Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Arugula

I spent last weekend celebrating an amazing friend who’s getting married in a month. Yep, bachelorette party time. We danced, laughed, frolicked, sang, painted, ate, drank, and were merry. It was a ton of fun to catch up with old friends and meet new ones, but by the time I got home I was ready for slightly more virtuous food than the munchies I had been grazing on all weekend.

How about some barley?

I know, it sounds totally unexciting, but this risotto has been one of my go-to comfort foods all winter long. It’s creamy and satisfying but still packed with healthy ingredients. And it’s adaptable; some spring asparagus would be a lovely addition, or shredded chicken. Heck, I even made it with half barley, half farro once, since that was all I had on hand.

One little tip: stir in all the arugula like the recipe says if you’re confident the risotto will be completely eaten in one sitting. But if you’re planning on leftovers, leave the arugula out and just stir a handful into each serving. Then when you reheat a portion for lunch the next day, add fresh arugula to the reheated leftovers until it slightly wilts. The greens stay nice and fresh that way.

Almost as fresh as my bachelorette friend’s dance moves. Almost.

Barley risotto with mushrooms and arugula


Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Arugula

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups sliced baby bella mushrooms
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 4-5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 3 cups arugula
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and a dash of salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook until mushrooms start to brown and release their juices. Stir in white wine and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes.

Stir in barley and 4 cups of broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for about 45-50 minutes, until barley is tender. (Add additional broth during this time if the mixture seems dry.)

Stir in arugula and cook for about 2 minutes, or until wilted. Stir in parmesan and additional salt and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately.

Source: Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Eat Well.


Thai Veggie Burgers with Peanut Sauce

I always hesitate to call something a veggie “burger.” After all, a veggie burger isn’t really supposed to taste like a hamburger in the first place. Should it be called a veggie patty instead? Veggie cake? Meatless mass? Scratch that last one.

This veggie burger contains ground chickpeas, but it’s definitely not falafel. (Which is hands-down my favorite word for a bean-based patty.) Whatever it is– and I’m just gonna go with Thai veggie burger– you’ll want to make this recipe soon. The peanut sauce alone is delicious by the spoonful, but it’s even better on top of a nutritious quinoa, oat, and chickpea patty.  (A quinoach patty? No, that’s terrible.)

So while I go off to ponder a more accurate term for veggie burgers, I urge you to give this recipe a try. And it just so happens to be Earth Day, which is a great time to think about ways to reduce our carbon footprints and live more sustainably. (And deliciously!)

Thai veggie burgers with peanut sauce


Thai Veggie Burgers with Peanut Sauce

Veggie Burgers

  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and strained
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or water
  • 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup uncooked rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup minced red onion
  • 1 egg

Peanut Sauce

  • 1/4 cup. creamy peanut butter
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs. water
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • juice of 1/2 a fresh lime


  • 1 cup sliced cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • juice of 1/2 a fresh lime
  • hamburger buns
  • chopped peanuts

Assemble burgers: Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring constantly, until toasted, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in stock or water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover, fluff quinoa, and let cool.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse together chickpeas, oats, cornmeal, garlic, sesame oil, paprika, and salt, until well combined and finely ground. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Stir in bell pepper, onion, cooled quinoa, and egg, until well combined. Form into six patties.

Make peanut sauce: Whisk together all ingredients until well combined. Set aside.

Prepare toppings: Toss together cabbage, carrots, and lime juice. Set aside.

Cook veggie burgers: Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. In batches, cook the veggie burgers until browned and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes on each side.

Serve veggie burgers on hamburger buns, with a generous dollop of peanut sauce and sprinkled with peanuts and cabbage-carrot slaw.

Serves 6.

Source: Honey and Figs via Annie’s Eats.

Wheat Hamburger Buns

A few days ago, as I was putting groceries away, I suddenly sensed a peculiar smell in the air. Was something burning? I quickly scanned the kitchen appliances in case I had accidentally left something on during my grocery run. Nope, my kitchen was resting quietly in between shifts.

I turned my nose toward the open (hallelujah!) balcony door, and suddenly it hit me. People were grilling.

It’s been a long, hard, bitterly cold winter in Minneapolis, but finally there’s hope. Birds are chirping, snow mounds are melting, and the days are getting longer. The other night a ladybug flitted onto our screen door and the cat just sat and stared at it, transfixed by the sudden emergence of tiny wildlife.

People are grilling again.

In preparation for my favorite season, the time of sun-drenched cookouts, camping trips, and the acknowledgment that everything tastes better outdoors, I’m sharing my favorite hamburger bun recipe. Sure, you can pick up an eight-pack from the store. But the days are longer now, which means there’s plenty of time for baking. And hamburgers taste so much better on freshly baked buns.

Wheat hamburger buns

Wheat hamburger buns


Wheat Hamburger Buns

  • 3 Tbs. warm milk
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 large eggs, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • sesame seeds, for sprinkling

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together milk, water, yeast, sugar, salt, and one of the eggs until well combined. Attach the dough hook to the stand mixer and gradually add the flours while kneading on low speed. When dough starts to come together, add the butter. Continue kneading for about 6-8 minutes. The dough will be a bit sticky but should form a ball. You can add a little more flour or knead by hand for a minute or two if necessary, but try not to add too much flour as it will make the dough tougher.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, then cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 1-2 hours. (I usually heat my oven to its lowest temperature and then turn it off to create a warm place for dough to rise.)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Punch down dough and divide into eight pieces for large buns, or ten pieces for medium buns. Roll each piece into a ball and place on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Let rest for another 30-60 minutes, or until slightly puffed.

Meanwhile, place a large casserole or metal baking dish filled with water on the lowest rack of the oven, and place the other rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 400° F.

In a small bowl, beat together remaining egg with 1 Tbs. water. Brush each bun with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake buns for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown, rotating the baking sheet halfway through. Let cool completely on a cooling rack, then slice and serve.

Makes 8-10 buns.

Source: Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen via Annie’s Eats.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart

Peanut butter. Chocolate. Math. Add them together and you get one killer dessert.

Gabe’s youngest brother visited us this weekend and picked a chocolate peanut butter tart as his dessert of choice. But before I could make it, I had to play with ratios.

As many of you know, lactose-free half-and-half is one of my favorite ingredients in the whole world, since it lets me make ice cream and other sweet treats for Gabe. But so far there’s no such thing as lactose-free heavy cream, so I have to modify recipes that call for cream. Generally a one-to-one substitution is not a problem, but the difference in fat content can affect the consistency of things like chocolate ganache.

And since ganache plays a starring role in this dessert, some experimentation was necessary. (I sacrificed myself to science and ate a lot of chocolate.) In the end, the winning ratio of chocolate to milk product was 2:1 instead of the original recipe’s ratio of approximately 1:1. You can certainly use the original amounts of 5 oz. chocolate and 3/4 cup heavy cream, but I’m happy to report that my way worked just as well.

And to continue this math and science-laden post, I made a couple of diagrams to demonstrate how to make pretty peanut butter swirls on top of the tart. Just to prove my liberal arts education comes in handy. Check them out at the bottom of this post. :)

Chocolate peanut butter tart

Chocolate peanut butter tart


Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart


  • 1/3 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 1 cup flour
  • 8 Tbs. butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. half-and-half


  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter, divided
  • 8 oz. dark chocolate (about 60% cocoa)*
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half

Make the pie crust: In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa and flour. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar for about 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, and salt, and beat until well combined. With mixer on low, add half the flour mixture, then all the half-and-half, and then the rest of the flour mixture until well combined. The dough will be very soft.

Place dough on a piece of plastic wrap, flatten into a rectangle shape, and wrap tightly. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

Once dough is firm, place it on a heavily floured work surface and roll into a 7 by 16-inch rectangle. Transfer the dough to a 4 1/2 by 14- inch rectangular tart pan and lightly push it down into the bottom of the pan. Trim off any excess dough around the edges and prick the bottom lightly with a fork. Freeze for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Place a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper in the tart pan on top of the dough, and fill with dry beans or pie weights. Place the tart pan on a jelly-roll pan for easier handling and bake for 20 minutes, or until edges are set. Remove foil and beans and bake for another 10 minutes. Let crust cool completely in the tart pan on a wire rack.

Prepare filling: Melt 1/2 cup peanut butter in a small bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds. Pour peanut butter into the cooled pie crust and freeze for 20 minutes or until set.

Once the peanut butter is set, roughly chop chocolate and place in a medium bowl. Microwave half-and-half just until it comes to a boil, about 30 seconds. Pour over chocolate and let sit for 2 minutes.

Melt remaining 1/4 cup of peanut butter in microwave and transfer to a small plastic bag. Snip a tiny triangle off the corner so you can use the bag to pipe the peanut butter.

Whisk chocolate and half-and-half until smooth. Pour over peanut butter in the tart pan and lightly smooth with a spatula. Squeeze the peanut butter in the plastic bag and pipe it diagonally across the ganache. Lightly run a toothpick or skewer through the peanut butter in the opposite direction, perpendicular to the piping of the peanut butter. (See diagrams below.)

Let tart chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 8. Slice diagonally into wedges and serve.

Serves 10.

Source: Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart via Annie’s Eats.

* I’m happy to say I’ve made this with milk chocolate too, and it’s deeeelicious. Tastes like a fancy Reese’s peanut butter cup!

pipe peanut butter on tart

Pipe peanut butter diagonally across tart

run toothpick through peanut butter

Lightly run a toothpick through the peanut butter, perpendicular to the original piping