Kitchen Transitions

I’m slowly peeking my head out my shelter-place-shell, but I’m tentative. Numbers are still going up in Missouri, and the country at large. But I know I need to adjust my eating. So many potato chips and store-bought dips! So much grazing! Every time I wandered past the kitchen counter, something popped into my mouth. It was usually a gummy bear. 

This next month I’ll have a chance to reset. Not a ten day this or that, or a starve yourself or religious fasting thing. Just a do-over, an intentional focus. I’d like to share that with you and try to be real about the struggle in my kitchen. I feed other people well, but I’m often not kind to myself. Today it will start with a kitchen clean out. I will throw out some things from the refrigerator. And wipe down surfaces. I will evaluate my pantry and spices, and stock up again on the things I really need for the summer to bring out the best in seasonal produce. 

The following recipes are “transitional.” They got me from potato chips to where I’m going next week with you! They are relatively healthy, utilizing bits of ingredients that needed to be used up. They were also comforting as food needs to be for me, especially these days. The trail mix cookies are packed with nuts, seeds, and dried fruits I already had in my pantry. I had a pile of potatoes and onions starting to turn that were begging for flavor, and a pound of local ground beef I needed to try with ramen and the last bits of some vegetables. Come along with me; let’s clean out the fridge and start the summer together. Bon appetit!

Trail mix cookies 

Makes 12 cookies


1½ cups assorted raw nuts and seeds

½ cup old-fashioned oats

1 large egg

4 tablespoons (half a stick) unsalted butter, melted

¼ cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ cup assorted dried fruit (cut into ½" pieces if large)

¾ cup mini chocolate chips

½ cup flour


Heat oven to 350°. Toast nuts and seeds and oats on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until golden brown, 10–12 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl; let cool.

Meanwhile, mix egg, butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl; let sit until nuts are cool (this will make for a chewier cookie).

Add dried fruit and chocolate to nut mixture; toss to combine. Give egg mixture a good stir, then stir in flour. Mix in nut mixture, smashing it against the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, until combined and mix-ins are evenly coated in dough. (It will look like too many mix-ins, but dough will come together as it chills.) Cover and chill at least 2 hours.

Reheat oven to 350°. Using a ⅓-cup measure, portion out dough, packing firmly, to make 12 cookies. Divide between 2 parchment-lined baking sheets as you go. Using measuring cup or your hand, press cookies into 2½"-diameter disks about ¾" thick; sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake cookies, rotating baking sheets top to bottom and front to back once, until golden brown and no longer wet-looking, 11–13 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets.

-Bon Appetit Magazine

French onion potatoes

Makes 4-6 servings


5 yellow onions

Quarter stick butter or 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 cup of chicken broth or water

½ teaspoon garlic powder, oregano, thyme, paprika

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and Worcestershire

6 medium or 3 large Yukon potatoes

Half a stick butter

½ cup milk of choice

2 teaspoons garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Favorite bread, toasted and sliced smaller

Favorite shredded cheese


Thinly slice onions and put in deep skillet with the brown sugar and butter. On medium high heat, stir occasionally, making sure onions get equal heat. If they start to burn, turn down the heat. The caramelization process will take up to 45 minutes until the onions are a dark golden brown. Don’t rush this part. As they cook, stir in a bit of the broth to keep them moist. When they are close to done, add seasonings and and vinegar, soy sauce, and Worcestershire. 

Between onion stirs, chop the potatoes into equal sized pieces. Put in a saucepan and cover with water. Sprinkle salt. Bring to boiling, turn down, and let simmer until potatoes are tender. Drain and return to pan. Add butter, garlic powder, and milk, and mash with a masher or fork until desire consistency. For smoother potatoes, peel before cooking. Add salt and pepper to desired taste.

To serve, spoon potatoes into a shallow bowl. Top with caramelized onion mixture. Add a few pieces of toast. Sprinkle with shredded cheese and microwave for 30 seconds. Add some fresh herbs of choice, eat, and be comforted.

Pantry stir-fry

Serves 4


One pound of ground meat

Half an onion, small diced

3 cups of vegetables, chopped and sliced into bite-size pieces

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 cloves or 2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 inch peeled thinly sliced ginger

2 bricks of dried ramen


Prepare ramen according to package instructions. Drain, toss with a teaspoon of sesame oil, and set aside. 

Start to cook diced onion and ground meat in a deep skillet or wok, with a dash of vegetable oil and sprinkle of salt. After 10 minutes, add soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. Just before meat is cooked through, add vegetables and stir. Don’t overcook; be sure vegetables are still a bit crunchy. You’re just basically steaming them.

Put noodles in a shallow, wide bowl. Add desired amount from skillet. Top with chopped celery, crushed peanuts, sesame seeds, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.