Easy Homemade Poutine | easy recipes | comfort food recipes | BearandBugEats.com

Easy Homemade Poutine

I’ve got a cold and I am not. excited. about it. I am excited about this Easy Homemade Poutine recipe, though!

Poutine is a Canadian dish, and as you might expect from Canadian food, it’s hearty and warm, just what you need in a country that is mostly snow. I thought it would be more complicated, but in reality, poutine comes down to fries, gravy, and cheese. And it starts with the French fries.

Easy Homemade Poutine | easy recipes | comfort food recipes | BearandBugEats.com

In Pursuit of the Perfect French Fry

I’m honing my perfect French fry recipe. I say hon”ing” and not “have honed” because what’s below is pretty good, but it’s not quite the holy grail of fries.

There are a couple of issues with French fries. One is that people have different ideas of what a “perfect” fry is (I’m not saying that liking them other than thin and crispy is wrong, but…). The other, of course, is how much oil they soak up, especially as many recipes concur that the “best” fries are fried twice.

If you prefer a healthier option, I suggest baking. If you really don’t want to fry them and aren’t as crazy about texture as I am, this is a simple answer and easy to execute. Bake ’em with olive oil at 400F for 30+ minutes, turning once or twice, until they’re the color you want.

I’ve been making “bakes” for a while now. In testing this poutine recipe, I tried the double-frying method, along with presoaking the starch off. I will say this: it wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty darn good.

The reason the some fries are cooked twice is because potatoes are so dense that it takes a long time for heat to penetrate them. You can help the potatoes along by parcooking them one of the following ways:

  • submerge in a pot of water. turn heat on high and cook for 10 minutes (the water doesn’t have to boil). optional: Add a couple tablespoons of white vinegar to enhance crunch
  • bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees
  • fry for 5 minutes at 300 degrees

You can also soak some of the starch right off the potatoes. Starch is chewy, so we want to rinse that off. Place the potatoes in a big bowl and cover with cold water. Soak for 15 minutes, then drain and rinse potatoes with fresh water. Repeat 3 times (a total of 45 minutes). (The lazy-and-or-overprepared way to do this is to soak them for 24 hours, no rinsing.)

Easy Homemade Poutine | easy recipes | comfort food recipes | BearandBugEats.com

Easy Homemade Poutine

It’s a little scary how easy this dish is. You could even, if you aren’t up for making your own fries, do it with frozen ones. After your chosen prep, it’s one quick fry (or bake) for the potatoes on one side of the stove and a simple homemade gravy on the other.

Gravy: Fat (I like butter), flour, broth (veggie broth for a vegetarian meal!). Spice up with black pepper and Worcestershire.

Layer these into bowls with cheddar cheese curds (a recent, happy discovery for me) and top with fresh herbs or scallions. If you have leftover pot roast to shred on top, you have perfection.

Adapted from these excellent resources:

Soaking: Perfect French Fries from the Food Network

Boiling: Smitten Kitchen’s Oven Fries

Serious Eats Perfect Thin and Crispy French Fries

Easy Homemade Poutine

Prep Time: 24 hours

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 24 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: 4-6 bowls

Easy Homemade Poutine



6-8 medium potatoes (I like gold), sliced into matchsticks about 1/4" thick

Peanut or other frying oil


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 shallot, minced (or equivalent amount of onion)

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups chicken stock

2 cups beef stock

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

Salt and pepper

2 cups cheddar cheese curds

Garnish: Scallions, chives, or other fresh herbs, over-medium fried egg



Place cut potatoes into a large bowl and cover with cold water. Allow to sit at least 1 hour (up to 24). Change the water a couple of times if you want them REALLY crispy.

If you don't have the time to soak them for 24 hours, parcook them: bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees; cook in water over high heat for 10 minutes (they don't need to boil); or fry them for 5 minutes at 300 degrees.

After they are parcooked or thoroughly de-starched, line a baking sheet or big plate with two layers of paper towels.

Drain potatoes and dry with paper towels. Heat 1-2 inches of peanut or other frying oil to 400F. Fry the potatoes in batches until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Drain and place on more paper towels; season with a bit of salt and pepper.

Optional: If ultra-crispiness is desired, allow fries to cool before seasoning and fry again.


Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Saute shallot and garlic until softening, about 3 minutes.

Add butter. When it melts, whisk in flour until browned, about a minute.

Add chicken and beef stock, vinegar, Worcestershire, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Simmer just until gravy starts to reduce; remove from heat. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.


In each bowl, spread a thin layer of gravy. Add thin layers of fries, cheese curds, and gravy until the bowl is full (or the serving size gets ridiculous). Smother with additional gravy and top with fresh herbs.


5-Ingredient Shortbread Cookies with Chocolate | cookie recipes | easy baking recipes | BearandBugEats.com

5-Ingredient Shortbread Cookies with Chocolate + Dessert Wine

Things I did at the family reunion in Tucson, Arizona this weekend:

  • finished knitting a scarf for my Lolo (“grandfather” in Tagalog)
  • tried to tell my adult cousins apart, with mixed success
  • talked my husband and brother into the “heated”-but-not-actually-warm swimming pool on the last night of our stay
  • learned to play Pandemic and won 3 out of 4 games
  • went hiking and learned that of the approximately 1,800 species of cactus in the world, only two are not native to the North American desert
  • shopped for shiny rocks with the women of the family (and Robby) at the Gem, Mineral, & Fossil Showcase
  • contributed to the big family dinner with a triple batch of 5-Ingredient Shortbread Cookies with Chocolate

The cookies were sort of overshadowed by all of the other food (and the glass pan of leftovers that I dropped on the way to the fridge), but they were delicious. They are extremely easy, especially if you have a food processor or stand mixer. One moment you’re mixing up a sort of butter and sugar sand, and the next, you have a cohesive ball of cookie dough. It’s basically magic.

5-Ingredient Shortbread Cookies with Chocolate | cookie recipes | easy baking recipes | BearandBugEats.com

I was immensely assisted by these timely cookie-making tips from Smitten Kitchen. Essentially, she says that the usual butter softening and extended chilling time are unnecessary. Instead, she recommends using cold butter, rolling the dough out immediately, and then popping it in the freezer for a few minutes. This technique may not work on all cookies, but it is perfect for cookie cutters.

I should also say that I bought my first cookie cutters for this recipe! No, wait, not my first cookie cutters–someone gave us Star Wars cookie cutters for our wedding. These are the first ones that I myself have purchased. I was looking for hearts, but I bought this kit because it also has football-themed ones (!), which is when I decided that I needed to make this recipe in celebration of a) Valentine’s Day and b) the Big Game the name of which I cannot use for copyright issues. I’m hardly a professional decorator, but a few minutes with some melted chocolate and a tube of icing (and a bit of patience) and they came out pretty cute.

5-Ingredient Shortbread Cookies with Chocolate | cookie recipes | easy baking recipes | BearandBugEats.com

As written, this recipe makes about 12 cookies, depending on the size of your cookie cutters. It’s very easy to double or triple to accommodate the number of people you plan to feed. I also like to roll the dough out thinner than the usual 1/4 – 1/2 inch, as they are so rich. No surprise, I like them best covered in chocolate, but simple drizzling elevates the look.

Robby Recommends: Ramos Pinto Porto Tawny or Pedro Ximenez Sherry. Port has an almost syrupy sweetness that pairs well with the subtler sweetness of shortbread. PX sherry has a bit of a nutty flavor that will also pair well.

*This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase through them, I get a tiny commission. Thank you for supporting Bear & Bug Eats!*

Assistance from Ina Garten.

Recipe adapted from A Couple Cooks, who got it from “The Vanilla Bean Baking Book: Recipes for Irresistible Everyday Favorites and Reinvented Classics.” The author also has a fabulous blog of the same name!

5-Ingredient Shortbread Cookies with Chocolate

5-Ingredient Shortbread Cookies with Chocolate


1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into small pieces

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 rounded teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla, or the scraped seeds of 1 vanilla bean

2-6 ounces dark to bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Optional: Colored decorating icing



Set one oven rack to a central position and preheat to 350F.

In a bowl, stand mixer, or food processor, mix butter and sugar until completely combined. Add in salt and vanilla.

Mix in flour until a solid ball forms.

Place dough between two cookie sheet-sized pieces of parchment paper. Roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness (you can go as thick as 1/2 inch or as thin as 1/8).

Place on a cookie sheet and stick in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.

Remove from freezer. Unstick the top sheet of parchment paper, then flip it. Unpeel the other piece; use it to line a cookie sheet.

Cut out your desired shapes. If the dough becomes sticky, return it to the freezer for a few minutes.

Bake 12 to a cookie sheet for 15-17 minutes, or until the edges just begin to brown.

Move cookies to a wire cooling rack. Allow to cool completely.


Microwave chocolate on 50 percent power in 30-second intervals, stirring well between. Remove before all the chocolate is melted and stir until the last bits melt. Allow to cool, stirring often, until chocolate is cool (stirring makes it glossier!)

Decorate cooled cookies by dipping, coating the tops with chocolate, drizzling, adding frosting, or all of the above!


Slow Cooker Black Beans with Chicken | slow cooker recipes | healthy recipes | BearandBugEats.com

Slow Cooker Cuban Black Beans with Chicken

I wasn’t a bean fan growing up. I’ll eat them in certain contexts, like Quick White Chicken Chili, but I don’t love them, mostly because of the slightly grainy texture. Except at Cuban places.

There isn’t a lot of Cuban food in Orlando, but there is in Tampa, where Robby has family. There’s one tiny place we go to almost every time we visit for pressed Cuban sandwiches, platanos, and black beans. Those beans are like crack. I don’t know exactly what goes into them, but they have this un-bean-like softness with amaaaazing flavor. I have always chalked those up to some closely guarded secret which I would never be able to replicate.

Then I discovered that one of my friends makes really good black beans at home…in a slow cooker. They aren’t quite those fabulous Cuban beans, but they told me that great beans at home are possible. So I hunted The Internetz and came up with this very simple, very delicious recipe. Dry beans are cooked with onions, garlic, and a couple spices. It sounds too good to be true, but I wouldn’t do that to you. It is good. It is true.

Slow Cooker Black Beans with Chicken | slow cooker recipes | healthy recipes | BearandBugEats.com

Also, do you see that the slow cooker insert is on the stove in this photo? It’s not just sitting on the stove. I’m COOKING IN THE INSERT ON THE STOVE. We were gifted this gorgeous slow cooker last Christmas and this is the first time I’ve used it on the stovetop. So cool. (I do see on Amazon that some people with the 7-quart ones have had problems with the coating on the inserts bubbling, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue with the 4-quart ones.)

This dish exemplifies the reason that so many people adore slow cookers. Pop the ingredients in, leave them alone, come back later and dinner is ready. I served this over yellow rice, which did require another dish, but you don’t even have to do that. Top with a little cilantro and a squeeze of lime, and you are all set.

Slow Cooker Black Beans with Chicken | slow cooker recipes | healthy recipes | BearandBugEats.com

I did throw in some chicken. We’re struggling with the concept of Meatless Mondays (or meatless…ness), so while the beans on their own might be enough for some, we still like a bit of meat. It’s not necessary, of course, so you can leave it out for a nutritionally wonderful vegetarian meal.

One quick cooking note: the salt doesn’t get added until right the end. This is because, for whatever reason, salt added too early can keep the beans hard. If you forget to add it “on time,” just stir it in at the end and let the beans sit for a moment to absorb that all-important hint of salt.

Slow Cooker Black Beans with Chicken | slow cooker recipes | healthy recipes | BearandBugEats.com

The leftovers (because you just cooked a whole pound of beans) can be frozen, if you like. I recommend putting the beans in ziploc bags and freezing them flat for easier storage and thawing.

Recipe adapted from Cafe Johnsonia, with help from Moms With Crockpots (how’s that for being upfront about your purpose?) and Little Spice Jar. This last link is for a quick version using canned beans; check it out if you’re short on time!

Slow Cooker Cuban Black Beans with Chicken

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 8 minutes

Total Time: 8 hours, 15 minutes

Slow Cooker Cuban Black Beans with Chicken


1 yellow onion, chopped

1 jalapeno, deseeded and minced

4 garlic cloves, minced

Olive oil

6 cups water

2 chicken breasts

1 pound dry black beans, picked over and rinsed

1 teaspoon oregano

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon salt


On the stove, heat a little olive oil over medium heat. Saute aromatics (onion, jalapeno, garlic) for a few minutes until they begin to soften.

Pour water into slow cooker insert. Add chicken, aromatics, beans, oregano, and bay leaves.

Cook for on high for 4-5 hours, or on low for 8-10. (If not using chicken, reduce time to 3-4 hours on low or 6-8 on high.) Check periodically to make sure the beans stay covered with water.

Test the beans for doneness around 4 hours (8 if on low) by spooning out a few and blowing on them. They are ready when the skins peel back, or when the texture feels right to you.

Salt should be added for the last 30 minutes of cooking. If you miss that mark and find that they are already done, add the salt and the beans let sit off the heat for 20 minutes to absorb additional flavor.

When the beans and chicken are ready, remove the bay leaves. Shred chicken and return to the slow cooker.

Serve over yellow rice with cilantro and a squeeze of lime.


20-Minute Pasta with Goat Cheese, Shallots, and Arugula | pasta recipes | vegetarian recipes

20-Minute Pasta with Goat Cheese, Shallots, and Arugula [Vegetarian]

I don’t think I’ve told you that I’m trying to become a dog person. Robby is a dog person in general, and specifically a briard person. He grew up with these dogs, and it’s a given that we’ll have some down the line. I, on the other hand, grew up with the occasional hamster. And some betta fish. I haven’t been certain that the dog life is for me. I mean, they drool, and you have to be home to take them outside and they’re expensive and…

I think he can stop worrying now though. I can say this with reasonable confidence because I tried to write this post at my friends’ place, where it took me twice as long as usual because it was hard to type while cuddling their TEENY TINY NEW PUPPY.

Say hi to Ellie!

It’s inefficient but I’m having a really hard time minding. Also my old cell phone doesn’t do her cuteness justice. Trust me, there’s a lot of it.

What were we here for? Oh, right.

20-Minute Pasta with Goat Cheese, Shallots, and Arugula

One of the things I like best about cooking is the feeling of accomplishment when I invent a meal out of what’s in the fridge. This vegetarian pasta came about when I had most of a container of arugula left and was determined not to let it die the slow death of greens abandoned in the fridge. I grabbed one of my favorite recipes from one of my favorite blogs, and lo! A meal that is fast but satisfying to cook and contains all of the grains, greens, and goat cheese you could want. Vegetarian pasta recipe that still has protein and creamy richness? Yes please.

Goat Cheese, Shallot, and Arugula Pasta | vegetarian recipes | pasta recipes | healthy recipes | BearandBugEats.com

Speaking of substance, I’ve been trying out different whole-wheat and part-whole-wheat pastas lately. I’ve mentioned that I’m not crazy about the texture of 100% whole grain foods, especially in something like pasta where the texture is essential to the dish. So far the best one I’ve found is Barilla White Fiber Pasta, which is made of regular flour with some whole wheat mixed in. This one’s pretty close to regular pasta (if you have a favorite brand of whole-grain pasta that tastes and feels more or less like regular pasta, leave me a comment! I need all the help I can get). So far Barilla White Fiber is only stocked at my store in the shell shape, which is sort of limiting if you want other shapes. First world problems…

Goat Cheese, Shallot, and Arugula Pasta | vegetarian recipes | pasta recipes | healthy recipes | BearandBugEats.com

Goat Cheese, Shallot, and Arugula Pasta | vegetarian recipes | pasta recipes | healthy recipes | BearandBugEats.com

I had to leave the puppy with them, but this delicious pasta can go home with you!

*This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you buy something using them, I get a tiny commission. Thanks for supporting Bear & Bug Eats!*

Recipe adapted from one I’ve been using for probably a couple of years now: 30 Minute Caramelized Shallot, Spinach and Goat Cheese Pasta from the fabulous blog How Sweet Eats.

20-Minute Pasta with Goat Cheese, Shallots, and Arugula

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

20-Minute Pasta with Goat Cheese, Shallots, and Arugula


12 ounces pasta

4 tablespoons olive oil

Optional: 2 tablespoons butter

4 medium shallots, sliced

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 garlic cloves, minced

5 ounces arugula

8 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Red pepper flakes


Bring salted water to a boil for pasta; start to cook per directions.

While the water is going, heat olive oil over medium low. Add the shallots and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until shallots are soft.

At some point, the pasta will be ready. Drain and return to the pot. Stir in goat cheese until it starts to melt.

Add optional butter and garlic to the shallot mix. Cook for another minute.

Turn off the heat and add arugula. Toss until it starts to wilt.

Combine shallot mix with pasta and mix well. Sprinkle red pepper flakes on top and serve!


Classic Pork Fried Rice | healthy recipes | asian recipes | BearandBugEats.com

Classic Pork Fried Rice

I am so excited to finally have written down this simple recipe. I wing fried rice all the time, but without a recipe I get lazy and sometimes it comes out flat and uninspiring. That’s honestly one of the reasons I started a food blog — to have all of my favorite recipes in one searchable location. Seriously, I look forward to the day when I am not the vast majority of the hits on my Roasted Brussels Caesar Salad and Hibachi Noodle Bowls. (I’m there a lot. It might be a while.)

It’s fabulous to have everything in one place, because a) I <3 organization and b) I’m busy. Not as busy as some people, but I am the sort of introvert who likes periods of peace and quiet. When I lose that, I get overwhelmed fast.

Is there anyone out there who isn’t busy? Do you like it? What’s your secret? Busyness is a virtue in modern American culture, which is dumb. But I’m also relearning that when you pursue worthy goals, you have to work hard–and that includes putting in a lot of what would otherwise be free time.

On the balance, I am trying to take Sundays more or less off. The slippery slope of being unable to stop working is looming before me, but I refuse to let it get me. (Not sure yet what my success will be like; I’ll report back.)

Classic Pork Fried Rice

Fried rice is a great one for busy days. There are many ways to make fried rice; this recipe is essentially a copycat for takeout Chinese. You may have noticed that the pork in takeout rice usually has a reddish tinge–that’s cha siu, a sweet barbecued pork (I’ve used it before in Cha Siu Bao). Of course, you can sub in any protein you like.

One of the key things about stir fried rice is that “stir fry” is very literal, especially if you use a wok. Turn the heat up high and keep the ingredients moving to help them get toasty without letting them burn. That said, a saute pan works fine if you don’t have a wok. (If you’re curious about real wok techniques, check out this interview.)

Here are some general guidelines for fried rice, if you’re feeling adventurous:

  • Leftover rice is perfect, as it’s less wet than fresh. I like to make extra rice for other meals and then follow it up with fried rice later in the week.
  • Chicken and shrimp are also great options. Substitute stir-fried tofu to turn this into a vegetarian dish!
  • Classic takeout veggies are peas and carrots, but edamame, mushrooms, and bean sprouts all work well.
  • A tip from takeout: chop all the elements so they’re the size of the peas or whatever the smallest vegetable is.
  • People who want to add heat can use sriracha, red pepper flakes, or sweet Thai chili sauce.

With assistance from this recipe.

Fried Rice

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: Serves 4 (or 3, if very hungry)

Fried Rice


2+ tablespoons oil (peanut or another oil with a high smoke point)

1 medium onion, chopped

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup green peas or shelled edamame, thawed

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons minced ginger

2 eggs

3 cups cooked rice

2 cups chopped cha siu (Chinese barbecued pork)

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (can substitute rice wine)

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Green onions, chopped

Sesame seeds


Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok or large saute pan over high heat until shimmering. Cook onions and carrots until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add peas or edamame and cook for 1 more minute. Remove vegetables to bowl.

Crack the eggs into the wok with more oil, if needed. Scramble and cook until just done. Use the spatula to beak the egg into small pieces and remove to sit with vegetables.

Heat the final tablespoon of oil and add garlic and ginger. Cook until fragrant, just a few seconds, and add rice. Continue stirring, breaking up any rice clumps, until the rice starts to get just a little crisp.

Add vegetables back in, along with cha siu, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar. Keep stirring for another minute, until the whole thing is heated through and evenly seasoned.

Turn off heat and stir in sesame oil and pepper.

Mix well; top with green onions and sesame seeds.


White Chicken Chili | Entree Recipes | Soup Recipes | Healthy Recipes

Quick White Chicken Chili + Riesling

It’s January 9 and I’m about 90% done with writing down my goals. When I’m ready I’ll do a quick writeup of my method here, both for anyone who’s interested and for me for next time. Because this is my space, I’m going to take a second to whine that the process is bending my brain.

My most complicated goal is working on this blog, which is going to involve improving photography, learning CSS, studying food styling, writing a business plan, and about a zillion things that I haven’t even thought of yet. After I think of them all, I have to learn them, schedule them, and then make them happen (this, by the way, is the one keeping me at 90%). Clearly it’s also going to make me a project management expert. I will be SO marketable by the time I’m done.

But that’s not why you’re here.

You’re here for January healthy-hearty-delicious-feel-good meals, and White Chicken Chili delivers.

I’ve been looking for a white chicken chili recipe for a while, and this is a great one. It’s delicious and it’s easy, and cooking time is less than half an hour, which is a huge bonus when it comes to chili. You do need to chop a bunch of veggies and have the chicken cooked (great way to use leftovers!) But there’s only 25 minutes of cooking time, and most of that is the chili simmering away while you wash the cooking dishes or read a book or do yoga or stream half an episode of “Legends of Tomorrow.”

White Chicken Chili

This dish is January-requisite healthy, loaded with chicken, beans, and veggies. It’s warm enough for cold nights, but fresh and light enough that it can be eaten any day of the year.

I made this at my friends’ house, with Robby acting as sous chef. Some of my friends are working towards eating paleo, so we ate this chili with a really cool paleo “cornbread” with ghee (that last link will take you to Alton Brown’s recipes for ghee and clarified butter. Mmmm). It fed all five of us with just a smidge left over.

And like all the best recipes, you can make it perfect for YOU. Try one of these:

  • As written, this chili is pretty mild, with just a touch of spice. To make spicier, leave the seeds in the jalapeno, add more peppers, or use extra chili powder.
  • To make creamier, stir a half cup of sour cream into the pot at the very end.
  • To make larger, for a big group or for leftovers for DAYS, double!
  • Suggested toppings include shredded Mexican cheese, sour cream, crushed tortilla chips, cilantro, and lime.

I HIGHLY recommend the lime, by the way. I’m not usually a big lime fan, but that little squeeze of fresh lime adds a perfect splash of brightness.

Robby Recommends: Riesling!

If you think a little wine is just what chili needs, Robby recommends Reisling. In general, spicier food calls for sweeter wine, so one way to choose an appropriate Reisling is to use one of the German sweetness scales. As written, this chili pairs well with a Kabinett-level Riesling, which is a little drier. If you spice up the soup with extra peppers, try a Spatlese-level Reisling (a little sweeter; Robby likes the quirkily-named Dr Loosen). If you’re curious about what those terms mean, check out this handy guide.

Tell me: What are some of your favorite January meals? I’d love to try them out!

Based on this recipe from The Food Network.

White Chicken Chili

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: Feeds 6

White Chicken Chili


2 cans white beans

Vegetable oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium jalapeno, deseeded and minced

2 medium poblano peppers, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ancho or chipotle powder

4 cups chicken broth

Juice of 2 limes

3 cups cooked chicken, shredded or chopped

1/4 cup fresh cilantro

Toppings: Sour cream, shredded cheese, crushed tortilla chips, additional cilantro, lime wedges


Drain and rinse the beans. Mash half the beans and set aside.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat. Saute garlic, peppers, and onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add spices and cook for another minute. Stir in chicken broth and lime juice and bring to a simmer.

Stir in beans and chicken. Bring back to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.

Add cilantro; taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve topped with all deliciousness.


A healthy, savory sandwich with arugula, tart apple, and melty brie! | BearandBugEats.com

Apple Brie Panini

Hello, 2017!

I’m working on goals for the year. Not resolutions, because those don’t seem to stick properly; and because goals seem to be increasingly important in my ever-busier life. I’m not very good at it, though. It tells you something that today is January 3, and I’m only about 75% of the way through putting my goals together. I’m a work in progress.

A healthy, savory sandwich with arugula, tart apple, and melty brie! | BearandBugEats.com

One of my goals, like the vast majority of Americans, involves eating–and cooking–healthier. I think it’s important here to acknowledge that “healthy” is both a loaded and somewhat undefined word. After discussion with Robby, my “healthy” will focus on two things: 1) more vegetables, and 2) more unrefined carbs (and likewise fewer refined carbs). The first shouldn’t be too hard; the second… I did some research to find out what exactly unrefined carbs are. Essentially, they’re things like beans, peas, whole grains, fruits and veg. I’m not really a fan of beans or whole grains, so I’ve got a lot to teach myself. 
A healthy, savory sandwich with arugula, tart apple, and melty brie! | BearandBugEats.com

Side note: it’s one of my aims to never use the words “guilt-free” or similar here. I’ve begun to realize that we have a damaging tendency to assign morality to food. Chocolate mousse is “sinful,” truffles made with dates instead of sugar are “guiltless.” The problem with that is when we internalize that certain foods are bad, and we are bad for eating them, i.e. we are guilty for eating real chocolate. It’s actually one of the things that can lead to eating disorders. Isn’t the world hard enough without us laying into ourselves for being hungry

A healthy, savory sandwich with arugula, tart apple, and melty brie! | BearandBugEats.com

Anyway. All that to say that this sandwich is healthy but still delicious. (It also was not made with whole grains, although a quick bread swap could change that.) I’ve learned that the best sandwiches have at least 5 ingredients, but they don’t have to be complicated. This one calls for a little prep and a little patience in cooking, but it’s simple to assemble and the payoff is delicious.

Best, it only takes about 30 minutes to make a full plate of hot sandwiches. Winner, winner, weeknight dinner!

A riff on this recipe.

Apple Brie Panini

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 6 sandwiches

Apple Brie Panini


Baguette, sliced into 6 equal pieces, each sliced in half

6 ounces brie cheese, thinly sliced

1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced

2 cups arugula

6 slices turkey


Dijon mustard

Butter, preferably unsalted


To build each sandwich, butter the outsides of the bread pieces. Spread mayonnaise on both insides and mustard on one side.

On the bottom slice of bread, layer on: brie, apple, turkey, arugula, apple, brie. Top with the upper piece of bread.

Cook in a panini press for about 5 minutes, or until sandwich is hot and golden on the outsides. If you don't have a panini press, use a griddle or saute pan. Rest another pan on top of the sandwich to flatten.


12 New Year's Champagne Cocktails | BearandBugEats.com

12 New Year’s Champagne Cocktails

Deep breath in: the holidays have come and mostly gone. Deep breath out.

I took advantage of an extended work break and spent a few days in the San Francisco area with my dad’s side of the family. With one exception, all of the cousins are grown up now, in college or later. It was the first time in years that we’ve all been together in one place at the same time. We got close at my wedding, but one of the others got a job offer riiiight before and couldn’t come (her sister glued a photo of her face on a stick and held it up for all the pictures instead).

We had four generations in one room this Christmas. My grandparents are elderly now–I think my grandfather is 91?–and the youngest ones, my cousin’s kids, are about five and two. They added a level of excitement for sure. The five year old tried so hard, divvying up the gifts beforehand so we’d get to them faster, before he couldn’t take the anticipation and ripped into his pile. It sort of devolved from there into a wrapping paper snowstorm.

12 New Year's Champagne Cocktails | BearandBugEats.com

But it was really good. I took a red eye home on Christmas Eve, Robby picked me up on Christmas morning–with flowers!–and we’ve been catching up on sleep for a couple of days. Thankfully I have the rest of the week off, because it’s going to take that long to put my holiday-travel-addled brain back into gear.

There is, of course, one more holiday to celebrate: New Year’s Eve! Whether you’re more excited about setting resolutions, dressing up fancy and drinking Champagne, watching college football, or kicking 2016 on its way out (you know who you are, and no one blames you), there’s no time more appropriate to try a new sparkling cocktail.

For this post, Robby and I made one each. Characteristically, Robby made a twist on a classic cocktail, and I made a two-ingredient one that includes both fruit and sugar.

12 New Year's Champagne Cocktails | BearandBugEats.com

Here’s one easy tip for making fizzy drinks: Add the bubbly last! This keeps the drink from fizzing over, causing a sticky, bubble-losing mess.

Here’s a second tip: You don’t need to use actual Champagne (which is either from Champagne, France, or from grape vines originally from that location). You can use pretty much any bubbly you want–prosecco, cava, or my favorite, sweet moscato d’asti. The one caveat is to take note of whether the recipe calls for dry or sweet fizz. Try to stay within those to most closely recreate the cocktail. We used Scharffenberger Brut Excellence today, which is drier, since both our cocktails had other sugary ingredients. (We also used St. Augustine New World Gin, which comes from an awesome craft distillery a couple hours north of us. They do fabulous tours, with tastings!)

12 New Year's Champagne Cocktails | BearandBugEats.com

One word of caution: the French 77 is a take on the French 75, which was named after a powerful WWII gun. Gin is deceptively smooth, but a couple of these and you’ll know exactly why this drink was named for a weapon!

In case you’re feeling adventurous, or are looking for something specific, I’ve put together a list of ten other cocktail recipes that includes everything from the most classic Champagne Cocktail to island-inspired drinks with rum.

How was your holiday season? Are you ready for it to be over, or already anticipating the next one?

New Year's Champagne Cocktails

New Year's Champagne Cocktails


French 77

2 oz gin

.5 oz lemon juice

.5 oz elderflower liqueur

.5 oz simple syrup

Champagne or sparkling wine

Lemon slice for garnish

Raspberry "Bellini"

1 tablespoon raspberry sorbet


Raspberries and lemon twist for garnish


French 77

Combine gin, elderflower liqueur, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a tumbler over ice and stir.

Strain into a Champagne flute. Top with Champagne and garnish with a lemon slice.

Raspberry "Bellini"

Place sorbet into a champagne flute. Top with Champagne and garnish with raspberries and a lemon twist.


French 77: For a cleaner, less juniper-y flavor, use a cucumber-infused gin (such as Hendricks or Botanica Spiritvs).

Raspberry "Bellini": A true bellini is made with peach, but they can be made with any fruit you like.


The famous Gin Family Potato Rolls! | BearandBugEats.com

The Gin Family Potato Rolls

The famous Gin Family Potato Rolls! | BearandBugEats.com

The famous Gin Family Potato Rolls! | BearandBugEats.com

The famous Gin Family Potato Rolls! | BearandBugEats.com

This, like the Chocolate Crinkles, is a family recipe: the Gins, my maternal grandmother’s family, have been making this for decades. I’ve eaten countless numbers of these rolls at my grandmother’s house, often in the form of salami sandwiches (she’s one of those people who buys treats for the guests when they come over, and she definitely has my number). My aunts have also made these forever. This Thanksgiving, one of my aunts put a photo of her recipe copy–in my grandmother’s handwriting–online, and I transcribed it.

I always supposed that my grandmother, or someone in my family, had invented this family gem. I found out recently that my cousins thought that some ancient Gin invented these in China and carried the recipe over the Pacific to pass it down to their descendants. They were crushed when my aunt broke the news that the original recipe was from the very white, very fictional baker Betty Crocker. (It also occurred to them after this revelation that the Chinese don’t eat potatoes.)

Regardless of their origins, these potato rolls are here to stay. I made them once for Friendsgiving and they were devoured, even though I hadn’t really let them rise enough. This time, I tried some tweaks to the original recipe.

I started the recipe and then split it in two, using bread flour for half and all-purpose for the other. Robby and I then did an extremely scientific test, consisting of eating two rolls (and in Robby’s case, smelling extensively). Here’s the photo evidence:

The famous Gin Family Potato Rolls! | BearandBugEats.com

The top roll is an all-purpose flour roll, and the lower is a bread flour roll. You can see that the lower one has smaller holes and is less fluffy-looking, which matches what I found on The Internetz: bread flour rolls have more chewy, firm substance–just the way I like them. The all-purpose rolls were more tender and soft–just the way Robby likes them. (For the record, Sommelier Robby also tells me that the bread flour ones were more aromatic. Clearly I should have smelled them more closely.) This is because bread flour is made from wheat that has a higher protein (gluten) content, which is what creates that height and bounce in bread.

The verdict: If you have a preference, you can absolutely influence the texture through your flour choice. If you don’t, or if you only have one type of flour on hand, they’ll still turn out great.

Both versions are soft with lightly golden tops from the egg wash, with just a hint of sweetness. I love them best fresh with unholy amounts of butter, although we enjoyed them this week as the outsides of ham and Gruyere sandwiches.

This recipe as written makes 24 big rolls or 36 small ones. I considered halving it to make a more modest 12-18, but I only make rolls if I want to feed a large number of people. Or the two of us for a week.

A couple of copious number of notes:

  • This is a two-rise recipe, and as such, it requires several hours. If they don’t look like they rose enough, leave them alone–the dough really will triple if you let it.
  • The original recipe calls for non-fat milk powder. I’ve rewritten it to call for milk instead, and reduced some of the water to make up for the difference. I used non-fat milk, but any sort of milk should work here. If you prefer milk powder, use 3 tablespoons with 2 1/4 cups boiling water.
  • I also used rehydrated potato flakes, but you should also be able to use leftover mashed potatoes. You want 2 1/2 cups of thin mashed potatoes (a pureed consistency). Simply thin potatoes with milk until you have the right amount.
  • Dough may refrigerated after the first rise and folding down. Oil dough lightly and cover to prevent it from drying out; use within 1 day.
  • Dough may also be frozen after first rise! Oil dough and place in heavy ziploc bag before freezing.
  • I topped these with egg wash only, but some family versions are also topped with poppy seeds. I think sesame seeds would also be great.
  • I used King Arthur brand flour. I’m telling you this not because you need to–although it’s excellent flour–but because King Arthur flour in general has a higher protein content than other types of flour (for instance, the bread flour has almost 13% protein). This means that if you use another brand of flour, your rolls will likely be even softer and more tender than these.

I’m having a lot of fun making these family recipes. It’s a connection to the women who have made them (though if any men in the family show up with signature recipes that I can borrow, I’ll happily try them), and it’s a point of pride to see if I can replicate the dishes that are linked with tradition in my mind.

Hopefully I can not make tradition the part where I cut the first batch of bread into twelve equalish blobs and shaped them, then cut the other batch of bread and shaped…eleven rolls. I was sure that I had sliced the dough into halves, quarters, twelfths so they would be as even as possible, but it seemed for sure like I’d gone crazy and sliced one of the halves into five (who does that??) As I prepared to put both trays away for rising, Robby pointed at the bench scraper, which was propped at an angle, and said, “What’s that?” It was lying on top of the twelfth dough blob.

Yep. Welcome to my kitchen.

* Photo credit for all the best photos, including the ones that make my hands look unrealistically elegant, goes to Robby*

(This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you buy something through one of them, I get a tiny commission. Thanks for supporting Bear & Bug Eats!)

The Gin Family Potato Rolls

Prep Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours, 42 minutes

Yield: 24-36 rolls



1 cup instant mashed potato flakes

3/4 cup nonfat milk

1 1/2 cups boiling water

2/3 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast (1 package)

2/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

7-8 cups bread or all-purpose flour

Egg Wash

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon water


Make "potatoes" by putting flakes in a small pot and adding boiling water and milk (you'll end up with about 2 1/2 cups liquidy "mashed potatoes." Let cool to 130 degrees or lower before using.

Stir together potatoes, wet ingredients, yeast, sugar, salt, and 1 cup flour. Let sit for 3-5 minutes.

Place 6 cups flour in large bowl. Add wet mixture and stir to incorporate. Gradually add flour as needed until dough comes away more or less clean from the sides of the bowl.

Knead, adding flour as necessary, until dough is no longer sticky and comes away from hands cleanly.

Oil both bowl and dough ball. Cover and let rise in a warm spot for 1-2 hours. Dough will triple in size (yes, really).

Fold down dough. Shape into rolls and place onto baking sheet, either lightly greased or covered with parchment paper. Cover and allow to rise another 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water and brush the tops of the rolls.

Bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Makes 24 delicious rolls.


Easy Latkes! | BearandBugEats.com

Easy Latkes

Easy Latkes! | BearandBugEats.com
Easy Latkes! | BearandBugEats.com

Easy Latkes! | BearandBugEats.com

I feel compelled to start with the disclaimer that I am not Jewish, nor have I been tutored in the ways of classic dishes by a wise Jewish grandmother. This latke-maker is entirely Gentile — although the recipe I’ve borrowed is from Deb Perelman, who is a actual Jewish woman living in New York (her blog Smitten Kitchen is one of my absolute favorites, and she has a cookbook!).

I will also tell you up front what you probably already know: these are not diet food. They are potato pancakes. Fried potato pancakes. This is probably why they only really come around during Hanukkah – or, you know, a month or so prior to that if you’re a non-Jewish food blogger and testing a recipe several weeks ahead of the appropriate holiday. They’re also really easy, which is sort of a theme around here.

It’s a nice basic idea: Potatoes, seasoned with onions, salt and pepper, are held together with egg and just a touch of flour and fried. (I used all-purpose flour, but you could easily use another sort to make these gluten-free.)  To get the lovely texture, the potatoes and onions are shredded. I had to do this on a box grater, but you could do it even faster in a food processor.

I like my latkes to hold together, but I also want them flat for maximum crispy. To do this, I lightly packed the mix into a quarter cup measure and dropped those into the pan, then flattened them with the back of a spoon. (The recipe I got this from said to use a spoon: I tried this with a spatula and I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, but the spoon worked better.) They cook fast, and they keep warm nicely in the oven. You can even make a whole batch and reheat in the oven later.

I went a bit off-book here and grated a clove of garlic into my latkes, and topped them with sour cream and green onions (chives are also great!). They were AMAZING. If you like them with applesauce or jam or something sweet, skip the garlic.

What are your favorite holiday foods? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. My Chocolate Crinkles recipe from last week is my most popular one to date! I’m excited in general, but also really thrilled that it’s one of my favorite family recipes that is getting so much attention. If you make them, send a picture or comment on the Bear & Bug Facebook page!

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

Easy Latkes

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes


1 pound Russet potatoes, peeled and shredded

1 small onion, peeled and shredded

1/4 cup flour

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Peanut or other oil for frying


Drain excess liquid out of potatoes and onions by wrapping in a cheesecloth and squeezing. Let sit for 2 minutes, then squeeze again.

Combine in a bowl with other ingredients and mix until potatoes are evenly coated.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil over medium high heat until shimmering.

Drop of the mix by 1/4 cupfuls into the pan and flatten gently. Cook until golden on the bottom (about 2 minutes) and flip, cooking until that side is also golden (about 1 minute).

Remove to drain on paper towels. Keep warm in oven as needed.

Serve savory with sour cream and chives, or sweet with applesauce!


To reheat to crisp, preheat oven to 400. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet reheat to desired crispiness.