Pumpkin Barley Risotto

Pumpkin. Not spice. I’m going the savory route with pumpkin this time, because, as you all should know, pumpkin is delicious without cinnamon as well. Just as other squashes seem to work with both salt and sugar, pumpkin really blends well with earthy spices like thyme and rosemary. I’ve made barley risotto before (it’s my favorite way to make risotto), but I felt inspired to add a new twist. This inspiration is likely derived from having bought all of the pumpkin things from Trader Joe’s, including cans of pumpkin puree. (Another side note: if you haven’t bought their mini ginger snap pumpkin ice cream sandwiches, just… please. Do it). This risotto skips a bit on the traditional ingredients, side-stepping a lot of the Parmesan and butter. In fact, it quite easily could be made vegan if you felt so inclined. Rather than compromising creaminess, however, the pumpkin amps up the rich and smooth and luxurious factor of this risotto so much the additional dairy is really not necessary. I actually made it once with Parmesan and once without, and I didn’t notice any difference at all. But, of course… I do still recommend topping with an inordinate amount of goat cheese.

Goat cheese on everything.

That should be my new blog name.

I actually made this risotto twice within a week, which is basically unheard of for me because 1) every recipe gives me leftovers, so I usually move on following the fourth plate and 2) I have to contend with the dying-by-the-day vegetables in my refrigerator, rarely allowing me to repeat a meal (living alone has its challenges). But! My friend and I were having our sort-of-weekly TV night, and I promised this risotto as we’re both pumpkin and goat-cheese obsessed. It did not disappoint. With a nice side of steamed or roasted vegetables, this is a perfectly impressive yet straightforward dinner for you, your guest, or your lunchbox.

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Pumpkin Barley Risotto

Serves 2-3

1 tbsp. unsalted butter (I love Kerrygold) or olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1 tsp. minced garlic

1/2 cup pearl barley

1/4 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. dried thyme

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Salt & pepper

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 – 2  1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock, warmed

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

2 tbsp. – 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese- optional

2-3 oz. goat cheese (chevre)

In a small pot, warm the stock to just below boiling. Keep warm over low heat.

In a medium pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the vegetables and sauté until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the barley and stir to toast for about 2-3 minutes. Add the spices, salt, and pepper, and mix. Deglaze the pot with the balsamic vinegar and stir vigorously. Lower the heat to medium low.

Add about 1/2 cup of stock to the barley. Stir the barley regularly. Once the barley has absorbed most of the liquid, add another 1/4 – 1/2 cup of stock. Continue to add stock, stir, and add stock until the barley is fully cooked, usually in about 25-30 minutes. You may not need all of the stock recommended; you may need a bit more (have more at the ready). It depends on the barley, cooking temperature, and risotto gods.

Once the barley is softened and cooked through (it retains a chewy texture but should not have any bite), add the pumpkin puree and Parmesan cheese (if adding). Stir to mix thoroughly and taste. Re-season as needed with salt and pepper.

Add the pumpkin risotto to bowls and top with 1-2 tbsp. of freshly crumbled goat cheese and a sprinkle of oregano. Devour.




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Life as a single-person household.


*You’ll notice these pictures seem to lack onions and carrots. That’s because the second time is when I added those vegetables, and I really enjoyed the variety in texture. I’d advise adding them, but it’s up to you.



Spicy Zucchini Pasta Arrabbiata with a Ton of Goat Cheese

I’m here to hyperbolize today. For one, zucchini is not pasta. For two, this is not a homemade arrabbiata sauce. For three, this isn’t a literal ton of goat cheese- more like 1.5 ounces. Whatever. It’s not hyperbole to say that the American summer drowns the population in zucchini. And when zucchini are 89 cents at the grocery store, or you have a sweet, farm-fresh zucchini hook-up, you start getting creative with recipes. Zucchini pasta is actually definitely not new for the Internet. I’ve seen a few recipes here and there, and I always imagined a mushy-textured bland delivery vessel for watery sauce. I just wasn’t that interested, I guess. But I have a bunch of zucchini, and I saw this recipe for a shaved summer squash salad. “That looks good,” I thought. And then I thought about blanching the zucchini, because do I even like it raw? And then things snowballed. I was adding Sriracha to my bowl and cooling off with a ton of goat cheese and freaking out about how I was going to blog about this dinner thisveryminute. And, check it out, I totally am. That’s right, I finished this meal 30 minutes ago, and I’m so pleased with it I have to write about it right now.

This dinner takes approximately 5 minutes to make, sets you back pretty much negative calories (cheese doesn’t count on top of vegetables), boasts nutrition stats like a Flintstone vitamin, and, yes, is incredibly delicious. It probably should be served with something substantial- some protein or something- just because alone it really is a bowl of vegetables. I’m not sure of the staying power, is what I’m saying. Anyways, when it’s too hot to cook in your apartment, and you’re overloaded with zucchini, and you just want a nice dinner that’s healthy and is something new, try this. Or, even, disregard all of that. Just try it.

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Spicy Zucchini Pasta Arrabbiata with a Ton of Goat Cheese

Serves 1 

1 zucchini, sliced thinly with a vegetable peeler

1/2 cup of green beans, rinsed and trimmed

1/4 cup Trader Joe’s Red Pepper Spread with Eggplant and Garlic

2 tsp. Sriracha

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Dash red chili flake

1 – 1.5 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

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Heat a pot of salted water to boiling.

In a bowl (I used my serving bowl), mix the red pepper and eggplant spread (Trader Joe’s has an awesome one) with the Sriracha and spices. Set aside.

Slice your zucchini into threads with a vegetable peeler (it doesn’t take that long- I promise. Alternatively, you could use a spiralizer if you have one. That’s cool). Rinse, trim, and chop your green beans into acceptable-sized pieces. Add the green beans to the boiling water. 2 minutes later, add the zucchini. Blanch for 3 minutes. Drain the green beans and zucchini through a strainer.

Add the zucchini pasta and green beans to the sauce. Stir to coat. Crumble a ton of goat cheese all over the top. Enjoy!

Summer Squash and Potato Gratin

I’m mostly settled into my new apartment after an incredibly effortful weekend of plans and rearrangements and finishing touches. I’m actually sore, which is really embarrassing, and speaks to my otherwise level of inactivity for the past few weeks. My grandparents were here this weekend to help me finalize some things, namely things involving a drill and furniture building. And excitingly, my grandma, in her perfectly grandmotherly ways, brought me an entire picnic basket of fresh vegetables from her and her brothers’ gardens. Squash, zucchini, potatoes, green beans, beautiful tomatoes all rested comfortably together, simply begging for some preparation and timely enjoyment.

On Saturday night, around 7pm, in a hunger-driven panic between Ikea trips and unloading of said Ikea trips and putting together of said Ikea products, I scarfed down half a slice of leftover pizza and a few cookies my grandma had also brought me. I ate said dinner in approximately 3 minutes, while refilling my silverware drawer, and, following this ingestion, realized I thankfully was no longer hungry, so I went upon my way. As things go, my house became a swarm of cardboard and cellophane before becoming marginally more cohesive. Around 11pm I fainted onto my (thankfully) put together daybed, recognized that I was famished, ate some Pringles leftover from last weekend’s bachlorette party, and went to bed.  Needless to say, my first “meals” in this apartment have not been very notable. Or admirable. Or even really food.

Today, I eased into the morning with a nice walk, some reading, coffee, and breakfast. A leisure I haven’t taken in way, way too long. Afternoon involved some more apartment work for a few hours, followed by some cleaning, but today I was going to be put together. Or, at least not eat Pringles for dinner. The vegetables stared at me, quietly reminding me that produce is really only “fresh” for so long. I whipped up a zucchini bread during afternoon projects, which turned out deliciously. However, I for the second time witnessed my oven cooking at clearly far too low a temperature, for while the bread was cooked through to the tip of the toothpick I stabbed it with, a quarter inch of batter-becoming-bread thwarted my product. In plans for dinner, I questioned that I was using the oven again at all. Completely archaic, without a clock, timer, or evidence that digital technology had actually been established at the time of its construction, I could indeed verify it lit and made the oven warm, but I could not know at all at which temperature it was cooking. Given this was my third attempt, I ramped up the temperature even further above recommendation, and, amazingly, dinner turned out beautifully. (Also idiotic, I spent at least 2 hours of today with the oven on, in summer, in an apartment without air conditioning. I’ve been lightly sweating (or profusely so) for 48 hours).

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Breakfast of my dreams: toast with garden tomatoes and over easy eggs, side of French press coffee

So, what did I make? Well, to use in a timely fashion the bountiful summer produce my grandma had provided, I found a recipe for a gratin comprised of summer squash and potatoes. I figured adding a few extra squash would only improve upon the product, and I followed the recipe nearly exactly, exchanging some of the methods here and there to suit my new kitchen. I had no intention of blogging about the final result, because I was moderately convinced I’d retrieve from the oven a soggy, undercooked mess of vegetables. But, as you can clearly tell, it was a huge success! These pictures don’t do justice to the absolute delicious nature of this dish. I already plan to serve this at Thanksgiving, bring it to book club, and somehow offer it to everyone I know. Really. And, better, everything in here is peak-season-perfect. Please, please make this (mom, it’s right up your alley). And for any goat cheese haters (you’re absurd), you could substitute another cheese if you wish.

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Summer Squash and Potato Gratin

Adapted from this recipe

Serves 6… I guess (serves me tops 4 times)

2 medium zucchini

2 medium yellow crookneck squash

1 medium yellow squash

3 medium red potatoes

4 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. freshly-cracked pepper

1 tsp. dried thyme

4 oz. goat cheese

1/3 cup milk, anything but skim

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (or 425 if you have an ancient oven).

Wash and dry your vegetables thorougly. Start by slicing the potatoes very thinly, about 1/4 – 1/8 inch thickness, taking time to make sure the slices are even. Add the sliced potatoes to a pot of salted water (I add about a 1/2 teaspoon). Bring the water to a boil and boil the potatoes for about 2 minutes, so that they are still firm. Drain the potatoes and add to a large bowl.

Continue slicing the remaining squash (you can use any combination of varieties; this is just what I had on hand) into thin, 1/4 – 1/8 inch thin slices. If you have a mandolin, that’d be great (I don’t). Add the sliced vegetables to the same large bowl. Pour 4 tbsp. olive oil over the vegetables as well as the salt, pepper, and thyme. Gently toss the vegetables to coat (some may break apart a bit, which is fine).

Lightly grease a large, 9 x 13 baking dish with olive oil, and add 1/3 of the vegetable mixture to the dish. Crumble half the goat cheese over the bottom layer of vegetables. Add another 1/3 of the mixture, and, again, top with the remaining goat cheese. Add the final layer of vegetables. Pour the milk evenly over the entire mixture. Sprinkle the top of the vegetables with Parmesan. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in the oven.

Bake the dish at 400 degrees Fahrenheit covered for 30-35 minutes. Afterwards, remove the foil and increase the temperature to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, until the Parmesan cheese top is bubbling and brown. Remove from the oven to cool slightly.

To serve, slice out a portion of the gratin (it slices fairly easily, although will slide around some). Sprinkle torn or chiffonade basil over the top. Wait 2 minutes so you don’t burn your mouth, then dig in.

Longest post ever. Worth it.

Tomato and Basil Wrap with Goat Cheese

I’m considering moving from Chicago to be closer to work. And by considering I mean looking at rental properties and planning the timeline of my summer around the move. I’ve had emotions ranging from excitement (to leave behind a bad commute) to apathy to an “everything will be about the same” attitude to outright sadness. And now that it’s getting closer, the latter is the overwhelming opinion. It’s probably because the trees are green now and the sun comes out. And that the streets are starting to burst open with people and the skyline is sparkling again. It’s probably something to do with the extra time the sunlight allots my day and the ease and freedom I have in calling up friends to meet for dinner. I’m a little unsure if I’ve allowed something so transient as a job to remove me from this beautiful city that is the reason I moved back to the midwest. And then I’m certain that people in their 20s are supposed to move for work because those are the sacrifices you make to be successful. But maybe-I-don’t-want-to-be-successful-I-just-want-to-eat-dinner-outside-on-the-sidewalks. Who finances that lifestyle?

So here’s a really delicious wrap that you can make for lunch the night before to bring to work. It feels pertinent to discuss things like that as I toss and turn with thoughts and expectations for work, life, and otherwise. Because the question: what should I bring for lunch tomorrow? persists despite all life events. It is the permanent question at 9:39pm when you wanted to go to bed 10 minutes ago. It is important because it’s food that will fuel your day, but so absurdly insignificant because it’s that midday meal that’s satisfied by leftovers or snacks or cafeteria food or random fridge grabs. No one really cares much about lunch. So here; change that.

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Tomato and Basil Wrap with Goat Cheese

Serves 1

1 large flour tortilla, softened

2 tbsp. roasted garlic hummus

1 tbsp. goat cheese, crumbled

8-10 fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup baby spinach

5 heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved

Salt & pepper, to taste

To prepare the sandwich, I spread on a layer of hummus, followed by the goat cheese crumbles. Drop a few basil leaves and top with a small handful of baby spinach. Halve the tomatoes and stack precariously atop the greens. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Roll the wrap by tucking in both ends and rolling away from you. I usually wrap it up in a paper towel and aluminum foil to keep it contained.

This stays well overnight, probably even longer (I haven’t tried). A perfectly flavorful lunch wrap tangy from the goat cheese and creamy from the hummus, with just the right peppery basil bite and pop of fresh tomato. Serve with some fruit or Greek yogurt for a truly healthy lunch of champions. Pride yourself on your preparedness and commitment to not buying lunch from the cafeteria. High five.

And now, back to ponder the great questions of life.

Caramelized Onion, Sun-dried Tomato, and Goat Cheese Quiche

Quiche. Oh my god, quiche. I love quiche. It is astoundingly underrated. For instance, when you go to brunch, what do you have swimming in your head, what options are you fanning through mentally? Omelet, egg scramble, french toast, pancakes, eggs benedict, fresh juice, eggs-in-a-basket, biscuits and gravy… the classics. But as you frustratingly toy between deciding sweet or savory (eventually just going for the huge breakfast platter that combines both), quiche is just sitting there on the side, being absurdly perfect, waiting for you to remember. Quiche isn’t offered at every restaurant or brunch place. It’s a little bit “fancy,” and it may only be available at your delicious-yet-kind-of-hipster/trendy neighborhood haunt. (I can think specifically of my favorite brunch place in the city- Birchwood Kitchen- with their quiches sitting poised atop a glass cabinet of salads and baked goods). So it’s fair that it’s not a regular go-to when you’re sitting down for brunch on a Sunday morning at 11am. But I am here to fight for it. Fight for its representation. Because, guys, it’s basically PIE filled with EGGS. With fillings that are delightful and usually perfectly fresh and almost always healthy yet delicious.

So you can’t get it out all the time, or maybe you still insist that you can’t make french toast at home (eh hem, you can), but there’s no reason not to delight in the wonder that is quiche when the craving hits. (It’s actually hitting you right now, you just don’t remember). There is a crust to quiche, and I personally am annoyed when Pinterest links and Internet sites quote recipes for “crustless quiches,” because those totally already exist, everyone; they’re called frittatas, and they are too delicious, in their own way. But making a crust can scare people away, moreso than even French toast or pancakes from scratch. If you have 5 minutes, a rolling pin, and butter and flour, you can make pie crust. It’s even easier in a food processor, but absolutely not necessary. If you were to be making an actual fancy pie, I’m certain there would be more crust rules. But you’re making a brunch item. This just needs to taste good.

Now, the second part of quiche that has people worried is the filling. What should you put inside there!? Eggs, obviously, but the additional components and flavor combinations are endless. It’s at least as expansive as the variety afforded to omelets, but with the benefit of not compromising the tedious and delicate cooking process of preparing an omelet. I like things to be relatively simple, in the interest of highlighting genuine flavors, and am a huge sucker for caramelized onions all the time. The beauty of these ingredients (which are listed below) is that they are available and delicious at any time of the year. If it’s summer and you would prefer to highlight the bounty of summer vegetables then available, by all means do so. But this quiche is a good staple and a good place to start.

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Caramelized Onion, Sun-dried Tomato, and Goat Cheese Quiche

Serves 6


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or a 50/50 ratio of all-purpose and whole wheat)
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 8 tbsp./ 1 stick/ 1/4 lb. of unsalted butter, cold and diced
  • 3-6 tbsp. ice water, reserved


  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced thinly
  • 2/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • Salt & pepper to season, to taste
  • 5 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk, anything but skim
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 oz. (about 1/4 cup) goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a 9-inch pie pan by coating it thinly with butter and set aside.

Begin by preparing the filling. In a medium sauté pan, over medium heat, add 1 tbsp. olive oil and the sliced yellow onions. Cook until lightly browning and softened, about 15 minutes. Add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes, mix, and heat through. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

To make the crust, mix the flour(s) and salt together in a medium mixing bowl. Add the cold and diced butter, and, using your fingertips, mix the butter into the flour. The butter should gradually breakdown to pea-sized pieces, and the whole mixture will look almost sandy with small clumps. Then, slowly add the ice water, starting with 3 tbsp. then adding by 1/2-1 tbsp. as needed. Mix the water into the flour mixture with your hands until evenly distributed. You should continue to add water until you have a shaggy dough that forms the shape of your first when you squeeze it and just stays together in a small ball. Pour the dough out onto a floured surface or counter (there should be some dry scraggly bits) and mold into a flat disc. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into a circle about 2-3 inches wider in diameter than the pie pan. The dough will likely break a bit as you roll it out, but just push the broken pieces back together. The easiest way to transfer the dough to the pie pan is to roll it onto the rolling pin and then unroll it over the pan. Press the crust dough into the pan, consolidating the dough at the edges to form an even, slightly thickened ridge elevated about 1/2 an inch above the edge of the pan. Your dough will likely be an uneven circle, so just transfer pieces as needed to more “thin” areas. From here, you can flute the edges of the dough if you want, or just leave it as is. To flute the crust, indent the crust from the outside with the pointer finger of your right hand against the counter-pressure of your thumb and pointer finger of your left hand, making a triangle of dough, essentially. Go around the entire crust that way. It won’t look perfect. That’s fine.

Once the dough is complete, add your vegetables. Ideally, you should have about 2 cups of vegetables in your quiche with a standard pie pan (if your pan is deeper, you may want to amp up the veggies by another cup or so). Whisk together the eggs, milk, and 1/2 tsp. of salt and pour over the veggies. Scoot the veggies around some if needed so everything is evenly distributed. Top the filling with goat cheese, sprinkling it evenly over the quiche.

Place the quiche in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes, until the center is set (the eggs shouldn’t wiggle or jiggle in the pan, but rather look quite firm and fluffy). Remove the quiche to cool slightly, for about 10 minutes, and serve.


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Delicious, buttery pie crust, with creamy eggs and the burst of sweet then savory then cheesy flavor. Make a quiche next time. Please.