Giving Thanks

My Kids: Daniel, Rachel & Jake (Thanksgiving 2013)

My Kids: Daniel, Rachel & Jake (Thanksgiving 2013)

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, my number one favorite holiday.  I love the food, the gathering of family, the fall season, the fact that it’s a secular holiday, all of it.  The week before our actual family celebration is BUSY … I drag out the toys and games and extra blow up mattresses for the grandkids, make my shopping list, and create my cooking schedule. But I always find time to reflect on the past year.

“Gratitude” is mentioned daily-on the radio, in person, in yoga class…  I am thankful every single day of my life, consciously thankful of large and small things.  At my age I am always aware that there are a finite number of Thanksgiving holidays!

I feel thankful for the family who surrounded me the first seventeen years of my life.  My childhood had a huge impact and contributed to my feelings of worthiness, security and deep happiness.  When my parents would say prayers with me before bedtime, I would always repeat the words “God bless Mommy and Daddy, Tim, Sue, Kay and Kal, all of whom we dearly love…and all my aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, and the memory of my grandparents and Uncle Lou and Uncle Ike.”  I was reared with this value system — that we as family love each other unconditionally, we are all there to support each other and that we continue to honor the memory of those relatives and friends no longer with us.  I still  feel this way about  my immediate family, siblings, nieces, nephews, and  other relatives through birth or through marriage.  My family is precious to me!

Kal's Cabin Hat  - designed by kids for Thanksgiving 2013 - turkey and menorah represent Thanksgiving & Hannukah

Kal’s Cabin Hat – designed by kids for Thanksgiving 2013 – turkey and menorah represent Thanksgiving & Hannukah

I feel thankful for my friends: old, young, longtime, newish, in all sizes, shapes and colors.

I feel thankful for my core values.  I know that for me material things don’t come close to the importance of relationships and experiences.

I feel thankful for my good health, for leaves that turn colors, rain that makes the air feel so clean, fresh food, the roof over my head, blue skies, grey skies, the ocean.  I say out loud, nearly every day and usually multiple times a day to anyone who will listen to me how thankful I am and how much I am in awe of people and nature.

I hope for all of you that you can be grateful for many many things that touch your lives,  and that we all remember why we gather with friends and relatives this year.  Never lose sight of that fact that so many people in the world have so much less.

I wish for all of you a happy, healthy Thanksgiving 2014!

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Oaxaca Peanuts

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Oaxaca Peanuts & Lime Wedges

Oaxaca Peanuts & Lime Wedges

I travelled to Oaxaca in late August. I’d never been to this part of Mexico, and we wanted to try a Spanish language “almost immersion” school.  When I returned home, friends here in  Seattle asked me about the the food.   Oh…the food.  Even if Oaxaca didn’t have such friendly, nice people and art and sites and accommodations and a lovely Spanish school, I would  go just for the world class food.  Let’s just say it totally changed my take on Mexico and Central American cuisine.  We ate terrific meals in unassuming restaurants that rivaled those in top European cities, yet the food cost was substantially less.

Courtyard plantings typical of those we saw walking around the city

Courtyard plantings typical of those we saw walking around the city

I loved that in most restaurants once we ordered a meal, some type of “on the house” hors d’oeuvres were served.  This might be fresh bread rolls with some type of spread, olive tapenade, salsa and tortillas…

Chapulines, or fried grasshoppers served in Oaxaca--I ate these in tacos!

Chapulines, or fried grasshoppers served in Oaxaca–I ate these in tacos!

But the one item that was presented over and over again?  Cacahuites.  Pronounced ka ka wåh tayz.  Basically Spanish peanuts, roasted with a touch of oil and salt, topped while warm with cayenne and accompanied by fresh lime wedges to squeeze on top.  Suffice it to say that regardless of the quantity served or what we ordered to follow, there was never one peanut left in the bowl.

I’m giving you the quantity we made for four of us at night as an appetizer with drinks, but you can easily double, triple or quadruple this.  It tastes great along with beer or an icy beverage.  I warn you, between the  salt and chili you’ll be thirsty!

Cacahuates Oaxaqueños con Chile y Ajo

(Oaxacan style peanuts with chilis and garlic)

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Ingredients
  • 2 cups Spanish peanuts (the kind with the skins on)-salted or not
  • 6 large cloves of peeled garlic, cut into about 8 pieces
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt to sprinkle at the end unless the peanuts are salted
  • ⅛ tsp cayenne sprinkled on top once they come out of the oven
  • 1 lime, cut into three wedges
Instructions

Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 300 degrees.

In a small bowl stir together peanuts, oil and garlic slivers until everything is coated.  It’s not very much oil, but it’s enough.  Put this peanut mix into a foil or parchment-lined cookie sheet (I do this in my toaster oven).  Bake for 20 minutes.  The room should smell of garlic and roasted peanuts.  Remove to a bowl, let the peanuts cool slightly so they can be handled and serve, topping the nuts with salt (unless they are already salted) and cayenne.  Have lime wedges for your eaters to squeeze on top of the peanuts before eating them.

Repeat often… These are addictive!  And stay tuned for more stories about my time in Oaxaca

 

 

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Cauliflower & Rigatoni Bake

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Comforting Cauliflower & Rigatoni Bake

Comforting Cauliflower & Rigatoni Bake

There is a back story, of course, to this recipe which I spun off from one published recently in the New York Times.  On a rainy Sunday, I found the story about Rigatoni with Cauliflower, and read the recipe; it sounded so good to me, a true cauliflower lover who had a lot of fresh sage to use at the end of the season, so I saved it to my “to try” file.  I do this a lot.  Then Sister Sue asked me for a recommendation for a vegetarian main dish for company last week, so I happily sent on the recipe. She reported back that not only did she make it, but she loved it – as did her company.

“Did you change anything,” I asked?  She indignantly answered me via email  … and I quote Regarding changes, why make any if it was good?  OH wait, I forgot who was asking (ha ha ha).  I think I may have had more cauliflower which I preferred (same dif as reducing pasta of course, but it makes more quantity overall which I also preferred), but I had to caramelize it in 3 separate batches to get it nicely browned.  I suppose I could have used a larger skillet.  The fontina is a must, you could use any hard cheese and it won’t make a difference.”

Uh huh. She knows me too well… It’s rare that I make anything the way it is written, even the first time through.  This was no exception.  In spite of her admonishment, I used less pasta, subbed whole wheat rigatoni, added more cauliflower, a bit more cheese…more olive oil…and I’m happy with my result.  The dish isn’t a stick together saucy pasta, but rather a delicately coated but interestingly flavored dish.  It does take a lot of salt, even with the cheese.

I didn’t garnish this with parsley as suggested because that seemed too mundane.  I just let it be whitish brownish food, but I served it with large halved oven roasted carrots stirred together with sauteed dino kale and fresh end-of-the-season cherry tomatoes.  The plate was colorful and the sweet tomatoes and carrots balanced out the saltiness of the dish.  It was light but filling and left me enough room to have a scoop of coconut gelato with hot fudge for dessert.

I do love that you can prep and put this dish together several hours before serving …and it makes a lot–enough for 6-10 big eaters as long as you have multiple side dishes as I did.   The seasonings for the cauliflower were different and assertive with theI added sage, capers and red pepper flakes for some extra zip!

Cauliflower & Rigatoni Bake

Serves 6-10

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 Ingredients
  • ¾ pound whole wheat rigatoni
  • 1 Tbsp salt for cooking the rigatoni
  • ¼ cup Extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large cauliflower, about 2 pounds.
  • 1 teaspoon fine grained sea salt and 10 grinds of fresh black pepper
  • 1 ½  tablespoon capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste (I added more)
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh sage leaves plus a few smaller sage leaves left whole
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 8 ounces ounces coarsely grated fontina cheese or mozzarella or fresh white cheddar cheese
  • 2 ounces finely grated imported parmesan cheese to top
  • ½ cup coarse dry bread crumbs-lightly toast the bread first then grate-use for topping
Instructions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add one tablespoon of table salt and stir in rigatoni  Stir so it doesn’t stick to the bottom and cook without covering about two minutes less than package directions so it is still al dente.  Drain and rinse with cold water, drain well again so no water remains and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and put rack in lower mid oven..

Cut cauliflower off the hard core and cut away the stems.  Chop the remaining flowerettes into ½ inch pieces.

Put two tablespoons (half of what you will use in total) of the olive oil in a wide 12-14 inch skillet over high heat. Add half of the cauliflower pieces, along with any crumbly morsels, in one layer. Watch as the cauliflower caramelizes for about two minutes, then turn the pieces over and continue to brown them another two minutes.  It should be pretty soft and yield easily to a knife.

Scrape these into a large mixing bowl and repeat the directions with the second half of the olive oil and cauliflower.  Put this into the bowl with the first batch.

To the mixing bowl, put in cooked pasta.  Add capers, garlic, red pepper flakes, chopped sage, sage leaves and lemon zest and stir to coat.

Next add the cooked cauliflower mixture and  grated fontina, mozzarella or cheddar cheese and stir gently to combine evenly.

Transfer mixture to a lightly oiled baking dish. Top with parmesan cheese, then with bread crumbs and drizzle with about one and a half tablespoon olive oil. (Dish may be completed to this point up to several hours in advance and kept at room temperature, covered. Or it can be refrigerated overnight but bring to room temperature before baking.)

Bake, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes, until top is crisp and golden.  Let it rest a few minutes before serving.

Another note: I always always grate my own cheese.  Much, much better flavors and textures!

 

 

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My Chocoholic Fix

Minty Chocolatey Cookie Concoction

Minty Chocolatey Cookie Concoction

We arrived in Belize on Monday night, unpacked a bit, prepared some local chicken sausages and some cooked black beans from the freezer…then started rooting around for some chocolate.  I always require chocolate after a night time meal.  You see, I am a full blown chocoholic and I’ll never go to rehab or start a 12-step program.  Nope, I’m loud and proud about my chocolate addiction.  However, it becomes problematic if there isn’t chocolate easily accessible.

So I looked for my “go to” chocolate fix.  I didn’t have a single fancy chocolate bar.  No hot fudge or ice cream. Nada.

And then I had an epiphany.  My husband thinks this was his idea, but IT WAS MINE!

I prepare 99% of my food from scratch, I buy organic fruits and vegetables and dairy products and oils, and even the chocolate I eat is normally a homemade dessert or a very high quality dark chocolate bar of sorts.  This is my disclaimer, so forgive me when I stoop to the level of the following creation.  You should know that I am not so hoity toity.

We had a bag of Mini York Patties — dark chocolate coated, smooth mint candies.  We had a few Oreo cookies, the kind I ate as a child with big glass of milk.  And I had a microwave.  Badda bing, badda boom.

The Essential Ingredients

The Essential Ingredients

Here is how I did it folks:

  1. Unwrap the Mini York Patty candy.
  2. Separate the Oreo cookie halves, scrape away the white filling (unless you like this part) and sandwich the mint between the two cookie halves.
  3. Put the assembled sandwich on a microwave safe plate and zap for exactly seven seconds.
  4. Press the two cookie halves together lightly so the York Mint is slightly bulging and oozing.
  5. Eat … savoring the chocolately mint goodness.

I am not going to apologize for my love of this concoction. It’s my belief that eating a dessert like this occasionally is perfectly acceptable – even encouraged. Just because it’s not “healthy” or “organic” or “made from scratch” … doesn’t mean it’s “bad.” Enough with the guilt already…

Plus – I am thinking that the York Patty folks and the Oreo cookie people might want to merge their businesses and go big with this.  To them I say, you are welcome.

I can tell you that I will have one of these little treats every single night after dinner until I get sick of them, and that will take a long time! I wouldn’t name this “York Patty between sides of an Oreo”.  Oh no.   If I had a fancy restaurant and wanted to list this as a dessert, I’d call it “a pillow of peppermint cream, covered with dark ganache and sandwiched between two crispy chocolate wafers.”  I’d charge $3.99 for two of these on a fancy plate.  As if..

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Potato Celery Root Leek Soup

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Creamy Potato Celery Root Leek Soup

Creamy Potato Celery Root Leek Soup

Really, the title of this recipe should be “Gotta Get Rid of Veggies in the Refrigerator Soup.”  Tomorrow I leave for three weeks and my mission the past few days has been to live from what remains in my fridge and pantry, especially fruits and vegetables.

Last week I bought a large, handsome celery root. And Yukon Gold potatoes, and some leeks.  I planned to make a mash of sorts but got busy and my lovely vegetables sat around, ignored.

Then the weather turned very fallish and coolish, the days shortened and I felt like soup would fit the bill.  Hence the soup you see: made up using only what was on hand.  Normally I’d have chicken stock in my freezer but I was too lazy to defrost it, and wanted to see if Better Than Bouillon paste would work.  It did, and this soup takes no time from stovetop to table.  Perfect and filling on a cool, fall day.

I might also mention that you can eat this chilled if you feel like a cold soup.  It’s really good, although I am usually partial to hot soup.

Potato Celery Root Leek Soup

Serves 6-8

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Ingredients
  • 3 large leeks
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 large Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cubed into ½ inch pieces
  • 1 fist-size celery root, peeled and cubed the same size as the potatoes
  • 8 cups chicken stock (I used Better Than Bouillon according to the directions on the jar)
  • 4-6 Tbsp or more 2% milk or cream  if desired, or more stock
  • Salt
  • White pepper
  • Fresh chopped chives, dill, parsley or tarragon to serve
Instructions

Prepare the leeks by cutting off the stem and root end, slice in half the long way, clean out any mud in the flesh and slice the light green and white part into 1/8 inch half circles.

In a 3-4 quart sauce pan, saute leeks with butter for five minutes, add potatoes and stock and simmer 30 minutes or until very, very soft.  Since you are going to puree this, it can be mushy.

I use a hand blender and just stick the blade end into the soup pot.  Blend until smooth.  Add milk (or cream if you want to be decadent) to thin the soup to your liking, salt and pepper and serve.  Garnish with fresh herbs.   Or add more cream, salt and serve cold.

If you want this to be vegetarian, use vegetable broth and thin it with additional broth.

Make a huge green salad, slice some fruit and call this a fantastic dinner!

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Carrot Miso Dressing

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Chicken Salad with Veggies and Carrot Miso Dressing

Chicken Salad with Veggies and Carrot Miso Dressing

I can’t help myself… I’m providing you with yet another salad dressing concoction.  That said – this one is a bit different from the majority of the dressing recipes I’ve posted here.  Carrot miso salad dressing…made with carrot juice, ginger and white miso.  Sounds pretty hippy dippy – right? It harks back the era I recall  from the 1970s.  I must reveal I did participate in  bread baking and natural foods back then – but I didn’t go overboard with the hippy thing.  Nonetheless, I laugh every time I make this dressing, remembering how everyone my age, when they were in college, ordered carrot juice, wore bell bottoms and cooked their hearts out.

Salad dressing is one of those things where I just scratch my head when I see folks buying a bottle of commercial dressing.  I make literally hundreds of salad toppings  but mostly I just drizzle olive oil or walnut oil , add citrus or vinegar of some type, herbs or seasonings or shallots and voila!  Generally this takes me about five minutes at best.

This salad dressing is a little more involved but completely worth it. When I prepare it there is enough to last us a couple of weeks – plus it’s healthful and has a vivid orange color to entice your taste buds!

Colorful Carrot Miso Dressing

Colorful Carrot Miso Dressing

Carrot Miso Dressing

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Ingredients
  • ½ cup fresh carrot juice
  • 1 inch medium carrot, peeled and diced
  • ¾ inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp. soy or tamari sauce
  • 1 tsp white miso paste
  • ½ cup canola or olive oil
Instructions

In a small sauce pan, heat and boil the carrot juice, stirring or swirling the pan occasionally until it is reduced to three tablespoons. This takes me around 10 to 15 minutes.  Pour it into a measuring cup and refrigerate for ten minutes to cool.  Add the reduced juice and everything else but the oil to a food processor or blender.  Whirl it, and slowly drizzle in the oil.  Process until smooth and there are no remaining chunks of ginger or carrots.  Put it in a jar and refrigerate!

This is fantastic served on romaine lettuce with lots of veggies and some chicken or leftover sliced meat or fish. Or use it as a dip for shrimp, veggies, steamed broccoli, salmon, or chicken breast.  This keeps up to two weeks refrigerated but you will need to shake it. Yummy,  no joke!

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Brown Butter Cherry Almond Breakfast Loaf – An Accidental Recipe

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Brown Butter Cherry Breakfast Loaf - Right Out of the Oven!

Brown Butter Cherry Almond Breakfast Loaf – Right Out of the Oven!

Fall arrived in Seattle, bringing clouds and rain. I immediately felt like baking and couldn’t be bothered to go to the supermarket.  Dried tart cherries caught my eye on the countertop, and suddenly I craved a warm slice of cherry bread slathered with butter.  I found three saved recipes in my files and settled on a combination that pleased me.   I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

Many of you probably assume that I cook in an organized, neat fashion.  I hate to break it to you…but that’s not exactly the case.  I am clean, I am organized…but when I cook I don’t necessarily use “mise en place” where everything is measured and laid out ahead of time.  Nooooo.  Often I make a recipe between writing emails, talking on the phone, knitting… and it can be distracting.  I do put out the ingredients on my counter, and I read the recipe before I start and at the end of my cooking to be sure I didn’t forget anything.  In a perfect world, that is.

That is how this particular recipe evolved…  I did line up the ingredients: the milk carton, sugar, flour, cherries, bowls, bread pan…but I forgot to check everything when I thought I was finished.  OOOO, I left out an egg.

As I was melting the butter, I instantly decided to brown it as I did with the coconut bread.  And I cut the sugar down – which I often prefer.  I added extra cherries because I wanted to finish my container.

So here you have it, a flavorful, dense and truly-original-My-Global-Kitchens-not-icky-sweet breakfast bread.  It’s a keeper, and I will definitely make it again.  In fact, I’m thinking this would be a good make-ahead Thanksgiving weekend breakfast item along with spinach frittata.  Oh yea!

Brown Butter Cherry Almond Breakfast Loaf

Yield: one loaf

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Ingredients:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Slightly rounded 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. non aluminum baking powder
  • ½ tsp. fine sea salt
  • ¾ cup dried tart cherries
  • ¾ cup of 2% milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 stick  unsalted butter, melted, browned and cooled (see coconut bread for instructions)
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • ½ Tbsp granulated sugar for the topping
Instructions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan and line the bottom with a rectangle of parchment. Spray the parchment-lined bottom.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the cherries and toss to coat them  evenly. This helps distribute the dried fruit throughout the bread.

In another bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, cooled butter and almond extract. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until barely combined. Do not overmix.

Pour this batter into the prepared pan. Even out the top with a spatula and sprinkle the top with a half tablespoon of granulated sugar.

Bake in the middle rack of your oven until the top of the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50-55 minutes.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let it cool for ten minutes. Turn the loaf out onto a cooling rack and let it cool completely before serving (although I love it a bit warmed).

When it is no longer warm,  cut the loaf  in half and freeze part for later in the week so it will be uber fresh.

 

 

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Chicken & Turkey Larb

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Larb & Lettuce

Larb & Lettuce

If you have mint growing in your garden – you may have the same challenge I do … delicious as it is – it grows like a weed! I trim mine often and am always looking for ways to integrate mint into my meals. Thankfully, my daughter visited this summer and made a massive amount of Larb for our family. So we finally had the perfect dish for all my fresh mint.

Rachel Preparing Larb

Rachel Preparing Larb

“What the heck is Larb?” you might ask … Well, let me tell you … it is one of my favorite Asian dishes – common in Vietnam, Laos and parts of Thailand. It’s a room-temperature, minced meat salad (some call it an appetizer) that is jazzed up with mint, cilantro, lemongrass, chilies, fish sauce, and lime. My daughter’s version is definitely Americanized and a far cry from traditional recipes you’ll discover – but it’s still a delightful balance of traditional Thai flavors – sour, sweet, salty, bitter and spicy.

This is a wonderful dish to serve for groups – you can set it up almost like a taco bar.  A plate of lettuce leaves, cabbage slaw, meat mixture, and toppings.  Everyone can make their own finger food.  I like to put half slaw and half meat mixture in my lettuce cup then top with the condiments.  I make a lot of extra cabbage salad for later use just with leftover dressing too.

Chicken & Turkey Larb

Serves 8 – 10

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Dressing Ingredients
  • 2/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 Thai chilis,  finely chopped
Meat Mixture Ingredients
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 12 oz boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • ¾ lbs (12 oz) ground turkey
  • ⅓ cup fish sauce
  • 1 cup thinly sliced green onions, white and light green parts only
  • 1 Tbsp peeled and grated ginger
  • 3/4 cup peeled and thinly sliced shallots
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced Thai or serrano chilies
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
Slaw Ingredients
  • ½ head purple cabbage
  • 6 carrots, peeled
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (or basil leaves if it’s summer)
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
Additional Ingredients for serving
  • 2 small heads of butter lettuce or green leaf lettuce, washed and separated into leaves
  • ½ cup chopped roasted peanuts
  • ⅓ cup roasted, ground brown rice (I used my small coffee grinde to make it powder-liker)
  • Hot sauce of your choice
Instructions

Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl – set aside.

Prepare the toppings by chopping the peanuts and placing the peanuts in one bowl and the mint and cilantro leaves in small, separate bowl. For the rice – toast brown rice in a pan over medium heat until it is aromatic, then grind into a sandy powder consistency in a coffee grinder.

To prepare the slaw – grate the cabbage and the carrots  in your food processor.  Empty into a bowl and add cilantro and mint and cover with a towel or plastic to keep it fresh.

Using the same Cuisinart bowl, switch to the regular chopping blade and  add the cilantro, mint, lemongrass (cut into 2-3 pieces), ginger, garlic and peppers for your meat mixture. Puree for a minute or so, scraping down the sides.  Set this mixture of aromatics aside in a bowl.

Grind the de-boned chicken and turkey with the fish sauce, grated ginger  & green onion in the Cuisinart – this brines the meat if you grind the poultry with the fish sauce.

Heat a large, straight-sided frying pan, add oil until hot.  Add chicken and turkey, breaking it up with a spoon and wait until it is no longer pink, about eight minutes.

Add the aromatics mixture from the Cuisinart and stir until the vegetables are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, about four minutes. Remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve – arrange individual lettuce leaves on a large platter, scoop the meat mixture into another bowl and place all the toppings in individual bowls alongside and invite your guests to put together their own plates of delicious larb!

This is a great do ahead recipe – you can make almost everything up to a day or two in advance! We’ve done it with friends and all you have to do is cook the meat at the last minute. Any fresh soft lettuce works for wrapping. This simply a great meal or appetizer – delicious, healthful and a little something different to boot!

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A View From The Main Cabin

I wrote this post in April of 2014 from row 31, Seat B of a six hour flight from New York City back home to Seattle:

Yes, 31 B is without a doubt a middle seat in the coach cabin of my flight.  I am just five feet five inches tall and my knees nearly touch the seat in front of me.  It’s so cramped that when I dropped my crochet hook I edged into the personal space of my row-mate – a Pakistani gentleman who is sitting to my right.  He is a lovely man – he even offered me part of the sandwich he brought onboard.

I have probably knit eight inches of a paprika orange scarf.  I read the New York Times from cover to cover and saved a couple of the articles for later perusal.   I tried to doze since I was up until 1:30am this morning, talking with my sisters.  I couldn’t fall asleep. The steward – I think that’s the PC name for a male version of flight attendant – passed through the cabin and ignored me when offering cups of water.  After a light breakfast this morning,  I didn’t have time to make a decent bag of food for the plane, so I ordered a wrap from the airline menu.  I hate wraps.  I really do.  And I’m thirsty.  Forget getting up to go to the restroom.

So why do I put myself through long flights, bus trips, subway rides, train rides, boat rides on a pretty frequent basis?  Because I really love to travel.  I want to see as many places in the world as possible.  I want to visit my children and grandchildren when they’ll have me.  I long to  be in the same room with my sisters.  I wish to be with my extended family and friends who live far away to keep our connection.  I hope to climb mountains, swim in oceans, ride my bicycle without gears, walk through jungles and cities, go to foreign movies, see theater productions … I’m game for pretty much anything.

Some day, and I don’t know when that day will come, I won’t be able to take a red eye flight.  I won’t have the strength to lift my carry on suitcase into the overhead compartment of a train.  I won’t be able to figure out the subway stops or the exchange rates.  I won’t care to stay for three weeks in a recreational vehicle or tent.   I will no longer want to pack three weeks of clothing into a 20-inch bag.

But that some day is not today.  And it is so worth it to me to see as much of the world as I can.  It really is.  For me, travel is a perfect vehicle to learn history, geography, language, culture and  anthropology.  Most of all, I know that my travels throughout the United States and the other continents have given me a real appreciation of people and their differences, a birdseye view of culture that makes stereotypes and judgments explode.  People are people; we are individuals who have more similarities than differences.  And there is beauty everywhere.

And so, for now, I will keep traveling.  Many of my views have been transformed through travel.   Through travel I believe I understand better, make fewer assumptions, and form my opinions and intentions based on lessons from people I’ve met and places I’ve visited.

Here are some of my pictures that I make me smile, make me cry, and make me who I am.

Sausage Tree Camp - Botswana, Africa

Sausage Tree Camp – Botswana, Africa

Cape of Good Hope, near Cape Town, South Africa

Cape of Good Hope – near Cape Town, South Africa

Cuzco, Peru

Cuzco, Peru

Making Fresh Salsa, Oaxaca, Mexico

Making Fresh Salsa – Oaxaca, Mexico

Native Vendor - Oaxaca, Mexico

Native Vendor – Oaxaca, Mexico

With Sister Kay and Nephew Elliot - Dodger Stadium, New York

With Sister Kay and Nephew Elliot – Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles

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Sumptuous Chicken Shallot Stew

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Chicken Shallot Stew

Chicken Shallot Stew

I am in love with this chicken stew!   I started with Sam Sifton’s New York Times recipe which had been adapted from Andrew and Rishia Zimmern by way of Martha Stewart.  Just goes to show there is nothing new on the face of the planet recipe wise!  If you pass this on, you can add my name to the growing list!

When I stumbled upon the original New York Times recipe, I was immediately smitten.  ALL my favorite things – shallots, chicken thighs, tarragon, vermouth… easy instructions and simple to find ingredients. My tarragon growing outside needed culling too. Bingo!!

Fresh Tarragon From My Garden

Fresh Tarragon From My Garden

Of course, me being me, I made many changes along the way to streamline the cooking and preparation and ingredients.  I ultimately ended up doing this in my pressure cooker – I mean, a 12-minute cooking time just speaks to me.  I will include regular, or stovetop instructions for those of you tempted to stop reading when you see the words PRESSURE COOKER and who are not yet convinced that you absolutely must invest in one of these.  Sometimes I feel like I should be a representative for the pressure cooker industry… And hey, if you live in Seattle drop on by for a free demo!

This makes a really juicy, saucy stew.  I recently served it with a scoop of cooked, toasted barley seasoned with sauteed garlic scapes and yellow pepper.  It’s also great with brown rice, quinoa or any other whole grain or mashed vegetable you love to soak up the juices.  Oh, and a simple slice of hearty bread goes very nicely with this dish…


Chicken Shallot Stew

Makes 4 servings

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Ingredients
  • 6 large chicken thighs (bone in and skin on)
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 whole very large shallots, peeled  (about one pound)
  • 1 cup extra dry vermouth or leftover white wine.  I always have vermouth in my fridge for cooking purposes (see note if you are not making this in a pressure cooker)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (see note if making stovetop)
  • 3 whole sprigs fresh tarragon
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Instructions for pressure cooker preparation

Trim off the excess fat that hangs off the the chicken thighs but leave skin on the thigh. Pat the pieces dry and lay them on a clean dish towel. Combine  the flour, salt and pepper  on waxed paper and dip the skin side of the thighs into this mix so it is coated. Shake off the excess flour mix.

Heat a large (12-inch) sauté pan on medium high.  Once hot, pour the oil in until it is heated through.  Add the chicken thighs skin side down and cook until they becomes a little browned; turn them over with a tongs and brown the other side too.  All of this will take you around ten minutes.  Remove the thighs with tongs to a rimmed plate and set aside.

Add the peeled shallots directly to the sauté pan  (I did cut the huge ones in half so they weren’t the size of a small onion but they can be big since they basically smoosh anyway) and sauté them in the remaining chicken fat and until they begin to soften a titch, approximately five minutes. Put the shallots into the pressure cooker. Mix the wine and mustard together and pour in, followed by the tarragon sprigs and the chicken thighs. Cover the pressure cooker, bring to high pressure and cook for 12 minutes.  Manually bring the pressure down by putting the pressure cooker in the sink and running cold water over the lid. Remove the lid, fish out the tarragon pieces, and simmer to allow the sauce to reduce and thicken, 5-10 minutes.

Right before serving, add the cherry tomatoes to the pot, stir lightly to combine and serve immediately.

 

Instructions for traditional stovetop cooking

First, you will need two cups of vermouth and two tablespoons of Dijon.  Follow instructions above. But instead of using a pressure cooker, place everything into a heavy dutch oven and bring to a simmer.  Cover and braise for 30 minutes or until the meat is very tender.  Continue with the cooking methods.

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Note: I had two thighs and lots of juice left over that I poured over brown rice in a container and put into my freezer.  A month later it was defrosted and reheated and was better than ever – so next time I’m purposefully making a double batch of this recipe: one for the freezer and one to eat.

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