Modern Green Bean Casserole

This casserole, the beloved green bean casserole invented in the Campbell’s Soup corporate test kitchen, is over 50 years old and sorely in need of an update. Sorry, Campbell’s (and Del Monte, and French’s) — as much as I love you, none of y’all are invited to this party.

I will admit to having a true fondness for the casserole, especially the French-fried onion part of the equation, but it’s time for a change. Right now I’m leaning toward something simpler and lighter, like sautéed chard or green beans with shallots. If you’re one who likes to stick closer to tradition, I’ve modernized the recipe by using fresh green beans, a simple roux, shiitake mushrooms, and sherry.

For the topping, there are these little sesame stick snacks available in the bulk section of natural food stores. Of course it’s not the same thing, but I feel that it’s a tasty, chemical-free and lower-sodium option that stays pretty faithful to the spirit of the original.

Tester’s Notes

For better or worse, classic green bean casserole was a dish that was absent from my childhood Thanksgiving spreads. I eventually had it for the first time when I was in my late 20s, and to be honest, I didn’t have a strong opinion about it. I certainly didn’t dislike it (there’s something so homey and comforting about it), but I also didn’t feel like I’d missed out on many years of green beans casseroles.

This more modern version from Vanessa is a different story entirely. One bite into this dish, and I felt like I needed to make up for all the years I could have been eating this but wasn’t. It’s rich, creamy, and comforting, without being too heavy or indulgent. And the real treat is the sesame-stick topping. The sticks keep the crunch factor, while also adding a salty balance and a nice, nutty flavor.

Modern Green Bean Casserole

1 pound green beans, stem ends trimmed

1 cup whole milk

1/2 cup vegetable broth

2 tablespoons butter

1 small yellow onion,
thinly sliced

1/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced thin

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour*

2 tablespoons dry sherry

Salt and pepper
3/4 cup sesame sticks

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Blanch green beans in salted water for 2 to 3 minutes until crisp and tender, and then drain and set aside.

Warm the milk and broth together in a small saucepan over low heat.

In a large skillet, over medium heat, warm the butter until foamy. Add the onion, mushrooms, thyme, and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until vegetables are soft.

Add the flour and lower heat. Stir flour into the vegetables for about a minute, and then gradually whisk in the warmed milk and broth. Whisk until smooth, add sherry, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil, then cook for 2 to 3 minutes until thickened.

Toss in the cooked green beans and stir to coat with the sauce. Transfer mixture to a casserole dish, top with sesame sticks, and bake, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Recipe Notes

*Gluten-free: To make this recipe gluten-free, use your favorite all-purpose gluten-free flour or chickpea flour in the sauce.

This recipe has been updated — originally published November 2006.

No-Knead Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls

In our opinion, a holiday table isn’t complete without a big basket of fluffy dinner rolls. How else are you going to sop up the last bits of gravy? These soft and airy sweet potato rolls are perfect for the job. They’re also very nearly foolproof, making them one less thing to worry about when planning the meal.

These rolls get a very mild sweetness from the mashed sweet potatoes. We think they go perfectly with all the sweet and savory foods on a holiday buffet table, plus they’re pretty great slathered with jam for breakfast the next morning! You can also substitute regular potatoes, yams, or pumpkin for the sweet potatoes.

When it comes to large dinner parties and holiday buffets, we appreciate no-knead recipes more than ever. The dough can be made the day ahead, refrigerated, and made into rolls the next morning. You can also make them ahead of time and freeze the baked rolls. Warmed in the oven, no one will be able to tell they weren’t baked fresh!

Tester’s Notes

When I first started baking bread just a couple years ago, the first thing I started out with was a no-knead bread. While I eventually moved on to more technical recipes, I always love coming back to ones like these no-knead rolls. They’re easy, forgiving, and as Emma mentions, nearly foolproof — a huge bonus when making these for a big dinner party, like Thanksgiving.

The sweet potatoes do add a subtle sweetness and a hint of extra flavor, which pairs so well with everything on your Thanksgiving plate, from the turkey and gravy to the cranberry sauce and green bean casserole. But really, my favorite time to eat these rolls has been at breakfast. I love splitting them in half and then coating the inside with a generous layer of butter and a dollop of honey or sometimes berry jam.

No-Knead Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls

3/4 cup (6 ounces) warm water

1 scant tablespoon (1 package) active dry yeast

1 cup (9 ounces) mashed sweet potatoes (see Recipe Notes below)

1 cup (8.5 ounces) milk, whole or 2% preferably

1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 teaspoons kosher salt

4 cups (20 ounces) all-purpose flour

Combine the water and yeast in a large mixing bowl and let stand until the yeast is dissolved. Add the mashed sweet potatoes, the milk, the melted butter, the brown sugar, and the salt. Stir until all ingredients are evenly combined. Add the flour, stirring until a shaggy dough is formed and no more dry flour is visible. This dough will be very sticky.

Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let stand until doubled in bulk, at least 2 hours or as long as 5 hours. The dough can be used immediately, but it’s easier to work with if you can refrigerate it for at least 2 hours. The dough can also be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.

When ready to shape the rolls, sprinkle your work surface with a little flour and turn the dough out on top. Sprinkle a little more flour on top and press the dough into a thick disk. Use a bench scraper or knife to divide the dough into 24 pieces. Shape into balls and place about 5 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and allow to rise until the rolls are roughly doubled in size, about 45 minutes in a warm kitchen.

About 20 minutes before the rolls are finished rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.

Remove the cover and bake the rolls for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are puffed and toasted-brown. Serve warm or room temperature. Rolls are best the first day, but will stay fresh for several days after if stored in an airtight container.

Recipe Notes:

  • To make the mashed sweet potatoes, roast a medium-sized (roughly 9-ounce) sweet potato in a 400°F oven until completely soft. Strip off the skin and mash.
  • For extra richness, brush the tops with melted butter or egg yolk before baking. So good! These rolls can also be frozen if you’re making them ahead of time. Allow the baked rolls to cool completely, wrap them in aluminum foil, and freeze them. To reheat, let them thaw on the counter and then warm them in a 300°F oven for 15 minutes.

This recipe has been updated — originally published November 2010.

Recipe: Carrot Tahini Salad

This light and crunchy salad is such a welcome change after all the holiday indulgences. I love how easily this comes together, and the addition of the sweet raisins pair exceptionally well with the spiced chickpeas for a wonderful combination of sweet and savory.

To make the prep for this salad even easier, you can buy pre-shredded carrots at the grocery store. However, if you have the “grater” attachment on your food processor, that also works well!

Either way, this salad will be a bright addition to your table on a dark winter evening. Grab a fork!

Carrot Tahini Salad with Spiced Chickpeas

For the Spiced Chickpeas:
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and patted dry

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Pinch of salt and pepper

For the dressing:
1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup tahini

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon honey

1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons minced parsley

Water to thin if necessary

For the salad:
3 cups shredded carrots (from 3 to 4 medium-sized carrots)

1/2 small red onion, diced

1/2 cup raisins

1 cup fresh parsley, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss the chickpeas with the oil, spices, salt, and pepper. Place on a prepared baking sheet and roast in the oven until lightly browned and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Shake the pan several times throughout baking. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. (You can do this either by hand or with an immersion blender.) Add water if the dressing is too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings if need be.

In a large salad bowl, toss the shredded carrots, onion, raisins, and parsley with the dressing. Mix well. Season with a little salt and pepper. Right before serving, top with the chickpeas and enjoy.

Recipe Notes

  • The chickpeas should be added to the salad right before serving to ensure they stay crispy.
  • Save additional chickpeas in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 to 2 days.
  • Salad leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Originally published January 2015.

Dinner-to-Lunch Recipe: Peppery Whole Wheat Pasta with Wilted Chard

This recipe makes far more than enough for one meal, and the leftovers are great warmed or straight from the fridge. Hence, a dinner-to-lunch recipe! The fresh-cracked black pepper really makes the dish, so don’t be shy about laying it on.

Peppery Whole Wheat Pasta with Wilted Chard
Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 pound whole wheat pasta, like penne or farfalle
1 large onion, diced
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch chard (about 1 pound), stems removed and diced, leaves cut into ribbons
2 sausage links (8 ounces), sliced (optional)
4 to 5 garlic cloves, minced
3 ounces cream cheese, mascarpone, or other soft creamy cheese
1/2 cup pasta water, saved from cooking pasta
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

Cook the pasta in a large amount of boiling water with a good handful of salt. Just before draining, use a measuring cup to dip out about 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water, and set this aside.

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion with a pinch of salt and cook until the onion is softened and translucent. Add the mushrooms and another pinch of salt. Cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid, the liquid has boiled away, and the mushrooms are turning golden. Stir in the diced chard stems and the sausage. Cook until the stems are softened and the sausage is warmed through. (If the sausage is not pre-cooked, cook it along with the onions instead.)

Clear a space in the middle of the pan and add the garlic. Cook just until the garlic is fragrant, then stir it into the rest of the vegetables. Lower the heat to medium and stir in the chard leaves. Continue stirring frequently until the leaves are bright green and wilted.

Stir in the cooked pasta and the cream cheese. When the cheese has melted, pour in half of the reserved cooking water to make a creamy sauce. If the sauce seems too thick, pour in the remaining pasta water a little at a time.

Grind the fresh pepper right over the pasta. Don’t be shy! Taste as you go to gauge how peppery the pasta has become and how you like it. Season with additional salt, if desired.

Leftovers will keep refrigerated for up to one week.

Recipe originally published April 2011

How To Make Baked Brie in Puff Pastry

Baked brie in puff pastry takes “rich and luxurious” to a whole new level — I can think of few things better. Add a few friends and some good tunes playing in the background, and you’ve got yourself a bonafide party situation. Here is everything you need to know.

Easy to Make, with a Big Payoff

Like all of the best appetizers I can think of, this one rates low on the difficulty scale and high on the delivery scale. All you do is wrap a wheel of brie in a thawed sheet of puff pastry and bake until golden, but the combination of warm, melted cheese and crispy pastry is virtually impossible to resist.

Don’t spend too much time or mental energy searching for the exactly right wheel of brie or measuring your puff pastry with a ruler — these things are all flexible. Buy a wheel that fits in your hand and looks about right for wrapping in pastry. Then, roll out your pastry until it easily wraps around your wheel. If you ended up with a rather large wheel that’s too large for the pastry to totally wrap the wheel, just bunch the pastry inwards as well as you can; leave the middle exposed and call it “artsy.”

Even Better Baked Brie

Brie and puff pastry make a formidable duo all on their own, but you can up the ante by topping the wheel of brie with any number of things before wrapping it in pastry. I love just a few spoonfuls of tart jam or spicy jalapeño jelly, but caramelized onions, roasted nuts and honey, or baked apples are also fantastic. Take a look at the variations at the end of the recipe below for more inspiration.

The One Tricky Moment

The only real advice I’d give you when making this otherwise straightforward appetizer is to let it cool for a good five or 10 minutes before serving it. This gives the melted cheese just a little time to firm up — it will still be gooey and scoop-able, but no longer molten lava oozing across your plate and burning mouths.

When I make this appetizer as part of a big buffet or for a cocktail party with lots of other nibbles, I often bake it in a pie plate instead of on a baking sheet. You can serve it directly from the pie plate, which frees up a platter for another use, and the pie plate neatly contains the cheesy goo. It makes for easier scooping without as much need for utensils, too.

Make-Ahead Baked Brie

You can wrap the wheel of brie in pastry and keep it refrigerated for up to a day before baking and serving. The prep for this appetizer is so minimal that this “make-ahead” tip might sound silly, but when I’m planning a whole party, it’s always nice to be able to check small steps off my list and know that all I have to do before the party is put the brie to the oven to bake.

How To Make Baked Brie in Puff Pastry

What You Need


1 sheet puff pastry,
All-purpose flour, for rolling

1 round brie cheese (8 to 12 ounces, 5- to 7-inch diameter)

1 large egg, beaten

Optional extras: See Variations
Baguette slices or crackers, to serve

Baking sheet or pie plate


  1. Warm the oven to 400°F: Place an oven rack in the middle position. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside, or bake your brie in a pie plate.
  2. Roll out the puff pastry: Dust your counter with a small amount of flour. Unwrap your puff pastry and place it on the counter. Rub your rolling pin with a little flour and roll the puff pastry until it measures roughly 11 inches by 11 inches. No need to get out a ruler; it’s fine to estimate.
  3. Wrap the brie in the pastry: Place the round of brie in the middle of the pastry. Top with any optional extra toppings, if using. Fold the corners over the brie, forming a neat package. Use your hand to gently press the edges against the brie and neaten up the sides.
  4. Transfer the wrapped brie to the baking sheet or pie plate. If the pastry has warmed and is no longer cool to the touch at this point, place the tray in the fridge for 10 minutes, or until you’re ready to bake and serve.
  5. Brush with egg: Brush the pastry all over with the beaten egg. Be sure to get the sides and around the folds. Try not to let the egg puddle under the brie.
  6. Bake until golden-brown: Bake the brie until the pastry is deep golden-brown, 35 to 40 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool 5 to 10 minutes: This gives the hot cheese time to firm up a little. Cut into the brie early and most of it will gush right out — which is still delicious, but less tidy.
  8. Transfer to serving platter: Use the parchment paper to transfer the brie to a serving plate. If you baked it in a pie plate, serve straight from the plate, but double check that the plate has cooled enough to handle.
  9. Serve warm: Arrange sliced baguette or crackers around the brie and serve while warm.

Baked Brie Variations

  • Jam & Brie: Top with a few spoonfuls jam or preserves, like raspberry jam, apricot jam, or jalapeño jelly.
  • Honey & Nuts: Top with a few spoonfuls of honey and toasted, chopped nuts, especially walnuts or pecans.
  • Cranberry Sauce: Top with a few spoonfuls of store-bought or homemade cranberry sauce.
  • Baked Apples: Slice or chop any tart baking apple and cook with butter over low heat until soft and warmed through. Scoop on top of the brie.
  • Caramelized Onions: Slowly caramelize one onion over low heat until very brown, soft, and sweet-tasting. You can stir in a few teaspoons of brown sugar or balsamic vinegar if you like. Scoop over the brie.
  • Onions & Mushrooms: Caramelize one onion and add chopped or sliced mushrooms in the last half of cooking.

Recipe Notes

  • Baking and serving the brie in a pie plate helps contain the warm, melted cheese and makes it a little easier for guests to scoop up bites.
  • Pie dough is an excellent alternative to puff pastry with this recipe.
  • The brie can be wrapped in pastry and kept refrigerated for up to a day before baking and serving. Brush with egg wash just before baking.

Sweet & Sour Cranberries

These gems make for an unexpected holiday gift. They’re excellent as is or added onto a cheese plate near some sharp white cheddar. Their delight only transcends when spread into a sandwich or dabbed onto some roast pork. And the sweet, tart liquid that results can be served at the bottom of a flute — topped with Champagne, of course — at any holiday party. Float a few cranberries in the glass, for sure.

I like to freeze cranberries in advance when they’re priced just right, so I always have the berry on hand for this recipe. Just spread them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and pop into the freezer for a couple hours. Store in airtight freezer bags for up to six months.

I’ve also made these with pitted cherries with great success; just cook them a few minutes less.

Sweet & Sour Cranberries

For the cranberries:

4 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen

1 3/4 cups apple cider vinegar

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

1/2 heaping teaspoon allspice berries (or ground allspice)

1/2 heaping teaspoon whole cloves

1/2 heaping teaspoon black peppercorns

1/2 heaping teaspoon juniper berries (optional)

Special Equipment:

3 pint jars with airtight lids, sterilized

Spice bag or cheesecloth (optional)
Regular-mouth funnel

Wash the cranberries and pick over them for any stems or bad berries. If you are using frozen cranberries, just open the bag(s) and use them directly from the freezer; add a few minutes to the cooking time.

Combine the vinegar and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and begin to bring to a boil. When the liquid begins to boil, add the cinnamon sticks. If using ground allspice (instead of allspice berries), add that now, too.

Place the allspice berries, whole cloves, black peppercorns, and juniper berries (if using) in a spice bag (if using) or tie them up in a length of cheesecloth (if using). (Alternatively, you can just add them directly to the pot, but wrapping in cheesecloth makes for a cleaner gift.) Add the spice bag to the pot.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling vigorously, add the cranberries. Stir to make sure each cranberry is well-coated and cook 5 to 7 minutes, until the cranberries begin to pop and the mixture has returned to a rolling boil.

After most of the cranberries have popped, remove the saucepan from the heat. Pull out the spice bag, but leave the cinnamon sticks in because they’re so darn pretty.

Ladle the cranberries into sterilized glass jars through a regular-mouth funnel, distributing them into each jar evenly and topping with only as much liquid as needed. (Save the remaining liquid for your cocktail bar or other use). Let the jars cool to room temperature, and then store in the fridge up to 1 month.

Gift Wrap Option

Vintage glass jar with lid
Stamp and ink pad
Tape (optional)

Add your cranberries to a clean vintage jar. Wipe the rim and seal. Wrap layers of string around the jar, tie into a knot, and trim any excess string. Stamp the label on a small square of fabric. Slip it under the string or adhere it with tape.

Text excerpted from Food Gift Love, © 2015 by Maggie Battista. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

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Chicken Tamales with Pumpkin Mole

Chicken tamales drenched in mole are a staple of the Christmas season. They are a little time-consuming (but not hard), and best when made with friends and family. In fact, the making of the tamales is almost as important as the eating of the tamales. Gathering together to create this beloved food has become one of my favorite traditions of the holiday season.

Break Up the Tamale-Making Process into Manageable Pieces

I like to break the process up over a couple of days. The day before everyone comes together to assemble the tamales, I get the filling ingredients ready. The cooking liquid from the chicken is used to make both the mole and the masa, so it’s best to cook the chicken before you start anything else. I use this chicken stock to make the pumpkin mole. The mole improves with flavor a day or two after making, so it’s best to make it a day in advance.

If you are super prepared, you can cook the chicken and make the mole and freeze them both for up to a month, and then thaw completely before assembling the tamales.

The next day I make the masa with the remaining chicken stock, soak the corn husks, and enlist my loved ones to help me fill and roll the tamales (assembly line style).

Tamale Steaming Options

A tamale steamer makes quick work out of cooking the tamales, and can be bought fairly cheaply at any Mexican market. A pasta pot with an insert will also work, as will a large pot with a wire rack in the bottom. If you are going this route, cover the rack with extra dried corn husks to keep the tamales from falling through.

Testing Notes

Tamales definitely are a labor of love, but the results are so delicious and satisfying. My whole house smelled of simmering chicken and mole sauce, and it was a pretty incredible feeling to pull the finished tamales out of the steamer!

Although I think cooking a whole chicken for both the stock and meat is worth it, you can definitely take a shortcut and used purchased stock and precooked chicken. Be sure to make the mole, though — the tamales are tasty slathered in it!

Chicken Tamales with Pumpkin Mole

1 whole chicken

14 cups water

4 cloves garlic

1 onion, quartered

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

3 sprigs oregano

1 bay leaf

For the pumpkin mole:

2 dried mulato or ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded

1 onion, cut in eighths

3 cloves garlic

1/4 cup pecan halves

1 star anise pod

1/4 cup golden raisins

1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée

4 cups chicken stock (from poaching chicken), divided

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or lard

For the masa:

3 1/2 cups Maseca instant corn flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/4 cups vegetable shortening or lard

5 cups chicken stock (from poaching chicken)

To assemble:

20 dried corn husks, at least 6 inches wide at the bottom

Make the chicken: Place all of the ingredients for the chicken in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and then lower the heat to a slow simmer. Cook for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, place corn husks in a large container and cover with hot water. Submerge until softened. (Skip this step if you are not filling and steaming the tamales this day.)

Remove from heat and let chicken cool in the stock for 1 hour. Remove chicken to a large plate and strain stock into a heatproof container. Reserve for using in the mole and masa.

When chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the meat, discarding any skin or bone.

Make the mole: Meanwhile, heat broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange chiles, onions, and garlic on the baking sheet. Toast under the broiler, turning to char all sides. Chiles should take 1 minute; remove when toasted, and then continue to broil onions and garlic until lightly charred, removing pieces as they are done.

Place chiles in a heatproof bowl and cover with very hot water. Let soak until softened, about 30 minutes.

Toast pecans and star anise in a small, dry frying pan over medium heat until fragrant, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Combine soaked chiles, onions, garlic, pecans, star anise, raisins, oregano, pumpkin purée, 2 cups of chicken stock, and salt in a blender. Blend on high until puréed.

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Carefully add mole sauce and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Add remaining 2 cups of stock and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for another 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Make the masa: In a large bowl, combine Maseca, baking powder, and salt.

Heat vegetable shortening and stock in a large pot over medium heat until shortening is just melted.

Pour into the Maseca mixture and mix until a soft dough forms (I start with a wooden spoon and then switch to my hands to make sure it is well-mixed). You want the masa to be very soft, but not runny, like the consistency of very fluffy mashed potatoes. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to use.

Make the tamales: If you haven’t done so already, place dried corn husks in a large heatproof bowl. Cover with very hot water, weigh husks down with a heavy plate to fully submerge, and let soak at least 30 minutes or until soft and pliable.

Fill a large tamale steamer with enough water to reach the rack where the tamales will sit. If you don’t have a tamale steamer, place a wire rack in the bottom of a large pot with a tight-fitting lid, and add enough water to just come up to the rack. Place the steamer over medium heat and cover. Once water is boiling, reduce heat to a vigorous simmer.

Dry one corn husk on both sides. Spread about 1/3 cup of masa on the wide end of the corn husk, using a spoon or your fingers to press into place. Leave about 1/2-inch border on both sides, but not the bottom.

Place about 2 to 3 tablespoons of chicken in a line down the middle of the masa, then cover with about 1 tablespoon of pumpkin mole.

Fold one side of masa over the filling until the two edges of the corn husk meet, and holding onto one side of corn husk, pull the other side toward the middle to press the two edges of masa together. Fold the pointy end of the corn husk up over the large end, and place on a clean baking sheet. Repeat with remaining corn husks.

Place tamales vertically, open-side up in the tamale steamer, keeping them snug in the pot so they don’t unravel during cooking. Make sure water is at a steady simmer and producing lots of steam. Cover tightly and steam until masa is cooked through and not doughy in the middle, about 45 minutes. Check occasionally and add more water if the pot looks dry.

Remove from heat and let sit, covered, 5 to 10 minutes before removing from the pot. Tamales can also be left in the pot, covered with a clean towel (and then covered with the steamer lid) for up to an hour before serving. They will stay warm and soft if you want to make them in advance.

Serve with remaining pumpkin mole.

Recipe Notes

  • Storing tamales: Tamales are best eaten the day they are made, but can be made, cooled, wrapped tightly, and refrigerated for a week or frozen for up to one month.
  • Reheating tamales: To reheat a few, place tamales (wrapped in the corn husks) in a frying pan with 1/4 cup of water. Cover and simmer until heated through. If you are reheating the entire batch, place them in the steamer and steam until heated through, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Vegan Tropical Paradise Smoothie

Many people tend to get excited about smoothies in the summer, when fresh berries and stone fruits are at their best. Not me. My blender usually gathers dust in the summer months (I never let those fresh berries sit long enough to make it into a smoothie), but in the winter, my body craves cool, creamy, fruit-laden drinks. And this smoothie in my current go-to.

Smoothies don’t need much of an introduction. In general, they’re a dump-in-the-blender-and-blend kind of affair. And this one is no different in that regard, but there are a few ingredients I’d like to talk about briefly.

First: coconut milk. I use a full-fat coconut milk for this smoothie, which makes it super thick and decadent. I realize many people rely on smoothies for low-calorie or low-fat meal options, and while I think this recipe is incredibly healthy (and delicious), it’s not low-calorie or low-fat. If you’re looking for a lighter option, use light coconut milk or even coconut water instead. Both will work beautifully — they just won’t result in as creamy and decadent of a smoothie.

The second ingredient that’s worth taking a moment to discuss is the chia seed. I’ve long been a chia seed skeptic, not really understanding the hype and not really wanting to take the time to explore it, but I received a free, promotional bag of chia seeds in the mail a few months back and I’ve started to toss them into things here and there — namely smoothies. In short, chia seeds are little nutrition powerhouses, super rich in fiber and protein, and while that’s all fine and good, I love how they thicken the smoothie and help me to stay full longer. I’m sold.

So without further ado, here’s the smoothie recipe that helps me remember sunny, summer days and warm breezes … even in the depths of winter.

Vegan Tropical Paradise Smoothie

1 cup full-fat coconut milk

1 frozen peeled banana, sliced into several pieces

3/4 cup pineapple chunks

1/2 cup diced fresh mango

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon chia seeds

4 ice cubes

2 tablespoons toasted shredded coconut, to top (optional)

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend well until uniform in texture. Make sure all the ice has been pulverized. Top with toasted coconut. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

  • If your smoothie turns out thicker than you’d like, add a little water (or leftover coconut milk) until it reaches your favored consistency. Likewise, if the smoothie is too thin, add more ice cubes — one at a time — until it’s where you’d like it to be.

Baked Potato Shakshuka

Family-style dining is one of my favorite ways to share a meal with people. It’s the ultimate ice-breaker. Once someone makes the leap and digs in first, the meal — whether comprised of family, friends, or soon-to-be friends — is instantly invigorated with a sense of sharing and conviviality.

And then there are the meals when you just want the food that’s on your plate. Baked potatoes, by their very nature, get you there. The fluffy potato, wrapped up in a jacket of crisp potato skin, is both filling and vessel. When you think of it that way, what you dream up to put in it runs the gamut from butter, salt, and pepper to this deceptively easy dish of baked potato shakshuka.

And when I say easy, I mean it. This isn’t a ploy to use the word “easy” to entice you into cooking this potato; this is a full disclosure on a recipe that is absolutely delicious and enjoyable to prepare and serve.

How you make this easy is by getting a leg up on the actual baking of the potatoes. You’ve got quite a few choices on how to get that done.

There’s more behind this being easy. Use your favorite jarred marinara, use your own recipe for marinara, or use that amazing tomato sauce you canned from this summer’s bumper crop of tomatoes and cooked all those hours on the stove. The options are yours for the making and taking. Choosing the sauce is the “difficult part.” After that, it’s a quick dance that includes adding a dash of cayenne for a flicker of heat, cracking an egg, drizzling olive oil, and popping the potato into the oven to cook the egg until it sets.

Now that I think of it, this is a pretty good option for a lazy breakfast as well.

Baked Potato Shakshuka

Serves 1 (but easily scaled up as needed)

1 potato, baked

1/2 cup marinara sauce

Pinch of cayenne

1 large egg

Olive oil
Salt to taste
Snipped parsley (optional)

Using a knife, cut the potato in half lengthwise. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using a fork, generously fluff the inside of the potato, careful not to tear the skin.

Divide the marinara sauce between the potato halves. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper to each. Using a fork, work the marinara into the potato, adding more as needed so the potato halves are generously filled. Create a well in the center of the marinara sauce.

Crack the egg into a small dish. Gently slide it into the well. Drizzle over olive oil. Broil potatoes 3 to 4 minutes or until the egg whites are set and yolks are thickened but still runny.

Remove the potatoes from the oven and season with salt. Top with parsley.

Note: If your potato is cold out of the fridge, wrap it in a paper towel and reheat in the microwave in 30-second intervals until just warm.

Vegetarian Taco Salad

A lot of taco salads I see in restaurants just seem to be glorified burrito bowls — heavy on starches and shy on vegetables. How about a taco salad that really celebrates an assortment of raw, crunchy vegetables? Let’s make a no-lettuce taco salad instead.

The most important thing in a chopped salad is a good variety of flavors and textures so it doesn’t get boring or mushy. I like pinto beans for a nice change from black beans, spicy radishes with their tops (so nothing goes to waste), crisp jicama, juicy cherry tomatoes, sweet bell pepper, and creamy avocado. Not only is this salad colorful, but every bite is also deliciously different.

As for the dressing, I skip a creamy dressing in lieu of a bright cumin and lime blend that’s flavored with garlic, cayenne, and some ketchup to balance everything out. Since this salad has no lettuce in it, you can even dress it before bringing it to work — just bring the tortilla chips separately (in my opinion, tortilla chips are mandatory!) so they stay nice and crunchy.

Vegetarian Taco Salad

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 1/2 tablespoons (4 1/2 teaspoons) cider vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons (4 1/2 teaspoons) ketchup

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 medium garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon fine salt, plus more as needed

Pinch cayenne pepper

For the salad:
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1 bunch radishes with tops attached

8 ounces jicama

8 ounces cherry tomatoes

1 medium red bell pepper

1 medium avocado

1/4 medium red onion

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 cup crumbled Cotjia or queso fresco cheese

1 cup crumbled tortilla chips

For the dressing: Whisk all the ingredients together in a large bowl.

For the salad: Place the beans in the bowl with the dressing. Separate the radishes from their tops and wash and dry both. Quarter each radish. Coarsely chop the radish tops and add the radishes and their tops to the bowl of beans.

Peel the jicama and cut it into 1/2-inch dice, and add to the bowl. Halve the cherry tomatoes (quarter if large), and add to the bowl. Core and seed the bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice, and add to the bowl. Halve and pit the avocado, cut into 1/2-inch dice, and add to the bowl. Finely chop the red onion and add to the bowl.

Sprinkle with the cilantro and toss to gently coat. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed. Divide the salad among bowls and top with the cheese and tortilla chips.

Recipe Notes

  • Make ahead: The dressing can be made and stored in the refrigerator up to 3 days in advance. The salad can also be dressed and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.