meals people kept talking about on Whole30 was CURRY.

I love curry. Any kind of curry. I will sweat and cry through it because it’s just so good and my spice tolerance is just that bad. During these days of Whole6 I was determined to make a good curry, with whatever we were allowed to have, and thus was this curry recipe born. The first time I made it, I didn’t understand the conversions from grams to teaspoons, so I added almost half the jar. My husband sat across from me laughing as I cried my way through that bowl of curry. (His spice tolerance is significantly higher than mine.)

First, you’ve got to find a curry paste you like – I can’t do a *ton* of spice, but I do like a little heat in my curry, so I went with the Yellow Curry Paste from Mae Ploy, which we found at our local Safeway. It has no weird additives or preservatives or MSG, so it’s my jam. And the taste is fantastic. Try to find one that was made with kaffir leaves – it makes a world of difference in the taste. (There was a little diner in my college town that served – and still serves – the best curry I know, so this recipe is inspired by that).

Here are the ingredients (because I used yellow curry paste, I thought I might as well use ingredients that are largely yellow, but you can add pretty much any veggies and it’ll probably by good. I’m going to try adding green beans this week):

  • 2 cans coconut cream (you can also use canned coconut milk — I like the texture of the cream better)
  • 1 C chicken stock
  • 3 red potatoes, chopped
  • 5 small carrots, chopped (don’t peel them!)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp of fresh ginger, grated (you can use more… I’m a total sucker for fresh ginger so I over-ginger it. This is me being temperate)
  • 2 tsp Mae Ploy Yellow Curry Paste (or another curry paste of your choice)
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded chicken
  • 2 C fresh spinach
  • Jasmine rice, for serving
  • Peanuts (optional)

**I haven’t actually measured anything before, so this is my best guesstimate. Essie and I really like emphasizing cooking by instinct here, so just go with your gut. If your gut lies to you, don’t blame me. You figure out what amount of each item you want in your curry – just make sure you give it time to cook. If it’s over cooked, that’s ok! Trying again is always a good thing.

Start with a deep pan (I use my Le Creuset, but you can use a deep pot or a really big frying pan) – add enough olive oil to grease the pan. Add diced yellow onion, minced garlic, and grated fresh ginger. The fresh ginger here is key — the dried stuff just doesn’t have the same kind of sweetness or spice to it. Cook until the onions are soft, but not brown. If you see or smell that the garlic is burning, turn down the heat and move your pan off the burner for a bit. You can slow down the cooking of it simply by moving the pan off the heat.

Add in diced carrots (I use the organic rainbow carrots from Trader Joe’s because they’ve got just such good flavor in them) and diced potatoes. About the not peeling them note above: peeling carrots takes away all of their natural sweetness. Make sure you scrub them really well so most of the dirt in the wrinkles is gone, but do.not.peel.them. Cook until they start to soften. Add in 2 tsp of the curry paste and stir until everything is thoroughly coated.

Add 1 C of chicken stock and 2 cans of coconut cream. Salt to taste. Add in shredded, cooked chicken. (When I make roasted chicken or am making chicken stock, I keep the chicken from that for meals like this. You can also just use an unseasoned/lightly seasoned rotisserie chicken). Add in 2 handfuls (or more!) of fresh spinach and let it wilt (alternate between covering the pan and stirring it into the curry).

Simmer on low until potatoes are soft. Serve over Jasmine rice & garnish with peanuts for some extra crunch.

I’d love your feedback your curry adventures!

Egészségedre!

Hannah

Friday Faves: Christmas Decor

Happy Friday!

Have you decked your halls? Hung your mistletoe? Filled every nook and cranny of your home with cheer and joy?

Oh no? Don’t worry, neither have we. Hannah is still living in an Airbnb and Essie hasn’t done anything other than put candles everywhere. It’s ok, decorations are meant to bring joy and not stress. Let them happen organically, as time and inspiration find you.

We enjoy simple, homemade decor, especially if the ingredients are cheap and already in our kitchens. Here are two of our favorites!


DECOR-7

Essie: Cinnamon Ornaments

Ingredients:

    • 1 cup of applesauce
    • 1 1/2 cups cinnamon
    • 1 tbsp cloves (optional)

Directions:

  1. Mix applesauce with cup of cinnamon and cloves in kitchen mixer. Slowly add additional cinnamon as mixer continues to mix. It should leave the sides of the bowl and become a nice ball of dough. If it looks too wet, add more cinnamon. Too dry, add more applesauce.
  2. Spread parchment paper on cookie sheets.
  3. Sprinkle cinnamon like you would flour on your surface. Roll out the dough until it is 1/8-1/4 inch thick.
  4. Cut various shapes out with cookie cutters and use a tooth pick or straw to make holes for stringing.
  5. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Bake for 1.5-2 hours. Turn off your oven and allow to continue drying overnight. They should be completely dry and rock hard, otherwise put them back in the oven and give them more dry time.
  6. Thread a string through the holes, hot glue onto ribbon or just hold them up to your nose and sniff the lovely cinnamony scent.

Fridayfaves-1

Hannah: Dried Oranges

So, I made these for the first time last year, inspired by my friend Libby, who lived in Germany at the time. She had decorated her beautiful evergreen tree with dried oranges and combined with the lights on the tree they look like tiny stained glass windows. I loved how festive and simple they are so it’ll be a returning decoration for our home

“Ingredients”:

    • 3 or so oranges
    • thin string
    • a tapestry needle
    • parchment paper
    • a baking sheet.

Slice your oranges into slices that are about 1/8″ thick. You want them to be thin enough that they dry in the oven, but not so thin that they’re very brittle and break.

Lay the orange slices on parchment paper on the baking sheet and bake them at the lowest temperature your oven has. Libby set hers at 100, but my parents’ oven didn’t go lower than 180, which worked just fine. Bake them until they’re dry and stiff. When I made them they were still fairly sticky and pliable. This could take quite a few hours, so pop them in while you’re doing other stuff and come back to it!

Thread your tapestry needle with the string and weave the thread through the top of the orange slice so it hangs flat. If you just thread it through once, the oranges will face to the side, which is a very different look. The stickiness of the oranges should hold them in place fairly well so you don’t have to knot the string or anything to keep them from sliding to the middle when you hang them on your mantle. If you hang them on your tree, simply thread it through the top of the orange and tie it off like a little ornament.


Tag @commonsensekitchen on the socials to give us a peek at your kitchen crafting adventures. Happy decorating!

Hannah & Essie

Spoicy Italian Sausage + Orzo

The other day as I was perusing Instagram stories for the 592,094,701-th time that day, one of my fave mom ‘grammers posted about her healthy lunch with orzo and greens and I don’t even remember what else. It looked amazing, but she kept apologizing for talking about food and giving us a demo. NEVER APOLOGIZE. We all want to know how and what you moms feed yourselves. (Lookin’ at you, Sarah Hart)

When I got to Trader Joe’s yesterday and spotted the orzo I got all *praise hands emoji* and super-inspired.

And thus was this recipe was born. It’s currently in the running for my husband’s favorite dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. spoicy* Italian sausage (all I had was pre-cooked, so I diced it up. I would have much preferred raw spicy Italian sausage, so that’s how I’m writing this recipe.)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 medium zucchini (all you people who grow your own zucchini, medium does NOT mean the size of your entire arm, even though I know that’s your medium-sized zucchini)
  • 2 C raw spinach (can you tell I’m desperately trying to add more veg into my recipes?)
  • 1 ½ C chopped artichoke hearts (if you don’t like these as much as I do, you can pare it down, but DON’T.)
  • Juice of 1 lemon (a real lemon, not the juice in the bottle, y’all.)
  • 3 C cooked orzo (save some of the pasta water!)
  • 1 C grated fresh parmagiano

*spoicy was a typo we accidentally used once in college and I just like it better than the original. Say it out loud. You won’t regret it.

Add the raw Italian sausage to a heated pan and cook it halfway. Make sure your pan is large enough so the meal has room to grow. A sauté pan with tall sides would be ideal, but since we live in an Airbnb, I used an extra-big frying pan that was in our kitchen. At halfway, the sausage should still be pink with a little bit of browning. At this point add the chopped zucchini and a generous salting. Cook until the sausage is completely cooked and the zucchini is tender.

Add the spinach and cover the pan until it’s wilted. If you don’t have a pan with a lid, use the line cook’s trick and cover it with a cookie sheet. Add a little water if it needs more steam in there. This will also help cook the zucchini.

Stir in the chopped artichoke hearts. This adds that delightful acidity that recipes like this always need. Squeeze in half the lemon juice.

Add cooked orzo. NB: DO NOT over-cook the orzo, otherwise this ends up being a tasteless mush of gluten glue and no one likes that.

Add fresh parmigiano and a little of the pasta water that you saved because you’re a Nice Person who knows how Pasta likes to be treated. Stir. Squeeze the rest of the lemon juice over it. Voila!

Serves: 2-ish

Next time I make this, I’d like to add some roasted cherry tomatoes and a little feta. I’ll add a note to the bottom of this post if I like it.

Egészségedre!

Hannah

Pumpkin Muffins

Fall is by far my favorite season. It marks the end of summer and summer clothes (I’d rather be a burrito of knitted things than in a swimsuit any day), it marks the beginning of the school year, and it’s full of the incredible magic of the world around us changing. The fall colors, the sweaters, the coffee, the chilly mornings and evenings, the crickets singing at noon, the harvest season, Thanksgiving . . . ALL OF IT. I LOVE ALL OF IT.

My mom homeschooled us from K-6 grade and she made the fall a time of complete joy. We loved school because it meant new books, Ticonderoga pencils, and learning about Ancient Egypt for the 235th time (kidding, but I have to put this in here for my mom and friend Celia). We raked leaves with my dad, making them into a leaf ‘n’ tarp burrito that he drove over to a nearby ditch. We hiked Bradbury “Mountain” (a beautiful hill nearby). We put pieces of paper over leaves and scribbled with the flat side of a pencil until the shape of the leaf showed up. My mom bought 3 pumpkins, one for each of us kids, and set them on the stoop in the front of the house (she still does this). The traditions go on and on and I love every single one of them.

One of the best things about fall, though, was mom’s fall recipe collection that came back out after its summer hibernation. This pumpkin bread/muffin recipe is from my grandmother originally and it’s one she used as a “tea bread” (she’s reeeally into high tea and scones and bone china and all that).

Since my husband and I live in California right now, I’m forcing fall on us in every way from turning up the A/C until we have to wear sweaters to making pumpkin everything.

Ingredients:

  • 2 C sugar
  • 1 C veg oil
  • 1 can pumpkin
  • 3 C flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg

Mix it all in a big bowl. This batter keeps for a couple days, so you can make it the night before and have fresh muffins in the morning! When I was single and working full-time, I would make a batch of this batter and put it in the fridge. I’d get out my miniature cast-iron crock and make one giant muffin every morning for breakfast and this amount of batter lasted probably a week or so.

 

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aww suh cute, past hannah.

Sprinkle raw, chopped pecans or almonds on the top of each muffin for an extra, nutty crunch. They’re best served warm with butter.

 

Serves: well, how many muffins do you eat?

Egészségedre!

Hannah