Herb marinated goat cheese.

Here’s your perfect pre-dinner nibble for these increasingly warm days: a pretty jar of homemade marinated goat cheese, with sprigs of herbs and lemon peel to give the tangy cheese an even brighter flavor.

Simply layered crumbled fresh goat cheese in a glass jar (hello, Weck Jars!!) with sturdy herbs like rosemary, oregano and thyme. Serve the marinated cheese at room temperature with Homemade Sea Salt Crackers or toasted baguette rounds.

A jar of homemade marinated goat cheese, some crackers and a dish of Butter Roasted Nuts … add a glass of rosé and you’ve got a party!

herb marinated goat cheese recipe

makes about 2 cups

6 ounces fresh goat cheese
4 (3-inch) sprigs fresh herbs (use woody herbs like rosemary, oregano and/or thyme)
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 (1-inch wide) strips lemon peel
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
Homemade crackers or toasted bread for serving

In a large lidded jar (I love a Weck 1L jar), pour a thin film of olive oil; sprinkle with red pepper flakes and add an herb sprig. Crumble goat cheese into bite-size chunks and layer about half the cheese in the jar. Add 2 herb sprigs, a piece of lemon peel and a pinch more red pepper flakes, drizzle with olive oil. Add remaining goat cheese chunks and finish with remaining herbs, lemon peel and another pinch of red pepper flakes. Pour remaining olive oil over the cheese and herbs; don't worry if the cheese isn't completely submerged, but add a bit more oil if needed to nearly cover it. Make the marinated goat cheese at least 1 hour before serving to let the flavors emerge. Store leftovers in the refrigerator, being sure to take the jar out of the fridge about 1 hour before serving to let the oil liquefy.

Grandma's red raspberry chiffon pie recipe | writes4food.com

Grandma’s red raspberry chiffon pie.

My grandmother has been very much on my mind these past few weeks. I feel her presence in my garden, where I’m so fortunate to have a number of beautiful, spring blooming plants (like Lily of the Valley and Jack in the Pulpit) that I transplanted from her yard many years ago. And I feel her presence in my kitchen, where I share her affinity for cooking simple, good food, with love, from scratch.

This recipe for raspberry chiffon pie is hers, and it’s a dessert that I remember her making often when I was growing up. It’s super easy, and, as is my preference, not too sweet. I made this recently, and I swear, I felt her hand on my shoulder when I was whipping the cream.

What recipes do you make that connect you with loved ones? Please share your experience in the comments below!

Grandma's Red Raspberry Chiffon Pie Recipe

Serves 8

1 prepared graham cracker crust
1 envelope (1 Tablespoon) unflavored gelatine
3 Tablespoons cold water
1 1/2 cups crushed fresh red raspberries (from 2 6-ounce packages)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1 cup heavy cream

In a heatproof glass bowl set over a pan of water (or the top of a double boiler), whisk together the gelatine and cold water to combine; let sit to soften the gelatine. Over hot water, stir the mixture to melt and dissolve the gelatine (it will yield a milky, smooth and slightly thick liquid). Let cool slightly. In a bowl, combine crushed raspberries, sugar, lemon juice and salt. Stir in the melted gelatine, a bit at a time, to thoroughly combine. Refrigerate the mixture until it's partially set.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer), whip cream to firm peaks. Using a rubber spatula, fold about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the raspberry mixture to lighten it. Then fold in the rest of the whipped cream to gently but thoroughly combine. Spoon the mixture into the graham cracker crust. Refrigerate for several hours until set.

Buttermilk biscuit muffins.

Can we call these ‘buffins’? I think we can coin that phrase, right here and now.

I was inspired to tinker with this recipe for buttermilk drop biscuits baked in a muffin tin after having something similar with my brother, Bill, over breakfast recently. I tried a couple of different recipes to start with, making my own adaptations along the way, before I got it right. These are so, so good!!! Seriously good.

The dough has extra baking powder for lift (be sure to use aluminum-free baking powder, like Bob’s Red Mill or Rumford brands, so you don’t end up with buffins that have a metallic sort of taste). It’s slightly softer, with more liquid per flour, than a basic biscuit recipe would produce. And because you bake these in a muffin tin, there’s no kneading or cutting. You could get a larger yield—8 or 10 biscuit muffins—if you make them smaller. But why?

Swishing melted butter over the top is optional, of course, but why not gild the lily? I wouldn’t stop you from sprinkling a bit of Maldon sea salt over those buttered tops, either. Whip up a batch tonight!

Buttermilk Biscuit Muffins (or 'Buffins') recipe

Makes 6 large or up to 10 small

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons aluminum-free baking powder
3 tablespoons cold butter
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 cup buttermilk, plus a bit more if needed
1 tablespoon melted butter, for finishing
Sprinkle of Maldon sea salt, for finishing

Grease 6 (or up to 10) muffin cups. Preheat oven on the convection setting to 425° (your oven will automatically adjust the temperature to 400°) or to 400° on the regular setting.

In large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the cold butter into thin slices and toss with the flour mixture; use a pastry cutter to work the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Cut the shortening into chunks and work it into the mixture in similar fashion. Pour the buttermilk over the mixture and use a rubber spatula to gently fold the ingredients to combine; if you find extra loose flour at the bottom of the bowl, drizzle a bit more buttermilk down the side of the bowl, up to 1 tablespoon, to help it work into the dough. It will be soft and a bit lumpy. Scoop even mounds of dough into the prepared muffin pan, rounding the tops. (If you're making 6 biscuit muffins, the dough will mound high out of each cup.) Bake for about 20 minutes, until the tops of the biscuit muffins are golden brown. Brush each with melted butter and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt, if desired. Serve warm, with lots more butter.

homemade egg noodle recipe | writes4food.com

Dorothy’s homemade noodles.

So many memories of cooking with my grandmother, Dorothy, came flooding back over the past 10 days as we celebrated her rich and enduring life. Memory No. 1 is, without a doubt, her homemade egg noodles. This is her recipe.

When I first asked her to show me how to make egg noodles, she gave me the whole “a pinch of this and some of that” routine … and I was like, “C’mon Grandma, I need a recipe!” She managed to actually document her homemade noodle recipe for her cookbook, “Home Cooking with Dave’s Mom.” Still, there’s a lot of feel to making noodles. The dough should feel smooth and not sticky. When you roll it out, it should be so thin you can see type on a newspaper page through it. When it’s dry enough, it will feel rough, like the outside of a baking potato.

I have plans to do a whole lot of cooking in Dorothy’s honor in the coming weeks. Making her recipes connects me to her. I will feel her hand on my shoulder as I’m muscling the rolling pin. I will hear her say, “Hi, darlin’.” She’ll be right here, in my kitchen. Always.

HOMEMADE EGG NOODLE RECIPE

serves 4

2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1–3 teaspoons water

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and the salt together. Place the flour in a large bowl, and make a well in the center. Add the egg/salt mixture and stir with a fork to combine. Add 1 teaspoon of water and stir to combine. If the dough feels dry or crumbly, add more water a few drops at a time. Dig your hands into the dough and knead for 2 or 3 minutes to combine thoroughly, adding more water or flour if needed to create a smooth dough that's slightly tacky. Transfer the dough to a flour-dusted pastry cloth and divide it into thirds. Turn the mixing bowl over the dough to cover it and let it rest for 30 minutes. Take one portion of dough and dust it liberally (and the pastry cloth) with flour; roll it into a large circle that's as paper-thin as you can get it. If the dough seems too stretchy and doesn't want to roll, let it rest for another 30 minutes. Repeat rolling the other two portions of dough. Set the rolled dough rounds aside on paper towel to dry. The dried dough should feel slightly leathery: rough on the surface but still pliable. When it reaches this point, roll each round into a cylinder and cut the dough into 1/2-inch strips. Unfurl the noodles and place them on a rimmed baking sheet to dry, preferably overnight, tossing occasionally to ensure even drying. To store your homemade egg noodles, place them in a zip-top plastic bag; they'll keep well for 6 months. Cook the noodles for 5 to 8 minutes in well-salted boiling water.

savory granola recipe | writes4food.com

Savory granola topping.

On the heels of my recent collection of non-lettuce salads, allow me to share my favorite topping for such salads: savory granola.

If you’ve been hanging around here for awhile, you know I’m a granola devotée — see my favorite recipes for granola including Granddad’s Granola, Cherry-Chocolate Cookie Granola and my Best Almond-Flax Granola recipe.

This is a savory variation, with fresh thyme, Parmesan and olive oil. Scatter this topping over a plate of lightly dressed seasonal vegetables with sea salt and avocado wedges. Savory granola gives a bit of bright crunch to a basic roasted vegetable soup. It’s great as a cocktail nibble. Get creative: this is a super fun recipe!

SAVORY GRANOLA RECIPE

2 cups oats
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 cup Parmesan
Fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 325°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. In a large bowl, stir together the oats, seeds, salt, Parmesan and thyme. In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the oil and egg white; pour this over the dry mixture and stir well with a rubber spatula to thoroughly blend the liquid and dry ingredients. Transfer the mixture to the baking sheet and press it down firmly with the spatula. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring the granola and rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. Reduce the oven temperature to 250° and bake for 15 minutes more. Remove the pan from the oven and let the granola cool and crisp up. Break into large chunks. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.

Best non-lettuce salad recipes.

Far as I know, it’s written nowhere in any culinary bible that salad must begin with a pile of shredded iceberg or mixed baby greens.

While I love a simple green salad (here’s my best recipe for homemade vinaigrette dressing), I’m drawn to non-lettuce salads. Chefs everywhere have stepped away from that steakhouse staple, the Blue Cheese Wedge Salad, and the basic house salad to experiment with salads that feature seasonal vegetables in really interesting combinations. I love this kind of non-lettuce salad topped with a sprinkling of toasted seeds or tossed with chunks of hearty toasted bread, or even savory granola.

Here’s a roundup of my best non-lettuce salad recipes. Give the ol’ iceberg a rest!

Orzo pasta salad with seasonal vegetables.

Last week, I had the pleasure of giving a presentation and demonstrating a recipe to kick off The Christ Hospital’s quarterly Let’s Talk Women’s Health event. We had a great evening, and it was a packed house. Speaking about the joys and pleasures of eating seasonally and locally is one of my favorite professional gigs because: who doesn’t love to talk about food?

I demonstrated one of my favorite recipes from The Findlay Market Cookbook, one that I both make at home and demonstrate to groups quite frequently: Orzo Pasta Salad with Seasonal Vegetables.

If you’ve ever been to a potluck or cookout and had air-quotes-pasta salad [You know what I’m talking about, right? That bowl of mushy corkscrew pasta with raw vegetables and icky bottled Italian dressing.] then this is NOT that pasta salad.

Nope, THIS pasta salad has the perfect balance of pasta and veg, with a bright, tangy, decidedly non-icky homemade dressing. Orzo is the genius pasta for pasta salad, because it stays nicely toothsome and doesn’t overwhelm the dish, and cooking it in vegetable broth gives it, you know, actual flavor.

Any time of year, this orzo pasta salad recipe is the perfect accompaniment to grilled chicken, burgers, steak, what have you — and leftovers make a terrific packable lunch the next day.

But what I love most about this easy pasta salad recipe is that it’s eminently malleable. In the summer, I add fresh corn kernels, cherry tomatoes and tons of basil; in the fall, roasted butternut squash and red onion.

Here, I’m sharing a springtime version, with peas and asparagus. Now that the season for these delectables is coming, you’ll want to have this recipe handy. Yay, spring!

SPRING ORZO PASTA SALAD RECIPE

serves 8 as a side dish

For the dressing:
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon local honey
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor. With the machine running, slowly drizzle the olive oil in; blend to emulsify.

For the salad:
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 lb. (dried) orzo
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained
2 cups frozen peas, blanched in boiling water 3 minutes
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed, cut in 1-inch pieces and blanched in boiling water 3 minutes
1 bunch baby arugula
1/3 cup chopped green onion (white and green parts)
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup toasted pine nuts or sliced almonds
4 ounces Feta cheese, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a saucepan, bring the broth to a boil; stir in the orzo. Cover partially and cook until the orzo is al dente, stirring frequently, about 7 minutes. Drain the orzo and put it into a big serving bowl to cool. While the pasta is still warm, add about half the dressing and toss to coat. Let cool. Add garbanzo beans, peas, asparagus and toss gently to combine. Add arugula, onion and parsley and a bit more dressing; toss to coat. Top salad with Feta and almonds. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed. Serve at room temperature.

sheet pan roasted vegetable soup | writes4food.com

Sheet pan vegetable soup.

So, if you’re into sheet pan cooking … wait, what? What’s sheet pan cooking, you ask? Just what it sounds like: arrange a bunch of ingredients (chicken thighs, say, or Italian sausages, and/or vegetables) on a rimmed sheet pan, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, pop into the oven and … dinner’s done. Even better: Line the pan with aluminum foil, and clean-up is done, too. Brilliant.

For the uninitiated, a couple of best sheet pan supper recipes that I love:

OK, so, where were we? Oh, yeah. Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetable Soup. Right on. Here’s the thing … this is kind of a non-recipe recipe, if you know what I mean. The technique’s simple: Roast up a pan full of vegetables (more on that in a minute), simmer them in vegetable stock to soften them, then harness the magic of the immersion blender to create a beautiful puree. Simple.

Vegetables to roast for this lovely (and — hooray! — low-fat and low-calorie) soup recipe. Use at least two of these, ideally more.

  • Carrots
  • Plum tomatoes (seeds removed)
  • Onion
  • Parsnips
  • Winter squash
  • Red pepper
  • Fennel bulb
  • Garlic cloves

This soup makes a perfectly satisfying lunch, or delicious dinner with a grilled cheese sandwich. Top it with a dollop of Greek plain yogurt or sour cream, a spoonful of pesto, any kind of grated cheese, toasty croutons or breadcrumbs, or fresh herbs. Yay, soup!

Sheet pan roasted vegetable soup recipe

serves 4

3 pounds vegetables (see list above)
4 peeled whole garlic cloves
3 sprigs fresh thyme (or 2 tsp. dried thyme)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups vegetable broth
1 piece of Parmesan rind (if you have one in the freezer)
For serving: Soup crackers, sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, snipped fresh herbs, croutons

Preheat oven to 400°; line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Chop the vegetables into evenly sized 1-inch pieces. Place them on the baking sheet and toss with garlic, thyme (sprigs or dried), olive oil, and salt and pepper. Roast until vegetables are browned in spots and crisp-tender, about 40 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a stock pot (remove thyme sprigs) and add vegetable broth and Parmesan rind. Simmer soup until vegetables are totally tender, 20–30 minutes. Remove Parmesan rind. Let soup cool, then use an immersion blender to puree to your desired consistency. Reheat to a simmer and serve.

Italian chicken sausage soup with spinach and tortellini | writes4food.com

Chicken sausage tortellini soup.

Oh, hey! Winter! You’re still here! WTH? We thought you were outie. So, yeah, we need something warm and comforting for dinner, like this easy Italian Chicken Sausage Tortellini Soup recipe. Yep, that should do the trick.

A friend gave me this recipe; she texted a photo of the page she’d clipped from a magazine, with a big cooking schmudge on the paper. So you know it’s a good one. I adapted the original by using chicken sausage, which I find just as tasty as pork and less greasy (and makes this into a fairly low-fat soup recipe). I added carrot to up the veggie quotient. You could substitute dried tortellini — or even those cute little mini cheese-filled raviolis — for the fresh pasta here.

Pretty much any soup known to humankind is better when eaten the day after it’s prepared, so that the flavors have time to build and blend. And this is no exception. Be advised, though: The pasta softens as it sits in the broth overnight. So if you’d like to keep the pasta a bit more al dente, then add it when you reheat the soup before enjoying it. A heaping handful of shredded Parm, a drizzle of good olive oil or a spoonful of pesto are good toppings for this easy Italian pasta soup.

Soup up, people!

Italian Chicken Sausage Tortellini Soup Recipe

serves 8

1 pound Italian style chicken sausage
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
Generous pinch red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes (no salt added)
1 14.5 oz. can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth (homemade, or low-sodium canned)
5 cups baby spinach, long stems removed
1 9 oz. package refrigerated cheese tortellini
Shredded Parmesan cheese for serving

Heat a Dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high; reduce heat and crumble chicken sausage into the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally and breaking sausage into chunks, until it is slightly golden and cooked through, 7–10 minutes. Transfer sausage to a plate. Add olive oil to the pot and warm over medium heat. Add onion and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent and carrots soften, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, red pepper flakes and salt, cook 1 minute more. Add canned tomatoes and broth; bring to a boil and simmer 20 minutes. Add tortellini and simmer 5–7 minutes, until pasta is tender. At the last minute, add spinach and stir to wilt. Ladle soup into bowls and top generously with shredded Parmesan.

Winter caprese salad with beets and chard pesto.

So. Much. Rain. As I write this, we’re in hour who knows how many of steady, driving rain and wave after wave of thunderstorms. The garden is waterlogged. The sky is leaden. It’s weird weather, I tell ya, with a record number of 60+ degree days in February and tornadoes in the area on March 1. Will summer—and its bounty of perfect, ripe garden tomatoes—even happen this year?

To tide us over, here’s a wintertime version of the traditional Italian caprese salad. You know the one: with sliced, perfectly ripe off the vine tomatoes and creamy fresh mozzarella cheese. If you’ve ever made the mistake of ordering this salad in January in an Italian restaurant, it’s a mistake you’ve made just that once. Anything less than tomato perfection, and this salad, frankly, sucks.

This salad, this winter caprese recipe, makes two smart swaps, trading the tomato for roasted sliced beets and the fresh basil for Swiss chard pesto. Both equally tasty and nice on the plate as their summer counterparts. It’s inspired by another winter caprese salad I had recently from Wheat Penny, the delightful pizza joint in Dayton; it included roasted broccolini instead of beets, and a winter squash puree instead of the pesto.

All of which to say: it’s perfectly acceptable—fun, even—to hack variations on totally seasonal dishes at other times of the year. See what you can come up with to go alongside that fresh mozzarella!

WINTER CAPRESE SALAD WITH BEETS AND CHARD PESTO RECIPE

serves 2

For the pesto:
5 large leaves Swiss chard, center stems removed
3 tablespoons sliced toasted almonds
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup mild olive oil

Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil; add chard and cook just until wilted, about 30 seconds. Drain, cool and squeeze as much water out of the chard as you can. Transfer to a food processor; add almonds and garlic and pulse to chop. Add olive oil and puree until very smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the salad:
4 large beets, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
Bit of olive oil
Herb-seasoned salt (I like Peg's Salt)
Fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
Freshly cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 400°; line a small baking sheet with foil. On the baking sheet, arrange the beet slices; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with herb salt. Roast for 20–25 minutes, turning once, until beets are tender but not falling apart. Smear a generous spoonful of pesto on each serving plate, then arrange beets and mozzarella slices on top. Scatter cracked pepper over each serving.