Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hot Stuff

Do you like garlic, ginger, chiles and exotic spices? I'm a fanatic for this type of food and today I made a dish that satisfied every single one of my tastebuds. I took a tip from Aarti Sequeira from the Food Network and re-mixed one of her curry recipes. I made a curried couscous. Simple, flavorful and 25 minutes from pot to plate.

Curried Couscous

1 T canola oil
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced green pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 T fresh ginger grated
2 tsp garlic grated
2 Serrano chiles thinly sliced
1 tsp Garam Masala
1/2 tsp paprika
1 14.5 oz can vegatable broth
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 cup golden raisins
2 cups uncooked couscous

In large pan over medium low heat, add oil and warm. Add onions, green pepper and salt and cook (sweat) for about 5 minutes until soft. Add garlic, ginger and chiles. Stir and cook a minute or two. Add Garam Masala and paprika and combine. Add broth, tomato sauce and raisins. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a slow simmer. Cook 15-20 minutes covered. Add the couscous, stir to incorporate the liquid, turn off the burner, cover the pot and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork and serve.

This recipe makes enough to feed an army (8 people-that's an army for me). But if you're like me, you'll eat more than your share. It's a great side and I'm thinking it could be a hearty main dish served at room temp with some rotisserie chicken from the market. And maybe jazz it up with baby peas. I might do that tomorrow.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Melt in your Mouth

One of my favorite cookies ever, and especially during the holiday season is the delight I've been calling Mexican Wedding Cookies. They're buttery, and crumbly and dusted (or doused) with confectioners sugar. You may also know them as Biscochetas, Polvorones, Rohlichky, Schweddy Balls (thanks Erika) or as MaryAnne's mom calls them- Holiday Nuggets. Anyway, I made dozens of these balls of heaven this past weekend to share with my friends and think it's the perfect time to share the recipes with you.

The first recipe is based on a recipe from the Joy of Baking. The second is a mocha re-mix of the first. And then I took the whole shebang a step further and made a coconut version. All are easy, have no eggs and are melt in your mouth delicious. I used my Trinity Flour Mix (4 parts AP flour, 2 parts ground oatmeal, 1 part whole wheat flour) but the recipe originally called for AP flour. So both work fine. Also, all three versions each make about 3 dozen.

Sno Balls

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) at room temperature

1/4 cup confectioners sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups flour

2/3 cups ground walnuts-don't grind to a paste; you just want to avoid big chunks

1 cup confectioners sugar for dusting

IN LARGE BOWL mix butter and 1/4 cup of sugar until well blended. Add vanilla and salt and mix again. Beat in flour, then ground nuts and mix. Divide dough in half forming each into a ball. Wrap separately in plastic and chill about 30 minutes.

PRE-HEAT OVEN to 350. Working with half the dough, roll into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Place balls on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack for about 5 minutes and toss warm cookies in confectioners sugar. Repeat with second ball of refrigerated dough. Cool cookies completely and store in air-tight containers in your fridge.

Mocha Sno Balls

1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1/4 cup confectioners sugar

2 tsp instant coffee powder (I used de-caf)

1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1-3/4 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

2/3 cup ground walnuts

1 cup confectioners sugar for dusting

IN LARGE BOWL mix butter and sugar until well blended. Add vanilla, coffee powder, cocoa and salt and mix well. Add flour and mix until dough is looking crumbly. Add the ground nuts and incorporate. Divide dough in half forming each into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes.

PRE-HEAT OVEN to 350. Working with half the dough, roll into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Place balls on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack for about 5 minutes and toss warm cookies in confectioners sugar. Repeat with second ball of refrigerated dough. Cool cookies completely and store in air-tight containers in your fridge.

Coconut Sno Balls

1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1/4 cup confectioners sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp coconut extract

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup shredded sweetened coconut ground in food processor or spice mill

2 cups flour

1 cup confectioners sugar for dusting

IN LARGE BOWL mix butter and 1/4 cup of sugar until well blended. Add vanilla and salt and mix again. Beat in flour, then ground coconut. Divide dough in half forming each into a ball. Wrap separately in plastic and chill about 30 minutes.

PRE-HEAT OVEN to 350. Working with half the dough, roll into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Place balls on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack for about 5 minutes and toss warm cookies in confectioners sugar. Repeat with second ball of refrigerated dough. Cool cookies completely and store in air-tight containers in your fridge.

I have a few more ideas for this cookie, but I don't know if I'll have the stamina to get to them before the holidays. Lemon Sno Balls are at the top of my list. And what about Almond Sno Balls? This kind of recipe gives me Obsessive Compulsive Recipe Disorder. Yeah, I can live with that. As a start, try these and have a ball.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cookies with Attitude

I've dreamed about these cookies and finally made them this morning. They're really simple and quick and made with one of my favorite ingredients- Nutella. And when you take your first bite, the chocolatey chewiness, crunchy hazelnuts and ooey-gooey marshmallows put you in a place that says, "One is not enough". Plus the recipe works beautifully if you want to make a double batch. And I recommend you do just that.

Nutella Rocky Road Cookies

1 cup AP flour
1/2 cup old fashioned oats gound in spice grinder
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup sugar (I used Splenda)
1 egg
1 tsp hazelnut flavored ground coffee
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup Nutella
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/3 cup mini marshmallows

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees
In medium size bowl add flours, ground oats, salt and baking soda. Stir with a whisk to incorporate. Set aside.
In large bowl cream butter and sugar with hand mixer about 2-3 minutes. Add egg, vanilla and ground coffee and mix another minute more. Add Nutella and continue to mix until all ingredients are combined. Add half of the flour mixture and mix to incorporate. Now add the rest of the flour and mix until just combined. Add chocolate chips, nuts and marshmallows and combine with a spatula. Form balls out of the batter that are about ping pong ball size. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake 9 minutes. Let cool on wire rack, and dig in. You won't be disappointed. This recipe makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Quick Fix

When you're pressed for time, and the holiday shopping season seems to be taking over your life (you know it's coming soon) here's a quick little ditty that you can put into your weekly repertoire and make in no time at all. It's my version of Cold Asian Noodles with Peanut Sauce. I sometimes eat this dish at night in a big bowl when I'm starving and really want to chow down some carbs, but mostly I wrap a small amount of noodles in lettuce leaves and pack them for travel when I'm on the go in my car. This is one of my go-to-meals when my fridge is almost empty and time is short. I think you'll like this noodle dish because it tastes just like the take-out version.

Asian Inspired Peanut Noodles

4 oz linguini or spaghetti cooked al dente
1 red bell pepper thinly sliced
3 oz snow peas
1/2 cup scallion sliced 1/4 inch

Peanut Dressing
3 cloves garlic minced
2 tsp grated fresh peeled ginger
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 T toasted sesame oil
1 T hot sesame oil
1 tsp sugar

2 T chopped peanuts (I like the dry roasted)
Cilantro- however much you like- I like about 1/2 cup chopped, or whole leaves

Cook Pasta according to package directions. About one minute before pasta is scheduled to be done add snow peas. Cook another minute. Drain pasta and peas and rinse with cold water. Add red pepper and scallions to cooled pasta mixture.

In separate bowl add all ingredients for the dressing. Whisk dressing ingredients together and pour over pasta mixture. Toss and place pasta mixture on lettuce leaves if you like, or serve in soup bowls and garnish with crushed peanuts and cilantro.

Here's the re-mix: This one's all about canned items. Make this as vegetable laden and easy as you can by adding canned Chinese mushrooms and sliced baby corn. My cupboard is usually stocked with all sorts of Asian vegetables, but this week I was out of luck. Another addition for this kind of dish is canned bean sprouts. At first I was hesitant about using them (because they were canned and not fresh), but trust me, they are pretty darn fabulous and help you stretch that dollar.

Monday, November 1, 2010

North African Chicken

In my never ending quest to keep things exciting in the kitchen, the other night I took my tastebuds on a trip and made what I'm now calling North African Chicken. I have a collection of miscellaneous, loose recipes that I recently perused, and left a recipe for North African Meatballs on top with the hope that I'd make it before it got lost in the stack again. The thing that intrigued me about this recipe was the combination of ingredients in the sauce.

I've been making a lot of meatballs lately and didn't have any ground meat in reserve. But I did have two chicken breasts and all the other ingredients the recipe called for, so I got down to business and made a flavorful, exotic, low fat dish that simmered on the stove top for 40 minutes. It's another quick, one-pot wonder that I'll definately make again.

I have no idea where the original recipe came from since my copy was handwritten by me, so I can't give anyone credit. I'm thinking it was an internet site where no name was published. Anyway, thank you internet.

North African Chicken

2 tsp canola oil
1 cup onion chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped
1 lemon zested
12 olives chopped (original recipe called for 1/2 cup) I used Kalamata
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup water
1 tsp sugar
black pepper
2 chicken breasts, skinned with bones left in
2 cups cooked brown rice (my contribution)

Salt and pepper chicken breasts and set aside. In large saucepan saute onion in oil over medium low heat. You want to sweat the onions and not brown them (about 5-7 minutes). Add garlic and cook another minute more. Add lemon zest, olives, cinnamon and red pepper flakes and cook 1 minute. Add white wine and let it reduce for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and water. Add a pinch of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper and sugar. Bring to boil and add seasoned chicken breasts. Reduce heat to a low simmer, cover and cook 35 to 40 minutes. Remove chicken, cool slightly and take the meat off the bones. Place chicken pieces back into the sauce and serve.

I added 2 cups of cooked brown rice to my dish and it was delicious. However, I did some research after preparing this, and discovered that couscous is a staple in the North African kitchen, and that would be a wonderful way to soak up the aromatic liquid.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sweet and Scrumptious

October 14th would have been Sharon's mom's birthday. Rae Fox was a warm hearted, giving and wonderful gal known for her skills in the kitchen, so I decided it was the perfect time to cook up one of her recipes and then post it for you guys to enjoy.

Rae Fox at 28, taking in the scenery from a New York roof top

At first I was going to make Rae's Almost Famous Scrumptious Meatballs and Spaghetti Sauce but the recipe couldn't be found. So I opted for her Sweet and Sour Swedish Meatballs which are scrumptious as well and a quick fix to boot! Even though back in the day slaving over the stove was par for the course, I promise- you can make these little darlings in 45 minutes tops. The ingredients are simple and brought back a most pleasant taste sensation from my childhood. The sweet and sour sauce is the EXACT, I mean EXACT!!! same sauce my mom used to make with her stuffed cabbage. It's a great memory and an even better recipe.

Rae Fox's Sweet and Sour Swedish Meatballs

1 pound ground beef

1/4 cup cooked brown rice

1/2 medium onion grated

1 clove garlic grated

1/2 tsp salt

2 T parsley chopped

1 egg slightly beaten

1/4-1/3 cup lemon juice-I used the juice of 2 lemons

1/4 tsp vinegar- I used rice vinegar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 15 oz can tomato sauce

1 15 oz can water

To make the meatballs: Combine rice, onion, garlic, salt, egg and parsley. Add ground beef and gently mix with your clean hands. Form meatballs about golf ball size. You should get about 15 meatballs. Set aside.

To make the sauce: In large pot over medium low heat add lemon juice, vinegar, brown sugar, tomato sauce and salt. Combine with spoon or whisk until brown sugar has dissolved. Add meatballs and enough water to almost cover the meatballs. I found that 15 ounces of water did the trick. Keep the heat at a low simmer and cook meatballs for 30 minutes, tossing them in the sauce every so often.

Remove meatballs to a separate plate and simmer the sauce for about 5 to 10 minutes to concentrate the flavors and thicken it up a bit. I let it reduce about 1 inch from where it started.

Pour sauce over meatballs and serve. These meatballs are a great appetizer, which is how I enjoyed them on night number one. Reheated the next night they were delicious with brown rice and a salad. This is one of those recipes that is even better the second day. So I say, make a double batch. You won't be disappointed. Thanks Rae.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Still Stewed

I've been stewing a lot of chicken this year. It all started with my mom's old stand-by:

And then there was the Bashian Marinade Fiasko:

The African Kedjenou:

And the Asian obsession:

I've come to the conclusion that this kind of cooking is perfect for my no fuss style in the kitchen. I love a one pot meal that offers easy clean up, great aromas throughout the house, and leftovers that re-heat beautifully. And let's not forget how figure friendly and healthy this type of cooking is. So where do I go from here I wonder, to keep up my excitement? How about the exotic land of India.

A few weeks ago I was watching a new show on the food network hosted by an adorable gal named Aarti Sequeira. She's from India and was making an Indian version of our American Sloppy Joe's. That's not one of my favorite things to eat, yet the sauce she was concocting sure got my attention. I made a note to myself to incorportate her saucey spices in my next stewed chicken creation. And the only thing I didn't have in my pantry or fridge to complete this dish was the spice mix called Garam Masala. If you're not familiar with this seasoning, it's simply a combination of cumin, coriander, cardomom, pepper and cinnamon, and other spices indigenous to Indian cooking. You can make it yourself, but I took the easy route and bought a bottle in the spice aisle of my supermarket for about six dollars.

Indian Inspired Stewed Chicken and Sweet Potatoes

4 bone in chicken thighs, skin removed

salt and pepper

1 T canola oil

1 cup diced onions

1 cup diced green and/or red peppers

2 T minced fresh ginger

1 T minced garlic

1 Serrano chile, seeds included, thinly sliced (I'd use 2 next time)

1 tsp Garam Masala

1/2 tsp paprika

1 15 oz can tomato sauce

1 14.5 oz can low fat, low sodium chicken broth

2 medium size sweet potatoes peeled and cut into 2 inch dice

1/4 cup fresh cilantro for garnish

Salt and pepper the chicken and set aside. Over medium low heat in large pot add canola oil. When oil is warm, add onions and peppers. Cook about 5 minutes until the vegetables have softened, but not browned. Add garlic and ginger and cook for about 1 minute. Add Garam Masala, paprika, 1/2 tsp of salt, black pepper and the Serrano chili. Stir for about 30 seconds and you'll begin to smell the spices emitting their warmth. Add the tomato sauce and chicken broth and increase heat to a rolling simmer. Add chicken, reduce heat to low and cover pot. Cook 25 minutes at a gentle simmer. After 25 minutes add the diced sweet potatoes and continue to cook with the chicken for 15 to 20 minutes. Your Indian stew is ready. I like to serve this with rice, and next time maybe even toss in some raisins toward the end of cooking. I really enjoyed this meal and will make it again for sure.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Square Meal Updated

I recently re-vamped my Breakfast Strata. I changed some of the ingredients and lost the bread (because I've been eating waaay too much bread lately and last years' wardrobe has become a bit snug). So now I guess it's no longer a strata but a baked Western style omelet with tofu sausage patties. If you're making an icky tofu face now, I totally understand. However Morningstar Farms has a great product and I want you to hear me out.

Their sausage patties taste like the real thing. Plus they're filling and won't have you reaching for a cookie or donut mid-morning in the office. They're low in fat and carbs, have no cholesterol and are high in protein. And they're really yummy. Remember- I can be a food snob, and I think these little darlings are great.

Western Style Baked Eggs

4 Morningstar Farms sausage patties

1 cup onions diced (by now you know I use frozen, already diced)

1 cup red and green peppers diced (ditto)

1 T canola oil

1/4 cup low fat cottage cheese

1 cup shredded low fat cheese (Italian Blend in a bag is good- so is the Jack if you can find it)

salt and pepper

16 oz container egg substitute

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Prep 8 x 8 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside. In large saute pan over low flame, sweat onions and peppers in canola oil. Season with salt and pepper. The veggies should be tender and aromatic in about five minutes. Set aside to cool. While vegetables are cooking, prepare sausage patties in microwave according to package directions. Set them aside to cool and then cut them into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces. In medium size bowl place cooled onions, peppers and sausage pieces. Add cottage cheese and shredded cheese and stir to combine. Add another pinch of salt and pepper and stir again.

Pour vegetable/sausage/cheese mixture into prepared baking dish and add egg substitute. Let sit for 5 minutes. Bake 45 minutes. Let cool on wire rack.

When cool, I carefully remove the cooked eggs from the baking dish and slice into 6 servings, (I usually eat one slice immediately) and return the rest into the pan, cover with foil and refrigerate. In the morning I nuke a slice for one minute. Sometimes I serve with salsa or sliced tomatoes. And when I'm in the mood, ketchup really does the trick.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Eleanor's Meatballs

When I was a young mom there was a babysitter in the neighborhood that all the new mothers would fight over. She was very attentive to the kids which was obviously important. But she had another trait that really made her number one on everyone's list- she was a fabulous cook. After a long day at work I'd come home to a plate of her meatballs and spaghetti and would feel like a princess. I've kept her recipe in my (now) antique recipe box for 30 plus years and make sure after I read it, it goes right back inside for safe keeping. Delicious, no-fail mealtballs. And even back then, she was baking, not frying them.

Eleanor's Meatballs
with a few variations from me
  • 1 to 1-1/4 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup water
  • 1 T crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup onions finely chopped (optional)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
The secret to Eleanor's meatballs is that she first combines all the ingredients except the meat. The meat goes in last because as you might know, the less you handle ground meat, the lighter the meatballs.
Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl combine bread crumbs and water (start with a 1/2 cup water and see if you need more). I like the consistency to be like thick hummus. Add egg, parsley, red pepper flakes, onion, salt and pepper. Add ground meat and gently incorportate. I use my hands. Form 20 meatballs (about 1-1/4 inches in diameter)- that's what I usually get from this mixture. Place meatballs on baking sheet prepared with cooking spray. Bake 20 minutes and place into a pot of simmering tomato sauce for ten minutes. Serve over spaghetti or linguini. When I made this last week I also sauteed some spicy chicken sausages that were a welcome complement to the meatballs.
Both meatballs and sausages (which I sliced into 1 inch rounds) went into a bubbly pot of store-bought Classico spaghetti sauce. And then landed atop a plate of linguini. A garnish of red pepper flakes and parsley would have been nice, but I couldn't wait.

Later in the week I heated the meatballs and sausages and created an ooey, gooey mozzarella filled, toasted pita sandwich that was so messy I had to eat it with a fork. As you can imagine, it was simply heaven. Thanks Eleanor!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


When I started this blog almost a year ago I was going to share my recipe for apple bread but opted for pumpkin instead because I thought the apple was too fussy for an introductory post. Apples are a fussy fruit. First of all there are so many varieties and if you're not familiar with their qualities, you never know what kind to buy. Secondly, if you're cooking with apples, more than likely they have to be peeled and sliced or chopped. Time consuming. And of course, then they oxidize and turn brown. Let's put these negatives aside and dive into a tasty apple quick bread that's very forgiving and tastes great. Set aside time for peeling, grating and clean up and you'll be very happy you put forth the effort. Plus, the re-mix offers a lot of choices.

Apple Quick Bread
Makes 2 loaves (4 1/2 x 8 inch pans, measured on the top)
Cooking spray
1 T AP flour for dusting loaf pans
1 cup AP flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup quick or old fashioned oats, ground in food processor or spice grinder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
1 cup Splenda No Calorie Sweetner
4 large eggs, room temperature
1-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 cups peeled, grated apples (I used 3 large MacIntosh)
Juice of 1 lemon
Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Prep 2 loaf pans with cooking spray and a light dusting of flour. In medium size bowl combine AP flour, whole wheat flour and ground oats. Add salt, baking soda and cinnamon and whisk to incorporate. Grate apples in food processor or use a hand grater and squeeze lemon over the fruit to eliminate browning. In large bowl combine canola oil, butter and both sugars. Mix for 3-5 minutes (I use a simple hand mixer). Add eggs and vanilla. Mix until mixture is smooth and luscious. Slowly add flour mixture. Don't over mix. Fold in grated apples and turn into prepared loaf pans. Bake 50 to 60 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pans on wire rack 15 minutes. Remove from loaf pans and continue to cool on wire rack. Slice and enjoy. This bread is great with butter and even better with cream cheese.

Re-mix and tips: If you don't have whole wheat flour or oats, use all AP flour. The recipe works fine. Granny Smith and Fuji apples are a great substitute for the Macs. And if you have any no-sugar-added applesauce in the house, toss in 1/2 cup before you mix in the dry ingredients- more flavor, more moisture. By the way, this recipe also works with 2 large eggs and 1/2 cup of egg substitute. If you like nuts, add 1 cup of your favorite (chopped). And if you're a raisin fan add a cup of those too. Apple Raisin Nut Bread is deliciously dense and hearty. You must try it toasted. And if you want to get a bit decadent, add a streusel-like topping: 1/2 cup of AP flour or ground oats, 1/2 cup Splenda No Calorie Sweetner, 4 T butter, 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 1/4 cup chopped nuts.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Thai Red Curry Stew...The Sequal

When it comes to cooking and creating in the kitchen I often develop Obsessive Compulsive Recipe Disorder. I went through that when I discovered Panko and more recently with my Red Curry Chicken Vegetable Stew. I couldn't get enough of that tasty dish which I devoured in no time, and had to have it again 2 days later. There were a few changes I decided to make and a new technique I thought I'd try on this go-round. I wanted to cut back slightly on the amount of coconut milk and cook the rice in the same pot as the stew- so this would truly be a "one pot" meal.

Being the frugal cook that I am, I hated discarding 1/2 a can of coconut milk (that's why I used 1 full cup in the last recipe) but Google informed me that I could freeze what I didn't use. How convenient. So I cut back on the milk. And then the rice element...well, I have a hard time making a properly cooked pot of brown rice (I always burn the bottom) and decided to use a bag of Success Rice and cook it directly in the broth. Success was achieved. The rice not only came out perfect, but the starch in the rice thickened the liquid/broth to perfection. And by now you've guessed I added ground cayenne pepper and changed the vegetables too. Well, snow peas and red peppers were on sale. What's a gal to do?

Thai Red Curry Chicken and Vegetable Stew #2

1 T canola oil
1 cup onion finely chopped (1/4 cup more than last time)
1 T Thai Red Curry Paste
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1/2 -1 tsp ground cayenne pepper (I used 1 tsp)
1/2 cup lite coconut milk
1 14.5 oz can fat free chicken broth
1/2 cup water
2 T fish sauce
1 T brown sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 bone in chicken thighs, skinned
1 bag Success Brown Rice (I used the small size but the large would work equally as well)
2 red peppers sliced in 1/2 inch strips
1 8 oz bag of snow peas
1 8 oz package of sliced mushrooms
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Heat oil in large pot over medium low heat. Add onions and cook for 5 minutes until onions are soft and translucent. Add garlic, curry paste and cayenne pepper. Cook for one minute. Add coconut milk, broth, water, fish sauce, brown sugar, salt and black pepper. Stir to combine and bring to boil. Add chicken and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 35 minutes. Remove chicken to a separate plate and add the bag of Success rice. While rice is cooking (uncovered), shred chicken and set aside. Cook rice 10 minutes and remove. Add mushrooms and red pepper strips to liquid and cook 10 minutes (covered). Add the snow peas, cook 2 minutes. When snow peas are done, place chicken back in pot, add lemon juice and stir. Dinner is ready. And this is one GREAT one-pot meal.

Monday, September 13, 2010

From a cold nose to an Asian stew

It seems that summer is saying good-bye to those of us in New England. I left my bedroom windows open on Saturday night and reality hit when I awoke Sunday morning with a cold nose and a strong desire for my electric blanket. My first thought was that I needed to do some shopping for fall clothes. But then I quickly switched gears and realized it's once again time for some comfort food. I have to admit I've been getting tired of the grilled fish and salad routine and the thought of spending time in the kitchen was more enticing than looking at clothing styles I don't even like. So I perused my pantry and decided to make a variation of my mom's stewed chicken. An Asian variation. I've had this half-used jar of Thai Red Curry Paste in my fridge that became the inspiration for this stew/soup. The dish turned out milder than I expected due to the rich coconut milk, but very tasty. And with the possibilities of additional spices and different vegetables this is a versatile meal that you can adjust depending on who you're dining with. Also, I had all the ingredients at home, but they are readily available in the Asian aisle of most supermarkets, and their shelf lives are long lasting. And one more thing, this recipe is simple and quick. The only work I did was chop the garlic, open a few cans and pre-washed vegetables in bags. And did I mention this meal is delicious?

Red Curry Chicken and Vegetable Stew

1 T canola oil
3/4 cup onion finely chopped (I use the frozen already chopped-no more tears)
1 T Thai Red Curry Paste (comes in a 4 oz jar)
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 cup lite coconut milk (it comes in a can)
1 14.5 oz can 99% fat free chicken broth
2 T fish sauce (in the Asian aisle)
1 T brown sugar
1 tsp salt
4 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
1 15 oz can cut baby corn drained
1 12oz bag green beans, halved
8 oz sliced mushrooms
juice of 1/2 lemon

2 cups cooked brown rice

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes until translucent and softened. Add curry paste and garlic and cook one minute. Do not let the garlic burn. Add coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, sugar and salt. Bring mixture to a boil. Add the chicken, cover and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook 30 minutes. Add vegetables and cook 10 minutes more. Turn off heat and remove chicken to a separate plate. Squeeze in the lemon juice and stir. I like to shred the chicken so I let it cool slightly and once shredded I add it back to the soup/stew. I serve this in bowls with a half cup of brown rice piled in the center. If I had cilantro I'd have sprinkled it as a garnish.

As I mentioned earlier, if you're looking for heat, you can do a lot to this recipe to fire it up since the coconut milk does tame it. I'd add 1/2 tsp of ground cayenne pepper or 1 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes when you're cooking the garlic. A teaspoon of Sambal Olek garnish on top of the rice is a nice touch too. Now let's talk about the various veggies you can use. How about sliced zucchini, sno peas, bok choy, canned bamboo shoots, canned water chestnuts or carrot rounds?

However you make this Red Curry Stew, I bet you'll see clean plates all around. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

California Road Trip: Food and Scenery

I just returned from another fabulous trip to Southern California. This time Lori and I began our adventure in Marina Del Rey and Santa Monica.

We then headed south to San Diego and west to Coronado Bay to enjoy the scenery and magnificent sunsets, not to mention the long awaited late afternoon and dinner reunion with 2 of my favorite cousins Peter and Jane in their fabulous (I want to live there) town of Ocean Beach.

And then we were off to Murrietta Hot Springs (slightly north and most definately east of San Diego) to the desert and valley of the SoCal wine country where we took in the surrounding mountains and experienced the pleasant, dry heat of the dessert. We enjoyed another reunion with extra-special friends we hadn't seen in over 15 years, dining outdoors at Ponte winery. We indulged in Ponte wine, great conversation, belly laughs and tears (mostly mine), fabulous food and a marvelous fine-mist spritzing devise that kept us cool in the desert heat. Heavenly. Just heavenly.

But this is a cooking blog right? So let's get down to business. I'd like to talk about the one constant I experienced at just about every meal I enjoyed- the Avocado. It first appeared in a guacamole as a garnish in some fish tacos I ate (at 2 separate times), then in a vinaigrette on my lobster and crab cobb salad and later as an olive oil infused dipping sauce for the freshly baked bread at the winery. This is some versatile fruit I'm talking about. So when I got home I pulled out my food benefits chart and checked out what this baby has to offer. So after you read the next sentence, fasten your seat belts and run right out and get yourself some of this healthy goodness. Here are the benefits: Avocados battle diabetes, lower cholesterol, help stop strokes, control blood pressure and smooth your skin. Not bad for a bumpy, alien-looking little piece of fruit!

A while ago I came up with an avocado cream cheese spread that works beautifully on toasted or grilled bruscetta. Or as a dip for chips or raw veggies and a sandwich spread (instead of mayo or mustard or ketchup).

Avocado Cream Cheese Spread
Serve on 1 loaf (1 lb) French baguette sliced and toasted

1 avocado sliced
1 tsp Dijon mjustard
Juice of one lemon
8 oz pkg Philadelphia reduced fat cream cheese softened to room temp
2 cloves garlic chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup fresh tomatoes small dice
1/4 cup red onion small dice or substitute 2 T fresh chives chopped

Put all ingredients (except garnish) in food processor or blender and mix until combined. Refrigerate an hour or two to let the mixture set up and the flavors meld. Meanwhile chop garnish ingredients and set aside. Top toasted bruscetta with avocado spread and garnish with 1/2 tsp of tomato mixture.

Now let's tackle the sandwich spread I mentioned a minute ago. The sandwich I love with this spread I call an ABLT: Avocado Spread, Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato. Omit the mayo you usually slather on since you're getting a lot more flavor from the avocado spread. Avocado tastes great with bacon. And tomato. And lettuce. And bread. And remember there's some cheese in this spread which also tastes great with all of the above. And if you want to really take it over the top, sprinkle on some crumbled blue cheese, which ALSO tastes great with everything on this sandwich. I can go on and on about the use of avocados and cheese, but it's late and I'm once again on east coast time. So for now, goodnight and enjoy!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Garden Fresh

I was lucky again this weekend to get more vegetables from Fran's garden and her tomatoes are out of this world FRESH. I decided to incorporate them into an old fashioned salad that back in the day was a staple at every steakhouse in the country- The Iceberg Wedge. I used to make this type of salad many years ago before we had the availability of all the lettuces we have now. Anyway, this is a blast from the past for me and I decided a blue cheese dressing jazzed up with turkey bacon chunks might put this salad right where I wanted it- over the top.

Iceberg Wedge Salad (serves two)

1/2 Iceberg lettuce cut in half
2 medium garden fresh tomatoes sliced
2 hard boiled eggs sliced

Blue Cheese Dressing
4 slices turkey bacon
1/2 cup Lite Mayonnaise- I like Hellmann's
1/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 tsp minced garlic- optional
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

To make the dressing: Cook the turkey bacon. I bake mine in a 385 degree oven until crisp, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. When cool, chop into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces. Combine all ingredients except cheese and bacon in a medium-large bowl and whisk until combined. Fold in cheese and bacon and refrigerate for 1 hour to let the flavors meld.

To prepare the salad: Place lettuce wedge, tomato slices and sliced egg (plus any other vegetables you might like- scallions and carrot slices are nice) on serving dish. Spoon blue cheese dressing liberally over vegetables and dig in and enjoy the crunch.

Re-mix: My mom used to make this salad with a homemade Russian dressing and it's equally as good. She'd mix mayo, ketchup, chopped egg and sweet relish. I don't remember the proportions exactly but will be happy to figure them out if anyone is interested.