Thursday, November 10, 2016

Leftover Makeover: Tex Mex Fried Chicken Noodle Bowl

This is a fast and satisfying dish for two involving leftovers, and an homage to 'souping' up a plain package of my college hero, Ramen.  This would be a long awaited addition to my early installments of 'Dormitory Gourmet', economical, (but also small), one to two person/one dish meals.
  I had a piece of fried chicken(thigh), corn on the cob, diced tomatoes and sour cream.  All these items, sans the fresh herbs that grow in my herb garden were from a part of another dish during the past week, the corn being from the night before.  The chicken was 'new' from store bought batch night before last.
 I keep Ramen on hand because it's convenient and a neutral food that kids can hardly fuss with, usually!
 I pulled the chicken from the bone in large pieces, then diced it, keeping the crust to help thicken the cream sauce that would coat and marry the ingredients together.  I cut the corn from the cob in planks, trying to keep it as whole as possible.  Sour cream contributes to the creamy sauce and robust spices like cumin, smoked paprika, coriander and red pepper flakes give it Latin/ Mid Western flair.
1 piece fried chicken, de-boned and diced, about 1 cup
1 pkg. Ramen, remove seasoning packet and reserve for another use if not chicken
1 3/4 c. hot tap water
1/8 to 1/2  tsp. or to taste powdered chicken bouillon or base*
2 heaping tbsp. sour cream, regular or light, whichever you have
Cumin, smoked paprika, coriander and red pepper flakes  to taste
1 piece corn on the cob, cut from cob
2 heaping tbsp. diced tomatoes, can or fresh, I used canned
Fresh or dried chives
Fresh Parsley, rough chopped
olive oil for drizzling
Sriracha if desired
*if you do not have Chicken flavored Ramen
Place Ramen, chicken base and water in pan and bring to a boil.
After about two minutes, add chicken.
After about one more minute, reduce heat and stir in sour cream.
About 1 minute more and well blended, add spices and herbs.
Turn off  heat and fold in veggies.
Fold until well blended and drizzle with olive oil.
Makes 2 to 3 servings.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Tri Color 'Pepper Steak' Style Venison Chili Beans

Well hunters and huntresses, Fall is here, and it's time for some free roaming, grass fed greatness that is venison again!  I have secured my position in the wild game rally for this year's season.  I have been clearing my freezer to make room for my future deer and readying my mind for some new and exciting dishes to bring to you, including the one I present today.
I was so elated when I caught a Kitchen-Aid grinder attachment at a steal towards the end of last year.  I was finally going to be able to make my own quality market type grounds at home.  I have an antique grinder, you know the kind you attach to a good sturdy farmhouse style table, like the ones we used when I was a girl and helping with the cutting, grinding and curing of our livestock.  Yep, it brings back memories, wonderful ones, but I am glad I have the automatic kind, just to make things a little easier from time to time.
 I do all the butchering for my wild game, a fact for which I am proud, as not to underestimate a 'wonder' that is 'woman' as my hidden tattoo suggests!! I used my grinder to prepare the protein for the recipe above.  This way, you can control exactly what goes into your finished product and know it is a labor of love.
I used three types of beans for this  recipes and oodles of peppers, both in the form of a homemade salsa, furnished by my sister Linda's bestie, some green peppers gifted from a local garden, as well as some mini sweet peppers from the supermarket. I simmered this chili for hours, to develop the depth of these wonderful flavors and scent the house with some country and comforting aromas, but you will be ready to enjoy this in about an hour if you wish.
A crock pot will certainly be ideal, especially considering how busy the day can get, including but not limited to work, school, kids, chores, after school activities, after school sports, appointments, deadlines, canoodling and that mysterious thing referred to as peace of mind! weening the dish from the sometimes off-putting gaminess that is meat from the wild.   I soak all my cuts in a salted and acidic bath containing lemon or vinegar at least overnight.
Bold and warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger lend well to the flavor profile of this dish and venison as a whole. These hearty beans will stand up to a long simmering and absorb the flavors like little protein packed sponges, but don't just take my word for it...Plus a fresh and bright or crunchy garnish helps every meal an individual's own, no bowl will be the same, and it exceptional the next day!!!
2 lbs. ground venison or desired protein
1 medium onion, small diced, about 1 cup
4 oz. uncooked smoky bacon, small diced
1 green pepper, small diced, about 1/2 cup
1/2 c. red, yellow and orange mini sweet peppers
3 tbsp. chili powder
2 to 4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 soft beef bouillon cube or 4 c. beef stock concentrated down to 2 c.
2 c. homemade or organic chunky salsa
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. Chinese 5 Spice
1 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. hoisin sauce
1/4 tsp. celery seed
1 15 can Garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can Pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz.can Black Beans, drained,but NOT rinsed
Fresh Thai Basil for Garnish
Garnish Bar: Optional of course
Fresh chopped onion
Shredded cheese
Sour cream
Diced Cucumber
Slivers of Radish
Fritos/Doritos/Tortilla Chips
In a heavy bottomed sauce-pot or dutch oven, over medium high heat, brown and render bacon pieces, about 4 minutes.
Add onions.
Cook with bacon for several minutes, until the onions are fragrant and translucent.
Add fresh peppers and cook for about 3 minutes.
Add garlic, spices and sauces and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let go for an hour.
If desired, here is where you can add the beans and simmer for about 10 minutes or until heated through and serve.
Simmer chili mixture for about 1 1/2 hours, then add beans and continue to low simmer for about 2 more hours.
Crock-pots cut the hassle altogether,  just let it go all day on low setting adding everything at once.
Serve with crackers or crusty cheesy or buttery bread.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Grilled Cheese w/ Smoked Brisket, Gruyere and Sauerkraut

Brisket left over from a wonderful barbecue dinner the night before can be transformed into a fantastic and satisfying lunch or anytime sandwich, using just a couple more ingredients.  Granted, there isn't really anything one needs to heighten the taste bud satisfaction when there is deliciously and slowly smoked brisket in tow.  The smooth and nutty flavor of the Gruyere is complimentary to the trio, including well drained sauerkraut and an amazingly buttery roll, crisp and crunchy to the palate.
 I did some experimenting and found that a hot-dog roll, grilled with the raw textured side down, makes for a ample and satisfying vessel for the hearty filling.  The surface of the inner bun toasts up wonderfully and has an amazing crunch.  This sandwich is a fantastic blend of Southern American, Swiss and German wonderment!!!
If you don't have time to invest in a homemade brisket, they may be purchased fully cooked, smoked and sliced!
1 pkg. hot dog rolls
1 lb. or more Fully cooked and smoked brisket, thinly sliced
8 oz. Gruyere Cheese, thinly sliced
1 c. Sauerkraut, well drained in strainer and pressed free of any excess moisture
Butter at room temperature
Olive oil for drizzling

In a medium saute pan or heavy bottomed cast iron skillet over medium high heat, drizzle in a turn of the pan of extra virgin olive oil, about 3/4 to 1 tsp.
This helps to keep the butter from browning too fast, plus adds an earthy fruitiness to the flavor profile.
Open hot-dog buns and flatten with palm of hand.
Spread butter on the white side and place in pan.
Gently shake back and forth to ensure all of cooking surface is coated with oil and butter blend.
Layer cheese, then meat on one bun and cheese, then sauerkraut on the other.
SPST.  (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
I like to use a lid at this point to speed up the melting process as well as help get ingredients warmed through, before the bread browns too much and gets scorched around the edges.
You may use as much or as little butter as you like, but too much will "sog" out the sandwich and sabotage the classic grilled cheese crunch.
Remove lid after cheese starts to look melty and continue to check bottom of buns for desired toasty-ness.
Flip one side onto the other and place on paper towels to remove excess oil.
Makes 4 sandwiches.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Silky Potato and Gruyere Soup (Meat, Gluten and Dairy Free)

My family and I enjoy potato soup anytime, especially this time of year.  I have several classic recipes that I serve and now I have yet another to share with you.This particular potato soup is unique and different in a key wonderful way.  I used Silk Sugar Free Vanilla Almond Milk.
Nut Milks are a powerhouse of wonderful heart and body-good nutrients.  This particular nut milk has half the RDA's suggested allowance for vitamins B12 and E, plus 40% of calcium, and healthy doses of riboflavin, vitamin D, magnesium and zinc! This is just for the milk substitution alone!
  This soup is fantastic for the lactose intolerant, those just looking to shave off a couple of calories or someone wanting to tap into their inner  Dairy, Gluten or Meat Free style of life, if only for a meal.  I tried this milk initially in a Dairy Free smoothie I created while on vacation.  It is pretty much a blank canvas as per flavor, considering there is no sugar, a little fat, which is mono and polyunsaturated and less than a gram of carbs.  
  Admittedly, this recipe involves full on Gruyere, but I did some research and there is a Vegan Gruyere made with almond milk also, which would accommodate the substitution, since it will be blended until smooth anyway. Again, this is a transitional recipe, so if you do dairy, by all means use the real deal.  The rich and nuttiness of Gruyere pairs well with the nutty flavor profile of the almond milk.  Also remember, vanilla in and of itself is not sweet per se, especially when no other elements of sweet are involved.  The garnish is simply some grated Gruyere tossed with  bright and smoky paprika and freshly cracked black pepper. A tiny sprig of Lime Thyme is added for aromatics and a pop of color.  This recipe allows for substitutions where you feel comfortable.

6 c. potatoes, preferably russet, white if desired, cooked in salted water, drained and mashed
1 quart Sugar Free Vanilla Almond Milk
1 quart vegetable stock OR chicken stock if desired, depending on desired consistency
1 c. crumbled Vegan Almond Gruyere Cheese OR grated Gruyere
2 tbsp. olive oil OR 4 tbsp. butter(optional)
1 tbsp. fresh or dried chives
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 tsp. onion powder
Himalayan Pink Salt (optional)
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Olive or Chive Oil for garnish (optional)
Over medium low heat, in a medium sauce pot, add potatoes.
Add milk, stock, garlic and olive oil or butter.
Stirring often, slowly bring up to a bubbly simmer.
Using an immersion blender, carefully combine ingredients until smooth.
Add aromatics and cheese, adding more liquid if needed.
Reduce heat to simmer for several more minutes, then turn off heat.
Garnish individual servings as desired.
Serve Immediately.
Makes about 8 servings.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Atlantic Ocean Fisherman's Almanac: Pan Fried Whiting, Yep, I Caught, Cleaned and Cooked These Guys

One of the many highlights from our recent vacation to Myrtle Beach was fishing off the pier with my bestie and fellow vacation mates, Mike and Micheal.  The rest of the gang came too, minus two.  We had a blast, and the breeze was just right, enabling us to withstand the cloudless heat from the gorgeous day, before the storms started to set in.
 The suggested bait of choice was shrimp, which are a heck of a lot cleaner to work with, as far as the hands and worms go.  The pier fishing rates were way reasonable too, around 21 dollars (bait not included) from 3pm to midnight, which included the rod and reel! You could even leave with your equipment, as long as it was returned by the stated time.  This was awesome for me, since it was my and RD's (bestie) dinner night with the crew.  I was able to fish a bit in the afternoon, then we returned much later that night and fished until Midnight, well I did, RD was my photographer and videographer, as well as my witness to the 'one that got away'! I do believe it was a whopper!! Something even took one of my hooks along with my bait!
We had amazing time, not to mention my haul of these two beauties below.
This was the first time I had seen whiting in it's whole live form.  My wheels were turning for something spectacular to create with them, and I ran a  few suggestions by the Mikes.  They simply said "Fry Them" and I said "OK".  The rest is delicious history.
Whiting, scaled, cleaned and butterflied/filleted
buttermilk( I used fat free)
seasoned flour for dredging
oil for frying ( I used Canola Blend)

I butterflied the smaller fish and filleted the other.  I also soaked the fish in icy salted water for about 20 minutes and rinsed before pouring on the buttermilk.  Do not rinse before dredging in the flour.  Fry until golden.  About 3 minutes per side over medium high heat.  Drain on paper towels before plating/serving.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Southern Comfort; Omelette with Country Ham, Tomatoes and Peaches

 On our way to the beach, we passed many roadside stands that offered fresh produce, namely locally grown peaches, watermelons and tomatoes, some even had grapes!  This particular one had three of the aforementioned, so I was elated to have a fresh batch in tow when we arrived in Cherry Grove, South Carolina.  The peaches were large, fragrant and gorgeous.  I asked the kind and knowledgeable lady running the stand for a mix  of peak ripe ones, with some that would be better suited for the days to come.  I saved the largest and firmest fruit to take home to my lovelies, Mom Genesis, and Bronwyn.  The others I had a little fun with, including a Peach and Banana 'Shake' made from No Sugar Added Almond milk, 2 whole  fresh peaches, a banana, and lots of crushed ice.  I also added a tiny amount sweetener to balance it out.  My bestie Rufus and my friend Doris enjoyed it tremendously, as did I.
The next idea came around brunch time, when appetites were soaring and we were gearing up for a day of exploration and sunification, (yep, made that word up!).
We had missed the breakfast wave of the morning , where my friend Michael was at the helm of the breakfast barge, making omelettes to order, which looked amazing.  The team did a fantastic job of finely dicing the ham, onions and green peppers, nothing like a good ole Western to start the day!
I love a flavor profile that includes elements of sweet, savory, bitter and salty.  That being said, I had picked up these small packages of sliced country ham, a staple when I go out of town, if I randomly pass it in a supermarket. I took the traditional route for RD, with a Western and went all the way with mine.   The following recipe is what I enjoyed and can't wait to make again.
3 large eggs
splash of milk or water
1 dash Sriracha or other hot sauce
1 pat butter, more if desired
1 drizzle olive oil
1/4 c. fresh tomato, seeds and skin removed, diced
1/3 c. freshly diced peaches
1/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese, more if desired
1 oz. cooked country ham, chopped or cut into thin strips
olive oil for drizzling
In a nonstick pan, melt butter and drizzle of olive oil, over medium high heat.
Beat eggs lightly and add milk and sriracha.  SPST
Once bubbles in pan are small and before the butter solids brown, add eggs.
Shake pan vigorously back and forth to set up the omelette.
Using a rubber spatula, push outside of cooked egg to center, lifting the pan and distributing contents around the circumference of the pan until whole bottom is set,
Scrape runny topside of egg to edges and sprinkle in cheese, ham and tomatoes.
After about 30 seconds, fold omelette over in pan and slide onto serving plate.
In a small bowl, toss peaches with a scant drizzle of olive oil and fresh cracked pepper.
Arrange over omelette, and garnish with sriracha if desired.
Serve Immediately.
Makes one omelette.

These Muscadine grapes were outstanding!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Making Vacation Calories Count, Our Experience with Boardwalk Beach Cafe, Cherry Grove Pier, South Carolina

The day started with a walk out to the beach here in Cherry Grove South Carolina, the first official trip since our arrival on Saturday.  My bestie and I finally made it to our respective spots side by side, under a brilliant blue umbrella.  RD, the bestie mentioned above, was breaking in his new Tommy Bahama beach chair, a jawbone blue-tooth speaker, and waterproof case for his phone.  I too had come prepared, with my straw hat, sunglasses, fruit waters and most importantly Yes, Chef , a memoir, by Marcus Samuelsson. 
We waded out into the lukewarm and choppy salty waters to the waist, for our customary ceremony of  saturating  our suits and bodies, then posting up to dry again by the humid breeze and obstructed sunshine  that this wonderful day provided.  After about 30 minutes at best, we noticed clouds and quiet fury building on either side in  the distance.  We rationalized that one will go around, the other, gone before we know it, we were wrong!  My weather bug app insisted that we "seek shelter immediately", but we felt we could squeeze out a few more minutes.  A brief and sparse shower hit, but not enough to send us packing, so we continued to bob our heads in unison to Bob Marley or some Top Forty song, I can't remember which.  Within minutes, the thunder in the distance became more omnipresent and the darkening of the sky could no longer be ignored.  The rules of engagement for a thunder and lightning storm, drilled into my head by my parents, echoed in my ears, get inside, unplug appliances, no telephones, keep away from water, stay away from windows, be QUIET!!  

The lightning strike that stretched from the sky to the ground to our right, sealed the deal, sending us scrambling to remove from the sand and lower the umbrella, cover electronics, fold up chairs, grab everything and flee, as our fellow vacation mates yelled from the third floor balcony of our condo to get our butts inside!!  We stored our gear in the back of the Jeep, luckily it was nearby and in a single level parking garage, almost directly behind us.
It was around lunchtime, and since we felt like the crisis had been averted and immediate plans for fun in the sun had been thwarted, why not try out this cafe at the mouth of the pier, just beside our unit, Boardwalk Beach Cafe on Cherry Grove Pier, where in 1964, the world's largest tiger shark on record was caught!!!  
We tempted fate once more by using the garden hose to rinse the sand from our legs and flip flops, before entering, bold I know, but somehow very necessary before entering an eatery, at least in our minds, even though our clothing was soaked throughout.  
We were greeted by a cordial staff, that offered we sit anywhere, wetness and all, which was reassuring.  We chose to stand, until we saw a deck just out back with shelter, plenty of chairs and a new view of the ocean and opposite side of the pier.  The menu offered a select, but efficient selection of bar goodies like wings, cheesesticks, shrimp etc, but also salads, fish, shrimp and chicken tacos  and entrees, sandwiches ranging from Ahi Tuna and Grouper, to Caribean Jerk and Barbecue.   We went with the Double Whammy Burger, boasting two all beef patties, cheese and bacon optional. They offered all the fixings that make burgers awesome, including but not limited to mushrooms, jalapenos, chili and guacamole.
The children's menu is very fair @5.50, offering four choices  and there's also a great happy hour ensemble from 4p to 7p, boasting discounts on bar based appetizers and spirits.  The overall menu prices range from $5.50 to $18.
The burgers were made to order and fresh.  The fries were piping hot, the pickle cool and crisp, a portion of  slaw was also included.  This meal was really two in one and I definitely used most of my 'What the Hell, I'm on vacation' cards in one fell swoop.  Indulgent-yes, worth it-yes, fighting and cheating death, fleeing from lightning storms and  pigging out with your best friend of almost 22 years- on vacation- at the beach-PRICELESS!  

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Omega 3 BLT

A quick and wonderfully satisfying way to get the most out of your everyday BLT  is to add UMPH! and WOW, that being a baked or fried piece of fish!! Not just any fish, Catfish.  This gem happens to be locally caught by my brother in law and sister Bonnie on a fishing excursion.  I was delivered a hearty helping of these puppies still alive and well, when they arrived home from their victorious day.  I cleaned and dressed all my prizes and prepped them for an event packed weekend to come, that being the birthday of my sister Gayle and of course Mother's Day!!! The lettuce is tossed with some tangy seasoned rice vinegar, fresh lettuce and tomato, cheese optional! For Dexterity, I prepared some for lunch, eager to experience the unique and fantastic flavor profile that is food that you have had a hand in from start to finish!
 I like to soak my fresh water fishes in salted water briefly before using.  You may then rinse and marinate in buttermilk or skip the salted water and go straight to buttermilk.  These are both done to elmiminate any fishy taste that might be present.  There is also a veinlike structure that runs down the middle of the fillet that can be removed by pulling from one side of the fillet or the other, that helps this as well.
Omega 3 fatty acids are an amazing addition to any diet.  They are found in many food items including but not limited to walnuts, wheat germ, spinach, flax (seeds and oil), but are mostly associated with fish.  The levels vary from fish to fish, with catfish being above other fish like sole, haddock and flounder, but below salmon.  Considering I cannot access fresh out of the water salmon here in Leesville, I find
catfish to be most fitting.  Omega 3's possess many benefits for the body human.  Catfish contain  poly-unsaturated fats, which are wonderful for helping to lower LDL or what I like to call 'Lousy' cholesterol, and increse the HDL or 'Happy' cholesterol.  The Omega 3 fatty acids in this fish is also great for reducing or aiding in the battle with inflammation.  The heart has shown benefits from this as well.  It is thought to help counter depression and also reinforce antidepressant effects in those affected.
Fresh Cafish fillets, skin removed
seasoned flour
buttermilk pancake mix
canola or vegetable oil for frying, or non stick spray or olive oil for baking or poaching
whole grain bread
cooked bacon
mayo and cheese, optional
Heat oil to 350*F.
Combine seasoned flour with a 3 to 1 ratio to pancake mix.
Add as little or much paprika as desired.
Fry in small batches to keep oil from losing too much heat, possibly causing crust compromization!
Cook until fish floats and is golden brown.
Drain on paper towels.
Serve immediately for maximum crunchtasity!! Yep, I made that word up!!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Dry Rub Aged and Double Smoked Boston Butt

Contrary to popular belief, a Boston Butt is not a part of the animal's behind at all, it is simply the upper portion of the front shoulder.  It is popularized commonly as a Southern American staple for making pulled pork sandwiches and barbecue.  I have enjoyed this cut many times over through my kitchen, as well as many family members' kitchens and grills.  I took a different approach to this protein this time and was amazingly gratified by the effort.  I pierced the fatty side  many times and  rubbed the butt (lol ) with a VERY liberal helping of garlic salt, about 6 oz. for the 8 1/2 lb. portion, pressing what I could into the incisions as I went.   I then placed it in the lowest portion of the fridge uncovered, for around 36 hours to cure and dry brine before grilling.  After the dry brine, I rinsed the meat thouroughly under cold water and patted it dry.  I then rubbed the protein with canola oil and placed it on the grill.  I actually used a metal tray filled with prepped and ready to cook charcoal and placed it in the bottom of my smoker to achieve the smokiness for the first part.
 As the day passed, I realized the evening was upon me and I had to get my girls ready for their wind-down, i.e. dinner, baths etc.. so I removed the meat from the grill and wrapped it in heavy duty foil and placed it in the fridge, to begin again during more reasonable hours.
 My brother and his family were in for the Easter and Spring break so the whole gang was tuckered out and ready for a rejuvenating dose of shuteye, myself included.  My day normally starts around 4:50 a,m daily, so I could really get a jump on my dish, ensuring it would be ready for an early dinner around 5 p.m, when all 9 total of our kids together could partake.  I tasted a piece of the meat and noticed that it was still very highly seasoned even after the rinse, so I countered the saltiness  with a brown sugar and spice based rub for the second part of smoking.
I added some hickory chips to my smoker, as well as a veggie laden ( onion, garlic, celery, plus rendered bacon fat) water bath and readied the B.B. for tastebud transgression.  To the brown sugar rub, I added a chili powder, poultry seasoning, LOTS of paprika,garlic and onion powders, cumin, and a bit of Badia complete seasoning, which is chock full of dehydrated veggies!  I placed the protein on the smoker and let it go for 7 more hours, low and slow!  The kids were on the patio and playing in the yard.  They noticed me checking the water bath levels and curiosity struck.  They then noticed the smell.  Upon request, I tore forkfuls at a time off the bottom, hot off the grill samples for the kids, they loved it.  I later sliced the whole B.B and plated it up, some plain and some slathered in bbq sauce with white bread.  The smoke went all the way to the bone, and my nephew Donovan said with his amazingly thick New York accent, "It was delicious", Enough said!
I fiddled around with flavor and texture combinations and paired the B.B with some yellow rice, quick pickled red onion and Sriracha on a warmed corn tortilla, YUM!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Gluten Free Pumpkin Vermicelli w/Merlot-Almond Butter Sauce

Did you know that pumpkins are a part of the squash family, also known as cucurbit or gourd family.
There are copious varieties of these guys, more often than not, used for decoration instead of  dinner plate adornment. Spaghetti squash is an extremely popular gourd, glamorized for it's spaghetti-like texture and characteristics, a varital substitute for the carby-ness of pasta made from flour, and guess what, gluten free!  I found through some recipe development, that the sought after strand effect of spaghetti squash can be achieved with it's lowly cousin, the pumpkin.  I had wonderful reviews from my tasters and even I was impressed at the finished product.
Many seem to look down their noses at the pumpkins with the stringy 'meat' of some pumpkins, viewing them as old or only good for carving or decorations, not so.  I have seen this strand effect in ones as small as a volleyball as well as ones as large as a baby bear cub's head, fresh picked from a patch and store bought.  I found this lab a particularly interesing and rewarding one.  This pumpkin was  rather small, like a volleyball, so the strands were small and thin as well, hence the name.  The larger ones will yield a larger strand, closer to the size of traditional spaghetti.  The flavor is still wonderful.  I served this spectacular side with a Gluten Free Seared Pork Loin w/Chinese Black Tea and Lemon Pan Sauce, also featured on this blog.
This dish is perfect with poultry or fish as well, a fabulous alternative to a  typical mashed or baked potato, cutting the carbs by 1/3 and boosting your vitamins A and C, B6, plus magnesium, potassium, iron and a gratuitous amount of dietary fiber!!
2 cups cooked stringy pumpkin
1/3 c. Merlot
1/4. c. organic blue Agave Nectar
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. cream or evaporated milk
juice of half of large lemon, about 1 1/2 tbsp.
1 small allspice berry, ground with mortar and pestle
1/4 c. slivered almonds, toasted if preferred for more depth and nuttier flavor profile
pinch of salt, optional
For the pumpkin:
Bring large pot of sea salted water to a boil.
Place halved and cleaned pumpkin in water, cut side up and fill cavity with some of the water with a spoon.
Gently continue to boil for about 5 minutes, then remove from heat and let stand covered, for about 15 minutes.
Remove from pot with and place cut side down in a colander, draining and cooling for about 10 minutes.
Use a fork to flake pumpkin meat into strands.
For the Sauce:
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, bring all remaining ingredients, EXCEPT nuts, up to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring often.
Once liquid has reduced and thickened, remove from heat and stir in almonds.
Fold pumpkin into sauce until well coated.
Makes 4 servings.
Note: This sauce may also be used as a dessert topper!!!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Gluten Free Seared Pork Loin w/ Chinese Black Tea and Lemon Pan Sauce

This is a quick, easy and delicous dinner idea, courtesy of some pantry ingredients, including Chinese Black Tea.  This tea is an excellent substitute for stock or broth, say a cup or less, instead of using just plain water.  The color aids in the browned desired look of just about any finishing sauce, perfect for deglazing.  I was curious and it paid off!  The tea lends a light and earthy element, complimenting the rosemary sprig thrown into the pan while the protein sears.  This recipe is featured alongside another creation of mine, Pumpkin Vermicelli w/ Merlot-Almond Butter Sauce coming up on my next installment!
The  implementation of the black tea serves many purposes, both positive and beneficial.  This tea comes from the Camellia Tea Plant.  There are studies that show this miraculous beverage contains a chemical called polyphenol, which is one of many antixoidants it possesses.  Studies also show that ingesting this tea in it's pure form, without sugar, is a great choice, since it is low in calories and sodium.
Chinese Black Tea is also accredited with lowering cardiovascular risks, helping to aid in the recovery from brain injuries, hearing  and also help slow and offset the progression of Parkinson's.  Now that's a mouthful worth having.  The tea may be brewed the day ahead and refrigerated and will keep up to a week in an airtight container.
8 slices, boneless pork loin, about 1 1/2 lbs., 1/4 inch thick
4 tbsp. Chinese Black Tea, prepared, chilled
Juice of 1/2 large lemon, about a 1 1/2 tbsp.
1 Sprig Rosemary
1 tbsp. butter
Olive oil for drizzling
In a large saute pan over medium high heat, drizzle with olive oil.
Pat chops dry and SPST on both sides.
Sear on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.
Toss rosemary sprig in while searing.
Cook until internal temperature reaches 145*F, and place on warm platter and tent with foil.
Meanwhile, add tea and lemon juice to pan and bring to a boil, scraping up all the pan bits.
Cook for an additional minute or so and remove from heat.
Stir in butter and strain sauce into small bowl.
Pour sauce over chops and serve.
Serves 4.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Country Girl's 'Sunday Dinner' Pizza

Deep Dish Tater Tot Pie Crust 
 Barbeque sauce
1 1/2 lb. seasoned, cubed and cooked chicken, boneless
2 c. packed mixed greens, sauteed in 1 tbsp. butter
3 oz. cooked bacon
2 oz. White Cheddar Cheese, grated
6 oz. Ricotta cheese
Melt grated cheese under broiler on lower rack of oven.
Makes 9 servings.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Deep Dish Tater Tot 'Pie' Crust

Want a new and interesting crust to get creative with in the kitchen, try tater tots.  They provide a hearty and crispity crunch, slightly chewy in the centermost part of the tot kernels, perfect for loading on goodies like sauteed chicken or fish, greens, bacon, and don't get me started on cheeses.  Execution of this crust is as easy as pie and once baked, will stand alone without the baking vessel, perfect for self serve dishes and occasions.  I came up with a recipe called Country Girl's 'Sunday Dinner' Pizza, which toppings include moist and delicious sauteed chicken, mixed greens, bacon,  white cheddar and ricotta cheese, with  barbeque sauce insead of pizza sauce, stay tuned for the recipe!! Back to the crispity crunchy wonder that is this gem, the possibilities are endless, here is your playground, let's see what you can come up with!
You can adjust the texure by letting this 'crust' bake a little longer or less, depending upon what type sauce if any you want to use as a base for other ingredients.  This should present well even at room temperature.  If using a wet sauce, serve immediately after adding the pre-cooked toppings and melting the cheese, there's usually always cheese!
4 cups frozen tater tots, thawed
1 large egg, slightly beaten or 2 egg whites
1 tbsp. olive oil
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
1 tsp. onion powder, optional
cooking spray
Preheat oven to 400*F.
In a medium bowl, crumble thawed tots until coarse and even. 
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle in onion powder.
Add egg.
Toss to coat, using clean hands or fold together with a rubber spatula.
Spray desired vessel with cooking spray and press crumbles into bottom and partially up sides to create borders . I used a 3 quart dish.
Place in oven and bake until golden and crisp, about 25 minutes.  Don't forget to wash your hands again if needed.
Let cool for about 15 minutes if you plan to serve it on a flat surface like a cutting board and will be filling with neutral or cold ingredients like fresh greens, thinly sliced veggies, cheeses you don't plan to melt etc. 
PRE-COOK any items that require it, like raw meat proteins, before adding to crust!!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Creamy White Cheddar Potato Soup with Crab

Potato soup is one of my oldest daughter Genesis' favorite foods right now.  She has undoubtedly had at least 10 food phases in her 9 years including but not limited to  creamed corn, blue cheese crumbles, hotdogs, grilled cheese, steamed broccoli, cuties, broccoli casserole, bologna sandwiches, salads and homemade macaroni and cheese.  During these food phases, the items mentioned above were the only 1 thing I could guarantee she would consume when the menu was not to her liking.  She is currently also rather fond of yogurt, strawberry only, preferably Yoplait and  Ramen, beef only, by MARUCHAN only, with cheese- only! You may be thinking all 'Ramen' are created equal, as did I to some degree, until the particular supermarket I was in one day didn't carry that brand, so I went with what was available.  Sure enough, when I prepared them for her that evening as per her request, with cheese, she said "Yuck, I'm not eating these" and she kept her word. I tried this again later on in the month two more times, same result.   Genesis and my younger daughter Bronwyn are currently both head over heels for all-fruit smoothies made with coconut water, instead of dairy.
With that in mind, I am particularly proud of this simple yet appeasing recipe, because my daughter loves it, and specifically requests it by name, without the crab, that's my garnish of choice.  Since the weather has begun to warm, I don't make it as often, but I'm sure she would enjoy it just the same in the middle of summer, to which if requested, I would most humbly abide.
8 c. cubed russet potatoes, about 7 large
chicken or vegetable stock
1-1/2 c. 2% milk
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
4 tbsp. butter
1/2 to 3/4 c. grated White Cheddar cheese, more if desired
Olive oil for drizzling
Oyster crackers for garnish
Crab meat for garnish
In a medium heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven, over medium high heat, cover potatoes, onions and garlic with cold or room temperature stock or water by about 1 inch.
Bring up to a boil, then reduce to medium, Cover and cook potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes.
Remove from heat, and stir in milk.
With an immersion blender, blend until smooth.
Adjust thickness to taste by adding more stock, milk or water.
Place back over heat and reduce to simmer.
Stir in cheese and butter and simmer until heated through stirring often, about 5 minutes.
Drizzle with olive oil if desired.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Girl Scouts Strawberry Shortcake Cheesecake

I created this scrumptious dessert as my birthday cake!!!
3  boxes no bake cheesecake , 11.1 oz each
1 11 oz. can strawberry topping and filling, chilled
Cheesecake filling:
3 packets cheesecake mix
4 1/2 c. 2 % milk
1/2 c. low-fat buttermilk
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
scant amount of zest of lemon
1 box good quality shortbread cookies, 10 oz.,  preferably Girl Scout Shortbread Cookies, finely crushed or pulsed in food processor
2 packets graham cracker crumbs
4 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 stick butter
Whipped topping:
1 16 oz. container whipped topping
8 oz. sour cream
6 tbsp. confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp. good quality vanilla extract
pinch kosher salt
10 inch Springform pan
Refrigerate 8 to 24 hours.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Yorkshire Pudding Cookies

This recipe was initially a mishap while developing the Venison, Bacon and Black Bean Mini Chili Bowls.  I was toying around with the consistency of the Yorkshire Pudding bowls, and wanted to see if adding less batter to the mini muffin pan would allow it to rise less inhibited.  In fact, it did not, and the batter, which I reduced from about 2 tsp. to 1 tsp., rose just so and baked as a cookie would, not rising much at all.  Considering I needed a vessel to house the Venison mixture, these of course just couldn't accommodate, so I set them aside.
I didn't want them to go to waste, so I pondered how they could be refurbished or simply re- purposed.  Then it hit me, the ingredients were simple and essentially those included in a dessert or custard of sorts.  I then set out to give them more character and amp up the flavor profile.  I had to make a few minor adjustments to keep it in true cookie form, like omitting the onion powder and replacing it with vanilla extract, as it was initially intended for a savory recipe... I melted some butter and added a bit of cinnamon and sugar,stirring together until well incorporated. I then tossed the cooled cookies in the cinnamon sugar and gave them a taste.  I was impressed to say the least and these little guys actually received more attention than the original recipe!  They paired quite marvelously with my coffee and I'm sure the same is even more so with a spot of hot tea!!!  Quick and easy, sweet, salty and crunchy with amazing texture, these cookies turned our to be a delicious bite-sized treat!!!
1 c. AP flour
1 c. milk
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. Chinese Five Spice
Pinch of kosher salt
melted butter
Cinnamon Sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine above down to the Five Spice and blend well.
Spoon about 1 tsp. into each mini muffin cup.
Bake until puffed, golden and crisp around edges, about 8 minutes.
Transfer from pan to cooling area and repeat until batter is used.
Once all cookies are done, melt butter in a large bowl and toss cookies in it.
Shake on some cinnamon sugar and toss again.  Add as much or as little as you wish depending on preference.
Makes about 4 dozen.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Cube Steak Style Lamb and Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Couscous with Apricot/Miso Reduction

This is a rustic and cozy dish featuring marinated lamb and other pantry ingredients.  I removed the bone from lamb chuck steaks and used my textured meat mallet to tenderize and thin the protein enough to pan sear quickly. The meat mallet helps to create the whole cube steak effect and  maximize on the marination time.
The marinade is a zesty and bright one using some Greek salad dressing from the packet, infused with red wine vinegar, fresh lemon, lots of garlic, olive oil and miso.  The couscous is heightened in flavor by a store bought sun dried tomato pesto with pine nuts and sliced black olives.
The flavors of the Mediterranean really shine in this dish, full of tangy and fragrant herbs and spices.
about 1 1/2 lb. bone in lamb chuck steaks
1/2  pkg. greek salad dressing blend
juice of half lemon
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. red wine or low sodium beef stock
2 tbsp. apricot preserves
1 tsp. red miso
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
fresh oregano and rosemary
Remove bones from lamb steaks and place between doubled sheets of plastic wrap.
Pound on both sides to about 1/4 inch thickness.
Combine next six ingredients until well blended.
Add about 1 tbsp. fresh torn oregano and 1 tsp. fresh chopped rosemary.
Pour marinade into large resealable bag and add protein.
Turn to coat well and squeeze out excess air.
Marinate 4 to 24 hours in the refrigerator.
When ready, drain and pat steaks dry.
Sear over medium high heat in a saute pan drizzled with olive oil until done, about 3 minutes, (less time for below well done) for both sides.  Do this in batches as not to crowd pan.
Once all have been seared, keep warm with tented foil or a low oven temp.
Reduce pan heat to medium.
Deglaze pan with red wine or low sodium beef stock.
Whisk in apricot preserves and miso and bring up to a boil.
Cook until desired consistency is achieved.
Remove from heat and whisk in butter.
Serve alongside lamb and couscous featuring stir-ins like sliced black olives and Sundried Tomato Pesto with pine nuts!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Venison, Bacon and Black Bean Mini-Chili Bowls

Venison is a lean and nutritious protein, and if prepared well, an amazing substitute for any red meat namely beef. I enjoy the time of year when I can acquire, through my hunting family members, a fresh batch of Venison to develop recipes for special occasions or a hearty week night or weekend   This recipe came to me while in the 'lab' and thinking of recipes that would cater to a game night themed menu. 
 I really enjoy Venison, as does some of my family, including my girls and nephew.  The kids ages run between 8 and 9 1/2.  I have received a good amount of positive feedback, excluding that of my mom, who has no desire to consume any type of wild game, something about her childhood and getting fed up at a young age when, literally! The base recipe actually sparked several other recipes, quite different in presentation, color and taste, all pleasing .  
The following recipe is essentially my spin
 on chili beans and corn bread, popular amongst the young and old.  The bowl for the chili is my take on Yorkshire Pudding, which I enhanced with Chinese Five Spice and onion powder to compliment the flavor profile of the Venison fillling.  These gems are bite sized, as I used a miniature muffin pan.   I was feeling especially elated about this recipe because I actually did my own grind with my Kitchen Aid with grinder attachment.  I added more moisture element with some chopped bacon.  I found that warm and earthy spices like allspice, cinnamon, clove and even star anise really mesh well with Venison as well as onion and garlic.  The end result of this chili is used as a filling, for a more spoon and bowl chili, simply add a can of tomato sauce, an additional can of beans with liquid, chili powder and a pinch of sugar, sugar optional.
1 lb. ground Venison
1/4 c. raw chopped bacon
1/2 c. chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1/4 c. tomato paste
3 tbsp. beef broth or water , plus more if needed
1 tbsp. fish sauce
1/2 tsp. Chinese Five Spice
1 11.5 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
Sour cream, Sriracha and Parsley for garnish, optional
For Miniature Yorkshire Puddings:
1 c. ap flour
2 large eggs
1 c. milk
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. Chinese Five Spice
pinch of kosher salt
Preheat oven to 450*F.
Over medium high heat in a large saute pan, add bacon and cook for several minutes until golden and fat has been rendered.  
Remove all but 2 tbsp. of the rendered fat, (reserve additional bacon fat to lightly brush muffin cups)
Add the onions. Continue to cook for about 1 minute until fragrant, 
Add Venison. 
Cook until meat is browned and add garlic.
Cook through, about 4 minutes.
Add tomato paste, broth, fish sauce and spice. 
Bring up to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for about 5 minutes.
Fold in black beans and turn off heat.
Meanwhile prepare the Yorkshire pudding cups.
Brush mini muffin pans with reserved bacon fat, cooking spray OR olive oil.
Place muffin pan in oven for 5 minutes.
 Combine ingredients until smooth in a vessel with a pouring spout for ease.
Fill muffin cups about half full with batter. 
Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden. 
Once cups have cooled just enough to remove, do so, to start the next batch. 
*Having 2 mini muffin pans comes in quite handy here. 
You may use the regular sized, 12 cup muffin pans to make dinner bowls, 2 per person.* 
Transfer to a baking sheet or large flat platter and press down or with a paring knife, cut half circle in  the center of each to create a crater to house the filling.
Wait until all have been baked to start the filling process.
Makes about 5 dozen mini chili bowls.