Pickles

I used to hate pickles. I’d scoff at dills, turn my nose up at Gherkins and generally snub anything resembling relish. Happily, I’ve matured, no longer harboring resentment for all things preserved in vinegar. This open-mindedness no doubt came from the onslaught of gourmet pickles (thank you $8 jar of Wickles).

So the other day I found myself with an onslaught of cucumbers from a friend’s garden, which coincidentally are NOT on my top 10 veggie list.I guess there’s still room for growth.

Anyway, inspiration struck in the form of a gourmet burger from a local joint here called Market Street Tavern. (Is it just me or are gourmet pickles showing up everywhere?) A quick search through my extensive recipe archives (read: Google) and I unearthed this recipe for Easy Refrigerator Pickles (emphasis on Easy). No kettle steamer, no special jars, no esoteric ingredients…sold.

It says to use pickling cucumbers, which mine were decidedly not, but they still turned out fabulous. Here’s the dets.

Easy Refrigerator Pickles
Adapted from Kathleen Kanen, Cooking Light

  • 6 cups thinly sliced cucumbers (about 2 pounds. I used the Cuisinart slicer.)
  • 2 cups thinly sliced onion
  • 1 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (or equivalent of minced, jarred garlic)

Instructions:

Place 3 cups cucumber in a medium glass bowl (I used metal…all I had); top with 1 cup onion. Repeat procedure with the remaining 3 cups cucumber and remaining 1 cup onion. Combine vinegar and remaining ingredients in a small saucepan; stir well. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute. Pour over cucumber mixture; let cool. Cover and chill at least 4 days. Note: Pickles may be stored in the refrigerator for up to one month.

I know I’m a little behind on this one, but I had to share what we ate for Valentine’s Day. I hope you all had wonderful meals this V-day but if not, call a do-over with this dish. Or maybe come up with another reason to celebrate. President’s Day perhaps?

Do whatever you can to justify spending $20 on rack of lamb for two because yes, it was THAT good.

It was so delicious I dreamt about it all night after eating it. That probably makes me a weirdo…or maybe it was the red wine. Either way…moving on!

Image

First, let me say I was impressed that Turbo even thought of Valentine’s Day. Can’t remember the last time we officially recognized the Hallmark holiday with anything other than a card and maybe a peck on the cheek. But to his credit he asked me the week before what I wanted to do. We both decided that rather than get a babysitter and fight the crowds downtown we’d prefer a nice dinner at home (after Fuss went to bed of course).

I wanted to do something other than our go-to steak dinner, so after some Epicurious searching, I landed on this rack of lamb recipe. We both love lamb (especially at Canyon Grill or Boccaccia) but I always assumed cooking it was way over my head. Thank heavens for Epicurious reviewers who convinced me that not only was this dish doable, it was pretty hard to mess up. Score!

We fixed it with roasted red potatoes and lemon roasted broccolini. Both are VERY simple to make. Just chop about 5-6 red potatoes into bite-sized chunks and toss in olive oil, minced garlic, salt, pepper and rosemary. (I used some leftover fresh rosemary from the lamb recipe). Then coat broccolini in olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast both in 400 degree oven (potatoes for about 25 minutes and brocollini for about 8-10). Just before serving broccolini give it a quick coating of lemon juice.

For the lamb, all you do is mix up a simple herb mixture…

Resist the urge to dredge a piece of crusty French bread through the middle, brown the rack of lamb in oven-safe skillet then coat with Dijon mustard and the herb mixture…

Then return to skillet and roast in the oven. Simple to make and phenomonally good. (And a fraction of what it would cost in a fancy restaurant).

Here’s the printable lamb recipe:

Herb Roasted Rack of Lamb (2 servings)
adapted from Gourmet, July 2006 courtesy of epicurious.com 

For lamb

  • 1 (8-rib) frenched rack of lamb (1-1/2 lb)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

For herb coating

  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 tablespoon dried)
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Dijon mustard, for coating

Brown lamb:
Heat a dry 12-inch, oven-safe skillet over high heat until hot, at least 2 minutes. Meanwhile, pat lamb dry and rub meat all over with salt and pepper. Add oil to hot skillet, then brown rack on all sides (not ends), about 10 minutes.

(NOTE: I thought it looked like it was overcooking so I shortened it to about 6 minutes. Hindsight I think 10 would have given it a darker, crispier crust, but it was still delish).

Transfer meat to plate.

Coat and roast lamb:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Stir together garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, and oil. Brush meat with Dijon mustard while still hot, and coat meaty parts of lamb with herb mixture, pressing to help adhere. Return to skillet and roast 15 minutes, meat side up, then cover lamb loosely with foil and roast until thermometer inserted diagonally into center of meat registers 120°F, 5 to 10 minutes more. Let stand, covered, 10 minutes. (Internal temperature will rise to 125 to 130°F for medium-rare while lamb stands.)

NOTE: I didn’t have a meat thermometer, so after about 5 minutes I cut into it to check. It was way underdone (probably because I shorted the browning time) but after about 8 more minutes it looked great and I skipped the tenting step. Again, this is really hard to mess up!!!

Happy eating everyone!

Greetings!

No, I didn’t die. Shew, you can all relax. :) I’ve just been procrastinating – one of my specialties – because I’m no longer on the MSPI diet and many of my meals are chock full of dairy.

There! I said it! I’ve gone to the dark side. But, that also means there’s a light at the end of the non-dairy tunnel.

But today I have a post hopefully we can all enjoy —- de-cluttering the pantry! Maybe “enjoy” isn’t the best word…but let’s just go with it for now. This is how my pantry looked before. (Warning: Type As and those sensitive to clutter might want to close their eyes…)

A few close-ups for the full effect…

Clearly I had a problem. So when Nate Berkus highlighted a pantry re-do, I was riveted. Here is this amazing woman’s post on it. She is an inspiration.

Warning: I’m not nearly as crafty as Dina and my pantry doesn’t look half as pretty, but I’m still very happy with it. Maybe one day I’ll paint it something other that blasé beige and order those adorable “Wallies” things. (See procrastination reference above).

Anyway, this is what it looks like today…

Since I didn’t purchase the Wallies yet, I labled everything in Photoshop so you can tell what’s what.

I have really deep shelves and three really deep corners that could mean a lot of wasted space. I solved it with 12″ Lazy Susans (already had) and by putting jars or other holders behind pretty baskets. Like this….

Skinny wall shelves also helped corral a lot of small clutter…

And the IKEA shelves tucked into the former no-mans-land are where I keep everything else, including extras of anything or if all of the cereal doesn’t fit into it’s cute little container.

Ahhhh-mazing. I can actually SEE what I’m getting low on and I don’t hate opening my pantry door anymore. Woo hoo!

Oh, and it’s still Fuss’ favorite place to play peekaboo….

While I was at it, I also tackled the area under my stove. The shelves are so deep, I swear if I ever didn’t feel like cooking I could crawl in there and hide until Turbo ordered a pizza.

Things get lost, I have to stand on my head to reach anything, and pot lids would always come tumbling out every time I reached for anything. This is it before.

Now after:

Here’s a brief overview of what it took to get the job done:

1. Measuring

2. Measuring

3. Shopping trips to IKEA and The Container Store

4. More measuring.

My problem was that I needed to make sure I had enough of the clear jars, and both stores are an hour and a half drive, so there was no swinging back by if I forgot something. I also didn’t want to completely clear my pantry and leave it a total mess for several weeks, so I did a lot of arranging in my mind. For the record, I don’t recommend my method.

Once I hit IKEA though, all of my obsessive measuring paid off. I did it in under an hour! I swear that place is like Facebook…had I not been meeting someone for brunch I could’ve burned HOURS. This is what my cart looked like…

Chock full and under $200. I was so happy; I wanted to hug a Swede.

Here’s my shopping list for both projects, which costs a little less than $300:

PANTRY:

Wall installed shelves, The Container Store
Expand-a-shelf, The Container Store
Assorted SLOM jars for dry goods, IKEA
Clear plastic containers, IKEA
Antonius Wire Drawer Sets, IKEA
Assorted baskets, Hobby Lobby during a 50% off sale
I already had the Lazy Susans in the corner, but they’re available at Bed, Bath and Beyond as well as IKEA

UNDER STOVE:

Pot Lid Rack, The Container Store
Expandable Wire Shelves, The Container Store

Happy De-cluttering Everybody!

Lately I’ve been cooking with my hair on fire. At least that’s what it feels like between work, baby, hubby and week-long trip to the West coast. Also, I signed us up for a CSA with favorite farmer Tom at Signal Mountain Farms. All organic, and gorgeous produce. I mean, just check out these radishes!

Oh my, I just said “check out these radishes.” Sorry.

First box came right before the trip. Perfect timing. This is what it looked like.

As the Nasonex bee says, “Beee-utiful.” We gifted most of it and I also made and froze a stir fry to try to keep some of it. Does stir fry freeze well? I don’t know! We’ll see!

I’ve got some fairly strange produce in my fridge right now…pak choi, aforementioned radishes, beets, fennel. You name, I’ve probably got it. And I’ve got three varieties of kale in there people. Three!!!! I love kale but come on Tom.

I split a full share with a friend and I’ve still got so much produce I can barely reach the milk. And it’s almost allllll green right now. But I’ve invested way too much money to let anything go to waste. The last thing I want is for Turbo to utter those three little words: Told. You. So.

So I’ve got my work cut out for me, and I’ve been too frantic to even really research some good recipes. So I’m flying by the seat of my pants mostly, and so far it’s been about 50/50 between good and bad creations. But one dandy little recipe was this radish salad. I didn’t even think I like this veggie but when slathered with lime and cilantro it’s delish. Wait, don’t I slather everything with lime and cilantro?

Oh yeah. That’s why I liked it.

Even so, this recipe is not my own doing. You can thank the fine folks at Fine Cooking Magazine for this one, which I recently discovered and love with all my heart.

Here you go, and happy cooking!

Radish Salad (adapted from Fine Cooking) 
Serves 2

  • 3-4 medium-sized radishes
  • 2-3 pickled jalapeno rounds (from a jar), optional
  • 1/2 fresh lime
  • Small bunch of cilantro
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Pinch of salt
Cut radishes into quarters and toss with diced jalapeno, lime juice, sugar, salt and cilantro. Stir and let rest for a few minutes (while you cook rest of meal is long enough). Warning, radishes are spicy so the jalepenos really add a kick. Omit if you’re spice adverse.

We recently celebrated a milestone…

Hard to believe how incredibly long one year can be…and so short at the same time.

To celebrate, I went with a music theme. Basically put loud and obnoxious instruments into the hands of a bunch of one-year-olds and watched the sparks fly. A good time was had by all. Especially the birthday girl.

But I must day, the cake was pretty darn good too.

Now I cannot take full credit for this creation. My sweet mom (Mae Mae) made the cake and icing and I assembled. It was boxed cafe but the icing was homemade butter cream. Mmm.

I have two apologies here. Number 1: not dairy free. I thought at this point that we were OK with dairy. Not so much. Number 2: I don’t have any lovely step-by-step pictures because Mae Mae really took the reigns with this one. She’s the expert in this arena.

I don’t bake. Ever.

It started with this inspiration from Parenting.com. But it was Mae Mae’s idea to make it pink and green. Brilliant. That’s just the kind of gal she is.

She also got this rockin’ tutu for Fuss. Also brilliant.

Basically you bake four cake rounds: two 9-inch and two 8-inch and one sheet cake. (We had to feed about 50, you could also do single layer). NOTE: assemble this where you will serve it!

Make a curved cut out of the 8-inch so it nestles into the 9-inch to form the body and secure with icing. Cut the other 8-inch (using scrap to measure). Ice and stack other round layers.

Then cut the sheet cake in half, stack it and secure with icing to create the neck. Then take the 8-inch scraps, ice and stack and butt up against the neck to form the top.

Put something circular, like the lid to a can of nuts, in the spot where the sound hole should be. If you’re really industrious, you can later fill with brown icing. We felt like a Thin Mint did the trick.

Ice sides and top and pipe edges. I also “signed” guitar. (Eat your heart out Hannah Montana.) Then I used chocolate wafers to form the frets, cutting out little divots so they wouldn’t stick up too much. I also halved some more wafers to form the tuners. Finally, some M&M’s made the strings look legit…sort of.

The hardest part was keeping a steady hand for the strings, which I used those little squeezable icing tubes you can buy at Hobby Lobby (or maybe grocery store too?) Again, I don’t bake. Just barely had enough, so I recommend buying two.

Even Fuss got her own little cake, made from toy cake tins my mom’s mom used for our first birthdays. Mae Mae keeps everything.

And finally, the finished products:

Now, after all that, do you think she dove in with reckless abandon…rubbing it all over her face and relishing every last bite? Nah.

I tried…

Turbo tried…

Even the cousins tried…

But at least it was popular with the other guests.

Really popular…

And, I got this picture out of it:

Priceless.

Here’s the icing recipe, compliments of Mae Mae.

Buttercream Icing:

  • 4 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 stick of real butter, softened
  • 1/3 to 1 cup of milk  (even 2% won’t be bad; but if you want to  be “bad” use half/half)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Start by creaming butter. Add 4 cups of sugar. Add 1/3 cup of milk. Use electric beaters to blend. Add vanilla. Add more milk, a little at a time, until desired consistency. Adjustments can be made by adding more sugar to thicken or milk to thin.
If you want colored icing, add food coloring in small amounts—a few drops go a long way.

Soooooo….I think I’m lactose intolerant. Apparently this is common after going dairy free for so long. It might improve, but ever since returning to the world of dairy I’ve had an all-too-familiar swelling in the belly. In the past month I’ve had not one but TWO people ask me if I’m pregnant.

I’m not.

The worst part? I can’t really blame them. I’m so bloated right now I look like I did in those early pregnancy pictures. You know the ones where you lift up your shirt and ask your husband to take a picture, giggling at how “huge” your belly has become, only to look back 8 months later and wince at how tiny you were?

I’m at about 16 weeks right now. But there’s no baby in there. Sigh.

I made these burgers while we were still livin’ it up in Cow-town so dairy-free readers – avert your eyes for the last step, which involves melted cheddar. (Don’t tell them but it’s really good). You can still enjoy these, just might want to top with avocado or lots of mayo and mustard and spicy arugula or something flavorful.

The best part is these are Fuss approved! I made a small burger for her and she ate the entire thing, bit by regulation-sized bit. You can also make a whole bunch and freeze the patties you don’t use.

Truthfully I’m struggling with giving up dairy again. Give it up for my baby? No problemo. Walk over broken glass or rush into a burning building for her? Okay. But give up cheese for a little tummy trouble and negative body image, well…..that’s harder. So expect more dairy free recipes in the future…but I might sneak in some butter and goat cheese for good measure.

While you peruse this delicious recipe, I think I’ll Google industrial-strength Spanx…

It begins with chopped bell pepper, which I have the cutest new way to cut. Learned it in a cooking class at Heirloom Catering.

Lop off the top and bottom.

Slice the side and roll it out.

Cut off the bitter white parts.

And chop.

Pop out the stem from the top and chop it too…or come up with some really clever use for it’s flower shape (and email me about it).

Then add bell pepper to a mix of cumin, shallot, garlic, garlic pepper and thyme.

Add – what else? – chopped cilantro.

…and turkey.

Mix it all up with your hands. Come on now, don’t be shy.

Make them into cute lil’ patties.

Heat some vegetable oil in a cast iron or nonstick skillet and add burgers. Cook covered for about 5 minutes then flip.

In the last two minutes or so of cooking, add slices of cheddar.

This is really where you’ll want to look away if you can’t eat cheese…

Yum.

Serve on toasted buns with all the fixin’s.

Take a bite, swoon, and crumble up for your baby to watch her devour with reckless abandon (if she’s anything like Fuss).

Here’s the handy-dandy printable (highlight, right-click and select print):

Southwestern Turkey Burgers (adapted from Rachael Ray)

  • 4 inch section of bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 small onion or 1 shallot, diced
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons garlic pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. package of ground turkey (I used 85/15)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Cheddar, sliced (optional)
  • Hamburger buns, toasted
  • spinach or arugula
  • ketchup, mustard, mayo or any other fixings you like
Combine first 7 ingredients (through turkey) in medium bowl with hands until well combined. Heat cast iron skillet then add oil. Add patties and cook covered 5 minutes on medium heat. Flip and cook about 3 minutes. Top with sliced cheddar. Cover and continue cooking until melted. Toast buns and serve with spinach and any other toppings you like.

Bless me blogo-sphere, for I have sinned. It’s been…two months since my last post.

Oh, and I eat cheese now.

Shew. Feels good to get that off my chest.

Yes, dear Fuss has outgrown the milk intolerance!! Well…sort of. I started eating dairy at 10 months. Her GI doc convinced me to test it again. I was nervous, considering how it went at 6 months but apparently that’s like years in baby world. Taking his advice, I went all out with pizza. I was going to gradually add it back but it seemed there was always something making her fussy…teeth, winter viruses, general irritability…and I needed answers.

The sort of part is that whenever she eats cheese it doesn’t seem to agree, so for now we’re doing soy milk instead of whole (since we just passed the one year mark! Woo hoo!). Not my favorite choice because of all the hype over phytoestrogens but my pediatrician – who happens to be Asian and grew up on soy milk – assured me those studies are inconclusive. So there’s the whole story…not that you asked…or care.

What’s that? You do care? Awwww. Thanks. I care too if you want to share your story. :)

Soooo….to make up for my MIA status, I wanted to post an extremely EASY weekend recipe, sans dairy of course. But first, an apology for the pictures. I guess I’ve gotten a bit rusty. But better to post with ugly pictures than not to post at all, right?

I think that was in Psalm. Or maybe Job.

This recipe came from a magazine that my mother-in-law tore out. She’s a caterer and always has beaucoups of fabulous recipes torn from this magazine or that. I think it was Southern Living?

I made this one Sunday after boiling a whole hen. That sounds intense but it’s really not, and I was able to make about 3-4 dishes from one bird, plus you can use the stock and freeze the rest. So if you have the time, I recommend it because in addition to this soup (which freezes great) you could do enchiladas, chicken pot pie, chicken salad, shredded chicken with black beans…whatever tickles your fancy.

Anyway, it begins with cooked chicken. If you don’t want to cook a whole bird, boil 4 boneless breasts, let them cool and dice.

Shredded chicken

To which you add onion…

Chopped Onion

And saute with a little oil until lightly browned.

Onion and Chicken

Then, you open a bunch of cans. (Told you this was easy.)

Cans

I like to drain and wash canned veggies, but don’t drain tomatoes because you need the juice.

Drain veggies

Add them all to the pot along with the broth.

Add Broth

Throw in 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Add Spices

Bring to a boil, stirring often. Then cover, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.

In the last 10 minutes or so, add a whole heap of cilantro. It called for a specific amount but I added the whole bunch because my mother-in-law said so.

cilantro

I always do as I’m told.

So that’s it! Easy peasy. Sadly, I don’t have a picture of the finished product, but imagine piping hot soup topped with crunched up tortilla chips and happy little sprigs of cilantro on top. Mmm…I’m hungry now. Must go eat.

Enjoy!

Mexican Soup
(adapted from Southern Living) 

  •  4 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp veg. oil
  • 2 (10 oz) cans Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilis
  • 1 (19 oz) can kidney beans
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans
  • 1 (15 oz) can kernel corn
  • 2 (14 oz) cans chicken broth (or 28 oz stock)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • One bunch of cilantro or less to taste
Boil chicken until cooked through. Let cool and chop into bite-sized pieces. Add chicken, onion and oil to large stock pot and saute over medium high heat until lightly browned. Drain and rinse beans and corn, then add them along with Rotel and broth. Add chili powder, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring often, cover and reduce heat. Simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. In the last 10 minutes of cooking, add cilantro and stir.

rosemary chicken and grits

I’m a big talker.

See, I like to ponder aloud things that I should do or will do when I have time. Somehow, that magical window of opportunity vanishes before most of my plans come to fruition. Turbo has gotten wise to my wolf-crying ways and either ignores my grand plans or encourages me to put my money where my mouth is.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Happily, I’ve found a group of friends who share this somewhat debilitating behavior trait. Apparently when people like this get together, the plans get bigger and even less attainable. We’ve intended to visit apple orchards, hold weekly happy hours, host Christmas cookie swaps and so on. To date, one of the few plans we’ve managed to execute is a trip to Ketner’s Mill Fair.

The event is nothing spectacular – a large “country arts fair” with a boat load of crafts, questionable fair food, exceptional people watching and stone ground grits – made on site by their large mill…hence the name. I’ve got a bag of them in the pantry.

And that, boys and girls, is how this recipe was born.

A little perusing on one of my favorite sites unearthed a delicious dairy-laden recipe, which I modified. Any God-fearing Southerner would be appaled to know I made grits without butter or cream, but it’s true. And neither Turbo nor I missed it. I may have to return my citizenship for that comment but I stand by it. The mushrooms and broth give plenty of richness, and a teensy bit of almond milk gives enough “cream” to the sauce.

So here you go my dairy-free friends…mangia!

(That’s Italian for “eat until your pants get tight.”)

First, I boiled both beef and chicken stock with wine in a heavy saucepan – aka my cast iron skillet – until reduced.

broth and wine

Then I sauteed strips of chicken with a little rosemary, thyme and oregano. I didn’t measure (sorry) but just sprinkle until the aroma makes you swoon in anticipation.

chicken

Add some prosciutto. I like saying prosciutto. Has a nice ring to it, no? But if you can’t find it, any pork product will do like bacon, serrano ham or pancetta (Italian bacon).

chicken and pancetta

Once browned, set aside and try to keep any shifty looking kitchen loiterers at bay. (Turbo is an incurable picker.)

chicken and pancetta done

Guess I can’t blame him. Next, it’s mushroom time…

mushrooms

Mmm. Golden brown. Then add your reduced broth and a little bit of almond milk. I recommend not confusing your regular almond milk for vanilla flavored. I did.

adding broth and milk

Blech.

We still ate it. It was pretty good.

Anyway, let this delicious concoction simmer until reduced to sauce consistancy. It’s not going to be super thick because of the lack of cream, but give it about 10 minutes or so. If you prefer a thicker sauce, you can whisk in about 1 tablespoon of flour.

last step flour

Word of caution, the flour turned into tiny little lumps in my sauce. I tried mashing them with a fork but it was tedious so I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. They must have disolved because it tasted delicious but just wanted to warn you. For that reason, flour is optional.

Meanwhile, start the grits by pouring them into boiling water and stirring.

grits

Stir OFTEN with a whisk until thick.

whisk

Add your chicken and prosciutto back to the mushroom sauce and season with salt and pepper.

adding chicken and prosciutto

Once grits are done, spoon onto plates and top with chicken/mushroom combination.

rosemary chicken and grits

Delizioso!

Recipe: Serves 2

Grits:

  • 1/2 cup grits
  • 1 cup water

Chicken:

  • 1 cup beef stock or canned beef broth
  • 1 cup chicken stock or low-salt canned chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3-4 slices prosciutto
  • 1 boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • 8-10 shitake or button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or rice or soy)
  • 1 Tbsp flour (optional)
  • Rosemary, thyme, oregano to taste
  • Olive oil

Boil beef and chicken broths with wine in heavy saucepan until reduced to 1 cup (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.

Sautee chicken in olive oil (two turns of the pan) with rosemary, thyme and oregano. When browned on both sides (about 5 minutes) add proscuitto and cook until browned. Transfer to plate with slotted spoon. Add mushrooms to same skillet and sautee until golden (about 4 minutes). Add stock mixture and milk and simmer until reduced to sauce consistancy (about 10 minutes). If you prefer thicker mixture, whisk in flour. Season with salt and pepper.

To cook grits, whisk into boiling water and stir frequently with wire whisk until thick (about 30 minutes).

Spoon grits onto plate and top with chicken/mushroom mixture.

Enjoy!

 broccoli before

My sister-in-law jokes that growing up, my mother-in-law swore that every childhood illness could be healed with a good night’s sleep and broccoli. If that’s true, then during the month of February you can catch me in bed every night at 8 p.m., and I’ll be serving up broccoli for breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks. Why? Well, if I might indulge in a little self pity, I’d love to summarize my month:

January 8: Fuss spikes a fever the day before her baptism. Hubbie has to truck down to the urgent care clinic as my family is pulling in the driveway. Diagnosed with ear infection and a shot of antibiotics saves the big day.

January 9-12: Fuss runs low-grade fever for five days. Feels ABSOLUTELY horrible. I know this because…

January 15: I get Fuss’ “bug.” Feel like death warmed over. Run low-grade fever for five days. Finally go see the doctor: bronchitis.

January 23: After a faux recovery, Fuss spikes another fever (on a weekend, of course).

January 24: Fuss’ fever goes as high as 104 degrees (at 2 a.m. of course). Worried sick. Meanwhile, Turbo gets horrible stomach bug and has to be quarantined in our bedroom. I disinfect the entire house, twice, then yell at him for touching things.

January 25: Go to the pediatrician. Yep, it’s pnemonia. Will this ever end?

January 26: Turbo feeling better but Mom feels sorry for me so comes in town to help. I get first night’s sleep in almost a month. Heavenly.

January 27: Mom gets Turbo’s stomach bug. Drives back to Carrollton with soda crackers and ginger ale. Feel really guilty…and even more paranoid that Fuss will get sick with yet another bug.

So, that pretty much sums it up.

And while everyone seems to be on the mend for now, I think I’ll stick to my broccoli regime just in case. To spice things up, I’ll need new and exciting ways to cook it…like this dandy little recipe. It’s inspired by the Barefoot Contessa, although hers is called Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli. Obviously, some tweaking was in order.

You start with the magical little green trees.

broccoli before

Place in an oven safe dish and coat with olive oil, salt, pepper and a little garlic.

broccoli and olive oil

Roast in a 400 degree oven until nice and crispy, then top with toasted pine nuts and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

broccoli and pine nuts

Mmmmm. Short, simple, perfection. Enjoy and remember, eat your greens!

broccoli plated

Roasted broccoli with lemon and pine nuts (Serves 2):

  • Approximately 2 cups of broccoli florets
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 1 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted
  • Olive oil to coat
  • 1/4 tsp minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut enough broccoli florets from the thick stalk for 2 people (approximately 2 cups). Place in shallow dish and drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. Toss to coat. Roast in oven until desired crispness, approximately 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and toss with lemon juice and pine nuts. Eat three times daily to avoid stomach bugs and pneumonia. Hey, you can never be too careful.

panang curry final

A couple of months ago I hardly knew what curry was, now I’m blogging about how to make it. Ain’t life funny? A recent writing assignment took me to far-flung corners of my city that I hardly knew existed. I was introduced to the complex, spicy, creamy flavors of Thai food and I fell in love…head over heels.

Now I realize my recent obsession is way behind the rest of the world. I tried Thai cuisine nearly 10 years ago but wrote it off because of a disdain for coconut milk. Thankfully, tastes change. After almost a year without dairy, anything I can eat that’s described as “creamy” simply knocks my socks off.

The dish that really made my skirt fly up was a saucy little number called Panang Curry. I just couldn’t get it out of my head. So a little googling turned up a recipe, and, after a lot of experimenting I had something similar to what I ate in the restaurant. Now I must share it with you because even though it sounds terribly exotic and intimidating, it’s actually very simple to make.

And like any recipe in my kitchen, it’s flexible. You’ll see what I mean in a bit… Let’s just say after a virus hit our house like the bubonic plague I wasn’t feeling top-notch when I made this dish.

You start by sauteeing chicken in the pan. Shocking, right?

chicken

Then you add the savory stuff: shallots, garlic, and ginger.

shallot_garlic_ginger

Let it sizzle until shallots are tender.

chicken and shallots

 Then add peanut butter, turmeric, cumin and chili paste.

chicken and spices

Now I didn’t have cumin (it’s still a mystery as to where it is) and my peanut butter was running low so I only used about half of what it called for. It was still yummy. Also, it called for two teaspoons of turmeric, which I measured in meticulous fashion.

Turmeric

I love eyeballing measurements in my hand. Makes me feel gutsy and a little daring.

That probably means I need to get out of the house more, but let’s just get back to the dish.

Next you whisk in water, coconut milk, lime juice and brown sugar. You only use half a can of coconut milk, but freeze the rest for another time.

coconut milk

Now if you were holding true to authentic Thai cuisine, you’d use kaffir lime leaves. But if you’re fresh out of kaffir lime leaves, or if you’ve never heard of them and wouldn’t know them if they walked in and tapped you on the shoulder, you can substitute with lime juice and grated lime peel. Or, if you’re a real a stickler like me, you could use this…

lime juice

I know, I shudder every time I use this stuff but sometimes a girl’s gotta improvise, right?

Anyway, now that you have a lovely sauce, you add the chopped carrots and bell pepper. Or, if you’re fresh out of bell pepper like I was, just use carrots.

panang curry final

Once the veggies are tender you’re good to go. And, as if this dish weren’t easy enough, the sauce can be made up to three days ahead. So take a walk on the wild side and try this dish soon…your taste buds will thank you.

Here’s the handy-dandy printable version (highlight it and right click to print the selection):

Panang Curry

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 2 Tbsp finely grated, peeled ginger
  • 4 tsp diced garlic
  • 1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp hot chili paste (or less according to heat preference, I recommend sambal oelek)
  • 1 cup water
  • Half a can of coconut milk (I used 14 ounce can, shake well before opening)
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves or 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice and 1 1/2 tsp grated lime peel
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2-3 medium sized carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until just browned, about 5 minutes. Add shallots, garlic and ginger and cook until shallots are tender, about 3 minutes. Add peanut butter, turmeric, cumin and chili paste. Stir until fragrant, 1 minute. Whisk in water, then coconut milk, lime and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer. Add carrots and bell pepper and simmer over medium heat until tender, about 20 minutes. Adjust heat to medium low if curry begins to boil and stir occasionally. Season to taste with salt. Serve warm over rice.

Can be made three days ahead. Cool slightly, cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before serving.

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