Monday, October 25, 2010

fabulous food and friends

I'll start today off with a yummy recipe for a family favorite. The thing I love about lettuce wraps, is that you you get a healthy dinner that pleases everyone...what could be better. You could skip the whole messy bit of wrapping the chicken stuff in a leaf of lettuce and serve it as a salad if you would like....but then again, that's the fun of it all. No,it is not the much coveted recipe for P.F. Chang's Lettuce Wraps, you will just have to settle for the S. Voortmeyer version. I pack it with a bunch more vegetables...and the kids don't care, so you know it's a winner. I serve it with plum sauce on the side, no I don't make it from scratch...you can easily find plum sauce at any grocery store in the Asian section.


Chicken Lettuce Wraps
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
1 can (8 ounces) water chestnuts, drained and diced
1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
3 Tablespoons oyster sauce
1 Tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce/paste
2 cups broccoli slaw (carrots,broccoli,cabbage-bought in bags found by bagged salads)
2 cups cabbage slaw (variety cabbage, shredded-bought in bags found by bagged salads)
2 cups bean sprouts
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1 head iceberg lettuce, separated,washed, dried and refrigerated until crisp
1/2 cup toasted peanuts, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

In a large skillet, cook chicken in a mixture of the two oils for about five minutes. Remove immediately from skillet and set aside. In the same pan, add the mushrooms, water
chestnuts, chili garlic sauce, and ginger and cook on high heat for three minutes. Next, add the slaws and sprouts and cook for another three minutes. Make a well in the center of the pan and add the vinegar, oyster sauce, and soy sauce. Bring to a bubble and then toss together with the vegetables. Add the chicken back into the mix and cook until hot.
Season with salt and pepper, careful on the salt, the soy sauce and oyster sauce are plenty salty on their own. Serve the mixture with cold lettuce wraps and top with the cilantro and peanuts. My family likes to top with plum sauce.


Cutie Louanne, is one of my favorite blogs to visit, to find sensible and delicious recipes. I am amazed that every time I visit her site, that I want to eat what is on the screen. I know if we lived closer, that we would be having very fattening dinner parties. So I was pleasantly pleased to find a sweet award waiting for me at her fabulous blog:


Louanne's Kitchen

She has gifted me with the:
So, here is the idea behind the One Lovely Blog award:

1. Accept the award and post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.

2. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you love.

3. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.



So besides the great blogs and sites that I have listed over there to the right of your screen, Here are fifteen of the sites I frequent often. So to the following bloggers below, I bestow upon you...the coveted One Lovely Blog Award...ta da!

The Sweet Life Bonnie, dishes up a lot of Tex Mex cuisine...I love Tex Mex, and her sweet antidotes about where the recipes come from. She is also a very supportive Blogger friend.


The Crafting Chicks This site is hosted by a flock of chicks, that share fun foods and crafty ideas. Whether you are an advanced crafter or remedial (like myself) there are tons of great ideas here.


IS*LY( I Still Love you Miss Melissa Esplin, is one talented gal. as a young mother and wife, I am amazed at her cool crafts and thrifty ways. Visit her site to be amazed at how she takes thrift shop finds and re tools them into fabulous styles.

The Survival Mamma Randayle is all about power...power of the woman as well as using power...lol....as a writer, Randayle weaves humor into her sensible posts.


Yummy Lolly Sharnee, is one of my favorite blog designers. I love her retro style and she shares it all with us. Besides her free templates, she offers very inexpensive designs to purchase.

Anne Strawberry is a cute young mother with a bright little site. Stuffed with all of her fun and beautiful recipes.


We Are Not Martha two childhood girlfriends, who whip up great recipes (and honing their Martha skills) as well as sharing their favorite things. Check out their recent post about Butter Ball University.


Neo Homesteading Cat's site is nothing short of awesome. This cool mom turns out so many recipes that are truly inspired. Much like myself, she cooks the "old school" ways and doesn't apologize for it.

White Hot Oven Delicious, inventive, recipes...need I say more? This site is Chuck full of recipes and her culinary adventures. Check out her Pork and Bean Bread...yes,i said Pork and Bean Bread.

A Beautiful Mess Alicia, is an "every woman", sharing the joys and stresses of her life. This site is painted with lovely photos of journey. Alicia, hosts Tasty Tuesdays..one of my favorite haunts.

Brenda's Canadian Kitchen This canuck treats us to family style recipes that I lick my chops at. I am planning on making her most recent post for Apple Cake this weekend for sure,

Get Off Your Butt and Bake Jonna makes heartwarming simple delights...her pictures are beautiful and I have to say I am a bit envious that her house is always clean.

The Constant Hunger hey now I know why I like this blog...'cause I am always hungry as well! Her site doesn't help matters either...its full of her kitchen adventures and they always look yummy.
Bottomless Kitchen This young couple prepares dishes together. They have an uncomplicated approach to food and try and stretch the dime as well.

You Fed A baby Chili? As you know I have always had a love of Asian style food and I love to infuse it in my Rocky Mountain Cuisine...so, of course I naturally love this blog. Love it even more because this blog is hosted by a cooking scientist daddy.

Wow! That was a lot of work. But all of these fun sites deserve it. Its fun to be part of a cyber world so full of talent!

Finally, I always love to participate in Tasty Tuesdays over at A Beautiful Mess...so get on over there and check it out!

If you want to join in...feel free

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

harvard beets...they're all the rage....


Harvard Beets, were supposedly created by a Harvard student (or a Yale student), there is also a story that they originated in a tavern in England named 'Harwood' and the 'Harvard' is a mispronunciation of the name. What is it about the English and the French that they take credit for everything? Just kidding...kind of. Anyway, a Harvard Beet is one cooked in a thickened vinegar sauce. Sound gross to you? Trust me, they are oooh so good. My kids even love these, even the picky one. And it is so much fun when they come running in the next morning worried that their #2 is red...lol. I read up on this phenomenon, and found that if your urine is red after consuming beets, that you might have an iron deficiency...but no word on the stools. Oh don't act surprised I am commenting on red poo poo...you all know what I am talking about.
It is my opinion, that the method in which a person was prepared a dish, when young, can taint his or her opinion indefinitely. Most people seem to have grown up on "boiled" vegetables...and I must say, if you are one of those people, I can understand why you might not love your vegetables. I usually prefer roasted vegetables to most cooking methods, due to the fact, it brings out the natural sweetness as well as the fact that you do not lose the nutrients into the water.
Beets are one of my favorite vegetables. I love the vibrant colors and flavors that a beet produces. I have found people either love them or hate them. For those who generally hate them, I always suggest that they try roasting them in a bit of olive oil with a dash of salt and rosemary. The roasting, brings out an intense sweetness that makes them a bit more favorable to the "haters".
To roast beets, start by removing the greens and setting them aside. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Scrub the beets well and place them on a foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle the beets lightly with olive oil. Fold the foil over to make a packet and place in the oven. Smaller beets will take about 20 minutes or so and very large beets can take up to an hour. To test for done-ness, Pierce with a paring knife. It should glide right in. Set out to cool until you can handle them. The skin will sluff right off easily. You can serve them immediately or use them in a recipe like the one that follows.
As far as those greens go, I love them too. I usually just saute them or steam them. In thecase of the harvard beets, I didn't mixt themm in the sauce, but rather, served them under neathh the sauced up beets. I hope you try these out, they are totally worth it!


HARVARD BEETS
printable version
3 cups cooked beets, thick sliced
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup juice from cooking beets
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice
2 pinches salt
2-3 Tablespoons butter

In a saucepan, combine vinegar, juice, cornstarch, brown sugar, five spice, and salt. Stir over medium heat until thickened. Add beats and coat completely. Stir in butter and melt while reheating the beets.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

boring chicken...no way!

We just returned from San Francisco last night, and after a week of eating out, I just couldn't bear not having a good home cooked meal on the table tonight. But I must confess, that I'm a bit tired...(whaaahhh I know)...and cooking wasn't on my "to do" list today. It was a beautiful fall day, and all I wanted to do was get outside and work in my flower beds and garden. Besides not wanting to cook, there wasn't really much in the fridge to cook anyway, being as we had been gone for a week. I opened the freezer and stared blankly at the meager fixin's...and grabbed a package of frozen chicken. Chicken can be sooooo boring sometimes, especially when one isn't in the mood to cook. But then...the heavens opened up above me and my "ahhha" moment came. Braising chicken is a fabulous way to make a tender and majorly flavor full dish. Soooooo....
I made chicken Cacciatore. Typically, a cattiatore is a a "hunters" style dish, prepared with tomatoes, onions, herbs, mushrooms and such. I didn't have any mushrooms, but I did have a zucchini hiding out in the garden as well as a can of artichoke hearts in the pantry. So whipped this up at noon, let it braise all day, and when our chores were done, we had a hearty and delicious dish waiting for us. Superwoman...I tell ya. So that's what was for Saturday night dinner here. Hopefully Sunday will be as successful...'cause I haven't been to the market yet.
CHICKEN CACCIATORE
printable version
Olive oil
2 cups onion, sliced
2 cups red and yellow pepper, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large fryer chicken, cut into pieces
1 cup white wine
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 cup fresh tomatoes, sliced or 1 cup stewed tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 Tablespoon parsley
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon celery seed
2 teaspoons thyme
2 cups zucchini or artichoke hearts
4 cups rice, cooked
Season the chicken generously with the salt and pepper. In a large skillet,saute the onions and peppers together, with a bit of olive oil, until just tender. When finished, set aside. In the same skillet, brown the chicken on both sides in a little bit more olive oil. Deglaze the pan with a cup of white wine. Top the chicken with the garlic and sauteed onion and peppers. Pour the crushed tomatoes and fresh tomatoes over the chicken and sprinkle the herbs over the top. Simmer the stewing meat for an hour and half, careful not to let it boil over as it is juicy. Add the zucchini and artichoke hearts and cover. Simmer for ten minutes more or until zucchini is tender. Taste for seasoning and serve over rice if you wish. You can also serve this over pasta as well.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

delicioso!

Hey folks! I am hailing you from San Francisco tonight, where I am enjoying a few days out of town with my family. The week began with my husband's 20 year reunion ( will relate my experiences later), and has continued with fabulous day trips to the Golden Gate Park, California Academy of Science, Japanese Tea Garden, Fisherman's Wharf, and the San Francisco Zoo. But of course, I have been enjoying the good eats this fabulous part of the country has to offer. I can't wait to go home and try whipping up some new flavors.
In the meantime, as promised, the recipes for the trio of salsas as well as flour tortillas. I will be home soon...and I have some stories to tell ya! Trio of salsas, beginning with the Avocado Black Bean, then the Mango, and finally a fresh Tomatillo.

MANGO SALSA

1 Granny Smith apple, cut into ¼ inch dice
2 firm ripe mangoes, cut into ¼ inch dice
1 medium onion, chopped fine
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh jalapeño chili, or to taste, seeded and minced (wear rubber gloves)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
a pinch cumin

Stir all ingredients together and refrigerate.


TOMATILLO SALSA

1 lb fresh tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and chopped
1 teaspoon fresh Serrano chili, seeded (for less spiciness) and finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon salt

Stir together all ingredients and let stand, covered, about 1 hour.

AVACADO AND BLACK BEAN SALSA

1 ripe avocado, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 ripe red tomato, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
½ cup black beans
1 scallion, both white and green parts, trimmed and finely chopped, or 3 tablespoons diced sweet onion
1 to 2 teaspoons jalapeño peppers or serrano peppers, seeded and minced (for a hotter salsa, leave the seeds in)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper

Place the avocado in the bottom of a nonreactive mixing bowl and gently toss it with 2 tablespoons of the lime juice. Add the beans, tomato, jalapeño and cilantro to the mixing bowl and gently toss to mix. Taste for seasoning, adding more lime juice as necessary and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pictured here are the fresh Flour Tortillas


Flour Tortillas

4 cups all-purpose flour (or 3 cups all-purpose and 1 cup whole wheat)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups warm water (or enough to make the dough the right consistency)

In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients and 1/2 of the water. Mix together with your hands and continue adding water into the dough until it forms a solid ball, but is not too sticky. If necessary, add additional flour or water as needed. Knead the dough on a floured board for 5 minutes. Cut the dough in half and then in half again, continuing the process until you have 8 equal portions. Roll each piece into a ball, place them on a lightly floured surface, and cover with a damp towel.
Heat a griddle or cast iron pan to medium heat. Roll out the dough, one piece at a time to about 1/4 inch thickness. Place one round of dough on the griddle and cook on each side for about 30 seconds. Take care that the griddle is not too hot or the tortillas will scorch. Continue the process with the remaining 7 portions of dough.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

quiero que la buena comida

Wow. What a stir I caused Tuesday night at at my cooking class when I announced that I am not a slave to Cafe Rio. For those of you not graced with a Cafe Rio in your neck of the woods, It is a Mexican American haunt, where patrons can order up cafeteria- style, dishes such as: burritos, tacos, and taco salads. The salads are really what has caused all of the buzz, topped with sweet pulled meats, cilantro, and a tomatillo dressing. Now, don't get me wrong, I do eat there on occasion...I even enjoy it. The deal is, that I don't crave it....because I can make my own similar dishes...So if I offended you...you are just plain WEIRD!
I have always had a flare for south of the border flavors...My dear aunt Sylvia, raised me on home made tamales, pasole, mole, and fried tortillas stuffed with pulled meats. So, naturally, I love to dish it up as much as I like to dish it out. Although, pulled meats are good, I tend to lean more towards larger bites of marinated meats rather than slow cooked (just a preference).
This recipe I am about to bestow on you is one of my favorites. It takes a few minutes of prep, a couple of hours of marinade time...and only a couple of minutes to cook. It is moist, tender, and flavor packed. Typically, I serve it over a salad or wrapped in warm home made tortillas with fresh salsa. I also love to tear fresh cilantro over the top with a squirt of lime. Check in soon, I will be posting the recipe for those fluffy flour tortillas hanging out in the background, as well as a trio of spicy pico-style salsas that will compliment many meals.

GRILLED FLANK STEAK
printable version
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
¼ cup honey honey
3 large garlic cloves, minced
6 Tablespoons sweet red pepper relish
1/3 cup lime juice
Zest of one lime
2 Tablespoons mint
1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 2 1/4-pound flank steak

Mix all ingredients except steak in 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Add steak and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours, turning occasionally.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat) or preheat broiler. Remove meat from marinade; discard marinade. Grill steak to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut across grain into thin strips.

The recipe below is a great side dish to a variety of meals. It compliments tacos and such wonderfully!

CILANTRO LIME CORN
printable version
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large red peppers, sliced
6 ears of corn, sliced into inch thick wheels
1 Tablespoon finely grated fresh lime zest
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro

Mix together the corn, red pepper, and beans and toss in a small amount of olive oil. Arrange on a baking tray and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.
Cook shallot in butter stirring, until softened. Remove from heat and stir in lime zest, cilantro, and lime juice. Add corn, red pepper, and salt and pepper – toss until covered with sauce.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

my bread and butter... brought to you by Nature's Pride

WRITER'S NOTE: In addition to this being a completely divine dessert, I have found that this was an absolutely decadent breakfast as well! Recently, I was offered the opportunity, by the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program to try a Nature’s Pride product. The challenge was to use the product in a recipe and win one of six spots to go to the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival in November. Well, of course I was game for that! I was even more excited when a coupon arrived and I discovered that I would have my choice of more than fifteen Nature’s Pride products. When I went to the store, I knew instantly what I would prepare.
As you know, I often profess, that I feel it is important to feed my family as healthy as possible. I try to provide sustainable, organic and natural foods. So I was glad to see Nature's Pride would fit right in. I had been to the farmers market just days before and purchased some beautiful Jonathan apples, and fall is whisping through the air. I intended to make white chocolate caramel apples with them, but I ended up deciding to pair those crisp tangy apples with Natures Pride Country White Bread.
I ended up choosing to prepare a Bourbon Caramel Apple Bread Pudding. I haven’t ever made a bread pudding with sandwich bread and I had my reservations. I don’t typically buy white bread. When I opened the bag I was tickled to find that the bread was wrapped in cellophane as well.

This reminded me of the bread my grandma used to buy and make me cinnamon toast with. When I opened the cellophane wrapper, I was met with a rich smell…who doesn’t love white bread when they were little?
The slices are hearty and large…perfect for a sandwich, but even better for bread pudding. I would have used a whole bag but Ruby snagged a slice before I could dice it all up.
The following is the recipe, but before you get to that, I would like to tell you how it turned out.
I make a lot of desserts, and although my kids and love them, my husband isn’t always so excited. He doesn’t crave desserts like I do. But let me tell you there wasn’t a crumb left a few minutes after I scooped into the bread pudding. My husband said it was by far one of the most decadent and delicious recipes I have whipped up in a while! Wow! What a review. I was so pleased with how Natures Pride bread held up in this dish. I am going to try it in a strata next. I am definitaely a fan.Thank you Foodbuzz and Nature's Pride for this fantastic opportunity...I hope to see you in November at the Foodbuzz festival!


BOURBON CARAMELIZED APPLE BREAD PUDDING
printable version
1 loaf Natures Pride Country White Bread
½ cup butter, melted
¼ cup cinnamon sugar
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup milk
1 vanilla bean
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup bourbon
3 Jonathan apples, diced
½ cup white chocolate chips


In a saucepan bring the milk, cream, and bean to a simmer. Beat the eggs and sugar until light.

Temper the milk mixture into the egg mixture slowly. Return the combined mixtures (custard now), to the stovetop and simmer, stirring constantly until thickens.


In a shallow pan, cook the apples and brown sugar on medium high heat, until the apples begin to soften and the juices and sugar caramelizes.

Carefully add the bourbon making sure that it does not come close to the flame.

Cook on medium for just a few minutes until the caramel thickens.

Meanwhile, cut the Natures Pride Country White bread into small cubes and place on a sheet pan and toast in a 350 degree oven for fifteen minutes or until crispy and golden.

Remove from the oven and toss the cubes with the melted butter

and the cinnamon sugar in a large bowl.

Next, Pour the custard over the cinnamon bread cubes

and add the white chocolate

and the bourbon apples and caramel

Soak for ten minutes, and then place into a buttered baking dish.

Cover with aluminum foil and place into a water bath (by placng the baking dish into a larger dish and filling the larger dish with water half way up). Bake at 350 degrees for an hour. Cool slightly before serving and drizzle with caramel if you wish.

I had cut heart shapes out of a few extra slices of bread and sprinkles them with cinnamon sugar and drizzled them with caramel as well. Bread pudding isn't exactly the most exciting dish, visually, when it comes out of the oven. However, it can easily be dressed up to make an elegant dessert to pair with any meal.
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Friday, October 1, 2010

deep thoughts about rhubarb

Do you ever wonder about where your food comes from? I often do. Take rhubarb for instance, rhubarb originated in China a very long time ago. Besides eating the stalk, the Chinese have used rhubarb for medical purposes for thousands of years. But mind my mind often wanders to the poor Chinese dude who tried to eat the leaves of the plant first...and was poisoned....oops. I bet the second guy was worried when he ate the stalk. Rhubarb grows as a vegetable...but guess what...it's a fruit. A fruit you say...how is that? Well, in 1947, a New York court, decided that because because it was technically used as a fruit...that it should be classified as one. Upon reading that particular fact, I started thinking about out judicial system and the ridiculous things they waste their time on.....I'll stop now...before I get off track.
Anywhoooo, I love rhubarb, and it is still in season here, and readily found in grocery stores. I have paired it with raspberries, because I don't particularly love cooked strawberries..if you do, feel free to add strawberries if you like. The raspberries and rhubarb serve as a hearty sauce with a tangy but sweet delightfully fluffy lime mousse. Don't get scared off by the steps necessary in this mousse. They are all easy and you will quickly achieve a decadent beautiful dessert.


LIME MOUSSE

6 Tablespoons water
4 ½ teaspoons gelatin
2 cups lime juice
1 cups sugar
Zest of 3 limes
2 egg whites
2/3 cups sugar
2 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

In a saucepan combine the water and gelatin. Add the 1 c sugar, lime juice, and zest and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and bring to room temperature.
In bottom of a double broiler bring 2 inches of water to a boil. Combine egg whites and 2/3 c sugar in a bowl and set into double broiler. Be sure that the bowl does not touch the water. Turn the heat off and whisk the eggs and sugar for about four minutes. This process is to cook the eggs enough that they are safe for the mousse. Be careful to make sure that the eggs do not froth too much or cook. Take the eggs out of the double broiler and put them into a mixer. Beat until heavy peaks. This will also cool them.
Beat the whipping cream to medium peaks.
Mix the meringue into the lime mixture. It will appear thin. Fold the whipped cream in so that it is completely incorporated.
Pour the mousse into molds or tart shells and refrigerate overnight.
** to adjust the firmness of the mousse and make it lighter, add more whipped cream.

RASPBERRY RHUBARB SAUCE

½ cup sugar
2 cups rhubarb
1 cup raspberries
1 tablespoon lime juice

In a heavy saucepan, combine rhubarb and sugar and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes until tender. Add a bit of water if needed to get it started. Add the raspberries and lime juice and cook for 10 minutes. Blend if you wish to have a fine puree or leave as is for a chunky sauce. Serve hot or cold.