Cashmere Apron

slow cooker chicken curry

Delicious combination of flavors from hours of slow cooking

“It’s a delectable combination of flavors from hours of slow cooking”

Mid-week is here again and this is the perfect quick recipe for a crazy week and an unusually chilly day here in Southern California. The prep time is nothing (10 to 15 minutes) and it will be so relaxing to pull in from an afternoon of carpooling and smell the scent of this yumminess wafting through the house. My husband seems really doubtful about the “yum” factor of this meal as he’s not a big fan of curry (guess I missed that memo; it’s only been 21 years). However, the curry powder is far from overpowering and simply enhances the overall flavor of the dish.

The original recipe, which I stumbled upon, came from the luscious food blog The Lemon Bowl. I changed my version up just a bit but the sauce base is essentially the same and works well in lending creaminess to the dish while accommodating your own “food edits,” such as adding different veggies, substituting shrimp or tofu in place of the chicken or adding it alongside the chicken for extra protein, flavor and creativity.

Ingredients
1 package organic boneless, skinless chicken breast (equals about 1.5 to 1.7 pounds)
1 onion thinly sliced (my mandolin made this a tear-free one minute process)
1, 15 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 package pre-cut sweet potatoes (I cut the sweet potatoes into smaller pieces but they were already peeled which made my prep fast)
1 1/2 cups cauliflower florets, broken into small pieces
1 cup broccoli florets, broken into small pieces
1 can Dole crushed pineapple
3/4 cup light Coconut milk
3/4 cup Swanson’s chicken stock
1, 15 ounce can tomato sauce
2 Tb melted butter
2 Tb curry powder
1/2 tsp Red Curry Paste (if you like spice-optional)
1 cup of green peas, frozen
1 tsp salt
Juice of 1 lemon
Optional toppings: crushed peanuts, bean sprouts, parsley, toasted coconut or crispy chow mein sticks

A bowl of healthy and delicious comfort

A bowl of healthy and delicious comfort

Directions
1. In the bottom of your crock pot combine the coconut milk, chicken stock, tomato sauce, melted butter, curry powder, curry paste and salt. Stir until thoroughly combined.
2. Add the chicken breasts, onion, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, cauliflower florets and broccoli florets.
3. Gently mix ingredients together so everything is fully coated with the sauce.
4. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
5. Once finished cooking, remove chicken breasts to cutting board and shred or cut into bite-sized pieces. Return to curry mixture and stir.
6. Add peas and lemon juice and stir. Let sit for 5 to 10 more minutes.
7. Add the Dole crushed pineapple to a small sauce pan and warm over high for 5 minutes.
8. Add cooked white rice to the bottom of each individual serving bowl.
9. Add a small layer of the cooked pineapple (optional).
10. Spoon chicken curry mixture on top.
11. Sprinkle with crushed peanuts, bean sprouts, parsley, toasted coconut or crispy chow mein sticks.

*This flexible recipe can be made with tofu and veggies for a vegetarian option. If you’re not a fan of white rice, serve the curry mixture over quinoa, gluten free noodles or completely on its own if you are watching your carb intake.

fish tacos

FishTacos3How’s your Wednesday looking? If it’s anything like mine, and I’m sure it is, the day is packed. There’s a reason Wednesdays are called “hump day.” Before my head hits the pillow tonight there is laundry to be done, dry cleaning to be picked up for a traveling husband, email to answer, a car rental to be booked, packing to be done for Memorial Day weekend, a workout I WILL squeeze in, a haircut for my son, an ortho appointment for my daughter, soccer fitness training for the same daughter, a Geometry tutoring session for my son and finally, book club where I will be bringing a salad – thinking about a Kale Caesar (The Rosie Project was our latest book; I highly recommend – it’s witty and light and the motion picture rights have already been secured). I’m predicting that my son will be texting me at book club asking what time I will be home so we can watch our nightly episode of Sons of Anarchy (we are deep into Season Five) and telling me the printer either doesn’t work OR is out-of-toner. Oh, and perhaps can I please grab some Gatorade before I get home because he’s dying of thirst and the bounty of liquids that I stock the fridge with are inaqdequate. Just a prediction…

We are overscheduled and busier than a one-armed paper hanger but I’m certain that it’s all part of this season of my particular life which involves two active teens and a family with ALOT of interests and commitments. Everyone I know is the same. So what happens at dinnertime on days like these? I still want my family to have a good and healthy dinner but clearly, spending an hour or more in the kitchen isn’t on the agenda today.

I suggest fish tacos. They are simple to make and involve NO MESS as the meal is completely prepared on the grill in a matter of 15 minutes. While the fish is grilling, dice up a tomato, shred some cheese, pop open a bag of already shredded cabbage, slice a lemon and cut up an avocado or two. Have your tortillas ready to go and this meal will be on the table in 20 minutes (I promise) with minimal clean-up required.

Ingredients
2 pounds white, lean fish (I have been buying Pacific Cod from my local fish market. Halibut also works well)
1/2 to 3/4 cup finely diced kale
1 tomato
1 lemon
1-2 avocados
cheddar cheese, shredded
tortillas
Olive oil
McCormick’s Lemon & Pepper Seasoning
Bolthouse Farms Cilantro Avocado Yogurt Dressing (a MUST for drizzling on top)
Aluminum foil
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Directions
1. Preheat your grill.
2. Place fish, skin side down on aluminum foil.
3. Brush the top of each filet with Olive oil.
4. Season each filet with McCormick’s Lemon & Pepper Seasoning.
5. Top each filet with the finely diced kale.
6. Place aluminum foil on the grill and set your timer for 13 to 15 minutes depending upon the thickness of the fish.
7. While the fish is cooking prepare your toppings (tomato, cheese, cabbage, avocado and lemon). *NOTE– there is no need to flip the fish ever. It cooks perfectly skin side down.
8. When your timer rings, remove the foil with the cooked fish to a wood cutting board and bring inside.
9. Cook your tortillas on a gas stove (if you have one) flipping each tortilla with tongs as soon as it starts to bubble up. The edges get nice and golden brown.
10. Place two tortillas in a basket and with a spatula flake off pieces of the fish and put into the tortillas. Have each person add whatever toppings they want to their fish tacos (these plastic baskets can be purchased almost anywhere and make clean-up nonexistent. Click on the link above to find them on Amazon).

FishTaco2

I highly recommend squeezing some fresh drops of lemon juice on top and drizzling Bolthouse Farms Cilantro Avocado Yogurt Dressing – the flavors are addicting.

So that’s what we’re eating this Wednesday hump day…good luck with your Wednesday on a Whim and send me any shortcut yummy ideas you have to maintain sanity in the kitchen and health at your dinner table.
Fish Tacos Lead

tamale making party

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What better way to celebrate Cinco De Mayo than with a group of friends making tamales. A few girlfriends and I embarked on this tradition four years ago. Originally, December seemed like a good time for this endeavor so we could serve tamales during the holidays. We picked a day right before the Winter recess when all of our kids would still be in school. A memorable day was spent side-by-side, filling, wrapping and steaming our bundles of deliciousness. We each went home with overflowing trays of tamales (they freeze very well).

Ready to Steam Away.

READY TO BE FILLED WITH STEAMING TAMALES

Despite our efforts, the “holiday” tamale making party fell by the wayside until we determinedly resurrected it this year. Acknowledging that the holidays were NOT an ideal time for this endeavor, we decided to plan it for “ski week” in February when schedules and obligations calmed a bit. We had a relaxing and chatter-filled day, with tamales steaming in every kind of stock pot we could find. And we each commented that the process was so easy, we didn’t know why we waited so long to do it again.

Like anything in life, the experience is what you make of it. You don’t have to follow any steadfast rules about what goes in the tamales. There are the traditonal favorites but you can be as creative as you like. There were three of us so we each brought a filling. I made a spicy shredded beef in the slow cooker. Another friend made a chicken and chile version she found online and our third friend made a vegetarian version with roasted peppers, roasted corn and black beans. The key is to ensure your fillings have enough liquid so the tamales don’t dry out after steaming. Every version was delicious and made with love, creativity and friendship.

USE PREPARED MASA WHICH IS READY TO GO

USE PREPARED MASA WHICH IS READY TO GO AND GLUTEN FREE!

You never need a reason to celebrate friendship or good food but Cinco De Mayo seems as good a time as any.

Basic Ingredients
10 pounds of “prepared” Masa. You can purchase this at most Mexican restaurants that make tamales. Be sure to ask for it “prepared” or you will get a bag of flour like substance.
3 pounds of cooked spicy shredded beef (click here for easy slow cooker recipe)
3 pounds of cooked chicken and chili (click here for easy slow cooker recipe)
1 to 2 pounds of vegetarian mixture
2 to 3 bags of tamale husks (purchase at any Mexican market, Smart & Final or Mexican restaurant)
3 to 4 large stock pots with steamers
Aluminum trays
Tongs

EVERYONE GETS A JOB - ASSEMBLY LINE STYLE

EVERYONE GETS A JOB – ASSEMBLY LINE STYLE

Basic Directions
Prep and make your filling the day before, especially the shreeded beef which cooks for 8 to 10 hours in the slow cooker. Soak corn husks in warm water the night before.

On tamale making day, create an assembly line and have each friend responsible for a step in the process. Make sure you remove the tamale husks from water and pat them dry with a paper towel (they will still be slightly damp).

Lay the tamale husk flat (it will naturally fold up a little bit). Spread about one cup of the prepared Masa on the tamale husk. Use a spatula or large spoon to spread the Masa about 3/4 up the tamale husk. Place a large serving spoon size of your prepared filling on the Masa. Fold the tamale up from the bottom first, and then roll each side in so you have a nice little pouch. Tie the top of the tamale with strings pulled from some of the tamale husks (the texture is similar to a thick raffia ribbon).

Lay each uncooked tamale on a cutting board or tray and pile them up. When you have 15 to 20, line the inside of your stock pot with the tamales. Make sure they are standing straight up with the ties at the top. You want to pack them in the stock pot.

ALL TIED UP AND READY TO BE STEAMED

ALL TIED UP AND READY TO BE STEAMED

Make sure the tamales are standing on a steamer and that you have enough water in the bottom of the pot. Steam on high heat for 90 minutes (YES – 90 MINUTES). This is why we like to have bunches of tamales ready to be steamed. If you can have 3 to 4 stock pots ready to go, you can steam 45 to 60 tamales at the same time.

Once the tamales are finished steaming, remove from heat, place in the aluminum trays (be sure to mark the different types of tamales – beef, chicken, veg) and allow to cool for about 15 minutes. When you are ready to eat, unwrap the tamale from the tamale husk and dig in!!!

STAND TAMALES UP AND PACK THEM IN. STEAM FOR 90 MINUTES

STAND TAMALES UP AND PACK THEM IN – STEAM FOR 90 MINUTES

When you are ready to divide them up, we find that large freezer type Ziplock bags work best. The tamales will keep in your refrigerator for about a week or you can freeze them. To re-heat, simply microwave them for a few minutes or re-steam for about 10 to 15 minutes until warmed through.

TAKE YOUR PICK...

TAKE YOUR PICK…

Tamales really are easy to make. Even if you have a few that don’t turn out or make a mistake, you will get the hang of it and feel like a pro by the end of the day. I can’t wait for next year – we all have some new and fun ideas for the fillings. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

EVERYONE GOES HOME WITH TAMALES

EVERYONE GOES HOME WITH TAMALES

leoda’s kitchen and pie shop, maui

Leodas Lead

There’s a feeling you get every time you return to a place you love – a certain familiarity and time tested traditions you rely upon. One of those places for me is the island of Maui. My parents discovered it for the first time in the early 70’s and brought us almost every summer to visit.

I remember the days of flight attendants garmented in long flowy Hawaiian dresses with leis around their necks and orchids in their high tight buns. My mom always dressed my sister and me in matching Hawaiian dresses for the flight. And as soon as we stepped off the tarmac, the overwhelming feeling of excitement was hard to temper especially with the warm tradewinds blowing, ukeleles playing and greetings of “Aloha” and friendly smiles from every person you passed. I don’t know how many times I have visited this place but it’s close to 40 I would imagine. That’s how my family is…we find something we love and we stick with it. We have explored some other wonderful places but our hearts always lead us back here. And now we have passed that love on to our own kids. Whenever they are asked about vacation spots, they always say, “We want to go to Hawaii,” and we have been fortunate enough to carry on the tradition.
Leodas Lead 2

On our way in from the airport this year we noticed that Chez Paul, a long standing landmark restaurant was gone. Replacing the landmark in tiny Olowalu town was Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop. We didn’t think anything of it UNTIL some New Yorkers we were sitting next to at lunch mentioned that we should try it. Apparently, the way we were all “scarfing” down the food (their words) made them think we would appreciate good food and good pie. And, of course, they were right.

We hit Leoda’s after a rousing tennis match with our stomachs churning for food. Leoda’s did not disappoint. The place is quaint, warm and homey. Wood floors, bright white tile, soft hanging lights, a large vintage sideboard housing cups, napkins, silverware, condiments and a display of cake stands and plenty of high and low tables to sit and enjoy your food which is served in vintage pie tins. Their approach to food is this, “Our menu features hand crafted specialties made fresh daily using only Maui’s freshest ingredients. We take a unique approach to many classic or traditional favorites…we call it glorified grandma comfort food.”
Leodas Lead 3

We stood in line to order and despite the size of the line, it moved quickly, pressuring us to make a decision after looking at all the different and yummy choices on people’s plates. The various choices are hand-written on chalkboards flanked by a Daily Specials Board, a listing of local farms the food comes from and an abundantly filled display case of mini-handmade pies and pastries. Known for their sweet and savory pies and their homemade breads, we had a little bit of everything…the Chocolate Mac Nut pie, the Olowalu Lime pie and the Chicken Pot pie, and those were just the items we shared. Amongst the food we ordered was Leoda’s burger, homemade fries with a garlic aioli dipping sauce, a roasted pork hoagie smothered in onions and sauce, a cobb salad with amazing greens, a fried salad (my order) which had fresh greens topped with slim pieces of flash fried brussel sprouts in an orange vinaigrette, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made from thick pieces of Leoda’s homemade bread.

Leodas Lead 4

Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop is a must visit. There’s always something new to discover in a place you love. We are planning on visiting Leoda’s again before our vacation ends. Aloha!

veggie crustless quiche

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Spring has sprung and this delicious quiche recipe reminds me of a Spring Break road trip I took in college. While many of my college friends went home for Spring Break, a few of my girlfriends and I loaded up my Mitsubishi Eclipse (it was the bomb back then!), and took off on a culinary adventure.  After many Hardee’s hamburgers and  countless Wendy’s frosties (let’s face it, that is all that you can afford in college) we stumbled upon this great little café called Chelsea’s and The Village Tea Room in the Biltmore Village in Asheville, NC. At an early age, I had already acquired a love for quaint restaurants, good recipes and unique cookbooks, so before leaving, I purchased their cookbook. Luckily for me, I found this delicious, crustless quiche recipe hidden inside it’s pages and have been whipping up many versions of this wonderful quiche recipe for the past 20 years.
Asheville, NC is such a beautiful mountain town, especially in the  Spring and Fall. If you visit Asheville, plan to spend a day exploring the Biltmore Estate. This large estate was built between 1889 and 1895 by George Washington Vanderbilt II and is the largest privately owned house in the United States.  Another Asheville secret is the Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa which is one of the South’s best-loved resorts with spectacular views of the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains. This hotel has been completely renovated and has over 100 years of history tucked inside.

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Ingredients:
8 eggs, scrambled
2 Tb heavy cream
1 can cream of celery soup
1 cup Cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup Provolone cheese, grated
2 cups of quiche filling (examples below)

Directions:
In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs with a wire whisk. Add all other quiche ingredients and stir to combine.

Spray a rimmed pie dish or quiche pan with cooking spray. Pour quiche filling into your pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for an hour or until set. Allow quiche to cool about 10 minutes before serving. This can be made the night before.

Quiche filling ideas:
Shrimp and dill
Mixed vegetables
Bacon, onion and feta
Veggie sausage and veggie
Broccoli and bacon
Artichoke, red pepper, olive and feta

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PicMonkey Collage

st. pat’s day feast

St. Pat's Lead 2Having grown up with an Irish father who was devoted to his heritage and roots, I thought everyone LOVED corned beef and cabbage. And while I have since learned that may not be altogether true, this Irish preparation by Bobby Flay will make believers out of those with the most dubious palates.

Follow Bobby Flay’s surefire hit for Corned Beef and other additions below to round out your Irish Feast, and your guests will leave wishing St. Patrick’s Day was more than once a year!

(1) No Irish Feast is complete without Jameson Irish whiskey (2) Rather than boiled cabbage, put together a hash using golden brown bacon (see below), shredded cabbage, shaved brussel sprouts, shredded carrots and diced red potatoes (3) Bake a loaf of Ina Garten’s Irish soda bread as an accompaniment (4) A crisp and perfect salad is made of Butter lettuce, dried cranberries, blood oranges, Irish Soda Bread croutons, a sprinkling of Gruyere and a light vinaigrette salad dressing (5) Before the meal begins, read a tried and true Irish Blessing (we always select one of our children to read the blessing) (6) Decorate each table setting with something new and something traditional. Here, we paired monogrammed vintage napkins with a sequined shamrock tied with heavy twine (7) The complete meal

Now for the STAR {Corned Beef} of the show…I came across this recipe a few years back while seeing Bobby Flay on CBS Morning News. I decided to follow his recipe and couldn’t stop eating – it’s that good. The recipe is easy because you still follow the very basic directions for cooking Corned Beef. Once the Corned Beef is cooked through, the extra elements add an elevated essence that is unparalleled.

St. Pat's Lead 1

Ingredients
Whole prepared Corned Beef (follow directions on label but allow 3 to 4 hours for cooking)
Bobby Flay Spice Rub for Meat
Canola oil
1 pound bacon
Dijon mustard
Whole grain mustard
Honey
Prepared horseradish
Chervil, for garnish

Ingredients for Spice Rub for Meat
3 Tb dry mustard
1 1/2 Tb dried oregano
1 Tb chili powder
1/2 Tb garlic powder
1/2 Tb black pepper
1/2 Tb sea salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp celery seed

Directions
Rub Corned Beef with Spice Rub and set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until golden brown. Remove bacon, let rest, and coursely chop. Sear the Corned Beef in the bacon fat until a crust forms, turn over and continue cooking until golden brown. Remove, let rest and thinly slice.

Whisk together mustards, honey and horseradish. Serve Corned Beef with sauce on the side and garnish with chervil.

mini chicken parms

Chick Parm 2Fresh. Simple. Wholesome. Delicious. Make-Ahead. These are just a few words I like to consider when making dinner. Serving a hot meal for my family is such a challenge most days with sports practices, carpools, school events, a traveling spouse, and other unexpected surprises. I know we have all heard it, “Mom, do we have any magenta posterboard and lime green glitter????” “Mom, remember, I’m in charge of snack for 25 tomorrow for my advisory group and it has to be homemade.” Or how about my personal favorite, “Mom, don’t forget, tomorrow I have to bring in a hot appetizer that showcases my heritage and our family traditions.”

If I can make dinner ahead and have it ready to go, I feel so much more organized and accomplished. I can handle the unexpected tasks and requests without hitting Chipotle for dinner three nights in a row (not that we don’t love Chipotle). This recipe is perfect to make ahead on Sunday and have it ready to go Monday night to start the week on the right foot.

Ingredients
One package thinly sliced chicken breast filets
One pound bag of large elbow macaroni
Progresso “Italian Style” bread crumbs
16 ounces of “Precious” brand Mozzarella cheese + 1/4 cup
One, 28 ounce can of Trader Joe’s Tuscan Marinara sauce +1/4 cup
2 to 3 eggs, lightly blended in a medium sized bowl
one package fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
Large muffin tin (yields 6 large muffins)
recipe makes about  dozen “Mini Chicken Parms”

Chick Parm 1

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place about 2 cups of bread crumbs in a shallow dish. Dip each thinly sliced breast filet in the egg and then dredge in the bread crumbs. Place on a slightly oiled baking sheet. Bake chicken for about 25 to 30 minutes (be careful not to overcook or the chicken will be dry). While the chicken is baking, cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain and set aside.

Shred the 16 ounce block of Mozzarella cheese and chop the entire package of basil, which should yield abut 1/2 cup, maybe a little more.

Once the chicken is baked through, remove from the oven and let cool. When the chicken has cooled, chop into cubes (1/2” to 1” is fine).

In a large mixing bowl add the pasta, cubed chicken, Marinara sauce, Mozarella, basil and salt and pepper to taste. Mix all ingredients together gently until just combined.

Lightly spray or grease each muffin well and add a hearty scoop of the mixture. Top each filled muffin well with a teaspoon of Marinara and an extra sprinkle of Mozzarella. Put back into 350 degree oven and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Use a pie server to scoop out each individual “Mini Chicken Parm.” Top with a sprig of basil and serve with organic greens and Italian breadsticks.

Lead Chicken Parm

*If you make this meal ahead of time, remove all individual “Mini Chicken Parms” from the muffin well. Let cool completely on a large platter and cover tightly. When ready to serve, place on a large baking sheet and re-heat gradually at 350 degrees.

 

 

love in elysian park

Finding Love in Elysian Park Burger
Last summer the TODAY show held a “Burger Battle” in search of the best original burger recipe and the inspiration behind it. I thought, “Why not?” I made taste testers out of my family. My son wouldn’t try it but my daughter (the more adventurous eater) and husband gave me a thumbs up.

I wasn’t contacted by the TODAY show, clearly a mistake (haha) but their contest did present me the occasion to create something special. So I am sharing my inspiration and recipe on Valentine’s Eve because it’s all about the LOVE.

My Valentine's Day Inspiration

My parent’s at the Los Angeles Police Academy – my Valentine’s Day Inspiration


When I reflect upon the quintessential “
Valentine Lovebirds,” I think of my mom and dad who lived a loving, healthy and happy marriage, on par with few I have seen. My parents met at the Los Angeles Police Academy in Elysian Park in 1964. An unlikely duo from the outset, he being 14 years her senior with a wild past and she being a mere girl of 18 who always followed the rules. He was a Lieutenant at the time and she was a secretary to the Chief. I’m pretty certain my dad visited that office more than was actually necessary. They fell head over heels in love and were married in June of 1966.

June 4, 1966

“The Glass Chapel” in Palos Verdes, California – June 4, 1966

 They were a true fairy tale couple who were the personification of love for 45 years (my father died unexpectedly in 2008). Both of my parents were fiercely proud of their heritage and my sister and I were raised with the same pride. My dad the dark Irish, and my mom, the beautiful “Jackie O” look-alike with strong Mexican roots, somehow grew into the perfect couple.

My loving family

My loving family (my sister being goofy and me, obviously with a full diaper)

This recipe is a tribute to the uniqueness that gave me my Irish Mexican heritage and to the love that bloomed in Elysian Park, California in 1964. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Ingredients
1 pound organic ground sirloin
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1 cup finely diced cooked corned beef (have corned beef shaved thin in the deli)
1 jalapeño pepper (seeds removed) and finely diced
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tb dried oregano
1 Tb country Dijon mustard
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 Tb Jameson Irish whiskey
Three-pepper Colby cheese, thinly sliced
1, 14 oz. can sauerkraut, drained
1 small head of Frisee lettuce
Fresh Rye bread
Olive oil
Sugar
Butter

Yummy burger layered with hints of corned beef and jalapeño

Yummy burger layered with hints of corned beef and jalapeño

Directions
Preheat grill. Add all ingredients through the Jameson Irish whiskey to a large glass bowl. Gently mix all ingredients together (use your clean hands if desired). From ground sirloin mixture, form three 1/3 pound patties. Lower grill heat and place patties on aluminum foil on the grill and grill about 4 minutes on each side. Once grease has melted off, place burgers directly on grill for another two to three minutes per side.

In a sauté pan, add a teaspoon of sugar and a tablespoon of olive oil and heat on medium. Add the drained sauerkraut to the pan and sauté until browned.

Brush each side of the Rye bread with olive oil and a little melted butter and grill for about 1 to 2 minutes per side (don’t overcook).

Grilled Rye lightly brushed with Olive oil and butter

Rye bread perfectly crusty after being brushed lightly with Olive oil and butter and grilled

Add burger to bread and top with three-pepper Colby cheese, browned sauerkraut, and frisee lettuce. *You can add extra dijon to the grilled bread if desired.

Chow down. Seriously amazing burger. A shot of whiskey or tequila is optional BUT highly recommended.

ancho chile dusted shrimp cobb salad

IMG_9062Ingredients

Marinade
1/4 tsp Ancho Chili Pepper (kick up the spice by adding 1/8 tsp more)
1/2 tsp Cumin
1 Tb Italian Parsley, chopped
3 Tb Olive Oil, divided
2 Tb Butter, melted and slightly cooled

Salad Ingredients
8 large, tail-on raw shrimp
5 pieces cooked bacon
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 avocado, diced
6-7 teardrop tomatoes, cut in half
1, 15 ounce can Garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
Crumbled Blue cheese
1 bunch of fresh Romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Accompaniments
1 jar Trader Joe’s Corn & Chile Tomato-less Salsa
Tortilla chips
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Directions
Whisk together all marinade ingredients in a bowl, making sure melted butter isn’t too warm. Use 2 Tb Olive oil in the marinade and set 1 Tb Olive oil aside for your grill pan.

Add 1 Tb Olive oil to grill pan and heat over medium high. While oil is heating, add shrimp to whisked marinade in bowl. As soon as Olive oil in grill pan is hot, add shrimp. Grill for 2 minutes on each side (4 minutes total). Once shrimp are grilled through, remove from heat and add to a clean bowl while you assemble the rest of the salad.
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Layer from the bottom up using the chopped romaine. Add bacon, egg, avocado, tomatoes, garbanzo beans and Blue cheese. Drizzle with a dressing of your choice (I prefer a light vinaigrette) and top with four shrimp.

This recipe makes two large servings.

 

southwest breakfast bowl

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Ingredients
1 package of low carb tortillas (I used La Banderita Carb Counter)
1- 32 ounce carton of  liquid egg whites
1-20 ounce bag Crystal Farms Simply Potatoes (diced with onions)
1 bag Jimmy Dean Turkey Crumbles
Shredded Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese
1 avocado, diced
Jalapeno slices
Fresh Pico De Gallo (recipe below)

Directions
Cook the potatoes following package instructions.

In another large skillet sauté the turkey crumbles in two tablespoons of oil. When the turkey sausage is done, add the carton of egg whites to the same pan with the sausage. Cook the egg whites and sausage until cooked through.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Take four tortillas and gently place them in your Norpro Nonstick Tortilla Bowl Makers. When oven is 350 degrees place your tortillas in oven and bake until crispy.

Place cooked potatoes in bottom of each tortilla shell and top with the egg white and sausage mixture. Top with shredded cheese, diced avocado, jalapeño slices and Pico De Gallo.

Pico De Gallo Ingredients
3/4 cup sweet onion, minced
1- 1/2 cups plum tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
1 Tb jalapeño chili, seeded and minced
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
2 Tb freshly squeezed lime juice
Salt and pepper

Directions
Mix all ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste.

PicMonkey Collage

vegetable lasagna

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I am always looking for meals that will feed a crowd. My husband and I enjoy having our friends over with their kids for dinner, so recipes that please the young and the old (well not so old…ha ha) come in handy.While most lasagna recipes are pasta noodles layered with beef, cheese and marinara sauce, this lasagna recipe is completely different. I used the vegetables that I had on hand, but you can substitute any of your favorites. This is a crowd pleaser, and I promise you won’t miss the meat. Greek Salad (found under our recipe tab), makes a tasty accompaniment to this main course.

Ingredients
Cooking spray
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1 cup chopped onion
4 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (5 cups)
2 (8-ounce) packages of pre sliced baby portabella mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1- 1/2 cups fat-free ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 large egg
5 cups Mezzetta Homemade Marinara, divided (or any other marinara)
12 precooked lasagna noodles (can use gluten free)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with 2 Tb olive oil. Add bell peppers, onion, zucchini, and mushrooms; sauté 10 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender and mushroom liquid evaporates. Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds.

Combine 1-1/2 cups mozzarella, ricotta, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and egg, stirring well.

Spread 1 cup marinara over bottom of a 13×9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray; top with three noodles. Spoon 1 cup marinara evenly over noodles. Top evenly with one-third of ricotta mixture and one-third vegetable mixture. Repeat layers twice, ending with noodles. Top with remaining one cup of marinara. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and remaining 1/4 Parmesan. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes or until cheese melts. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Compliments: MyRecipes.com

PicMonkey Collage

chicken parmesan meatballs

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As I sit down to write this post, I reflect on my resolutions from a week ago and realize that I’ve failed. I had hoped to tell you that I was fitting back into my skinny jeans and was considering some swimsuit shopping, but I have to confess, none of this is true. My Christmas tree came down and all signs of the holidays disappeared, but my family’s social schedule stayed at full speed which unfortunately, involved lots of eating. On January 1st, didn’t I swear I  was never eating again?  So, starting today, I’ve decided it’s time for some changes.  I’m saying goodbye to bread, cookies and cake, and……maybe even rice (boo hoo)! It seems that when I cut out carbs, the weight has a better chance of coming off.

I’m sharing a great recipe that I found from another awesome blogger, Peace Love Low Carb. It is a terrific recipe for those watching their carbohydrate intake or for someone like my daughter who is a Type 1 diabetic. I sometimes make these bite-sized meatballs, freeze and serve at impromptu gatherings.

So, I have one low carb day behind me….woo hoo! Wish me luck because being a food blogger makes this goal extremely difficult. Now, off to make some low-carb egg dishes. Keep your eyes out for some eggstraordinary egg recipes in the near future.

Ingredients
1 lb. ground chicken ( I have also used ground turkey)
1- jar marinara sauce, divided ( I use Dell’Amore)
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
3 Tbs Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 Tbs garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
3 oz. Mozzarella cheese, grated
Directions
Preheat oven to 350°
In a large bowl, combine ground chicken, 3 Tbs marinara sauce, Parmesan cheese, parsley, garlic, Italian seasoning, onion powder, garlic salt, and black pepper.
Form chicken mixture into 12 equal meatballs.  Bake for 25 minutes, on middle rack in an 8 x 11 baking dish.
Remove from oven, spoon marinara sauce over top and around each meatball and top with Mozzarella cheese.
Put meatballs on top rack under the broiler until cheese melts. 4 servings.
lowcarbpyramid1.IG

 

herb roasted tenderloin filet

Filet Final 1We have all been there…trying to serve a picture perfect holiday meal while sashaying through the kitchen with ease and elegance (that’s how I always see it in my head anyways). Sipping champagne, passing appetizers, and telling your guests, “Of course I don’t need help. Just relax. I’ve got it covered,” as sweat slowly trickles down your back, the oven timer starts beeping incessantly and the burners on the stove are in full flight. I know you can relate!

There is a solution to this overachiever mentality. It is the “Herb Roasted Tenderloin Filet.” I have made this many times and I promise you, it is simple and a delicious and beautiful meal. The roast goes into the oven and you do nothing but wait. When you take it out, it has to rest so you have time to toss your salad, sauté mushrooms and pull an easy side dish out of the oven (roasted potatoes, mac-n-cheese, baked potatoes, buttered noodles-all compatible options). Once the roast is ready, you will find it easy to slice and amazingly tender. Serve the roast with your accompanying sides and Voila, a sophisticated and scrumptious holiday meal that will keep you relaxed and enjoying the evening with friends and relatives.

For the tenderloin filet roast pictured above, I was lucky enough to be given Italian Basil and Rosemary right out of a friend’s garden. The smells, flavor and freshness of the herbs elevated the finished roast. My son just peeked at what I was working on and said, “When do I get that again???

Happy Holidays!

Ingredients
1, 2 1/2 to 3 pound whole tenderloin (I found a great selection of grass-fed prime at Vons Pavilions)
2 garlic cloves minced
1 1/2 Tb ground up fennel seed (should be very fine)
1 tsp fresh Rosemary, diced
1 Tb fresh Basil, diced
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
olive oil

Directions
Mix all of the herbs together and add enough olive oil to make a paste. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rub the tenderloin with olive oil and sear for about a minute each on all sides. Remove from the skillet and put directly into a roasting pan (no rack needed). Spread the herb paste across the top of the filet roast. Roast until it reaches an internal temperature of 135 degrees (a good meat thermometer is a must). I cooked this filet for about 45 minutes before it reached 135 degrees. The time can vary depending upon the size of the filet, altitude, etc., which is why the meat thermometer is important.

Remove from oven and cover roasting pan with foil or a lid. Let the filet rest for another 10 to 15 minutes. It will continue to cook and should come out a perfect medium on the ends and medium rare toward the middle.

No sauce is required but my personal favorite is a whipped horseradish with dill for a little extra kick and amazing flavor.

Depending on the size of your crowd, you may need an additional roast. Plan on about 1/2 pound per serving, so a three pound roast will serve 6 adults.

honey soy grilled salmon

Honey Glazed SalmonWith the holiday season in full swing and the selection of sweets at their peak, this is the perfect weekday meal to re-boot your healthy taste buds.

Honey and soy together have to be the perfect pair. Add in lime and fresh ginger and the flavors are elevated that much more. My kids love this salmon preparation and usually gobble it up before I can sit down with my dinner plate.

This recipe is also versatile because it delivers a grilled flavor without ever stepping outside to your grill (a benefit in the chilly winter months). If you are short on time, you can skip the herbs and simply baste the salmon with the yummy marinade and your prep time is even quicker.

Ingredients
1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves
2 scallions
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 center cut skin-on wild salmon filets
2 tsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp honey
Garnish: lime (optional)

Directions
Finely chop the cilantro and scallion and mix in the oil and ginger. Season with salt and pepper.

Place salmon on foil-lined baking sheet. With the skin side down, cut two, 3-inch long slits lengthwise through the salmon going about halfway into the salmon meat. Evenly stuff the slits with the herb mixture and season the top of the fish with salt and pepper.

Turn your oven to broil and position the oven rack about 4 to 5 inches below the heat source.

Stir together the lime juice, soy and honey until smooth. Baste the salmon with marinade and put in the oven to broil. Broil salmon, basting about 3 times (every 2 minutes) until the salmon is just cooked through. Total broil time should be about 7 to 8 minutes.

Garnish with lime and serve over Jasmine rice with a side of Edamame.

Courtesy of The Food Network, 2010

soppressata and cheese in puff pastry

Soppressata Lead PictureIt’s the day before Thanksgiving which, in my house, means we are probably ordering Chinese take-out or indulging in Mexican food. If you have a house full of guests, you might have the same idea. Or, you may want to serve something quick and easy, curl up in front of the fireplace and have a movie night.

I’ve made this dish several times and it’s always delicious. Cut the pieces smaller and you have an appetizer. Cut the pieces a little bigger and you have a main course. Serve with a side of tomato bisque and create the perfect comfort meal.

Ingredients
1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, such as Pepperidge Farm, defrosted
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
12 thin (not paper thin) slices soppressata salami (3 1/2 inches in diameter)
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Soppreseta collage

Directions
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan.

Lay one sheet of puff pastry on a floured board and lightly roll into a 10-inch square. Place it on the sheet pan and brush the pastry with all the mustard, leaving a 1-inch border. Arrange the soppressata in overlapping layers on the mustard and sprinkle the grated cheese evenly on the soppressata, also avoiding the border. Brush the border with the egg wash.

Lightly roll the second piece of puff pastry into a 10-inch square. Lay the pastry directly on top of the first square, lining up the edges. Brush the top with the egg wash, cut three large slits for steam to escape, and chill for 15 minutes.

When the pastry is cold, trim the edges with a very sharp knife to make a clean edge. Bake the pastry in the center of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, turning once while baking, until puffed and brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes, cut in squares, and serve hot or warm.

Serves 8 for cocktails or serves 6 for main course

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Recipe from 2010, Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?

 

wendy’s chili

 

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While my bestie Terry is lighting evening fires, I am still turning down the air at night so that I can drop the blinds, climb into bed, and pretend it’s cold enough outside to pull up a blanket.  I have to remind myself sometimes that Fall is occurring in other places in the US while we Floridians continue to purchase new swimsuits and sun screen.  I try not to complain about the heat since I know within a month, Florida will be one of America’s best weather destinations.
I guess I get the most homesick for the cool California nights when my family requests this chili recipe which has been in my family for three generations.  Chili……..when it’s 85 degrees outside…..this doesn’t seem right????  We call this Wendy’s Chili but no one seems to know who Wendy is.  Tracing back through the family tree, the only name that starts with a “W” is Wade and no one ever met him.  So, I may change this recipe to Christi’s Chili since I have passed it on to so many friends who requested it.  I even think Terry’s family loves this chili.  I better check her cookbook; I bet she calls it “Terry’s Chili!” HaHa!

Ingredients:
2 pounds of ground beef or turkey
1-12 ounce can tomato paste
2- 29 ounce cans of tomato sauce
1- 29 ounce can kidney beans with liquid
1- 29 ounce can pinto bean with liquid
1- 29 ounce can black beans with liquid
2 cups diced onion
1/2 cup diced green chilies
1/4 cup diced celery
3 medium size tomatoes, chopped small
2 tsp. cumin
3 Tb chili powder
1-1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. salt
2 cups water

Directions:
Brown the meat in a large stock pot; drain and crumble. Add all other ingredients to the crumbled meat. Bring the chili to a low simmer and cook for two to three hours. Stir often. Taste for seasoning. Add more chili powder for a spicier chili. Serves:12.

halloween spooky spuds bar

PicMonkey Collage

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Who can resist putting on a costume and pretending to be their favorite rockstar, cheerleader or even a Girl Scout like Terry and I did one year? I love having friends over for a quick bite and a creepy cocktail like The Black Widow Martini (look for the recipe in next week’s post) before the begging begins. This Spooky Spuds Bar is the foolproof dinner on Halloween night. I prepared all the toppings the day before and had the potatoes wrapped and ready to be popped into the oven an hour before my guests arrived. This potato bar is simple and everyone can prepare their spud to their personal liking. I served the potatoes on paper plates along with plastic forks so the Halloween beggars could toss their plate and potato shell into the trash before heading out to trick-or-treat. Best of all, when dinner was over, I was not left with a “scary” dirty kitchen, and was able to sit back, sip my Black Widow and wait for my doorbell to ring….trick-or-treat!!

Directions for a Spooky Spuds Bar for 8 of your favorite goblins…

8 baked potato or sweet potato (clean potato, wrap in foil and pierce all over with a fork. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour)
1 carton of sour cream
1 package of bacon, cooked and crumbled
Butter
2 bunches of chives, sliced thin
1 jar of Marshmallow Fluff (so good on the sweet potato)
Sugared nuts

Instructions:
Bake the potatoes and carefully cut them down the center making a nice pocket for all of the goulish toppings. Set up your “Spooky Spuds Bar” someplace the goblins can line up to assemble their potato.

PicMonkey Collage

Make sure to have plenty of delicious Halloween treats. I bought some cupcakes and cookies from a local bakery and made a boxed brownie mix with frosting, then added all the Halloween toppers. Can’t get much easier than that.

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grilled shrimp over coconut rice with mango salsa

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Here is a fast, fresh and fabulous meal for you to prepare for your family. Turn up your grill or quickly cook these shrimp in your oven. This marinade is one of our favorites and is delicious on chicken and fish as well.

Shrimp Ingredients:
32 medium size shrimp, peeled and deveined
Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki Marinade
8 wooden skewers, soaked in water for about 15 minutes

Shrimp Directions:
Marinate the shrimp for 15 minutes, drain and thread onto the wooden skewers. Grill the shrimp for 3 minutes per side or until cooked through. Serves: 4

Coconut Rice Ingredients:
2 cups jasmine rice
1-1/2 cup water
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 tsp. kosher salt

Coconut Rice Directions:
Rinse and drain the rice in cold water. Place in a saucepan with the water, coconut milk, and salt. Place the pot over high heat and bring the liquid to a boil. Stir and reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and cover the pot tightly with the lid. Continue cooking for 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let it stand 10 minutes, covered. Fluff with a fork and serve. Compliments: Sandra Lee

Mango Salsa Ingredients:
2 ripe mangos, peeled, pitted and diced
1/2 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeño chile, remove seeds and mince
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped small (about 1 cup)
3 Tb chopped fresh cilantro
3 Tb fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper
Honey

Mango Salsa Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste with honey, salt, and pepper.

 

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holiday heirloom tomato marinara sauce

Pasta LeadI love this sauce because it is so versatile. You can make it a day in advance and then gradually re-heat when your guests arrive. If you follow our holiday menu, the only thing you will have to do during the party is cook the pasta (so easy) and toss the salad. You can create a beautiful buffet with the Antipasto platter, Italian breadsticks, Caesar salad and pasta with this delicious sauce. Sprinkle grated Parmesan and your meal is complete.

Ingredients
7 large organic Heirloom tomatoes
4 Tb olive oil, divided
1/2 Tb Kosher salt
Cracked fresh pepper
1/4 cup fennel, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1 medium leek, diced
1/2 cup diced organic parsley
1/2 cup diced organic kale
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 large shallot, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 jalapeño, seeded and diced
1-1/2 tsp Cumin
1 stick unsalted butter
3 Tb Pale Dry Sherry
2, 15 ounce cans organic tomato sauce
1, 6 ounce can tomato paste

Final Holiday Menu Collage

Directions
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Roughly chop the Heirloom tomatoes and fit onto baking tray (it’s fine to squeeze them in). Drizzle the tomatoes with 2 Tb olive oil and the 1/2 Tb Kosher salt. Sprinkle lightly with freshly cracked pepper. Put baking sheet in oven and roast tomatoes for 30 to 35 minutes.

While tomatoes are roasting, chop, mince and dice the remaining ingredients so they are ready to go when the tomatoes come out of the oven.

Once tomatoes have roasted for approximately 35 minutes, remove from oven and let sit. Melt butter in a large dutch oven over medium heat with the remaining 2 Tb of olive oil. Once butter is melted add sherry and stir lightly. Add fennel, carrot, leeks, shallot, garlic, jalapeño and cumin and sauté for approximately 5 minutes. Add kale, parsley and basil and sauté for 2 more minutes until fully blended.

To the Dutch oven add the roasted tomatoes along with the natural tomato liquid that collects beneath the tomatoes when they are in the oven. Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste to the mixture and stir all of the ingredients together thoroughly.

With an immersion blender on medium speed, gradually blend the roasted Heirloom tomatoes in the Dutch oven. Blend the Heirloom tomatoes until the sauce is a smoother texture. Let the sauce simmer on low heat for at least 90 minutes. This sauce can be made a day in advance.

 

my mom’s meatloaf

Comfort Food for the fam!I call this “My Mom’s Meatloaf” because that’s just what it is… my mom’s homegrown recipe. I grew up eating this simple and comforting dish on a weekly basis. It was a meal that my siblings and I all enjoyed and a dish that our mom could put together quickly after a long day at the office. I like to serve it with fresh green beans sautéed with shallots (recipe to follow) and garlic mashed potatoes. I have to laugh because the kids in our neighborhood today love this dish so much they ask me to make it on their birthdays. Who would have thought…. teenagers requesting meatloaf, go figure!

Ingredients
1 envelope Lipton Beefy Onion dry soup mix
2 eggs, beaten
2 pounds ground beef or turkey (I sometimes use one of each)
1 cup Trader Joe’s catsup (my favorite)
2 cups soft bread crumbs
1/2 cup warm water

Directions
Break eggs into a large bowl; beat lightly. Stir in 1/2 cup of the catsup, warm water and soup mix. Add ground meat and breadcrumbs and mix well. Pack into a loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Take it out of the oven and spread the remaining 1/2 cup of catsup all over the top of the meatloaf and put back into the oven for 15 more minutes. Serves:6

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picadillo

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Picadillo is one of my daughter’s favorite meals. This mildly spicy Spanish and Latin American dish is super easy to prepare and there is always enough to re-heat the following day. It seems that when we need something simple to make for dinner, we always repeat the same old casseroles or pasta dishes. Your family will think you went the extra mile with this recipe with all the unique ingredients and flavors. I love the saltiness of the green olives and the sweetness of the raisins. We eat our Picadillo over rice and sprinkle it with cheese. It truly is a comfort food that you will feel great about serving to your family after a long day at work or school.

Ingredients
2 Tb olive oil
7 cloves garlic, minced
1- 1/2 cups chopped onion
1- 1/2 cups chopped green pepper
3 pounds lean ground beef
1- 5 ounce jar green olives, pitted and halved
5 ounces capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
2 dried bay leaves
1 Tb cumin
1/4 tsp. hot sauce
6 cups chopped canned tomatoes, drained 1/2 way
1/2 cup raisins
Cheddar cheese to top
This recipe serves 6

Directions
In a large stockpot heat 1 Tb of olive oil over medium heat. Sauté garlic, onions and green peppers until onions are transparent. Transfer onion mixture to a bowl and set aside. In the same pot, heat remaining olive oil and brown the beef and crumble. Drain beef and put back into pot.

In a separate saucepan, combine the olives, capers, vinegar, salt, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, cumin, raisins, and hot sauce. Let simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes.

Place the olive mixture and the onion mixture into the pot with the ground beef.  Add the half drained tomatoes and cook for one hour over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Serve over rice and sprinkle the top with cheddar cheese if you desire.

farm-to-table heirloom tomato marinara sauce

Lead Heirloom TomatoEverything about this sauce is good for your body– farm fresh Heirloom tomatoes (cancer fighting, low in calories), kale (superfood packed with enough nutrients to be one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet), parsley (often overlooked as just a garnish, it is a powerhouse of nutrients) and fennel (at its peak from fall to early spring; it is crunchy and sweet with an abundance of phytonutrients).

And everything about this sauce is good for your taste buds. I enjoy wandering through my local farm stand [South Coast Farms] hoping the vivid colors and freshness of the fruits and veggies will light up the think tank in my head. On this particular day, the Heirloom tomatoes filled every corner of a wooden table with hues of reds and yellows and greens. I loaded up my wicker farm stand basket with tomatoes and other veggies and headed home envisioning a bubbling marinara on the stove.

Heirloom Farm Collage

Trust me, I am not one to skimp on taste for health. I try to eat healthy but love food and the creativity of new flavors. The first time I made this marinara, I also made Ina Garten’s Rosemary Polenta to go alongside. No calories were saved (hello butter) but together the flavors came together for a beautiful meal.

Next week, Cashmere Apron is going to hit on some simple entertaining ideas for the hustle-bustle of the holiday season. Look for this sauce to make a re-appearance in a rustic holiday menu for 10.

Heirloom Tomato On Its Own

Ingredients
7 large organic Heirloom tomatoes
4 Tb olive oil, divided
1/2 Tb Kosher salt
Cracked fresh pepper
1/4 cup fennel, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1 medium leek, diced
1/2 cup diced organic parsley
1/2 cup diced organic kale
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 large shallot, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 jalapeño, seeded and diced
1-1/2 tsp Cumin
1 stick unsalted butter
3 Tb Pale Dry Sherry
2, 15 ounce cans organic tomato sauce
1, 6 ounce can tomato paste

Directions
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Roughly chop the Heirloom tomatoes and fit onto baking tray (it’s fine to squeeze them in). Drizzle the tomatoes with 2 Tb olive oil and the 1/2 Tb Kosher salt. Sprinkle lightly with freshly cracked pepper. Put baking sheet in oven and roast tomatoes for 30 to 35 minutes.

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While tomatoes are roasting, chop, mince and dice the remaining ingredients so they are ready to go when the tomatoes come out of the oven.

Once tomatoes have roasted for approximately 35 minutes, remove from oven and let sit. Melt butter in a large dutch oven over medium heat with the remaining 2 Tb of olive oil. Once butter is melted add sherry and stir lightly. Add fennel, carrot, leeks, shallot, garlic, jalapeño and cumin and sauté for approximately 5 minutes. Add kale, parsley and basil and sauté for 2 more minutes until fully blended.

To the Dutch oven add the roasted tomatoes along with the natural tomato liquid that collects beneath the tomatoes when they are in the oven. Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste to the mixture and stir all of the ingredients together thoroughly.

With an immersion blender on medium speed, gradually blend the roasted Heirloom tomatoes in the Dutch oven. Blend the Heirloom tomatoes until the sauce is a smoother texture. Let the sauce simmer on low heat for at least 90 minutes.

I have always made this sauce a day in advance which seems to let the flavors meld together even better. This recipe makes enough for eight to ten people+ left-overs. Serve separately as a soup, mix in with quinoa, enjoy over pasta, spread over a grilled steak, use as a pizza sauce…the options are infinite!

 

cauliflower cakes with herb sauce

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I seem to like everything that has the word cake in it…. crab cake, hostess cupcake and pancake.  This meal is no different. I like to shake things up a bit and challenge my family to a meatless dinner. When I do, this is one of their favorites.

Cake Ingredients:
12 ounces cauliflower florets
1 (10-ounce) peeled baking potato, cut into 6 wedges
2 large shallots, halved lengthwise
1- 1/2 Tb olive oil
2 ounces fontina cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup panko crumbs, lightly toasted
2 Tb Parmesan cheese, grated

Sauce Ingredients:
2 Tb light sour cream
2 Tb mayonnaise
2 tsp. chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tsp. minced fresh chives
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced

Salad:
4 cups baby arugula
1/2 cup halved grape tomato
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

To prepare the cakes, place the cauliflower, potato, and shallots on a baking sheet. Drizzle 1-1/2 Tb oil over vegetables; toss. Bake at 400 degrees for about 35 minutes or until tender, stirring once. Place cauliflower mixture in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until chopped. Scrape mixture into a bowl. Add fontina, thyme, salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, and egg, stirring well.

Combine panko and Parmesan in a shallow dish. Using wet hands, shape cauliflower mixture into 8 ( 1-inch-thick) patties; dredge in panko mixture. Place patties on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes or until browned, turning once.

To prepare sauce, combine sour cream and next 5 ingredients in a small bowl.

To prepare salad, combine arugula, tomatoes, 2 tsp. olive oil, and juice; toss well to coat. Place 1 cup of the salad onto each of 4 plates and top with 2 cauliflower cakes. Add a dollop of herb sauce to the very top. Serves:4 Compliments: Cooking Light

 

peanut noodles with spicy grilled shrimp

spicy shrimp leadPeanut Sauce Ingredients
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter ( I used Peanut Wonder)
1/3 cup water
2 Tb soy sauce
1-1/2 Tb rice vinegar
2 tsp chile paste with garlic
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt, divided

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Cooking spray

Pasta Ingredients
4 cups cooked linguine (8ounces uncooked)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin julienne strips
3/4 cup chopped and seeded cucumber
1/4 cup green onion cut on a diagonal
3 Tb chopped roasted peanuts
2 Tb chopped fresh cilantro
lime wedges (optional)

Directions
To prepare the sauce, combine the first 6 ingredients and 1/4 tsp. salt; stir with a wire whisk.

To prepare the shrimp, spray with the cooking oil and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt. Grill over medium high heat for about 3 minutes or until slightly pink (be careful to not overcook).

To prepare the pasta, combine peanut sauce, shrimp, noodles, bell pepper, cucumber, and onions in a large bowl; toss well. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges, if desired. Yields:4 servings.  Adapted from Myrecipes.com.
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skillet-fried chicken

Lead Chicken

You know how it goes in line at the grocery store…you look at your phone, scan the gum and candy rack, check out what the person in front of you is buying and peruse the latest magazine headlines….it’s a ritual. When I saw the cover of Bon Appetit with the headline, “Best Fried Chicken Ever” and the sub-head, “In Five Easy Steps,” I threw the magazine into my cart. That was the February 2012 issue and I have been making this skillet-fried chicken since. It really is easy, just follow the recipe. Be warned; the recipe calls for the chicken to marinate overnight. I always kick myself when I buy all of the ingredients for a recipe, get everything laid out nicely and then realize I missed a step that requires some sort of overnight treatment. You can’t go wrong with this Skillet-Fried Chicken. Serve it up with roasted corn and flaky biscuits and honey. Your family will love you, your skillet and your fried chicken!

Ingredients
2 Tb kosher salt, divided
2 tsp plus 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp paprika
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 3–4-lb. chicken (not kosher), cut into 10 pieces, backbone and wing tips removed
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tb cornstarch
Peanut oil (for frying)

Chicken Collage 2

Directions
Whisk 1 Tb salt, 2 tsp black pepper, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, and onion powder in a small bowl. Season chicken with spices. Place chicken in a medium bowl, cover, and chill overnight.

Let chicken stand covered at room temperature for 1 hour. Whisk buttermilk, egg, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl. Whisk flour, cornstarch, remaining 1 Tb salt, and remaining 1 Tb pepper in a 9x13x2″ baking dish. Pour oil into a 10″–12″ cast-iron skillet or other heavy straight-sided skillet (not nonstick) to a depth of 3/4″. Prop deep-fry thermometer in oil so bulb is submerged. Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 350°.

Meanwhile, set a wire rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet. Working with 1 piece at a time (use 1 hand for wet ingredients and the other for dry ingredients), dip chicken in buttermilk mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Dredge in flour mixture; tap against bowl to shake off excess. Place 5 pieces of chicken in skillet. Fry chicken, turning with tongs every 1–2 minutes and adjusting heat to maintain a steady temperature of 300°–325°, until skin is deep golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 165°, about 10 minutes for wings and 12 minutes for thighs, legs, and breasts.

Using tongs, remove chicken from skillet, allowing excess oil to drip back into skillet; transfer chicken to prepared rack.

Repeat with remaining chicken pieces; let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

tequila lime chicken and grilled potato salad

Tequila Lime CollageA few bites of this and your family will recant the eye rolls and sighs of “uuugh,” when they learn “salad” is on the dinner menu. It’s filling. It’s versatile. It’s full of smoky and tangy flavor. And the ease of preparation makes it the ideal Wednesday on a Whim Meal. My daughter asked for this dinner two nights in a row she loved it so much. If you have selective eaters (like my son), you can serve the chicken and potatoes without the salad and it is still a complete meal.

Ingredients for Tequila Lime Chicken
1/2 cup gold tequila
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 Tb chili powder
1 TB minced fresh jalapeno pepper (1 pepper seeded)
1 Tb minced fresh garlic (3 cloves)
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Directions
Combine the tequila, lime juice, orange juice, chili powder, jalapeno pepper, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the chicken breasts and refrigerate overnight (*if you don’t have enough time to marinate overnight it’s fine, just let the chicken marinate as long as possible that day).

Brush the rack with oil to prevent the chicken from sticking and heat your grill to medium. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade and sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill for 5 to 6 minutes on one side. Turn the chicken and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes until cooked through (be careful not to dry the chicken out by cooking a little longer on a lower flame). Remove to a plate, cover tightly and allow to rest for five minutes.

Grilled Potato Ingredients
One package mini red and white potatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, diced
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 to 2 Tb olive oil
Grill basket

Directions
Add all ingredients to a ziplock bag, seal and shake. Add potatoes to grill basket and let cook for 10 to 20 minutes, rotating every five minutes or so, until tender and browned.

To Assemble Salad
Slice chicken breast into strips and place atop shredded romaine. Then over sliced chicken breast, add pinto beans, olives, corn (roast if you have the time), bacon, warm grilled potatoes, fresh avocado and Cacique brand Cotija cheese. Drizzle with the salad dressing of your choice (I use Brianna’s Home Style Real French Vinaigrette).

WOW4

*Tequila Lime marinade is from The Barefoot Contessa, Family Style

chicken and rice casserole

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PicMonkey Collage

September is National Chicken month so Terry and I decided to dedicate this week’s posts to our fine feathered friends. We are posting some of our favorite chicken recipes like this chicken and rice casserole that was handed down to me. My great-grandmother, my grandmother and my mom all made this recipe for their families over the years. It is a “tried and true” casserole that all kids both big and small will enjoy. I was lucky enough to inherit the original cookbook that this recipe originated from, The Chattanooga Chew Chew Cookbook. As you will see, I have updated this casserole and made a few changes. Before we get to the chicken and rice casserole, check out some fun facts about our favorite bird:

  • Just like cats, dogs, and humans, a chicken is an individual with a distinct personality. Some chickens enjoy the company of humans, while some shy away.
  • Chickens can recognize more than 100 other chickens and remember them.
  • Chickens experience REM ( rapid eye movement) sleep. We wonder what they are dreaming about?
  • When a chicken crossbreeds with a turkey you get a “Turkin.”
  • The fear of chicken is called Alektrophobia.
  • There are more chickens living on this earth than people.
  • Chickens enjoy watching television and listening to music. Seriously, who comes up with this stuff and how do they “know” this?

PicMonkey Collage

Chicken and Rice Casserole

Ingredients:
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 cup mayonnaise
2 cups white rice (will cook this in the broth left over from the baked chicken)
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped water chestnuts
1 Tb fresh lemon juice
1/2 stick of butter
3 cups crushed Kellogg’s Corn Flakes cereal
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:
Bake the chicken along with 1/3 cup of water in a covered casserole dish at 325 degrees for 1 -1/2 hours. When the chicken is done, drain off all the broth into a measuring cup and add enough water to make two cups. Follow the directions on the rice box but use the broth/water mixture instead of  only water.  While the rice is cooking, chop up the chicken into bite size pieces. When the rice is done, pour it into a large bowl and add the soup, mayonnaise, cooked chicken, celery, water chestnuts, onion, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Pour this mixture into a casserole dish.

For the topping melt a 1/2 stick of butter in a medium skillet, over medium high heat. Add the crushed corn flakes and cook until well combines and golden in color.

Top the casserole with the shredded cheddar cheese and cover with the toasted corn flakes.

Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees, covered with foil. Remove the foil the last 5 minutes. Serves: 6-8. Compliments: Chattanooga Chew Chew Cookbook

 

grilled lemon, garlic and fresh herb chicken

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Ok, let’s be honest…. some of you are just plain “chicken” to step out of the box on Labor Day. It seems like everyone wants to grill up a burger. Don’t get us wrong, Cashmere Apron appreciates a good burger but why not prepare something a little different? This chicken recipe is so simple to make, and is packed with flavor and juiciness. Who doesn’t want to show their crew that they care enough to  put a little extra thought into their holiday menu? Simply combine the chicken with the marinade ingredients and let them mingle in a zip-lock bag until you are ready to fire up the grill. The only rule to this chicken recipe is that you use fresh herbs and freshly squeezed lemons. This is a terrific WOW recipe that you can cook up during a busy work week or why not try grilling it up this Labor Day?

Ingredients
3 large chicken breasts with bone and skin
1 Tb lemon zest
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tb fresh rosemary, chopped
2 Tb fresh oregano, chopped
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
2 lemons, juiced

PicMonkey Collage

Directions
Place all the ingredients into a large zip-lock bag and seal. Rotate the bag so that all the chicken is coated with the marinade. Place the bag in a bowl (in case of leakage) and place in the refrigerator. Marinate for two hours or more.

Preheat the grill for medium hight heat.

Lightly oil the grill grate. Place the chicken on the grill and discard the marinade. Grill the chicken until juices run clear. Chicken breast should reach 165-170 degrees when fully cooked. If you don’t have a thermometer- go buy one! It is sometimes hard to tell when the bird is done and some pieces cook quicker than others. Remove from the flame and allow to rest for 5 minutes under a sheet of foil. Serves:3

* Christi is in love with her charcoal Weber Grill and boasts of it’s cooking abilities. She says that it can hold its own against some of the more superior grills. Let us know what your favorite grilling method is and which grill is your favorite.

PicMonkey Collage

 

farmstand veggies and heirloom tomato ravioli

Roasted Veggies over Ravioli

I love to stop at the local farm stand on my way home from working out. I also love the Mexican restaurant I pass by (it just depends on my mood!) On this day, I was feeling particularly healthy as I parked in the gravel parking lot of South Coast Farms with the night’s dinner on my mind. It’s fun to walk through the farm stand and see what creative ideas strike. On this day, the vegetables were so colorful and appealing I couldn’t help but load up my little wicker basket with a variety. The result is this meal here. It is fresh, healthy, quick and perfect for “Wednesday on a Whim.”

Ingredients
1 head cauliflower
1 head broccoli
3-4 small red potatoes
3 red bell peppers
2 to 3 mixed zucchini
2 carrots
1 small eggplant
1 medium onion
1 bunch fresh basil
2 to 3 Tb olive oil
1 tsp cumin
Kosher salt
freshly cracked pepper
1 to 2 packages ravioli (I used Pasta Prima Heirloom Tomato and Basil Ravioli)
1- 26 ounce box of Pomi Marinara Sauce
freshly grated parmesan
1 baguette, sliced into diagonal pieces

Roasted Veggies 2nd lead

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse off vegetables and dry and then dice into larger square-shaped pieces. *For the broccoli and cauliflower, break up florets into smaller pieces. Place all cut-up vegetables in a large glass bowl. Add olive oil, 1 tsp. cumin, and salt and pepper (to taste) to glass bowl. Make sure all vegetables are coated evenly and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Julienne the fresh basil and set aside.

Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Transfer vegetables onto baking sheet in a single layer and sprinkle julienned basil over the top. Roast in oven for ten minutes and then stir vegetables around. Roast for another ten minutes and stir again. Roast for another five minutes if desired. Vegetables should be nicely browned.

While vegetables are roasting, prepare the ravioli according to package directions and heat Marinara sauce on low heat until hot and lightly bubbling.

Place cooked ravioli in the middle of a large platter, layering if necessary. Top ravioli with roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, freshly grated parmesan and additional basil. Arrange baguette slices around the outside of the platter and serve family style.

Roasted Veggies Collage

 

 

 

 

shrimp cakes with grilled corn & avocado salsa

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I was aware that the month of August was hot in Florida, but it seems as though someone has turned up the thermostat. Holy smokes, is it hot! With the weather being so warm, no one wants to eat a large heavy meal and this recipe is perfectly light. These shrimp cakes are moist on the inside and flaky on the outside from the panko crumbs. Visit your local vegetable stand to purchase fresh corn and avocados to construct this salsa, it is a cool accompaniment to top off these tasty shrimp cakes.

Ingredients
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Cooking spray
1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
3 Tb reduced fat mayonnaise
1 Tb fresh lime juice
1 -1/2 tsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
3/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), divided

Salsa
1 cup fresh corn on the cob, grilled and cut off the cob
3/4 cup diced, peeled avocado
1/4 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
3 Tb finely chopped red onion
2 Tb finely chopped, seeded poblano pepper
1 Tb fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt

Directions
To prepare cakes, place shrimp in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until finely chopped. Set aside.

Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray and add bell pepper to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Add garlic to pan; sauté for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Place bell pepper mixture in a large bowl. Add shrimp, green onions, and the next 6 ingredients, stirring well. Stir in cilantro and 1/4 cup of panko crumbs.

Divide shrimp mixture into 10 equal portions, shaping each portion into a 1/2 inch- thick patty. Dredge both side of patties in remaining 1/2 cup panko. Chill patties for at least one hour.

Heat pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add 5 cakes to the pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove from pan; cover and keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining cakes.

To prepare salsa, combine corn and remaining ingredients; stir gently. Serve immediately with shrimp cakes. Courtesy: Cooking Light