Chicken, Pepper, Tomato & Zucchini

chicken,zucchini,-peppers-aWe love dishes with good flavor and lots of colorful veggies – and this one fit the bill perfectly.  It’s based on a recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. (Mel is a wonderful cook and she makes it with Orzo, but I felt like Couscous.)  I also changed out the veggies a bit.  I can’t wait to make it again!

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup dry couscous
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp butter

1 tablespoon olive oil
4-5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1 cup chopped red, orange and yellow bell pepper (can use green pepper, too)
2 cups halved grape or cherry tomatoes,
2 small zucchini, halved and cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 tsp oregano  (I was out so I used 1 tsp Greek Seasoning.  You could also use 1/2 tsp oregano, a big pinch of basil and a little pinch of dill)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Bring water to a boil and stir in 1/2 tsp salt, butter and couscous.   Remove from heat, cover and let sit for at least 5 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large 12-inch nonstick or stainless skillet over medium heat. Add chicken, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and cook 6-7 minutes until golden on the outside,flipping halfway through.

Push the chicken to the outer edge of the pan and add everything else except the feta cheese.  Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring often until the mixture begins to dry up.

Push chicken back into the middle and nestle among the vegetables.  Continue cooking for another few minutes.  Check salt and pepper and add more Greek seasoning if needed.

Add 1/2 the crumbled feta and stir through.  Remove from heat and sprinkle on the rest of the feta.

To serve: Put a couple of spoonfuls of the Couscous in a wide flat bowl and top with the meat and veggies.

To make a gluten-free version – serve over rice or buttery mashed potatoes.

 

Easiest French Bread Ever!

French-BreadThis bread recipe is from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe and is the easiest and most consistent bread recipe I’ve ever used. It uses a clever proofing method, where you don’t even take the dough off the mixer, and you use ice cubes to create steam while it’s baking.

We love toast and jam and this simple, delicious bread is perfect for that and for sandwiches. I made two loaves yesterday with a cup of whole wheat flour substituted for a cup of the white flour, and I really liked the flavor and texture.

I’m sure you could add Rosemary and chopped olives, or other herbs and interesting things, but this bread doesn’t really need it.  But who knows?  Now that I’ve found a good recipe – I may experiment!

INGREDIENTS

2 1/4 cups warm water
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp kosher Salt  (Mel uses a little less)
2 Tbsp olive oil
5 1/2 – 6 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup whole wheat flour and 4 1/2 -5 cups regular flour)

Mix water, sugar and yeast in a mixing bowl. If you have a stand mixer, use the mixing paddle to mix it.

Cover the bowl and/or mixer with a clean dishtowel and let the yeast get bubbly for 5 or so minutes.

Add the salt, oil and 5 cups of flour. Mix with a dough hook, or spoon for 6 or 7 minutes, adding flour as needed- 1/2 up to 1 cup flour, until dough is forming a nice solid mass. It will hang onto the dough hook and then flop back in the bowl occasionally. Only add flour if the dough is really sticking to the side of the bowl.  If kneading by hand, knead for several minutes until it’s smooth and elastic.

Leave the dough in the bowl and the dough hook in the dough. Cover the stand mixer and bowl with the kitchen towel again and leave it to rise for 15 minutes. Uncover the bowl, run the dough hook for 30 seconds or so and cover again. Repeat this process 3 more times. (You can also just leave it to rise, covered for one hour.)

Remove the dough from the bowl, split it in half, and spread it out into a sort of rectangle.  Roll it along the long end and pinch the ends and bottom so the dough holds together. Lay the loaves side by side, seam side down on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat.

Slash the dough with a very sharp knife at an angle 2″ apart. Cover again with the kitchen towel and leave to rise for an hour.

Preheat oven to 375. Just before you put the bread in the oven, throw a few ice cubes in a metal oven proof dish and put it in the oven, on the lowest shelf.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating pan half way through. It should rise up and get nice and brown. Check it for doneness by turning the loaf over and knocking on it. If the loaf sound hollow, it’s baked.

Let cool before slicing. Slather with butter and call it a day.

 

Shrimp and Sausage Skillet Corn

shrimp-and-sausage-corn
Another tasty recipe from Southern Living, that’s easy and pretty quick. I made some substitutions based on what I had on hand. I like the idea of using sweet corn as a “starch”.  You could substitute almost any protein for the sausage and shrimp, and it would still be good.

Ingredients:

1 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp butter
5 cups frozen corn
1/2 cup whole milk ( or 1/2 ‘n 1/2)
4 oz. cream cheese
(Or sour cream that accidentally froze, was thawed, drained and whipped. Just saying.)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp green onions (originally called for 2 Tbsp fresh chives, chopped)
1 tsp olive oil
8 oz. any kind of sausage, cut into 1/2″ slices (I used smoked sausage and some other kind of sausage which was frozen.)
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails on
1 Tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
Little more salt and pepper

Heat butter in a cast iron skillet.  Add onions and cook for 5-6 minutes until nicely softened and starting to brown just a bit.  Add corn and cook another couple of minutes stirring frequently.

Add milk, cream cheese, salt, black pepper. and green onions.  Stir and cook for a minute or so. Remove from heat, and cover to keep warm.

In another frying pan, heat olive oil and saute sausage for 5-6 minutes.  when cooked and browning just a bit, remove to the top of the  corn mix – keeping some of the drippings.

Sprinkle a little more salt and pepper on the shrimp and saute in the hot drippings for 3-4 minutes, until pink and cooked through.(If the shrimp is frozen, it will probably release water. Just scoop the shrimp up and save the “broth” for another time.)

Toss on top of the corn and sausage mixture, and sprinkle with parsley.

Quick and good!

Borracho (Drunken) Beans

I’d never heard of Borracho (Drunken) Beans until just a few days ago. This recipe is from Kiki810 on Allrecipes – with a few minor changes.

Kiki uses two cans of tomatoes and 1/4 cup of pickled jalapenos. Being as there a quarantine and all, I didn’t have that but thought a can of diced tomatoes and one of Rotel might do. I also added a little cumin and bacon for a more smokiness. The beer cooks out for the most part, but leaves a nice complex flavor.

You honestly don’t need to soak the beans overnight, and there is some consensus that the beans taste better if you don’t.

Ingredients:

1 pound dried pinto beans, washed
2 quarts chicken stock or water
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle dark beer (can also use  light beer)
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (10 oz.)can Rotel tomatoes with jalapeno peppers (regular or mild)
1 onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, chopped or 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 bay leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
1 ½ Tbsp dried oregano
1 ½ cups chopped fresh cilantro (I used stems also, roughly chopped.)
1 strip of bacon, chopped or 1 Tbsp bacon drippings

Wash beans and put in a large pot, covered 1″ deep with boiling water. Simmer 2 hours, stirring from time to time to prevent beans from sticking to the bottom of the pot and add water as needed.

Add all other ingredients, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally for another 1 1/2 hours. Liquid should reduce quite a bit – so it’s not soupy, but more stew-y.

Mash a few beans to thicken the sauce. Makes a great side dish, topped with a little cheese, more cilantro and sour cream. It’s also great as a taco with with cheese, sour cream, chopped fresh tomatoes and salad greens.

Leave out the bacon drippings for a great vegan version.

Clotted Cream

Sarah Tevendale on Pixabay

I’ve always loved reading about clotted cream and a couple of years ago, I found a recipe by Chef John on allrecipes.com.

So simple – and yet it has a rich, complex flavor that is truly unique.  It keeps for several days covered in the fridge.

Crazy simple ingredients – actually one  ingredient:

4 cups heavy cream  (Try to avoid ultra-pasteurized cream which won’t work as well.)

Heat oven to 175 degrees.  Pour cream into a ceramic or glass dish.  An 8 or 9″ square pan is fine.  You want the cream to be between 1.5 and 2″ deep.

Bake overnight or for at least 12 hours.  Left uncovered, the cream will develop a fairly thick, brown-spotted top, with the softer cream below.  If you want less brown bits, cover the pan with foil for the first 6 hours or so, then remove the foil for the last several hours.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool thoroughly. Refrigerate until it’s nice and cold.

Poke a small hole in one corner and carefully pour off the liquid under the cream.  Save the liquid – it is delicious to bake with!  (I always use it if I am making scones or biscuits.)

Remove the cream into a bowl and stir very gently to break it up.  You can add a bit of the liquid back if it seems too dry to you.

Serve on biscuits or scones with a dollop of jam or a swirl of honey.  It is sooo good!

Thai Salmon Red Curry

caroline-attwood-kC9KUtSiflw-unsplash2

Salmon by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

We love the Mae Ploy Curry pastes, and the red Curry Paste is used in one of our favorite Thai dishes from a wonderful local Thai restaurant, Red Salmon Curry.  Salmon works out beautifully in this curry, but you could really use any firmer fish.  The Red Curry Paste is pretty spicy – so go easy on it the first time.  Love the heat?  Go for the full 1 1/2 Tablespoons! Serve with rice.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 cup chopped red pepper
1 cup mushrooms, halved
1  to 1 1/2 Tbsp Mae Ploy Red Curry Paste (use less if you don’t like it too spicy!)
1 cup cauliflower florets
1″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut in slivers
1 can coconut milk
1/2 can water
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 cup fresh baby spinach
1/2 to 1 lb salmon fillet, skin removed and cut into 1″ pieces
Fresh lime juice (1/2 lime)
toasted cashews (optional)
fresh basil (optional)

In a large, deep frying pan, heat oil and saute onions for 3-4 minutes until softened.  Add peppers and saute another couple minutes.  Add mushrooms and continue sauteing 3-4 minutes until the water has released and partially dried up.

Form a well in the middle of the veggies and add a little more oil.  Add the curry paste and saute lightly for a minute or so.  Stir to combine with all veggies.  Add cauliflower and ginger and stir again. Add coconut milk, water and fish sauce.  Bring to a simmer and let cook for 3-4 minutes.  Add spinach and salmon and cook 3-4 minutes, or until salmon pieces are pink through.
Serve with rice, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice on top.  Sprinkle with cashews and fresh basil if using.

Skip the salmon for a vegan version.  You can use other vegetables if you have them.  If using a stiffer veggie like carrots or potato, cook them in boiling salted water for several minutes until they are just about done, and then add them with the baby spinach.

So, so good!

Irish Apple Cake

shelley-pauls-I58f47LRQYM-unsplash

Apples by Shelley Pauls on Unsplash

Simple, delicious and not too sweet!

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick) softened and cut into pieces
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2 big apples, or three smaller ones, chopped  (no need to peel)
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
powdered sugar for topping

In the bowl of a mixer, gently blend the flour, baking powder and sugar.  Add the butter and stir just until the butter is in little pea-sized shapes.

Mix egg and milk together in a cup and pour into the flour. Mix just a few moments until they are combined and there is barely any flour mixture left on the bottom.  It make quite a thick dough.

Mix 2 Tbsp sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl and toss the apple chunks in it until they’re coated.

In a 9 springform pan, or a quiche dish, spread about half the cake batter evenly.

Sprinkle apples evenly on top of that, scraping out the bowl to get every last bit of cinnamon and sugar.

Cover the top with the remaining batter.  It will be pretty chunky so it’s easier to just drop spoonfuls and not worry about smoothing out the top too much.

Bake in a 350 oven for 35-40 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.  Serve with powdered sugar, whipped cream, or caramel sauce.

Southern Chicken & Veggie Spaghetti

This is one of those very simple, yet surprising delicious old-fashioned casseroles and I think the recipe is from Southern Living.   You could add mushrooms or cooked spinach or zucchini and it would be just as good.  The sauce soaks into the pasta and creates a nice, satisfyingly creamy main dish.

6 cups chicken stock or water
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups chopped bell pepper, any color
1 1/2 cups yellow onion, chopped
8 oz spaghetti
1/2 cup half n half or milk
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 tsp hot sauce
2 tsp kosher salt
pinch of black pepper
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (lightly drained to remove excess liquid)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Bring chicken stock or water to boil in a dutch oven.  Add chicken and cook 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  (If you start with frozen thighs, which I did, just allow a little extra cooking time.  If you don’t have stock, you can always just use water – the thighs have enough fat and flavor to create a good stock.

Remove chicken  to a plate and add spaghetti to the stock. Cook spaghetti about 9 minutes until done, then remove spaghetti, keeping stock. Turn the heat up to medium and let stock cook down until there are about 2 1/2 cups left. Once chicken is slightly cooled, cut it into 1/2″ thick slices.

Meanwhile, in a large oven proof frying pan, melt butter and saute onions and bell peppers for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, whisk together half n half, flour, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Pour into the stock, stirring constantly and continue cooking 3-4 minutes, until the stock is thickened a little.  Remove from heat.  Check seasonings.

Add spaghetti, chicken and tomatoes to the sauteed veggies and gently stir to combine.  Pour the stock over and make sure the stock is coating everything.  Drop the shredded cheese on top and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

You can also serve this in a 9×13 baking dish sprayed with vegetable oil.  It makes a delicious main dish that is bursting with veggies and fresh flavors!

Scruffy Eggplant Lasagna (Thank you, Jamie Oliver!)

amber-engle-4pjNDw_Qvfk-uns

Beautiful eggplant image from Amber Engle, Unsplash

Can I just say that I’ve totally fallen for Jamie Oliver, his son Buddy and their “Keep Cooking and Carry On” videos made at home?

In particular, this recipe is genius.  I love lasagna but it can feel very laborious: start with a layer of this, then a layer of that, then repeat and try to keep them neat.

His “scruffy” version is so much easier! Here is a link to the original recipe:

https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/pasta-recipes/scruffy-aubergine-lasagne/.

I  am including the link, because he has lots of great substitution ideas. (Don’t have this? Try that!)  But since many Americans aren’t used to cooking by weight, I’m also sharing the recipe as I made it, using ingredients from my pantry.  It makes quite a large batch and you may want to halve it for a smaller group. (Or make the whole batch and know that tomorrow’s lunch will be spectacular, too.)

Ingredients:

1 cup water
2 large eggplants, stem removed  and quartered, then cut into 1″ pieces
3 yellow onions, cut into quarters and then cut in half
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp rubbed dry sage
1 tsp dry red pepper flakes (use less if you’re leery of the heat)
zest of one lemon
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can water
10 lasagna strips, cooked, cooled and cut into 4-5″
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cups grated sharp cheddar
1 1/2 cups grated romano or parmesan cheese
1/4 cup ground almonds (Optional – Jamie uses, but I didn’t have and didn’t miss it.)

Cook lasagna for about 8 minutes to al dente, in boiling, well-salted water. Drain and set aside to cool.

In a large, ovenproof skillet bring 1 cup water to the boil.  Add eggplants and onions, cover and simmer for 20 minutes until both are starting to soften.  Uncover and continue cooking until most of the moisture has cooked away.  (It won’t run into the middle when you try to make a well, but will still have some moisture.)

Make a hole/well in the middle of the pan, and add the olive oil.  Let it heat for a few moments, and then add the garlic powder, dry sage, and red pepper flakes.  Stir the spices in the oil and let them cook for half a minute or so, stirring constantly.  Add the lemon zest and stir for another few moments, until the lemon zest takes on a golden color.

Quickly add the two cans of tomatoes and can of water. Stir to combine and simmer on medium/low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The liquid will reduce some, but there will still be quite a bit. That’s okay.

Remove from the heat and dd the cooked lasagna pieces, poking them under so they’re completely covered with the sauce.  Save a few for the top of the lasagna, but make sure they’re coated with sauce, too.   Top with cheeses, and sprinkle on the ground almonds if you are using.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes.  Devour.

Kale, Apple, Cabbage, Carrot and Goat Cheese Salad

This is based on a recipe from the Pioneer Woman and Natalie Perry, but features substitutions based on what I had in my pantry. It’s a really substantial and flavorful salad that was very satisfying as a main dish. Lots of bright flavors and colors!

Salad ingredients:
6 oz. baby kale
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil
6 ounces grated cabbage and carrots – about 3 cups? Can also use brussel sprouts
2 medium apples, cored and diced
1 cup candied pecans (see note #1)
4 oz. goat cheese
1 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash or baked sweet potatoes (see note #2)
handful craisins

Dressing:
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
4 tsp whole grain mustard
4 tsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

In a large salad bowl, add kale, lemon juice and first Tbsp of Olive Oil. Gently massage the kale for a minute until it has softened a bit and started to turn a little darker green.

Add the shredded veggies, chopped apples and candied pecans.

Make the dressing in a mason jar, shaking vigorously for 30 seconds until well combined. Add to the bowl, and mix gently until everything is coated.

Drop goat cheese, sweet potato (or butternut squash) and craisins on top and serve.

Note #1: To make candied pecans, in a small frying pan add pecans, 1 Tbsp maple syrup and 1 Tbsp whole grain mustard. Cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has dried up. Be careful – it burns easily!

Note #2: peel and dice butternut squash into 1″ squares, toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. Or, do the same for sweet potatoes. Roast at 425 until browned and soft about 15-20 minutes. Poke with a fork to make sure they’re done. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.