Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Weeknight Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Gumbo is perhaps the dish that most represents Louisiana and its Creole-Cajun heritage.  A fine gift to American cooking. 

An authentic gumbo takes time.  A lot of time to prepare.  Depending on the cook's preference a pot of gumbo can include a variety of ingredients from crawfish, sausage (especially andouille), oysters, duck, pork shoulder, poultry, tomatoes. The list goes on and on.

During the week there is no time to make an authentic gumbo happen but, here is a respectable version of gumbo you can make happen in under an hour, and everyone will be happy.



Weeknight Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
Serves 4
Adapted from Sara Moulton


Ingredients:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1lb. chicken breast tenders, cut into 1-inch thick pieces
8-ounces fully cooked smoked sausage (Andouille or any other smoked sausage), sliced
3-4 Tablespoons Creole Seasoning
4 cups chicken stock
1-10 ounce frozen cut okra
Kosher salt and Freshly ground black pepper

Cooked white rice as an accompaniment

Directions:
To make the roux, heat the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add flour and cook, whisking occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until it is golden brown, and smells like popcorn.

While the roux is cooking, chop the red and green bell pepper, celery, and onion and place them in a bowl.  Press the garlic into the mixture.  Add the chopped vegetables to the roux and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.  The roux will clump o the vegetables, but it will disappear into the sauce once the chicken stock is added.

Add the Creole Seasoning to the roux mixture and cook, stirring about a minute.  Gradually stir in the chicken stock and 1/2 cup water, whisking until smooth; bring the mixture to a simmer.

Add the chicken to the sauce and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the sausage and okra and cook until heated through.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve over rice.

Enjoy!



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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Savoring the Season: Refrigerator Cucumber Salad


Preserving the seasons bounty does not have to be all consuming.  It can be simple with delicious results.

Late spring when the cucumbers in the north Florida garden are coming in faster than can be consumed or shared with friends is the signal to make a batch of refrigerator cucumbers.  You need only a few ingredients, a couple clean glass jars, and storage space in your refrigerator for the next couple of months or probably less, since this cucumber salad does not last long.

This time jalapeƱos peppers were used in my batch rather than bell peppers to provide a spicy sweet kick to my salad.  Also, don't get caught up in the amount of sugar in the recipe. Unless, you plan on drinking the brine much of this sugar is not consumed.  The sugar is used to reduce the acidic nature of the vinegar and to provide a slightly sweeter salad. 

The tangy sweet cucumber salad pairs well with grilled meats, pulled pork or in your lunch bag.  Also, perfect for pot luck or as a hostess gift.

This refrigerator cucumber salad is guaranteed fresh for a couple of months when stored properly. 





The jars below represent my extra-large batch.  Our family and friends will continue to enjoy the garden fresh cucumber salad throughout the summer.   No doubt before the season is over there will be another large batch to take us into the early fall months.



 Refrigerator Cucumber Salad
Makes 2 quarts


Ingredients:
1 cup white distilled vinegar
1- 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon celery seed
1 tablespoon mustard seed
5-7 large cucumbers, washed and thinly sliced
2-3 fresh garlic cloves
1 medium red onion, peeled and halved, thinly sliced
1 green or red bell pepper seeded, and thinly sliced (note: you can use a hot pepper like jalapeƱo to make a spicy sweet vinegar)

Directions:
In a medium saucepan place the vinegar, sugar, salt, celery seed, and mustard seed. Bring to a simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside and let cool.

In a large bowl, mix the cucumbers, onion, and peppers. Set aside.

Pack and layer cucumber, onion and pepper in clean mason jars or other glass container. Add garlic clove(s).

Pour vinegar to rim of jar.  Close (tighten) lid. Place in the refrigerator.

Note: Stays fresh for about two months.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

All That...And A No Bake Peanut Butter Pie Too


"To be outstanding get comfortable with being uncomfortable" ~ Unknown

If you have been to North Carolina there is no disagreement, its a beautiful state from its bustling cities, expansive farmland, to the mountain landscape of southern Appalachia.

Getting off the beaten path and taking the road a little less traveled results in the adventure, more often than not, being worthwhile.  You have the opportunity to slow down, take your time and enjoy.

While visiting my family in North Carolina I had an opportunity to venture off the beaten path a couple of times. 

I finally had the opportunity to meet Rebecca Subbiah a long time and favorite blogger of mine.  She has taken her passion to a new level and has become a new farmer and founder of LadyBird Farm in Yadkinville.  A small vibrant farm community nestled among the rolling hills of the back country.  Rebecca is focused on growing farm fresh organic vegetables and edible flowers.  She also has a flock of happy hens enjoying the farm life.  I really enjoyed the time spent with Rebecca albeit too short.  


Another trip off the beaten path brought me to Hamptonville, North Carolina.  A small Amish community belonging to the New Order of the Union Grove founded in the 1980's. Today, there are about 31 New Order Amish families living in and around Hamptonville.  It was interesting to learn this sect of the Amish are allowed to use electricity off the power grid while still adhering to strict traditions of plain dress and travel by horse and buggy. 

Spent a lovely couple of hours with a best friend of my sister.  We enjoyed a wonderful deli lunch at the Shiloh General Store, while sharing good laughs, and stories.  

The view on this beautiful warm spring day was incredible.   Our lunch view included watching a momma keep a close distance and eye on her rambunctious foal.  These are moments when you believe, if only for a few seconds, in the simplicity of life.



A reminder not all needs to be complicated.  Here is a simple and delicious frozen No Bake Peanut Butter Pie (Think Reese's peanut butter cups).  Perfect for the hot months of summer. 


No Bake Peanut Butter Pie
Makes Two 9" Pies
Recipe from all recipes.com


Ingredients:
1- 8 ounce cream cheese
1-1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup whole milk
1 16 ounce frozen whipped topping, thawed
2- 9'' prepared graham cracker crusts

Directions:
Beat together cream cheese and confectioners' sugar.  Mix in peanut butter and milk.  Beat until smooth.  Fold in whipped topping.

Spoon into two 9" graham cracker pie shells; cover, and freeze until firm (about 2 hours).

Optional: Drizzle with chocolate syrup

Enjoy!










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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tuscan Style Ribolita with Sausage and Kale


Ribolita translated from Italian means "reboiled".  Translate "reboiled"  in english equates to "leftovers".  This is a hearty peasant stew with a thousand Italian family variations.  There are a few core ingredients; tomatoes, kale (dark green variety known as lacinato), cannellini beans, and stale bread.  I did not include the bread in this particular recipe but, you can easily prepare a few toasted croutons with olive oil and Parmesan cheese to top this delicious stew.

The idea behind this stew is to use what you may have leftover from a couple of days of meals.  If you are eating pretty good you will probably have a few vegetables to add to the pot, and maybe even  a leftover baguette from the weekend to make a few croutons.  The stew is versatile and can be made ahead of time and with any variety of vegetables you may have available.

This makes for a big pot on Sunday and a healthy lunch or dinner throughout the week.




Tuscan Style Ribolita with Sausage and Kale
Serve 4-6



 Ingredients:
1-1/2 lbs. sweet or hot Italian sausage (removed from the casings)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
8-ounces fresh kale, stemmed, ribbed and chopped
1-28 ounces can diced tomatoes
2-15 ounces cans Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons chili pepper flakes
4 cups chicken stock


Directions:
Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat.  Add onion, carrot, garlic and chili pepper flakes to the pot.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook, tossing occasionally, for 5-6 minutes, until the vegetables have softened.  Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat into pieces, until browned, for 3-4 minutes.

Add the diced tomatoes, cannelloni beans, chicken stock to the pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Add the kale to the pot and cook, covered, until the kale has wilted.  Season with salt and pepper, if necessary.

Enjoy!
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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Mediterranean Style Three-Bean Salad

Beans are under appreciated in the American diet.  A budget friendly staple packed with fiber and plant based protein, not to mention a list of vitamins and minerals (Vitamin B6, Potassium, folate, magnesium etc...).  It's recommended we consume 25 mg of fiber each day.  A half-cup of cooked beans delivers a whopping 10 mg!  

So, why don't we eat more beans? Some will say they cause issues.....I say, add beans to your regular diet and the issues will go away. 

This Mediterranean inspired bean salad is tasty, super healthy and is loaded with a variety of beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, feta cheese, parsley, cilantro and tossed with a light lemon-olive oil vinaigrette.  This makes for a beautiful summer salad or as an entree with crusty bread.




Mediterranean Style Three-Bean Salad
Serves 4-6


Ingredients:
15 oz. red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz. black beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz. garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
Pint cherry tomatoes, halved
Small red onion, diced
1 English cucumber, seeded and diced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3 oz. crumbled feta cheese (generous handful)

For the dressing:
Juice from 1 lemon, more if desired
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3-4 Tablespoons olive oil (or more to taste)
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions:
In a large bowl, add beans, cherry tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, parsley, cilantro and feta cheese.

In a small bowl, or a mason jar with a lid.  Add lemon juice, garlic, Dijon mustard, olive oil, salt and fresh ground black pepper. Whisk (or shake) all the ingredients together until well blended.

Add dressing to salad.  Toss. Chill for about an hour.  Serve.


Friday, February 24, 2017

Savoring the Season: A Southern Old-Fashioned Cocktail


Our good friends invited us over for a new cocktail they were enjoying.  Typically, not fan of whiskeys but we were pleasantly surprised.

Old fashioned cocktails have a place in American culture. This cocktail dates back to 1806.   A recipe which included a mix of spirits of any kind, water, sugar cubes and bitters.   Leave it to the American mixologists to grow tired of the "traditional" and start adding a "new" fashioned approach to the "old" fashioned.  No doubt the traditionalists were agape in horror at the idea of adding oranges, cherries and even pineapples to a original four ingredient cocktail.  It would not be American if we did not twist and change the elements to bring about a modern twist on a very traditional cocktail.

On a whim we packed our bags and spent a few days in the beautiful city of Charleston, South Carolina.  With our friends cocktail still fresh on our minds, and an attempt to recreate it on our own prior to leaving town...our awareness was at a peak when we discovered the south takes it old-fashioned cocktail quite seriously.   This porch sipper gains momentum in the south with the first turn of autumn and continues long through the spring.

This version of the old-fashioned cocktail was discovered while on a walking food tour of old Charleston and belongs to the Cocktail Club Lounge located in the historic district and dedicated to the "art of the craft cocktail."

Enjoy the warm, sweet southern feel of a modern Old-Fashioned cocktail.




Southern Old-Fashioned Cocktail
Serves 1
Recipe from Cocktail Club (Charleston)


Ingredients:
2 brandied cherries
1/2 orange slice
3/4 oz simple syrup
3 oz. rye whiskey
Angostura or Peychaud bitters
soda water
lemon peel


Directions:
1.  Muddle cherries, orange and simple syrup in a tall glass, then fill with ice.

2.  Add rye whiskey and stir with a spoon.

3.  Add several dash of bitters, to taste, and stir.

4.   Pour into double old-fashioned glass, and top with a splash of soda water.

5.  Squeeze and twist the lemon over the cocktail, and run along the rim of the glass.

Enjoy!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Savoring the Season: Moroccan Chicken and Vegetable Soup with Chickpea Croutons


This morning I woke-up to a chill in the air.  The bone chill jumped started my winter weekend with an outrageously comforting healthy winter soup.  With heaps of seasonal vegetables, and rich sources of antioxidant spices like turmeric, cumin, ginger and cinnamon, provided incredible flavor and reduced the need to add additional fat or salt.

Who says soup toppings have to be boring when you can enjoy fiber rich chick peas tossed in warm spices and slow roasted.  Save the extra!  They are perfect for enjoying as a healthy snack.

This soup is easily doubled and tripled. Can serve a crowd or batch frozen to enjoy another day.



Moroccan Chicken and Vegetable Soup with Chickpea Croutons
Serves 4-6
Recipe from Clean Eating


Ingredients:

Chickpea Croutons
1-15 oz. can cooked chick peas, drained and rinsed, patted dry
1-1/2 tablespoons coconut oil
Pinch sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground ginger

Soup
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 stalks celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1-1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric 
3/4 teaspoon each ground ginger and cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch ground black pepper
1-18 oz. unsalted diced tomatoes (with juices)
1 teaspoon sea salt + additional to taste
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 1 lb.)
6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, or as needed
2 cups diced or shredded cooked chicken
1/4 cup each chopped fresh cilantro and flat leaf parsley
3 cups lightly packed fresh spinach leaves
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Directions:
1.  Prepare chick peas:  Preheat oven to 400 F.  Place chickpeas on a parchment-lined baking sheet; remove any loose skins.  Roast for 20 minutes.  Add 1-1/2 tablespoons oil and a pinch of salt; toss.  Return to oven; roast for 15 to 20 minutes more, until golden brown.

2.  Turn oven off.  Toss chickpeas with 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon and pinch ginger.  Return to oven with door closed and heat off for 1 hour, or until crunchy.  Set aside to cool.

3.  Meanwhile, prepare soup:  In a medium stockpot on medium, heat 2 tablespoons oil.  Add celery, carrots and onion.  Cook until tender, about 6 minutes.  Add turmeric, 3/4 teaspoon each ginger and cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon cumin and black pepper and cook for 1 minute, stirring.  Add tomatoes and 1 teaspoon salt.  Cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

4.  Add potatoes and broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for 20 to 25 minutes, until potato is tender.

5.  Add chicken, cilantro and parsley and heat through, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add additional broth to thin out as desired; season with additional salt as needed.  Stir in spinach.  Top servings with chickpeas and serve with lemon wedges.