Tuesday, February 23, 2010

And Then There Were None...

I live in Colorado now...& I love snow...for a few weeks. My plan was to escape my Winter for a long weekend in my home state...TEXAS!

I will arrive in Austin...just in time for their next forecasted snow storm...(& yes, I said next). SERIOUSLY?

When I am getting ready to travel, I take inventory of my refrigerator contents...I hate for food to spoil...especially my beautiful fresh produce. I lay everything out on the kitchen counter & then I get very creative...tonight, it was a masterpiece!

Rotisserie Chicken & Veggie Paella
Serves 6-8

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 red bell pepper, small dice
1 or 2 Portobello mushrooms, large dice
1 tsp paprika (not smoked)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup uncooked brown rice (quick cook)
2 cups chicken stock (I used Kitchen Basics)
1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in 1/2 lengthwise
1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 Rotisserie chicken, deboned & chopped
8 oz fresh baby spinach, rough chopped
1 cup frozen peas
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar

Heat olive oil in a large skillet with a lid or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion & garlic & saute until onions are translucent. Add bell pepper & mushrooms. Saute down while stirring until softened, 3-4 minutes.

Combine paprika, oregano, thyme, black & cayenne peppers in a small bowl. Add to the pan & stir well. Continue cooking for about 1 minute. Add chicken stock, uncooked rice, tomatoes, & salt. Stir well. Bring to a boil, & then reduce heat & cover. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in vinegar. Add spinach, peas, & chicken. Replace cover & cook for 5 more minutes. Remove from the heat & let sit covered for 5 more minutes. Serve & enjoy!

I realize this seems like alot of ingredients, but it really came together quickly. Six of the ingredients are dry seasonings & the olive oil is a staple...so not as lengthy as it might appear.

My refrigerator is officially bare...making me travel ready. But better yet, after dinner, I overheard my son telling his friend that his mom just made "the best dinner ever"...so mission more than accomplished!!

Y'all Enjoy Now,


Monday, February 15, 2010

"Man Cannot Live By Bread Alone..."

"He Must Also Have Peanut Butter." ~President James A. Garfield

This very well may have been the first government proclamation of the importance of a balanced diet!

While I posted this in honor of Presidents' Day...you might find it interesting to know that this holiday is officially Washington's Birthday...which actually falls on February 22...the celebration of which was moved to the third Monday in 1968. The holiday name change was never authorized by Congress...yet "popular usage" by the people has made it so. I wonder what else we could "make so"...?!?

I suppose if I were actually preparing a Birthday dinner for George Washington, I would have chosen a menu more befitting of a President...but in light of the current economy...Green Chili Stew it is... :)

Green Chili Stew
Serves 8

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lb pork tenderloin, sliced 1/2" thick
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
6 cups organic chicken stock
1 lb red potatoes, 1/2" cubed
2 small carrots, sliced
2 tsp fine sea salt
2 cups mild roasted, diced green chilies (see note)
3 Tbsp red bell pepper, small dice
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium high heat. Brown the tenderloin in batches & set aside. Reduce to a medium heat. Saute the onion & garlic in the remaining oil until the onions are golden. Add the meat back to the pot along with any juices. Add the chicken stock, potatoes, carrots, & salt and bring this mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat & simmer for one hour.

Break up the pork tenderloin if needed. Add the green chilies & red bell pepper. Simmer for additional 20 minutes. Stir in the cilantro. Serve with blue corn tortilla chips & Enjoy!

Note: Use canned or fresh chilies depending on availability. If you like your stew with a little more heat, you can use 1 cup mild & 1 cup hot green chilies. I found that using all mild chilies still had plenty of kick & my kids were able to enjoy it...adjust according to your family preferences.

So, Happy Birthday Mr. President...with a cherry on top!



Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Heart Wants What The Heart Wants...

When it comes to matters of the heart, it is easy to lose focus, get your priorities out of line, & completely ignore the big picture.

You know what I'm talking about...

My freshman year...I arranged my class schedule around Greg & Jenny.

Luke & Laura had total control of my sophomore calendar. And Beau & Hope...they've captured decades of our time & are still at it.

My own grandfather had only one "show" that he would not miss...As the World Turns. OK...that was not completely honest, there were two shows...the second was "wrastlin" (which was often more believable than any of the aforementioned)...but I digress.

Regardless of age or gender...our hearts are drawn...sometimes unexplainably & almost magnetically to these stories. Relationships that sometimes nurture & thrive...and other times, harm & destroy.

February is all about the Heart...specifically, heart disease...the number one killer of women & men. Are you giving your heart the nurturing "ingredients" it needs to thrive?

I prepared a scrumptious meal that is FULL of heart healthy nutrients...omega 3's, folate (B-12), alpha & beta carotenes (lutein & lycopene), beta-sitosterols, lignans, allicin...all top "ticker" benefits!

Treat yourself to the BEST Valentine...Love your own Heart!!

Salmon & Avocado with Sesame Tamari Dressing
2 servings

3 Tbsp Tamari, divided
12 oz wild caught Salmon fillet, cut in half
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 tsp agave nectar
2 tsp peeled, grated fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, finely minced
pinch fine sea salt
1 firm, ripe avocado, chilled
1 tsp sesame seeds, toasted

Preheat broiler. Place baking pan under broiler for 5 minutes. Brush salmon with 1 Tbsp of the tamari. Place the salmon on the heated baking sheet (allowing it to cook from the top & bottom simultaneously) and put under the broiler for 8-10 minutes. Salmon should flake easily with a fork when done.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining tamari, rice vinegar, lemon juice, sesame oil, agave, ginger, garlic, & salt. Pit & peel the avocado & cut into 1/2" dice. Add the avocado to the dressing & gently combine. Plate the cooked salmon & top with avocado dressing. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds & serve.

Before you say "I hate salmon", I dare you to give this a try...most people just have not had it prepared flavorfully. My kids were literally asking to lick their plates after this meal...I reminded them that was somewhat canine in approach although I appreciated the compliment :)

Tamari: a gluten free soy sauce. I choose it because I like to avoid gluten when possible & it is lower in sodium. It is available in most markets & typically shelved with the soy sauces. I've included a link to the brand I typically see & buy so that you know what it looks like.

Broccoli & Sundried Tomatoes
2 servings

1 small bunch broccoli, stemmed & cut into florets
2 oz sundried tomatoes (usually with the dried fruits, not in heavy oils & spices)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
Sea salt & fresh ground pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer & plunge the broccoli into the water for 3 minutes. In the meantime, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add garlic & sundried tomatoes & saute. Drain broccoli & add to the skillet. Toss the broccoli with the tomatoes & continue to heat for about 5 minutes. Salt & pepper to taste.

Treating our hearts & the hearts of those we love with this kind of TLC will help insure that we keep All My Children out of General Hospital all the Days of Our Lives ;)

Be My Valentine,


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Here's Lookin' At You...

Just a few days away from the Creole Superbowl (kinda catchy?!?)...& I'm reminded of my first visit to Louisiana.

The last few days of Summer before my Junior year at Baylor University, I traveled with a small group of my sorority sisters to Louisiana State University. Our mission...to support the ADPi House with their Summer rush for new pledges & to have fun in the process...the primary goal of any serious college student :)

We were welcomed enthusiastically & graciously invited into their House. After a full day of meet & greet with potential new sisters, we gathered eagerly around the long dining tables...this group of sassy young sorority girls...famished!

Dinner was served...& it was...looking at me!

Now I didn't know much about Cajun cuisine. I'm talking Yellow Rose of Texas Southern girl...& in Texas, you might get your steak rare...but even then, the eyes would NOT be included! There I was ...face to face with hundreds of tiny crustaceans...struggling...conflicted! What would Emily Post do right now? And if I were able to consult her Guide to Etiquette, what indeed would she say about sucking the brains out of the crawdad head after consuming the almond sized piece of "meat" they had to offer?

I did what any well-mannered Southern girl would do in this moment...I asked...very politely..."where is the closest pizza parlor?"

In the years since then, I have had the pleasure of experiencing a wide variety of Creole dishes...discovering along the way that most will NOT be looking at me! I have a personal favorite spice blend that I have used to give a number of ordinary recipes a little Louisiana Lagniappe (lan-yap)...translation: a little something special :)

Creole Spice Blend
2/3 cup

2 1/2 Tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp fine sea salt
2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp dried thyme

Place all spices in a blender & pulse until well blended. Store in an airtight container. (A good alternative to purchase is Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning which contains no MSG.)

Bayou Country Meatloaf
6 servings

1 lb lean ground turkey or beef
1 cup (8 oz) organic tomato sauce, divided
1 cup prepared brown rice
1/4 medium onion, chopped
4 drops Tobasco sauce
1 (14.5 oz) can organic stewed tomatoes
1 tsp prepared brown mustard
1 tsp Creole Spice Blend

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a loaf pan with butter or butter flavored cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine meat, 1/3 cup tomato sauce, brown rice, onion & Tobasco. Mix well. Press meat into loaf pan & bake for 30 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine remaining 2/3 cup tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, mustard, & spice blend. Pour tomato mixture over meatloaf & bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven & let rest for 10 minutes before serving. This is a super moist meatloaf...good to the last bite!

Cajun in The City Salad
4 servings

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp Creole Spice Blend
6 cups Romaine lettuce
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
1 ripe but firm Bosc pear, cored & sliced
1 sweet tart apple (Honey Crisp, Pink Lady), cored & diced
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

Combine first four ingredients until smooth & well blended to make a dressing. Can be prepared a day ahead.

When ready to serve, toss Romaine lettuce with dressing & divide onto 4 plates. Top with remaining ingredients & serve.

Excellent accompaniment to roasted BBQ chicken or grilled salmon. As an entree salad, divide ingredients onto 2 plates & top with a serving of chicken or salmon.

The Waldorf salad was created at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in 1896 by the maitre d'hotel, Oscar Tschirky, & became an instant success. The original version contained only apples, celery & mayonnaise.

So, even if you're not cheering for the Saints on Sunday, I hope you enjoy a bit of what their culture has to offer even in the most ordinary of recipes!

Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler,


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I Got You Babe...

We're halfway there! February 2nd...halfway between Winter Solstice & Spring Equinox!

More specifically...Groundhog Day!

And while the National Climatic Data Center (gotta be careful how you type that one...) admits that he has only predicted correctly 39% of the time...upwards of 30,000 people gather at Gobblers Knob for the ceremony in Punxsutawney, PA...to gaze upon Phil as he emerges from his hole & checks for his shadow.

Trusting that this year he has predicted correctly...we can look forward to warming up the kitchen with savory soups, cozy casseroles, & warm winter veggies for 6 more weeks!

I don't have a Groundhog Stew in my repertoire...but I do have a mighty tasty Turkey Sweet Potato Chili! I have yet to meet a man, woman, or child who has not loved this dish. I get frequent requests for the recipe & it cycles through our family menu on a regular basis. I hope that you add it to your list of favorites!

Turkey Sweet Potato Chili
Serves 6-8

1 lb lean ground turkey
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large sweet potato, peeled & cut into 1/2" dice
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 (8 oz) can organic diced tomatoes
2 cups organic chicken broth
1 (8 oz) can organic black beans, drained
Fine sea salt & black pepper

Brown the ground turkey, seasoning with salt & pepper. Remove from the pan & set aside. Saute onion, garlic, & sweet potatoes in olive oil over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add turkey back to pan & stir in spices, tomatoes, & chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat & simmer for 20 minutes. Add beans & simmer for 5 more minutes. Add salt to taste. Serve with baked pita chips (Stacy's Simply Naked Pita Chips are great).

By the way, speaking of Groundhog Day...am I the ONLY ONE who can actually see Sonny's cheezy smile while Cher flips that long hair over her right shoulder, all the while belting out that silly little tune we all get stuck in our heads? "Babe!...I got you Babe!"

I didn't think so...

Cheers to Winter,