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Crabby Quarantine

June 13th, 2020

We are now on Day 11 of our quarantine. On day 14 my two daughters and their respective significant others will be huggable. Meanwhile, we have dinners together beside the pool, seated at shouting distance from each other.  

I am cooking because they, being recent travelers from separate hot spots, can’t provide food for my husband  or me, nor can the couples cook for each other. So, as I’m  the only certified safe chef in the family,  I’m chalking up 3000 paces a day in the kitchen. 

As y’all who know me know, one of my noms de plume is The Crabby Cook. There is a reason for that.  Now cooking for six, I’m trying to keep things simple so as not to further my kitchen bitch reputation. To that end, I’m revisiting The Crabby Cook Cookbook, which I wrote for irritable people like me who must deliver regular meals to loved ones even when they’d rather be doing something enlightening like watching  Season 3 of  West Wing.  The book’s   recipes are unglamorous and designed for picky people, so, for everyone.

Last night I made Abby’s Casserole (on page 70.)  It’s like Mexican lasagna: layers of corn tortillas, a spicy meat and bean mixture, and cheese. One of those “ugly, delicious” things. It’s a little labor intensive for low-patience types, but you can make it in advance and then pour a martini and  watch West Wing until people gather poolside.

P.S. I ordered the ground beef from Belcampo Meat Company. It’s really good. They also have a great roaster chicken. 

Plus lots of other meaty sstuff…  

Abby’s Casserole

2 Tbls. Olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 lb. ground beef

1 tsp. each: chili powder, cumin, oregano and paprika

1 tsp.  kosher salt

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 ½ cups tomato sauce

1 14-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed

6 corn tortillas, 8-inch size

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (or Monterey jack , or a mix)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and jalapeno and saute until onion istranslucent, about ten minutes. Add the garlic and cook one more minute.    

Add the beef to the skillet, turn the heat up to medium and cook, breaking it up with a fork, until the beef has just lost its pink color, about 5 minutes. Stir in the spices and salt and pepper and cook two more minutes. Add the tomato sauce, turn down the heat some and let the mixture simmer for about 10 minutes. Then add the beans and the corn, mix well, and set aside.

Place a tortilla on the bottom of a 10-inch, high sided casserole dish. Spread about 2/3 cup of meat mixture on top. Sprinkle about 1/3 cup of cheese on top of that. Repeat these layers about five times, ending with the cheese.  Cover and bake for 30 minutes. 

Remove the cover and continue to bake for another 10 minutes or so, until the casserole is bubbly. Serve hot.

Pandemic adjustments: 

If your tortillas are small, just cut them to fit eh size of your baking dish. (I did this.)

If you don’t have black beans, use another kind. (I did this, too.)

If you don’t have a jalapeno pepper, omit it. (I also did this.)

If you are cooking for six big eaters, double the recipe. (I did this and used two casserole dishes. One version was cheeseless for dairy-haters.)

Also you can: Add more spices if you like, plus a pinch of red pepper flakes if you want more heat. 


Julie’s Chocolate Roll

December 13th, 2017

My sister-in-law Julie is an incredible cook. Her mother, Bette, taught her to make this chocolate roll. Bette used to make six of these every holiday season to give to her kids’ teachers. As a result of those efforts, she is probably in heaven now.  If I ever meet her there. it will NOT be because I gifted educators with dessert. I’m too crabby to spend Christmas baking six times. Read More


Grain Bowl (vs. say, Rose Bowl)

May 1st, 2016

GrainbowlYou know those evenings when you come home from work and the husband is out for dinner so its jut you and the dogs and you want to just chill and watch “Vinyl” but you have to eat and you’re certainly not about to make meat loaf but you don’t want to just eat Cheerios either?

That’s where the grain bowl comes in. Kind of perfect—grains, vegetables, protein—and it can be as simple or as complex as you have the energy for. (I’m a lazy ass so I go with simple.)

Here’s what I made the other night and here are more grain bowl recipes than anyone actually needs.


Jessica’s Grain Bowl

3 teaspoon olive oil, divided

2 scallions, sliced (the white and the green)

½ tsp. fresh thyme leaves

1 cup cooked brown rice

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 cup roughly chopped baby spinach

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

¼ avocado, sliced

1 egg


Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a small saucepan over medium low heat.

Add the scallions and cook, stirring, until softened, about two minutes.

Add the thyme leaves, then the brown rice. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and stir to combine ingredients. Cook for a minute or two till the rice is hot, then stir in the spinach. Cover the pan and let the hot rice steam the spinach until it’s wilted, about 3-4 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small non-stick frying pan, heat the remaining oil over medium heat and fry the egg until it is as firm as you desire, over easy or sunny side up, whatever works for you. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Add the lemon juice to the rice mixture, stir it and place it in a bowl. Place the avocado slices on top, then the fried egg on top of that.


Note: There are infinite variations. Use black rice or quinoa or faro. You can add leftover cooked butternut squash or any other vegetable, chicken, shrimp or beef, cheese—whatever.






Gimme A Bar

April 5th, 2016

QuinoaBarsI was wishing I had one of these at four o’clock Friday when I almost bought those black Repetto shoes to wear to a memorial service but instead left the store empty-handed due to shopper shutdown. Read More


Green Food For St. Pat’s Day!

March 17th, 2016

BASIL290138Going green today with salad and soup…the theory being extra protection against assault by a leprechaun because you are green internally… in the past I have found that pesto sauce is also effective, polish it all off with a little key lime pie and those nasty buggers won’t come near you…Erin Go Bragh!CreamyDreamyFinal1photo


White Chocolate-Cherry-Almond Cookies

February 11th, 2016

BakeLessSugarI’m kind of obsessed with this cookbook my sister-in-law gave me, which is all about baking with less sugar.

I thought I’d try the White chocolate-Cherry-Almond Cookies because, like, why wouldn’t you, plus It’s nice to have a cookie in the house in case someone drops by unexpectedly. Although I’m not sure who actually does that, except that dude who rang my doorbell the other day, wanting to sell me some steaks. Or that lady who said she was a makeup artist and she was at my house for the porn shoot. (She was confused on so many levels.) Read More


Super Bowl Chili

February 4th, 2016

chiliI’m told there’s a Super Bowl on Sunday, so it’s time to haul out the chili recipe. Don’t ask me to tell you who’s playing—well, actually I’m aware that Dnver is involved—but one thing I know is that chili will be expected. Read More


Cranberry Salsa

January 21st, 2016

CranberrySalsa_4130This salsa was brought to my attention by my friend Michelle Latiolais who, having been to my house for dinner a few times, is well aware of my attitude towards complex recipes. Read More


Creamy Dreamy Vegetale Soup

January 14th, 2016

CreamyDreamyFinal1I know there is a school of cooking these days that’s all about hiding vegetables in things so you can sneak up on your kids, nutritionally speaking. But I feel the way my mother does: children should get to know and befriend their vegetables. Read More


New Year’s Resolution Minestrone

January 5th, 2016

soup3So far I have stuck to my New Year’s resolutions except for the part abut the peppermint bark. I resolved to eat nothing but healthy foods and have done so religiously since December 31st–except for the peppermint bark. I just gave the peppermint bark (what was left of it) to Aunt Christina so now I am totally on track.

I made this soup which is full of high-fiber vegetables and makes you feel virtuous even before you finish chopping the leeks. Tom and I have been eating it all weekend and we both feel as fit as say, that guy in “Creed.” (Michael B. Jordan, not Sylvester Stallone.)

I gotta be honest, it’s a pain in the ass to make but worth the trouble because you end up with enough to last for ages so it’s three meals for the aggravation of one. Plus you get all that upper-body exercise from the veggie choppage. Okay, it’s unlikely M.B.J. got those biceps by this method but still.

So give your peppermint bark to an unsuspecting relative and make this soup. You will be glad you did.


New Year’s Resolution Minestrone

(Makes about 12 lunch servings.)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion chopped

2 leeks (white part only), well rinsed and finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic minced

½ teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon dried thyme

salt and freshly ground pepper

½ head Savoy cabbage, shredded

2 large carrots, peeled and diced

2 ribs of celery, diced

1 medium potato (any kind) peeled and cut into ¾ inch dice

1 parsnip, peeled and diced

2 quarts’ low sodium chicken broth (see note)

1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes with their juices

½ cup frozen petite peas

½ cup frozen corn kernels (or fresh if it’s summer and you’re not too crabby to scrape a cob)

1 can (15 ounces) small white bens or pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


  1. Melt the butter in the oil in a large soup pot over low heat. Add the onion and leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetable s are soft and translucent, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, herbs, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 1 minute.
  3. Raise the heat to medium-low and add the cabbage. Cook, stirring once or twice, for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the carrots and cook, stirring once or twice, for about 2 minutes. Repeat this with the celery potato, and parsnip, in that order, adding one vegetable at a time and cooking each for 2 minutes or so.
  5. Add the chicken broth and tomatoes. Raise the heat to medium and bring the soup to a simmer. Then return the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer it for about 1 hour.
  6. Add the peas corn and beans and cook for 15 minutes (Are you crabby, yet?)
  7. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve hot, passing the cheese separately.



If you’re not too crabby already, you can add or substitute any vegetables for those listed, like green beans, broccoli, a turnip, rutabaga – anything your family will tolerate (or not notice). Also, at the end of cooking you can throw in a handful of diced cooked chicken or meat. You can also put a scoop of cooked rice or pasta at the bottom of each diner’s bowl and pour the soup over it.


If I’m too lazy to make homemade, I like to use Imagine Organic Free Range Chicken Broth, which is available at most Whole Foods storesl.


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