Ingredient: Salt & Pepper

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Super Bowl is almost here. Now that the teams have been chosen (Patriots & Eagles) those of us that plan the parties are working on our menus.  Even I am thinking of recipes, as a guest. This year I am on a roll with healthy eating and my 10K-a-day walking. So, the thought of going to what turns out to be Thanksgiving in February is daunting.

Seriously, cheese dips, huge sub sandwiches, chili and desserts galore. All of this is before we even discuss all the alcohol.

This year I am already planning. I love stuffed mushrooms. The buttery breadcrumbs, the wonderful spices, and cheese! Yep, I’m going down the food rabbit hole again. But I have a great recipe that indulges the quest for flavor and cheese without spoiling your healthy eating plan. The trick is to get lots of flavor in without lots of fat or salt. I admit it is “carb-heavy” but they are good carbs; brown rice, cashews, dried apricots and lots of fresh herbs.

There’s a couple of really great things about this recipe. I made them for demo purposes I used large Portobello mushrooms. For the big game, use the “baby bellos”. That way you have bite-sized options. While the recipe calls for “seeds”, you can use any crunch factor. I actually used cashews. Again, the recipe calls for cranberries, but I used dried apricots. For the herbs, you can use whatever you have on hand or get creative in the store. Remember if it smells good together it will probably taste good together. I love to combine Tarragon, Thyme and a little Mint. It’s such a fresh flavor.

I think of this kind of recipe as a canvas. It’s great for changing ingredients or adding ingredients. The best part is the “stuffing” is so good you can make it as a side dish on its own. Just remember to adjust your seasoning like salt & pepper and especially your herbs.

Make lots because these will go fast. The big he-man may hesitate and look for pizza or chili, but once he’s had one of these he will want the whole tray!

Enjoy and as always, send me back pics of your variations. I love to hear from you.

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
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Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
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Ingredients
Main stuffing mix
Tahini Sour Cream Sauce
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Lightly brush mushrooms with olive oil. Season, inside and out with salt & pepper. Place open face on baking sheet.
  3. Heat a little of the olive oil in a medium saute pan. Add onion and garlic and saute until really fragrant, but not caramelized.
  4. Place cooked rice in a large bowl and mix in onion/garlic mixture, seeds, dried fruit and herbs. Season with more salt and pepper.
  5. In a separate small bowl, mix together tahini, lemon juice and water (if needed). Stir into rice mixture.
  6. Adjust seasonings and mound into each mushroom cap.
  7. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until cooked through.
  8. Take out of oven and srpinkle evenly with shredded cheese and sesame seeds.
  9. Return to oven for 5 minutes, until cheese is melted.
Sauce
  1. Mix together Tahini, lemon juice, sour cream, garlice powder, salt & pepper, until smooth. Use water to thin out, if necessary.
  2. Drizzle sauce over hot mushrooms and serve immediately. Serve extra sauce along side.
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Mexican Street Corn

My family goes crazy for Mexican Street Corn. It is served all over the Southwest, usually as a full cob of corn with a skewer tucked into one end. This makes it easier to eat while walking around. We will order it off the cob to ensure that every bit of flavor is devoured. We want each bite to have that tang of cotija cheese and sweetness of the corn. We love the acidity that the lime juice adds and that final hit of heat from the chile powder.

How do all those flavors come together? Well, the corn is grilled and then basted with a mixture of mayo and sour cream, while it is still hot and quickly rolled in copious amounts of cotija cheese. A quick squeeze of lime and sprinkle of chile powder and it is ready!

Is your mouth watering yet? In California, you can get this wonderful treat all year long, but it really is best in summer when corn is at its sweetest. I wanted to find a way to have that flavor on my dinner table all the time, without relying on fresh corn. Popcorn! Let’s put all those flavors together and encrust a piece of halibut. Yeah!  I love the crunch that comes with the popcorn and the subtle flavors of fresh halibut and its light taste with a bit of brininess.

See the notes below on how to get the flavor into popcorn if you aren’t interested in fish.

Mexican Street Corn
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Servings
4 6-oz pieces
Servings
4 6-oz pieces
Mexican Street Corn
Print Recipe
Servings
4 6-oz pieces
Servings
4 6-oz pieces
Ingredients
Servings: 6-oz pieces
Instructions
  1. Whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, and 2/3 cup cotija cheese.
  2. Add chile powder, lime zest, coriander.
  3. Taste and add salt & pepper if needed, or additional chile powder.
  4. Slather mixture all over halibut. Coat halibut in fresh popped popcorn and sprinkle with remaining cotija cheese.
  5. Bake at 450° for 10-20 minutes. It depends on size of fish. A good rule is 10 minutes per inch of thickness.
  6. Fish is done if it flakes when a fork is twisted in it. Serve with lime wedges and a dollop of remaining sauce on side.
Recipe Notes

So if you don't want fish but would love this flavor on popcorn, mix all the ingredients together. You can leave thick or thin out, slightly, with beer.

Toss while popcorn is HOT and enjoy!

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Change it Up Piccata!

I am always looking for ways to change up a standard recipe, that I seem to make over and over. Especially this time of year, I am hearing lots of people that are switching over to a gluten-free lifestyle or trying to cut down on the “bad” carbs.

Chicken Piccata is one recipe I can always count on that my whole family will eat. Even my most picky eater just scrapes the capers off and is happy. So how can I make this a healthier dish to put on my dinner table? I came up with nuts, instead of breadcrumbs. When I use breadcrumbs, in anything, they are homemade and toasted with copious amounts of butter. I also try to infuse as much flavor into the breadcrumbs as possible and that means salt, too. By using the nuts, you get SO much more flavor and less salt with no butter.

In this recipe, I chose to use walnuts, but you can really use any nut.  I also, always, toast the nuts before I use them. It really enhances the flavor. Finally, remember that nuts do have a shelf life.  You should be able to smell when they have turned or are a little too old to use. Or you can just trust the date on the bag.

Sorry for no picture. I thought I had one from testing but didn’t. I promise to post one soon.

Enjoy!

Walnut Crusted Chicken Piccata
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Servings
2-4 people
Servings
2-4 people
Walnut Crusted Chicken Piccata
Print Recipe
Servings
2-4 people
Servings
2-4 people
Ingredients
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. Start by heating your pan on high heat with no oil in it.
  2. Pound chicken so that they are evenly thin (about 1/2"). Season with salt & pepper
  3. Pulse walnuts in processor to a coarse crumble. Place in a shallow bowl.
  4. Coat both sides of chicken with walnuts. Optional: you can brush the chicken with a dab of olive oil.
  5. Add olive oil to the pan and then add chicken. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. It should look golden and crispy. Remove to a plate and keep warm covered with foil.
  6. Remove pan from heat, until ready to make the sauce. Your walnut bits will burn if you aren't careful.
  7. Juice one of the lemons and slice the other for garnish.
  8. Return pan to a low-medium heat and add a little more olive oil. Scrape up the browned bits.
  9. Add the garlic then lemon juice, chicken broth, and capers, continuing to scrape the bottom of the pan. Make sure it isn't burning.
  10. The sauce should begin to bubble and thicken within 2-3 minutes.
  11. Pour sauce over chicken. Garnish with parsley and lemon slices. Serve immediately.
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I’m Going to Julia’s!

There’s that icebreaker question, “If you could invite any 3 people, dead or alive, for dinner; who would it be?” My answer is simple. Julia Child, Julia Child and Julia Child. I even know what I’d make, my Osso Bucco and Parmesan Ricotta Gnocchi.

You may think that Julia is the obvious choice for a chef but there is more to my choice than just that. Cooking is a lifetime sport, you never stop learning or playing with your food. There is always room for improvement or a new technique. Julia herself was well into her forties before she enrolled in the Cordon bleu. Which is why she is one of my biggest inspirations.

I am often asked how long I’ve been cooking. I can honestly say I’ve been cooking since I was 2 years old. I finally formalized my education when I was 23. The last few years of writing this blog, with your support and feedback has really fueled my desire to continue my education and to educate you.

Recently, I was given an incredible opportunity to travel to La Pitchoune, Julia and Paul Child’s home in the south of France. I will be going with a small group of women writers and an amazing mentor, for a 10-day retreat. I can’t wait! I feel like a kid anticipating Disneyland. I know when I come back I will have so much more to share with you.

I want to share those recipes with you that I would have cooked for Julia, had I been given the chance. I hope I am posting often from France too, but this should keep you day dreaming while I’m away. As Julia would say “Bon Appétit”!

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Osso Buco
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Osso Buco
Print Recipe
Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Osso Buco
Gnocchi Verde
Servings:
Instructions
Osso Bucco
  1. Rub veal shanks lightly with olive oil , season with salt & pepper and chopped herbs.
  2. Dust each shank shank with seasoned flour and set aside.
  3. Put 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy skillet and heat. Do not let the oil smoke. Brown shanks on all sides. You may add small amounts of oil if needed, be careful not to overdo it.
  4. Add the wine, tomatoes and chicken broth. Stir to combine.
  5. Cover pan and reduce heat. Simmer for 45 minutes.
  6. Test for tenderness. Fork should pierce meat easily.
  7. Sauce should be thick. If not , remove meat and hold, let sauce reduce uncovered over low heat.
Gnocchi Verde
  1. Remove stems and veins of spinach and wash thoroughly. Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch spinach for 1 minute and then drop in ice water to stop cooking. Squeeze ALL moisture out and let air dry. You want spinach to be bone dry. Chop spinach fine.
  2. Saute onion and pancetta in butter. Add spinach and saute until dry. Cool until cool to touch.
  3. Mix together remaining ingredients and fold all together.
  4. Flour your hands and form 1" - 2" balls. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with a damp towel. You can hold here for up to 6 hours.
  5. When you are ready to cook: Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil oil and salt the water. Add the gnocchi a few at a time and cook until puffed and cooked through, about 5-8 minutes. They should rise to the surface. Use a strainer or slotted spoon to remove, GENTLY, from water.
  6. Place in a buttered dish in a single layer. Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with parmesan.
  7. Broil for 5 minutes until just browned. They are great served as is or with your favorite tomato sauce.
Recipe Notes
  • You can chop and slice the fresh vegetables by hand. I use a food processor and the chopping and slicing blades. This save a lot of time.
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Simple Pleasures

Swimming in Lake Tahoe.
Swimming in Lake Tahoe.

As a young mother, MANY years ago, I was very idealistic. My children were not going to eat chocolate, too early. High fructose corn syrup would never pass their lips and they would never have frozen or processed foods. Ha! Last summer we vacationed in Lake Tahoe, and were concentrating on the simpler pleasures. We hiked and spent days on the lake. Our nighttime activities were nothing more than dinner out and a movie in the hotel room.

One night, while we were waiting for our table, at dinner, my kids and husband were playing beanbag toss. I must have been in a dreamlike state, when I had a vision of those little girls and the meals I use to make for them. I don’t think there is a kid out there that doesn’t like chicken tenders or nuggets. In an effort to get my kids to be happy campers at dinner I developed my own recipe for chicken nuggets. It was a hit! I always served them with whatever fresh fruit was in season and some sort of potato. I admit that I was too lazy to make my own French fries so I often used a wholesome frozen variety.

As we get back into the busy days of fall, I hope you and your family will take a moment to slow down and enjoy a simple pleasure like homemade chicken nuggets. Oh and we are planning our next Lake vacation.

Chicken Nuggets
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Chicken Nuggets
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Cut chicken into 2 bite pieces
  2. In a large ziplock bag combine flour, parsley, poultry seasoning, salt & pepper.
  3. Add chicken pieces to bag a few at a time. Shake to coat and then set aside.
  4. In a shallow bowl stir milk and egg. Put crushed crackers in another bowl.
  5. Dip floured chicken pieces in egg mixture then crackers to coat well. Then place on baking sheet, in a single layer.
  6. Bake at 425° for 10 - 12 minutes, until golden brown
Recipe Notes

My kids love these with ranch dressing homemade or not.

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Last Minute Memorial Day Entertaining Idea!

It has been a busy year at my house and now summer is almost upon us. I hadn’t really thought of putting anything together for Memorial Day, since I will be away at a wedding. However, I did get a lot of requests for something that can be thrown together quickly and still be great. I have the perfect plan!

When you think about Memorial Day most people think about the traditional beginning of the summer and thus BBQ season. This year it has been a little cooler than usual in my hood, so a barbecue doesn’t really seem appealing. How about a taco/burrito bar theme? This is great because my recipe is mostly done in the slow cooker and you can use the guacamole recipe from my Cinco de Mayo post. I like this particular recipe because it frees me up to be with my guest, not in the kitchen.

Slow Cooker Lime/Beer Shredded Chicken
Print Recipe
Chicken breasts are slow cooked in lime juice and beer with lots of herbs a garlic that gives a great flavor. This is good base for tacos, burritos, salads and all sorts of things.
Servings Prep Time
4-8 people 5 minutes
Cook Time
6-8 hours
Servings Prep Time
4-8 people 5 minutes
Cook Time
6-8 hours
Slow Cooker Lime/Beer Shredded Chicken
Print Recipe
Chicken breasts are slow cooked in lime juice and beer with lots of herbs a garlic that gives a great flavor. This is good base for tacos, burritos, salads and all sorts of things.
Servings Prep Time
4-8 people 5 minutes
Cook Time
6-8 hours
Servings Prep Time
4-8 people 5 minutes
Cook Time
6-8 hours
Ingredients
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. Chop your herb(s) and wrap in cheesecloth to make a bouquet garni. This step is optional. My family doesn't like to see the herbs, so I use this method.
  2. Drizzle olive oil in bottom of slow cooker.
  3. Add the chicken and pour lime juice and beer over. You may need more to cover.
  4. Throw in your garlic, salt, pepper and herbs.
  5. Cook on slow for 6-8 hours. You can cook on high for 4 hours if needed.
  6. Using two forks, shred chicken while it is still hot.
  7. Serve as a filling for tacos, burritos, salads or get creative. Enjoy!
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